Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Gay Science” as Want to Read:
The Gay Science
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Gay Science

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  13,704 ratings  ·  507 reviews
"[This book] mirrors all of Nietzsche's thought and could be related in hundreds of ways to his other books, his notes, and his letters. And yet it is complete in itself. For it is a work of art." —Walter Kaufmann in the Introduction

Nietzsche called The Gay Science "the most personal of all my books." It was here that he first proclaimed the death of God—to which a large p
Mass Market Paperback, Vintage Books, 396 pages
Published January 12th 1974 by Random House (first published April 1st 1882)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Gay Science, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Grant Pierce That is a great question. The answer is complicated and gets at the heart of Nietzsche's philosophy but I will do my best to explain it.

When Nietzsche…more
That is a great question. The answer is complicated and gets at the heart of Nietzsche's philosophy but I will do my best to explain it.

When Nietzsche writes "God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him" he does not literally mean that God has died, rather he means that the idea of God and by extension Judaeo/Christian morality and even the idea of morality have been destroyed by humanity's scientific, cultural and philosophical development. However, this often quoted line is misunderstood by many.

This is why understanding the madman is important. The madman in the parable is essentially Zarathustra (from Nietzsche's later work, Thus Spoke Zarathustra) and a representation of Nietzsche himself. He is a "madman" because he holds views and opinions that are far removed from those of common people (atheists included). He is prophetic. The beginning of the parable explains that the villagers standing in the market are common atheists who scoff at and mock the madman (Nietzsche) for his frantic search for God (morality, purpose, meaning, truth). They trivialize his desperate search and assume that the madman is either scared of atheists, a proselytizer from another land, or a religious fool.

None of these assumptions is correct. Because the villagers do not understand what he is doing and saying, the madman "jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes" and attempts to convey to the villagers how deep and profound the death of "God" is. He likens "God's" death to the earth being unchained from the sun, the wiping away of the horizon, continuous night, falling through an infinite nothing, etc.

In the next paragraph, the madman uses rhetorical questions to attempt to explain to the villagers why "God's" death is as calamitous as he just described. "Who will wipe this (God's) blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games will we have to invent?" These questions are really just one big question: Given the destruction of objective morality, meaning, and purpose, what principles can we believe in, what morality can we follow, what purpose can we live for, and do principles, morality, and purpose even mean anything anymore? Essentially, it is the question of nihilism.

The villagers do not understand what the madman means because although they do not believe in God, they have (unknowingly) retained the morality, principles, and purpose of people who do believe in God. But God is dead, so morality, principles, and purpose die with him. Because of their lack of understanding the villagers simply stare at the madman in silence. Seeing this, the madman smashes his lantern and says that he "has come too early" because the people have yet to grasp the implications of atheism.

The madman and Nietzsche himself were both confronted with the void of nihilism upon understanding the implications of their atheism. Nihilism, when lived or really understood, feels, as Nietzsche wrote, like "straying, as through an infinite nothing" or "plunging continually... backward, sideward, forward, in all directions." Understandably, this is not a pleasant experience and is potentially even less pleasant that extreme physical and emotional pain. Given this realization (nihilism) and the experience associated with it, no wonder the madman began desperately searching for some way to escape, to find objective morality, truth, meaning, and purpose.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.26  · 
Rating details
 ·  13,704 ratings  ·  507 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Gay Science
Zawn V
Jan 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
If you read Nietzsche while not in the midst of some variety of emo existential crisis, Nietzsche is hilarious and insightful. If, however, you choose to read Nietzsche in high school in order to be counter-culture, odds are good Nietzsche will temporarily turn you into a horrible, pompous ass. Nietzsche is the first philosopher I ever read; I stole The Gay Science from my cousin's book shelf when I was nine because I wanted to read "what smart people read." Ever since then, Nietzsche and I have ...more
Roy Lotz
The more mistrust, the more philosophy.

