Monday, September 22, 2014

Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche

It took me a while to read this book because I had to read it slowly and underline many things said just to make sure I understood what Nietzsche was saying.  I wrote one sentence summaries at the end of  each chapter.  I'm going to write out my thoughts as recorded in my book.  This is my understanding of what he was saying.  Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, just please explain your reasoning.

Zarathustra is a "super" man, also, called a superhero.  He came down out of the mountains to proclaim truth to men.  The following are the truths as I understood him.

God is dead we have killed him. (Parable of the Madman)

The Three Metamorphoses:  It sounds like Nietzsche was saying we need to get rid of the ten commandments of the Bible.  We should stop following them and revert to a child like innocence, knowing neither right nor wrong.  People follow virtue to have an easy conscience but that notion is now outmoded.

Only the suffering invented a God because they were dying and wanted to believe that there was more to existence than this life and world.  If you believe in God you despise your body.  Only the Self determines our thinking.

You cannot enforce your virtue on anyone else and the only Evil that exists is in a conflict of virtues.  Good is evil and evil is now good.

Morality is madness.  Only what the Self desires is right.

Might makes right.  (War and Warriors pg. 43)
Chapters 11 and 12 speak of "superfluous people" that are like "flies".    Only the Supermen deserve to live.

Chapters 16 and 17:  Individuals don't matter only ideals.  Don't be a part of a crowd.  Supermen are "gods" and "creators".  The crowd will try to impose absolute morals on the supermen but they create their own morals.

Chapter 21 is title "Voluntary death".  Again he reiterates that some people are superfluous and deserve to die.  He claims that Jesus died too soon and had he lived longer He would have recanted His assertions about Himself.  Chapter two states that sick people are selfish.  Zarathustra is the god they should look up to.

In Part 2 Nietzsche uses a lot of Biblical metaphors and applies them to his Superman. He states that God is conjecture and the will can decide there is no god and the will can procreate so it doesn't need a creator.

He speaks again of the rabble that poison everything and are stupid enough to believe in a spirit.  Zarathustra belongs to an elite few that is above the rabble.

Chapter 36 holds people of "diverse colors" in contempt.  Chapter 38 ends with the sentence, "For men are not (his emphasis) equal: so speaketh justice.  And what I will, they may not will."

There are eighty chapters but the above largely covers the main claims of the Zarathustra, the "Superman".

In short, Zarathustra replaces God.  But he offers no mercy or compassion.  He is superior, most others are inferior and don't deserve to live.  He refers to them as parasites that are selfish for wanting to live.  His will determines right and wrong.

Nietzsche uses a lot of Biblical terminology, even in the way Zarathustra expresses himself (in chapter 69, he says "My kingdom is no longer of this world").  He goes up on Mount Olive, he holds a Last Supper with a group of devotees- who although devoted, receive nothing but contempt from Zarathustra.  He is superior and they are inferior. 

Zarathustra is the Higher Man and he states in chapter 73: "man must become better and eviler so do I teach.  The evilest is necessary for the Superman's best."

It's interesting the people who were attracted to Nietzsche's philosophy.  Of course we can all point to Hitler and the Nazi's.  They're the most obvious example.  But Nietzsche's philosophy appealed to intellectuals long before Hitler and also to many people in America during the first half of this century.  We don't like to talk about it now, but America had its own eugenics program that it was developing.  It got hushed up and swept under the carpet after Nazi Germany was exposed.

And many people today embrace Nietzsche's philosophy.  Like the man who wrote the foot notes and introduction to my copy of the book.  He holds a PhD in philosophy.  He dismisses Hitler with a shrug and a "he just misunderstood what Nietzsche was trying to say."  Really?  What was Nietzsche saying?

Something slightly unrelated that I found interesting was the use of "supermen" and "superheros".  These are names we've given our modern mythical men (and a few women).  The difference is that the superheros we read about in comics and now in movies are on the side of good and fight evil.  Probably because this concept is palatable to our minds that are conscious of right and wrong whatever Nietzsche may say.  However, it still relies on men to save the world and not God.

The final thing that hit me about Zarathustra is that he is supposed to replace God and Jesus Christ as the savior of mankind.  But he offers nothing.  He is simply superior and that's the end to it.  Nietzsche doesn't even explain what makes Zarathustra superior.  Certainly not those virtues that humans rely on that make life meaningful like mercy and compassion, joy, selflessness and courage.  In fact these traits are universally held to make us superior.  Lacking those qualities makes Zarathustra less than a human.  It makes him inferior.  He is the ultimate selfish narcissist.

And of course, the biggest point is that Nietzsche proves nothing that he asserts.  All he says is true because...he says so.  Quite the fairy tale.

I don't find it surprising that Nietzsche died insane.  Judging from all the Biblical parallels he made he read the Bible, but without the illumination of God's Spirit he had "Eyes to see but could not perceive; ears to hear but could not understand." (Mark 4:12)


  1. Great commentary Sharon.

    I have read a fair amount of Nietzsche including this. Though a very important thinker who did have important insights, in terms of influence I find his view on morality and human behavior diametrically opposed to mine. I too am sometimes dismayed by those who extoll his ideas.

    Though they embraced his philosophy and paralleled some aspects of it, in all fairness he really would not have supported NAZIism. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that, to his credit, he railed against anti - semitism.

  2. Hi Brian! This is my very first book by Nietzsche. I am trying to read more of the philosophers that have impacted our culture. I also want to read some Kant. I read Descartes years ago so I need to read him again.
    I think that Nietzsche, like many others, did not live to see the direction their philosophies took and might be surprised, if not horrified, how others interpreted them.
    I'm glad to know that Nietzsche was against anti-semitism. I read a good book about Germany prior to Hitler's regime. It was sad how integrated Jews and Gentiles were integrated in each other's lives before Nazism swept through the country. Take care!

  3. A really great review, Sharon, and so interesting, since I just finished Ecce Homo. Not only is Nietzsche arrogant, and he doesn't explain his thought process, he often contradicts himself. And yes, everything is true because he says so, and if you don't believe him you are worse than the garbage stuck to the bottom of his shoe. I'm trying to feel sorry for him, I really am, but he can be so irritating. In any case, I'd like to read one more of his works, but probably not for a loooong time.

    1. Hi Cleopatra! (Sorry for taking so long to respond, I just saw your comment) I congratulate you for reading so much of his work. I have another of his books and I will have to really motivate myself to read it. Based on your reviews he seems to say the same thing over and over again. Have you read that he purposely infected himself with syphillus? How's that for an ubermann?

  4. Please support my kickstarter to record an audiobook for Thus Spoke Zarathustra:


I welcome comments from anyone with a mutual interest in the subjects I written about.