The More Natural Man: Our Nihilistic Age as foreseen by Nietzsche



In section #120 of The Will to Power, Nietzsche argues that man, in the 19th century, had become more natural and his subsequent definition of the ‘more natural man’ is subtle, ironic and replete with satirical criticism as it is, essentially, an attack on Rousseau’s ‘return to nature’. Yet, seen from our 21st century standpoint, the short essay offers much more than a criticism of Rousseau’s noble savage, it is, like all of Nietzsche’s thought, full of prophetic insight regarding the kind of man to come, which is to say, the kind of people we now are.

One of the first points he makes is that there never has yet been a natural humanity, and this is true. The anti-human historical process that has created our WEIRD civilisation has always been a steady movement away from nature.

It could be argued that our de-naturalisation process began with the advent of language. As soon as we started representing everything in the abstract field of names, we lost our direct touch with the natural world. In many ways, the ability to use and understand languages defines humanity and, although it would be hard for most of us to concede human status to an AI machine, even if it were housed in a perfect replica of a human body, nevertheless, if a human mind could be transplanted into a mechanical body, it would be more human than a human being who had lost the capacity of language.

Pessimists often use the excuse of human nature to criticise the so-called Utopian fantasies created by faith in human potential, but the truth is, humanity is far more of a conditional animal than a prisoner of the restrictions of nature. In a sense, language liberates us from nature by alienating us from it. Whenever we look at an object and think of it in terms of its name, we are stepping away from it into the objective realm of being-apart which allows the naming process to take place.

When claims of the apparently flawed side of human nature are made, (usually defending a thesis that humanity is an incorrigible species and that society’s problems are inherent in our biological makeup) they often refer to restrictions born from the process of socialisation and other cultural manipulations than impediments coming from natural instincts. But this thinking is erroneous and mendacious: most negative pre-programming is, in fact, social rather than genetic.

For Nietzsche, however, the natural man is something which should be aspired to. Not because it is ennobling and we all have a noble savage inside us, but because, quite the opposite, we should nurture our natural sides because nature is immoral. The more natural man therefore is the immoral man – the nihilist. In section #120, he proceeds to describe this natural-immoral man, this nihilist, and much of what he sees can be found reflected in society today. Nietzsche knew the nihilists were coming, and in this essay, he seems to welcome it.



Nietzsche’s attitude to nihilism is extremely ambiguous, he both welcomes and fears it, often seemingly at the same time. The only thing that seemed absolutely clear to him was that a nihilistic age was dawning. It would be an age that would bring with it the profoundly negative figure of the Last Man, in which he saw the hopeless, herd-following nihilist society that civilisation would only be saved if another, new kind of humanity can evolve out of the nihilistic mess. This Last-Man-transcending being he called the Übermensch, the Overman, which has also been translated as the Superman.  



In section #120, Nietzsche’s More Natural Man is presented as ‘our first society’, the wealthy class. In our own times, it would represent that 1% of filthy rich and the other 10% of very well-to-do individuals who belong to the star class of business folk, finance folk and celebrities (our film stars, pop stars and sports stars). Nietzsche calls them ‘the leisure class’, for whom love (sex) is reduced to a ‘kind of sport’ in which marriage ‘is an obstacle and a provocation’. It is a purely hedonistic class, who ‘live for pleasure’. This class is more natural because a nihilist system, without any grand or authentic purposes, demands an unethical breed of unscrupulous immoralists, the members of which are ‘curious and bold’.

Bold, perhaps, as lovers of extreme sports and high-risk gambling in the financial markets. According to these definitions,the Wolf of Wall Street would be a logical, and natural product of the nihilistic system he saw unfolding into the future.

