Thoughts On a Certain 'Human Type'

How many ‘higher human types’ have been cultivated by thinkers in order to illustrate their ideas? There seems to be no real beginning to this phenomenon and the modern examples are far too numerous: Ubermensch, Over-soul, Genius, the Absolute Individual, the Hero, the Ironist, the Knight of Faith, the Egoist…

What likens them all is their relationship to the future of one thought-system or another which has not had a chance to reach its final conclusions. It is an especially ingenious position in those cases where the thinker’s ‘higher human type’ cannot possibly exist in the world yet, thus freeing us from the lofty position of judging the thinker’s life for signs of his failing initiation into this said type.

I would not too quickly dismiss these phantoms of the future on the grounds that they are romantic or because they fulfill some great psychological and aesthetic needs (all too often, impoverished intellectual masochists perform precisely this inversion). I would even venture to say that these types can be terrific ways of symbolizing the accretive values of a thinker in a direct, passionate way without hypostasizing mere psychological needs into entire metaphysical systems as it is with most empiricists.

People who have given great, objective consideration to these categories of a ‘higher human type’ will probably come to conclusions similar to that which I just illustrated above. However, the provocative imagery associated with these figures and the intensity of the prose in which they find their home may find casual readers stuck in the realm of elitism and fetishism. Since the potential for error is so great, it might be worth asking in constantly renewed ways: just what do these ‘higher human types’ represent? Why must someone who does not quite exist embody these representations? Is there a locatable common characteristic in most of these modern types which will help us think of them in ways that are actually relevant to our lives today?

 

Whether one finds it hard to disentangle the Ubermensch from the Nazi’s image of the master race, or to disentangle God from the land-hungry Yahweh, there comes a time when the values which these names represent must be dealt with. Some thoughts must be thought through in order that they do not think us through. In the past, it has been easy enough for some to dismiss subjects altogether. A scientist gets around the inception of the universe by saying that the universe doesn’t actually exist. A thinker gets around Kant’s categorical imperative through a great frenzy of subjectivism that claims all perception is an illusion anyway. We live in an age when the idea of truth itself has disabled most people thinking in casual modes from being able to make a decision.

 

The weak features of the ‘higher human type’ are often as follows—A tendency to presuppose the merits of this type in his description. Certain values are simply held to ‘belong’ to a higher type without any moral laboratory of their testing save history, at best. They have a tendency to become a projection of the reader’s whims as well, over time embodying principals that belong, less to the writer’s intentions, and more to a university department or a political party’s vision. Artists are the quickest to assimilate the features of the ‘higher type’ which they’ve only read about, without thinking through to the final conclusions of this ideal. It emulates the worst of that which belongs to religion: frenzy, fetishism of messiah figures, love of power in itself with no project in mind.

The strong features of the ‘higher human type’—At the very least, the return of empowering historical images, thus leading toward ‘life-affirming,’ anti-nihilistic attitudes to assimilate. The ability to re-interpret historical situations in terms of future goals. A means of striving for transcendence by creating temporal goals.

 

Otto Weininger’s case is a well covered subject. Much has been said about his problematic views on women. This does not, however, rob value from his views of the ‘genius.’ His ‘genius’ is distinguished from that which would, in the cases of other thinkers, belong to a ‘higher human type.’ Where others have seen it fit to place the likes of Napoleon and Alexander among the ‘higher human type,’ Weininger argues that most politicians may be great leaders, but that they do not qualify as men of genius. A genius is someone incapable of untruth. A great politician and a great genius may very well possess the same ability to ascertain great patterns in the universe and be good at many things, but the great politician is great on account of his ability to lie much and lie well. Nietzsche’s Ubermensch is a terrific over-simplification of a higher human type, for all who possess great will and self-composure to carry out that will belong to it. Julia’s Evola’s ‘Absolute Individual’ only allows room for something like the Ubermensch with a transcendent shift of polarities within the individual. The Ubermensch and Emerson’s Over-soul, on the other hand, are not traits which one is either born with or without, as is the case of Weininger’s ‘genius.’ They are something that one can strive for within oneself, even if that striving results in great failure. This could bring us back to one of Weininger’s great flaws—his using his ‘genius’ merely to make a case for his categorical theories of the sexes, rather than differentiating a type that might be in any way achieved, but such was not the aim of his philosophy. Yet, in representing the type of the ‘genius,’ he said something interesting about the nature of genius which had, too often in the past, been dismissed with flowery speech and poetic flights of fancy, and that was this: the genius being someone who both possessed the best memory and used it to its highest function.

