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October 20, 2011 4:02 PM   Subscribe

In 1888, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche coined a phrase that would inspire lazy musicians for more than 100 years
posted by boygeorge (91 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
My college admission essay began with this quotation. At the time, I thought I was pretty slick.
posted by Oxydude at 4:11 PM on October 20, 2011


After watching that video I feel like an Ubermensch
posted by umamiman at 4:14 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Let's be fair. Those are lazy lyricists. Lazy musicians can't be bothered to say much of anything.
posted by The World Famous at 4:14 PM on October 20, 2011


“whatever doesn’t kill you doesn’t make you stronger. It makes you weaker, and kills you later on.”

- Martin Amis
posted by ferdydurke at 4:14 PM on October 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


I had two serious illnesses about a year apart. No bullshit aphorism has been more bullshit to me since then.

In fact, if you look at most of the fools who think their brushes with death made them stronger, you'll realize it only made them crazier.

And lyricists who use this quote aren't lazy, they're liars.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:15 PM on October 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


"whatever doesn't kill you, only hurts you really badly"

-me
posted by Philby at 4:15 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nietzsche must have been emo.
posted by New England Cultist at 4:17 PM on October 20, 2011


An old friend of mine liked to phrase the sentiments above as "That which does not kill me, wounds me".

He also altered the lyrics of "You Can't Always Get What You Want" to say "But if you try sometimes, you just might find you can get what you don't want".
posted by baf at 4:19 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


The common thing between every one of those songs is that they're meant to be listened to by the kind of person who enjoys going to the mall.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:19 PM on October 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


"Oh, no, you're as weak as a kitten right now."

--Dr. Julius Hibbert
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:21 PM on October 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Not emo, just sickly since childhood and way off into aphorisms.
posted by raysmj at 4:23 PM on October 20, 2011


I was expecting "God is dead."
posted by Mister Moofoo at 4:25 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Another doughnut wouldn't kill me
posted by aubilenon at 4:25 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Mister Moofoo: The New York Times said that. But Nietzsche did write about the birth of the son of Alvin Tostig.
posted by raysmj at 4:29 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


What does kill me weakens me considerably.
posted by horsewithnoname at 4:35 PM on October 20, 2011


"Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger" has to be one of the most, if not *the* most blatantly untrue aphorisms ever. I can't think of any more obviously flat-out wrong "words of wisdom" off the top of my head, but I'm certain that the citizens of MetaFilter won't let me down on this one.
posted by tzikeh at 4:35 PM on October 20, 2011


I did a whole series of riffs off that aphorism on my Twitter account three years ago. I just spent several minutes looking for them and will now happily share them with you.

What doesn't kill us makes for new government regulations.
What doesn't kill us makes us regret those things we said to you last night.
What doesn't kill us makes us squeal with delight.
What doesn't kill us makes our insurance premiums go up.
What doesn't kill us makes for new prescription medications.
What doesn't kill us makes funeral parlors lose business.
What doesn't kill us makes our mothers sleep better at night.
What doesn't kill us makes us suffer endlessly.
posted by perhapses at 4:53 PM on October 20, 2011


Did Nietzsche really mean that? Isn't it prefaced as a quotation from a prussian military handbook, which since he habitually taunts germans as stupid was he not being sarcastic when he wrote it?

Maybe I am dense and I don't get the joke but I get the impression that there's a million people running around quoting Nietzsche saying this sincerely which just seems ridiculous.
posted by bukvich at 4:59 PM on October 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


My favorite rebuttal to this phrase is "The guy who said that died of syphilis in the town square while losing an argument with a horse."

The truth is, of course, more complicated.
posted by poe at 5:00 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Freddy obviously hadn't heard of muscle-wasting diseases
posted by lalochezia at 5:01 PM on October 20, 2011


"What doesn't kill you merely postpones the inevitable."