Humans have a thirst for knowledge, but the more natural man does so with a ‘libertinage of the spirit’ that hates ‘pompous and hierarchical manners’ and delights in ‘what is most forbidden’. Or, in other words, Nietzsche was predicting a lust for the perverse and the radical. They ‘should hardly know any longer of any interest of knowledge if the way to it were paved with boredom.’ The more natural humanity, therefore, will only learn, and its members will only allow themselves to be educated, if the learning process is fun. They will learn what they want to learn, not what they need to know. This explains the enormous manifestation of ignorance in our information rich world. It is not because society is saturated by information, as many of our sociologists tell us, but because it is bored by the important stuff and seduced by the fun of triviality. And it is for this reason that so many of those in the information age prefer to remain in the most part ignorant.

What is more, in the nihilist civilisation, not only knowledge, but anything that has to be acquired has to be fun, or exciting. Given a choice, (and nowdays there is always a choice) the more naturally nihilist individual will always choose to do that which is pleasurable over something which is necessary or beneficial …

Or at least whilst the situation at hand does not involve a life-or-death consequences scenario like we have seen created by the Covid-19 pandemic. With the coronavirus crisis we have witnessed the hedonistic values of our nihilistic civilisation profoundly challenged, and the necessity of protecting our health has been able to put the universal libertinage of the spirit on stand bye.


The pandemic experience has also revealed all the dangers enmeshed within the nihilistic attitude of our times, and we can now see more clearly what we lost when we surrendered to capitalism and the nihilisms it generated. The first casualty of our nihilist era was reality itself. Wealth, and the power it wields, has denied, or tried to deny, any needs that do not favour the acquisitions of what it wants or which impede the playing out of its own exciting fantasies and games. It is for this reason, for example, that capitalism has resisted the necessary conversion to green energy sources, because lurking beneath any new green deal is a greater purpose for humanity which threatens the basis of the nihilistic era itself. Likewise, Wealth has created false needs (those which the marketplace is more or less defined by) in order to push all surplus upward and allow the wealthy to acquire whatever they can imagine desiring.

The Covid-19 crisis has also shown us what little regard the more natural nihilists that drive our System have for humanity and human suffering. In the major capitalist states like the USA and the UK, the desire to protect the economy and keep trade flowing has been eagerly expressed even above the aim to protect lives against the disease. The natural nihilists have even made calls to citizens to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the economy and President Trump went as far to call the American people ‘warriors’ as he incited them to sacrifice themselves to the greater good of American business.

The more natural nihilist, argues Nietzsche, is practically amoral and principles for him or her have become ridiculous. Duty is only ever spoken about with irony, says Nietzsche. But the nihilist is not completely immoral. He or she has the morality, he says, that comes from his or her instincts – without explaining what these moral instincts are. In fact, the idea contradicts another theme of the essay, that nature is immoral. If there is no morality in nature, Nietzsche suggests, what can our moral instincts be? And if they have no instincts regarding morality, why should the more natural nihilist have any instincts at all? So, when he does talk of the nihilist’s morality, we think that he is referring to the morality that the nihilistic system manufactures and propagates to serve the desires of Wealth: the morals involved in the patriotic duties that demand sacrifices in times of crises – when those crises threaten the interests of Wealth.


When he discusses politics in #120, Nietzsche intuits the evolution of his more natural nihilists into dictators and fascists. Politics is a problem of power, he says, and “we do not believe in any right that is not supported by the power of enforcement.” In order to rule the upcoming nihilistic societies, politicians will have to do it through force. All rights will be conquests, he says, implying that this necessary struggle for power, between “one quantum of power against another,” will make society strong.

