Durant 1926: The Superman (Nietzsche)

Reference: The Story of Philosophy

This paper presents Chapter IX Section 6 from the book THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY by WILL DURANT. The  contents are from the 1933 reprint of this book by TIME INCORPORATED by arrangement with Simon and Schuster, Inc.

The paragraphs of the original material (in black) are accompanied by brief comments (in color) based on the present understanding.

.

VI. The Superman

Just as morality lies not in kindness but in strength, so the goal of human effort should be not the elevation of all but the development of finer and stronger individuals. “Not mankind, but superman is the goal.” The very last thing a sensible man would undertake would be to improve mankind; mankind does not improve, it does not even exist—it is an abstraction; all that exists is a vast ant-hill of individuals. The aspect of the whole is much more like that of a huge experimental work-shop where some things in every age succeed, while most things fail; and the aim of all the experiments is not the happiness of the mass but the improvement of the type. Better that societies should come to an end than that no higher type should appear. Society is an instrument for the enhancement of the power and personality of the individual; the group is not an end in itself. “To what purpose then are the machines, if all individuals are only of use in maintaining them? Machines”—or social organizations—“that are ends in themselves—is that the umana commedia (human comedy)?”

Just as morality lies not in kindness but in strength, so the goal of human effort should be not the elevation of all but the development of finer and stronger individuals. The focus of Nietzsche is on the individual.

At first Nietzsche spoke as if his hope were for the production of a new species; later he came to think of his superman as the superior individual rising precariously out of the mire of mass mediocrity, and owing his existence more to deliberate breeding and careful nurture than to the hazards of natural selection. For the biological process is biased against the exceptional individual; nature is most cruel to her finest products; she loves rather, and protects, the average and the mediocre; there is in nature a perpetual reversion to type, to the level of the mass,—a recurrent mastery of the best by the most. The superman can survive only by human selection, by eugenic foresight and an ennobling education.

The superman can survive only by human selection, by eugenic foresight and an ennobling education.

How absurd it is, after all, to let higher individuals marry for love—heroes with servant girls, and geniuses with seamstresses! Schopenhauer was wrong; love is not eugenic; when a man is in love he should not be permitted to make decisions affecting his entire life; it is not given to man to love and be wise. We should declare invalid the vows of lovers, and should make love a legal impediment to marriage. The best should marry only the best; love should be left to the rabble. The purpose of marriage is not merely reproduction, it should also be development.

Thou art young, and wishest for child and marriage. But I ask thee, art thou a man who dareth to wish for a child? Art thou the victorious one, the self-subduer, the commander of thy senses, the master of thy virtues?—or in thy wish doth there speak the animal, or necessity? Or solitude? Or discord with thyself? I would that thy victory and freedom were longing for a child. Thou shalt build living monuments unto thy victory and thy liberation. Thou shalt build beyond thyself. But first thou must build thyself square in body and soul. Thou shalt not only propagate thyself, but propagate thyself upward! Marriage: thus I call the will of two to create that one which is more than they who created it. I call marriage reverence unto each other as unto those who will such a will.

The best should marry only the best; love should be left to the rabble. The purpose of marriage is not merely reproduction, it should also be development.

Without good birth, nobility is impossible. “Intellect alone does not ennoble; on the contrary, something is always needed to ennoble intellect. What then is needed? Blood … (I do not refer here to the prefix ‘Lords,’ or the ‘Almanac de Gotha’: this is a parenthesis for donkeys).” But given good birth and eugenic breeding, the next factor in the formula of the superman is a severe school; where perfection will be exacted as a matter of course, not even meriting praise; where there will be few comforts and many responsibilities; where the body will be taught to suffer in silence, and the will may learn to obey and to command. No libertarian nonsense!—no weakening of the physical and moral spine by indulgence and “freedom”! And yet a school where one will learn to laugh heartily; philosophers should be graded according to their capacity for laughter; “he who strideth across the highest mountains laugheth at all tragedies.” And there will be no moralic acid in this education of the superman; an asceticism of the will, but no condemnation of the flesh. “Cease not to dance, ye sweet girls ! No spoil-sport hath come unto you with an evil eye, … no enemy of girls with beautiful ankles.” Even a superman may have a taste for beautiful ankles.

Without good birth, nobility is impossible. But given good birth and eugenic breeding, the next factor in the formula of the superman is a severe school; where perfection will be exacted as a matter of course.

A man so born and bred would be beyond good and evil; he would not hesitate to be bose if his purpose should require it; he would be fearless rather than good. “What is good? … To be brave is good.” “What is good? All that increases the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself, in man. What is bad (schlecht)? All that comes from weakness.” Perhaps the dominant mark of the superman will be love of danger and strife, provided they have a purpose; he will not seek safety first; he will leave happiness to the greatest number. “Zarathustra was fond of all such as makes distant voyages, and like not to live without danger.” Hence all war is good, despite the vulgar pettiness of its causes in modern times; “a good war halloweth any cause.” Even revolution is good: not in itself, for nothing could be more unfortunate than the supremacy of the masses; but because times of strife bring out the latent greatness of individuals who before had insufficient stimulus or opportunity; out of such chaos comes the dancing star; out of the turmoil and nonsense of the French Revolution, Napoleon; out of the violence and disorder of the Renaissance such powerful individualities, and in such abundance, as Europe has hardly known since, and could no longer bear.

A man so born and bred would be beyond good and evil. He would be fearless rather than good. Times of strife bring out the latent greatness of individuals who before had insufficient stimulus or opportunity.

Energy, intellect, and pride,—these make the superman. But they must be harmonized: the passions will become powers only when they are selected and unified by some great purpose which moulds a chaos of desires into the power of a personality. “Woe to the thinker who is not the gardener but the soil of his plants!” Who is it that follows his impulses? The weakling: he lacks the power to inhibit; he is not strong enough to say No; he is a discord, a decadent. To discipline one’s self—that is the highest thing. “The man who does not wish to be merely one of the mass only needs to cease to be easy on himself.” To have a purpose for which one can be hard upon others, but above all upon one’s self; to have a purpose for which one will do almost anything except betray a friend,—that is the final patent of nobility, the last formula of the superman.

Energy, intellect, and pride, unified by some great purpose—these make the superman. To have a purpose for which one will do almost anything except betray a friend,—that is the final patent of nobility, the last formula of the superman.

Only by seeing such a man as the goal and reward of our labors can we love life and live upward. ”We must have an aim for whose sake we are all dear to one another.” Let us be great, or servants and instruments to the great; what a fine sight it was when millions of Europeans offered themselves as means to the ends of Bonaparte, and died for him gladly, singing his name as they fell! Perhaps those of us who understand can become the prophets of him whom we cannot be, and can straighten the way for his coming; we, indifferent of lands, indifferent of times, can work together, however separated, for this end. Zarathustra will sing, even in his suffering, if he can but hear the voices of these hidden helpers, these lovers of the higher man. “Ye lonely ones of to-day, ye who stand apart, ye shall one day be a people; from you who have chosen yourselves, a chosen people shall rise; and from it the superman.” 

Only by seeing such a man as the goal and reward of our labors can we love life and live upward.  Let us be great, or servants and instruments to the great.

.

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: