In the light of the preceding analysis, it is tempting to say that we are in the middle of a process of changing our paradigm, but we may ask how big is a paradigm and how long does one last? For any level of analysis, we may isolate artificially a particular paradigm, but we must remain aware that it will always contain sub-paradigms and be contained in one or more supra-paradigms. Each level interferes with, resists, or creates by means of the intervention of the other level. This is what Steve Fuller refers to as « translation » (11).
We can reformulate our introductory discussion by translating it into the language of epistemology: Zarathustra past, the one who edicted our dualisms, is Kuhn, blocking us into a « normal » way of thinking and acting. Zarathustra future, the one who « spake » and who continues to speak, is Popper, freeing us to multiply hypotheses and to test them probingly.
We can also use the terminology of the philosophy of science narrowly conceived, even if we interpret it metaphorically: Zarathustra past gave us the framework for the paradigm of Newtonian mechanics, as the culmination of the subject-object split and of the model of certainty. Zarathustra future gives us the framework for the paradigm underlying and inspired by quantum physics, the collapse of the subject-object split defined materially, and the model of complementarity, uncertainty, and probability.
Fuller is interested in Nietzsche as seen by the artists and thinkers of the beginning of the Twentieth Century, Nietzsche the futurist, prophet of (self-)transformation, and augur of the metamorphic paradigm. He argues that
while our future is somehow presaged in our past, we only prove our fitness for ‘being human’ by overcoming those default positions. We come to know and understand what we must stand against and overcome, regardless of the consequences. This captures the understanding of Ibsen, Shaw and Nietzsche’s other early admirers (10).
In other words, it is by translating back and forth between future and past that we may discover and transform rather than merely repeat. Translation is heuristic.
Steve Fuller traces the translations from one nested paradigm to its over-arching meta-paradigms and its under-arched sub-paradigms. Moving vertically from individual to collective to universal to a philosophically imagined world-view, Fuller also envisages the horizontal translation from one universal viewpoint (science) to another (religion).
It is on the basis of this complex network of translations that Fuller has come to take an interest in transhumanism. For Fuller translation involves not just semantic ascent but also ontic descent.
Zarathustra images this ascent and descent. The Prologue of THUS SPOKE ZARATHUSTRA recounts how he ascended into the mountain and descended into the world of humans. It warns us that this descent is also potentially his downfall (Untergang).
Fuller has chosen not to remain in the high altitudes of the translations between science and religion. He has chosen to descend into the problem of transhumanism. We shall see whether this descent will be his downfall (I hope not!) or will prepare a new ascent.
(Note: Fuller is no stranger to the descent as potential downfall. He has done this sort of thing before. This is Fuller’s integrity. Speaking like a Zarathustrian Popper we could say: « Who wills the hypothesis wills also the experiment »).
This question of ascent and descent lies behind Fuller’s paradoxical method of returning to Nietzsche’s early artist admirers (Ibsen, Shaw, Mann) as a means for taking Nietzsche « literally ».
These artists knew that to remain in the realm of metaphor as traditionally understood is to validate and preserve « reality » as it stands. One must take the metaphor literally if one wishes to change things, just as one must take literal reality metaphorically if one wishes to understand that it can be changed.