Again, his prophecy came to fruition, although in a far shakier way than Nietzsche probably anticipated. At the turn of the 20th century the nihilist era quickly sank into a dark age of struggle, wars, revolutions, and incredible anti-human dictatorships, replaced, in the latter half of the same century, by less natural nihilist democracies. Representative democracy became the norm and politics was reduced internationally to a constant, if banal, struggle between left and right to win the votes of the centre, while the real natural nihilists, the capitalist corporations, accumulated incredible wealth and power by installing an economic paradigm above the political one. The resulting global empire, of corporations and international finance, became our most natural nihilist, driving the hedonism of consumerism to such orgiastic levels that it now threatens an ecological breakdown through an over-consumption of natural resources and a largely unchecked contamination of the environment. But while this global commerce increased its immense power, its fragility also increased at a reciprocal, chaotic rate. All it needed to bring about its collapse was a tiny germ; an unexpected new virus – with Covid-19 the world economy practically came to a complete standstill.

Nietzsche seemed to be speaking sincerely when he applauded the more natural nihilists’ politics of force, but what we have seen emerge from this constant struggle between each nihilist quantum is not a more noble kind of power, but quite the contrary. Civilisation has, for the most part, grown politically tired, at times even exhausted, with a tendency towards inefficiency and apathy rather than real struggle. A life that is continually fighting to obtain rights or power is not much of a life if there is no clear purposiveness to accompany the struggle. The obtaining of rights in the nihilist era is a step forward on a treadmill that takes us nowhere. All the more natural nihilist has is the possibility of the enjoyment derived from winning the game, but we are playing in a league that seems to have no end, because when it does the same team always wins.

This is where the seeds of apathy in our more natural nihilist world lie. The competition culminates in elections that become a race between the same old teams, and even when those teams are joined by new parties, the game still manages to retain the same predictable results only with an increased, cacophonic squabbling between the players involved. Our nihilist societies want excitement, but this same old game is boring. As with any continuum, when struggle is reduced to repetition it becomes insipid and pointless. Only an honest, authentic purposiveness is truly worth fighting for.


The more natural man, says Nietzsche, considers passion a privilege, and he goes on to explain this by adding the audacious: “we consider nothing is great unless it includes a great crime.”

The 20th century and what we have so far of this century, are full of these bold anti-heroes, and we have seen how so many of them have unashamedly committed their great crimes against humanity over and over again. Greatness, claims Nietzsche, consists of transcending social morals. In the purposeless universe there can be no true morality – and this is correct, but in the purposeless world even the greatest criminal nihilist will eventually disappear in the same void that the purposelessness they so revere creates.

The more natural nihilist reduces nature to the devilish and dumb, and for that reason he or she respects it, because they too are devilish and dumb. Neither the more natural nihilist nor nature itself aspires to virtue. In actual fact, the nihilist society respects nature only for what it can take from it. Natural beauty becomes an excuse to go somewhere, where that beauty exists, but when it is reached, if it ever actually existed, it is lost because of the invasion of those searching for it.

Above all, in the nihilistic age nature represents opportunities to make fortunes if one knows how to exploit it. Our nihilist society does have its base, vulgar purpose: making money, and all nihilistic purpose is embedded in it. Money equals exchange and implies acquisition. Nietzsche ignores this vulgar trend for consumerism, or relegates it to the realm of the Last Men. Devilish and dumb are the Last Men consumers, so is this what they have in common with the more natural nihilists that govern them?


The more natural nihilist remains cold to the beautiful, illusory lies of art and looks for something more brutal – positivism.

Positivism thus becomes the antithesis of beauty. This is an interesting aesthetic statement from Nietzsche: nature itself is not deliberately beautiful, but it is positive. Nature as something fecund, with a desire to manifest itself, grow and propagate itself. Beauty is a human prejudice on nature and so, to be honest in a nature-centred sense, it should be rejected.

But again, rejecting beauty is a rejection of purposiveness, and without purposiveness there can be no real positivism.


That Nietzsche saw nature to be devoid of purposiveness was his greatest mistake. Purpose through a will to Unconcealment is embedded in the ontology of the cosmos. The human ability to perceive beauty may in fact be one of the deepest instincts for survival in our species.

Another, more traditional, way of expressing this would be to proclaim our ability to perceive beauty as an essential element in our souls. An element that nihilism erodes by cutting it off from the nourishment it could receive from any meaningfulness.

