The Philosophy of Nietzsche: An Introduction by Alain de Botton

“To those human beings who are of any con­cern to me, I wish suf­fer­ing, des­o­la­tion, sick­ness, ill treat­ment, indig­ni­ties, pro­found self-con­tempt, the tor­ture of self-mis­trust, and the wretched­ness of the van­quished.” Thus wrote for­bid­ding­ly mus­ta­chioed Ger­man philoso­pher Friedrich Niet­zsche, artic­u­lat­ing his coun­ter­in­tu­itive view of suf­fer­ing as some­thing desir­able. But sure­ly the Niet­zschean way could nev­er lead to an enjoy­able life? On the con­trary, explains the tele­vi­sion series Phi­los­o­phy: A Guide to Hap­pi­ness. “Friedrich Niet­zsche believed that all vari­eties of suf­fer­ing and fail­ure were to be wel­comed by any­one seek­ing hap­pi­ness. We should regard them as tough chal­lenges to be over­come in the same way as a climber might tack­le a moun­tain.” Thus speaks the show’s host, pop­u­lar­iz­er of philoso­phers from Socrates to Seneca, Epi­cu­rus to Schopen­hauer, Alain de Bot­ton.

Niet­zsche per­haps put more com­pelling­ly than any writer before or since the notion of “no pain, no gain.” De Bot­ton, a phi­los­o­phy enthu­si­ast eager to look for the­o­ry in prac­tice, vis­its a ded­i­cat­ed, sac­ri­fice-mak­ing dancer from the Eng­lish Nation­al Bal­let, the com­bi­na­tion of whose acquired phys­i­cal grace and painful his­to­ry of toe­nail bruis­es make the argu­ment in a vis­cer­al way.

He then chats with a drinks dis­trib­u­tor fresh off the fail­ure of his first busi­ness ven­ture and already work­ing hard on his sec­ond. Accord­ing to our host, Niet­zsche “did­n’t think that hav­ing failed was, in itself, enough. All lives have fail­ures in them. What makes some lives ful­filled as well is the man­ner in which fail­ure has been met.” Or, in the sim­pler words of the dis­trib­u­tor him­self, “How would you be able to judge your suc­cess if you haven’t failed?”

Although this broad­cast works as an intro­duc­tion, we don’t rec­om­mend you lim­it your learn­ing about a philoso­pher with a volu­mi­nous body of writ­ten work to videos alone. In our col­lec­tion of free eBooks, you can down­load eight of Niet­zsche’s vol­umes in a vari­ety of for­mats: Beyond Good and Evil, Ecce Homo, Homer and Clas­si­cal Philol­o­gy, Human, All Too Human, The Anti Christ, The Case Against Wag­n­er, The Gay Sci­ence, and Thus Spake Zarathus­tra.

You can watch more episodes in Alain de Bot­ton’s series, A Guide to Hap­pi­ness here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Online Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es

Wal­ter Kaufmann’s Lec­tures on Niet­zsche, Kierkegaard and Sartre (1960)

Sartre, Hei­deg­ger, Niet­zsche: Three Philoso­phers in Three Hours

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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