Zarathustra and the Economy of the Overman

  • Peter R. Sedgwick


Laurence Lampert has offered some helpful comments about Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Zarathustra is, he argues, ‘the only book that affords entry into Nietzsche’s essential thought’.1 In other words, and leaving aside the fact that he had another three productive years left after writing Part IV of Zarathustra, the work can be taken as representing the definitive expression of Nietzsche’s philosophy.2 For Lampert, Zarathustra is a work whose underlying intention is to clarify both why the kind of teaching concerning human excellence Nietzsche extols is required and what this teaching is. The work, says Lampert, begins by offering the ‘provisional presentation of an unfinished teaching’ in which Zarathustra develops his idea of the Übermensch (the ‘overman’ or ‘superman’) and finds disciples who may serve to prepare for this (Part I). It then moves to an exposition of the teaching that will lead to the overman — a teaching which, it turns out, leads to Zarathustra abandoning his disciples (Part II). The teaching is then fulfilled in the announcement of eternal recurrence and will to power in Part III.3 Part IV of Zarathustra, Lampert persuasively argues, ‘violates the ending of Part III’, which is in fact the genuine conclusion of the text.4 Part IV, he points out, was not intended for public consumption at the time of writing.


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  1. 1.
    Laurence Lampert, Nietzsche’s Teaching: An Interpretation of Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Yale & London: Yale University Press, 1986), p. 5.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See, by way of contrast, Maudmarie Clark, Nietzsche on Truth and Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), who regards Zarathustra as ‘a work of fiction. It articulates Zarathustra’s cosmological vision, which may or may not also be Nietzsche’s (p. 210). Given Nietzsche’s own high estimation of the value of this text such a view is perhaps questionable.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    See Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, and Other Writings in Moral Philosophy, trans. Lewis White Beck (New York: Garland, 1976).Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    Graham Parkes analyses the ‘arboricultural imagery’ used here in Composing the Soul: Reaches of Nietzsche’s Psychology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), cf. p. 175.Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    I borrow the phrase from Heidegger; see ‘The Question Concerning Technology’, in Martin Heidegger: Basic Writings, ed. David Farrell Krell (London: Routledge, 1996).Google Scholar
  6. 17.
    ‘The Übermensch, according to Zarathustra, is continually experimental, willing to risk all for the sake of the enhancement of humanity.’ Bernd Magnus and Kathleen M. Higgins, ‘Nietzsche’s works and their themes’, in The Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche, eds Bernd Magnus and Kathleen M. Higgins (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 40. The question of experimentalism and enhancement is pursued further in Chapter 5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Peter R. Sedgwick 2007

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  • Peter R. Sedgwick

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