What did Nietzsche and Marx think of each other?

  • Nietzsche (1844-1900) and Marx (1818-1883) weren't quite contemporaries, but both were prominent and influential German thinkers, and one might expect that they have at least heard of each other. Marx might have missed Nietzsche's most active period (1880-1889), but it is certain that Nietzsche had known of Marx's ideas.

    Both were prominent materialists and anti-religious thinkers: "God is dead" vs "Religion is the opiate of the people" and both also subscribed to historicist views on the evolution of human thought. But mostly they seem to be in dialectic opposition to each other.

    Marx's view on the value of community and "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" seems antithetical to Nietzsche's views on master vs slave morality and his ideal ubermensch.

    • Is there a chance that Marx had heard of Nietzsche, or did Nietzsche only gain prominence after Marx's death?
    • Assuming Nietzsche read Marx, what did he make of his ideas?
    • Is my reading of their ideas as being antithetical correct, or is it superficial, and they can actually be reconciled?

    Good question; I don't know about N; but wasn't the *German Ideology* Marx's riposte against Stirner, who on some readings was comparable to Nietzsche.

    I would like to also know the "relationship" between Dostoevsky and Marx, the 2 most significant "philosophers" at late 19th century. Please delete, moderators, since King is asking about Nietzsche ( I am not familiar with, well, I must say at all ( but being interested ))

    See Thomas Brobjer, Nietzsche's philosophical context: An intellectual biography (2008), page 70: "Nietzsche never mentions Karl Marx or Friedrich Engels, and it is generally assumed that he had no knowledge of them and their kind of thinking and socialism. However, this is not correct. Marx is referred to in at least eleven books, by nine different authors, that Nietzsche read or possessed. In six of them he is discussed and quoted extensively, and in one of them Nietzsche has underlined Marx’s name." 1/2

    "The nine authors who mention or discuss Marx, whose works we know that Nietzsche either owned or read, are Jörg, Lange, Dühring, Meysenbug, Frantz, Schäffle, Frary, Bebel, and Jacoby. Of these, the books by Lange, Dühring, Frantz, Schäffle, Bebel, and Jacoby contain extensive discussions and long quotations. Nietzsche read several of these nonphilosophical books in 1876 or shortly thereafter." 2/2

    **I actually found coincidentaly -- the exact answer -- through Anti-Du:ring**. It was just a coincidence, kindly be reminded it was in Japanese and German, kindly wait. ( In summary, Nitche actually might have almot intentionally dismissed Marx ( aka Engels )).

    i don't know enough to understand the link. seems though that heidegger says marx assumes hegel had certain knowledge: so that Marx's own work is nothing but a (politicised) reversal of our need to know what we do

    "God is dead" is hardly really anti-religion. My "God is not dead. And lest the smell of victims died for his name confuse you" is anti-religion. But my views on God are harsh, based on jealous god of Old Testament. And some other religions where one could be death-sentenced for sleeping with several men.

  • Conifold

    Conifold Correct answer

    5 years ago

    Nietzsche mocked German idealists at length, but I think calling him a materialist is a bridge too far, same as for all his anti-Christianity it is not clear that he was an atheist. He inherited his metaphysics from Schopenhauer, transforming his World Will into will to power, who can be seen as irrationalizing Hegel's Absolute Geist with a side of that "intellectual intuition" that Kant kept rejecting but couldn't let go of. Nietzsche's is a highly personalized and individualistic philosophy focused on human condition and action, like existentialism, barely a realism but hardly materialism, and with panpsychic overtones perhaps.

    He explicitly rejected and mocked the dominant version of materialism of his day, atomism. As Nietzsche writes in Beyond Good and Evil:"As regards materialistic atomism, it is one of the best-refuted theories that have been advanced, and in Europe there is now perhaps no one in the learned world so unscholarly as to attach serious signification to it, except for convenient everyday use (as an abbreviation of the means of expression)". Moreover, he joined Hume in deflating the categories of substance and causality, along with the logical laws of identity and contradiction, all of which he saw as crutches of intellect clinging to the ephemeral stability of Being, and inadequate for capturing the Becoming of life, which only truly manifests itself in willings and urges:"Psychologists should bethink themselves before putting down the instinct of self-preservation as the cardinal instinct of an organic being. A living thing seeks above all to DISCHARGE its strength — life itself is WILL TO POWER".

    Marx passed away in 1883 and Nietzsche started writing about philosophy only in 1878. He probably did not gain enough prominence for Marx to notice in his waning years. As for the influence the other way, Clark and Leiter write in Nietzsche: Daybreak, "there is no evidence, however, that Nietzsche ever read Marx". He was aware of socialists and Young Hegelians more broadly, like Strauss, Stirner and Feuerbach, and yes, his individualism and emphasis on the historical role of "exceptional individuals", was antithetical to socialism and historical materialism, and his philosophy of life was antithetical to everything rationalism, especially Hegel. This said, he did embrace the Heraclitean aspects of Hegel, the becoming, the flux of life, irrationalized and vitalized by Schopenhauer. So there is one point of contact between Nietzsche, and especially early Marx of Young Hegelian days and alienation from Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (Stirner wrote in a similar spirit), — the Hegelian dialectic.

    See also online discussions concerning Nietzsche on Marx, and Marx on Schopenhauer.

    I always got the feeling that Nietzsche was a no-nonsense materialist hiding behind flower language he used. Eternal Recurrence strikes me as being as materialist as it gets.

    @Alexander Eternal recurrence is very Heraclitean too, "*this world is an ever living fire, going in and out*", but he did filter Heraclitus through Hegel and Schopenhauer. And he was too impressed by Hume to take "things in themselves" seriously, and mocked Kant for noumena http://philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/26820/why-is-nietzsche-here-tying-physics-to-the-categorical-imperative/26841#26841 If he believed in realist's kind of "access" at all it was irrational one, through urges of will in action, darkly. It's hard to make him even into a dialectical materialist :)

    Like Ayn Rand, he was not a Materialist. He uses all sorts of 'folksy wisdom' a materialist could never accept.

    @TechZilla, and like Ayn Rand, Nietzsche was not a philosopher. One agrees or disagrees with their way of looking at the world; neither advance hypotheses.

    Brobjer argues that Nietzsche had "a reasonably detailed knowledge of Marx and Marxism." I haven't read the article yet, but that seems like it may contradict Clark and Leiter.

    @BrianZ Very interesting. If true, this is new ground. As Brobjer himself writes:"*Nietzsche never mentions Marx or Engels, and nothing substantive and little other evidence has been found which can connect them. This has led to a situation where almost all commentators have assumed that Nietzsche had no knowledge of Marx at all... Nietzsche’s knowledge of Marx’s thinking was certainly limited, but it was far from being as insignificant as has been assumed.*"

    Expanded on this and some other sources to make a new answer below.

    I'd say Nietzsche indirectly insults Marx in most of his work. Whether he knew of Marx or not does not matter much. Marx is essentially an extension of Hegel and Kant. Undercutting either of those two weakens thought Marxism is dependent on. Hitting the foundation is more effective for toppling the entire structure. Though, Marx is easier to attack from it being an applied philosophy.

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