If We Have Our Own ‘Why’ of Life, We Shall Get Along With Almost Any ‘How’

Friedrich Nietzsche? Viktor E. Frankl? Thomas Common? Anthony M. Ludovici? Walter Kaufmann? R. J. Hollingdale? Ilse Lasch?

Dear Quote Investigator: Life can be aggravating and even agonizing. Yet, a steady internal purpose helps to make difficulties endurable together with the thought that happiness and pleasure will someday return. Here is an apposite adage:

One who has a ‘why’ to live for can endure almost any ‘how’.

This notion has been attributed to philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1889 Friedrich Nietzsche published “Götzen-Dämmerung; oder, Wie man mit dem Hammer philosophirt” (“Twilight of the Idols, or, How to philosophize with a hammer”) which included a section called “Sprüche und Pfeile” (“Maxims and Arrows”). The following statement was included. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Mit einem Ziele. — Hat man sein warum? des Lebens, so verträgt man sich fast mit jedem wie? — Der Mensch strebt nicht nach Glück; nur der Engländer thut das.

This statement has been translated into English in several different ways during the ensuing decades. Here is a rendering by Thomas Common which appeared in an 1896 edition of Nietzsche’s work: 2

When one has one’s wherefore of life, one gets along with almost every how.—Man does not strive after happiness; the Englishman only does so.

Viktor E. Frankl did employ a version of the adage, but he credited Nietzsche as discussed further below.

Here are additional selected citations.

Continue reading If We Have Our Own ‘Why’ of Life, We Shall Get Along With Almost Any ‘How’


  1. 1889 (catalog date), Title: Götzen-Dämmerung; oder, Wie man mit dem Hammer philosophirt, Author: Friedrich Nietzsche, Edition: Zweite Auflage (Second Edition), Chapter: Sprüche und Pfeile (Proverbs and Arrows), Quote Page 2, Publisher: C.G. Naumann, Leipzig. (HathiTrust Full View) link
  2. 1896, The Case of Wagner: Nietzsche Contra Wagner, The Twilight of the Idols, The Antichrist by Friedrich Nietzsche, Translated by Thomas Common, Section: The Twilight of the Idols, Chapter: Apophthegms and Darts, Quote Page 100, H. Henry and Company, London. (HathiTrust Full View) link

We Sometimes Remain Faithful To a Cause Merely Because Its Opponents Never Cease To Be Insipid

Creator: Friedrich Nietzsche

Context: In 1878 Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche published “Menschliches, Allzumenschliches: Ein Buch für Freie Geister” (“Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits”). He employed an aphoristic style that explicated topics with short numbered passages and sayings. Item number 536 consisted of the following: 1

Werth abgeschmackter Gegner. — Man bleibt mitunter einer Sache nur desshalb treu, weil ihre Gegner nicht aufhören, abgeschmackt zu sein.

A translation of the volume from German to English appeared in 1915. The translator Helen Zimmern rendered item 536 as follows: 2

THE VALUE OF INSIPID OPPONENTS—We sometimes remain faithful to a cause merely because its opponents never cease to be insipid.

In 1954 “The Portable Nietzsche” by translator Walter Kaufmann presented this version: 3

The value of insipid opponents. At times one remains faithful to a cause only because its opponents do not cease to be insipid.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Dan Dulay who inquired about the authenticity of this saying.


  1. 1878, Menschliches, Allzumenschliches: Ein Buch für Freie Geister (Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits) by Friedrich Nietzsche (Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche), Statement Number 536, Quote Page 340, Published by Ernst Schmeitzner, Chemnitz. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1915, Human, All-Too-Human: A Book for Free Spirits by Friedrich Nietzsche, Part I, Translated by Helen Zimmern, Statement Number 536, Quote Page 365, The Macmillan Company, New York. (Internet Archive Full View) link
  3. 1976 (1954 Copyright), The Portable Nietzsche by Friedrich Nietzsche, Translated by Walter Kaufmann, FROM: Human, All-Too-Human, Statement Number 536, Unnumbered Page, Penguin Books, New York. (Google Books Preview)