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Transhumanism: Beyond Good, Evil and the Ubermensch

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    Is it time for transhumanists to embrace a better metaphor?

    [See the full post at: Transhumanism: Beyond Good, Evil and the Ubermensch]


    The Ubermensch is a much misinterpreted concept. I’m no Nietzsche scholar but the passages I’ve read describe the ubermensch not as a superior human being but as one who is beyond morals. In modern terms a drug dealer would be the prototypical ubermensch, improving himself without regard for others. Or perhaps a politician.


    I would say that the Ubermensch as described by Nietzsche is both superior to other men and beyond morals. Here he means externally defined morals, that is, those imposed by society, religion, history, etc.

    But clearly he sets up the ubermensch as something beyond our current situation. He also argues also that this state is highly desirable and important, and therefore something to be aspired to.

    The ubermensch is imagined to independently create and define meaning in the world apart from this dependence on others. Therefore they can correctly be said to define their own morality by their beliefs and acts. The ubermensch is not amoral but rather independently moral. An amoral or immoral person is not an ubermensch.

    So I wouldn’t say that a drug dealer or politician is necessarily an accurate example. It would depend on the person and how they approached life. The Showtime TV series *Weeds* explored this theme quite nicely I think.


    “We need to seek a better vision, beyond good, evil and Nietzsche,”

    We take “the Will to Power, not just survival” to its actual logical conclusion.

    Creativity alone, actualization or sublimation — by themselves — of said ‘progressives’, doesn’t fit the bill either. The ultimate power must, as any concept hoping not to be paradoxical (i.e. so it can actually exist in reality beyond philosophy/theory/magical thinking) must coherently apply to itself. It must thus allow for power to actually REDUCE power. For example, the sharing of friendship or the sacrifices of love. One can share power or even give it away. It still IS the Will to Power to do so however. No matter what he meant.

    Beware The Ubermensch, for it will be Uberbored beyond good, evil. (AND Nietzsche, lol ^_^)

    Sure we can rename it to a less aggressive term. “Will to Beauty” is nice. It doesn’t contradict Nietzsche however. (although he’s purposefully contradictory at times, revealing the trolling nature with which to write beyond good and evil within such a, “impressible”, society). Au contraire, remember, the only justification Nietzsche gives for life is, precisely, an aesthetic one. Alluding to the mythological Greeks and their “iron age” they believed to live in (after the heroes, not the technological era)

    “Will to Freedom” is another good one but, my Gödellian-like convoluted mind would probably prefer to surmise the concept as the “Will to Will”. The problem with simply renaming a philosophy is that we’re not adding much and simply ripping off the philosopher (the rose can still be referred as a rose). The best we could do is expand it and include it under a differently named umbrella. (or reject it, of course)

    > turn to a mathematician, rather than a philosopher, for direction?

    Can’t we have both? Mathematicians seem to misinterpret their results far too often while philosophers are simply misguided into simple impossibilities they can’t rule out without math. (shhhhsh.. ask the ubermensch!) =)

    And btw, since it’s 2015 already…
    Not just survival alright,
    but it might just save your life. 😉


    Invoking Nietzsche at this point is beyond absurd — really it’s time we recognize we are a debased culture with the base instincts apes mauling one another in Plato’s cave.

    One example: Hemingway wrote A Farewell to Arms after WWI, for the Bells Tolls BEFORE WW2, and the Sun Also Rises (War Empires always implode) But I find his final (overlooked) genius was spattering his brains against the wall with a twelve gauge shotgun.

    It’s the oldest story of civilization. Spend the treasure on war, society and its institutions—particularly organized religion and political parties—ultimately corrupt and divide humanity. I strongly suggest reading Plato’s Republic. I am no scholar or philosopher — but freedom is a bloody business. Let’s not bullshit the children that transhumanism or 15 mins TED Talks trump the 6,000 knowledge with silly pretense.

    Apologies for my tone — If was venting a bit much.