Without that nourishment, beauty sinks into the swamps of melancholy and the subsequent depressions that our nihilistic society is infested with.

Nietzsche’s argument that we have grown stronger by being more natural nihilists is wrong – we have grown more adolescent, full of the great capriciousness and bored peevishness characteristic of adolescence. There is nothing noble in this, quite the contrary, its egoism is dangerous and its immaturity has created catastrophic levels of corruption, decadence and political stupidity.       

Nietzsche and Knowledge


“Our treasure lies in the beehives of our knowledge. We are perpetually on our way thither, being by nature winged insects and honey gatherers of the mind,”[i] wrote Nietzsche. Our honey, the sweet fruit of our labour is the knowledge we gather. So perhaps Nietzsche would have been at least sympathetic to the idea that Knowledge is Becoming. Nevertheless, knowledge itself was not enough for Nietzsche and he chose to place absolute accomplishment in “power and freedom”.[ii] Despite his grand pretension of the revaluation of all values, he championed the Status Quo by enslaving knowledge to power, and by associating power with freedom.

We need to be firm with Nietzsche here, because it is precisely this traditional combination, embracing the death of God and the rise of nihilism, under the guise of a promise of creativity, which managed to seduce even the so-called “lefty”, post-structuralist thinkers of the 20th century. Seduced they were, by the seemingly complex psychology that Nietzsche revealed in the anti-humanism of his revolutionary reestablishment of the aristocracy and his great promise of creative freedom to all the Übermenschen.

Like many aristocrats before him Nietzsche went mad and left behind a legacy of madness: the insanity of the 20th century – a nihilistic century of Last Men who believed themselves to be Übermenschen. That was Nietzsche’s most unfortunate legacy. The legacy of placing knowledge under the yolk of power and freedom. As if it were a new thing! As if power had never before known the revelation that its sovereignty lay in its acquisition and ownership of knowledge.

In this way the guillotine had been a pruning instrument, cutting away the old wood so that new thorns could grow in its place. Through the Übermensch the roots of the cancer were revitalised and the Liberal-Democracy was able to find the crown it always lusted after. The French Revolution, the War of Independence, the Fascist and Communist revolutions, all became a manifestation, retrospectively or in foresight, of the Will to Power. The World Economy: the IMF and the World Bank, the United Nations, the USA and the EU, the invention of the Stock Exchange and creation of the Star System in the entertainment industry, of sporting hero millionaires and entrepreneuring inventor billionaires – it is there that we see Nietzsche’s new aristocracy. In the famous 1 percent that possesses such an enormous chunk of the pie of wealth.

But what happened to the real treasure that Nietzsche himself was so familiar with: that honey that lay in the beehive of our knowledge? What ever happened to knowledge itself? Why did Nietzsche forsake it? Why could he not see that the real revaluation would have to be one that placed power and freedom below knowledge itself?

Nietzsche, despite his Human All Too Human, was an Anti-humanist. He was too infected by a misanthropic cynicism to see the Sapiens in humanity, and had to resort to the Übermensch. Instead of a going-forth, bee-like, to gather Sapien-knowledge of the world in the ecological way that bees know best, he proclaimed that the bees should become hornets, take whatever they could find and sting to death any resistance. The Übermensch is the Wasp-man.

