• Nietzsche on suffering

Here is a quote of Nietzsche, from Russell (History of Western Philosophy, Chapter 25 "Nietzsche"):

Nietzsche's ethic is not one of self-indulgence in any ordinary sense; he believes in Spartan discipline and the capacity to endure as well as inflict pain for important ends. He admires strength of will above all things. "I test the power of a will," he says, "according to the amount of resistance it can offer and the amount of pain and torture it can endure and know how to turn to its own advantage; I do not point to the evil and pain of existence with the finger of reproach, but rather entertain the hope that life may one day become more evil and more full of suffering than it has ever been."

"The discipline of suffering, of great suffering—do you not know that only this discipline has created all enhancements of man so far”? (Beyond Good and Evil 225).

"What makes one heroic? – To approach at the same time one’s highest suffering and one’s highest hope." (The Gay Science, 268)

"If you who adhere to [the religion of pity], have the same attitude toward yourselves that you have toward you fellow men; if you refuse to let your own suffering lie upon you for an hour and if you constantly try to prevent and forestall all possible stress way ahead of time; if you experience suffering and displeasure as evil, hateful, worthy of annihilation, and as a defect of existence, then it is clear that besides your religion of pity you also harbor another religion in your heart that is perhaps the mother of the religion of pity: the religion of comfortableness. How little you know of human happiness, you comfortable and benevolent people, for happiness and unhappiness are sisters and even twins that either grow up together or, as in your case, remain small together." (Gay Science, p. 269–270)

  • Epicurus on suffering

Here is a quote from Epicurus's "Letter Menoeceus":

While therefore all pleasure because it is naturally akin to us is good, not all pleasure is worthy of choice, just as all pain is an evil and yet not all pain is to be shunned. It is, however, by measuring one against another, and by looking at the conveniences and inconveniences, teat all these matters must be judged. Sometimes we treat the good as an evil, and the evil, on the contrary, as a good.

We can see that Epicurus also considers that pain can indeed be useful.

So, apart from the fact that Epicureans do not advocate spartian discipline, neither to inflict pain on other people: solely concerning one's individual suffering, what is the difference between Nietzsche and Epicureans view?


The way Nietzsche romanticized and sacralized suffering is as dangerous and harmful as not supported by science. It can prevent people from searching the help they need, or readjust their maladaptive strategies and behaviors.

Lahey, B. B. (2009). Public health significance of neuroticism. American Psychologist, 64(4), 241.

Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success?. Psychological bulletin, 131(6), 803.

Ucbasaran, D., Shepherd, D. A., Lockett, A., & Lyon, S. J. (2013). Life after business failure: The process and consequences of business failure for entrepreneurs. Journal of management, 39(1), 163-202.

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    Epicureans seek the divine harmony stance. Nietzsche lived in broken world without harmony, cuz Gott ist tot. Commented Jan 31, 2023 at 15:49
  • Epicureans, i think, wasn't ever counter to any religion, they try be separated from suffering in religion or else. They are like hippies. Lucretius, as they write, wasn't consistent anti-religion(anti-mythology) like atheists, some myths he had rejected, but some had supported. As they said. I'm not familiar with him, but im trying to think like him. Problem not a religion, but the soul pain. If pain cuz a god, i have to go away from a god. But greece gods wasn't everywhere like God. At same time i didn't negate the soul, cuz soul gets me happy feeling.Nietzsche haven't any soul, only WP Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 9:02
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    @άνθρωπος Understood, thank you very much.
    – Starckman
    Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 9:18
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    And if you interesting, the greece soul was an anima, not the christian eternity soul, animals, as christians think, have something close to anima soul, but have no eternity soul as human have. Its called to same-same but it is not same. "Don't worry be happy" something like this) Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 9:32

2 Answers 2


I think Nietzsche would revere the strong and let pain be as part of life, and if it allows "life" to get stronger. But he would probably at the same time condone enjoying pleasure to the fullest, also as part of a full, natural, biological life.

He would probably even accept excess in pleasure and a passionate life. It looks like the Epicureans would be after a moderate, middle path. Not Nietzsche. Life needs to be full of passion and strong emotions. As for moderation, he would probably question where that idea of moderation comes from, maybe trace it back to Judeo-Christian values, and then dismiss it as getting in the way of the natural Will to Power in all life. That would be my understanding based on my personal reading of Nietzsche.

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    Just as a side remark, it is hard from your description to not see Nietzsche as a romanticist (also I know he did criticized them)
    – Starckman
    Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 3:50
  • It's just from my reading - I don't know about categorizations, and I think categorizations can be misleading, but I'm pretty sure he writes over and over again about the strong and letting the strong express life to its fullest. I also remember many rambling passages against democracy and socialism, alongside his attacks on Judeo-Christian values. The rambling passages get tiring after a while :-)
    – Frank
    Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 4:13
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    But I think the main difference, probably, is that Nietzsche doesn't seem to be interested in any kind of moderation, whereas the Epicureans would look for moderation as well as acceptance of whatever comes.
    – Frank
    Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 4:15
  • The strong what?
    – Starckman
    Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 5:07
  • @starckman Ha - the strong people, as opposed to the weak. Something like noble heroes who show strength of character.
    – Frank
    Commented Feb 1, 2023 at 14:42

Here is a section from Beyond Good and Evil (§270, 218-219), where Nietzsche responds directly to Epicureanism:

The intellectual haughtiness and loathing of every man who has suffered deeply—it almost determines the order of rank how deeply men can suffer—the chilling certainty, with which he is thoroughly imbued and coloured, that by virtue of his suffering he knows more than the shrewedest and wisest can ever know, that he has been familiar with, and "at home" in, many distant, dreadful worlds of which "you know nothing" ! —this silent intellectual haughtiness of the sufferer, this pride of the elect of knowledge, of the "initiated," of the almost sacrificed, finds all forms of disguise necessary to protect itself from contact with officious and sympathising hands, and in general from all that is not its equal in suffering. Profound suffering makes noble : it separates.—One of the most refined forms of disguise is Epicurism, along with a certain ostentatious boldness of taste, which takes suffering lightly, and puts itself on the defensive against all that is sorrowful and profound. They are "gay men" who make use of gaiety, because they are misunderstood on account of it—they wish to be misunderstood. There are "scientific minds" who make use of science, because it gives a gay appearance, and because scientificness leads to the conclusion that a person is superficial— they wish to mislead to a false conclusion. There are free insolent minds which would fain conceal and deny that they are broken, proud, incurable hearts (the cynicism of Hamlet the case of Galiani) ; and occasionally folly itself is the mask of an unfortunate over-assured knowledge.—From which it follows that it is the part of a more refined humanity to have reverence "for the mask," and not to make use of psychology and curiosity in the wrong place.

Here a section from the Gay Science (§45), where Nietzsche responds to Epicurus:

Epicurus. – Yes, I am proud to experience Epicurus’ character in a way unlike perhaps anyone else and to enjoy, in everything I hear and read of him, the happiness of the afternoon of antiquity: I see his eye gaze at a wide whitish sea, across shoreline rocks bathed in the sun, as large and small creatures play in its light, secure and calm like the light and his eye itself. Only someone who is continually suffering could invent such happiness – the happiness of an eye before which the sea of existence has grown still and which now cannot get enough of seeing the surface and this colourful, tender, quivering skin of the sea: never before has voluptuousness been so modest.

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