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Twilight of the Idols

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Title: Twilight of the Idols  
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Collection: 1889 Books, Books by Friedrich Nietzsche, Books Critical of Christianity
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Twilight of the Idols

Twilight of the Idols or, How to Philosophize with a Hammer
Author Friedrich Nietzsche
Original title Götzen-Dämmerung
Translator R. J. Hollingdale
Country Germany
Language German
Genre Philosophy
Publication date
Media type Paperback, hardcover
Pages 208 (1990 Penguin Classics ed.)
OCLC 22578979
Preceded by The Case of Wagner (1888)
Followed by The Antichrist (1888)

Twilight of the Idols, or, How to Philosophize with a Hammer (German: Götzen-Dämmerung, oder, Wie man mit dem Hammer philosophirt) is a book by Friedrich Nietzsche, written in 1888, and published in 1889.


  • Genesis 1
  • Synopsis 2
    • Foreword 2.1
    • Maxims and Arrows 2.2
    • The Problem of Socrates 2.3
    • Reason in Philosophy 2.4
    • How the "True World" Finally Became Fiction 2.5
    • Morality as Anti-Nature 2.6
    • The Four Great Errors 2.7
    • The 'Improvers' of Mankind 2.8
    • What the Germans Lack 2.9
    • Skirmishes of an Untimely Man 2.10
    • What I Owe to the Ancients 2.11
    • The Hammer Speaks 2.12
  • Cultural impact 3
  • Notes 4
  • Bibliography 5
  • External links 6


Twilight of the Idols was written in just over a week, between 26 August and 3 September 1888, while Nietzsche was on holiday in Sils Maria.[1] As Nietzsche's fame and popularity was spreading both inside and outside Germany, he felt that he needed a text that would serve as a short introduction to his work. Originally titled A Psychologist's Idleness, it was renamed Twilight of the Idols or How to Philosophize with a Hammer.

The former title, Götzen-Dämmerung in German, is a pun on the title of Richard Wagner's opera, Götterdämmerung, or 'Twilight of the Gods'. Götze is a German word for "idol" or "false god". Walter Kaufmann has suggested that in his use of the word Nietzsche might be indebted to Francis Bacon.[2]


Nietzsche criticizes German culture of the day as unsophisticated and nihilistic, and shoots some disapproving arrows at key French, British, and Italian cultural figures who represent similar tendencies. In contrast to all these alleged representatives of cultural "decadence", Nietzsche applauds Caesar, Napoleon, Goethe, Thucydides and the Sophists as healthier and stronger types. The book states the transvaluation of all values as Nietzsche's final and most important project, and gives a view of antiquity wherein the Romans for once take precedence over the ancient Greeks.

The book is divided up into several sections:


Maxims and Arrows

Single sentence aphorisms on a variety of topics.

The Problem of Socrates

He establishes early on in the section The Problem of Socrates that the value of life cannot be estimated and any judgment concerning it only reveals the person's life-denying or life-affirming tendencies.[3] He tries to show how philosophers from Socrates onwards were "decadents", employing dialectical rationality as a tool for self-preservation as the authority of tradition breaks down.

Reason in Philosophy

Nietzsche denies many of Plato's ideas, specifically that of Being and Becoming, the world of the forms, and the fallibility of the senses. More precisely, he does not believe that one should refute the senses, as Plato did.[4] This goes against Nietzsche's ideals of human excellence in that it is a symptom of personal decadence.[5] By decadence, Nietzsche is referring to a fading of life, vitality and an embrace of weakness. In Nietzsche's view if one is to accept a non-sensory, unchanging world as superior and our sensory world as inferior, then one is adopting a hate of nature and thus a hate of the sensory world - the world of the living. Nietzsche postulates that only one who is weak, sickly or ignoble would subscribe to such a belief.

Nietzsche goes on to relate this obsession with the non-physical realm to Christianity and the concept of Heaven. Nietzsche indicates that the belief in the Christian God is a similar decadence and hate of life.[5] Given that Christians believe in Heaven, which is in concept similar to Plato's ideas of the world of forms (a changeless, eternal world) and that Christians divide the world into the "real" (heaven) and the apparent (living) world, they too hate nature.

