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Nietzsche employs detractors to act as foils to the fearless Übermensch Zarathustra. Zarathustra gives insight into the eternal recurrence to those higher men willing to listen and clearly becomes a monster to those who loathe such didactic expression.
Nietzsche makes it abundantly clear to the reader that Zarathustra's audience is not all men, as most are incapable of understanding the speeches of Zarathustra and even when capable most men are unwilling to abandon unsubstantiated beliefs.
In Ecce Homo, Nietzsche reveals his personal hang-ups with the dominant metaphysical theories governing human thought and action with a passionate zeal replicated only in Zarathustra when the protagonist delivers his discourses.
Friedrich Nietzsche outlines eternal recurrence not as a metaphysical claim for reality, but as a call to action, but through his speeches Zarathustra concludes that only he has the wherewithal to endure this grueling ethical test.
Although Zarathustra, the protagonist of the book is not a monster, he is indeed a freak of nature because he is set apart from humanity.
Zarathustra alone experiences the eternal recurrence. Nietzsche's employment of language makes it at times difficult to decipher Zarathustra's aim in engaging in discourse with man. Zarathustra makes speeches to men who will never actually experience eternal recurrence.
The protagonist speaks to others without trying to indoctrinate them into believing in the eternal recurrence; rather Zarathustra perpetually fulfills Nietzsche's test while higher men continually fail. Higher men who try to beat Zarathustra at his own game are in the end ridiculed for their foolishness.
Nietzsche's tone comes through in most of Zarathustra's disdain for those overly-ambitious men who cannot accept their own limitations. Zarathustra cannot be imitated and eternal recurrence can never be granted to anyone but Zarathustra.
Nietzsche repeatedly criticizes men who try to find some sort of meaning in existence.
Nietzsche rejects finding meaning in life because he does not believe there is any meaning to be found. Consequently, Zarathustra's self-overcoming stems from his ability to live in a cyclical universe void of meaning.
Zarathustra marvels at how men waste entirely too much time trying to make metaphysical clauses work in reality. Zarathustra thinks above man and despises superfluous metaphysical explanations.
The townsmen in Thus Spoke Zarathustra initially look to Zarathustra as a grand hero, beacon, or enlightened metaphysical sorcerer when he first appears from his resting place; however, once Zarathustra reveals his skepticism regarding metaphysical tenets, he engenders supreme rage from society.
Zarathustra's discourses defy human understanding, not necessarily because all of his words or teachings are abstract, but because human beings would rather not let go of the metaphysical ties that bind them. Man's initial treatment of Zarathustra reflects man's unwillingness to overcome itself.
As a result of their envy and hatred some men view Zarathustra as a horrible iconoclast and freak, because men cannot reach the level of mastery Zarathustra reaches.
Zarathustra has reached a level which no man, no matter how ambitious can reach. Nietzsche dismisses the puerile men whose futile attempts to become like Zarathustra lead them nowhere.
In the First Part at the end of the Fifth section, Zarathustra comes out of his cave and begins to address a group of human beings. It is apparent at the end of the speech that the human beings misinterpret the words of Zarathustra.
As an instructor, Zarathustra has expectations about the abilities of his pupils. Most of his expectations are hopeful until man starts revealing how foolish he is. Zarathustra realizes that his words will only serve to confuse man.
Men exist below Zarathustra on the hierarchy of ethics, but above beasts. Therefore, when the audience begs Zarathustra to transform them into last men, the protagonist hangs his head and becomes sad because he realizes how little man comprehends.
Being immortal and experiencing the eternal recurrence allows Zarathustra to become an Übermensch, but his qualities are unique and nontransferable. No one but Zarathustra can transform using eternal recurrence. The irony of the book, Thus Spoke Zarathustra is despite all the discourse between the protagonist and other characters, no man can ever experience eternal recurrence.
As instructor, Zarathustra exudes confidence because he is constantly rejecting falsehoods, but his confidence should not be misconstrued for dogmatism. Zarathustra has these abilities to dispel falsehoods for his sake and no one else's.
Zarathustra understands that no man can ever duplicate his traits because no man can ever be honest with himself in the ways that he can. Zarathustra has the ability to be honest because he has eternal recurrence and has engaged in perpetual self-overcoming. Man, however, tries to heed some suggestions from Zarathustra, but mankind never succeeds.
