Reflections on the H Bomb

Reflections on the H Bomb

1. The modern Infinite. Faust Is dead

If there is anything that modern man regards as infinite, it is no longer God; nor is it nature, let alone morality or culture; it is his own power. Creatio ex nihilo, which was once the mark of omnipotence, has been supplanted by its opposite, potestas annihilationis or reductio ad nihil; and this power to destroy, to reduce to nothingness lies in our own hands. The Proniethean dream of omnipotence has at long last come true, though in an unexpected form. Since we are in a position to inflict absolute destruction on each other, we have apocalyptic powers. It is we who are the infinite.

To say this is easy, but the fact is so tremendous that all historically recorded developments, including epochal changes, seem trifling in comparison: all history is now reduced to prehistory. For we are not merely a new historical generation of men; indeed, we are no longer what until today men have called “men.” Although we are unchanged anatomically, our completely changed relation to the cosmos and to ourselves has transformed us into a new species—beings that differ from the previous type of man no less than Nietzsche’s superman differed from man. In other words—and this is not meant as a mere metaphor—we are Titans, at least as long as we are omnipotent without making definitive use of this omnipotence of ours.