It is rather sad, but I read this section in Thus Spoke Zarathustra so many times. Both because I like the concept "arrows of longing" (for the overman), and find the phrase therein about also going over, interesting. One of those is

What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal: what is lovable in man is that he is an over-going and a down-going.

I love those that know not how to live except as down-goers, for they are the over-goers.

Does he love them because these are his Higher Types? I would also suppose that the other overgoers in that hateful list symbolise the lion and child, but am not sure.

Am I right then, perhaps something about inviolable principles, or amorality, or just greatness.

  • Read Zarathustra: A God That Can Dance. A very good answer I found there. Oct 28, 2019 at 22:53
  • Perhaps more that they are the only ones with a hope of becoming Higher? If you do not know how to live without suffering as if dying continually (undergoing, or being taken by the undertaker), you have motivation to discover something else. Those who can live without suffering, and know it, have a vested interest in maintaining existing ways of living, rather than discovering new ones. Nietzsche was very fond of his own suffering, and praised it, and his choice to accept it rather than making it go away, as a sign of his being truly alive.
    – user9166
    Oct 29, 2019 at 0:05

2 Answers 2


I do believe that a bit of background on Nietzsche's Human, All Too Human would make any interpretation of Thus Spoke Zarathustra richer. Allow me, then, to draw from my knowledge of the said book, aside from so-called authoritative commentaries on Thus Spoke Zarathustra, such as The Mask of Enlightenment by Stanley Rosen.

Rosen used a translation different than yours: "those who do not know how to live, except by going under; for it is they who cross over." As I understand his interpretation, the people who "do now know how to live" are Zarathustra's disciples, hence Zarathustra loves them. You might ask as to why Zarathustra's disciples do not "know how" to live. The answer is that the reason why they came to Zarathustra in the first place, why they became his disciples, is to learn how to live authentically (as an ubermensch).

Now, in your translation, the "down-goers" are the ones who went "down" under Zarathustra's teaching, under the patronage and guidance of Zarathustra. Since they benefit from the teachings of Zarathustra, they are the ones who may or might become the ubermensch of tomorrow, the "over-goers."

While I agree with Rosen, I assert that there can be no single interpretation of Nietzsche, as Gregory Smith already asserted. Nietzsche himself wants to be interpreted multifariously. The reasons for these are: a)Nietzsche, as some degree, deliberately and consciously wants to be misunderstood; b) Being misunderstood will call for a closer examination of the work misunderstood; c) A closer examination will reveal the depth of profundity and the richness of the said work; d) Nietzsche, in his books, addressed different types of audience, yet believes that an advice to a type of audience may still be applicable to another. He is a bit of a subscriber to the thought that the author "does not matter" anymore after his books are published; e) Each person brings with him his own "lifeworld" in reading the text and the said "lifeworld" affects the way he reads the text, thus giving rise to valid, different interpretations.

Now, in my own reading of that passage, I can recall Nietzsche's teaching in Human, All too Human that when one becomes ill or burdened or "fettered" in some way, he/she will compensate for it in another way. Nietzsche's own example is the blinds who develop a superb sense of hearing. When hearing is concerned, they then are superior to the rest of mankind.

The same, I believe, is applicable to the "down-goers." Though in this case, "down-goer" must mean someone who is in the stage of the camel, extremely burdened, who, as a way of compensation, will increase his courage and will come later to throw off all that burdens him (lion) then create new values for himself (child.) The child is, obviously, the over-goer, for he went "over" that which afflicted him before.

  • i had assumed it meant the camel
    – user28117
    Aug 17, 2017 at 6:07
  • hi eugene, what about formerly the whole world was mad say the most sophisticated of them? (ps thanks for note on lion / child)
    – user28117
    Aug 17, 2017 at 10:49
  • Great answer. I'd change N's words to 'those who know that they do not know how to live'..
    – user20253
    Aug 17, 2017 at 11:25
  • hi @PeterJ you raise an interesting point, one i think meant to be conservative, and yet perhaps not so... i would very much like to chat about that, if you want a chat room ?
    – user28117
    Aug 19, 2017 at 19:56
  • @user329056 Sure. Always happy to chat. I don't know how the chatroom thing works though.
    – user20253
    Aug 20, 2017 at 11:06

Those who know how to navigate the suffering inherent in participating in life are those who are ultimately the "super- or overmen", or enlightened? Just a thought. I don't claim to know anything.

  • Perhaps just the opposite. Those who can flourish will stop searching for ways to survive. His Creators, e.g. Zarathustra, Moses, the Buddha, Christ -- rose through and out of oppression that might ordinarily have killed a person (or his people, whom, e.g. in the case of Moses, he had the opportunity to forsake, and did not).
    – user9166
    Oct 29, 2019 at 0:11

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