What is the Overman (Superman übermensch) and What Does It Mean?

What is the Overman (Superman übermensch) and What Does It Mean?

June 27, 2021 Off By Felso

The concept of superhuman is one of the philosophical terms developed by Nietzsche as German übermensch, used in his works and defined clearly in his book “So Spoke Zarathustra”. It is a concept related to the concepts of nihilism and will to power.

”The superman will be the meaning of the earth! I beg you, my brethren, stick to the earth, do not believe those who speak to you of otherworldly hopes!” says Nietzsche. We can say that this saying shows one of the layers of meaning of his superhuman concept. This stems from Nietzsche’s objection to religious thinking.

This term has been understood and evaluated in many opposite meanings after Nietzsche. For example, this concept has been interpreted by racist ideologies as a source of racist thoughts, as well as being seen as a product of the search for a superior human being. On the other hand, it has been explained and shown by many thinkers that Nietzsche is not related to this superhuman concept. It has been demonstrated that Nietzsche is not talking about a being with superhuman features or a particular national or ethnic identity.

For Nietzsche, man is, firstly, a being caught between the animal and the super-man, and secondly, it is something to be overcome for this reason. This is how Zarathustra expresses it in many places. This means that, according to Nietzsche, man is an incomplete, that is, an incomplete being. Man will be able to transcend his imperfect being, and be able to complete himself when he gets rid of delusions and illusions that he exalts. Man will always try to overcome himself and overcome himself to become a super-human. According to Nietzsche, our age is the age of nihilism, and this can only be overcome by the way to the superhuman. Otherwise, as Nietzsche says; “If a person does not turn his turmoil into an order that gives meaning to him, if he does not give birth to stars, he will disappear into his darkness.” (Thus Spoke Zarathustra in the Foreword)

He first used the word “superman” in the work “Geistlichen Erquickstunden” written by the theologian and writer Heinrich Müller in the 17th century. Nietzsche argues that the superman is the purpose and cause of the entire universe. According to him, the Superman is also the aim of humanity. With the concept of the superman, Nietzsche tries to reconstruct a noble concept of human agency. While the Last Man seeks only material consolation, the superman is ready to spend his life in great deeds. To excel is to willingly stand beyond good and evil.

Nietzsche’s superior man is not a dictator who, after a certain evolutionary process, will emerge from among people and rule all humanity and dominate all people. While he opposed the factory slaves created by capitalism in the nineteenth century, the slave morality that capitalism inherited from Christianity, and bourgeois democracy and its ideal of equality, he also said that this order or democratization in Europe prepared the necessary infrastructure for the emergence of a tyrannical, ruthless dictator. However, his superior man, contrary to popular belief, is not Hitler.

In Nietzsche, human finds its definition as a rope stretched between animal and superhuman. He clearly stated this in his work Zarathustra: “Man is a rope that is stretched between the animal and the superhuman. A rope on the abyss.”

The prominent subject here is “Evolution”; because the description of a rope stretched between the animal and the superhuman undoubtedly points to an evolution; but Nietzsche’s view of evolution is different from Darwin’s; for Nietzsche notes that the richest and most complex forms were assimilated early because they were subject to degeneration.

“As a genus, man makes no progress compared to any other animal. The whole animal and plant world does not develop from the lower to the higher. They all develop at the same time, on top of each other, through each other, and against each other. The richest and most complex forms—for higher type doesn’t mean more—are more easily destroyed. Only the lowest, the lowest, maintain an apparent immortality.”

After these quotations, it is clear that Nietzsche’s understanding of evolution differs from Darwin’s in terms of philosophical perspective. Nietzsche attributes a weakness to the concept of “the fittest” in Darwin’s phrase “the fittest survive”.

In Nietzsche, the high-breed man records that the probability of extinction is very high, since he was born “rarely” and would therefore face various difficulties.

In order to understand the concept of superhuman, it is first necessary to understand Nietzsche’s understanding of evolution well. In Nietzsche, the motto of creating something better than himself forms the basis of the superhuman principle; however, the concept of “something better” is fraught with pitfalls. What is meant by “good” is power, the will to power.

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Ataturk University Sociology Department 1st Grade