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Great Aphorists: Friederich Nietzsche


I love aphorisms.

First of all, throwing around the word aphorism makes you sound like an intellectual heavyweight!

Aphorisms are the philosophical equivalent of Chicken McNuggets: tasty little morsels that aren't often confused with real food.

But, they are great for what they are, easily remembered, and can be quite entertaining. And Friederich Nietzsche was the superheavyweight aphorist champ of all time. I generally avoid reading anything longer than aphorisms by Nietzsche because, well, it hurts my flyweight brain. The aphorisms, however, I can usually comprehend, so I stick to those.

Here are just a few from his oeuvre:

Out of life's school of war: What does not destroy me, makes me stronger.

And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

Many a man fails as an original thinker simply because his memory is too good.

Only sick music makes money today.

People who have given us their complete confidence believe that they have a right to ours. The inference is false, a gift confers no rights.

There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.

What really raises one's indignation against suffering is not suffering intrinsically, but the senselessness of suffering.

And finally, true to his aphoristic impulses, quoth Nietzsche:

It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.

I did not include Nietzsche's most famous quote - "God is dead" - because it is not really an aphorism, but comes from a longer passage in The Gay Science. There is also an entire Wikipedia article about that particular concept.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 6 January 2006 02:43 PM


WOW!...That guy has the thickest mustache I have ever seen!

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at January 6, 2006 06:41 PM

He probably has food stashed in that mustache...

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at January 6, 2006 07:03 PM

He very well might have.

He was quite insane by the time this photo of him was taken.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at January 6, 2006 09:53 PM

I really like those aphorisms!...As a matter of fact I have used a few of those not knowing who actually deserved the credit! Thanks Ken! ...

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at January 7, 2006 02:45 PM

Mustache? I thought he was trying to eat a hamster.

Posted by: Rodney Dill at January 8, 2006 12:33 PM

I dig aphorisms, but your abyss quote left out the best part:

He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.
Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 146

Posted by: Cullen at January 9, 2006 07:53 AM

That mustache looks like a page-boy hairdo that was once popular in the 60's! It kind of flips under...

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at January 9, 2006 07:20 PM

Oh my gosh Rodney! I think you are right...

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at January 9, 2006 07:34 PM