nietzsche whip

5 Crazy Facts About The Life of Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche was a German philosopher who really hated Christianity and morality. His philosophy has often erroneously been conflated with Nazism because his sister was kind of a dick  Nazi who wanted to revive her brother’s work after his death. By revive, I mean grossly manipulate to make it seem anti-semitic and Nazi-ish because, hey, when in Rome, right?

In 2000, Alain de Botton made a six part series on philosophy which is now available online. One episode on Nietzsche details his life and work. Little did I know Nietzsche’s life was kind of a shit show. Here are the five craziest things about Nietzsche’s life from Alain de Botton’s video.

#1 Nietzsche was a failure during his lifetime

Nietzsche had the impressive feat of becoming a professor by the age of 24. However, he was alienated by his peers and forced to retire by the age of 35. Nietzsche also wanted abandon philosophy in favor of gardening, but apparently failed at that as well. It wasn’t until after his death that Nietzche’s work began to be read widely.

#2 His mustache frightened women

Botton claims that Nietzsche was grotesquely incompetent at romance. Apparently, Nietzsche’s epic hipster mustache “scared” women at the time. And that’s probably for the better, because Nietzsche also managed to contract syphilis at a brothel while he was still in college.

nietzsche whip
Nietzsche was also allegedly in love with this woman

#3 He was sickly for most of his life

You would think a philosopher who argued for the embrace of suffering and the triumph of the over-man must be the philosophical equivalent of Chuck Norris. But it turns out, Nietzche’s philosophy is seemingly ironic when you find out he was always constantly ill and not very ubermenschy. Part of this was due, of course, to that syphilis he caught earlier. Given the Darwinian interpretation that some give to Nietzsche’s work (which many argue is wrong), this becomes a little hilarious. It would almost be as ironic as discovering conservative god-figure Ayn Rand was on government handouts. Oh wait, she was.

Of course, Botton points out that Nietzsche’s philosophy is all the more fitting for his life. For a man who suffered a lot, he learned to celebrate it.

 #4 He had a mental breakdown when he saw a horse being beaten

After seeing a horse being whipped in the streets of Turin, Italy, Nietzsche had a mental breakdown that put him in an asylum for the rest of his life.  Nietzsche is reported to have run over to the horse and held it in his arm to protect it before he collapsed to the ground. The scene was also the subject a movie by Bela Tarr (whom Jacques Ranciere wrote a book about) called The Turin Horse.

According to Botton, after the horse incident Nietzsche “returned to his boarding house, danced naked” and thought of shooting the Kaiser. Botton continues to explain that Nietzsche began to believe himself to be Jesus, Napoleon, Buddha and other historical figures. Nietzsche’s family threw him into asylum where he died 11 years later at the age of 56.

Nietzsche one year before his death

#5 He thought alcohol was as bad as Christianity

Nietzsche lumped alcohol and Christianity in the category of “shit that makes you not embrace suffering.” Nietzsche, according to Botton, doesn’t think we should “drown our sorrows”. As such, he never drank. Nietzsche, according to Botton, believed that Christianity like alcohol, “dulls pain” but also “weakens resolve to overcome the problem from which the pain has arisen.”  And if you thought that might piss off the Church, it did.  After his death, Nietzsche’s burial records written by church authorities note he was “a known antichrist” next to his name”

Watch the Alain de Botton video on Open Culture.

  • KennethMoe

    The horse thing and the syphilis thing are probably not true.

    • Tristan Haze

      Especially the latter – I hope the horse thing is true, and didn’t realize people doubted it.

      The thing about being a gardener sounds really odd… are you sure you’re not thinking of Wittgenstein’s stint as a gardener at a monastery after the War?

      It’s also not true that Nietzsche never drank alcohol.

      • Ken

        Both are true. Multiple sources support these claims; I’m serious, look it up. However, he was not kept in an asylum for the rest of his life, but was cared for by his sister until he died in 1900. As for the gardening thing, I’m not completely sure if that’s 100% accurate.

        • Tristan Haze

          Ken, Nietzsche himself writes in Ecce Homo of being able to write Latin essays as a student having had large quantities of ‘grog’ – adding that smaller amounts, by contrast, tend to make life a ‘veil of tears’ for him. Are you saying he was lying about having drunk alcohol?

