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German Men of Ideas: Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

"Man is something that shall be overcome…. You have made your way from worm to man, and much in you is still worm… Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman -- a rope over an abyss… What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end."

Field of Study: Philosopher, philologist, ethicist.

Revolutionary Insight: Believed Christianity promoted a "slave morality" in which meekness, submission, and piety are valued. The "death of God" meant it was impossible to know objective, divine truth; against this backdrop of relativism the solitary, exceptional übermensch (overman) creates his own inner, superior morality.

Controversy Quotient (0to 5): (4) Intellectual combativeness alienated contemporaries, including Richard Wagner. In life, Nietzsche despised nationalism and anti-Semitism; posthumous reputation suffered when Hitler corrupted the übermensch into a Nazi eugenic ideal.

Little Known Fact: Some historians now believe the sickly Nietzsche went insane not from late-stage syphilis, but from a vascular disease that manifested in migraines, stroke, and dementia.

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