For instance, Zarathustra tells a dying man that heaven and hell do not exist. These metaphysical concepts protect human beings from feeling emptiness, but are baseless claims that only sugarcoat reality and infuse meaning to an otherwise menial existence. Zarathustra overwhelmingly rejects any sort of metaphysical meaning in his own life.
The truthfulness Zarathustra espouses causes him to become even more reviled because people want to live with the comfort of false metaphysical concepts of heaven, hell, and spiritual forces.
Nevertheless, Zarathustra does not offer belief in eternal recurrence as an alternative to the seemingly engrained metaphysical beliefs that already have an unequivocal hold on human thought and action. Instead, Zarathustra resigns himself because he realizes that man cannot engage in the sort of ethical test that he has participated in for some time.
Zarathustra laughs in his heart at how stupid man really is. For instance, in On the Teachers of Virtue, Nietzsche's insistence that life has no meaning comes through when Zarathustra speaks to his heart and arrives at the conclusion that the would-be sage who teaches virtues actually knows no virtues, only sensible nonsense.
If Nietzsche's protagonist thinks in his heart that the life is void of meaning, then certainly one cannot continue to treat Zarathustra's speeches as statements of metaphysical fact. Metaphysical claims impose meaning on reality and Zarathustra ultimately rejects the eternal recurrence as a fact for life.
Unlike some teachers of metaphysical falsehood, Zarathustra does not expect his truth to be accepted by the thousands or really even a single person. Zarathustra has outstanding qualities and could not care less about the actions of others, particularly those who share nothing in common with him.
For instance, when Zarathustra speaks On Self-Overcoming he refers to his life truth. It is important to note that in the midst of his speech, he never once contends that the unwashed masses will suffer similar fates in their lives or should apply these guidelines to their unique circumstances.
Through Zarathustra's overuse of the three words "self, my, and I" he avoids concern for humanity. Instead, Zarathustra suggests that life confided this "secret" of eternal recurrence to him and him alone. It is clear that this secret Zarathustra alludes to comprises Nietzsche's ethical challenge.
And it is also clear to the reader that this one secret can only be heard by Zarathustra and not all mankind as some might suggest. Therefore, one must reject the premise that Nietzsche intends the ethical test of eternal recurrence as a metaphysical explanation for present reality.
Eventually, in Zarathustra's speech, the protagonist asks his audience to guess this secret and of course no one can; eternal recurrence is not only abstruse, but also exclusively meant as an ethical challenge for Zarathustra.
If Zarathustra anticipates that his lessons will actually be replicated, then he would be in conflict with Nietzsche's own perspectives regarding eternal recurrence. However Zarathustra asks his audience how could what is in existence still want existence?
This rhetorical question further demonstrates that Nietzsche does not want the eternal recurrence to be misinterpreted as an applicable metaphysical theory for all of humanity. Zarathustra has the ability to live on forever. Zarathustra exists indefinitely and needs not will more existence.
Mankind, however, has a time stamp on his days and wants the will to eternal recurrence to exist, but such a willing accomplishes nothing. The rigor of Nietzsche's ethical test proves too intractable for everyone, except Zarathustra.
Moreover, Zarathustra thinks that self-mastery defines eternal recurrence. The process of self-overcoming relies heavily on the self and human beings are incapable of focusing exclusively on themselves, unlike Zarathustra who finds the process simple. Zarathustra and mankind can never understand each other.
Nietzsche himself could not completely remove all ties to humanity because he possesses a clear understanding as a philosopher of how his fellow men allow objective truths to govern their desires, behaviors, and actions. Therefore, he may employ confusing jargon that makes it seem as though he were wholeheartedly in support of eternal recurrence being interpreted as fact rather than a compelling call to action, but a close inspection of Nietzsche's argument proves that eternal recurrence is not presented as a metaphysical fact.
Unlike many gurus and religious leaders, Zarathustra does not reiterate that he is the only way or the truth and the light. For Zarathustra is more egalitarian than his predecessors. Time and again people ask Zarathustra where his way is in a clear attempt to follow his path. Zarathustra cannot understand why mankind wants to make him out to be a spiritual leader or savior. Zarathustra's confusion explicates further that an objective way does not exist.
Furthermore, Nietzsche persistently counteracts any notion of eternal recurrence being a metaphysical claim based not only on his perspective, but also in other specific instances throughout Thus Spoke Zarathustra. For instance, when Zarathustra engages in soliloquies after saying goodbye to his multitude of disciples he utters the philosophy of a man above the trappings of human ignorance.
