Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Nietzsche VI: Uber-Man

Scott Bradley


Before continuing with this discussion of Nietzsche's philosophy, I need to re-iterate that my responses are just that and use his thought merely as a sounding board; they are not intended to suggest a definitive understanding of Nietzsche. My understanding of his philosophy is, in fact, very superficial, and almost entirely derivative of the opinion of others.

Like the "will to power", Nietzsche's presentation of his sage, the ubermensch, or "overman" (not "superman"), has led to the belief that he laid a foundation for fascism. It would take the ignorance of a fascist, however, to believe so.

The will to power is life itself. It is not power over others, but the power over oneself which enables a life creative and transcendent.

"Overman" is an individual human being who is in the ceaseless process of overcoming the propensity for a flight from reality which our respective cultures have laid upon us. It is overcoming all the presuppositions which attempt to ground us in a false sense of permanence and being. These are the cause of nihilism, for they have set us up for this fall. Overman is Nietzsche's answer to despair.

This is the negative aspect of overman. On the positive side, overman is freeing himself so as to enjoy life to the fullest. Living his Dionysian philosophy of life affirmation, he dances and plays free of the constraints of fear and world-negation.

Nietzsche's sage is not 'realized', but ever-realizing. The process of overcoming, like becoming itself, is unending. It is ever-dynamic, like life itself.

There is much in this philosophical effort that might help us to understand more clearly how philosophical Daoism, which began with a similar project, might be useful in our own responses to our being-in-the-world. I have tried to express these here, though like that in the previous paragraph, I have largely left them as raw possibilities for those who wish to explore them.

I do have a few criticisms of Nietzsche's approach that I'll mention now. These have to do mostly with his relationship with the past and the future. I have already made mention in a previous post of his belief that humanity has "degenerated" from a more ideal state. This creates a belief in a static sense of being and robs reality of its emergent quality. Secondly, though negative critique is necessary, we cannot transcend the dualism implicit in mutually arising opposites through negation; at some point we need to transcend them. In his negation of Christianity, for example, Nietzsche saw himself as an antichrist; this is not transcendence. Thirdly, Nietzsche sees his overman as a future “salvation” and “new hope” for the earth. This introduces purpose and meaning where it has no need to be. In these cases, “he still had something he depended on.”

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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