Friedrich Nietzsche vs. Malcolm Wilson

A note or two before I begin. I have a somewhat tempestuous love affair with archaic language. Thusly, I have used the male pronoun almost exclusively throughout this paper. This is not a value judgement, I just regard "Man" as referring to all homo sapiens. Second, never allow an INTP anywhere near Philosophy.

Sun setting through warm rainfall. A cafe on the main drag. Cigarette smoke a calm cerulean blue over the intricately fashioned lighting. A sax serenely laments from a dim corner. Two men at a table, rocks in a glass, heatedly cool words.

"...and leave your snide Douglas Adamsisms out of this for once," Mordecai is saying, leaning forward and jabbing two fingers forward, a gestured exclamation mark. "You cannot deny that, by simple measure of our accomplishments, the human race is innately superior and advanced far beyond the level of animals."

Caine raises an eyebrow, slender digits toying restlessly with scotch and cigarette, half- amused. "Really? Humans are not animals? Why not?"

"Because animals, as part of their very definition, physically evolve." Mordecai is heated, impassioned, fire before ice. "Humans, however, have evolved beyond evolution itself. We no longer adapt ourselves to our environment, we adapt our environment to ourselves."

"So do ants."

"But ants seek nothing more than to propagate their own species, their own nest."

Half-amused, half-scorning, Caine exhales toxic death, outward matching inward. "Neither do most humans. All they seek are material signs of success, so they can attract the most desirable mate, twisted and destructive as those desires now are, and the resources to ensure that their genes are successfully passed on. The desire to propagate rules all human behaviour, just as it rules all the behaviour of every single animal."

Mordecai sits back, Aryan features frowning as he ponders. "Perhaps that is so, but, unlike animals, we have the capability to transcend those desires, to seek only higher knowledge and greater rewards, to enjoy life for the simple sake of living and not to get caught in animal behaviours."

"And what becomes of those that do undergo that transformation, then? They are segregated in fear, hated for difference, reviled for superiority. Transcending base animalism is akin to genetic suicide, and therefore self-destructive. Not to mention those that do transcend are driven mad by the complete self-segregation they accept when they become better than Average Joe. The instinct of self-preservation at all costs is part of the very definition of sentience. Therefore, those that transcend are no less animals than those that remain base." A pause, a change of voice. "
'Even in the past this higher type has appeared often--but as a fortunate accident, as an exception, never as something willed. In fact, this has been the type most dreaded--almost the dreadful--and from dread the opposite type was willed, bred and attained.' "

Drinks rattle as Mordecai jostles forward again, seizing upon an imagined point of strength, of opposition's weakness. "Not so! Instinctual self-preservation is selfishness, and that has no place in a social group. Sacrifice for the greater good of the pack is sign of superiority! A trait only humans have, in a rational sense."

Caine barks a laugh, waves a hand, fingers long and slender with the calluses of one who grips his pen too firmly, dismissively. "Rational! What is the cold, logical reason behind sacrificing oneself to benefit another? If someone is drowning in a lake, it is because they are inferior, and their inferiority got them into that position. If they are inferior, it is better for the species that they are removed from the gene pool. Where is the 'greater good of the pack' when inferior genes are so stringently allowed to survive?" Pause, paint-stripping scotch to moisten. "Besides, your own argument defeats itself. Every human is selfish at the expense of the species, paying no more than lip-service to loyalty to the pack. Pollution, crime, the strong exploiting the weak, all of this is inferiority."

A calm, accepting shrug from the Defender of the Faith. "A new form of survival of the fittest. A new kind of strength being promoted."

A predator's grin from Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. "Ah ha! Survival of the fittest is evolution, and only animals are subject to evolution, you said."

Muttering, Mordecai slumps back, momentarily defeated. "Perhaps," he carefully begins, tap-dancing in a minefield, "I should have clarified it. The evolution of the natural world no longer applies. It has been replaced by evolution of the social world. Those that can become superior have the right and might to do as they please with those who remain close to beasts."

Dark eyes, Caine's appearance as opposed to Mordecai's as attitude to attitude, narrow, lips curl. "Lions are superior animals. Wolves are superior animals. Does the alpha male rule the pack on whim? Does the dominant lioness dominate on impulse? The strong of a social group selfishly leading the weak, uncontrolled and unopposed, is self- destructive and inferior. Order must be maintained, strict control of every facet of a society must be kept, or chaos reigns and a species dies. The alpha male and the king lion choose who hunts, who eats, who breeds, who lives. They control everything, and so humans must do, too, if they so truly wish to be the greatest thing created by the grand accidents of evolution.

