Wer ist Nietzsches Zarathustra?

Who Is Nietzsche's Zarathustra?

Heidegger delivered this lecture on 8 May 1953 in Bremen. It was published in 1954.

Who is Friedrich Nietzsche’s Zarathustra? It seems this question can easily be answered since Nietzsche wrote a book that bears the title Thus Spoke Zarathustra. In the subtitle, he states that it is a book for everyone and no one. As Heidegger sees it, everyone means every human being insofar as he becomes in himself a matter worthy of thought. No one refers to the curious readers who imbibe freely of the striking aphorisms in the book. What does the title really tell us? First of all, it gives us the clue that Zarathustra is a speaker in the sense of a spokesman. He speaks on behalf of the circle of life and suffering and the coherence of the will to power. He teaches the doctrine of the eternal recurrence of the same and the overman. Heidegger’s lecture is a meditation on these themes.

At the beginning and end of the lecture stands the emblem of Zarathustra’s animals. The eagle and the serpent are totems of Zarathustra, the thinker of the eternal recurrence, and talismans for Heidegger, who thinks the belonging together of being and human beings. The teaching of the eternal recurrence is marked by dismay for this, Nietzsche’s most abysmal thought. Heidegger interprets the overman as that human being who goes beyond prior humanity, in order to lead that humanity for the first time to its essence. While Nietzsche prepares human beings to assume the dominion of the earth, Heidegger seeks to save the earth and heed its innermost law. In his interpretation of the eternal recurrence, Heidegger shows that Nietzsche’s concept of time remains metaphysical. Eternal recurrence is an eternity of recurring nows.

The overman is the transition or a bridge between prior humanity and its future. Zarathustra calls this bridge redemption from the spirit of revenge as man’s ill will toward time and its “it was.” Nietzsche diagnoses such a revenge at the heart of all tradition. His understanding of revenge is metaphysical, since it determines man’s relation to entities. Heidegger’s next step is to ask, what may grant redemption from the revulsion against time? Nietzsche wills that transience lasts forever, which is only possible as an eternal recurrence of the same. Heidegger can now bring Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling’s definition of primal being as will into play. In traditional metaphysics primal being is eternity. Instead of leading to the overman and liberation form revenge, Zarathustra’s doctrine of the eternal recurrence stamps being upon becoming. Nietzsche only inverted the Platonic hierarchy and retained the distinction between true being and becoming. Heidegger thereby concludes that Zarathustra remains a spokesman for the completion of metaphysics.

Vorträge und Aufsätze (GA 7)