Sunday, November 15, 2009

To be a courier the way a king would be a courier?

Last week when we were talking about the kings and couriers scenario, we briefly discussed whether couriers could be couriers the way that kings could be couriers. I think that the couriers are collectively the kings, but can't (as couriers) individually assign themselves the role of a king, just like Heidegger's das Man is both everyone and no one. To be a king, similar to an übermensch, one must take on all the possibilities of the world, creating their own values, outside of the average everydayness. The way I see it, everyone chooses to be a courier because of wanting to dispel some of the anxiety of acknowledging the whole host of possibilities that we have. If we could cope with and live with the complete awareness of these possibilities, then it would be possible to have kings. I do not think that anyone can be a courier the way a king would be a courier, because that would be a person who had complete awareness of their possibilities, but still chose to participate in the self-limiting of these possibilities. The two sides seem contradictory to me, but I'd be interested in what the rest of you think.

Someone mentioned in class that being the king of the couriers is just climbing your way to the top of the herd, which I agree with. To be a courier in the way a king would be a courier as much as possible (as I said above, I do not think that this is completely possible), you might be the most übermench herd-member out there, but you are still part of the herd.


  1. I don't think you have to necessarily reject the entirety of society in order to become the übermensch. The entire point is just to make your own morals and reject the herd mentality of the unassuming rabble. King is the best position I can think of that allows one to newly and independently create values and impose them upon others. I think the difference here is between interacting with the "slaves" and being affected by them.

  2. The problem is that, like becoming an adult, the responsibility and recognition of being a free being is crushing to many people. Thus most people will assent to being couriers rather than kings: kings play the parent role, the creator of values for others, a role that carries an incredible sense of responsibility. The couriers, even collectively, are not kings, as they are merely his mouthpieces, spreading his created values. In regard to the meaning of these couriers' lives, Kafka points out that they would commit suicide if not for their unreflective assent to the small responsibility of being a courier, their "oaths of service."

  3. Also, the point of Nietzsche's Uebermensch is to serve as an ideal, something for us to personally strive toward, something we can never totally achieve, not the hope that we will someday be kings and force our values upon others. Nietzsche's ideal serves as the reflective, value-creating entity to which we should all aspire. The human self can never be perfected but can always be in the process of perfecting, as humans are without an essential or model self with all "correct" values laid out beforehand, prior to those created in one's personal experience.


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