Nietzsche contends that humanity is a transition, not a destination. We ceased to be animals when we taught ourselves to control our instincts for the sake of greater gains. By learning to resist some of our natural impulses, we have been able to forge civilizations, develop knowledge, and deepen ourselves spiritually. Rather than directing our will to power outward to dominate those around us, we have directed it inward and gained self-mastery.

However, this struggle for self-mastery is arduous, and humanity is constantly tempted to give up. Christian morality and contemporary nihilism are just two examples of worldviews that express the desire to give up on life. We come to see life as blameworthy or meaningless as a way of easing ourselves out of the struggle for self-mastery. Nietzsche’s concept of the overman is the destination toward which we started heading when we first reined in our animal instincts. The overman has the self-mastery that animals lack but also the untrammeled instincts and good conscience that humans lack. The overman is profoundly in love with life, finding nothing in it to complain about, not even the constant suffering and struggle to which he willingly submits himself.

Popular pages: Selected Works of Friedrich Nietzsche