Zarathustra in Nietzsche’s Typology

Topics: Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Typology Pages: 25 (7451 words) Published: December 3, 2012

Zarathustra in Nietzsche’s Typology
Yunus Tuncel

In this essay, I present a reading of Zarathustra as a type within the context of Nietzsche’s typology which permeates his works from the first to the last; I claim that there is a line of thought in Nietzsche’s philosophy, despite the many turning points in it, which pertains to types and which I call typology.1 This typology culminates in Thus Spoke Zarathustra which is considered a work of typology, for the purpose of this presentation, without disregarding the other ways it has been interpreted. Moreover, typology as a philosophical area of research has not received sufficient attention in Nietzsche interpretations although there are many commentaries on the overman and Zarathustra.

Before presenting Zarathustra as a type, I will briefly discuss the questions of type and typology in Nietzsche, bring up other types from his works and suggest possible ways of reading his typology.

Typology is not only a study of types2 which embody certain human traits and tendencies, but is also a philosophical framework which shows how such studies can be done, that is, the method


To the extent of my research, the closest German word to typology, “Typenlehre”—which literally translates as the doctrine or teaching of types and which is translated as “typology” by Walter Kaufmann—appears only in one text, namely Aphorism 186 in Beyond Good and Evil. There are, however, many other implicit or explicit hints to the study of types throughout Nietzsche’s works.


Characters in literature can be said to have affinity to types since the former too represent certain traits of human existence in context. In this sense, to read Nietzsche’s typology along with the literature of his age, especially the authors whom he calls “the psychologist of types” in Ecce Homo, would intensify the reading. Persistence of a philosophical project, however, distinguishes philosophical typology from other typologies.


of doing it. The two are interwoven in Nietzsche’s thought. One difficulty with the interpretation of Nietzsche’s typology lies in bringing the fragments and the hints together into a sensible whole. Nietzsche himself did not write a work of typology nor call any of his works a work of typology, unlike The Genealogy, for instance, where the method of genealogy is presented and used. Another difficulty in dealing with typology alone is the two other philosophies in Nietzsche, which are complementary to it and which are often presented as such: namely, genealogy which studies forces and their originary constellations in specific contexts, and symptomatology which reveals the symptoms of an age, a culture, or an individual. Type, force, and symptom are the units, or concepts, of each of these philosophies which, in a larger project, must be dealt with individually and together in order to discover yet another layer in Nietzsche’s thought.3 But here we will focus on typology.

It is the latter sense of typology, that is, typology as a method, which separates Nietzsche’s typology from other typologies such as psychological typology or character typifications as can be found in the writings of the French moralists or in the nineteenth century novel. Moreover, philosophical typology dwells in a philosophy which pursues philosophical questions; hence, the types that surface there do so within the context of the most persistent project of the philosopher. For instance, the overman appears within the context of Nietzsche’s philosophy of transvaluation of highest values and his critique of morality.


To illustrate the unity of these three philosophies, let us take the example of the type of the theoretical man within the context of Nietzsche’s critique of Socratic rationality in The Birth of Tragedy. The force here is the force of rationality as it plays itself out with the other forces of culture in a specific constellation, and the symptom Nietzsche portrays here is...
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