Jaspers’ Nietzsche: An introduction to the understanding of his philosophical activity is divided into three books; Life, Thought and Way of Thinking. Nietzsche’s life is characterized by loneliness ("Gnashing I beat against the shore of your shallowness, gnashing as a wild wave as it bites, with repugnance, into the sand.") and illness ("On the whole, I may consider myself as one who has recuperated or is, at least, recuperating."). Nietzsche’s thoughts can’t be so easily put down.

Jasper’s begins with Nietzsche’s thoughts of Man. In bullets:

  • Man has created himself
  • Nietzsche is not satisfied
  • Nietzsche proposes continued creation, continued higher creation of the Superman

Jasper writes,(remember this is 1936 Germany) "But Nietzsche is never able to say how such a thing could actually come about. He develops the idea of a self-sacrificing, out-going, and all-conquering attitude. But his infinitely general idea that all genuine human activity should have an upward propelling effect is inadvertently transformed into the biological conception of a method of breeding and cultivation from which we could expect that a new being would arise at the boundary between the existing species of man and a higher one."

Why Jasper would write this brick of a book on Nietzsche in hopes of wresting him from the Nazis, and then so poorly represent his thought? Nietzsche left some good clues to "how such a thing could actually come about." Jasper doesn’t find any of them. Why bother discrediting the Nazi appropriation of Nietzsche if Nietzsche is not worth anything? 

The Nazis got hold of the superman idea and started a breeding program. And then Ayn Rand took the superman idea and singularized it, humanized it and capitalized it into a captain of industry. It’s not worth the effort to go into detail about how these takes are not Nietzschean. They are not Nietzschean.

Where the effort should be made is presenting the gift giving virtue of those preparing for the superman. A giving collective of friends working toward the unattainable. In this sense, Nietzsche was utopian. There is such noble sentiment in the Nietzschean philosophy we cynics find it difficult to take seriously. This in itself is one of Nietzsche’s challenges for us.



Jaspers, Karl. (1936/1965) Nietzsche: An introduction to the understanding of his philosophical activity. Trans. Charles F. Wallraff and Fredrick J. Schmitz. Johns Hopkins University Press. Baltimore, Maryland. 


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