          I have also read that a visitor who stayed with him was surprised at how much liquor he drank, but I do not have the source to hand.

          Numerous sources also attest to his having gotten into trouble with fellow students (gymnasium or university) for knocking off and getting tipsy. So it’s certainly not the case that he never in all his life drank alcohol. But perhaps there were periods when he could truly say, speaking of the then-current run of things, ‘I never drink’. Perhaps that ambiguity is at the bottom of our apparent disagreement.

          • Ken

            I was not saying that he didn’t drink alcohol; I was actually responding to what Kenneth said about Nietzsche’s breakdown (with the horse) and his being sick as a child. Those facts are true; that was all I was saying. I was not saying that Nietzsche never drank. Forgive me if I confused you with how I stated my words.

          • S Ray Wright

            Because he drank as a kid, he was like “I don’t drink anymore”

            Ecce Homo says your wrong

            The best cooking is that of Piedmont. Alcohol does not agree with me; one glass of wine or beer a day is enough to turn life into a valley of tears for me; in Munich live my antipodes. Admitting that I came to understand this rationally rather late, yet I had experienced it as a mere child. As a boy I believed that wine-drinking and tobacco-smoking were at first but youthful vanities, and later simply bad habits. Perhaps the wine of Naumburg was partly responsible for this harsh judgment. To believe that wine was exhilarating, I should have had to be a Christian-in other words, I should have had to believe in what, for me, is an absurdity. Strangely enough, whereas small largely diluted quantities of alcohol depressed me, great quantities made me act almost like a sailor on shore leave. Even as a boy I showed my bravado in this respect. […] Later on, towards the middle of my life, I grew more and more decisive in my opposition to spirituous drinks: 1, an opponent of vegetarianism from experience-like Richard Wagner, who reconverted in annot with sufficient earnest-ness advise all more spiritual natures to abstain absolutely from alcohol. Water answers the same purpose.”

    • Charles

      They are certainly not true. Part of the legend. Once he came by chance (!) to a brothel, like scared he went to play the piano, and soon left or rather run away. He was an homosexual. No syphilis, he never had the symptoms. No horse either. It came from the novel by Dostoievsky. He was despising pity in all his books. To have pity of a horse? Good joke! The gardening thing is correct: he tried but after 2 or 3 days gave up. Too difficult for him to work with both hands. It was easier for him with one hand only: writing and onanism. He was a psychotic character from childhood. He did not get mad, he was mad. End of 1888 he went into dementia. Can’t remember about alcohol, but he was on drugs. Massive chloral hydrate for instance, when he was suffering from insomnia (that is: quite often).

  • jc

    Alcohol is indeed bad. but sometimes we also need a bit of poison in our lives to recover.

    • clc

      He did drink and party when he first attended Bon College at age 20, but decided he didn’t want that lifestyle. I’m sure he drank socially, like most do after that. As for the Syphilis story, it is actually believed to be started to discredit him. His symptoms of headaches and loss of vision for periods of time are documented to have started around age 10 and progressed to bouts of momentary paralysis. Which in historical documentation resemble TIA or mini strokes. That would make sense because in the years near his death he had more than one major stroke. All of that along with the mental changes have been shown more likely to have been brain cancer or other type tumor.

      As for his writing, it was not literal. It was made to get people thinking, to evoke emotion. “God is Dead” was not literal, the idea of an omnipresence who created everything was being replaced with Descartes Cogito Ergo Sum. Man has a mind which gives him free will to make decisions, denoting God’s will over you. Darwin was showing the possibilities of evolution not a rib taken from Adam. So science was “killing” God. His point in all of this is that the herd mentality needs something to follow, and now what were they going to do? They were breaking down beliefs that gave them answers and made them feel safe.

      He promoted individualism, he promoted passion to be who you wanted to be, and felt driven to be. His point about living with full force, even in the eyes of death, is that you cannot change things that are inevitable. You cannot change things that have already happened, no matter how terrible, and why should you let it rob you of truly living. What you can change is how you embrace what you have now, but first you have to purge yourself of what holds your soul, your desire and your nature hostage. I would even venture to say he lived more sliding full force into death than you live in life. Eugene, Anyone who possesses the ability to be the Ubermensch, would be wise to stay far from you, because you will only bring them down to your level. You enjoy chasing life, while people like me, rage full force staring into the eyes of it, not afraid to LIVE.