How to review Nietzsche? His writing is so rich, so overabundant, so overflowing, that evaluating his works is like trying to drink up a waterfall. I cannot even decide whether Nietzsche was a philosopher, or something else. Perhaps he can be better described as an essayist, a poet, a sage, a neurotic, a raving madman, a prescient visionary? The title hardly matters, I suppose; although without some benchmark of comparison, I am left in the dark for a w
Ahmad Sharabiani
Die fröhliche Wissenschaft = The Gay Science, Friedrich Nietzsche
The Gay Science or The Joyful Wisdom is a book by Friedrich Nietzsche, first published in 1882 and followed by a second edition, which was published after the completion of Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Beyond Good and Evil, in 1887. This substantial expansion includes a fifth book and an appendix of songs. It was noted by Nietzsche to be "the most personal of all [his] books", and contains the greatest number of poems in any of his p
Dec 19, 2013 marked it as eventually-read
Jun 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Seemita Pooja
Recommended to Jonfaith by: see
Shelves: theory
For believe me! — the secret for harvesting from existence the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment is: to live dangerously! Build your cities on the slopes of Vesuvius! Send your ships into uncharted seas! Live at war with your peers and yourselves! Be robbers and conquerors as long as you cannot be rulers and possessors, you seekers of knowledge! Soon the age will be past when you could be content to live hidden in forests like shy deer!

While this wasn't my point of departure into
Dec 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
"What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you in your loneliest loneliness and say to you:
"This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence—even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this m
Perhaps one of the greatest passages I encountered here has the unconventional form of a short parable, or "psychologist's tale" that almost does more in two paragraphs than an entire novella, and reminds me much of Johann Peter Hebel:

"In dealings with people who are ashamed of their feelings, one must be able to disguise one's own; for such people take a sudden antipathy to anyone who catches them in a moment of tenderness, or enthusiasm, or intemperate rage, as if their deepest secrets had bee
Jul 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Epic Nietzsche. My favorite Nietzsche text (and Nietzsche is my most favorite thinking creature of all time, so this means a lot) - somehow managing to be provocative, meditative, accessible, and entertaining in one stroke! One of those rare books that you can actually pick up, flip to any page, and read, without wondering all that much about what came before. I utilized many ideas presented in this book as jumping off points in my master's thesis, and were it not for the constrictions of time, ...more

Having finished the book, the reader had no choice but to read himself. It was not a heroic story, nor a moral one - indeed, he scarcely understood the author's intent in various chapters. Its ending was implicit, if unwritten, yet the reader did not wish to imagine exactly what it would be. Oftentimes it was tedious, not worth reading, and he continued partially from spite, for he did not put a book down easily, and partially from a deeper sense he could not ascribe words to; a vibrancy, so
Karl Hallbjörnsson
Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Best Nietzsche I've read so far. Kaufmann's annotation is extremely informative, insightful and at times quite hilarious. Onwards to Zarathustra, then!

Edit: been reading it again this year. I'm convinced that this is N's singular best work. A real masterpiece.
Marts  (Thinker)
Sep 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, philosophy
The Joyful Wisdom or the Gay Science, is to me, a bit different from the other Nietzsche books I've read. The general philosophies of the writer are present yet the volume creates in the reader a sense of power, fulfilment, achievement... Upon all he postulates are reasons to overcome such and conquer.

Here he also presents his philosophy, 'God is Dead', as stated in section 108:
After Buddha was dead, people
showed his shadow for centuries afterwards in a
cave,—an immense frightful shadow. God is d
Dec 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Gay Science § 369:
Consider a continually creative person, a ‘mother’ type in the grand sense, one who knows and hears nothing any more except about the pregnancies and deliveries of his spirit, one who simply lacks the time to reflect on himself and his work and to make comparisons, one who no longer has any desire to assert his taste and who simply forgets it, without caring in the least whether it still stands, or lies, or falls – such a person might perhaps eventually produce works that f
One of the great philosophical works. Do yourself a favor and realize right off the bat that it's quite unimportant whether you agree with him or not. He will challenge you and he will get you thinking.

