Nietzsche on Inequality, Education, and Human Flourishing

  • Mark E. Jonas
Part of the Springer International Handbooks of Education book series (SIHE)


As recent policy debates demonstrate, schools in democratic societies are often under political and cultural pressure to equalize achievement among all students, even if it necessitates diverting resources from the most educationally advantaged to the least educationally advantaged. The assumption is that maximizing student potential is a zero-sum game, and the best way to increase achievement in the least advantaged group is to focus the majority of attention on their needs, even if it diminishes the potential of the most advantaged group. The question is whether this is a good assumption. Friedrich Nietzsche argues that it is not. In Schopenhauer as Educator, Nietzsche argues that inequalities of talent and achievement are actually productive of excellence in all students. He believes that attempts to minimize inequality by slowing the progress of the highest-achieving backfires. While it is supposed to help the lowest-achieving, it actually serves to diminish their flourishing. This is not to say that he wants to do away with all equality. Rather, he believes that flourishing cultures can embody a fundamental equality that is more meaningful than the false equality that demands similar levels of achievement among students. I examine Nietzsche’s reasons for believing that inequalities of talent and achievement may improve the well-being of the highest-achieving and lowest-achieving, and all students in between. While Nietzsche’s ideas are too radical to adopt wholesale, they raise important questions concerning how best to educate all students, no matter what their level of ability.


Nietzsche Education Inequality Equality Human flourishing 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark E. Jonas
    • 1
  1. 1.Wheaton CollegeWheatonUSA

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