Skip to main content

Letting Nietzsche inside schools? Educational potential and an acknowledgement of the optimism of his philosophy


The aim of this article is to identify the educational interest of Nietzsche’s fundamental philosophical principles. To this end, Nietzsche’s work “The Gay Science” and corresponding references from other fragments of his corpus have been aggregated for the needs of this goal. An analysis of the book’s major propositions indicates an epistemological approach to educational matters, based on knowledge’s refutability and its validation through experimentation. Other parts of this work, stress out the incompatibility of Nietzsche’s philosophy with a democratic education. His philosophical concepts of social order and destiny’s accomplishment are presented in favour of this claim. Finally, the most unique propositions in The Gay Science are unveiled and their potential incorporation into the educational process is proposed. In particular, the values of appearance and fallacy emerge, illuminating the optimistic side of his philosophy. From an educational perspective, these values recommend limiting excess rationalism in classrooms and maintaining students’ learning interest by focusing on their emotional needs.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Data availability

The datasets analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


  1. This dispute seems to correspond with the supposed association of his philosophy with Nazi ideology (Gadamer et al. 2003) or its theoretical struggle against socialism (Johnson 1996, p. 24), as they both emerged after World War II.

  2. According to the principle of the content analysis methodology, every script conveys its author’s intentions and principal beliefs (Vamvoukas 2011).

  3. GS, §: 11, 57, 109, 112, 121, 166, 196, 242, 249, 286, 301, 333, 374.

  4. GS, PR 3, §25, 33, 51, 265, 351.

  5. GS, JCR: 1, 3, 7, 8, 12, 14, 21, 23, 28, 32, 40, 43, 49, 60, §: 18, 28, 29, 99, 113, 120, 124,128, 185, 195, 285, 289, 303, 308, 314, 328, 329, 338, 343, 347, 375, 377.

  6. GS, §: 4,13,14, 21,118, 136, 143, 149, 195, 252, 283, 296, 328, 347, 349. It is probably well known that Nietzsche disdains woman nature and exclusively addresses his philosophy to men (GS, §: 66, 68, 70, 72, 119, 325), but we will not become further involved either in the sexism of his philosophy or his debatable antisemitism (§135, §135, §137).

  7. GS, JCR 10, 47, §89, 93, 105, 342, 370; TBT, An Attempt at Self Criticism.

  8. §98, 124, 335, 342, 344, 346, 356, 366 382. Similar to Nehamas’s interpretation on Nietzsche’s objection to the absolutism of morality (Johnson 1996, p. 29).

  9. As Aristotle defines “entelechy” (On the soul, 412a). Maybe in this meaning, Zarathustra’s final words could be explained: “Do I strive after happiness? I strive after my work!” (TSZ, Fourth part, the sign).

  10. GS, JCR 2, 4, PR 4, §: 59, 60, 77, 79, 80, 107, 158, 256, 284, 299, 383.

  11. “We need to discover the fool as much as the hero, in order to preserve our passion for knowledge” (§107, Our ultimate gratitude to art).

  12. This devaluation is consistent to the inconclusiveness of knowledge, which was explained previously.

  13. In response to §346, Our question mark and §382, The great health.

  14. In respect to this view, shouldn’t our universities strive for the systematic evaluation and organization of our vast research data in the field of Sciences of Education? Certainly, we do not intend to propose a prevalence of Positivism in our universities, but the need to maintain a balance among all the epistemological examples in the field of science.

  15. As in one of education’s etymological origin, from the Latin educere, that is, “to extract” (Koumanoudis 1972).

  16. Stolz (2017) also demonstrates the necessity of art for the educational process, in a hypothetical adaptation of Nietzsche philosophy to education, in the terms that culture can potential provoke an existential revelation to an educated person.

  17. As in Aristotle’s: “for the young in age, nothing unpleasant is volitionally tolerable” (Politics, 1964).

  18. Bojesen (2018) is mostly referred to Nietzsche’s late notebooks in order to justify his optimism. In The Gay Science, “happiness and pleasure” are valued equally with struggle and endangerment.


  • Allen A (2017) Awaiting education: Friedrich Nietzsche on the future of our educational institutions. Philos Inquiry Edu 24(2):197–210

    Google Scholar 

  • Allen A (2018) The end of education: Nietzsche, Foucault, Genealogy. Philos Inquiry Edu 25:47–65

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Allina B (2018) The development of STEAM educational policy to promote student creativity and social empowerment. Arts Educ Policy Rev 119(2):77–87

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Aristotle (1964) The Politics. Oxford University Press

  • Aristotle (2000) On the soul. Zetros, Thessaloniki

  • Babich B (2019) Nietzsche (as) educator. Educ Philos Theory 51(9):871–885

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bojesen E (2018) A new version of optimism for education. Stud Philos Educ 37(1):5–14

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dawkins R (2008) The selfish gene. Katoptro, Athens

    Google Scholar 

  • Debesse M, Mialaret G (1980) Educational sciences. Diptycho, Athens

    Google Scholar 

  • Farré MN (2014) Saber, sen i trobar: Ramon de Cornet and the Consistory of the Gay Science. SVMMA Rev Cultures Medievals 3:176–194

    Google Scholar 

  • Fitzsimons P (2007) Nietzsche, ethics and education. In: Pters M, Freeman-Moir J (eds) An account of difference, vol 8. Sense Publishers, Rotterdam

