Nietzsche on epistemology and metaphysics : the world in view


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Sign in to use this feature. This article has no associated abstract. Nietzsche: Epistemology, Misc in 19th Century Philosophy categorize this paper. Applied ethics. History of Western Philosophy. Normative ethics. Philosophy of biology. Moreover, intellectual honesty, he argues, leads to a more adequate account of reality. Is it possible?

Why precisely so? To discredit it and formulate a more adequate account of reality is not enough. We must also investigate why such a world-view and its promise of a metaphysi- cal other-world has been so attractive to us and how, confronted with its demise, we can motivate ourselves to act.

According to Deleuze, questions of adequacy, and so on, are inextricably linked to the dogmatic quest for transcendent truth, which, he correctly contends, Nietzsche abandons. Thus, whilst interpreting him as responding to the modern philosophical tradition of Kant and Hegel, Deleuze sees Nietzsche as abandoning the tradition outright. Deleuze writes: A new image of thought means primarily that truth is not the element of thought.

The element of thought is sense and value. The categories of thought are not truth and falsity but the noble and the base, the high and the low, depending on the nature of the forces that take hold of thought itself. Rather, according to Nietzsche, questions of value, such as that of life affirmation, rely on the possibility of knowledge. Finally, there are two further possible objections to the project that must be addressed.

Rather, as I shall show, metaphysics constitutes, for Nietzsche, a research project guided by our interests and ultimately justified accord- ing to a strict methodology. Magnus provides evidence for his claim that whilst Nietzsche had seriously considered publishing a book with this title, he had by September abandoned the project altogether. This study, whilst acknowledging the concerns of Magnus and others, takes the view that any issue-led reading of Nietzsche is obliged to consider the posthumous writings in a serious and detailed way.

The reasons for this centre on my contention that Nietzsche is pri- marily a philosopher who is concerned to address philosophical issues. In so doing, he attempts to get inside a philosophical problem, so to speak, addressing this particular problem by embodying multiple perspectives with regard to it.

He writes: I am trying to be useful to those who are worthy of being seriously and opportunely introduced to philosophy. This attempt may or may not succeed. I am only too well aware that it can be surpassed and I wish nothing more than that I might be imitated and surpassed to the benefit of this philosophy. However, Nietzsche not only puts himself to work, he also makes his readers work through his unsystematic and aphoristic writing style, encouraging them to engage with philosophy by forcing them to occupy the various perspectives that he himself has occupied.

Moreover, he forces his readers to organise these perspectival thoughts into a coherent structure. NOTES 1.

Nietzsche on Epistemology and Metaphysics: The World in View

Henceforth cited as BGE. Letter to Mushacke, November See Friedrich Nietzsche. For discussions of Lange and Nietzsche see, for example, George J. Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, translated by R. Henceforth cited as EH. Henceforth cited as GM. Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak, translated by R. Henceforth cited as HAH. Henceforth cited as WP. Here Nietzsche criticises Kant for treating this issue as a purely theoretical one.

Hollingdale Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, [—76]. Solomon and Kathleen M. See also Steven D. Henceforth cited as GS. Maudemarie Clark and David Dudrick, in contrast, have recently argued that what Nietzsche learns from Spir is the importance of the distinction between causes and reasons, allow- ing Nietzsche to combine naturalism with the possibility of objectively valid belief.


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I do not want to believe it although it is palpable: the great majority of people lacks an intellectual conscience. No, life has not disappointed me… ever since the day when the great liberator came to me: the idea that life could be an experiment for the seeker for knowledge…. Indeed, he assigns the highest cultural importance to the experiment testing whether such a life can be well lived:. A thinker is now that being in whom the impulse for truth and those life-preserving errors now clash for their first fight, after the impulse for truth has proved to be also a life-preserving power.

Compared to the significance of this fight, everything else is a matter of indifference: the ultimate question about the conditions of life has been posed here, and we confront the first attempt to answer the question by experiment. To what extent can truth endure incorporation? That is the question; that is the experiment. A second strand of texts emphasizes connections between truthfulness and courage , thereby valorizing honesty as the manifestation of an overall virtuous character marked by resoluteness, determination, and spiritual strength. Such wishful thinking is not only cognitively corrupt, for Nietzsche, but a troubling manifestation of irresolution and cowardice.

Finally, it is worth noting that even when Nietzsche raises doubts about this commitment to truthfulness, his very questions are clearly motivated by the central importance of that value. But even in the face of such worries, Nietzsche does not simply give up on truthfulness. But if truthfulness is a core value for Nietzsche, he is nevertheless famous for insisting that we also need illusion to live well.

From the beginning of his career to the end, he insisted on the irreplaceable value of art precisely because of its power to ensconce us in illusion. Art and artistry carry value for Nietzsche both as a straightforward first-order matter, and also as a source of higher-order lessons about how to create value more generally. But Nietzsche is just as invested in the first-order evaluative point that what makes a life admirable includes its aesthetic features.