Nietzsche can certainly be seen as too individualistic, too violent, too aristocratic, too condescending of democratic principles, too disrespectful of the little people, and only respectful of the individual 's will to power. That is his strength and his weakness.

Should we write him off as so ma
Jonathan Terrington

So far in my philosophical venture into the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, I have read both this work and his Beyond Good and Evil. However, while I gave Beyond Good and Evil 3 stars, I feel that this is a better work academically and so give it the higher 4 star rating. In this The Gay Science, many of Nietzsche's key ideas come together in a much clearer manner, and it is easier to understand his views on concepts I feel he lacks more ignorance (religions for instance).

The title of this work st
Nov 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Another book that doesn't need a review and probably shouldn't be reviewed by anyone today (one wonders if Nietzsche would look at the terrain of the world today and wonder if his "free spirits" and "philosophers the day after tomorrow" would ever arrive), but here it is! We didn't read this back in the seminar I took in college, focusing more on his other "major" works. But I think I like this one best of all, not only for its levity and joy, but because it contains kernels of all of his major ...more
Oct 05, 2011 rated it it was ok
Rather than laying out a point and following it with arguments and counter arguments, Nietzsche makes declarations about the world and leaves you to argue for or against him. Even though this book is full of intentional contradictions it does cause the reader to think more about the world around them. However it fails to make a point. Normal philosophy desires to find a conclusion, and from this conclusion the reader is left to think about what was said, but this book only says things to think a ...more
John Hamer
Mar 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I go back to this book again and again, but I've yet to plumb its depths or exhaust its riches. You don't read Nietzsche the way the pious read holy books; you read him the way tired undergraduates drink Red Bull. Reading Nietzsche is like taking a bolt of lightning to the head; it's like a bucket of ice cold water to the face first thing in the morning. Nietzsche forces you to wake up and think. He can make you mad sometimes. Really mad. He can make you laugh out loud. And he can make you cry. ...more
Feb 22, 2008 rated it liked it
While certain parts of this book are overtly misogynistic and anti-Semitic, I appreciate some of his writings on artistic creation and seeking knowledge. The best part of my experience with this book was the looks I would get from other people while I was reading it on the train. People don't quite know what to do with someone who reads Nietzsche in his or her spare time. ...more
Bogdan Raț
Feb 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think this is the only place in Nietzche's work where he explicitly says "In my opinion..." or "I believe that..."
Really liked the tone and language he used here. I enjoyed some of his poems aswell.

This is one of those very-hard-to-categorize books. Poor Fred really did go to the outer limits of what could be possible, what can be thought, how far humans could go morally, aesthetically, etc.

Forget the stoned, peach fuzz'd, wild-eyed undergrad or high school kid with bad breath who reads this stuff all day and thinks he's a nascent ubermensch.

Nietzsche's the real deal and this is one of the books that sort of shows him stretching himself as far as he can. It's actually almost kind of a
Kelsey Hennegen
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Often misread, surely even by me (at least at times), but what I get from this text is such hope for a new health, a new happiness, and a new love. The possibility to love one's fate -- not to endure life, but to affirm and celebrate it, to dance. We must learn to love, we must eschew conclusions and certainty, for "conclusions are consolations," and, rather, engage in perpetual experimentation and play. We can be the artists of our own life, creators.

