"Out of life's school of war: What does not destroy me, makes me stronger."

-from the Maxims & Arrows section of aphorisms, in Die Götzen-Dämmerung (Twilight of the Idols) by Friedrich Nietzsche

What does Nietzsche mean?

Continuing discussion of Interpretation of living dangerously

I mean to say: drugs, sugar, reels in youtube, and many bad habits, don't kill you. But it seems they also don't make us stronger..?

  • Note that this is a maxim given without context; no matter what answer we give, it will be an interpretation without evidence. Historical context is required to decode many of the neighboring maxims, and it may also be required here.
    – Corbin
    Commented Aug 13, 2023 at 22:07
  • german.stackexchange.com is probably better suited to discussion of German language aphorisms, meaning and history.
    – g s
    Commented Aug 13, 2023 at 23:51

2 Answers 2


Suppose that strength is a matter of experience. For a philosopher, fortitude is not just a matter of rote repetition, but of argumentation and worldview. With more experience, a philosopher can endure more difficult considerations. Then the maxim is saying that experience is cumulative, assuming that one can endure the source of the experience.

We can be more general, at the cost of precision. At some point, a life ends. But prior to ending, we can imagine that a life has accumulated some sort of abstract wisdom via the passage of time. This accumulation is as monotone as time. So, whatever life continues to survive, continues to accumulate.


I read an article online about it. But it's about psychological hardships. not sugar.

Scientists at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management have established a causal relationship between failure and future success, proving German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s adage that “what does not kill me makes me stronger.”

The researchers utilized advanced analytics to assess the relationship between professional failure and success for young scientists. They found, in contrast to their initial expectations, that failure early in one’s career leads to greater success in the long term for those who try again.

“The attrition rate does increase for those who fail early in their careers,” lead author Yang Wang said. “But those who stick it out, on average, perform much better in the long term, suggesting that if it doesn’t kill you, it really does make you stronger.”

The study, “Early-career setback and future career impact,” was published in Nature Communications.


The findings provide a counter-narrative to the Matthew Effect, which posits a “rich get richer” theory that success begets more success. “It turns out that, historically, while we have been relatively successful in pinpointing the benefits of success, we have failed to understand the impact of failure,” said Dashun Wang, corresponding author and associate professor of management and organizations at Kellogg.

But what is interesting here - "For those who try again". So of course trauma itself doesn't automatically makes us stronger. It's more like going to a gym over and over again.

  • so is mathew effect right or the other one
    – quanity
    Commented Aug 13, 2023 at 20:43
  • these are just different things
    – user66933
    Commented Aug 14, 2023 at 8:16

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