[i] Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals, Preface, I

[ii] Ibid, Second Essay, II


For Nietzsche the human brain evolves in a way that ensures our preservation. Knowledge, he said, works as a tool for power, and the increase in the will to power is the measure that determines our desire for acquiring knowledge. [1] Nevertheless, it is the very application of a very Nietzschean, will to power driven ideology that threatens rather than ensures our survival in the world. What Nietzsche failed to recognise was the eventual internecine clash of conflicts between an egotistical power based on accumulation of wealth and the life-threatening consequences arising from the ecological degradation generated by that power won via profit. Basically, as Cioran observed, the human brain and its very malleable intellect is not a particularly good tool for species survival at all. In the animal world, with all of its natural drives and instincts, only the human intellect is capable of wanting all or nothing. Only humanity is capable of desiring anything like an Apocalypse or dreaming up a Mutually Assured Destruction by thermo-nuclear attacks. Nature can be cruel, it can hurl itself over cliffs like swarms of lemmings, or spawn thousands of babies of which 9 out of ten will be devoured before a day has past, but it is not stupid. It does not deliberately provoke unsustainable conditions on itself and extinction is usually caused by factors beyond the species’ control.

But if the intellect is not the result of the will for survival, what is it the result of? What kind of will could be so strong that it could create anything as incredibly complex as the human brain and its intellect? Could there be something stronger even than the will to survive or the will to power?

We know that even the ultimate sacrifice can be made if there is a pressing need which is stronger than personal survival. These needs may be for the survival or even for the simple benefit of a loved one; it may be for the survival or benefit of a larger group; it may be for ideological reasons, that a belief may be supported or enabled to flourish through the sacrifice. There are countless examples of lovers, saints, martyrs and heroes who have all been able to overcome their own will to survive in order to sacrifice themselves to a more pressing need. But what is the will behind such a powerful drive? The will to power? No, it is something that is more important than power. It is necessity itself. If there is a will stronger than the survival instinct it is the Will to Necessity. The will to do what truly needs to be done.

But where does this will to necessity come from? If we can accept the Freudian idea that psychic energy is generated by the biological and psychological needs of our libido (Eros), what if we amplify this source and go beyond Eros, as Jung did, to include the death drive, Thanatos, embraced within the completion of the Great Earth Mother, represented by the Uroboros? This Uroboric, Eros/Thanatos drive situates us in the world and, at the same time, lusts after a complete union with the world through the power of actually knowing the world. Once the spark of knowing – ignited by a conscious discovery of the power of language – gives the Uroboric will a taste of what thinking can bring to Uroboric being, then thought itself becomes paramount in the evolution of the Homo Sapiens Sapiens.

If Julian Jaynes[2] is right, real consciousness was developed after speech and even after writing and that the truly conscious creature that humanity now is is really only some four millennia old. So it is probably only in this relatively short time that the Uroboric instinct has been shoved down into the subconscious, victim to the tremendous awe that our primary, historical ancestors felt when they started to truly consciously act and began to think and decipher the world around them; when they began to suspect they could actually know and understand the world around them, and when through this understanding they began to evolve a sense of what needed to be done in the world.

Will, as we understand it, is therefore part intellect and part instinct. The Will to Necessity in particular emerges out of knowledge whilst being driven by a deeper Uroboric instinct.

From a Sapines’ point of view, Nietzsche’s “Knowledge and Becoming exclude one another,”[3] is the most anti-human of statements: Knowledge IS Becoming. Nietzsche’s greatest fault was to believe in falsification as a virtue for the Übermensch; that Truth is a mastering of sensations, rather than the ability to see the falsity  of that mastery. For the truth is not that the sensations are false, but that the mastery of those sensations has created an intricate mesh designed to favour and at the same time mask a certain class of individuals at the cost of the spiritual being of most Sapiens. Money is one enormous example of the mastery of reality in order to create a profitable illusion of reality. Real Knowledge must be able to perceive this illusion, but Knowledge can only be real when humanity is able to envisage itself properly as Sapiens and understand that Knowledge is Becoming and Becoming IS the fulfilment of Knowing.

[1] See Friedrich Nietzsche, THE WILL TO POWER, #480.


[3] Friedrich Nietzsche, THE WILL TO POWER, #517.

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THE WILL TO NECESSITY IS STRONGER THAN THE WILL TO SURVIVAL by Paul David Adkin is licensed under a Creative Commons Reconocimiento-NoComercial-SinObraDerivada 3.0 Unported License.