What is inner autonomy and what does it mean to live autonomously? It is a state that arguably a large part of the population wish to attain. It can be likened to a state of deep inner peace, indifferent to the stimuli of the external world.
There are two ingredients that aid in the cultivation of inner autonomy, and they are amor fati and wisdom. Amor fati is a Latin phrase that loosely translates as “love of one’s fate”. It can be described as an acceptance of one’s life in its totality: an acceptance of blessings as well as adversity. Amor fati was something that Nietzsche described in relation to eternal recurrence. In section 276 of The Gay Science he said,
I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation. And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer.
It is through this acceptance of things that one is freed from what is beyond his control, and this is a direct pipeline to inner autonomy.
Gaining wisdom through vital experience is the process of becoming enlightened, and enlightenment serves as a crucial ingredient of inner autonomy. The Autonomous Temperament is one that is enlightened. It knows the inner workings of things, being acquainted with the intimate details provided by firsthand experience. In having lived a life of rigorous study and learning, having attained wisdom and amor fati, the Autonomous Temperament is at one with self and the universe.
These two ingredients make it necessary to develop inner autonomy. Inner autonomy by nature deals with things of the internal, but what of the external? I think it to be good to speak briefly at this level on the twofold nature of happiness in order to get to the meat of the matter in regard to the external.
To start, happiness exists in two separate states. That is to say happiness is derived from the internal and the external in relation to the self. To be clear: external happiness is that temporary joy derived from the outside world. It is felt in pursuing hobbies of interest, general fun having, and things of this nature. It is a preoccupation of the mind, being trivial and ephemeral. It is an ever fleeting condition. Moreover, happiness of the external is not considered to be genuine happiness. However, there are things in the external that become internalized, which aid to the Autonomous Temperament. Examples of this are the internalization of romantic love or the love of one’s family or friends, things of passion in one’s life, and on the whole of being attached to external objects (people, inanimate objects, etc.).
Contrastingly, internal happiness is genuine as it is an autonomous condition that is not affected by the external world, and is longlasting. It is an internal reservoir of deep peace. This internal state is what I call inner autonomy — the Autonomous Temperament.
With this dualism of happiness established, the question might be asked, how would one aim to live autonomously in the external world? As hinted at earlier, one should strive to adopt amor fati (acceptance) and live a vital existence while achieving the wisdom that such a life offers.
The general act of striving for the Autonomous Temperament is a very intimate and arduous process. It’s an everyday battle and it can be a matter of treading the line between succumbing to depression when faced with tribulation and achieving small victories of peace. In particular, this negative aspect of failure is a virtue of adversity, as affliction is a purifying fire capable of forging resilience into one’s temperament. Negativity is a surefire character builder. In this light, amor fati views this circumstance and welcomes the hardship. It is, as Nietzsche put it, being a Yes-sayer.
Furthermore, at this level Nietzsche’s Übermensch marvelously intersect’s with this framework of the Autonomous Temperament. Nietzsche’s concept of the Übermensch is one who is of this-worldliness as contrasted with life-denying systems of other-worldliness such as Christianity. The Übermensch is one who is tied to the death of god and the death of other-worldly values (such as the moral code of Christianity), and is a creator of new values. These new values are rooted in this-worldliness and are an embracing of life and our nature. In order to avoid asceticism and the general life-denial inherent in such other-worldly systems, the new values created must not be influenced by the instincts of other-worldly asceticism. Instead, they must be motivated by a love of this life. Rather than the destructive Christian reaction against life, the new values will be life-affirming.
The Übermensch was presented by Zarathustra in Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra as a goal for humanity to strive for. At this level, this goal can be correlated with the striving for the cultivation of the Autonomous Temperament. Indeed, in this light the Übermensch is one who has become autonomous and is a representation of the Autonomous Temperament. For Nietzsche,
The word Übermensch [designates] a type of supreme achievement, as opposed to ‘modern’ men, ‘good’ men, Christians, and other nihilists.
This marriage of the Übermensch and the Autonomous Temperament gives rise to Autonomous Values — values that promote inner autonomy. We’ll look at these values in an upcoming essay.
As stated earlier amor fati is the acceptance of life in its totality, and it wills what Nietzsche called the eternal recurrence of the same. That is, to will the recurrence of one’s life an infinite amount of times and to be completely accepting of it in every instance of pain, adversity, joy, and triumph. This results in an overthrowing of asceticism and is the goal of the Übermensch in this context. He is strong enough to accept fully all of his past, including his failures and misdeeds, and to truly will their eternal return. This singular point, moreover, plays into the virtue of adversity. That is to say through adversity one is at an opportunity to learn more deeply what he is capable of, and through acceptance he triumphs over his oppression.
As a summation: Nietzsche’s conceptualization of the Übermensch was one concerned with this-worldliness and a creation of new life-affirming values, as opposed to life-denying other-worldly systems. At this level these would be Autonomous Values which promote inner autonomy. Here the goal of the Übermensch is to will the eternal return of his past, having accepted his failures and misdeeds, viewing adversity as a virtue. Becoming as the Übermensch, becoming autonomous is the goal to strive for.