The trick is to say it as cheerfully as you can manage.
posted by cmyk at 5:01 PM on October 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


I wonder if this is true emotionally, or if that was/is the original intent. But probably no and no.
posted by maxwelton at 5:15 PM on October 20, 2011


He also inspired: Look, up in the sky! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? It's Zarathustra!
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:33 PM on October 20, 2011



That which does not kill me only makes me quote dead German philosophers.
posted by jason's_planet at 5:33 PM on October 20, 2011


Yes, but, how many of those songs are based on Pachelbel's Canon in D?
posted by nzero at 5:42 PM on October 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


It appears that reading Google's suggest-o-completer is much less interesting when there's a Kelly Clarkson song with the same phrase.
posted by rhizome at 5:50 PM on October 20, 2011


O, Superman.
posted by crunchland at 5:56 PM on October 20, 2011


What doesn't kill you, usually succeeds on the second attempt
Eugene Krabs
posted by Redhush at 6:08 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised that Nickleback wasn't in there somewhere.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:10 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Christ, 90's "alternative" music was such shit.
posted by Scientist at 6:12 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was expecting "Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge."
posted by Flashman at 6:13 PM on October 20, 2011


lyricists who use this quote aren't lazy, they're liars.

It's just an aphorism, context is everything. This video took it out of context and so seems lulz.

There are cases where people go through dramatic experiences, wish they would die, come out of it having grown and learned a lesson, stronger for it because in the future they are better preparared to deal with that kind of experience again, or stronger in self confidence. In your case, dealing with a physical ailment, it would be an inappropriate phrase. Unless it was smallpox, in which case you are now immune, you really would be stronger (see Columbian Exchange).
posted by stbalbach at 6:16 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


This reminds me of something Edward Abbey said:

"Proverbs save us the trouble of thinking. What we call folk wisdom is often no more than a kind of expedient stupidity."
posted by entropone at 6:21 PM on October 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


In 1888, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche coined a phrase that would inspire lazy musicians for more than 100 years...

Not to mention (inspiring) G. Gordon Liddy.
posted by Mental Wimp at 6:29 PM on October 20, 2011


I liked "That which does not kill me, makes me stranger" which I think actually applies to Nietzsche. Also, "If bullshit had brains, it'd quote Nietzsche".
posted by Grimgrin at 6:30 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


That which does not kill us makes us stranger.
posted by byanyothername at 6:34 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mister Moofoo: The New York Times said that.

I think you mean this.
posted by Mental Wimp at 6:36 PM on October 20, 2011


"Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger" has to be one of the most, if not *the* most blatantly untrue aphorisms ever. I can't think of any more obviously flat-out wrong "words of wisdom" off the top of my head, but I'm certain that the citizens of MetaFilter won't let me down on this one.

"The darkest hour is just before the dawn" runs it close.
posted by dng at 6:36 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


God is in the details.
posted by The World Famous at 6:40 PM on October 20, 2011


Well, I've borrowed plenty of lines from here and there to include in my own songs, but after seeing this clip, I am so very, very happy that I never used this one.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:40 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


What really impresses me is that none of those singers / lyricists has found a way to make the sentence scan in any sort of a musically interesting way. Kanye probably does the best to find some sort of rhythm in it, but it's really an awkward sentence to set to music. That's what I learned.

Also, that which does not kill me will only make me stranger.
posted by gauche at 6:44 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger" has to be one of the most, if not *the* most blatantly untrue aphorisms ever. I can't think of any more obviously flat-out wrong "words of wisdom" off the top of my head, but I'm certain that the citizens of MetaFilter won't let me down on this one.

I dunno, I'm watching the Ig Nobels in another tab and an MIT stress researcher (not a prize winner) boiled her whole career down to those words.
posted by Diablevert at 6:47 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, I've borrowed plenty of lines from here and there to include in my own songs, but after seeing this clip, I am so very, very happy that I never used this one.

Thank God I'm not a songwriter, because I likely would've used it, though I tend to the more strongly worded: "That which doesn't destroy me only makes me stronger."

