Fruits without labour: the implications of Friedrich Nietzsche’s ideas for the caring professions


Peter W. Nolan School of Health Sciences, The Medical School, The University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, England.


Seldom is the work of philosophers invoked by health professionals when examining aspects of care from a philosophical perspective. Instead, students of health care, especially nurses, have been introduced to ‘philosophies’ which are often superficially examined and poorly understood. This practice fails to develop in students an appreciation of the work of philosophers or to acquire the art of critical thinking. The introduction of models and theories of nursing in the past three decades has alerted nurses to the importance of possessing critical skills in order to identify sound theory and implement good practice. This paper goes beyond mere philosophising and examines aspects of mental health care from the perspectives of one of nineteenth century Europe’s most notable philosophers, Friedrich Nietzsche. It argues that understanding his work can enhance one’s ability to reflect on nursing practice, as well as bringing a new dimension to how we analyse ‘mental health’ problems. His work provides many insights into how we can improve our understanding of the effect of mental illness and mental health care on the individual, and how we conceptualise the process of care. This paper provides an overview of his life’s work, his impact on the history of ideas and develops some of the more provocative implications of his work for mental health care.