Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), a fervent philosopher who was anti-democracy, anti-Christianity, anti-Judaism, anti-socialist and self-acclaimed Anti-Christ, expressed his belief in a master race and the coming of a superman in many of his works. In his unique aphoristic style, Nietzsche wrote in The Genealogy of Morals (III 14):
‘The sick are the great danger of man, not the evil, not the 'beasts of prey.' They who are from the outset botched, oppressed, broken those are they, the weakest are they, who most undermine the life beneath the feet of man, who instil the most dangerous venom and scepticism into our trust in life, in man, in ourselves…Here teem the worms of revenge and vindictiveness; here the air reeks of things secret and unmentionable; here is ever spun the net of the most malignant conspiracy – the conspiracy of the sufferers against the sound and the victorious; here is the sight of the victorious hated.’
Nietzsche developed the concept of "life-affirmation," which involved holding an inquiry of all beliefs and doctrines which (he believed) drained one's life energies, however socially-acceptable those views might be. He has sometimes been called the first "existentialist" philosopher; whether or not this is an accurate assessment he was certainly a major influence on the existentialist philosophers.
His concept of 'over man' or 'superman' is as the bold creator of new values, or, a creator of a "master morality," that might properly reflect the strength and independence of one who is able to finally become liberated from all more traditional values, except those that he (personally and individually) deems to be valid. Nietzsche maintained that all human behaviour is motivated by the will to power. In its positive sense, this will to power is not simply power over others, but the power over oneself that is necessary for creativity.
Such power is manifested in the over man’s independence, creativity, and originality. Nietzsche believed that no 'over men' had yet arisen, although he mentions several figures of history who might serve as models. He suggests Socrates, Jesus, Leonardo da Vinci, Shakespeare, Goethe, Julius Caesar, and Napoleon. Nietzsche also professed him to be “a follower of Dionysus, the god of life’s exuberance”, and declared that he hoped Dionysus would replace Jesus as the primary cultural standard for future millennia.
This concept of the over man has often been interpreted as one of a master-slave society and has been readily identified with totalitarian philosophies.
There is no doubt that Adolf Hitler and Nazism, for instance, were strongly influenced by Nietzsche's call for the rejection of traditional values and for the leadership of one bold and daring enough to have gone through a 'life-affirmation' of all influences culminating in the rejection of weak influences and a final affirmation of only positive, man-centred influences leading to a new and all-powerful 'superman'.
The power given to Hitler was endorsed by the representative. Ironic.