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Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Friedrich Nietzsche


Study Questions

Study Questions

Study Questions

Study Questions

What does Nietzsche mean when Zarathustra says "God is dead"? How might such a claim be argued against?

"God is dead" is something very different from "God does not exist," and Zarathustra alludes at several points in the book to the fact that God was once alive. This God that was alive provided a meaning and a morality for the lives of the people who believed in him. By saying "God is dead," Nietzsche is suggesting that God no longer serves as this ultimate basis in Western culture. We can no longer justify our claims and our assumptions by an appeal to God; now God himself is something that we must justify if we wish to believe in him. Thus, Nietzsche's claim cannot be refuted by an argument that God does in fact exist. Rather, if we wanted to disagree with Nietzsche on this point, we would have to argue that Western culture still bases most of its claims on religion, an argument which we would probably have trouble carrying off successfully.

What are the "three metamorphoses"? Why is each stage necessary to the creation of an overman?

The first stage is that of the camel, who burdens himself with everything difficult and ponderous. The second stage is that of the lion, who is fiercely independent, and refuses to obey anyone but himself. The third stage is that of the child, who is innocent, fresh, and creative. The child represents the final state of the overman, who is able to create new values and a new way of seeing as if he were never influenced by the past. To reach this goal, he must first be a camel, and struggle against the old values and the old ways that he was born into. He then must be a lion, and reject all these old ways of seeing. Only once these old values and old ways of seeing have been struggled against and rejected can the overman, like a child, create things anew.

What do one's enemies and one's friends have in common? Do you agree with Nietzsche's conception of friendship?

Both one's enemies and one's friends challenge and drive one toward the overman. Both are one's equals: those who are below one's level cannot even be one's enemies. The only essential difference between friends and enemies is that one is warmly disposed towards one's friends and ill disposed towards one's enemies. Still, one respects one's enemies, and one's friends may at times be one's enemies and vice versa. This conception of friendship is unlike the one most of us hold. On the whole, we tend to treat friends as our support netweork and as people we can relax with, not as people who should challenge us and make life difficult for us. Of course, the best of friends will serve as some kind of spur toward self-improvement, but Nietzsche's conception of friendship is closer to the ancient Greek ideal than the one we have today.

Suggested Essay Topics

In what way does Nietzsche see Christian and democratic ideals being based on a spirit of resentment?

If a barbarian could slice a monk in two, why then does Nietzsche think a monk has more power than a barbarian?

What is an "inverse cripple"? Why is the past irredeemable so long as we remain inverse cripples?

What is the eternal recurrence? Why is it important?

How does Nietzsche contrast terms like "gravity" with terms like "laughter" and "dancing"? What is the effect of this contrast, both on a philosophical and on a literary level?

In what way does Nietzsche express his own inadequacies in the characters of the people Zarathustra welcomes to his cave in Part IV?

What is the significance of the biblical allusions found throughout the book?

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