Zarathustra expresses perhaps his most intense euphoria around the time that he must depart from his human followers. Subsequently, the main character expresses incredible contentment because he understands the complexity of recurrence and how this recurrence manifests itself within him.
Recognizing his reality, Zarathustra awakes the next day, after exchanging goodbyes with his human acquaintances. Zarathustra realizes that these are not his proper companions. Mankind has no reason to even attempt to reach the level of ethics that Zarathustra has. He rejects his former disciples repeatedly and barely even remembers them the next day.
The rejection from Zarathustra stems not from the inability of mankind to fulfill eternal recurrence but rather mankind's useless emotions like pity and other feelings. Nietzsche and Zarathustra reject hypocrisy in their joint condemnation of hypocrisy. The way both Zarathustra and Nietzsche avoid hypocrisy lies in their mutual ability to not find universality, objective truth, or meaning in life.
Meanwhile, Zarathustra rests easily because he accomplishes his goal of coaxing many "higher men" into their final sin. These higher men who follow Zarathustra once held resolute beliefs about the reality of life. Yet, all these higher men are easily swayed—once the prospect of another truth comes around—and ultimately abandon their normal lives in order to absorb the words of a soothsayer around as if his truth ever made an impact on their meaningless existence.
The experiences that Zarathustra has in such a limited timeframe further delineate the gullibility of humanity for metaphysical falsehoods. Furthermore, Zarathustra on occasion demeans these so-called higher men without them ever realizing it. He respects certain things, like the lion who meets but not the majority of people because he realizes that human beings are susceptible to nonsense.
The issue of pity arises periodically in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Pity is the most dehumanizing of all human emotions as it does nothing for the lame but paralyzes them. Nietzsche hates pity with a passion and so does his main character, Zarathustra. For instance, Zarathustra exposes pity as a useless distraction from the ethical test of eternal recurrence.
Zarathustra has no pity because he only cares about his well-being and rightfully so as there is no justification for pity in Zarathustra's recurring existence. Zarathustra is not pathetic because he has a great deal of agency and defies the constraints of positive, negative, good, or evil. Zarathustra engages in soliloquies and has full conversations in his heart because he is overman.
The sole proprietor of eternal recurrence, Zarathustra lacks space for the suffering of others because the suffering of others does not relate to I, me, myself, and those are the only things that matter in eternal recurrence. In eternal recurrence, Zarathustra lives amongst himself and the recurrence can only take place with his presence; therefore, what use is pity?
Feeling pity for another human being imposes a sort of truth on the pathetic person, it implies that the person's life could, should, or would have been different had a set of circumstances unfolded. Presumptuous objective truth underlies pity and this also underscores nearly all metaphysical theories. Zarathustra makes it plain from the beginning that his brain has not a storage space for unsubstantiated theories about life.
As a result, Zarathustra rejects pity with the same fervor that he rejects hypocrites and metaphysical explanations regarding the nature of existence. Consequently, mankind can never pass an ethical test because mankind is not able to separate pity from their vast repertoire of emotion.
Zarathustra at first reacts harshly to the ugliest man and if the book ended one would assume that based on Zarathustra's visceral reaction that any interaction between the two would result in Zarathustra feeling pity for the poor fellow; however, Zarathustra never pities the ugliest man because the ugliest man has agency, he alone overcomes his suffering in the act of killing God.
The ugliest man understands how pity can induce further suffering as it actually condescends rather than empowers. That is why, when Zarathustra fastidiously rejects pity, he distinguishes himself from his human subordinates.
In closing, the concept of cyclical recurrence found in Thus Spoke Zarathustra intentionally applies to a single Übermensch and no one else. Nietzsche finds the idea of a metaphysical notion of how the universe came to be troubling, if not completely absurd.
Therefore, he would not engage in a reevaluation of his own perspective. Nietzsche intends the manifestation of that eternal recurrence to exist in fictional singularity. Eternal recurrence like most of Nietzsche's ethical calls to action does not apply to the entirety of humanity.
Nietzsche's fictional Übermensch stands alone in his ability to experience eternal recurrence and to ultimately overcome his own self. Ecce Homo provides insight into Nietzsche's own development, works, and his thoughts.
In the autobiography, Nietzsche rejects any and all metaphysical claims that are not grounded in substance and as a remarkable thinker Nietzsche relies on evidence. His philosophical perspective thus remains untainted.
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