After recognizing that God had died and that responsibility rested on men's shoulders to render life meaningful, philosopher Nietzche proceeded to propose the ideal of the Superman (Ubermansch), a creator of new values, that which we may aspire to become as we evolve.  Rather than establishing new ethical values, I would argue the Superman seeks MEANING and that we never truly drew the highest ethical principles from God and religion.

The idea of the Superman quickly was appropriated by Nazis and eugenics experiments in the 20th century oftentimes claimed legitimacy from Nietzche's ideology.  The realization of humanity's imperative to define himself in his universe became obscured by the weight of history.

People die, but ideas never die, and the archetypal idea of the Superman will forever remain in the back of our minds as we continue our evolutionary development as a species.  In fact, I argue that because we know that we are immersed in the same evolutionary processes that every other species is involved in, we can not escape the Superman as our ideal and as the spectrum of our ultimate destiny.  Nietzche, having been one of the first post-Darwinian great philosophers, was merely beginning to capture the importance of the mammoth task before us: becoming self-made men and women.

By saying this, I recognize that evolution and natural selection favor those who are best adapted, not necessarily those who are superior in any artificial sense of the word.  If some of our descendants end up living in tunnels under the ground, natural selection will probably favor mole-like humans who are blind and make better use of their other senses.  For this reason, I specifically designate the mind as a tool that defines us humans, and that will continue to define Superhumans, the loss of which would result in speciation into an Underhuman instead.

We should therefore not expect the Superman as a prophetic new dawn: there's no reason to suppose that, and it's quite possible that we as a species have passed the point of our evolutionary apex and will lose impetus due to superstition and degradation.  We have no inherent right to evolve into Supermen.  The Superman is an ideal that must be cultivated and achieved if it is to have any meaning.

(... rest of article goes into speciation / process of becoming another species and how science fiction informs Nietzche's ideas and is in turn influenced by it today)

Other thoughts on the Superman, from those familiar, are welcome

Tags: nietzche, superman, uberman

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It strikes me that there is a great deal missing from an ethical theory which uses power as its basis. Nietzche believed that morality was essentially a strategy used by weaker people to hold back the stronger people - the ubermensch - from taking from life what they wanted. The evolutionary basis is simple - the stronger organisms take what they can in an essentially mindless process and survive to reproduce. So, to the victor the spoils? Or, might makes right? There may be a deeper point which Nietzsche's philosophy plays an integral part, but I don't think he strikes at the heart of what it means to achieve meaning as a person, nor does this post seem to even touch upon what that point might be. Reply?

well, Emma Goldman's quote, I think, touched on the value of Nietzche's insight.  She said that Nietzche's idea of the superman calls for creating a society where there are no weaklings and slaves, that is: give people an education, keep them from being religious, docile and easy to manipulate.  It's true that societies are more egalitarian and have higher standards of living where education is free, universal and compulsory.

A good reply! But then this suggests that Nietzche was wrong that morality is just the weaklings' way of keeping the good people down on their level. It suggests that what morality really consists of is treating other people as an extension of the self, whether or not they are weaker or stronger than you, and looking at all of us as belonging to each other in a far more inclusive and organismic way. I.e., it suggests that it is not power per se that is important, but belonging to each other and finding meaning in our connections to each other regardless of power. Empowering each other is an important concern indeed! But I would argue that by itself it is only half the story. An organismic perspective which takes Nietzche's point to heart and strives to see ourselves as strong individuals within strong larger organisms is a powerful moral theory indeed!

Hmmm, you're referring to slave morality. Nietzche said that there was a nay-saying slave morality (which he believed was dehumanizing) and a master morality (which is life affirming), and most importantly: that people raised as slaves create a demand for masters.

And so it's not quite as Ayn-Randish and predatory as people make Nietzche out to sound: the question is how do we create a society that produces less slaves, a society that lacks the demand for masters, where all people are masters, a free society.

Again, I think the key here is education. I personally don't think an emancipated society is possible if the people are ignorant: an ignorant population will always attract tyrants as leaders whereas a free, skeptical, engaged population demands more respect from its leaders.

Nicely put. :)


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