Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Andrew Chapman

Second Advisor

Dominic Bailey

Third Advisor

Justin Atwell


Friedrich Nietzsche had a complicated relationship with Buddhism; although he held some aspects in high regard, Nietzsche ultimately regarded the religion as decadent, life-denying, and nihilistic. This paper will analyze Nietzsche’s criticisms of Buddhism through an exploration of original and secondary materials and argue that they do not apply, especially when considering the Zen school of Buddhism. Had Nietzsche had a better understanding of several Buddhist principles including its views on ‘nothingness,’ nirvana, the Self, metaphysics, and morality, he would have perhaps seen the parallels in his own philosophy. Additionally, I will argue that there are numerous similarities in the teachings and practice of Zen Buddhism concerning the path to enlightenment and Nietzsche’s ideal of self-overcoming. Considering their metaphysical and existential viewpoints, the practitioner of Zen and Nietzsche’s Overman may not be quite so different as one might first expect.