Übermensch

In Thus spake Zarathustra (in German: Also sprach Zarathustra), the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche claims ‘God is dead’. Taking this statement as the basis for his philosophy, he explains the three steps through which man can become Übermenschen (literally, “overmen,” but more closely translated as “supermen”):

  1. By his will to destruction
  2. By re-evaluating or destroying old ideals
  3. By overcoming nihilism

Table of contents
1 The will to destruction
2 Re-evaluating or destroying old ideals
3 Overcoming nihilism
4 Common Misconceptions

The will to destruction

Nietzsche’s motivation for his claim ‘God is dead’ as destruction of the Christian conscience, i.e. a God-centred way of thinking, is the fateful will to break out. His symbols for this are flame and thunder. Only by breaking out of the idealistic norms one can become Übermensch. The initial point of destruction is the church which is, according to Nietzsche, the exact opposite of what Jesus preached. The reason for this is a process initiated by the apostle Paul, which caused a transfiguration of Jesus’ teachings to a remedy-punishment doctrine. Furthermore, Judaism, asceticism and especially the theories of Plato point towards a nihilistic beyond, which makes God become a contradiction to reality. Thus, for Nietzsche God is not real.

Therefore Nietzsche wants to destroy Christian dogmas and separate man from the idea of God. He underlines this by his thesis of claiming that man is incapable of grasping the idea of God as God dwells beyond and man in this world.

Re-evaluating or destroying old ideals

Once man has undergone the hurtful but essential process of denying God (‘Omnis determinatio est negatio’), he begins a journey towards becoming Übermensch. He is on his own and has to create his own, new, moral ideals.

In establishing new ideals, man now does not rank them according to transcendental aspects (‘Where from’ and ‘What for’) because this would again aim towards beyond.

Instead, there are no absolute ideals anymore but only an interpretation of them in which moral ideals are the most important ones.

Overcoming nihilism

The most difficult step according to Nietzsche is basing one’s entire life into this world. Placing belief or faith in anything transcendental is nihilistic and would lead to the failure of man’s attempt to become Übermensch. The idea of God is a quiet temptation. In overcoming nihilism, man undergoes three phases:

Common Misconceptions

The most common misconception about the Übermensch is the that it is equivalent to the ideals of Nazism, and that it is related or equal to the concept of Herrenvolk. It is often suggested that Nietzsche's sister contributed greatly to this idea, and the Nazis themselves reinterpreted and incorporated hodgepodge elements of many philosophical and religious texts, including Nietzsche's.

Nietzsche's writings are spiritual and philosophical in character, and do not state that the central ideas are biological, psychological, sociological, or sociobiological. His ideas have no firm connection to the idea that any given biological race is or would necessarily be superior and are thus not racist.




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