Was Friedrich Nietzsche a Transhumanist? A critique by David Pearce

Bioconservatives often quote a line from Nietzsche: “That which does not crush me makes me stronger.” But alas pain often does crush people: physically, emotionally, morally. Chronic, uncontrolled pain tends to make the victim tired, depressed and weaker. True, some people are relatively resistant to physical distress. For example, high testosterone function may make someone “tougher”, more “manly”, more resilient, and more able to deal with physically painful stimuli. But such strength doesn’t necessarily make the subject more empathetic or a better person. Indeed, if I may quote W. Somerset Maugham, “It is not true that suffering ennobles the character; happiness does that sometimes, but suffering, for the most part, makes men petty and vindictive.”

To those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities – I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished: I have no pity for them, because I wish them the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not – that one endures.Friedrich Nietzsche - The Will to Power, p 481
You want, if possible – and there is no more insane “if possible” – to abolish suffering. And we? It really seems that we would rather have it higher and worse than ever. Well-being as you understand it – that is no goal, that seems to us an end, a state that soon makes man ridiculous and contemptible – that makes his destruction desirable. The discipline of suffering, of great suffering – do you not know that only this discipline has created all enhancements of man so far?Friedrich Nietzsche - Beyond Good and Evil, p 225
“I do not point to the evil and pain of existence with the finger of reproach, but rather entertain the hope that life may one day become more evil and more full of suffering than it has ever been.Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

Of course, suffering doesn’t always enfeeble and embitter. By analogy, someone who is emotionally depressed may feel that despair is the only appropriate response to the horrors of the world. But the solution to the horrors of the world is not for us all to become depressed. Rather it’s to tackle the biology of depression. Likewise, the solution to the horrors of physical pain is not to flagellate ourselves in sympathy with the afflicted. Instead it’s to tackle the biological roots of suffering.

See also the article at IEET

i09 article on eliminating suffering

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Altered States of Consciousness through Technological Intervention

A mini-documentary on possible modes of being in the future – Ben Goertzel talks about the Singularity and exploring Altered States of Consciousness, Stelarc discusses Navigating Mixed Realities, Kent Kemmish muses on the paradox of strange futures, and Max More compares Transhumanism to Humanism


Starring: Ben Goertzel, Stelarc, Kent Kemmish, Max More
Edited: Adam Ford

Topics : Singularity, Trasnshumanism, and States of Consciousness
Thanks to NASA for some of the b-roll



Ben Goertzel

It’s better perhaps to think of the singularity in terms of human experience. Right now due to the way our brains are built we have a few states of consciousness that follow us around every day.

There’s the ordinary waking state of consciousness, there’s various kinds of sleep, there’s a flow state of consciousness that we get into when we’re really into the work, we’re doing or playing music and we’re really into it. There are various enlightened states you can get into by meditating a really long time. The spectrum of states of consciousness that human beings can enter into is a tiny little fragment of all the possible ways of experience. When the singularity comes it’s going to bring us a wild variety of states of consciousness, a wild variety of ways of thinking and feeling and experiencing the world.

Well I think we’re expected to increasingly perform in mixed realities, so sometimes we’re biological bodies, sometimes we’re machiningly augmented and accelerated, and other times we have to manage data streams in virtual systems. So we have to seamlessly slide between these three modes of operation, and engineering new interfaces, more intimate interfaces so we can do this more seamlessly is an important strategy.

Kent Kemmish
Plenty of scientists would say that it’s crazy and there’s no way, I guess we could have that debate. But they might agree with me that if it is crazy, it’s crazy because of how the world works socially and not because of how difficult it is intrinsically. It’s not crazy for scientific reasons; it’s crazy because the world is crazy.

Max More
I think that people when they look at the future, if they do accept this idea that there’s going to be drastic changes and great advances, they will necessarily try to fit that very complex, impossible to really understand future, into very familiar mental models because they want to put things in boxes, they want to feel like they have some sort of grip on that. So I won’t be surprised to see Christian transhumanists and Mormon transhumanists and even Buddhist transhumanists and every other group will have some kind of set of ideas, they will gradually accept them, but they will make their future world fit with their pre-existing views as to how it will be.

And I think that the essence of transhumanism is not religious, it’s really based on humanism, it’s an extension of humanism, hence transhumanism. It’s really based on ideas of reason and progress and enlightenment and a kind of a secularism. But that doesn’t mean it’s incompatible with trying to make certain of the transhumanist ideas of self-improvement, of enhancement. I think those are potentially compatible with at least non fundamentalist forms of religion.

– Many thanks to Tom Richards for the transcription