Thus Spoke Zarathustra

by: Friedrich Nietzsche

Part I: Chapters 11–22


The rhetoric in the first two chapters covered in this summary is strongly anti- nationalistic: the state is a false idol, and the public forum is a "marketplace" of people and ideas up for sale, which is buzzing with pestilent flies and shallow actors. We can see in this attack on the state the same feeling that informs the attack on the wrong kind of neighbor-love and marriage. The individual who worships the state, or who devotes himself to his neighbor, or who marries out of loneliness, is simply looking for an escape or a distraction.

There is a sharp contrast between these escapist forms of love and the kind of friendship Zarathustra applauds. True friends do not serve as distractions, but rather will challenge one another and drive one another ever forward. In Zarathustra's conception, "friend" and "enemy" are far from opposites. Both one's friends and one's enemies are one's equals, and serve to drive one forward. Both friend and enemy present challenges that one must overcome, and in overcoming them, one progresses toward the overman. Thus, it is as important to have good enemies as it is to have good friends.

The strong element of competition and rivalry mark Zarathustra's conceptions of both friends and enemies. An enemy who wrongs you has really done you a favor, and in exacting revenge you can return the favor. By revenge, Zarathustra doesn't mean petty revenge. To use a capitalist analogy for what Zarathustra means, an enemy might be seen as a rival business, who does you wrong by taking away some of your business, but in so doing, encourages you to work harder to improve your own business. In improving your business and winning back customers, you exact revenge, and also do your rival a favor in encouraging him to work harder also. In the chapter "On the Friend," he says, "in a friend one should have one's best enemy."

Zarathustra criticizes Christianity for its will not to compete. To Zarathustra, this represents a turning away from life. Rather than exacting revenge in this life, Christians endure suffering, confident that God will implement justice in the afterlife.

The chapter "On the Thousand and One Goals" is so named because Zarathustra speaks of there having been "a thousand peoples," each with their own conception of good and evil, each with their own goal for their race. He lists four examples: the Greeks, the Persians, the Jews, and the Germans. In each case, he says that what they deem to be "good" is "the voice of their will to power." This is the first mention in Nietzsche's published works of the important term "will to power." According to Nietzsche, this will is the fundamental drive that motivates all change in the universe. While we might seem to do things for the sake of survival, or pleasure, or sex, we are always fundamentally motivated by the will to power. For instance, a Christian martyr who submits to torture and death for the sake of God is clearly not acting out of an instinct for survival or pleasure. Rather he is seeking a feeling of power over his oppressors by showing that he can endure more hardship than they can dole out, and that even if his body dies, his spirit and his cause will live on. The overman is the ultimate expression of the will to power, having gained such total freedom and power as to create new values for himself. The goal of the overman, the expression of a full-bodied will to power in a single individual, is the thousand and first goal that Zarathustra preaches.

Nietzsche's attitude toward women is infamous, and we get a good look at it particularly in the chapter "On Little Old and Young Women." His remarks about women are, as Walter Kaufmann puts it, "second-hand and third-rate," but there is always a winking acknowledgment that he knows that he is wrong to hold these views. This raises the question of why Nietzsche has not striven to overcome this weakness, and how that might reflect on the rest of his philosophy.

In "On the Gift-Giving Virtue" Neitzsche provides information that might help us to understand why he is never satisfyingly clear on what one must do to become an overman. Zarathustra urges his disciples to choose their own path. He wants to inspire the people, but not to lead them. We might extend his image of the overman as someone who has climbed a high mountain to suggest that each overman must find his own mountain peak. Zarathustra can speak about the difficulties of climbing and the rewards at the top, but he cannot guide others in climbing their own mountains. After all, he is familiar only with his own mountain.