The philosophy of Freidrich Nietzsche was a major influence on D.H. Lawrence. Nietzsche’s work is in many ways a critical response to the forms of nihilism that Nietzsche saw infecting European culture and restricting modern life of the early 20th century. In The Genealogy of Morals Nietzsche argued that Christianity had inevitably led to nihilism, by positing a transcendent and non-human basis for human values, unlike previous moments in western civilization that hinged on rational thought. Once this shift had occurred, humans began to lose their taste for a willful and spirited cultivation of life, because their emphasis was now on an idea of the eternal afterlife and its supposed rewards for living morally.
Nietzsche called for a necessary “transvaluation of all values,” or a willingness to destroy and eradicate old vestiges of a Christian morality in order to remake the world and reinvigorate the creative spirit of humanity. He grounded his philosophy in an appreciation for the “eternal return,” which was Nietzsche’s concept of the anonymous yet powerful will of the universe to remake itself anew. He found an essential connection between decay and creative rebirth that influenced his unique concept of truth. In Women in Love, Nietzsche’s ideas are articulated most fully in the character of Rupert Birkin, who stands in for Lawrence’s own perspective and dissatisfaction with modern European society.