How the "True World" Finally Became Fiction

In this section, Nietzsche demonstrates the process by which previous philosophers have fictionalized the apparent world, casting the product of the senses into doubt, and thereby removing the concept of the real world. The section is divided into six parts:

  1. The wise and pious man dwells in the real world, which he attains through his wisdom (skills in perception warrant a more accurate view of the real world).
  2. The wise and pious man doesn't dwell in the real world, but rather it is promised to him, a goal to live for. (ex: to the sinner who repents)
  3. The real world is unattainable and cannot be promised, yet remains a consolation when confronted with the perceived injustices of the apparent world.
  4. If the real world is not attained, then it is unknown. Therefore, there is no duty to the real world, and no consolation derived from it.
  5. The idea of a real world has become useless- it provides no consolation or motive. It is therefore cast aside as a useless abstraction.
  6. What world is left? The concept of the real world has been abolished, and with it, the idea of an apparent world follows.

Morality as Anti-Nature

Every healthy morality is governed by a vital instinct. Anti-morality is the opposite, it is precisely against vital instincts.

The Four Great Errors

In the chapter The Four Great Errors, he suggests that people, especially Christians, confuse the effect for the cause, and that they project the human ego and subjectivity on to other things, thereby creating the illusionary concept of being, and therefore also of the thing-in-itself and God. In reality, motive or intention is "an accompaniment to an act"[6] rather than the cause of that act. By removing causal agency based on free, conscious will, Nietzsche critiques the ethics of accountability, suggesting that everything is necessary in a whole that can neither be judged nor condemned, because there is nothing outside of it.[7] What people typically deem "vice" is in fact merely "the inability not to react to a stimulus."[8] In this light, the concept of morality becomes purely a means of control: "the doctrine of will has been invented essentially for the purpose of punishment, that is of finding guilty."[9]

Men were thought of as free so that they could become guilty: consequently, every action had to be thought of as willed, the origin of every action as lying in the consciousness... ...Today, when we have started to move in the reverse direction, when we immoralists especially are trying with all our might to remove the concept of guilt and the concept of punishment from the world and to purge psychology, history, nature, the social institutions and sanctions of them, there is in our eyes no more radical opposition than that of the theologians, who continue to infect the innocence of becoming with 'punishment' and 'guilt' by means of the concept of the 'moral world-order'. Christianity is a hangman's metaphysics. The Four Great Errors

The 'Improvers' of Mankind

What the Germans Lack

Skirmishes of an Untimely Man

What I Owe to the Ancients

The Hammer Speaks

Cultural impact

Nietzsche's original line "From life's school of war: what does not kill me makes me stronger" has been referenced many times. G. Gordon Liddy, former assistant to President Richard Nixon, paraphrased it as "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." In that phrasing, it has appeared in many places, including the opening of the film Conan the Barbarian (1982),[10] Kanye West's song "Stronger" (2007), and Kelly Clarkson's song "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" (2012). Marilyn Manson, in his song "Leave A Scar" (2009), paraphrases Nietzsche to make a different point: "whatever doesn't kill you is gonna' leave a scar."


  1. ^ Large, Duncan (trans). Twilight of the Idols (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pg. ix
  2. ^ Kaufmann W., The Portable Nietzsche, New York: Viking, 1954, p463
  3. ^ Nietzsche, Friedrich. Twilight of the Idols; and the Anti-Christ. Trans. R. J. Hollingdale. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977, pgs. 40, 55.
  4. ^ Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, pg. 45.
  5. ^ a b Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, pg. 49.
  6. ^ Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, pg. 60.
  7. ^ Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, pg. 65.
  8. ^ Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, pg. 54.
  9. ^ Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, pg. 64.
  10. ^ Whitaker, Albert Keith (2003). "In the Classroom: California Dreamin' in the Postmodern Academy". The Journal of Education (Massachusetts, United States: Boston University) 184 (2): 123–124.  


  • Bernd Magnus: The Deification of the Commonplace: Twilight of the Idols, in: Solomon, Robert C. / Higgins, Kathleen M. (ed.): Reading Nietzsche, New York / Oxford 1988, pp. 152–181.
  • Duncan Large: Götzen-Dämmerung from the Perspective of Translation Studies, in: Nietzscheforschung. Jahrbuch der Nietzsche-Gesellschaft 16: Nietzsche im Film, Projektionen und Götzen-Dämmerungen, Berlin 2009, pp. 151–160.
  • Andreas Urs Sommer: Kommentar zu Nietzsches Der Fall Wagner. Götzendämmerung (= Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften (ed.): Historischer und kritischer Kommentar zu Friedrich Nietzsches Werken, vol. 6/1). XVII + 698 pages. Berlin / Boston: Walter de Gruyter 2012 (ISBN 978-3-11-028683-0).

External links

  • Götzen-Dämmerung at Project GutenbergGerman language edition.
  • English translation by Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale
  • audio book at (Ludovici translation)Twilight of the Idols
  • "Twilight of the Idols or How to Philosophize with a Hammer" (English translation Daniel Fidel Ferrer, February 2013)
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