The "Breeding of Humanity": Nietzsche and Shaw's Man and Superman

Shaw: The Journal of Bernard Shaw Studies 39 (2):183-203 (2019)
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Nietzsche and Shaw are famous and infamous: famous for their innovative and influential forms of writing, but infamous for their apparent support of totalitarianism and Nazism. However, while it has long been shown that Nietzsche’s provocative language about “breeding” and “masters and slaves” was intended to enhance culture through competition, it is still an open question how and when Shaw supported biological eugenics. Via Nietzsche’s “philosophical breeding,” this article presents a new reading of Shaw’s Man and Superman: on the one hand, it contrasts Nietzsche’s philosophical Übermensch with Shaw’s eugenic Superman; and on the other hand, it connects Nietzsche’s agonistic enhancement of culture with Shaw’s philosophical reflections in “Don Juan in Hell.” In contrast to Tanner’s support of eugenic breeding in his Revolutionist’s Handbook, Shaw’s Don Juan remarkably resembles Nietzsche’s notion of “philosophical breeding” toward a more competent, truthful, and autonomous orientation that is needed in increasingly complex global politics.

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Reinhard Mueller
Foundation for Philosophical Orientation


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