Death of the Overman

The Ubermensch is the single most dangerous concept ever created by humankind. It is a greater harm than the Black Plague, more threatening than nuclear war. The very idea of a Man, or loosely (if at all) aligned group of Men who feel free and righteous in living how they please, doing as they please, and paying no heed to anything, is utterly abhorrent to a species that wishes to survive, to thrive, to succeed. Many are the examples down through history. Hold up the Roman Emperors and Senators and nobles of the later Roman Empire, and see the light shining through the corruption and rot that unrestrained power brings, that brought a mighty Empire to crumbling ruins and half-forgotten stories.

See the tiger, tiger, burning bright,/in the forest of the night... See the tiger. Proud, powerful, an elegant machine of death, one of the greatest hunters on the planet. See the tiger. Independent, territorial, rare. See the tiger. Dying out, endangered.

See the tiger. See our fate if the Ubermensch is allowed free reign. Powerful, ultimately free, an icon of id. Powerful, free, an icon of failure. The tiger is lord of his domain, inconstant tyrant of the weak, and dying. Just so with the Ubermensch. An Overman or a beast, freed from universalized standards and controls, is a bright, shining candle with a fast-burning wick; a flame that lights and heats better than any, but ultimately consumes itself in the doing. It is far better to shuffle carefully in the dimness, to wrap yourself in thick blankets than it is to consume all your fuel and have nothing to stave off winter's deathly chill. Better still for every Man to have equal fuel, with no more in offing. He who burns much in the name of luxury, of freedom, will quickly die or learn, leaving the group better off without his excessful gluttony.

Humans are social animals, that is impossible to rationally deny. Social animals, by their very nature, require strict controls in order to survive. And, as in any social group in nature, all but a select few are followers, the herd, the cattle. The select few who control are there only as long as they are a benefit, a boon, to the group. When they become a danger, they are removed or the group dies, and a stronger, more cohesive group takes its place.

Nietzsche says that universalized moralities, or controls, are a product of the slave, the weak. I disagree whole-heartedly. While I agree that humans are, by and large, weak, inferior cattle, I do not agree with the preposition that they should not be the deciding force in the group's and the individual's behaviour. Every member of a group must be held to the same standard, if different roles, or the group will fail. The highest master must be as accountable for his actions as the lowliest slave. Religion, myths and unbending law are the hallmarks of the Men who would surpass the beasts they were spawned from, not selfishness, independence and hypocrisy.

The Importance of Myths

In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche clearly illustrates the difference between the Christian and the Overman. The Saint, a hermit, urges Zarathustra not to give something to Man, but to take something from him, namely, his burden. "'Give them nothing!' said the saint. 'Rather, take part of their load and help them to bear it--that will be best for them...give no more than alms...' " The Saint speaks of being a part of humanity, of accepting the same burdens and freedoms as Men, that being a part of humanity is a far better thing than trying to give them something that will "improve" or "enlighten" them. Zarathustra, the wonderfully superior and enlightened Zarathustra, privately mocks the Saint for being blind to the "truth". "'Could it be possible? This old saint in the forest has not yet heard anything of this, that God is dead!' " However, Zarathustra soon learns the validity of the Saint's argument, for when he gives his pearls to Men, they are but Swine before them. "And all the people laughed at Zarathustra."

The moral I draw from this tale is not about the superiority of Zarathustra, of the Ubermensch, but rather of the inferiority of a man who, in his arrogance and independence, thinks himself better than Man and seeks to force his radical philosophy concerning the "good" way to live upon an unwilling humanity. What has Zarathustra accomplished? What good has he done? What has he contributed to his species? He has not procreated, passed on his genes to ensure future generations of his species. He has not advanced humanity in any way, except possibly to amuse them for a short time. No, he has been living alone in a cave, talking to the sun and convincing himself that he is a demi-god. Meanwhile, those poor saps, those unenlightened cattle who labour so under the burden of myths and ignorance, have advanced humanity. They have reared children, they have brought crops to harvest, erected buildings, pushed back the boundaries of science, medicine and art. "You run ahead? Are you doing it as a shepherd? Or as an exception? A third case would be the fugitive. First question of conscience."

Myths and religion, whether they exist because they are true or because they are an effective method of population control, are an integral part of humanity. They are the earliest and most enduring forms of our prized Justice, our precious Law, our necessary Order. Hold up the Roman Empire again, this time while it was at its height, its majesty. It spanned a continent, encroached upon two others, and encompassed millions of lives. It had a universal set of laws that every citizen was accountable before, equally and fairly. Gods prevailed, religion was widespread, universal. With that universalized morality, slave or no, it accomplished wonders never before seen in the Western world.

