Within the scope of this research, we will elaborate on the ideas of great philosopher Nietzsche that he expresses in his highly praised philosophical work “Beyond Good and Evil”. It is apparent after careful analysis of the book that the two concepts that present the most interest to the general audience are those of ‘the will to power’ and ‘overman’. Those concepts will be fully analyzed in this report.
For Nietzsche, the fundamental drive of all living things is the will to power, the impulse to dominate one’s environment and extend one’s influence. In humans, the will to power sometimes manifests itself as brute force, but more frequently requires creativity, boldness, and innovation. Nietzsche claims that the typical catalog of human desires -for love, friendship, respect, procreation, biological nourishment, competitive glory, and so on — are all manifestations of the will to power. () Accordingly, underlying the greatest altruistic and cultural values, such as justice, truth, beauty, self-sacrifice, and art, is the natural impulse to command and dominate.
The will to power does not depend on the presence of a free or any will. All living things possess a will to power, although many do not have “minds.” Furthermore, even for humans the will to power is not grounded on the power of volitions to act as causes for various effects.
The will to power is a “primitive” for Nietzsche: It is life, and life is a complex struggle within and outside the human psyche. (Friedrich Nietzsche, 1973) The will to power is the name Nietzsche gives to the recurring struggle among closely interrelated entities in the world. Power does not mean anything when taken abstractly; instead, it requires the mutual resistance of linked living things.
More subtly, will to power underwrites the struggles among the multiple drives we embody. These multiple drives, as well as the impulse for self-overcoming, are merely different manifestations of the same instinctual drive. Sublimation, self-perfection, and self-overcoming within the individual and influence, domination, and command over others and the world all fall under the rubric of will to power. Moreover, the will to power connotes a process, not a fixed entity, which has growth, expansion, and accumulation at its core.
The philosophical subtext of Nietzsche’s invocation of will to power is clear: Our forms of knowledge, morality, truth, logic, and religion -all the alleged foundations of our institutions and theoretical enterprises — are the consequences of power struggles which themselves lack rational justification. (Friedrich Nietzsche, 1973) While these alleged foundations present themselves as neutral exemplars of the persuasiveness of better rational arguments, undeniable metaphysical grounding, and glimpses of a natural order embedded in the universe, they are in fact nothing more than the effects of the will to power.
A crude reading associates the will to power with the drive for self-preservation, but Nietzsche claims that self-preservation is only one of the effects of the will to power, not its defining aim. Nietzsche calls higher types more fragile, and more likely to squander their abundant passions in acts of self-overcoming than herd members who are concerned narrowly with species survival. (Friedrich Nietzsche, 1973) Expanding one’s influence and discharging one’s strength often jeopardize self-preservation.
Another crude reading concludes that Nietzsche wholeheartedly endorses all manifestations of the will to power. On a trivial level that may be true; his eternal recurrence and amor fati demand that higher types joyfully embrace all of life. (Friedrich Nietzsche, 1973) But on a practical level Nietzsche distinguishes life-affirming from life-denying manifestations of the will to power, refined from decadent wills to power, and vital from effete quantities of will to power.
The will to power manifests itself in philosophers’ attempts to create the world in their own image; in every attempt of overcoming; in every valuation; in every vengeful and resentful act of the herd; in every physical confrontation, including war; in every artistic creation; in every attempt to control and command through religion, politics, and military force; in every invocation of love and friendship; in every act of charity and self-sacrifice; in every attempt to procreate; in every egalitarian reform; in every aristocratic reaction; and in every human act, including Nietzsche’s own invocation of the will to power itself.
Although all living things possess will to power, they differ in the quantity and quality of manifestations. Thus, acknowledgment of will to power, eternal recurrence, and amor fati does not preclude the continued evaluation that itself is part of the will to power. “As the basic natural drive of life, the will to power embodies conflicting drives with self-destructive inclinations.” (Friedrich Nietzsche, 1973)
Nietzsche’s notion of will to power suggests several questions: If the will to power manifests itself in every human activity, does it retain any discrete meaning? Is Nietzsche wrongly reducing the activities of all living things to only one source, thereby reneging on the complexity of life? Does he yet again confront a self-referential paradox — his notion of “will to power,” according to his own beliefs, emerges from his will to power? Is the use of “power” misleading? Does it slyly trade on the conventional meaning of “power” for its panache while distancing itself from that meaning once its stylized usages are unpacked?
