The works of the Marquis de Sade were suppressed by the mid-19th century, but were floating around Europe in samizdat form until the mid-20th century, when they were published and circulated above ground. These semi-pornographic works promote a philosophy of negative Christianity, but invert the Christian ideas of morality and find pleasure in cruelty and naked power.

How much of a debt does Nietzsche's philosophy of slave/master-morality owe to Sade? Is there any credible evidence that he borrowed aspects of his philosophy from Sade's work, or was even exposed to this writing? If so, what aspects of his work as we know it are original to Nietzsche, and what parts are due to Sade's influence?

I suspect that the scholarly research devoted to this question is limited because Sade was not available until the end of World War II, and even today, there are those who will not read him. Some writers credit Sade with inventing the modern villain, the gothic novel, and the horror genre; in fact, during Sade's time, he was considered a religious writer since, like Film Noir, he paints God in negative space.

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    No, there's nothing wrong with this question. In fact, I just upvoted it. The downvotes are probably from people who interpreted the tone as unconstructive. Like it or not, first impressions make a big difference, and the way you phrase things is quite important. I don't think anyone here is invested in protecting Nietzsche from criticism. And I don't think that even if he wholesale copied from Sade that that would really be a "criticism". Apr 12, 2012 at 18:19
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    ...and you rolled the edits to this question back, too. You're insistent upon not capitalizing Nietzsche's name? Apr 13, 2012 at 16:31
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    @RonMaimon - Nietzsche is a proper name. If you do not capitalize it, you are spelling it wrong.
    – Rex Kerr
    Apr 13, 2012 at 20:00
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    Sorry, this is what I do. The New York Times style guide also requires capital letters for proper names. I'm not sure if that's too high-brow for you, but we do have standards around here. If there's something for which you think I'm fundamentally changing your meaning, then that's a different story. But you'll need to make that argument, not just say "don't touch this". You're not M.C. Hammer. Apr 13, 2012 at 21:58
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    Yes, we're fascists here. Please take your rants elsewhere. Apr 13, 2012 at 23:29

1 Answer 1


A number of writers have commented on parallels in the projects of Sade and Nietzsche; I think that Adorno and Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment is probably the best known treatment of the subject. I also seem to remember Bataille writing about this, and it may come up in Lacan's Kant avec Sade-- but, to the best of my knowledge, no one has produced any evidence that Nietzsche read Sade.

  • Wow, thanks for the quick response. I'll check these out and accept if all pans out!
    – Ron Maimon
    Apr 13, 2012 at 22:13
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    +1 Since DoE is a collage of very different themes, it might be a good thing to point the reader to the locus classicus on De Sade Excursus II: Juliette or Enlightenment and Morality therein. As for Bataille and Lacan, could you give more specific references?
    – DBK
    Apr 15, 2012 at 20:09
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    @DBK: Thanks. You're right, I should have mentioned the specific essay. As for the Lacan and Bataille-- Lacan's essay Kant avec Sade deals with Sade from a philosophical perspective--it first appeared in English translation in October magazine, but has probably been reprinted. I'm not completely certain that it mentions Nietzsche, but it is still worth reading if one is interested in Sade. As for Bataille, I'm afraid my recollection is hazy-- I'll add something here if I can recall a specific reference. Apr 16, 2012 at 6:43
  • [This wiki] (artandpopularculture.com/…) supplements the above answer, particularly by highlighting Frank Cameron's (2007) Nietzsche's Knowledge of the Marquis de Sade.
    – syre
    Dec 31, 2020 at 4:02

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