Nietzsche’s superman, Islam, and Covid-19 ( Part I) – Daily Times

Posted: August 22, 2020 at 2:55 am

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When Friedrich Nietzsche ran to stop the brutal owner of a horse from thrashing it mercilessly in Turin, Italy, and threw his arms around the animal crying, I understand your pain, it gave us an extraordinary insight into his character and mind; more than his usually convoluted philosophic utterances. Nietzsche, who blithely declared to the world, God is dead could not bear the cruelty to the animal. While the image of Nietzsche is that of a world-class philosopher grappling with esoteric philosophic insights into the human condition and forever engulfed in controversy, this account reveals to us his sensitive nature that would have made the great Jain sage Mahavira proud. This episode also triggered his mental breakdown from which he never recovered.

Ten years later in 1900, after living in a vegetative state, he was dead. Ever since his breakdown he had been in the care of his sister. They had grown apart and had very different ideas about life and politics. She not only made her own edits to his work at will but after his death projected and distorted her brothers thought in alignment with her own pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic prejudices. She had migrated to Paraguay to attempt to create a colony of like-minded right-wing Germans and falsified her brothers ideas and ideology to curry favor with the Nazis. She even entirely fabricated numerous letters that she published in his name. This was morally reprehensible but she was doing thriving business in Nazi Germany. So impressed was Hitler by her loyalty that he attended her funeral. Nietzsche scholars have condemned her criminally scandalous forgeries (David Wroe, Criminal manipulation of Nietzsche by sister to make him look anti-Semitic, The Telegraph, January 19, 2010).

Nietzsches bermensch

Nietzsches mind was like a vast, dark, and dangerous cave. In it dwelt flying creatures with sharp teeth. There were also those wondrous ones with luminous eyes conveying compassion and kindness. To enter the cave was an adventure and one never knew what would come flying at you. Take the matter of slavery. Nietzsche made several comments on slavery which are unacceptable to us. There is simply no excuse for the dreadful and disgusting institution of slavery. Nietzsches supporters cannot exonerate him by citing illustrious figures like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and arguing that even the founding fathers of the greatest Western democracy owned slaves so the institution of slavery at that time was somehow excusable. They cannot also brush away this information because it comes in fragments from obscure notes of dubious sources and was perhaps influenced by his sister who was busy distorting his work over which he had little control. Nor can the supporters take his references to the Greeks whom he admired and argue that because they had slavery it was somehow acceptable. To me it is likely that Nietzsches fragments on slavery reflect his broader philosophy on the subject and he stands condemned. There is much to be explored and researched for the scholar in Nietzsches writing. But those entering the cave must do so with a strong torch and a stronger heart.

The process whereby man progressed to Superman, according to Nietzsche, began with ones will to do so. Between animal and Superman was man and man had to aspire to become Superman. To move beyond man, he had to aspire to the next stage of creative evolution

Nietzsche is without doubt considered one of the greatest of Western philosophers and certainly one of the most controversial. From his bushy Groucho Marx mustache and eyebrows to his statement declaring God dead, Nietzsche seems to invite controversy and comment. One of Nietzsches concepts is that of the bermensch, a superior man, a beyond man or super man who, through his being, justifies the very existence of the human race. It is one of his most famous, and in the wrong hands, as we will see below, notorious concepts. It comes from Nietzsches celebrated magnum opus, Thus Spake Zarathustra. In the novel, Zarathustra, the protagonist, retreats to the mountains at the age of thirty to seek knowledge and wisdom. Ten years later he has achieved his aim. His heart is overflowing with wisdom and love, like a bee with an abundance of honey, in Nietzsches words. He now wishes to share what he has gathered with humanity. On the way down from the mountain he meets an old man who predicts the people would not accept his message except with hatred and ridicule. People were miserable and although they lived in an advanced material society and indulged in base pleasures, they were still miserable. In spite of their condition they rejected the wise mans offer to share his wisdom. In the end they chased him away with their hatred and ridicule. Nietzsche, like the protagonist of the book, sets out to share his wisdom and love. And like the protagonist, Nietzsche also meets with ridicule and hatred.

The process whereby man progressed to Superman, according to Nietzsche, began with ones will to do so. Between animal and Superman was man and man had to aspire to become Superman. To move beyond man, he had to aspire to the next stage of creative evolution. He was called the last man because that was the last stage before he could become Superman. It was different from Darwinian mutations and biological combinations with no aspirational aspects.

In terms of those people who had qualities of the Superman, Nietzsche gave his own personal list. They included Goethe, Napoleon, Julius Caesar, Montaigne and Voltaire. It is a list that most Europeans could identify with. Indeed, for Nietzsche, Goethe is probably the closest a human being can be to the idea of the Superman.

The ideal qualities of the Superman, Nietzsche wrote, were Caesar with Christs soul. For those surprised to find Napoleon on the list, it is worth pointing out that others saw these figures as Superman too. For example, for Hegel, the eminent German philosopher, Napoleon was the very embodiment of the modern state and the Absolute or the world-soul on horseback. The Duke of Wellington famously said that Napoleons presence on the battlefield was the equivalent of 40,000 soldiers and a similar remark was made of Saladin, who we could call a Muslim Superman, at the time of the Crusades.

The writer is the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, School of International Service, American University, Washington, DC, and author of Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration, and Identity

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Nietzsche's superman, Islam, and Covid-19 ( Part I) - Daily Times

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August 22nd, 2020 at 2:55 am

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