    Plato’s The Allegory of the Cave

    Plato realizes that the general run of humankind can think, and speak, etc., without (so far as they acknowledge) any awareness of his realm of Forms.
    The allegory of the cave is supposed to explain this.
    In the allegory, Plato likens people untutored in the Theory of Forms to prisoners chained in a cave, unable to turn their heads. All they can see is the wall of the cave. Behind them burns a fire. Between the fire and the prisoners there is a parapet, along which puppeteers can walk. The puppeteers, who are behind the prisoners, hold up puppets that cast shadows on the wall of the cave. The prisoners are unable to see these puppets, the real objects, that pass behind them. What the prisoners see and hear are shadows and echoes cast by objects that they do not see. Here is an illustration of Plato’s Cave:

    From Great Dialogues of Plato (Warmington and Rouse, eds.) New York, Signet Classics: 1999. p. 316.
    Such prisoners would mistake appearance for reality. They would think the things they see on the wall (the shadows) were real; they would know nothing of the real causes of the shadows.
    So when the prisoners talk, what are they talking about? If an object (a book, let us say) is carried past behind them, and it casts a shadow on the wall, and a prisoner says “I see a book,” what is he talking about?
    He thinks he is talking about a book, but he is really talking about a shadow. But he uses the word “book.” What does that refer to?

    Plato gives his answer at line (515b2). The text here has puzzled many editors, and it has been frequently emended. The translation in Grube/Reeve gets the point correctly:
    “And if they could talk to one another, don’t you think they’d suppose that the names they used applied to the things they see passing before them?”
    Plato’s point is that the prisoners would be mistaken. For they would be taking the terms in their language to refer to the shadows that pass before their eyes, rather than (as is correct, in Plato’s view) to the real things that cast the shadows.
    If a prisoner says “That’s a book” he thinks that the word “book” refers to the very thing he is looking at. But he would be wrong. He’s only looking at a shadow. The real referent of the word “book” he cannot see. To see it, he would have to turn his head around.

    Plato’s point: the general terms of our language are not “names” of the physical objects that we can see. They are actually names of things that we cannot see, things that we can only grasp with the mind.
    When the prisoners are released, they can turn their heads and see the real objects. Then they realize their error. What can we do that is analogous to turning our heads and seeing the causes of the shadows? We can come to grasp the Forms with our minds.
    Plato’s aim in the Republic is to describe what is necessary for us to achieve this reflective understanding. But even without it, it remains true that our very ability to think and to speak depends on the Forms. For the terms of the language we use get their meaning by “naming” the Forms that the objects we perceive participate in.
    The prisoners may learn what a book is by their experience with shadows of books. But they would be mistaken if they thought that the word “book” refers to something that any of them has ever seen.
    Likewise, we may acquire concepts by our perceptual experience of physical objects. But we would be mistaken if we thought that the concepts that we grasp were on the same level as the things we perceive.

    Friedrich Nietzsche:
    Thus Spoke Zarathustra (excerpts)

    When Zarathustra arrived at the edge of the forest, he came upon a town. Many people had gathered there in the marketplace to see a tightrope walker who had promised a performance. The crowd, believing that Zarathustra was the ringmaster come to introduce the tightrope walker, gathered around to listen. And Zarathustra spoke to the people:

    I teach you the Overman! Mankind is something to be overcome. What have you done to overcome mankind?

    All beings so far have created something beyond themselves. Do you want to be the ebb of that great tide, and revert back to the beast rather than overcome mankind? What is the ape to a man? A laughing-stock, a thing of shame. And just so shall a man be to the Overman: a laughing-stock, a thing of shame. You have evolved from worm to man, but much within you is still worm. Once you were apes, yet even now man is more of an ape than any of the apes.

    Even the wisest among you is only a confusion and hybrid of plant and phantom. But do I ask you to become phantoms or plants?