Which as someone once pointed out to me doesn't hold true for tuberculosis.
posted by philip-random at 6:54 PM on October 20, 2011


Here's the thing that bugs me: it's not even a complete thought, as rendered. A landslide on the other side of the world doesn't kill me. Neither does a pretzel at the bottom of this bag. But I'll be damned if either one made me stronger.

I believe it means that which poses a serious risk of killing you, but does not, makes you stronger. Well, I guess it does, if it means stronger than you'd be if you were dead.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:03 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: If bullshit had brains, it'd quote Nietzsche
posted by Renoroc at 7:05 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger" has to be one of the most, if not *the* most blatantly untrue aphorisms ever. --- Have you never heard of vaccines?
posted by crunchland at 7:05 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just from the other side of the argument here, the three surgeries I've had on my back haven't made me physically stronger, I'll grant that. On the other hand, learning to deal with my new limitations, and being able to cope with the pain certainly has made me a stronger person. The second surgery? Staph infection. MRSA. Could have killed me, but didn't. The month of living with a shunt in my shoulder, with daily trips to the hospital for my IV, all while taking a full schedule of classes definitely made me a stronger person. Each new thing that I've done, especially the ones that scared the hell out of me, hasn't killed me yet, and I'm a stronger, better person for having done each one.

Seriously, being this literal? About an aphorism? This has got to be a whole new plate of beans. Possibly overbeans.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:11 PM on October 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


All hail the new overbeans.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:17 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I, for one, welcome our new bean overlords.
posted by Samizdata at 7:20 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Overbean there, overdone that.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:28 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


If it didnt kill you...it means you survived it.

If you survived something, it should teach you something. If you've been taught something, you are better equipped to make decisions in the future.

So yeah...stronger=smarter.

Now lets hear from people who believe N's words are irrelevant in a medical setting as i'm sure he was talking about illnesses and surgeries.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:29 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Nietzsche himself was chronically ill for much of his life. I always read this particular quote as his attempt to put a positive spin on his suffering. I think he was trying to be optimistic about gaining something in wisdom and internal fortitude, even as he lost other valuable parts of his life to illness.

What he wasn't doing was telling people to hit themselves in the heads with bats to improve their bench press.

Read a little charitably, folks; you'd want people to do the same for you.
posted by edguardo at 7:29 PM on October 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


Needs more Lady Antebellum.
posted by intermod at 7:37 PM on October 20, 2011


Came in for the Trevor Goodchild. byanyothername had it covered.
posted by Babblesort at 8:03 PM on October 20, 2011


Norm MacDonald's take on the line (YouTube)
posted by toftflin at 8:11 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


@bukvich: You've hole-in-one, sir. My partner with a Masters in Philosophy asked for a citation, and a citation can be found in http://www.anus.com/zine/db/friedrich_nietzsche/friedrich_nietzsche-twilight_of_the_idols.pdf , page 2, maxim 8.

It's damn sarcastic.
posted by endotoxin at 8:37 PM on October 20, 2011


A little of the context:
What is it, fundamentally, that allows us to recognize who has turned out well? That well-turned-out person pleases our senses, that he is carved from wood that is hard, delicate, and at the same time smells good. He has a taste only for what is good for him; his pleasure, his delight cease where the measure of what is good for him is transgressed. He guesses what remedies avail against what is harmful; he exploits bad accidents to his advantage; what does not kill him makes him stronger. Instinctively, he collects from everything he sees, hears, lives through, his sum: he is a principle of selection, he discards much. He is always in his own company, whether he associates with books, human beings, or landscapes: he honors by choosing, by admitting, by trusting. He reacts slowly to all kinds of stimuli, with that slowness which long caution and deliberate pride have bred in him: he examines the stimulus that approaches him, he is far from meeting it halfway. He believes neither in "misfortune" nor in "guilt": he comes to term with himself, with others; he knows how to forget—he is trong enough; hence everything must turn out for his best.
Ecce Homo, "Why I am so Wise", §2 (Walter Kaufmann trans.)
Apparently the phrase is also used in Twilight of the Idols, but I don't have a copy.
posted by stebulus at 8:37 PM on October 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Preview fail.
posted by stebulus at 8:37 PM on October 20, 2011


What Nietzsche should have said is, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you watch a lot of Cartoon Network and drink mid-price Chardonnay at 11 in the morning.”
– Conan O’Brien
posted by bryon at 8:44 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Apparently the phrase is also used in Twilight of the Idols, but I don't have a copy.