      • optinion

        Science has now killed free will.

        Enjoy becoming aware of your own wasted, worthless years of your amygdala trying to justify suffering post-hoc with more suffering.

        And no, that realization you’re having of genuine meaninglessness isn’t magically, tautologically valuable.

        Or that one.

        Or that.

        Or that.

        Ad infinitum.

        Again, enjoy.

        • clc

          Big words are boring when scotch taped together.

          While you philly-shally, dawn breaks as does the mind when filled with paucity.
          Now in reference to my amygdala; were you threatening me with the right 🙁 or the left :)? Not that your futile attempt to bring out a reaction in my limbic system matters. I have multiple MRIs that prove I am not wired like you,
          or you,
          or you….
          to infinity and beyond…
          Enjoy knowing that your scant attempt to reply to my post was genuinely meaninglessnesslessnessssss and magically tautological as opposed to delicious.
          Realize that *.

          • optinion

            Appearently the bridges to the ubermensch also engage in rote gainsaying and mental diversion.

            Gotta stay both obsessive and ignorant when you’re harming people for ignoring too much or too little of your own preoccupations, I guess. Especially when they hit you back, and with your own premise, no less.

            But of course, one thing that infallibilists of any variety of can’t tolerate is transcendence. You may stay in your pretend abyss until you’ve learned your lesson. It may actually sound like a ‘delicious’ pain to know that there are others doing quite well outside of it, but it’s hard to imagine that it will be anything other then negating when you realize that they’ve beaten you at even your own pursuit, more closely resembling even your imaginary rapist-king then the syphilitic rejects, thwarted narcissists and memetic child abusers you emulate.



          • clc

            One word for you “therapy” you should get it.

            I find your replies idiotic at best thus my fastening parts of your original reply to cartoon quotes.

            Anger is weakness, as my old philosophy professor would say “you are a lamb making a feeble attempt to be a lion”. And you see this simply isn’t possible, you can wear the costume, but your weakness shows through in your anger and ignorance, you are a lamb and although a lion can become weak like a lamb, vice versa can never happen- a lion you will never be, lamb.

          • optinion

            Didn’t read, still transcending, post still applies.


      • Guest

        I tell ya, who knew the Ubermensch would be so into exterminating options for himself a priori?

        • clc

          Your reply makes no sense. Who are you referring to as superhuman and how would you know of their experience or lack of? I realize that philosophy is based on guessing, but please…Next…

          • Hervey Bilodeau

            Au suivant! I love this! I just give a look to your profil…:-) Looking to your beautiful eyes, I read the following: ”You keep calm and carry on while I raise hell and change the world.” I’m calm and still waiting for your beautiful Hell…;-)

      • Hervey Bilodeau

        You are so Perfect! 🙂 Are you real? Are you really a Superior Woman?…:-)

      • Vince Gidaro

        Well said!

      • R.F.B.

        Pretty good. Yeah, I found this article a little shaky. By the way, I think, for all the bombast of Zarathustra and the ubermensch, the only point was to overcome yourself.

  • Gary M

    a 10-year-old article casts a lot of doubt on the syphilis story:

    • Peterson Silva

      Thanks, I was _about_ to say that.

  • Hervey Bilodeau

    This is a ”strange bla-bla” related to our friend Nietzsche…:-( I’m sure that I’m not the only one who is having a strange feeling when I read this article…:-( ”Internet garbage” ou l’art de désinformer les cerveaux en mélangeant vérités et mensonges…:-(

  • Light_V_Dark

    Now, as THEN, DUDES…HOMOPHOBIA, I. Lou Men-Naughty…and THUMPERS!
    Ion Iacob It’s all part of the Illuminati /New World Order plan for what’s coming people, be strong, be ready, take care of you and your families, friends, close loved ones, stock up on real seeds, real food, real water, ammo, weapons, real medicine, and make escape plans out of the cities, set up your areas where you’re gonna hide out and live well, get “Bug out” bags ready !!!
    —– Well, Randy Quaid has been quite outspoken toward I. Lou Menotti, Dude. It would appear that the STAR WHACKERS have done a sincere number on Randy and his poor wife…NOTICE THE ISLAMIC HEADGEAR AND BEARD…OH, THE HORROR¿¿

    Randy Quaid Comes Out of Nowhere And Makes Bizarre,…

  • Light_V_Dark


    The higher your HOLY-IQ’S, the less likely you are to possess CONSCIENCES. OR, HAVE THE ABILITY TO CHOOSE GOOD OVER EVIL..BOO!