The Übermensch (overman) is the symbol of humans overcoming themselves to superior forms. Nietzsche does not give us a definite description, but the overman represents a superhuman exemplar that has not yet existed: “Never yet has there been an overman. Naked I saw both the greatest and the smallest man: they are still all-too-similar to each other. Verily, even the greatest I found all-too-human” (Friedrich Nietzsche, 1973). “Dead are all gods: now we want the overman to live” (Friedrich Nietzsche, 1973). “Not ‘mankind’ but overman is the goal!” (Friedrich Nietzsche, 1973).
Clearly, the overman would be joyous, in control of his instinctual will to power, able to forge an admirable unity and style out of his inherent multiplicity, severe with himself, in control of his desires, a sublimator and refiner of cruelty, an unrepentant bearer of great suffering, a pursuer of “truth” who is aware of the essential unity of truth and illusion, and a creator and imposer of values and meaning who experiences his existence as self-justifying.
The overman will remain faithful to this earth and not defer gratification in hopes of transcendent salvation in another world, will possess great health and be able to experience the multiple passions he embodies, eschews the easy path of last men, understands the value he creates is simply what he embodies, celebrates a justified self-love, is free from resentment and revenge, wastes no time in self-pity, is grateful for the entirety of his life, understands and maintains a clear distance between himself and the herd, and exemplifies the rank order of life.
The overman “shall be the meaning of the earth,” in that the overman endows life with value and redeems the species’s inherently meaningless tragic existence. In sum, the overman is a higher mode of being that approximates the human aspiration for transcendent greatness. (Friedrich Nietzsche, 1973)
The overman represents the full process of Nietzschean becoming -recurrent deconstruction, reimagination, re-creation — the virtues of the active nihilist. To prepare to even approximate the joyful overman, we must pass through “three metamorphoses” of discipline, defiance, and creation. (Friedrich Nietzsche, 1973)
The spirit, like a camel, flees into the solitude of the desert to bear enormous burdens; the spirit, like a lion, must transform itself into a master, a conqueror who releases its own freedom by destroying the traditional “thou shalts.” But it is not within the power of the lion to create new values so the spirit must transform itself into a child whose playful innocence, ability to forget, and capacity for creative games signals the spirit’s willing its own will (Friedrich Nietzsche, 1973).
The notion of overman as symbolic, dynamic, and indeterminate provides an ideal toward which to strive. It is as an (unattainable) ideal that the overman confers meaning and creates values. The overman symbolizes a refashioning of our sensibilities and aspiration in service of an enhanced life. It points a direction rather than specifying a clear goal.
Nietzsche warns readers not to view the overman as an evolutionary necessity or as an idealistic type of higher man: “The word “overman,” as the designation of a type of supreme achievement, as opposed to “modern” men, to “good” men, to Christians and other nihilists . . . has been understood almost everywhere with the utmost innocence in the sense of those very values that were meant to represent-that is, as an “idealistic” type of a higher kind of man, half “saint,” half “genius.” Other scholarly oxen have suspected me of Darwinism on that account. Even the “hero worship” of that unconscious and involuntary counterfeiter, Carlyle, which I have repudiated so maliciously, has been read into it. (Friedrich Nietzsche, 1973)
Nietzsche’s Übermensch attracts several questions: Is the overman, despite Nietzsche’s denials, a remnant of hero worship? Is it another vestige of the Judeo-Christian morality he repudiates? Is it consistent with his reliance on eternal recurrence? Does the fatalism of eternal recurrence coalesce uneasily with the recurrent striving and transcendent aspirations of the overman?
Is the overman exemplified, or at least approximated, by the spiritualized will to power of philosophers and artists? Or is the warrior and conqueror of others a better, or at least a possible, approximation? Or is the overman nothing more than a signification of the process of destruction, reimagination, and re-creation that constitutes self-overcoming in a world of flux?
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