"Out of life's school of war: What does not destroy me, makes me stronger."

- Twilight of the Idols, Maxims and Arrows, 8.
posted by edguardo at 8:55 PM on October 20, 2011


I'm not here to make friends
I'm down on my knees
Beggin' you please
Streets of fire
~ some band
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:13 PM on October 20, 2011


Gott ist Tot.

raysmj: Elton John said that the New York Times said God is dead.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 9:16 PM on October 20, 2011


Yes, that was the joke.
posted by raysmj at 9:29 PM on October 20, 2011


Made me look, though.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 9:41 PM on October 20, 2011


>"I was expecting "God is Dead"
Well he/she/it IS dead, according to Mr. Reznor..
posted by obscurator at 11:41 PM on October 20, 2011


Sadly, obscurator, no one cares...
posted by Ghidorah at 11:51 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


What doesn't kill me must not be trying very hard.
posted by pracowity at 12:02 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


He's being positive, you know, uplifting

He really means: That which doesn't make you worse, makes you better

A testimony to Nietzsche's belief in a loving universe
posted by criticalbill at 12:47 AM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I had the impression there was a slight Darwinian meaning behind the aphorism too: if something does not kill you, then you will be able to continue bearing descendents who will inherit your genes and thus make your genes "stronger" in the gene pool. As compared to those who were killed. Ultimately you would evolve into the ubermensch.

So in some sense natural selection is "what kills you makes you stronger", where the second you is your species.
posted by destrius at 12:51 AM on October 21, 2011


gee I sure wish Nietzsche had foreseen all of the humourless sarcasm and found a way to make his point that was much more tediously literal.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 2:35 AM on October 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Elton John said that the New York Times said God is dead.

Bernie Taupin told Elton John to say that the New York Times said God is dead.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:52 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Whatever doesn't kill you is only taking a break.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:09 AM on October 21, 2011


Reading Nietzsche in German IS like listening to music. He spins the words like a powerful spell on you. He knows how to play with the language. IMHO there is nothing comparable in the German literature.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 5:44 AM on October 21, 2011


Actually, if you like Nietzsches Ideas, you may like this guy too:

Max Stirner

posted by yoyo_nyc at 5:53 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


hal_c_on: If it didnt kill you...it means you survived it.

If you survived something, it should teach you something. If you've been taught something, you are better equipped to make decisions in the future.

So yeah...stronger=smarter.

Now lets hear from people who believe N's words are irrelevant in a medical setting as i'm sure he was talking about illnesses and surgeries.



Oxygen deprivation.
posted by tzikeh at 7:12 AM on October 21, 2011


You know, Joseph 'Joey' Gallo did ten years in Attica, reading Nietzche and Wilhelm Reich.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:12 AM on October 21, 2011


The person who's been in a coma for ten years would like to disagree with dear old Freddie. He'd like to, but...
posted by Decani at 7:16 AM on October 21, 2011


Clearly Nietzche was talking about Bruce Banner's exposure to gamma radiation and the subsequent effects.

Because that which didn't kill him made people not like him when he was angry.
posted by quin at 8:26 AM on October 21, 2011


Nietzsche also prefaces the now-cliched aphorism with another one that many Americans would take as their personal motto: "He knows how to turn serious mishaps to his own advantage." The substance of a million self-help books and Dr. Oz and Dr. Drew shows, anticipated by a hundred years. "How to Become What You Are": a sentiment that even Oprah or the Herminator, our current national motivational king-elect, couldn't disagree with.

