The writings of Friedrich Nietzsche diverge significantly from the collected works of most other philosophers. Although certain concepts and theories recur with frequently and ideas are repeated often enough to become motifs, Nietzsche’s writings do not elaborate a clearly defined system of philosophical thought. He rejected this convention on the basis that all existing systems served only to distract people from realizing that such systems consisted mainly of ancient superstitions all dressed up in new terminology and jargon.
Instead, the bulk of Nietzschean discourse comprises a litany of polemical arguments against existing philosophical theories in epigrammatic prose where aphorism is the dominant mode of expression. These short, pithy observations are masterfully composed, but purposely ambiguous sometimes to the point of their meaning being downright cryptic. Such a writing style has ensured that Nietzsche’s work remains at the forefront of philosophical study because it is so open to interpretation.
The overarching theme of Nietzsche’s canon is expressed in not just the contents but the title of his 1878 volume Human, All too Human. For Nietzsche, the great tragedy of modern philosophy was the comfort and solace it found in accepting its conventional acceptance of what it means to be human. In this and other writings, Nietzsche takes to task philosophies that blindly follow Judeo-Christian principles of morality which contributed to a slave morality that finds virtue in meekness and fear in strength.
The Birth of Tragedy in 1872 had already outlined the reasoning behind this view with its argument that philosophy from Socrates forward continually placed thought over action and reason ahead of the natural life force. The decadence of a society content to think rather than act upon their passions brought for the tragedy of the spirit.
Nietzsche turned his critical eye toward history and science in 1874 with Untimely Meditations, which complained that history was nothing but facts with no context and scientific inquiry was more concerned with studying the majesty of the world rather than experiencing it. In this writing of Nietzsche can also be found the goal he placed as the supreme achievement of philosophy: accept all fate with laughter than liberate one from petty morality and all that is tragic.