I don't find an aggressive will to power he
Aug 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
I’m a bit of a latecomer to Nietzsche and now, having finished an actual book of his, the thought that keeps coming to mind is: Nietzsche’s reputation has nearly eclipsed his work. I “knew” Nietzsche before I’d read anything that he wrote. I likely could have discussed him at length. I knew all about the Ubermensch and the God is dead stuff. I knew that he was a sort of proto Ayn Rand. All the flotsam that makes its way into the collective imagination after a century and a half of lingering in t ...more
Erik Graff
Aug 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: philosophy
I read this after reading Zarathustra. This was a mistake as much of the philosophical content of Nietzsche's essay into scripture and prophecy is to be found more clearly stated in The Gay Science. ...more
May 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Why, then, have I never yet encountered anyone , not even in books, who approached morality in this personal way and who knew morality as a problem, and this problem as his own distress, torment, voluptuousness, and passion? It is clear that up to now, morality has been no problem at all but rather that on which, after all mistrust, discord, and contradiction, one could agree—the hallowed place of peace where thinkers took a rest from themselves, took a deep breath, and felt revived. I see no
May 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Books 4 and 5 cemented this in my mind as a prose and philosophical masterpiece. On to Zarathustra
Aung Sett Kyaw Min
Jun 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was not an easy book to digest, you have to be in a certain physiological state, of a certain digestion, which is precisely one of the significant points that Nietzsche raises in book 5. Against the prejudice of the scholars that the books are deep, contemplative products of reason/consciousness and that thinking is a heavy activity that weighs you down, plagues your head like a leaden helmet, and makes you sit down in your study, Nietzsche presents us with the notion of "gay science", of t ...more
Jul 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have a spent a year studying this book and after all that effort I feel at once that I know less and that my life has been enriched - interesting; not unlike reading Kierkegaard and his pseudonyms. If you want the challenge of reading a difficult book rich in ideas, filled with images, and vibrant in its lust for life - then, read this book.
Aug 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recentlyread
5 stars, but only if you skip the poetry.
Apr 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
May 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Will to Truth

“The ‘will to truth’ is more than, ‘I will not allow myself to be deceived,’ it must be ‘I will not deceive, not even myself.’ Thus we have reached the realm of morality.”

Here, the truth is willed into existence as a stream of consciousness, unsullied by any editor or second thought. One chapter amounts to a Happy New Year greeting from Genoa. Sometimes the chapters trail off into… [I guess he went out to think in the open air. Whatever, publish it anyway.] Maybe it is best read
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Establish Mindful...: Gay husband 1 7 Mar 29, 2020 05:21PM  
[ M4A ][ ACTIVE ] [ LONGTERM ] M/M Romance 1 2 Apr 11, 2019 10:29AM  
gay book indian author sunset cover 1 5 May 29, 2018 10:14AM  
You must know a few things about bisexual 1 17 Dec 06, 2016 09:09PM  
Be misunderstood sexual orientation —-Bisexual 1 9 Dec 06, 2016 09:09PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Issues with ASIN: B004WLCM1S 5 29 Apr 10, 2013 12:15PM  
حکمت شادان 1 34 Jan 10, 2009 01:11PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Nietzsche and Philosophy
  • The World as Will and Representation, Vol. 1
  • Les Contemplations. Livres IV-V: Prépas scientifiques 2020-2021 (Littérature et civilisation)
  • Fear and Trembling
  • Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist
  • Existentialism is a Humanism
  • Being and Time
  • Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus
  • The World as Will and Representation, Vol. 2
  • Essays and Aphorisms
  • Being and Nothingness
  • The Myth of Sisyphus
  • The Sickness Unto Death: A Christian Psychological Exposition for Upbuilding and Awakening
  • Critique of Pure Reason
  • Critique of Judgment
  • Meditations on First Philosophy
  • Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit
  • Civilization and Its Discontents
See similar books…
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a German philosopher of the late 19th century who challenged the foundations of Christianity and traditional morality. He was interested in the enhancement of individual and cultural health, and believed in life, creativity, power, and the realities of the world we live in, rather than those situated in a world beyond. Central to his philosophy is the idea of “life- ...more

News & Interviews

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
2 likes · 0 comments
“What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: 'This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more' ... Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: 'You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.” 1730 likes
“The heaviest burden: “What, if some day or night, a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life, as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh… must return to you—all in the same succession and sequence—even this spider and this moonlight between the trees and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned over again and again—and you with it, speck of dust!’ Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god, and never have I heard anything more divine!’ If this thought were to gain possession of you, it would change you as you are, or perhaps crush you. The question in each and every thing, “do you want this once more and innumerable times more?” would lie upon your actions as the greatest weight. Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?” 185 likes
More quotes…