Reading Whitmans epic - The Leaves of Grass recently; I was so struck by his language and it's similarity to Nietzsches that I suspected that he had been influenced or read him.

For example:

I celebrate myself, and sing myself

And what I assume you shall assume

Which sounds like a possible conception of the Uberman; and

Do I contradict myself

Very well then, I contradict myself

I am large, I contain multitudes

Which as an idea appears in Nietzsche.

Further, consider that both positioned themselves as bards and prophets.

But this appears to be not the case; but it does appears that both were influenced by the Transcendentalism of Emerson: the over-soul and his 'foolish consistency'.

But why is one taken to be a philosopher and the other a poet; when it appears that both were philosopher-poets?

  • Focus. Poetry, like music, is a drug (insofar as drug means mind altering in terms of emotion). What are the authors/producers focused on - truth or evoking emotion? Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 1:21
  • 2
    I think it's more to do with the fact that Nietzsche was involved in the academic humanities (he had a PhD in philology). Nietzsche's non-poetic works are read just as much as Zarathustra, whereas Whitman's non-poetic works are rarely studied.
    – J. LS
    Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 7:30
  • @RonRoyston but can Nietzsche be said to be focused on truth? The writings of his that I read weren't logical arguments, but bombastic, emotional assertions. Maybe the argument is there and I missed it, or maybe I just read bad Nietzsche. Whatever the case, I don't see how he's any more philosophical than Emerson.
    – R. Barzell
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 19:18
  • @royston: to compare poetry to a drug is already a kind of metaphor; and aren't you presenting an argument? Commented May 8, 2015 at 21:10
  • @MoziburUllah True. I am thinking that poetry (and music) evokes emotion whereas philosophy is sobering. Commented May 9, 2015 at 1:30

1 Answer 1


I would agree both are philosopher-poets, though I would add many other qualities. However, I am inclined to point out from a purely academic perspective,if a case had to be made as to why they're dropped into either a "philosopher" group or a "poet" group, the focus of each sets them up to be lumped into those groups.

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