I can't find a passage from one of Nietzsche's book (Thus Spoke Zarathustra?) about its opinion on modernity (the age he was contemporean of) and culture.

As far as I recall, the idea was that his contemporaries had a kind of mondane and passive approach to art, that they called "culture", which Nietzsche mocks.

For him, art should be experienced much more subjectively, and not be subsumed under a phenomenon called "culture".

  • Just go to the Gutenberg archive, & search to Nietzsche texts for the keyword.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Mar 17, 2023 at 10:18
  • unsurprisingly, that title does not include reference to modern, let alone modernity. neither can i (easily) find him using 'culture' as an unqualified slur. i would suggest editing the question to ask what nietzsche thought about modern culture, and you might get some replies. maybe even gordon
    – user65174
    Commented Mar 18, 2023 at 20:54
  • gutenberg.org/files/1998/1998-h/1998-h.htm#link2H_4_0042 "Unto my children will I make amends for being the child of my fathers: and unto all the future—for THIS present-day!— Thus spake Zarathustra." seems more concerned with thinness.
    – user65174
    Commented Mar 18, 2023 at 21:01
  • 1
    Nietzsche deals with culture most extensively in Untimely Meditations, might want to look there. Commented Apr 14, 2023 at 5:24
  • The strangest creature in the Philosophical Zoo, now stuffed. "What genus was he? What species? So fascinating!" Ugh.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented May 9 at 11:04

2 Answers 2


Nietzsche thought modernity was synonymous with mediocrity, degeneration, and decline to such a deep and wide extent that its degeneration can be found in science and art, as well as in and on our bodies. There is no area of our existence that is unaffected by this contamination. Modernity is the era of a Life-destroying morality, where the the weakest and puniest people are preserved and made equal to the status of a great world historical conqueror like Julius Caesar or Napoleon. Modernity for him is the era of feminism, democracy, universalism, workers rights, and universal education. Nietzsche sees these as an assault upon the ancient order which drove the 'true' progress of civilization. So modernity, for Nietzsche is weakness, sickness, degeneration, and their triumph over an antiquity defined by cruelty, apartheid, caste systems, rank order, and universal slavery. His reaction to democratic movements, to enfranchisement, to equality, and especially to abolition of slavery form the context of his intervention into what he saw as the sorry state of European cultural production during his time. There can be no real cultural production without slavery, for Nietzsche. He had already by Zarathustra underlined the necessity of slavery in several texts.

Spring 1885-Autumn 1886, 2[13]

…I believe that the great forwarding-driving and relentless democratic movement of Europe — that which calls itself 'progress' — and likewise even its preparation and moral prefiguration, Christianity — at bottom signifies only the tremendous instinctive overall conspiracy of the herd against all that is master, beast of prey, hermit and Caesar, in favor of the preservation and raising up of all the weak, oppressed, underprivileged, mediocre, semi-misfits, as a protracted slave rebellion against every kind of master, secretive at first then increasingly more self-conscious, ultimately against even the concept of 'master,' as a life and death war against every morality that springs from the womb and consciousness of a higher stronger masterful kind of human being — such a one requires slavery in some form and under some name as its foundation and condition. I believe, finally, that every enhancement so far in the type of human being was the work of an aristocratic society that believed in the long ladder of order or rank and value-difference between one person and another and required slavery.

p317, CW vol 16

  • Could you back some of the claims made in your answer with quotations?
    – Starckman
    Commented Apr 25, 2023 at 12:40
  • Were you thinking of the chapter, On The Land of Culture
    – Kyle
    Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 14:15
  • Not really, but your quote is very helpful anyway. I indeed read that Nietzsche was against democracy, but what about liberalism (= rule of law, low intervention of the government in the economy, separation of powers, separation of the State and Church, etc.)?
    – Starckman
    Commented Apr 27, 2023 at 3:14
  • 1
    Modernity is the era, the historical moment, of social democracy. socialism, equality, feminism, etc. This is why he identifies as being "untimely."
    – Kyle
    Commented Apr 28, 2023 at 14:31
  • 1
    Many of Nietzsche's positions are consistent with liberalism, although he increasingly became more and more radical towards the end of his life. I see him as exhausting all of the political possibilities, in his effort to counter rising socialism, before arriving at 'aristocratic radicalism.' Nietzsche was unequivocally and unambiguously against democracy itself, and civil rights, and any extension or deepening of them, like socialism.
    – Kyle
    Commented Apr 28, 2023 at 14:32

It might be the section 87, of Gay Science:

On theatre. - This day I had strong and elevated feelings again, and if on its eve I could have music and art, I know very well what music and art I would not like to have, namely, the kind that tries to intoxicate its audience and drive it to the height of a moment of strong and elevated feelings - an art for those everyday souls who in the evening look not like victors on triumphal chariots but rather like tired mules who have been whipped somewhat too often by life. What would those people know of 'higher moods' were there no intoxicating substances and whip-lashes of ideals! - and so they have their inspirers as they have their wines. But what is their drink and their drunkenness to me! What is wine to the inspired! He looks instead with a sort of disgust at the means and the mediators that are supposed to produce an effect without sufficient reason - aping the high tide of the soul! What? One gives the mole wings and proud conceits - before bedtime, before he crawls into his hole? One sends him to the theatre and puts big glasses before his blind and tired eyes? People whose lives are not a 'dramatic action' but a business sit before the stage and look at strange creatures for whom life is more than a business? 'It's proper that way', you say; 'i t's entertaining that way; it's culture!' Well then! In that case I all too often lack culture, for this sight is all too often disgusting to me. Whoever has enough tragedy and comedy in himself probably does best to stay away from the theatre; or, should there be an exception, the entire event - including theatre and audience and poet - becomes the actual tragic and comic spectacle to him, so that the piece that is performed means little to him by comparison. What do the Fausts and Manfreds 30 of the theatre matter to someone who is himself somewhat like Faust and Manfred? - whereas the faet that such figures are brought on stage is certainly something for him to think about. The strongest thoughts and passions are there presented before those who are capable not of thought and passion - but of intoxication! And the former as a means to the latter! And theatre and music as the hashish-smoking and betel-chewing of the European! Oh, who will tell us the entire history of narcotics? - It is nearly the history of 'culture', our so-called higher culture!

  • "Strong, elevated feelings" probably refers to him being a Neo. It is not possible to relate to his words without also having been a Neo, which is why it still seems unresolved after all this time. If you want to understand skydiving, you have to jump out of a perfectly good airplane first. All the talk in the world won't move you one inch closer to getting it.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented May 9 at 10:55
  • @ScottRowe What's a "Neo"?
    – Starckman
    Commented May 9 at 11:48
  • Neos are people who are in transition out of ego-based experience and towards non-dual experience. Many don't make it to Nonduality and stay in the phase beyond ego but not actually understanding themselves properly. I wrote a Kindle book about it.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented May 9 at 13:45

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