    Liberals, actually HEART EVIL..Liberal-Christians-Little, will die, DEFENDING YOU, AND trying to convert you¿?

    Negatively, he (Dostoevsky) tried to show that if the existence of God is denied, then one is landed in complete moral relativism, so that no act, regardless how dreadful or heinous, can be condemned by the atheist. To live consistently with such a view of life is unthinkable and impossible. Hence, atheism is destructive of life and ends logically in suicide.*

  • Margaret A Commonbottom VI Esq

    Let his work live on forever.

  • Mahoski

    You obviously know nothing about Nietzsche’s work.

  • shining.genji

    we don’t know that Nietzsche contracted syphilis. it’s just a theory, perhaps the best, that would explain his breakdown. but it is not proved and it can’t be proved or disproved, because he’s been dead too long.

  • red nig

    Well, we know he went insane. The syphilis sounds like a cop out, but was common enough then. It certainly give a great excuse for promoting the Herero genocide. And, of course, the over 100 million slaughtered by atheists in the 20th century. One insanity leads to the next. Good thing atheism is dying out. Sh, don’t tell the atheists. They’re certain they’re taking over. Nutty, ain’t they? 🙂

    • Tim Clark

      Not sure if you’ve noticed, but Christianity and God are dying worldwide. God will be dead within the next 100 years. Just like the 4000+ gods created by man before God was created by the Romans

      • red nig

        Not according to sociologists. At this time, atheists are forced to claim non-theists, agnostics, Nones, and even people who believe in God to boost their numbers. If you check world facts, you’ll find atheism dropped from over 4% to well under 3% in the last few decades, and is still falling rapidly.

        • Tim Clark

          I have no clue what you’re smoking but the rate of atheism has risen and continues to rise. Self-identified atheists
          comprise anywhere from 2% to 13% of the world’s population, whereas
          people without a religion comprise anywhere from 10% to 22% of the
          world’s population. You must be a delusional theist making things up as you mental patients always have

          • red nig

            According to science, something you’re not familiar with, Atheism is collapsing in the world. while rising yet in the West, nations that had lived under it tend to outlaw it when they can. Again, try science rather than urban legends and atheist sites, which are based on urban legend, and not reality.

          • Tim Clark

            It’s obvious you aren’t aware of science or reality. But Christians or any other theist have never lived in reality except before they were brainwashed with the mental illness, parasitic belief complex and mind disease known as religion. The worst one, Christianity in this case.You really need to grow up and pull your head out of your ass. Christianity and religion in general is dying more and more each day. People are finally starting to grow up. You ought to read the bile so you can grow up and be sane as well. Or are you too lazy and weak to spend time learning about the greatest evil and biggest lie of all time you mindless slaves swear is good and truth when you don’t even begin to know about it?Christians are why the world is so fucked up as history and common sense clearly show. But common sense is what Christians lack most. If they ever had any to begin with

          • red nig

            Actually, atheists are the ones psychologists try to avoid. Ted Bundy, Dalmer, and Jom Jones are not considered exceptions to atheism, but standard. Every poll about atheists in atheist society shows atheists trust their ‘friends’ about as much as one can trust a serial rapist. Less so, in fact.

          • Tim Clark

            Seriously? Well that’s a load of shit. Just seems like more Christian propaganda to me but what should I expect. Christians are the biggest liars and propagandists of all time. But it does make sense, seeing that God says he lies in the bible along with Jesus being a habitual liar

          • rednig

            Um, again, you just lost the argument. Nice, funny post and you made a fool of yourself. Please prove to be God said he lies in the Bible. You cannot, so your argument is in vain, and as Nietzsche said, atheists will destroy atheism–and you are. Keep up the good work, dude.

