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Nietzsche s idea of an overman and life from his point of view. Nietzsche's idea of "the overman" (Ubermensch) is one of the most significant concept in his.
Table of contents
This was to become his proverbial Achilles' heel.
Whenever memories of his idyllic childhood interrupted by the untimely death of his father returned to him, he was overcome by self-pity:. We are devastated by the sight of the scenes of our childhood: the garden house, the church with its graves, the pond and the woods - we always see them again as sufferers. We are gripped by self-pity. Several of Nietzsche's perceptive friends were able to catch a glimpse of his sensitive interior behind the mask of hardness.
For instance, Meta von Salis observed: "He himself was tender, vulnerable, ready for reconciliation, shy about offending others", whereas "his task demanded hardness, forbade compromise, and brought himself and others pain and bitterness He condemned a whole series of intense feelings not because he did not have them, but on the contrary because he had them and knew their danger" as cited in Gilman, , p. Another close friend, Resa von Schirnhofer, described him thus: "so unrestrained as a thinker, Nietzsche as a person was of extreme sensitivity, tenderness, and refined courtesy in attitude and manners toward the female sex, as others who knew him personally often emphasised" ibid.
Writing to Franz Overbeck, Nietzsche let the mask of toughness slip:. This is the mistake that I perpetually make: that I imagine the suffering of others to be much greater than it is. From my childhood on, the proposition "my greatest danger lies in pitying" has confirmed itself again and again It will be enough if, through the bad experiences I have had with pitying, I am stimulated to make a theoretically interesting alteration in the esteem that pitying enjoys. Overbeck, September 14, ; cited by Parkes, , p.
Possibly in an attempt to overcome his own sensitivity, Nietzsche famously declared a war on pity. The German word Mitleid is ambiguous and can be translated into English as "compassion", "pity", or "sympathy", all of which differ in etymology and connotations. The English "pity" contains an element of superiority and contempt towards the pitied, whilst "compassion" is a feeling of empathy on equal terms.
For Nietzsche, however, all "compassion" was "pity". Even though in compassion one regards another's suffering as one's own Mitleid, like "com-passion", derives from "suffer with" , by wanting to relieve the suffering of the other one wants to relieve one's own. Hence, in Nietzsche's view, even compassion is ultimately egoistic. Nietzsche also believed that one is existentially alone in suffering and that the so-called "benefactors" can only misread it, rendering the suffering shallow.
Thus pity can make the sufferer feel even smaller and more worthless. Deep sorrow is beyond compassion and "the path to one's own heaven always leads through the voluptuousness of one's own hell". Hence Nietzsche's teaching to the preachers of pity: "share not suffering but joy! In his heroic aristocratism, Nietzsche created a pathos of distance, designed to rise above sorrow. In order to endure pain, one can also try to purge the inner sensitivity that makes one vulnerable to it; one can become hard.
Nietzsche was fully aware of his psychological fragility. The only route to convalescence was "to develop a thick skin, the sole antidote to our massive inner vulnerability and capacity for suffering" Nietzsche to M. Several of his acquaintances commented that he looked more like "a Prussian officer in civilian clothes" than a philosopher Gilman, , p.
The famous bushy moustache that overshadowed his sensual lips was part of a warrior's mask, designed to scare:. Knowing one's individuality - We are too prone to forget that in the eyes of people who are seeing us for the first time we are something quite different from what we consider ourselves to be: usually we are nothing more than a single individual trait which leaps to the eye and determines the whole impression we make.
Thus the gentlest and most reasonable of men can, if he wears a large moustache, sit as if in its shade and feel safe there - he will usually be seen as no more than the appurtenance of a large moustache, so that is to say a military type, easily angered and occasionally violent - and as such he will be treated. Partially, Nietzsche succeeded in creating the impression of an "occasionally violent" warrior, but at the cost of even more loneliness. And loneliness was a hiding place he knew well.
Throughout his life, he carried within him that deep sense of being alone in the world: "I have forty-three years behind me, and am just as alone as when I was a child" Nietzsche to E. Rohde, November 11, ; in Middleton, , p. Sometimes, he protested, as to his sister Elisabeth in mid Was I made for solitude or for life in which there was no one to whom I could speak? The inability to communicate one's thoughts is in very truth the most terrible of all kinds of loneliness. Deep man needs friends! All else failing, he has at least his god.
But I have neither god nor friends! Perfect friendship is possible only inter pares! My health is really quite normal - but my poor soul is so sensitive to injury and so full of longing for good friends, for people who are my life. Get me a small circle of men who will listen to me and understand me - and I shall be cured! Nietzsche to E. Nietzsche understood the dangers of his inner polarisation. The need to suppress his vulnerable interior led to an excess of hardness in his writings, which in turn alienated many of his potential supporters.
To lack not only health, but also money, recognition, love, and protection - and not to become a tragic grumbler: this constitutes the paradoxical character of our present condition, its problem. As for myself, I have got into a state of chronic vulnerability, against which, when my condition is slightly improved, I take a sort of revenge which is not of the nicest description, that is to say, I adopt an attitude of excessive hardness.
