On The Social Impact Of The Nietzschean Superman In The Context Of A Heideggerian Reality
When Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov, in his magnum opus Crime and Punishment, related to the readers his “Superman theory” with the conviction that he (Raskolnikov) was amongst the few called to power — in the end it turned out to be an unattainable dream as the novel’s antihero fell headlong first back to earth, reality dawning upon him that he was just another criminal; he (Dostoevsky) was not at all discouraging us nor is he mocking those who do attempt to actualize their ‘superman’ potentialities.
Rather, he intended to inculcate to his readers that the factor of environment is still a force to be reckoned with. If Nietzsche took it upon the ubermensch the responsibility of being able to transgress moral law without any form of hesitation as the rationale goes that this in the long run would benefit humanity, he unfortunately did not give any latitude of variation for inevitable circumstances such as one’s milieu being a possible hindrance to the aforementioned ideology.
This in effect left us with a highfalutin, hermit-like (Zarathustra, anyone?) philosophy which, floating within the confines of its principles, rendered to the awed the mentality of leaving it as it is. However, regardless of the attractiveness of the ever-present mystique in the Nietzschean thought, it is not enough to erode the truth of our ‘everydayness’.
Like what Dostoevsky has been implicitly indicating in his great novels, Martin Heidegger asserts that man’s character needs to be understood a-priori as being ‘grounded’ in the state of Being that he called “Being-in-the-world’. Such is in accord with the notion that the human being, or what Heidegger termed as ‘Dasein’, may exist in either one or two modes: an authentic or inauthentic existence. Now Dasein, being ‘grounded’ as “Being-in-the-world” has to face the reality that not everything is possible for him; his options are limited in one way or another, therefore inviting the element of ‘concern’ wherein Dasein is free to decide his own priorities.
M. Warnock briefly explained what Heidegger meant by this in his 1970 work entitled Existentialism:
Choices are made in the world in which humans exist surrounded by other humans. Human beings are characterised by uniqueness, one from another, and this uniqueness gives rise to a set of possibilities for each individual. All human beings are continually oriented towards their own potential, among which are the possibilities of authentic and inauthentic existence. If, whilst moving forward, the standards and beliefs and prejudices of society are embraced, individuals may fail to differentiate themselves from the masses. This, Heidegger regarded as living ‘inauthentic’ existence. Further, for Heidegger, ‘authentic’ existence can only come into being when individuals arrive at the realization of who they are and grasp the fact that each human being is a distinctive entity. Once human beings realize that they have their own destiny to fulfil, then their concern with the world will no longer be the concern to do as the masses do, but can become an ‘authentic’ concern to fulfil their real potentiality in the world.
I need not elaborate on Heidegger’s description of the self of everyday Dasein, or that which he called the ‘they-self’, but for the benefit of this discourse I shall add that Heidegger never meant for the ‘inauthentic’ state of Dasein to have a negative connotation; instead, this state of alienation from the real self is seen as a prerequisite for Dasein, that upon coming to terms with the fact of this condition of ‘verfallenheit’ he will eventually strive for authenticity.
At the outset this may seem comparable with the Nietzschean distinction between “master-morality” and “slave-morality”; nevertheless the Dasein is not subject to creating values for itself and rather thrives on what it has without the least bit intention of changing the values of the world, it has come to accept the world as it is, realizing that Dasein need not have a review of values but more so re-evaluate what is within, implying that change is something personal and not that which should be proclaimed and forced on everyone even so far as ridiculing or name-calling those who do not take it upon themselves the same values which is supposedly characteristic of the “master-morality.”
In a world where the philosophy of Nietzsche has been ubiquitously cited, ranging from powerful political leaders to the basement-thriving nihilist, it is more often than not that he is misunderstood as is manifest from the arrogance and pompousness usually associated with the concept of the ubermensch. What he took for granted however is the fact that our ideologies may not always match those concretely happening in our surroundings- or in other words, the possibility of an imperfect world in which man has no choice but to exist in.