Üleinimese võimalikkusest digiteeritud elu kontekstis / The possibility of overman in the context of digitalised life

  • Leo Luks Eesti Maaülikool / Estonian University of Life Sciences
Keywords: digikeskkonnad, Nietzsche, üleinimene, nihilism, digital environments, overman


Artikkel analüüsib meie digitaalsusest küllastunud elu Friedrich Nietzsche filosoofia perspektiivist, lähtudes küsimusest, kas digikeskkondades töös olevad suundumused senise inimliku iseduse fragmenteerimiseks võivad olla sillaks üleinimese suunas liikumisel. Esimeses osas visandatakse Zygmunt Baumani ja Rein Raua dialoogi põhjal peamised digikeskkondade laialdase levikuga kaasnevad isedust kujundavad aspektid, mis on autorite meelest ohtudeksväljakutseteks senisele inimsusele. Teises osas esitatakse tõlgendus üleinimese tähendusest ja mõiste seostumisest teiste peamiste ideedega Nietzsche filosoofias. Arutluse tulemusena asutakse kaitsma üleinimese hoiakulist tõlgendust. Viimases osas hinnatakse kõiki eelnevalt piiritletud digikeskkondade levikuga seotud aspekte ning jõutakse järeldusele, et kuigi need süvendavad üldjoontes juba Nietzsche ajal ilmnenud massiühiskonna tendentse, ei determineeri tehnoloogia üheselt iseduse moodustamise mehhanisme ega välista üleinimese suunas liikumist.


The article analyses our digitally saturated life from the viewpoint of Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy, starting off with the question whether the trends, which are at present actively fragmenting human selfhood in digital environments, could act as bridges for the movement towards overman.

The first part of the article sketches, based on the dialogue between Zygmunt Bauman and Rein Raud, the main selfhood-shaping aspects which accompany the spread of digital environments and which could, according to the authors, challenge or threaten the humanity. The authors point out seven main problems: the fragmenting of selfhood in online environments; impossibility of developing or expressing originality; excessive convenience, especially in human relations and communication; wide-spread dependence on the content offered by digital environments; damage to mental capacity; too little physical activity, and the polarisation of viewpoints due to the sound box of virtual communication. Many of the listed problems are still older than the accelerated spreading of computer networks, but they have become more pressing due this process.

The second part of the article offers an interpretation of Nietzsche’s concept of overman. The use of the concept of overman is not strictly specified in Nietzsche’s work, it is often presented in the form of hints and metaphors. In order to reach the interpretation, the concept under discussion has to be put into relation to several other unclear concepts, which makes the developing of the interpretation the most complicated and substantial task in the article. To establish the first starting point, the article argues that Nietzsche was not a humanist, that the overcoming of man is a clear intention in his thinking, expressed also by the concept of overman. For Nietzsche, the future of man was not decided by biological or technical aspects but, rather, by cultural-psychological aspects. Nietzsche believed that a whole set of preconditions and beliefs, which are essential for being a human and which he called higher values, were disintegrating during his lifetime. Thus, overcoming man was not only his normative objective, but also an inevitable process which had already started in the conditions of the well-established cultural contingency.  

Next, the article specifies the aspiration to overcome man, listing the main attitudes and characteristics of the modern man which should, by Nietzsche, be overcome. These include: life-denying and weakness-cultivating monotheistic religion and the morals it supports; all kinds of beliefs in the primacy of the soul (and its immortality) and the marginalisation of the body; herd instincts and the moulding of humans into an identical mass, including the cult of equality and democratism; any kind of belief in progress, including belief in scientific progress as a hidden form of teleological explanation of the world; techniques of self-creation which cultivate the persistent identity and stability of a person and discourage experimentation; hedonism, and the avoiding of suffering and making it pointless. These attitudes are deeply rooted in in the modern Western people, but according to Nietzsche’s view, they are unavoidably disappearing in the nihilistic processes of the era. Nietzsche outlines five possible strategies for coping: conservatism, the attempt to preserve the existing absolute-based values; passive nihilism, fading and declining, and Doomsday predictions; active nihilism, the destruction of everything and the enjoyment of this process; retreating into hedonism and refusing to think about great matters – in Nietzsche’s terminology – the last man; striving to live towards overman, or the total and extreme nihilism.   

The article proceeds to analyse the reasons why Nietzsche believes that man should overcome these characteristics also in the normative meaning. The question why Nietzsche despises hedonism and man’s search for a stable form of existence acquires a central position here. In order to find answers, it is necessary to move from Nietzsche’s anthropology to his metaphysics and to introduce the concept of the will to power. The article avoids robustly vitalistic interpretations of Nietzsche’s philosophy and interprets, using the model of the hermeneutic circle, the will to power and perspectivism and their interactive aspects. The article states that for Nietzsche, the world, which is understood as the will to power, does not submit to inevitability or laws but is indeterminable, and man is indeterminable as well. Nietzsche denies the self-sufficiency of selfhood as a Cartesian subject, as well as the freedom of will, which does not mean the acknowledgment of determinism in the light of mechanism, but means the affirmation of indeterminism.

For Nietzsche, human selfhood has two opposing characteristics – self-preservation and self-overcoming. He believes that the soul is formed by the plurality of urges and affects, and self-preservation or self-control manifests in the ability to mould this plurality into a hierarchical unity and to preserve this unity. However, a person with open senses, a “free soul”, can be overwhelmed by the abundance of life and the multitude of competing urges and affects. The experimental existence, suggested by Nietzsche, means that a person does not retreat into a stable pattern of self-preservation, but moves further, does not avoid suffering and in the dusky regions of self-creation, risks the disintegration of selfhood in the sea of affects.

Following these lines of interpretation, the article reaches a clear interpretation of the concept of overman, stating that overman is not, and cannot be, a (future) being, expressed by describing a set of certain characteristics, but it is an attitude – a risky experimental break from the mechanisms of identity preservation – openness to unknown.

The third part of the article examines, based on the above results, all the seven digitalisation-related problems, listed in the first part, and evaluates their status from the viewpoint of living towards overman. Results of the evaluation are divided into unambiguously good – for the phenomena that develop the overhuman potentiality, unambiguously bad – for the phenomena that favour the retreat into the existing selfhood, and relatively good – for the phenomena that break down the existing humanity and accelerate the processes of nihilism. According to the author, fragmentation of selfhood is unambiguously good from the overhuman point of view; excessive convenience and impossibility of originality are unambiguously bad. Polarisation is a relatively good phenomenon. The rest of the problems – damage to mental capacity, too little physical activity and the spread of dependencies – cannot be unambiguously evaluate and the article points out both their good and bad aspects.  

The article concludes with the statement that some of the trends, which are at present actively fragmenting the existing human selfhood in digital environments, could act as bridges for the movement towards overman (in the meaning of attitude, of living towards overman, given to this concept in the article).


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Author Biography

Leo Luks, Eesti Maaülikool / Estonian University of Life Sciences

Leo Luks – PhD, filosoof ja kirjanik, Eesti Maaülikooli Majandus- ja sotsiaalinstituudi

dotsent. Peamised uurimisvaldkonnad: nihilism, kirjandusfilosoofia, Nietzsche

filosoofia, fenomenoloogia.


Leo Luks – PhD, philosopher and writer. Associate Professor of Estonian University of Life Sciences, Institute of Economcs and Social Sciences. Main areas of research: nihilism, philosophy of literature, Nietzsche’s philosophy, phenomenology.