I'm a rookie to philosophical thinking but trying my best to understand the concepts. I'd be appreciated if you could enlighten me about this:
In Chapter 3 of Thus Spake Zarathustra, he is addressing to people who I understand from the "backworld". What is backworld and who are backworldsmen?

Thank you.

  • Hi, welcome to Phil.SE! This question was actually asked before on the English SE site. Also, as stated over there as well, a simple google search could've given you the answer. It is highly recommended to complete at least a short research before posting a question on the site. Oct 13, 2019 at 12:02
  • Hi, I'm sorry to upset you. My google search got me to the English SE. I wasn't satisfied with the answers there. I took the advice of Mr Moriseev there and decided to be a member here. Then I ran a search, no results with the keyword popped. So I asked the question. Thankfully Mr Klocking gave a much better and satisfactory answer than the ones I encountered other platforms, so the question served its aim just fine. I'm glad I asked it. Thanks.
    – goodyonsen
    Oct 14, 2019 at 21:44
  • Thank you very much, Mr. Philip Klocking, the Philosopher!! You have very rationally explained how the original word was translated erroneously. Your fairly long analysis enabled me to understand that chapter very well. I myself studied Philosophy for the degree, hence the great interest. Thank you, once again. Rani R. Sri Lanka.
    – Rani R.
    Jul 28, 2021 at 16:02

1 Answer 1


I answer with the authority of being a native German speaker and having graduated in philosophy ;)

Back-world is a bad translation here. Presumably, the translator has mistaken the term "Hinterweltler" as being a misspelling and semantically identical to the word "Hinterwäldler", which means backwoodsmen or hillbillies. The German original "Hinterwelt" literally means "behind-world" or "beyond-world", where a valid translation would be otherworld or, more philosophically, the sphere of the transcendental.

In the context of the chapter, it becomes clear that he is writing about those who adhere to and propagate the belief that there is some transcendental world beyond human life and body, a world of gods, souls, and spirits. He starts the chapter with the remark that Zarathustra himself once committed to this erroneous belief ("Gods work"). Thus, the term "Hinterweltler", here translated as "backworldsmen", is simply a neologism referring to people believing in a transcendental reality.

  • Thank you sir. Now I know it doesn't mean just "afterlife" but something like a "spiritual realm" in a broader sense.
    – goodyonsen
    Oct 14, 2019 at 21:49

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