Since the dawn of the 20th century, the philosophy of Nietzsche has had great intellectual and political influence around the world. Nietzsche applied himself to such topics as morality, religion, epistemology, psychology, ontology, and social criticism. Because of Nietzsche's evocative style and his often outrageous claims, his philosophy generates passionate reactions running from love to disgust. Nietzsche noted in his autobiographical Ecce Homo that his philosophy developed over time, so interpreters have found it difficult to relate concepts central to one work to those central to another, for example, the thought of the eternal recurrence features heavily in Also sprach Zarathustra (), but is almost entirely absent from his next book, Beyond Good and Evil. Added to this challenge is the fact that Nietzsche did not seem concerned to develop his thought into a system, even going so far as to disparage the attempt in Beyond Good and Evil.
Common themes in his thought can, however, be identified and discussed. His earliest work emphasized the opposition of Apollonian and Dionysian impulses in art, and the figure of Dionysus continued to play a role in his subsequent thought. Other major currents include the will to power, the claim that God is dead, the distinction between master and slave moralities, and radical perspectivism. Other concepts appear rarely, or are confined to one or two major works, yet are considered centerpieces of Nietzschean philosophy, such as the Übermensch and the thought of eternal recurrence. His later works involved a sustained attack on Christianity and Christian morality, and he seemed to be working toward what he called the transvaluation of all values (Umwertung aller Werte). While Nietzsche is often associated in the public mind with fatalism and nihilism, Nietzsche himself viewed his project as the attempt to overcome the pessimism of Arthur Schopenhauer.