Featured Post


This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Thursday, December 17, 2015


To demand of strength that it should not express itself, that it should not be a will to overcome, overthrow, dominate, a thirst for enemies and resistance and triumph, makes as little sense as to demand of weakness that it should express itself as strength.-- ON THE GENEALOGY OF MORALS.
 Though anti-violence pundits like Dr. Wertham could only look at comic books and see unbridled sadism, I as a young reader saw a modern mythology in which honor and fairness-- usually, though not exclusively, represented by the hero-- were valued over the desire to win despite any other considerations.-- COMBAT PLAY PT. 2, September 2013.

As seen in a pair of recent essays here and here, I've extolled Nietzsche's philosophy as generally superior to the "nanny-ish" attitude of H.G, Wells, at least at a particular point in Wells' life. But I must admit that in one respect the vision of THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA is almost as unsatisfying as that of THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME. Whereas Wells gives us a vision of society that is too restrictive, Nietzsche gives us one in which society barely seems to exist as a viable proposition. Again and again Friedrich N. tells us about how necessary it is that the ubermensch-- or perhaps ubermenschen?-- will prove capable of overthrowing "the tables of morality" and of creating new, life-affirming values. Nietzsche may have had strong notions as to what those values might be
and how they might benefit society, though he would have to admit that he, like his spokesman Zarathustra, had never actually met an ubermensch.

But Nietzsche never pursued his concept in any elaborated ethical terms. If one assumes that more than one ubermensch can come into existence at some future point of time-- what keeps them from being in conflict with one another, just as ordinary humans are? In other words, while Wells doesn't propose any valid reason for his highly stratified society to hold together, Nietzsche seems largely uninterested in envisioning how society would manage to function without its "morality tables."

The first quote shows that Nietzsche, in part due to his reading of the archaic Greeks, appreciated the dynamic of strength. But because he wants to envision a world where contemporary standards-- which he often equated with so-called "slave morality"-- would no longer apply, his vision of the future, unlike that of Wells, remains inchoate. I can imagine an alternate-world scenario in which Nietzsche never became associated with the many other authors (Sade) or movements (the Nazis, eugenics) with which he was associated by careless later writers. However, even in this best of all possible Nietzsche-worlds, it would have been impossible for anyone to imagine the philosopher producing a credible vision of man's future development. And though Nietzsche writes about strength and conflict in many different contexts, he does not seem to hold forth on the very virtue I as a young reader saw in "superman narratives:" that of sorting out philosophical disagreements by having their equally powered representatives battle for supremacy.

There are a few enigmatic remarks about the interdependence of warriors and their foes in THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA, such as these from the section: "War and Warriors:"

Ye shall only have enemies to be hated, but not enemies to be despised. Ye must be proud of your enemies; then, the successes of your enemies are also your successes.

By our best enemies we do not want to be spared, nor by those either whom we love from the very heart.

Let your love to life be love to your highest hope; and let your highest hope be the highest thought of life!
Your highest thought, however, ye shall have it commanded unto you by me—and it is this: man is something that is to be surpassed.
So live your life of obedience and of war! What matter about long life! What warrior wisheth to be spared!

All of these pronouncements are far too fragmentary to give insight into the philosopher's concept of fairness, and whether it would have had any role to play in a future world where ubermenschen of differing opinions about excellence might come into conflict.

More in Part 4.

No comments: