Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Thus Spoke Zarathustra Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Discuss the similarities and differences between Zarathustra and other religious prophets like Jesus or Moses.

    Possible Answer:

    Zarathustra can be firmly placed in the line of literary prophets like Jesus and Moses, though his teachings reflect a view of the modern world that the teachings of previous sages of religion do not. Like such religious figures as Jesus, Zarathustra teaches his disciples through parable and riddle. His followers often do not understand what they are hearing, and in fact, like Jesus, his disciples do not fully appreciate their teacher until he is gone.

    While other religious prophets announce a vision of God for the people, Zarathustra has come to announce a vision of humanity that the people should embrace. Zarathustra's teaching is not based on religion but on a secular vision of a humanity that embraces nature and the world around it.

  2. 2

    Discuss the overman. Is Zarathustra an overman?

    Possible Answer:

    The "overman," sometimes translated as the "superman," is not a person with some kind of physical super powers, but is instead an individual who has evolved beyond the baseness of humanity and its institutions. Humanity is tied to fear by institutions such as the church and the state. Institutions such as these set forth binary categories such as right and wrong or good and evil. Having one's actions fall into the "wrong" category can mean punishment or even eternal damnation. The overman rejects such categories. Nothing he does can be considered "wrong," nor can it be considered "right" by the people of society. These categories do not mean anything to the overman because he has transcended them and found happiness.

    Zarathustra is an overman, but throughout the book, the reader sees that the state of the overman is not a static, unchanging position. Zarathustra evolves as an overman just as he teaches his disciples to evolve into the overman. By the end of the book, Zarathustra has reached a kind of ultimate state in which he has conquered his fear of time and has achieved a state of divinity, yet just as he is always learning new truths from those around him, the reader is led to believe that he will continue to evolve as the overman.

  3. 3

    In Part III, Zarathustra doubts that he has attained the true state of the overman. What causes this doubt to rise within him?

    Possible Answer:

    In Part III, Zarathustra's discovery of his incomplete state of being is brought about by his realization that he pities humanity. Pity is a state that keeps humanity too low to the earth to be able to rise above the old teachings. The old institutions of the world such as the churches and the state want people to pity each other so that they can be controlled by more powerful individuals. But, according to Zarathustra, pity is what holds men down. Therefore, when he realizes that he himself has pity, he knows that he cannot free himself to ascend beyond pity and beyond humanity into a state of happiness and bliss. Thus, the love of humanity that caused Zarathustra to want to leave his mountain home is keeping him from realizing his own teaching. It is only when he leaves humanity and ventures into despair and solitude that he finds the courage to break the reliance on his pity.

  4. 4

    Discuss the symbolism of human sexuality in Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

    Possible Answer:

    The symbol of human sexuality represents a person's ultimate pleasure combining nature and the self. Human pleasure is something to be controlled in the eyes of the church and the state. But Zarathustra, though he advocates his own chastity, knows that human sexuality can symbolize the pleasure and happiness that one feels when he ascends to the greatest state of bliss in communion with the earth. Therefore, pleasure is like bait to tempt people to listen to his teaching of the overman.

  5. 5

    Discuss Zarathustra's teaching on the nature of time. Why is the eternal return so important?

    Possible Answer:

    Time is the ultimate hurdle for humanity to overcome in its pursuit of the overman. Zarathustra teaches that humanity must embrace the notion that time is eternal. What has been will be again, even the moment that is occurring right now. This is the notion of the eternal return, and humanity must make peace with this notion. The moment of life in the present is not something to be grasped for, just as death is not to be feared. These moments will happen again. Through this knowledge, humanity can attain eternity without believing in some superstitious notion of heaven and hell. Believing in the eternal return is necessary for humanity to break the spirit of gravity that holds it to the old teachings of the church. This ultimate notion is the notion that can free the individual from the bonds of the old teachings.

  6. 6

    Discuss how one achieves the will to power.

