Philosophy of Religion
Humanity and its Overcoming in Nietzsche
Nietzsche so identifies the genesis of morality with that of humanity that what he presents as a genealogy of morals is equally a genealogy of humanity. Nietzsche's concern is with how nineteenth century humanity became what it was and how such humanity could be overcome. In a very real sense what Nietzsche understands as the human is that which Judeo-Christianity has forged. In overcoming the human, Christianity is overcome; in overcoming the Christian, humanity is overcome. Christianity is the highest expression of humanity, because it expresses morality in its most refined form and does so - paradoxically - because it reveals the fundamental impurity of morality. But it is such impurity which makes the human what it is; any overcoming of the human would require a movement beyond such impurity, towards an innocence which is almost animal-like. But a return to animality is just as impossible as entering into the heaven Christianity promises and is rendered impossible precisely by the history Nietzsche uncovers: the overcoming of the human is an overcoming of what has become of humanity, that history of becoming cannot be undone. While Feuerbach leads us hardly a step beyond Christianity, Nietzsche attempts to reveal a world in which at once Christianity and humanity is overcome through a sublation of both. The profound ambiguity of On the Genealogy of Morals - which is not its failing, but rather its driving force - is expressed early on when in speaking of the priestly caste, which finds is ultimate expression in Judaism, he states (if only as something added "in all fairness [mit einiger Billigkeit]"): "that it is only on the ground (Boden) of this essentially dangerous form of human existence, the priestly form, that the human has at all become an interesting animal, that it is only here that the human soul has in a higher sense taken on depth and become evil - and these have certainly been the two fundamental forms of the human's superiority over animals up to now!". Only through priestly existence does the human become worthy of consideration, indeed in a real sense that the human becomes human. Despite the force of Nietzsche's rhetoric the heroes of this book are not the masters, but the slaves, not the Romans but the Jews.
Not alone that: the slave revolt could as well be named the human revolt, it is through and in this revolt that those distinctly human characteristic were formed, characteristics which bear all the marks of falleness, falleness from a prior and still present animal state. From the Birth of Tragedy to his final works one of Nietzsche's abiding concerns is the manner in which animality and nature generally comes to expression in humanity, how that expression suffers from distortion and how such distortions can be overcome. The human is interesting as an animal different from others because in the...