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Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (15 October 1844 – 25 August 1900) was a German philosopher, cultural critic, composer, poet, philologist, and Latin and Greek scholar whose work has exerted a profound influence on modern intellectual history. He began his career as a classical philologist before turning to philosophy. He became the youngest ever to hold the Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel in 1869 at the age of 24. Nietzsche resigned in 1879 due to health problems that plagued him most of his life; he completed much of his core writing in the following decade. In 1889 at age 44, he suffered a collapse and afterward a complete loss of his mental faculties. He lived his remaining years in the care of his mother until her death in 1897 and then with his sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche. Nietzsche died in 1900.
Nietzsche scholar Joachim Köhler has attempted to explain Nietzsche's life history and philosophy by claiming that Nietzsche was homosexual. Köhler argues that Nietzsche's syphilis, which is "... usually considered to be the product of his encounter with a prostitute in a brothel in Cologne or Leipzig, is equally likely, it is now held, to have been contracted in a male brothel in Genoa." The acquisition of the infection from a homosexual brothel was confirmed by Sigmund Freud, who cited Otto Binswanger as his source. Köhler also suggests Nietzsche may have had a romantic relationship as well as a friendship with Paul Rée. There is the claim that Nietzsche's homosexuality is widely known in the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, with Nietzsche's friend Paul Deussen claiming that the philosopher never "touched a woman".
Köhler's views have not found wide acceptance among Nietzsche scholars and commentators. Allan Megill argues that, while Köhler's claim that Nietzsche was in a confrontation with his homosexual desire cannot simply be dismissed, "the evidence is very weak," and Köhler may be projecting twentieth-century understandings of sexuality on nineteenth-century notions of friendship. It is also known that Nietzsche frequented heterosexual brothels. Some like Nigel Rodgers and Mel Thompson have argued that continuous sickness and headaches hindered Nietzsche from engaging much with women. Yet, they bring other examples in which Nietzsche expressed his affections to other women, including Wagner's wife Cosima Wagner.
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