Now look Czarist Russia. Nothing was universal. The ruling elite, the powerful who had their power because they and their kind seized it and made it their own to do with as they pleased. Nothing was universal, and nothing was accomplished. Death, corruption and anarchy. It was overthrown by its own brother to become the USSR, a regime ruled by the independent powerful, a regime that accomplished less and destroyed more. With the hypocrisy of Leninist and Stalinist Communism, a stable, successful social group was impossible.

So, a universal morality must be established. But what? And how?

Zarathustra, for all his misguided illusion, spoke the truth about one thing. God is dead. Life is nothing but a brief flicker of light between non-being and death, to be lived with satisfaction lest it be wasted. However, this creates a problem for the establishment of a universal morality, for it is most easily and controllably established when there is an ultimate, eternal reward for adhering to the morality. Having the myth of the immortal soul, of Heaven and Hell, is the ultimate establishment of the universal morality, for it is in Man's very nature to need to believe in something greater, lest we be forced to confront the stark, staring and horrible truth that there is no point, no purpose, no meaning to life. Why else would there be myths of the supernatural, of the divine, told by Men since time immemorial? Worse, without gods, a Man will realize that there are no punishments for his actions beyond what his fellow Men can do, and those are fleeting and avoidable. And thus the selfish, self-destructiveness of the Ubermensch returns to wreak havoc upon the group.

So, we must create false gods to have a universal morality, to ensure the success of the all- important group. But who will raise these false idols before the populace, as they must be raised? I have created a paradox for myself, for now there must be Men who exist outside of this universal morality, who knowingly manipulate Humanity for a higher end, yet are still accountable to that same universal morality. Who guides the cattle? Who builds the fences that contain the sheep in green pastures? Who gives the goat comfort, yet punishes him for excess? It is the shepherd, the man who rules the group, yet is inextricably tied to their fate so that it is his own.

Rebirth of the Overman

It is said that Ultimate Power corrupts ultimately. This is subjective. What is an absolute, however, is that petty power corrupts the petty. It is only the removal of consequences from the use or abuse of power that leads to corruption, hypocrisy and double standards. When the fate of he who wields powers is inextricably linked to the fate of those the power used is over, then corruption is prevented. And thus, a universal morality sustains itself, its own machinations eliminating those who would act selfishly. But what of the shepherds, those who must exist inside the very system they create and control? How to control them, find them, create them?

To establish the shepherds requires two actions, though one of them is more inaction than action. The first is to ensure that the shepherds, those in power who control and perpetuate the universal morality, are answerable to that same morality. This must be done as a movement of the populace, it must. Optimistic? Perhaps. Realistic? Decidedly. If the establishment of a governing system is done without the support of the populace it will control, it will be resented and rebelled against, and thus, any good that might be achieved is lost. Second, nature must be allowed to run its course. There is no need to have an establishment of the leaders, for they will come to be naturally. Those who would and could rule in an accountable position will seek that position of their own accord, and with act in that position by their nature. Those who would seek to act outside the system, to their own ends, would be destroyed and removed from power by that very system. An artificial, arbitrary system of deciding rulers will inevitably be corrupted, thus destroying the system.

But what kind of Man would seek these positions? What kind of Man has the capability to act as necessary? Primarily, a Man who inherently behaves according to the universal morality in place. An atheist who has the same code as the strictest of theists, the same ethics as any holy man. Second, a Man willing to take upon himself the burdens of Humanity, burdens greater than that of the common cattle. Only such a Man has both the grace and the fortitude to uphold a system he knows to be based on false premises, false gods. He must be a new kind of Ubermensch, a man who does not seek to transcend humanity, become something he believes to be greater, but he must become the penultimate cattle, more human than human. Only thusly can he be the shepherd required.

But, it is cried in great indignation, how can a man who does not believe in God be God's greatest prophet? How can an atheist lead the masses in prayer without becoming corrupted by it? Therein lies the eternal dichotomy of Humanity, the one feature that sets us apart from the beasts.

Morality As Nature

Nietzsche, in Twilight of the Idols, writes, "I reduce a principle to a formula. Every naturalism in morality--that is, every healthy morality--is dominated by an instinct of life; some commandment of life fulfilled by a determinate canon of "shalt" and "shalt not"; some inhibition and hostile element on the path of life is thus removed. Anti- natural morality--that is, almost every morality which has so far been taught, revered, and preached--turns, conversely, against the instincts of life: it is condemnation of these instincts, no secret, now out-spoken and impudent. When it says 'God looks at the heart,' it says No to both the lowest and the highest desires of life, and posits God as the enemy of life. The saint in whom God delights is the ideal eunuch. Life has come to an end where the 'kingdom of God' begins."

