Hope in Evolution, or the Replacement of Man by Superman

The theory of evolution expresses the view that there is general progress in the process of evolution. The species on the whole are undergoing change, slowly but steadily, at every step reaching a higher and higher stage of development. Men are superior to other creatures because they have superior brains and better self-consciousness. The superman of the future is to be brainier and more self-conscious than men of the present. To reach that stage men have to give up some false or shallow conceptions like romantics, superstitions, religion.

Shaw believed in creative evolution and the superman could be achieved by the process creative evolution. All his knowledge of Plato, Darwin, Bergson and Nietzsche contributed significantly in the play Man and Superman. In the Hell Scene of Act III, the discussions of Don Juan propagate this idea.

The German term ubermensch or Superman first appeared in Goethe’s Faust (1808) and later in Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra (1892). Nietzsche has meant the term to indicate the universal human goal that could only be achieved when man suppresses his natural passions and commits himself to intellectual creativity. This, according to Nietzsche, is the predominant goal of humanity, the one that surpasses individual goals or those of a cultural group. The Superman could cross the moral and intellectual level to the average man (Board xxviii).

Sociopolitical Worldview of George Bernard Shaw
1. Abstract
2. Introduction: Shaw as a reformer of social, political and theatrical conventions
3. War is the Coward’s Art
4. Socialism as a Way to Achieve Political and Economic Freedom
5. Futility of Romantic Love
6. Presentations of Upper Class Society
7. Conventional Family and Marriage as a Hindrance for Reformation
8. Life Force, the Core Relation between Man and Woman
9. Hope in Evolution, or the Replacement of Man by Superman
10. Conclusion: Shaw advertised his doctrines on the problems of modern society
11. Works Cited

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Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher who influenced Nietzsche on the idea of Superman. Nietzsche proposed that a single all encompassing “Will” was the cosmic force that drives nature and individuals to act as they do. According to him, Life, Fate, God and Zarathustra will cause the evolution of man ultimately into somebody greater than man. This superior man by virtue of his superior qualities will be able to rule over the ordinary man. The concept of Nietzsche has influenced the idea for a superior Aryan race by Hitler.

According to Shaw, the purpose of Life Force tends to supersede man, to evolve a higher racial man, the Superman. Life Force has been trying to evolve higher forms of life since the time the life was created on earth. In the process of evolution, it “has made numerous experiments in organizing itself” and created various types of species the small creature amoeba to the giant Mammoth (Shaw Man 126). Shaw himself proposes that the “Superman might be bred from humans of the highest intellectual and moral standards” (Board xxviii).

Jack Tanner is an intellectually superior person and Ann Whitefield is the embodiment of the Life Force. Tanner is a widely read person in philosophical matters and he brims with a moral passion to reform society for the good of mankind. In the comedic part of the play we find him trying to save only himself, but one has to believe that his mission is the emancipation of all mankind. The sincerity of this purpose which he expresses often touches the ridiculous, but it does not reduce the robot-like steadfastness he shows. He has discovered the joy of life in working for a cause with fixity of purpose: improvement of the society. And he considers that a mighty purpose worthy of spending ones’ full life. 

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Creating a Superman is the highest goal of humanity for the betterment of the race. ‘Philosophical man’ is necessary for this purpose. Shaw’s Don Juan explains that the philosophic man “seeks in contemplation to discover the inner will of the world, in invention to discover the means of fulfilling that will, and in action that will by the so-discovered means” (Shaw Man 128). In other words, each human should seek its highest ability to comprehend its ultimate purpose and then bend willingly to the Life Force’s urge to create the Superman.

Shaw, like Tanner, was also a voracious reader of the 19th century philosophy and biology, politics and economics, ethics and metaphysics. From these readings, he cherished the idea that the emergence of better race will be possible if man urged whole-heartedly for it. In the play, Ann selects Tanner that expresses idea of selective breeding that is the Shavian attitude. According to Shaw, selective breeding is the only process of evolving extraordinary man or superman. In The Revolutionary’s Handbook, Tanner says: “Our only hope, then, is in evolution. We must replace the man by the Superman” (Shaw Man 232).

Life Force and evolution is interconnected and interdependent to each other. The never ending urge for evolution is ceaselessly struggles to attain perfection. This is the process which had been in operation behind the evolution of man from the state of amoeba.  It realizes its purpose through creation. The Life force is working with man and impelling them to move upward. The purpose of Life Force is to supersede man to evolve a superior race of man, the Superman. Without the progress of superman the world is not perfect. Tanner argues that “Unless we are replaced by a more highly evolved animal — in short, by the Superman — the world must remain a den of dangerous animal” (Shaw Man 230).

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