Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Superman's Secret Identity

I was just re-reading my ridiculously long post on Nietzsche and realized something. Nietzsche makes a sharp distinction between the rational man and the intuitive man. The rational man lives his life by forcing everything into categories, allowing him to learn from mistakes so as not to make them again. This is unacceptable to Nietzsche for several reasons: first, classifying things like this would mean ignoring all the things about an experience that make it that particular experience and treating it as if it were the same as other experiences which are, by definition, different experiences. It is to ignore the uniqueness of each experience. Second, classifying things like this is motivated by fear: the fear of not being in control (by not being able to understand things), which amounts to a fear of life itself. It is the attempt to limit the effect life has on us. But you can't do this without also excluding the great joys that life offers as well. Thus, the rational man lives by fear, and lets this fear determine how he lives. He is afraid of life, running away from it. Third, classifying things like this can only be done if one accepts a Platonic/Christian worldview, which posits a world beyond the physical universe, a world of which the universe we experience is just a shadow or pale reflection. Nietzsche absolutely rejects such a worldview. Indeed, his philosophy is the working-out of the consequences of God's non-existence.

In contrast, the intuitive man -- the Übermensch (overman or superman) -- is the one who accepts life on its own terms, as it comes to him, not trying to understand it but just experiencing it, living it. He does not live negatively out of fear, but positively. This allows him to experience all the great joys that life has to offer. It also means that he will experience all the great pains and even horrors that life has to offer, and will never learn to avoid them -- in order to avoid them, he would have to learn from previous experiences not to do certain types of things, but that would mean classifying certain types of experience. Thus, the Übermensch rejects this, refuses to run away from life by living in fear, and allows himself to live life to its fullest.

But if that's the definition of the Übermensch -- someone who will not rationally think about things, will not try to understand things by comparing them with similar things in order to learn from them -- then a rather radical conclusion follows.

The Übermensch is ... Homer Simpson.

This can easily be verified by simply watching the Simpsons to determine for oneself that Homer exemplifies precisely these qualities.

So if you want to be a full-blooded Nietzschean, if you really want to reject the Platonic/Christian worldview, just be aware of what you're aspiring to. Homer Simpson: the ultimate realization of Nietzsche's philosophy.


Anonymous said...

Homer did quote Nietzsche in an episode.

Grant said...

That's hilarious. I don't think Nietzsche would disagree with that image of intuitive man: "Only by forgetting this primitive world of metaphor can one live with any repose, security, and consistency," "[T]he intuitive man...does not understand how to learn from experience and keeps falling over and over again into the same ditch."

But I doubt he'd concede that the overman is merely an intuitive man. He doesn't ignore concepts; he masters and transcends them. You know, like Keanu Reeves. ;)

You might enjoy this rhetorical reading of Truth and Lies (starts about a 1/4 way through lecture 14, continues in 15 and 17). Sometimes it takes a sophist to know one.

Sj said...

I don't think you "get" Nietzsche, if you seriously contend that Homer Simpson is the ideal. If anything, Simpson would be a representative of the "last man". Read Zarathustra's first discourse, and try again.