Zarathustra’s predatory collectivism

Nietzsche is usually labelled an individualist. One of the more controversy-generating claims of my Nietzsche and the Nazis appears in Section 34, where I argue that Nietzsche is more collectivist than individualist.[1]

also_sprach_zarathustraRe-reading Zarathustra I came across two more relevant quotations. In both cases, Zarathustra is speaking:

“A thousand goals there have been until now, for there have been a thousand peoples. Only the fetters for the thousand necks are still missing, the one goal is missing. Humanity still has no goal.
“But tell me, brothers: if humanity still lacks a goal, does it not also still lack — humanity itself? — “[2]

Note three things about this passage: Nietzsche/Zarathustra speaks not of individuals‘ having goals but of humanity‘s having a goal; he says that humanity should have one goal; and he says that fetters are needed to direct humanity’s quest for that one goal.

The second relevant passage develops the “fetters” theme more explicitly. Zarathustra is the embodiment of the creative spirit who will forge the new values,nietzsche-profile and he identifies the traits necessary for such a being: “To take the right to new values — that is the most terrible taking for a carrying and reverent spirit. Indeed, it is preying, and the work of a predatory animal.”[3]

Predators are no respecters of individuals; rather they reduce other individuals to tools, means, raw materials. In this, Zarathustra’s claim is consistent with Nietzsche’s other and regular claims that life is zero-sum, e.g., at BGE 259 and 265, WP 369 and 656, and the note at the end of the first essay of GM.


[1] “Anti-individualism and Collectivism,” Section 34 of Nietzsche and the Nazis. Note Nietzsche’s repudiation of individualism: “My philosophy aims at ordering of rank not at an individualistic morality.” And his call for the sacrifice of most individuals in the name of improving the species: “mankind in the mass sacrificed to the prosperity of a single stronger species of man—that would be an advance.”
[2] Nietzsche, “On a Thousand and One Goals”, Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Translated by Adrian Del Caro and edited by Del Caro and Robert Pippin (Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 44.
[3] Ibid., “On the Three Metamorphoses,” p. 17.

One thought on “Zarathustra’s predatory collectivism

  • April 3, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Re: “mankind in the mass sacrificed to the prosperity of a single stronger species of man – that would be an advance.” I’ll bet.

    But when it’s done, looking at this “single stronger species of man” I’m sure we’ll find it’s not so single after all: that there are weaker and stronger among them. So we’ll have to roll up our sleeves and cull the herd again.

    When this is done we’ll notice again…

    Ah, a superman’s work is never done…

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