Nietzsche and Emerson don’t seem like they should go together. Ralph Waldo Emerson was a spiritual nature-loving Transcendentalist and Friedrich Nietzsche was a self-proclaimed Antichrist. But the truth is that Nietzsche loved Ralph Waldo Emerson and while he was far from agreement with him on many points, he felt that Emerson was a “twin soul” and only wished that he could go back and give this great nature a proper education.
When you cut past the superficial differences the beating heart of both philosophies are deeply related—both throw aside the revelations of other authorities in order to form a personal relationship with truth, both believe in the power of the individual and the importance of genius. At the core of the philosophy of Nietzsche and of Emerson’s philosophy was the conviction that philosophy was something that you lived.
Nietzsche first read the philosophy of Emerson as a 17 year old schoolboy and his relationship with Emerson spanned a quarter century all the way to the end of his career in 1889. In this episode we explore this strange but potent connection between Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nietzsche.
📚 Further Reading:
Nietzsche, F., 1974. The Gay Science: with a prelude in German rhymes and an appendix of songs (Vol. 985). Vintage.
Nietzsche, F., 1977. Thus Spoke Zarathustra in The Portable Nietzsche. Penguin Routledge.
Nietzsche, F., 1968. The Birth of Tragedy and Ecce Homo in Basic writings of Nietzsche . Modern Library Classics.
Andler, C., 1920. Nietzsche, sa vie et sa pensée (Vol. 1). Éditions Bossard.
Cavell, S. (1991). Aversive Thinking: Emersonian Representations in Heidegger and Nietzsche. New Literary History, 22(1), 129-160. doi:10.2307/469146
Hummel, H., 1946. Emerson and Nietzsche. New England Quarterly, pp.63-84.
Zavatta, B., 2019. Individuality and Beyond: Nietzsche Reads Emerson. Oxford University Press.
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