Essay about Dostoevsky and Nietzsche's Overman

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Dostoevsky and Nietzsche's Overman

The definition of übermensch, or overman, in Barron's Concise Student's Encyclopedia makes anyone who has read Nietzsche's Zarathustra - even aphoristically, as I tried to do at first - cringe. Barron's Encyclopedia defines an overman as someone who "has his act together and gets things done." Of course, considering that this is a summary of one part of Nietzsche's ideas, and that the encyclopedia reduces his entire philosophy to one short paragraph, this is not a poor definition. But it eliminates parts of Nietzsche's concept of the overman, or superman, which are essential to an understanding of this idea.

Walter Kaufmann provides a detailed analysis of Nietzsche's philosophy in
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This process of overcoming the state of normal humanity is done in several ways, but perhaps the most important of these is the sublimation of normal human impulses. For Nietzsche, all human impulses - indeed, all human activity - is explainable in terms of his will to power. As he says in Beyond Good and Evil,

Suppose, finally, we succeeded in explaining our entire instinctive life as the development and ramification of one basic for of the will -- namely, of the will to power, as my proposition has it; suppose all organic function could be traced back to this will to power and one could also find in it the solution of the problem of procreation and nourishment -- it is one problem -- then one would have gained the right to determine all efficient force univocally as -- will to power. (Beyond Good and Evil, 36)

Nietzsche establishes a "long line of degrees" of the expression of the will to power. (Dawn 113) The overman is one who has attained the highest degrees expression in his will to power. Philosophy is one of these highest degrees. (Beyond Good and Evil 9) For Nietzsche, the more common expressions of the will to power (the sexual drive, for instance) are the lower ones, and must be sublimated, or redirected, so that the will to power expresses itself in higher, more creative ways. (Kaufmann 220) Art, for instance, is one of these ways, an idea which
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