NIETZSCHE’S HUMANISM IN THUS SPOKE
INTERPRETING AND TRANSLATING THE WORD ÜBERMENSCH IN THE 20TH AND 21ST CENTURY
Stefan Lorenz Sorgner’s articles on posthumanism and transhumanism have actively brought Nietzsche’s Thus spoke Zarathustra and its notion of the “overhuman” (“Übermensch”) into a modern discussion of eugenics. In a critical reading of the text, I argue that Sorgner’s mixing of cultural and biologist arguments cannot be supported by Nietzsche’s text. Contrary to his reading, I propose a new reading which claims that Zarathustra’s teaching of the “Übermensch” is primarily a lesson in linguistic expression – he teaches a way of speaking, not of living. Sorgner’s reading thus not only relies on a biologist reading, but furthermore and in a more general sense, on an ethical reading (arguing that Zarathustra teaches us, the readers, how to live). In a second step, I discuss the relation between interpretation and translation, specifically looking at the problem of translating the term “Übermensch” and other related words, which form a semantic network in the text. Sorgner’s argument is then paralleled with Sloterdijk’s provocative reply to Heidegger’s Letter on Humanism, Regeln für den Menschenpark, where Sloterdijk extensively quotes Thus spoke Zarathustra. While both Sorgner and Sloterdijk turn to similar (biologist) arguments, this article sets out to refute their interpretations from a strictly philological and hermeneutic point of view.