Nietzsche's Übermensch: A Glance behind the Mask of Hardness

Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology 15 (1):1-13 (2015)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Nietzsche's notion of the Übermensch is one of his most famous. While he himself never defined or explained what he meant by it, many philosophical interpretations have been offered in secondary literature. None of these, however, has examined the significance of the notion for Nietzsche the man, and this essay therefore attempts to address this gap.The idea of the Übermensch occurred to Nietzsche rather suddenly in the winter of 1882-1883, when his life was in turmoil after yet another deep personal setback. The early loss of his father had deprived Nietzsche of a meaningful “mirroring” and a chance to experience realistic, age appropriate disappointment. This left him with a lifelong tendency towards idealisation. It became his proverbial Achilles’ heel and the source of repeated disillusionments and sorrow. The Übermensch may thus have been a culmination of his impulse to create altars and worlds before which he could kneel. Trying to cope with his own vulnerability, Nietzsche evoked an ideal of the Übermensch, a mask of hardness that was designed, if unconsciously, to ward off any future assaults on his fragile self.The double aspect of Nietzsche's personality is explored in this essay. While a highly provocative, belligerent and uncompromising Nietzsche often emerges from his published works, a vulnerable, lonely and sometimes self-pitying Nietzsche lurks in his letters and the accounts of his friends and acquaintances. But could an “ideal of strength”, such as the Übermensch, serve as a protective mask for someone with a sensitive, passionate interior? Nietzsche's descent into madness would suggest that no ideal can be a substitute for human, all too human, compassion.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 92,813

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Reid, Hardness and Developmental Psychology.Adam Weiler Gur Arye - 2014 - Journal of Scottish Philosophy 12 (2):145-162.
The mask of enlightenment: Nietzsche's Zarathustra.Stanley Rosen - 1995 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Nietzsche’s Speech of Indirection.William J. Zanardi - 1984 - International Studies in Philosophy 16 (2):53-56.
The World at a Glance.Edward S. Casey - 2007 - Indiana University Press.
The World at a Glance.Edward S. Casey - 2000 - In Professor Fred Evans, Fred Evans, Leonard Lawlor & Professor Leonard Lawlor (eds.), Chiasms: Merleau-Ponty's Notion of Flesh. SUNY Press. pp. 147-164.
The cutaneous perceptions of softness and hardness.A. H. Sullivan - 1927 - Journal of Experimental Psychology 10 (6):447.
Japan: The mask and the mask-like face.James P. Mccormick - 1956 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 15 (2):198-204.
Who is Nietzsche's Zarathustra? A Note on the Iranian-Persian Background.Françoise Dastur - 2009 - Comparative and Continental Philosophy 1 (1):39-54.
A human cry Nietzsche on affirming others' pain.Anna Ezekiel - 2014 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 40 (9):913-930.


Added to PP

66 (#251,202)

6 months
19 (#145,745)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

References found in this work

Beyond Good and Evil.Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche - 1886 - New York,: Vintage. Edited by Translator: Hollingdale & J. R..
Thus spoke Zarathustra.Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche - 1917 - New York,: Viking Press. Edited by Walter Arnold Kaufmann.
Nietzsche, life as literature.Alexander Nehamas - 1985 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Twilight of the Idols ;.Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche - 1976 - Mineola, New York: Dover Publications. Edited by Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche.

View all 44 references / Add more references