The Superman Connection: The Philosophical Link Between Friedrich Nietzsche And Fyodor Dostoevsky
The study of literary influence is an inexact one, at best. When one discovers a similarity in the thought of two different men, it is tempting to assume that one man influenced the other. Often, that influence can only be assumed. There exists another, more fascinating possibility, however. Two men, whether contemporaries or not, may arrive independently at very similar concepts. For example, several elements of the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche appear in the literary works of Fyodor Dostoevsky. Did Nietzsche influence Dostoevsky? The prospect is unlikely. The bulk of Dostoevsky's works were written before Nietzsche ever published a book. Did Dostoevsky influence Nietzsche? Also unlikely. Nietzsche only read three, perhaps four, of Dostoevsky's minor works, not the major ones. There remains, then, the conclusion that each man conceived of a particular idea independently of the other. Each man, Friedrich Nietzsche and Fyodor Dostoevsky, offers within himself a fascinating, potentially lifelong study. The works of each encompass a vast range of concepts and themes. To condense and single out certain aspects of their achievements is a difficult task. For the purposes of this work, however, I have found it necessary to undertake a process of limitation and distillation. No part of Nietzsche's philosophy can be discarded as irrelevant to the whole, but I was faced with the task of picking and choosing those aspects which most directly relate to the topic at hand. Both Dostoevsky and Nietzsche boasted a rather large literary output. If, therefore, some of those works have to be disregarded or only touched upon lightly, it is certainly not a judgment of the merit of these works, but simply a matter of time and relevance. While utilizing the other works, I have chosen to focus specifically upon one work of Nietzsche's, Thus Spake Zarathustra, and two of Dostoevsky's, Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov. I chose to concentrate upon Nietzsche's Zarathustra because, while his other works are primarily philosophical treatises, this one is written in the form of a story, thus lending itself better to comparison and contrast in character and theme with the novels of Dostoevsky. The nature of this particular topic calls for a somewhat awkward presentation. I wish to focus upon Dostoevsky, but in order to perceive the Nietzschean elements in his writing, it is first necessary to devote some time and space to establishing just what Nietzsche's philosophy consists of. To understand Nietzsche's thought, one must understand his life and the influences brought to bear upon it which led to or contrasted with his philosophy.