This, I fear, is a gross misinterpretation of nature of Man in order to support the ideal of the Ubermensch. Here, what Nietzsche calls "life" and "nature" is nothing more than a selfish succumbing to the bestial nature of Man. While he does speak of moderation a Man cannot both give in to his animal side and practice sufficient moderation to fit in with a healthy, self-sustaining social group. A wolf cannot both gorge himself on the kill and provide for the young. A lioness cannot both fight her way to dominance and be healthy enough to bring down a savage wildebeest, fighting for its life. And the ant, the humble ant, who, next to Humanity, is a member of the greatest social group on this planet, has none of these desires. It is the perfect cattle, carrying its burden without complaint or desire to transcend its inescapable nature.

Just as it is inborn in the ant to fulfill its genetically determined function, just as it is in the nature of the foal to walk without instruction, so is it inborn in the nature of Man to be Moral, be a functioning member of the group. Nietzsche's Ubermensch is unnatural, a violation of the true nature of Man, and a source of nothing good. Nietzsche's Ubermensch is a proud lion, too drunk on blood and the lust for dominance. He is a threat to the group, and must be banished or disposed of, so that he can do no more harm.

The foundation stone of true Natural Morality is guilt. It is the instinctive self-preserving mechanism that allows a social group to exist. It is the fear of punishment that prevents a social animal, or a Man, for there is little difference, from harming the group, violating the rules. Guilt can be seen in all truly social animals, lion prides and wolf packs, ape communities and in children too young to intellectually know the established rules.

Here is where the dichotomy of Man, the defining feature of our species, is so apparent. Where lions and wolves seek only survival and propagation, we reach out into the universe to understand it, make it real, make it our own. Even the cattle that is the mass weight of Man does this, though they little realize it. "The spiritualization of sensuality is called love: it represents a great triumph..." Here Nietzsche and I are in agreement, though what he calls spiritualization I call intellectualization. The by- product of our intellectual expansion is assigned attributes and qualities to simple survival mechanism. The instinctual attraction between two genetically compatible people is now called love, a recent invention. Guilt, so basic and necessary though it is, is given higher meaning. Our intellectualization has created "charisma", "leadership", and base, destructive and selfish "lying", or "dissembling". It has also created art and science, to its credit. Despite all this intellectualization, all the cattle's action are nothing more than the base impulses to propagate and better the species given new names and meanings.

Natural as Natural Morality may be, it still requires strict controls, lest this evolutionarily new concept of "free will" wreak havoc. This is where my Overman differs so much, though it is such a slight distinction between attitudes, from Nietzsche's Ubermensch. The difference is in goals. Nietzsche does not see beyond his own lifespan, regarding his own mortality as the ending of meaning, the measuring stick all actions must be measured against. He sacrifices the future for the present, a destructive and selfish sacrifice. I, however, would limit the present for the sake of the future, in accordance with our underlying nature. The lioness will go hungry so that her cubs might feed, ensuring the continuation of her genes, the continuation of her species. That is the sacrifice that must be embraced, selfless and natural.

Nietzsche's Ubermensch leads to corruption, hypocrisy, and ruin for the species. My Overman points the way to something greater, though the road may be rougher to traverse. A strictly controlled society, with a universal morality, will eventually progress beyond the need for controls, for myths and religion. A child will regard the environment they are reared in as natural, think nothing of what others might deem excessive controls, for, to that child, they are natural and have always existed. As progressive generations are reared and socialized in this environment, the need for the controls, the religion, will fade away. The sheep will herd themselves. The wolves will not breed more than their territory can sustain. Children will be born as utterly moral atheists. A perfect world, a new Utopia. That is what Nietzsche finds so abhorrent, so unnatural. That is what I envision with hope.

Mordecai is leaning forwards, elbows on the table, chin on fists, eyes on Caine, thoughts on the wings of philosophy. The patrons are thinning, the music is quieting. "So, what you're saying," begins Mordecai, hushed now, his fire doused by the ice of reason, "is that a harsh enough shepherd will eventually work himself out of a job, and be happy about it?"

"Essentially," murmurs Caine, scotch and cigarette in one hand, the other spidery hand absently tracing designs in the table's dew. "A new employee will be a better employee if they are given everything in detailed black and white. They will perform more efficiently if they know the rules, the regulations, and the punishments far better than a worker who is given ease. A tight rope will operate the pulley, a slack rope will hang someone."

An involuntary shiver twists Mordecai's spine. "It seems so...cold. Removes the value of independence, of free will."

Sardonic, Caine looks up. "We don't have free will now. Any deviation from the cattle's self-created norm is punished, any attempt to tell the sheep that shepherd intends to slaughter them will get you trampled. The lone wolf starves. The only difference is in acknowledging that we are not free to begin with, and to accept that, and look forward, to the future. That is what I seek, a Utopia from fascism, a Garden stocked with mongoose."

From Plato to Derrida, Baird & Kaufmann, Prentice Hall
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