Despite his principled resistance to the concept of martyrdom, the great German philosopher, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, clearly sacrificed himself for the truth. After resigning due to ill health from his position of professor of the University of Basel, he lived a spartan, hermetic lifestyle, wracked with an illness that is now thought to have been syphilis, as Nietzsche scholar Walter Kaufmann describes:
He is shy, about five-foot-eight, but a little stooped, almost blind, reserved, unaffected, and especially polite; he lives in modest boarding houses in Sils Maria, Nizza, Mentone, Rome, Turin.
To the outside observer, he must have appeared a pitiful shadow of a man. But he burned with an unparalleled intensity in his inner world, producing dozens of lengthy philosophical volumes in just fifteen years. His four part masterpiece, Also Sprach Zarathustra, was written in under two years in a grand style reminiscent of the Old Testament.
Nietzsche called himself a friend of the truth, but he also realized that in order to become the man that Diogenes sought with a lamp in the broad daylight of ancient Athens, he had to attack that which he loved most of all:
A very popular error: having the courage of one's convictions; rather it is a matter of having the courage for an attack on one's convictions.
Polonius would be proud of this succinct crystallization of the scientific method. But those who seek wisdom must question even their quest for wisdom, and wisdom itself.
What is truth?asked Pontus Pilate, words which Nietzsche believed to be the wisest spoken in the entire New Testament.
And so those who seek the truth arrive at a dangerous question mark: is nothing true? and if so, how do we, as empathic and social creatures, reconcile this with the violence of the natural world (ourselves included) and avoid the doctrine:
Progressives strive to maintain a reality based community, and it is precisely because of this principled stance that we must have the courage to examine our progressive values and attempt to discern our justifications for possessing them, following again the scientific method...