        • Tim Clark

          So you need to actually look at facts instead of pulling them out of your ass, as you have clearly done

          • red nig

            You need to stop pretending reality is relative to the situation. My profession is delaing with facts 🙂 Psychologists tend to avoid atheists, and for good reason.

          • Tim Clark

            You need to try living in reality. Your iron age fairy tale is dying there. And psychologists are often atheist because they know about the mind disease that is religion. Would you care to provide sources for your claims? Wait, I forgot. Christians don’t do that. They just make up and pull shit out of their asses

          • red nig

            Iron age? Hm, interesting. That atheism was developed by bronze age barbarians. I do live in reality. I am studying psychology, has a number of mental health pros in the family, and all are wary, if not frightened of atheists. You live in urban legend and wishful thinking. Nietzche was correct when he said atheists would destroy atheism. What is the average atheist IQ down to now? 70 points? Try science, it works!

          • Tim Clark

            You are extremely ill informed. Tell me, if Christians are so smart then why do they have the lowest academic scores in the nation, meanwhile atheists tend to have the highest? Maybe because they live off facts instead of having to make up shit to keep a fairy tale like Christianity alive. And God is a Bronze age belief. Just the new and improved, reinvented God of the New Testament is iron age superstition created by the Romans

      • evod777

        David Cameron:

        “The Economist may have published the obituary of God in their Millennium issue.

        But in the past century, the proportion of people in the world who
        adhere to the four biggest religions has actually increased from around
        two-thirds to nearly three quarters…

        …and is forecast to continue rising.

        For example, it is now thought there are at least 65 million protestants
        in China and 12 million Catholics – more Christians than there are
        members of the communist party.

        Official numbers indicate China has about 20 million Muslims – almost as
        many as in Saudi Arabia – and nearly twice as many as in the whole of
        the EU.

        And by 2050, some people think China could well be both the world’s biggest Christian nation and its biggest Muslim one too.”

        • rednig

          the only thing dying is atheism, which lost more than half of it’s adherents since the 70s. It dropped from 4.4% down to below 2% today, and still falling. Hong Kong handed over to China in 1997 was a major screw up for the atheists. It meant thousands of Christians could spread the word to family trapped in mainland Asia, it meant that human rights violations by atheists would now be publicized and viewed around the world. More so, it helped show how frightened the atheists are of Muslims. Most Chinese Muslims are also attending church. by the end of the war atheists will cause (by wrecking Western Christianity), there will be few, if any atheists left. The Muslims will slaughter them. No one hates atheists more than Muslims. And they destroy the only thing that keeps Islam under control, Christianity. so much for the vaunted, and lied about, superior reasoning skills.

      • TIGGS

        People insist on conflating God and Religion, when in fact they are antithetical. Religion is man-made, ergo faulty and limited, trying to encompass and explain and understand that which is perfect and unlimited, if It is at all.

        • rednig

          Religion is made-up, but God is reality. We have too many eyewitness accounts to not make that claim.

      • rednig

        I know you’re using the little dark box of urban legend. Funny thing is, Christianity is gaining–meaning over losses–about 80,000 more per day. Meanwhile, atheism is dying, thanks to modern atheists destroying it–as Nietzsche predicted. apparently, the only ones who do not know atheism is dying are atheists, who bury their heads in the little, airless box of urban legends. apparently, your school lessens from the aforementioned box is standing you good. You’re still batting 0. Rome came to be several centuries prior to Christ, not founded by hominids. In fact, they brought their gods with them, many from Sparta. So, they did not ‘invent’ any gods at all. Atheism is predicted to completely collapse by 2050, is science is correct, and it usually is. But, shh, don’t tell a modern atheist science is a good thing, OK? they never believe it.

  • Laura A Vognar

    Recently been thinking a lot about Nietzsche and similar philosophies. I riffed on a few of his ideas and related them to psychology. this link:

  • Zaki Abbas

    He used to trim his moustache when he was well. During his illness, her sister was incharge of his grooming, and she let it grew, and at that time, Nietzsche’s famous big moustache portrait was commissioned. These facts are misleading, and result of ill-researched. Atleast, he should have mention humor, or something