It might have made him (the savorer of contradictions and inconsistencies and subversions, he who "knows not how to get rid of anything, how to come to terms with anything, how to cast anything behind him") laugh -- more than a century later and still misunderstood, mischaracterized, and either hotly debated or superciliously dismissed. At least he's not forgotten -- just as he himself predicted.
posted by blucevalo at 9:40 AM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Oh, no, you're as weak as a kitten right now."

'Weak as a kitten.' There is yet another bullshit aphorism. I grit my teeth whenever I hear or read it.

Whoever came up with the phrase never tried to pick up a feral kitten.

My grandfather had a barnyard cat on his farm who would stand up and drink milk straight from the cow when he pointed a teat at her and shot her a squirt when he was milking. Otherwise, she fed herself, for the most part, and kept to herself, for the most part. She certainly did not want to have anything to do with us kids.

The summer when I was 8, she had a litter of kittens just before we came to visit. My cousins had caught a couple by that time and tamed them enough to eat from their hands and accept a little petting. Fired up at the sight, I cornered one in the empty silo where they lived and tried to pick it up. He disabused me of the notion in an instant. That six week old kitten torn my hands to shreds as he clawed his way out of my grip.

Pound for pound, ounce for ounce, gram for gram, cats, like dogs, are much much stronger than we are -- even the weakest kitten, by weight, is far stronger than any human.

Take it from one who knows, a wild kitten is nothing to trifle with without protective clothing.
posted by y2karl at 10:10 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oxygen deprivation.

It's not hard to find people with brain damage, limited cognitive function, etc. who don't view their accident/illness/etc as an entirely negative thing. Research (and common sense) indicates that actual disability is often not the utterly-life-shattering event we tend to think imaginary disability will be.

Of course, sometimes it is... but then, it's not like Nietzsche was afraid of self-contradiction or irony.
posted by vorfeed at 10:11 AM on October 21, 2011


'Weak as a kitten.' There is yet another bullshit aphorism. I grit my teeth whenever I hear or read it.

Whoever came up with the phrase never tried to pick up a feral kitten.


True. But is not the question of whether or not it is weak better addressed by someone who has attempted to kill it, not merely pick it up?
posted by The World Famous at 10:12 AM on October 21, 2011


'Weak as a kitten.' There is yet another bullshit aphorism. I grit my teeth whenever I hear or read it.

This aphorism refers to newborn kittens, which are in fact essentially helpless. They can't see, can't hear, can't walk, and can't do much to tear your hand up... though they will certainly try.
posted by vorfeed at 10:15 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


"What doesn't kill you make you sleep until 3 PM the next day." - Jim Carroll
posted by Minus215Cee at 10:19 AM on October 21, 2011


*makes

Dammit.
posted by Minus215Cee at 10:20 AM on October 21, 2011


Needs more Lady Antebellum.
posted by intermod at 7:37 PM on October 20 [+] [!]


intermod, you owe me a new monitor. I just broke the old one in an attempt to punch your comment to death.
posted by FatherDagon at 2:04 PM on October 21, 2011


I do not think that aphorism means what you think it means.
posted by bricoleur at 7:59 PM on October 21, 2011


Interesting how all the music was incredibly similar and could be lumped into maybe 3 categories.
posted by bongo_x at 9:05 PM on October 21, 2011


"Never in outstanding health, further complications arose from Nietzsche's August-October 1870 service as a 25-year-old hospital attendant during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71), where he participated in the siege of Metz. He witnessed the traumatic effects of battle, took close care of wounded soldiers, and contracted diphtheria and dysentery."

One story I heard is that he spent several days in a railway freight car crowded with seriously ill soldiers, most of whom died. This adds a bit of perspective.
posted by ovvl at 8:19 PM on October 22, 2011


Just thought of a perfect replacement aphorism (I'm sure somebody has said it before, but not in this thread):

"WHATEVER DOES NOT KILL ME, SCARS ME."

what? it IS caps lock day.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:32 PM on October 22, 2011


"WHATEVER DOES NOT KILL ME, SCARS ME."

TELL YEW WHUT, GOOD BUDDY, IT SCARS THAH HELL OUTTA ME TOO!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:17 PM on October 22, 2011


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