    Behold, I teach you the Overman! The Overman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: The Overman shall be the meaning of the earth! I beg of you my brothers, remain true to the earth, and believe not those who speak to you of otherworldly hopes! Poisoners are they, whether they know it or not. Despisers of life are they, decaying ones and poisoned ones themselves, of whom the earth is weary: so away with them!

    Once blasphemy against God was the greatest blasphemy; but God died, and those blasphemers died along with him. Now to blaspheme against the earth is the greatest sin, and to rank love for the Unknowable higher than the meaning of the earth!

    Once the soul looked contemptuously upon the body, and then that contempt was the supreme thing: — the soul wished the body lean, monstrous, and famished. Thus it thought to escape from the body and the earth. But that soul was itself lean, monstrous, and famished; and cruelty was the delight of this soul! So my brothers, tell me: What does your body say about your soul? Is not your soul poverty and filth and wretched contentment?

    In truth, man is a polluted river. One must be a sea to receive a polluted river without becoming defiled. I teach you the Overman! He is that sea; in him your great contempt can go under.

    What is the greatest thing you can experience? It is the hour of your greatest contempt. The hour in which even your happiness becomes loathsome to you, and so also your reason and virtue.

    The hour when you say: What good is my happiness? It is poverty and filth and wretched contentment. But my happiness should justify existence itself!

    The hour when you say: What good is my reason? Does it long for knowledge as the lion for his prey? It is poverty and filth and wretched contentment!

    The hour when you say: What good is my virtue? It has not yet driven me mad! How weary I am of my good and my evil! It is all poverty and filth and wretched contentment!

    The hour when you say: What good is my justice? I do not see that I am filled with fire and burning coals. But the just are filled with fire and burning coals!

    The hour when you say: What good is my pity? Is not pity the cross on which he is nailed who loves man? But my pity is no crucifixion!

    Have you ever spoken like this? Have you ever cried like this? Ah! If only I had heard you cry this way!

    It is not your sin — it is your moderation that cries to heaven; your very sparingness in sin cries to heaven!

    Where is the lightning to lick you with its tongue? Where is the madness with which you should be cleansed?

    Behold, I teach you the Overman! He is that lightning, he is that madness!
    And while Zarathustra was speaking in this way, someone in the crowd interrupted: “We’ve heard enough about the tightrope walker; now it’s time to see him!” And while the crowd laughed at Zarathustra, the tightrope walker, believing that he had been given his cue, began his performance.


    Friedrich Nietzsche:
    Thus Spoke Zarathustra (excerpts)

    Zarathustra, however, looked at the people and wondered. Then he spoke thus:

    Man is a rope stretched between the animal and the Overman — a rope over an abyss.

    A dangerous crossing, a dangerous wayfaring, a dangerous looking-back, a dangerous trembling and halting.

    What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal: what is lovable in man is that he is an over-going and a down-going.

    I love those that know not how to live except as down-goers, for they are the over-goers.

    I love the great despisers, because they are the great adorers, and arrows of longing for the other shore.

    I love those who do not first seek a reason beyond the stars for going down and being sacrifices, but sacrifice themselves to the earth, that the earth may become the Overman’s.

    I love him who lives in order to know, and seeks to know in order that the Overman may hereafter live. Thus he seeks his own down-going.

    I love him who labors and invents, that he may build the house for the Overman, and prepare for him earth, animal, and plant: for thus he seeks his own down-going.

    I love him who loves his virtue: for virtue is the will to down-going, and an arrow of longing.

    I love him who reserves no share of spirit for himself, but wants to be wholly the spirit of his virtue: thus he walks as spirit over the bridge.

    I love him who makes his virtue his inclination and destiny: thus, for the sake of his virtue, he is willing to live on, or live no more.

    I love him who desires not too many virtues. One virtue is more of a virtue than two, because it is more of a knot for one’s destiny to cling to.

    I love him whose soul is lavish, who wants no thanks and does not give back: for he always gives, and desires not to keep for himself.