It failed to cure his divided self. Strindberg, H. Brandes; cited in Hayman, , pp.
In the end, it was "The Crucified" that prevailed in the closing scene of his life drama see below. The Loneliest Loneliness and the Abyss of Being. Still is the bottom of my sea: who would guess that it harbours such sportive monsters. In the normal course of development, an individual goes through a stage of being meaningfully mirrored by significant others, usually parents. Failure at this stage may lead to a fragile ego-formation with lifelong consequences.
If a person has not learned how to internalise the "mirrored self", he might not benefit from it even if a meaningful mirroring is offered later in life.
Waiting for Übermensch | National Review
Such a person might become a kind of solitary island, beyond reach. Nietzsche once compared himself to the wounded and abandoned archer Philoctetes, and wrote to Heinrich von Stein, after his visit to Sils-Maria: "you may have come far too close to finding Philoctetes on his island" Nietzsche to H. The early death of his father shattered Nietzsche's childhood, not only because of the loss of a male figure with whom he could identify, but also because his contrary emotions could not be contained.
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These continued to flood his conscious and unconscious self, creating mayhem. Moreover, he was not given a chance to experience realistic, age appropriate disappointment, and this left him with a persistent tendency towards idealisation. His young, widowed mother, who had to care for three young children, was not able to give this highly intelligent, sensitive boy the "mirroring" and containment that he needed.
A vital part of Nietzsche's soul seems to have died then, and he carried this sense of deadness throughout his life. He learned how to retreat behind a barricade of lofty solitude and construct an invisible world of the ideal. As a young boy, he wrote short plays and poems, and paraded toy soldiers in honour of a small porcelain squirrel, which he called King Squirrel I Hayman, , p.
It could also have been a product of psychotic imagination, a kind of delusional idea Cybulska, Initially, delusional constructions may serve an apotropaic function by warding off the impending disintegration of the self. Yet, ultimately, psychotic constructions destroy the self and reality. As De Masi , p. These fantasies thus serve only to lead the person further into the labyrinth of the Unconscious, where the thread of reason can be irretrievably lost. Nietzsche's urge to idealise reached its apogee with Wagner, who, instead of containing the idealising projections and allowing them to dissipate naturally, fuelled and used them for his own narcissistic needs.
Subsequently, he withdrew from the world and lived the rest of his life in radical solitude and "off his own fat". There was no-one who could contain his powerful, contrary emotions and refuel his self-love, and there was no-one for whom he could do the same either. He never developed any intimate relationship or shared his life with anyone, and his resignation from teaching at the age of 35 deprived him of any subsequent human interactions of a potentially rewarding kind.
His life consequently became an emotional desert. Idealisation is not about seeing the best in another person, but about constructing what is not there; in essence, it is a refusal to engage with reality. Unless deconstructed by timely devaluations, idealisations have a depleting effect on the self, which is then left with "bad internal objects" see Klein, , pp. These can turn into monsters, either to be fiercely fought against or to be projected onto the external world. In a private note of , he proposed:. Destruction of the ill-bred - for that purpose one must emancipate oneself from all traditional morality.
Cited by Schutte, , p. Not merely a master race whose sole task is to rule, but a race with its own sphere of life, with an excess of life, with an excess of strength for beauty, bravery, culture, manners to the highest peak of the spirit The attempt at emancipation from traditional morality ultimately led to further alienation - both from himself and from the world. When emotion becomes fantastic in this way, the self is simply more and more volatilized.
The person whose emotions have become fantastic Human, All Too Human. Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth. There is no redemption for one who suffers from himself Nietzsche lived in books and books lived in him. In his influential work Nietzsche: Life as Literature, Nehamas asserted that Nietzsche viewed the world as if it were a literary text and that his goal as an author was to create a specific literary character.
However, the self-fashioning of oneself as a literary character was just as important in the life of Nietzsche the man as it was in his philosophy. Having accidently discovered Dostoyevsky in , Nietzsche became instantly in awe of the Russian writer. It remains uncertain whether he read Crime and Punishment. In a fragment entitled The Criminal, Nietzsche proclaimed Dostoyevsky to be the only psychologist from whom he had something to learn. Rodion Raskolnikov was a brilliant but impoverished former student whose family, uncannily resembling Nietzsche's, consisted of a devoted mother and sister, as well as a baby brother and a deceased father.
He led a lonely existence amidst the faceless crowds in St. His deeply felt resentment and rage against the world's order led him to develop a theory of the extraordinary man. Such a man would stand alone, disdainful of established moral rules, and be a law onto himself. Above all, he would be hard and merciless in his attitude towards ordinary, mediocre men. But there was another side to Raskolnikov. Whilst "off guard", Raskolnikov gives his last money to the poor widow Katerina Ivanovna Marmeladov, and also risks his life by rescuing a child from a fire.