hateful to the fighter and the victor is your grinning death, which creeps up like a thief-and yet comes as the master. My death I praise to you, the free death which comes to me because I want it.

This is Nietzsche, and also the most pressing thing for me I read from him. Prima facie, he means that it is wrong to die too soon, before your victory or awareness of your loss of fight.

But then Camus seems to suggest you can't and shouldn't die as if resolved.

So are they antithetically opposed here? Taking both the quote above and the obligation to die unresolved, seriously, as a kind of fact, what do they mean?

edit in response to answer

in my humble opinion, Nietzsche is urging the child or transvaluator into embodying what they claim is greatness, as then your "heirs" inherit your work.

The claim that wanting to die, or taking comfort in death, or risking death, suffices for dying "at the right time" seems completely opposed, to me, to what Nietzsche is doing.

  • could it be that dying at the right time is a step beyond consummating life, and means anti-christ?
    – user62233
    Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 18:21

2 Answers 2


I disagree with your take on what Nietzsche is saying. See my answer on some of Nietzsche's most famous phrases and allegories: Trying to Understand Quote by Nietzsche For Nietzsche, it is the maniac who launches out on to a tightrope over an abyss, who can be the 'overgoer'. Walk the path between animals and angels, even while 'gazing into the abyss': the desire for hazard that risks death over safety is knowing the appeal of death, in some measure (eg exhilaration twins with la appel du vide).

On Camus you must mean, and should have also quoted in your question:

"Consciousness and revolt, these rejections are the contrary of renunciation. Everything that is indomitable and passionate in a human heart quickens them, on the contrary, with its own life. It is essential to die unreconciled and not of one’s own free will. Suicide is a repudiation. The absurd man can only drain everything to the bitter end, and deplete himself. The absurd is his extreme tension, which he maintains constantly by solitary effort, for he knows that in that consciousness and in that day-to-day revolt he gives proof of his only truth, which is defiance.”

― Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

Camus focuses on how, asserting life has A Meaning leaves the structure built on that prone to collapse, if that meaning is lost. Asserting no meaning, is to die 'reconciled'.

But in continued questioning in the fuzzy area at the boundary, oscillating either side of the dividing line is a place of defiance, accepting the absurdity of the constant transitions. Where meaning can not just be found but made, relationally locally, temporarily, and, be enough. Here, for now, in this conversation.

So, I don't see them as saying what you describe at all. They both turn towards an inner experience of what justifies a life. For Nietzsche his answer was, the path to being an ubermensch: creating values that create the world. For Camus, authenticity, a recognition that in the cycle of suffering and hope we can view the absurdity of our turmoil, and do it anyway - imagine even Sisyphus, happy.

Edited to add in response to comments:

Nietzsche is all about the problem of nihilism. He doesn't choose nihilism, or revel in it. But when god is dead, yet people cling to the old forms & assumptions, it is inevitable: an abyss, & dysfunctional values that must be faced, & fought. Not the personal experience (anomie), but nihilism as loss of social glue in the way Durkheim also described in his work on suicide.

Look here, in your quote: "hateful to the fighter and the victor" "My death I praise"

Nietzsche presents a revaluation, a change in relationship with death. Not enemy, but comfort. Taking up what makes life more difficult, knowing a good death waits.

"The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets through many a dark night."

"But what if pleasure and pain should be so closely connected that he who wants the greatest possible amount of the one must also have the greatest possible amount of the other, that he who wants to experience the 'heavenly high jubilation,' must also be ready to be 'sorrowful unto death'?"

"Out of life's school of war—what doesn't kill me, makes me stronger."

So, acknowledgment of suicide, it's appeal; but using it as spur to make life worth living, eg through art.

Nietzsche is I think far from prohibiting suicide. It may be inevitable for some who take on great suffering, which he advocates doing - there is hazard there, from that urge. But also, the suffering can be ennobled, justified, if we are brave enough. You say "it is wrong to die too soon", Nietzsche says:

“Many die too late, and some die too early. Yet strangers soundeth the precept: “Die at the right time!””

  • i can't easily follow what you mean. you clearly think my assumptions are wrong, but you should clarify how they are wrong. that they don't say what i say doesn't mean that the assumptions are wrong, not in the sense you seem to mean. e.g. we are talking about a body of work, not one quote
    – user62233
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 0:15
  • reading the whole body of nietzsche as saying "take risks with your life" makes sense, but then to say that's not opposed to a prohibition against suicide makes no sense
    – user62233
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 0:17
  • @anon: I moved my response into the post body
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 13:25
  • "using it as spur to make life worth living" i get what you mean but i think you're stating too much of an affinity between the two, and that risking life is the wrong gloss to put on nietzsche, doesn't take him seriously enough
    – user62233
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 20:29
  • @anon: By all means reply, with quotes.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 22:43

I praise unto you my free death, which cometh because I will. He who hath an aim and an heir desireth death at the right time for aim and heir

There are two senses of 'heir': inheriting wealth and property upon death; continuing the work ('heir to the cubists'). He could I suppose mean either. If he means the latter, that he wills to be an artistic precedent, not so much his dominion over earth, then you might agree dying "too late" means (if we take "death" at root literally, but potentially any sacrifice of your 'life') that you have to be willing to die not just for your work but also that of your students.

His death is not his "master", as he is master to his heirs.

Not just Nietzsche matters to Nietzsche.

  • not the greatest answer, but just venting
    – user63148
    Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 23:26

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