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Due to the fact that the audience of this question is comprised of individuals visiting a philosophy website, I can assume that the concept of introversion(within reason) will be met rather conciliatorily. However, when reading Nietzsche's work, it is hard to say whether we should take his words concerning isolationism to heart.

Quotes (i):

"One must avoid chance and outside stimuli as much as possible; a kind of walling oneself in belongs among the foremost instinctive precautions of spiritual pregnancy".

"I go into solitude so as not to drink out of everybody's cistern. When I am among the many I live as the many do, and I do not think I really think. After a time it always seems as if they want to banish my self from myself and rob me of my soul".

Basic Analysis

It appears here, as in much of his writing, that Nietzsche almost romanticizes the idea of complete isolation, and has few fine sentiments concerning social interactions.

Quotes (ii)

"The most common lie is that which one lies to himself; lying to others is relatively an exception."

"Perhaps I know best why it is man alone who laughs; he alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter."

Basic Analysis

Here, it appears as though Nietzsche admits to fabricating thoughts in order to spin a protective cocoon around his own psyche.

Question

I admire Nietzsche a great deal, and want to apply his sagacious teachings to my own life. Nevertheless, it is well known that Nietzsche suffered from many societal wounds during his life time (with mentors, as well as romantic interests), so I am not sure if I can trust his bolstering of a reclusive lifestyle.

I do not question whether introversion is better than extroversion. Clearly, many brilliant people thrive around others, and come up with very important ideas. Contrarily, copious geniuses were only able to come up with their ideas by isolating themselves completely.

Rather, I question whether we can trust that Nietzsche really believed that this was the best way to live, and if we can take his ideas concerning the matter to heart. It seems possible that he desired social interactions, but was simply met with rejection (and subsequently formed a protective shell around his psyche to stay in denial).

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  • i'm not convinced by the two quotes, to say they are inconclusive would be an understatement. does any scholar agree with you ?
    – user6917
    Feb 14 '15 at 1:42
  • I understand he was sending out his books to between 60 & 200 people in their 1st editions, & imagine at least some of them must have been tickled by his controversialism, maybe one or two even recognised their depth. The tether of some kind of audience, is surely the last stay against his work being undifferenciable from lunatic ravings by most of his society for at least another half century. He certainly wrote a lot of letters.
    – CriglCragl
    Aug 29 at 7:26
  • Introversion?!? You obviously haven't discovered the philosophical club circuit yet. Trust me, it's phenomenal... Aug 29 at 15:10
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Nietzsche was a very bright young guy .. and I think, he just was not able to find people matching his intellectual level. As you know, he was lonely nomad for the second half of his life, so he had to find a way to justify, love and andmire the isolation.

Yet, he was still reading books (by other people), giving lections (to other people), and writing books (for other people!), so his isolation was never complete, and there is no evidence he really desired such isolation.

Regarding your question, can we trust that Nietzsche really believed that this was the best way to live? - No, or at least not during the most part of his life. (That is fourty-something years, until he had got the brain cancer).

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Isolationism takes it too far, and he promotes isolation from other people, only insofar as one can stomach, in the initial... but further along it is mainly promoted for reasons of how one should accord with others: the people you interact with, in Nietzsche's view, ought to be your equals. With the quotes utilized, I will expand this view.

(i) "[S]pirtual pregnancy" is the main takeaway: longer/purer forms of isolation are indicative of spiritual pregnancy, or are perhaps prerequisites for such to occur. As for the "cistern" quote, he refers to "the many": a common term he uses to describe "the masses", who are not the more noble or free spirits that Nietzsche would desire to associate with. That is to say, if he even desired to free of a given instance of isolation that he was experiencing.

(ii) As for the last two quotes, I feel these are taken out of context of the question: "man" in the second quote is concerning the human in contradistinction to the animal; we were the first creature to feel. The former quote isn't pointing to his views on isolation, either.

Conclusion: he doesn't promote, wholesale, a reclusive lifestyle. Rather, isolation is a utility; this is one way we understand what he means by the use of "untergang":life is something we as an individual "undertake," that we alone "undergo".

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I think these quotes have been misconstrued. Nietzsche did not advocate isolation for its own sake — he wasn't misanthropic by any means — but he was aware of the need for unmediated perspective. To put in in the Christian terms that Nietzsche would have been quite familiar with, a wise man needs forty days in the desert to clear the mud of civilization from his eyes. Then he can return to the city.

It's a question of immersion. Excusing the shift in analogy, a fish cannot see or understand the ocean, because the fish is immersed in the ocean. To understand the ocean, the fish has to climb up onto land and look back. Then when it returns to the ocean, it is no longer mentally immersed. It sees that other fish are ocean-bound creatures, living in unthinking reaction to forces they cannot comprehend. One must break the ties that bind to achieve understanding: that demands isolation, as one would isolate to recover from a disease. And then one must go back and live among those still bound by ignorance, which demands a sense of empathy and irony.

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