Even though they are near contemporaries with each other, has Friedrich Nietzsche’s insightful critiques ever been influenced by the works of Charles Darwin?
By: Ringo Bones
Even though Charles Darwin has been dead 18 years when Friedrich Nietzsche published his The Will To Power back in 1901, many familiar with Nietzsche’s iconic work swore that it is largely influenced by Charles Darwin’s The Origin Of The Species By Means of Natural Selection, especially about the concept of “survival of the fittest” in an adverse environment. But is this a conjecture that holds water in philosophical terms?
The term “survival of the fittest” was actually first coined by biologist Herbert Spencer after reading Charles Darwin’s The Origin Of The Species and was used in Spencer’s Principles of Biology back in 1864. During Friedrich Nietzsche’s time as an impressionable student, he noticed that the Aristotelian leaning outlook of the universe adapted by Western Christianity seems to be creating some sort of “Kultur Kampf” during the political turmoil sweeping across Europe during latter half of the 19th Century. It seems that the most cherished of Western Christian values that Nietzsche holds dear since childhood has been subjected to a violent tumultuous disillusionment right before his very eyes, hence his declaration that (the Christian) God is Dead. It seems that towards the end of the 19th Century, the truism of Christianity’s Aristotelian view of the universe had been superseded by Charles Darwin’s more pragmatic “survival of the fittest” which could explain the salient theme behind Nietzsche’s The Will To Power.
To contemporary readers the term “power” in Nietzsche’s The Will To Power seems to be a catch-all phrase describing his renewed hope of mankind via scientific innovation and exploration as a way of escape from the political turmoil sweeping across Europe at that time. It may have been safe to assume that Friedrich Nietzsche probably agreed with Alfred Nobel that if he invented a weapon powerful enough that it would cause terrible mass casualties, the powers-that-be will refrain from waging war forever. Although Nobel was kind of half-right with the advent of the thermonuclear weapons arms race during the height of the Cold War that limited global conflicts to “conventional police actions” like the Korean War, Vietnam, the then Soviet Union invading Afghanistan, etc. Even though Nietzsche’s philosophical stance may seem anathema to Abrahamic Theology from the point of view of us level-headed high-level thinkers, many a post Cold War religious extremists – like Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda and the current Islamic State - has since adapted Nietzsche’s philosophies to further their own theological political ends.