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in: Philosophy, Podcast

February 6, 2019 Last updated: February 7, 2019

Podcast #480: Hiking With Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche is one of the most polarizing and misunderstood of modern philosophers. Dismissed by some and misinterpreted by others, the real philosophy of Nietzsche in fact holds some incredibly life-affirming truths for everyone, regardless of belief or age. 

My guest today has spent much of both his personal and professional life tracking down those insights. At the age of 19 and then again at age 37, he traveled to the Swiss town where Nietzsche wrote his famous work, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and learned something different on each trip from the mustachioed philosopher about living a life of meaning and significance. His name is John Kaag, and he’s a professor of philosophy and the author of Hiking With Nietzsche: On Becoming Who You Are.

In this compelling conversation, John discusses what he learned about life hiking the same mountain Nietzsche hiked, including the role that walking itself played in Nietzsche’s approach to thinking. We begin with the biggest misconceptions about the philosopher, including what he really meant when he said “God is dead.” John then walks us through Nietzsche’s idea of the will to power, how this impulse should be balanced with amor fati — the love of fate — in order to achieve Nietzsche’s ideal of becoming who you are, and the different things his philosophy can mean to a young man and to one approaching middle age. 

Show Highlights

  • Why Nietzsche is so misunderstood (and what those misconceptions are)
  • What sort of philosophy Nietzsche was doing 
  • Similarities between Nietzsche and Emerson
  • Why The Will to Power is so often misunderstood
  • What drew John to Nietzsche as a young man 
  • What role did Basel, Switzerland play in Nietzsche’s life 
  • Nietzsche’s prodigious walking habit
  • Why is walking so powerful? And especially when formulating new ideas?
  • John’s extreme fasting while following in Nietzsche’s footsteps 
  • What value did Nietzsche see in the “ascetic ideal”?
  • Why Nietzsche wants us to ask forbidden questions 
  • The radical thought experiment of “eternal return” 
  • What John hoped for in revisiting Switzerland as a middle-aged man with his family 
  • Why Nietzsche’s real brilliance is perhaps in leading us to middle age 
  • Nietzsche’s deep human-ness 

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