    Possible Answer:

    The will to power is not - contrary to some interpreters - a will to dominate another being. Instead, the will to power is a state of consciousness that one achieves in relation to one's self and in relation to the rest of the world. According to Zarathustra, the eternal return and the will to power must be seen in relation to each other. The will to power is a will to see time as eternal. It is also important to understand how the self is positioned within that eternal time. This allows a person to find harmony with the earth and with the self, achieving the state of the overman. Humanity is uniquely positioned to find this will to power, for while other objects have a will, they do not have a will to power. Zarathustra sees humanity as only having a lesser will: a will to life. This will is simply a means to staying alive. The way to evolve into the overman is not simply to stay alive but to find the will to power to attain a higher state of being.

  7. 7

    Is Nietzsche's philosophy nihilistic? Why or why not?

    Possible Answer:

    Though many interpret Nietzsche's philosophy in Thus Spoke Zarathustra to by nihilistic (a belief in nothing), Zarathustra himself warns against such an interpretation. Though he announces that God is dead, Zarathustra is not attempting to replace God or even to deny that such a divinity exists. Instead, Zarathustra seeks to fill the void left by the death of God with the promise of the overman. The overman is not simply a replacement for God. Humanity has been striving for the state of overman for years even if it is unaware of this. One can see a kind of evolutionary ethic in Nietzsche's thought. However, this should not be taken as proof of nihilism. Instead, Zarathustra tells his disciples to work towards the state of bliss that comes when one is happy with oneself. While this is not simply a "replacement religion," neither is it a belief in nothing.

  8. 8

    What is the spirit of gravity? Why is it Zarathustra's greatest enemy?

    Possible Answer:

    The spirit of gravity is the weight of time that binds man to the old teachings. Humanity cannot see that time is eternal and its place in time is eternal because of this weight. The weight itself is represented by a dwarf that sits on Zarathustra's shoulders, tempting him with a riddle about the nature of time. Zarathustra knows he must overcome this view of time if he is to achieve the eternal return. The overman knows that all things that have happened will happen again. Only then can one become comfortable with the self and unafraid of death. Defeating the spirit of gravity is necessary if one wants to comprehend the eternal return.

  9. 9

    The higher men of part four only find happiness after they mock Christian traditions in the "Ass Festival." Why is this mockery necessary?

    Possible Answer:

    Though Zarathustra teaches humanity to reject the teachings of Christianity and accept the fact that God is dead, he is taught a valuable lesson by the men who mock Christianity in his cave. Their "Ass Festival," in which they anoint a donkey as a new divine being, is a way for these men to substitute something amusing for their belief in God. Zarathustra learns through this ceremony that the death of a deity is a slow process that takes many forms. Those who are not ready to completely abandon the old teachings - those who still need to believe in something - can come to a greater understanding of themselves and the teachings of Zarathustra by altering the old teachings into something that can be mocked. While these higher men may not be the promised children for which Zarathustra has been searching, they are able to find their own happiness and comfort with life through their mockery.

  10. 10

    Is Nietzsche's philosophy relevant today? Why or why not?

    Possible Answer:

    Though theories of secularization have long heralded Nietzsche's work, the proliferation of spirituality and religion in the 21st century casts doubt on Nietzsche's announcement that God is dead. It is certain that the religious crisis that Nietzsche saw in communities of Europe was timely. Such bold statements about the death of God have not come to fruition in other parts of the world. This leads one to think about the unique religious dimensions of Europe in the 19th century and the proliferation of secular philosophy during this time.

    However, Nietzsche's ideas of the overman still ring true in modern times. Postmodern philosophy has used Nietzsche's work as a jumping off point for theories of deconstruction and the nature of textual criticism.

    Whether one agrees with Nietzsche's death of God announcement, it is a fact that modern institutions of government and church will always have to deal with the sharp criticisms that Nietzsche leveled against them in Thus Spoke Zarathustra.