 

While Julius Evola concluded that something like the Ubermensch could only be possible after an inner shifting of polarities in a person already possessing its potential qualities, Gianni Vattimo reformulated the Ubermensch as being an ‘autonomous interpreter.’ This served his Heideggerian, anti-metaphysical tendency towards hermeneutics. Its anti-metaphysicality, however, does not make it entirely opposite of Julius Evola’s deliberately metaphysically grounded view. They are merely different versions of a similar end. But with this said, the two versions of the same idea announce themselves in different ways. While Evola’s ‘Absolute Individual’ must awaken tendencies that already exist inside of him, Vattimo’s ‘autonomous interpreter’ can only exist in a society of autonomous interpretation, thus making it not so special. Gianni Vattimo then abolishes the ‘higher human type’ altogether as an ideal embodied in the age of modernity. Evola, on the other hand, cannot afford this luxury, since he distrusts modernity. His ‘Absolute Individual’ is not subsumed into the society around him though he does exist within it. Evola is one of the few who have anything to say about a ‘higher human type’ who invites those who feel some affinity with his version to consider that path in strictly personal terms.

 

The ‘higher human type,’ though it is not often admitted, appeals to those who are currently disconcerted by or who have overcome their disconcertion over the trials that come with their own sense of uncompromising individuality (whether real or imagined). It is the shadowy quarter of aesthetic thought which appeals to artists and those who crave powerful sensations.

 

These ‘higher types’ have often been popular among fascistic, national socialist groups who subscribe to hierarchal views of race. This is not to say that the writings in which one finds these ‘higher types’ were written without race in mind, necessarily. In the case of Nietzsche, Weininger and Evola, race is deliberately discussed in terms of these higher types, though in the case of the last two especially, race is determined more by culturally contingent features rather than genetic (or at least, the genetics are a contingent feature perpetuated with the culture determining their breeding). Many have thrown out these ‘higher types’ on the grounds that they are racially elitist when in fact many of the writers intended to write about them in a way that transcends race, though the subject of race is often so knotty and nuanced where they do occur in these writings that the most ignorant racists and anti-racists fall into the trap of accepting them and appropriating them into some racial, political message in the case of the first group, or throwing it all out together in the case of the second group. While it is important not to ignore the race factor entirely, focusing solely on it misses the point.

 

What does it mean to us when Evola tells us, at once, that the word ‘race’ denotes something entirely spiritual rather than genetic, when he then goes on to describe features of a ‘type’ that can only be born or ‘bred into’ someone? It says only that he would like to have it both ways: he would like to, on the one hand, exclude paupers and inferiors from belonging to his elite club and on the other, he would like for someone to recognize those features within himself, thus recognize the signature by which he knows that he belongs to this special club, but without the violent accountability of science to perform some genetic test. This is precisely the kind of problem that caused Nietzsche to speak of the Ubermensch in strictly futuristic terms. Not only did it add a prophetic flavor to his re-introduction of the eternal return into western philosophy, but it prevented anyone from thinking they had arrived as the Ubermensch. One could not ask oneself if he qualified as such, but only wait for the arrival of this figure. Of course, fascistic groups who fed off of high romantic imagery and methods of thinking requiring acts of violent correspondence, an Ubermensch could be muscle-armed into the present, just as many other political goals were.

 

Many poets have kept their politics and their art separate for want of a way to synthesize the two. It takes someone willing to assume responsibility for his message being misinterpreted only to be re-appropriated later who is capable of synthesizing the two. We have largely trained thinkers to steer away from those thoughts which perform this synthesis. By ‘we’ I mean, the academy, the popular culture, the mediums that benefit from certain messages with porous communicative characters. But can we call people who are readily steered away from such inclinations ‘thinkers?’ Perhaps there is room for this ‘higher human type’ to emerge through new guises which do not require self-deception and which cannot be claimed by those who wish only to inaugurate the most radical of ideas of others unto themselves for the sake of political frenzy.