A concise blog reporting on articles of importance to the future of human and social development.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Nietzsche is hard to spell.

I've been doing research for a paper on rhetoric (which is due in a little more than 23 hours... I should probably work on that...), mainly focusing on the difference between Nietzsche's and Foucault's view of truth. In my study, however, I've come across an interesting definition of the Nietzschean "overman".

The overman (übermensch, occasionally translated 'superman') is an extension of Nietzsche's philosophy of "the will to power"; which is seen as the basic human motive. Expressed most blatantly in shows of force, conquest, slavery, etc., the will to power also manifests itself in art as the human desire to gain control over the chaos of experience. It's not defined as good or bad any more than people are; the will to power is also the motive for self-control.

The overman concept takes the will to power to it's logical conclusion.

The übermensch is one who has successfully organized the chaos of existence, one who strives for perfection and refuses to compromise with the forces of partial rationalism (represented by science and philosophy) and partial irrationalism (represented by religion).
In most writings that I've read up until today, the übermensch was seen as a sort of nebulously defined perfect human, both a goal towards which humanity strives and the primary source of moral virtue since the death of God. The definition I found, however unconventional it might be, is something profoundly tangible; A perfectionist artist-thinker with a profoundly resolute ethical stature.

What strikes me is both how overly simplified this definition is, and how reachable it is. The three components of this übermensch, though rarely contained in a single individual, fit perfectly to at least one stereotype that comes to mind. Japanese artists. How fitting, then, that the overman ideal was eventually subjugated to fuel "master race" propaganda-ideology in the axis countries of World War Two.

Curiously enough, the übermensch also provided the allies with superheroes to idolize after the war; Superman most blatantly, and others such as Captain America in a more subtle manner.

We have still yet to reach the true ideal of the overman in our modern times and it might be that übermenschliches (superhuman, overhuman) people are beyond the boundaries of human possibility. But people have a startling capability for breaking through and bringing fantasy to reality; perhaps someday we can reach Nietzsche's transcendent goal.

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