5 Quotes by Friedrich Nietzsche Explained

Nietzsche teaches us to question religious beliefs, embrace challenges, appreciate art, cultivate authentic relationships, and live boldly in the present.

Jul 3, 2024By Viktoriya Sus, MA Philosophy

quotes friedrich nietzsche explained


Friedrich Nietzsche was a philosopher who changed the morals of his own time and turned people’s understanding of the world upside down. Nietzscheanism can be debated, but the philosopher’s relevance will remain for centuries. Nietzsche is also known for his poetic and musical works.


The philosopher lived a short life–only 55 years. His last years were joyless, becoming a patient in a psychiatric clinic shortly before his death. However, he has left many quotes and aphorisms that are still relevant today.


1. “God Is Dead, and We Have Killed Him.”

The Dead Christ with Angels, Edouard Manet, 1864, Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art


The statement “God is dead, and we have killed him” epitomizes Friedrich Nietzsche. This phrase carries his thoughts concerning traditional religion that has been eroded in the Western world. The philosopher argued that God had remained an important power to shape human values and morality for centuries.


However, during the Enlightenment period when people were getting more interested in scientific investigation of issues, their confidence in God was slowly taking a dip, according to Nietzsche’s view. Many discarded traditional religious notions.

Get the latest articles delivered to your inbox

Sign up to our Free Weekly Newsletter


To place these words in the context of Nietzsche’s wider theories, one must be familiar with his “death of God” concept. This is not a literal death; instead, it refers to ridding oneself of faith in an all-powerful deity that provides humans with some kind of universal objective meaning and reason for existence.


Faith-based religions such as Christianity are seen by Nietzsche as oppressive social groups limiting individual freedom. He believed moral value created from religious doctrine constricts potential and thwarts personal development. Leaving faith behind would, therefore, bring on a crisis over identity and values.


What if there is no divine guidebook left? Nietzsche argued that man would have to create his own meaning through individual subjective experience. His “will to power” theory covers this, which is concerned with self-assertion and striving for personal goals rather than looking outside oneself for moral yardsticks.


When Nietzsche writes, “and we have killed him,” he implies a collective responsibility on the part of the contemporary Western world to this change in culture. Enlightenment philosophers such as Descartes and Rousseau played key roles in the erosion of faith once they began offering reason as a valid epistemological implement.


That is why Friedrich Nietzsche mentions that humanity should seek “the consequences” boldly rather than take comfort or substitute meaning through other ideologies–nihilism or political ones.


Nihilism–the belief that nothing really matters or has value in life–was seen as a hazardous consequence of God’s death by Nietzsche. Instead, he believes, people should affirm their own creative abilities and invent their own values and purpose to steer this existential vacuity.


2. “That Which Does Not Kill Us Makes Us Stronger.”

The Sad Message, Peter Fendi, 1838, Source: the Web Gallery of Art


The quote, “that which does not kill us makes us stronger,” is a powerful encapsulation of Nietzsche’s concept of the human spirit. According to Nietzsche, difficulties and obstacles are not simply things to be suffered through; they can also be opportunities for growth and self-overcoming.


This quote fits in with a broader theme in Nietzsche’s writing: that of life-affirmation. In this view, individuals are encouraged to embrace their existence fully and try to overcome any challenges that come their way.


Nietzsche believed that only by pushing against one’s limits–by struggling with something difficult–can one develop inner strength or reach their potential.


For example, consider physical exercise. When you push your body beyond what feels comfortable during exercise–when you lift weights until your muscles burn or run so hard your lungs feel as if they might burst–you cause muscle fatigue. Over time, however, repeated intense workouts lead to adaptation: your muscles grow stronger than they were before.


Nietzsche thought much the same thing could happen mentally if we faced up to rather than avoided difficult situations. Suppose we confront loss rather than trying futilely to suppress it, face failure rather than pretending everything went as planned, or accept rejection instead of living forevermore in hope. In that case, we have an opportunity for personal development.


Another example of how this concept might apply in practice comes from Nietzsche’s critique of traditional moral values. He believed that blindly following societal norms dictated by religious beliefs stifles individual vitality and self-actualization.


By breaking free from externally imposed moralities–questioning conventions or received wisdom–an individual could create their own set of values based on personal experiences or desires. It takes courage but ultimately allows individuals to take back control over their lives actively.


In other words, the quote encourages people who face challenging moments or setbacks to bear them stoically and actively turn them into opportunities for self-improvement.


3. “Without Music, Life Would Be a Mistake.”

The Musicians, Caravaggio, 1597, Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art


This quote succinctly captures Friedrich Nietzsche’s deep reverence for the arts and his conviction that they play a crucial role in human existence. Nietzsche regarded music as a profound expression of the human spirit and a source of transcendent experiences.


In Nietzsche’s philosophy, art was not mere indulgence or entertainment but fundamental to living. Art, especially music, could lift people from their ordinary lives and connect them with higher truths and emotions.


Music was so significant for Nietzsche because it was able to communicate straight to the heart–beyond reason or language. While words often limited understanding and failed to capture life’s complexities, music bypassed these limitations by speaking directly to our emotions.


An illustration: certain pieces can summon powerful moods such as joy or melancholy; awe-inspiring compositions by Beethoven or Bach can move us profoundly on a level that words alone cannot reach.


More than this, however, Nietzsche thought that music could help humans rise above society’s moralities and norms–values he saw as inhibitive and restrictive.