    Google Scholar 

  • Gadamer H-G, Adorno T, Horkheimer M (2003) On Nietzsche. Indiktos, Athens

    Google Scholar 

  • Golomb J (1985) Nietzsche’s early educational thought. J Philos Educ 9(2):99–105

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gregory M (2001) The perils of rationality: Nietzsche, Peirce and education. Educ Philos Theory 33(1):23–34

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hellenic Republic (1985) Law 1566. Government Paper, 167

  • Irwin R (2003) Heidegger and Nietzsche; the question of value and Nihilism in relation to education. Stud Philos Educ 22:227–244

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Johnson P (1996) Nietzsche reception today. Radic Philos 80:24–33

    Google Scholar 

  • Johnston J (1998) Nietzsche as educator: a reexamination. Educ Theory 48(1):67–83

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jonas M (2010) When teachers must let education hurt: Rousseau and Nietzsche on compassion and the educational value of suffering. J Philos Educ 44(1):45–60

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jonas M (2018) Nietzsche on inequality, education and human flourishing. In: Smeyers P (ed) International handbook of philosophy of education. Springer, Cham, pp 295–304

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Kameas N, Albanidis P (2014) The ancient Greek ideal of “fair play” in the light of Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophy. In Sports in Education form Antiquity to Modern times: 18th international congress of the European Committee for sports history. European Committee for Sports History, Edessa, pp 76–82

  • Kechagias C (2009) The nature of thesis among the hellenic apprehension of world. Herodotos, Athens

    Google Scholar 

  • Kechagias C, Antoniou A (2019) Goddess Athena as leader and mentor in Homeric epics. Women, Business and Leadership. Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham

    Google Scholar 

  • Koumanoudis S (1972) Dictionary Latin-Greek. Gregory, Athens

    Google Scholar 

  • Malafantis K (2005) Pedagogy of literature. Gregory, Athens

    Google Scholar 

  • Matsagouras E (2003) Theory and practice of teaching. Theory of Teaching. Personal theory as a context of reflective-critical analysis, vol I. Gutenberg, Athens

  • Maturana U, Varela F (1992) The tree of Knowledge. Biological origins of human cognition. Katoptro, Athens

  • Mintz A (2004) The disciplined schooling of the free spirit: educational theory in Nietzsche's middle period. Philos Educ 163–170

  • Nietzsche F (2007) Ecce Homo: How to become what you are. Oxford University Press Inc., New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Nietzsche F (1996) The Gay science. Eksantas, Athens

    Google Scholar 

  • Nietzsche F (2006) On the future of our educational institutes. Printa, Athens

    Google Scholar 

  • Nietzsche F (2008a) The Gay science. Cambridge University Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Nietzsche F (2008b) The birth of tragedy. Vanias, Thessaloniki

    Google Scholar 

  • Nietzsche F (2010) Thus spoke Zarathustra. Panoptikon, Thessaloniki

    Google Scholar 

  • Pestalozzi JH (1900) How Gertrude teaches her children. Swan Sonnenschein & Co, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Petrou A (2011) Projections on philosophy of education. In: Mauroedis G (ed) Introduction on sciences of education. Gregore, Athens, pp 319–340

    Google Scholar 

  • Piaget J, Inhelder B (1990) Psychology of the child. Zacharopoulos, Athens

    Google Scholar 

  • Ramaekers S (2001) Teaching to Lie and Obey Nietzsche on education. J Philos Educ 35(2):255–268

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Reboul O (2002) Philosophy of education. In: Mialaret G (ed) Introduction to sciences of education. Typotheto, Athens, pp 52–62

    Google Scholar 

  • Ridley A (1998) Nietzsche’s conscience: six character studies from the genealogy. Cornell University Press, New York

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Rosenow E (1973) What is free education? The educational significance of Nietzsche’s Thought. Educ Theory 23(4):354–370

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sassone L (1996) Philosophy across the curriculum: a democratic Nitzschean Pedagogy. Educ Theory 46(4):511–524

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Small R (2016) Friedrich Nietzsche. Reconciling knowledge and life. Springer, London

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Stolz S (2017) Nietzsche on aesthetics, educators and education. Stud Philos Educ 36:683–695

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thornton S (2021) Karl Popper. In: E. N. Zalta (ed.) The stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. Standford University

  • Tzani M (2006) Daylong elementary school pilot. Herodios, Athens

    Google Scholar 

  • Vamvoukas M (2011) Methodology of scientific paedagogic research. In: Mauroedis G (ed) Introduction on sciences of education. Gregore, Athens

    Google Scholar 

  • Yacek D (2014) Going to school with F. Nietzsche. The self in Service of Noble Culture. Stud Philos Educ 33(4):391–411

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Yacek D (2019) The problem of student disengagement. Struggle, Escapism and Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy. Philos Inquiry Educ 26(1):64–87

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


No funding support has been granted for this research.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ioannis Skordis.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author declares that there is no conflict or competing interest in this research.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Skordis, I., Kechagias, CT. & Antoniou, AS. Letting Nietzsche inside schools? Educational potential and an acknowledgement of the optimism of his philosophy. SN Soc Sci 1, 157 (2021).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI:


  • Philosophy of Education
  • Nietzsche
  • The Gay Science
  • School education
  • Epistemology
  • Teaching strategies