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I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time this weekend. I can sum my reaction up in one thrice-phonated invocation: Nietzsche, Nietzsche, Nietzsche. The infamous

Duhhh... Dahhh.... DAHHHhhh.... DAH-DAAAHHHHH!#!!!@$!111 BOOM-boom-BOOM-boom-BOOM-boom-BOOM-boom-BOOM/Duhhh... DAaaahhh.... DAAAHHH... DAH-DAAAAAAHH!H$@#!@$!@$!@111

orchestral piece is Also Sprach Zarathustra, by Richard Strauss. Also Sprach Zarathustra is also a book written by- you guessed it- Nietzsche. (The English translation is Thus Spake Zarathustra.)

"I TEACH YOU THE SUPERMAN. Man is something that is to be surpassed. What have ye done to surpass man?

All beings hitherto have created something beyond themselves: and ye want to be the ebb of that great tide, and would rather go back to the beast than surpass man?

What is the ape to man? A laughing-stock, a thing of shame. And just the same shall man be to the Superman: a laughing-stock, a thing of shame.

Ye have made your way from the worm to man, and much within you is still worm. Once were ye apes, and even yet man is more of an ape than any of the apes...

...I tell you: one must still have chaos in one, to give birth to a dancing star. I tell you: ye have still chaos in you.

Alas! There cometh the time when man will no longer give birth to any star. Alas! There cometh the time of the most despicable man, who can no longer despise himself."

- Also Sprach Zarathustra
quotation taken from the Übermensch node

The Nietzschean concepts of the Beast, the Man, and the Superman/Overman/Übermensch were quite explicitly presented in the images of the ape, man, and Dave-as-a-cosmic-baby-thing. But while Nietzsche is famous for his utterance of God is Dead, outside influence in the form of a greater power is not taken out of the picture in Kubrick's vision. The monoliths act as devices that do all of the hard work for us. So...

As I understand it, Nietzschean progression: Beast -> (hard work and transcendence) -> Man -> (hard work and transcendence) -> Overman

Whereas Kubrickian progression: Beast -> (supernatural intervention) -> Man -> (supernatural intervention) -> Overman

One could easily split hairs and draw out a discussion for hours on this disconnect between the philosophies, but at least one possible conclusion jumps out immediately: Kubrick has no hope for anthromatic progression. (Yay for making up terms.) This idea is rather easy to fall back on, given his other works. In short, Kubrick implies that nothing short of divine intervention could kick humanity out of its current rut.

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Disclaimer: I'm insane. Throw rocks at me.