Music enabled individuals to break free from constraint: it gave them a means of escaping societal expectations and an outlet for expressing their true selves without feeling forced into conformity.


Music’s non-verbal meaning made it something like a universal language through which people could articulate their innermost thoughts and feelings.


But there were other social benefits, too. Music helped bring people together in shared experiences and crossed social divisions. The idea of attending concerts or taking part in communal musical performances fostered camaraderie; it created unity where none might have existed before.


By cutting across linguistic barriers and ideological divides alike, music could both be understood universally and build bridges between diverse groups of people.


4. “In Heaven, All the Interesting People Are Missing.”

The Assumption of the Virgin, Francesco Botticini, 1475-1476, Source: The National Gallery


Nietzsche rejected the belief of a life after death as escapism from living truly in this world. He found religion’s offer of a heavenly paradise a means to restrain human wants and emotions that would prevent individual excellence and self-realization.


To better appreciate such a quote concerning Nietzsche’s philosophical ideas, it is important to delve into his denial of traditional moralities and affirmation of life. Nietzsche denied conventional moral values, teaching self-sacrifice and self-denial for future rewards in heaven. On the other hand, he upheld pursuing passions, creativity, and finding fulfillment here on earth.


In fact, he further generalizes that “all the interesting people are missing.” Hence, those who look for heavenly rewards do not have an opportunity to interact with life meaningfully. It is one’s pursuit of growth by way of overcoming challenges, following out-of-ordinary interests, exposure to different experiences, or embracing what one wants within oneself that makes a person really interesting.


Nietzsche himself was quite an unconventional man, leading a rather controversial life without accepting society’s accepted values. His excursions into philosophy, literature, music, and art made him intellectually provocative.


Another example is in artists or innovators who creatively bend existing conventions. These people portray Nietzsche’s ideal person as not being kept on a leash by decorum but rather using their talent to express their art or build something unusual and thought-provoking.


Nietzsche saw the pursuit of heavenly rewards over worldly experiences retarding growth at an individual level and choking self-expression and fulfillment potential.


He advocates for a life-affirming philosophy that encourages one to affirm their desires, explore diverse experiences, and seek personal authenticity rather than defer interest and excitement to the afterlife or otherworldly existence beyond this world.


5. “Invisible Threads Are the Strongest Ties.”

A Gathering of Friends, Eustache Le Sueur, c. 1640-1644, Source: Wikimedia Commons


To understand this quote in the context of Nietzsche’s philosophy, one must inevitably consider his ideas regarding human relationships. In stark contrast to the superficialities that social conventions brought into play, he advocated real relations, which bloom out of a genuine desire for understanding and connectivity.


When Nietzsche spoke of “invisible threads” holding people together, he referred to those intangible qualities that make connections between people real ones–shared perspectives or emotional responses, intellectual congruence, and even just a sense of groupness based on some common interest or goal.


Such invisible ties as these had the power to exist above and beyond physical distance or material circumstances.


For example, consider a close friendship or romantic relationship: real friends sometimes have this invisible sense of connection that extends beyond just being in the same place. They can move miles apart because of any circumstances. However, they still feel related because of experiences, memories, and some emotional support–there is something unseen that keeps them together despite the distance.


The same goes for communities organized around shared hobbies or interests. Participants who belong to such a community feel like they truly belong there because, in some way, something is holding them all together invisibly – some commitment towards a particular cause or ideology.


But what about authenticity? Nietzsche thought that being authentic with others–being oneself rather than trying to be what one thinks society expects from an individual–was important if someone wanted real relationships with their fellow human beings. You form genuine connections when you can express yourself fully without fear of judgment based solely on appearances.


That means prioritizing our own authenticity in our relationships and embracing who we really are rather than seeking validation through meeting external expectations.


Ultimately, though, it is not so much how close your relationships are which determines their quality. It’s all about whether they have a mutual understanding and trust foundation, as well as whether they fulfill both parties’ needs at any given time.


So What Does Nietzsche Teach Us?

Friedrich Nietzsche, Edvard Munch, 1906, Source: Wikimedia Commons


Friedrich Nietzsche’s investigations into philosophical ideas yield numerous concepts that have big implications for how people live their lives. Some of his key principles include personal growth, the importance of freedom, and being true to oneself.


Humans should question traditional beliefs about religion and morality, Nietzsche argued, so that they can establish their own values in life rather than being distracted by ideas such as an afterlife or a higher power.


Adversity and suffering can make us stronger and enable us to reach our full potential–powerful tools that we can use to live. Rather than running away from difficulty, we should see it as an opportunity for self-creation.


Art–particularly music–offers people a way of feeling profound emotions or truths that go beyond what logic or language would allow, something everyone shares despite differences between humans.


Real relationships are forged on emotional connection, shared values, and understanding, not superficial things like money or looks. Such genuine connections tend to last longer than those based on more shallow criteria.


Finally, people shouldn’t wait for rewards in some imagined future, but learn how to fully live now. They will lead a fulfilled life if they pursue the things they want and do what feels most authentic rather than following societal expectations too closely.

Author Image

By Viktoriya SusMA PhilosophyViktoriya is a writer from L’viv, Ukraine. She has knowledge about the main thinkers. In her free time, she loves to read books on philosophy and analyze whether ancient philosophical thought is relevant today. Besides writing, she loves traveling, learning new languages, and visiting museums.