Nietzsche, the Overhuman, and Transhumanism – Stefan Lorenz Sorgner

Did Nietzsche have something like Transhumanism in mind when he wrote about the Übermensch?


Abstract

Bostrom rejects Nietzsche as an ancestor of the transhumanist movement, as he claims that there were merely some “surface-level similarities with the Nietzschean vision” (Bostrom 2005a, 4). In contrast to Bostrom, I think that significant similarities between the posthuman and the overhuman can be found on a fundamental level. In addition, it seems to me that Nietzsche explained the relevance of the overhuman by referring to a dimension which seems to be lacking in transhumanism. In order to explain my position, I will progress as follows. First, I will compare the concept of the posthuman to that of Nietzsche’s overhuman, focusing more on their similarities than their differences. Second, I will contextualise the overhuman in Nietzsche’s general vision, so that I can point out which dimension seems to me to be lacking in transhumanist thought.”

Introduction

Nietz-wordsWhen I first became familiar with the transhumanist movement, I immediately thought that there were many fundamental similarities between transhumanism and Nietzsche’s philosophy, especially concerning the concept of the posthuman and that of Nietzsche’s overhuman. This is what I wish to show in this article. I am employing the term “overhuman instead of “overman,” because in German the term Übermensch can apply to both sexes, which the notion overhuman can, but overman cannot. I discovered, however, that Bostrom, a leading transhumanist, rejects Nietzsche as an ancestor of the transhumanist movement, as he claims that there are merely some “surface-level similarities with the Nietzschean vision” (Bostrom 2005a, 4).

In contrast to Bostrom, I think that significant similarities between the posthuman and the overhuman can be found on a fundamental level. Habermas agrees with me in that respect, as he has already referred to the similarities in these two ways of thinking. However, he seems to regard both of them as absurd. At least, he refers to transhumanists as a bunch of mad intellectuals who luckily have not managed to establish support for their elitist views from a bigger group of supporters (Habermas 2001, 43).1

In addition, it seems to me that Nietzsche explained the relevance of the overhuman by referring to a dimension which seems to be lacking in transhumanism. In order to explain my position, I will progress as follows. First, I will compare the concept of the posthuman to that of Nietzsche’s overhuman, focusing more on their similarities then on their differences. Second, I will contextualise the overhuman in Nietzsche’s general vision, so that I can point out which dimension seems to me to be lacking in transhumanist thought.
Nietzsche, the Overhuman, and Transhumanism – Journal of Evolution and Technology

Bio: Dr. Stefan Lorenz Sorgner is director and co-founder of the Beyond Humanism Network, Fellow at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET) and teaches philosophy at the University of Erfurt. He studied philosophy at King’s College/University of London (BA), the University of Durham (MA by thesis; examiners: David E. Cooper, Durham ; David Owen, Southampton), the University of Giessen and the University of Jena (Dr. phil.; examiners: Wolfgang Welsch, Jena; Gianni Vattimo, Turin). In recent years, he taught at the Universities of Jena (Germany), Erfurt (Germany), Klagenfurt (Austria) and Erlangen-Nürnberg (Germany). His main fields of research are Nietzsche, the philosophy of music, bioethics and meta-, post- and transhumanism.

 

sorgner

Also see David Pearce’s critique on whether Nietzsche was a transhumanist.
Various articles on transhumanism and Nietzsche at IEET.

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