    I love him who is ashamed when the dice fall in his favor, and who then asks: “Am I a cheat?” — for he wants to perish.

    I love him who scatters golden words in advance of his deeds, and always does more than he promises: for he seeks his own down-going.

    I love him who justifies the future ones, and redeems the past ones: for he is willing to perish through the present ones.

    I love him who chastens his God, because he loves his God: for he must perish through the wrath of his God.

    I love him whose soul is deep even in the wounding, and may perish through a small matter: thus he goes willingly over the bridge.

    I love him whose soul is so overfull that he forgets himself, and all things are in him: thus all things become his down-going.

    I love him who is of a free spirit and a free heart: thus is his head only the bowels of his heart; his heart, however, causes his down-going.

    I love all who are like heavy drops falling one by one out of the dark cloud that lowers over man: they herald the coming of the lightning, and perish as heralds.

    Lo, I am a herald of the lightning, and a heavy drop out of the cloud: the lightning, however, is the Overman!”


    Hello Marcos,

    I think you identified the core reason why transhumanism is impossible — or any meaningful movement. While you can clearing think and write — your understanding of the most basic foundation Nietzsche Philosophy (The Overman concept) is precisely wrong. Rather than a quick Google search you have cloaked a falsehood in language that unfortunately becomes dangerous misinformation — because it sounds truthful. We simply have zero standards for truth or even a common language. I trust that was not intentional — but if may ask, where did get your information? Self-knowlegde?

    If you see my post below you can read Nietzsche’s original words.



    I download it directly from the source, dude. ^_^


    Anyway, I only mentioned the concept in a sentence once and a humorous one at that (one can hope =)). How did you manage to uncover my precise ignorance so precisely right? Self-knowledge? =) Could you be more specific on what I got wrong, so I can learn something? I’m not sure what you want me to read there, and it’s too TL;DR for me at the moment ó.ò’

    I’m just glad I disregarded completely whatever Nietzsche may (or may not) have meant by the end of that paragraph there, I can always fall back to that! =D About your question, I used to remember the exact moment when I learned most of the cool words as a child and even recently, but I think early Alzheimer’s is getting the best of me cause this skill seems to be fading.. but if you can be more precise about what information you mean, I can try to recall where I got it.

    Well, at least I’m aware of Plato’s Allegory (I myself am guilty of invoking it often) and I totally agree with you on your first sentence there.. in fact, if you read my other posts here (it’s accessible from my profile), you’ll see I constantly use the term, monkey, instead of humans. =) But this habit goes waaay back, LOL… I believe apes should get to human FIRST before even hoping to transcend it (and more importantly, to really be able to discern if we really want to), yet I do think technology can help. (and I guess it would be nice to speed things up a bit, apestate is too cruel an existence, don’t you agree? I’m not even sure about complete humans [see the anti-natalism thread I’m also participating in =)])

    About the other paragraphs, I’m not sure what you vent but I hope it was not caused by a misunderstanding among different uses of the term “love”. I certainly haven’t meant what most apes mean by it, specially on the debased cultures on most of the land today. This is an extremely fragile state (no wonder so rare) and most certainly NOT unconditional. (like many would like people to believe)

    I also agree with you that transhumanism is impossible.
    But this means it’s almost paradoxical to include me in your “we” as an example of standards, specially for language, which is fraught with misunderstanding. (unless you believe transhumanism requires censorship to exist) At least there you were precisely wrong about my philosophy, heh? =) On the other hand, I am zero standards incarnate… Lucky guess! =P (I try to be truthful though I must confess to cloak it, under thick layers of humor)

    .. but I guess for different reasons (I’m not even sure what your core reason was, but I think I did it! yey! \o/). If you like, we can exchange ideas about how it is impossible.. I have arguments about the “transcendence of the human condition”, if that is what is meant by “transhumanism”. And, at its core, it’s much more profound than simple natural language since, as a source of problems, this is after all… all too human.

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