Was Nietzsche influenced by the works of the Marquis de Sade?



The works of the Marquis de Sade were suppressed by the mid-19th century, but were floating around Europe in samizdat form until the mid-20th century, when they were published and circulated above ground. These semi-pornographic works promote a philosophy of negative Christianity, but invert the Christian ideas of morality and find pleasure in cruelty and naked power.

How much of a debt does Nietzsche's philosophy of slave/master-morality owe to Sade? Is there any credible evidence that he borrowed aspects of his philosophy from Sade's work, or was even exposed to this writing? If so, what aspects of his work as we know it are original to Nietzsche, and what parts are due to Sade's influence?

I suspect that the scholarly research devoted to this question is limited because Sade was not available until the end of World War II, and even today, there are those who will not read him. Some writers credit Sade with inventing the modern villain, the gothic novel, and the horror genre; in fact, during Sade's time, he was considered a religious writer since, like Film Noir, he paints God in negative space.

Ron Maimon

Posted 2012-04-12T14:56:45.597

Reputation: 1

1Ok, this question doesn't seem bad to me - it's definitely got a reasonable scope and topic (though I'm no expert on the subject). Why the downvote? It's not long, and upon examination there is none of the controversial tone the OP has used in the past which the community had objected to. – commando – 2012-04-12T15:39:37.743

@commando: I will speculate that the reason for the downvotes has nothing to do with the tone, but the attempt to protect neitzsche from criticism, which is apparent in the pattern of closed questions on this site, and the pattern of publications and apologia in the literature. He really is the last bastion of fascism and respectable anti-semitism, and the moment some light shines on the cockroach he will scurry into the corner. – Ron Maimon – 2012-04-12T16:01:32.053

5No, there's nothing wrong with this question. In fact, I just upvoted it. The downvotes are probably from people who interpreted the tone as unconstructive. Like it or not, first impressions make a big difference, and the way you phrase things is quite important. I don't think anyone here is invested in protecting Nietzsche from criticism. And I don't think that even if he wholesale copied from Sade that that would really be a "criticism". – Cody Gray – 2012-04-12T18:19:26.047

@CodyGray: Wow, I am actually re-evaluating. I imagined that the nietzsche demons are active here and preventing neitzsche questions, I see now that I was wrong, and I will try to take a less defensive tone. Regarding borrowing, it is considered bad form in academics to take someone else's idea and pass them off as your own. In this case, there is something new and something true in nietzsche, but quoting Sheridan "what is new is not true, and what is true is not new". – Ron Maimon – 2012-04-12T22:23:52.403

2...and you rolled the edits to this question back, too. You're insistent upon not capitalizing Nietzsche's name? – Cody Gray – 2012-04-13T16:31:08.380

@CodyGray: do I have to cap his name? Look, go do something else. I don't need your help. I don't like your high-brow style and learned tone. I prefer simple direct words. – Ron Maimon – 2012-04-13T17:45:35.777

2@RonMaimon - Nietzsche is a proper name. If you do not capitalize it, you are spelling it wrong. – Rex Kerr – 2012-04-13T20:00:23.273

2Sorry, this is what I do. The New York Times style guide also requires capital letters for proper names. I'm not sure if that's too high-brow for you, but we do have standards around here. If there's something for which you think I'm fundamentally changing your meaning, then that's a different story. But you'll need to make that argument, not just say "don't touch this". You're not M.C. Hammer. – Cody Gray – 2012-04-13T21:58:16.037

@RexKerr: I also don't capitalize "hitler" "fascism" and other things that don't deserve it. It's a style choice, but it's not so important 2 me, and I don't want to argue over trivialities. Misspellings r all th rage nowadays, and its a little uppity classity to insist on the conventions of the uppity upper crustity, now isn't it? I was brought up socialist as a child. Kept Kerr's version--- ok with caps, but not with content edit. – Ron Maimon – 2012-04-13T22:11:55.077

3Yes, we're fascists here. Please take your rants elsewhere. – Cody Gray – 2012-04-13T23:29:44.600



A number of writers have commented on parallels in the projects of Sade and Nietzsche; I think that Adorno and Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment is probably the best known treatment of the subject. I also seem to remember Bataille writing about this, and it may come up in Lacan's Kant avec Sade-- but, to the best of my knowledge, no one has produced any evidence that Nietzsche read Sade.

Michael Dorfman

Posted 2012-04-12T14:56:45.597

Reputation: 22 863

[This wiki] (http://www.artandpopularculture.com/Nietzsche%27s_Knowledge_of_the_Marquis_de_Sade) supplements the above answer, particularly by highlighting Frank Cameron's (2007) Nietzsche's Knowledge of the Marquis de Sade.

– syre – 2020-12-31T04:02:08.790

Wow, thanks for the quick response. I'll check these out and accept if all pans out! – Ron Maimon – 2012-04-13T22:13:17.647

2+1 Since DoE is a collage of very different themes, it might be a good thing to point the reader to the locus classicus on De Sade Excursus II: Juliette or Enlightenment and Morality therein. As for Bataille and Lacan, could you give more specific references? – DBK – 2012-04-15T20:09:00.160

1@DBK: Thanks. You're right, I should have mentioned the specific essay. As for the Lacan and Bataille-- Lacan's essay Kant avec Sade deals with Sade from a philosophical perspective--it first appeared in English translation in October magazine, but has probably been reprinted. I'm not completely certain that it mentions Nietzsche, but it is still worth reading if one is interested in Sade. As for Bataille, I'm afraid my recollection is hazy-- I'll add something here if I can recall a specific reference. – Michael Dorfman – 2012-04-16T06:43:57.990