One last point deserves special mention. Significantly, the opposition here is not just the one emphasized in The Birth of Tragedy —that the substantive truth about the world might be disturbing enough to demand some artistic salve that helps us cope. Nietzsche raises a more specific worry about the deleterious effects of the virtue of honesty—about the will to truth, rather than what is true—and artistry is wheeled in to alleviate them, as well:.

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If we had not welcomed the arts and invented this kind of cult of the untrue, then the realization of general untruth and mendaciousness that now comes to us through science—the realization that delusion and error are conditions of human knowledge and sensation—would be utterly unbearable. Honesty would lead to nausea and suicide. But now there is a counterforce against our honesty that helps us to avoid such consequences: art as the good will to appearance. Those views would entail that the basic conditions of cognition prevent our ever knowing things as they really are, independently of us see Anderson , ; Hussain ; and the entry on Friedrich Albert Lange.

But while those are the immediate allusions, Nietzsche also endorses more general ideas with similar implications—e. What is most important, however, is the structure of the thought in GS So it seems that the values Nietzsche endorses conflict with one another, and that very fact is crucial to the value they have for us Anderson — This strand of thought continues to receive strong emphasis in recent interpretations—see, e. As Reginster shows, what opposes Nietzschean freedom of spirit is fanaticism , understood as a vehement commitment to some faith or value-set given from without, which is motivated by a need to believe in something because one lacks the self-determination to think for oneself GS A variety of scholars have recently explored the resources of this line of thought in Nietzsche; Anderson surveys the literature, and notable contributions include Ridley b , Pippin , , Reginster , Katsafanas b, , , , and especially the papers in Gemes and May We have seen that Nietzsche promotes a number of different values.

In some cases, these values reinforce one another. For this alone is fitting for a philosopher. We have no right to be single in anything: we may neither err nor hit upon the truth singly.

GM Pref. For example, the account of honesty and artistry explored in sections 3. As the passage makes clear, however, Nietzschean perspectives are themselves rooted in affects and the valuations to which affects give rise , and in his mind, the ability to deploy a variety of perspectives is just as important for our practical and evaluative lives as it is for cognitive life. Meanwhile, Nietzschean pluralism has been a major theme of several landmark Nietzsche studies e. From his pluralistic point of view, it is a selling point, not a drawback, that he has many other value commitments, and that they interact in complex patterns to support, inform, and sometimes to oppose or limit one another, rather than being parts of a single, hierarchically ordered, systematic axiology.

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A probing investigation into the psyche was a leading preoccupation for Nietzsche throughout his career, and this aspect of his thought has rightly been accorded central importance across a long stretch of the reception, all the way from Kaufmann to recent work by Pippin , Katsafanas , and others.

For psychology is once again on the path to the fundamental problems. On the positive side, Nietzsche is equally keen to detail the psychological conditions he thinks would be healthier for both individuals and cultures see, e. Aside from its instrumental support for these other projects, Nietzsche pursues psychological inquiry for its own sake, and apparently also for the sake of the self-knowledge that it intrinsically involves GM III, 9; GS Pref.


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  4. Debate begins with the object of psychology itself, the psyche, self, or soul. This apparent conflict in the texts has encouraged competing interpretations, with commentators emphasizing the strands in Nietzsche to which they have more philosophical sympathy. In a diametrically opposed direction from those first three, Sebastian Gardner insists that, while Nietzsche was sometimes tempted by skepticism about a self which can stand back from the solicitations of inclination and control them, his own doctrines about the creation of value and self-overcoming in fact commit him to something like a Kantian transcendental ego, despite his protestations to the contrary.

    These attitude types have been intensively studied in recent work see esp. Richardson and Katsafanas b, , ; see also Anderson a, Clark and Dudrick While much remains controversial, it is helpful to think of drives as dispositions toward general patterns of activity; they aim at activity of the relevant sort e. Affects are emotional states that combine a receptive and felt responsiveness to the world with a tendency toward a distinctive pattern of reaction—states like love, hate, anger, fear, joy, etc.

    But what about a personal-level self to serve as the owner of such attitudes? Here Nietzsche alludes to traditional rational psychology, and its basic inference from the pure unity of consciousness to the simplicity of the soul, and thence to its indivisibility, indestructibility, and immortality. As he notes, these moves treat the soul as an indivisible hence incorruptible atom, or monad.

    Nietzsche thus construes the psyche, or self, as an emergent structure arising from such sub-personal constituents when those stand in the appropriate relations , thereby reversing the traditional account, which treats sub-personal attitudes as mere modes, or ways of being, proper to a preexisting unitary mental substance— see Anderson a for an attempt to flesh out the picture; see also Gemes ; Hales and Welshon — Moreover, since the drives and affects that constitute it are individuated largely in terms of what and how they represent , the psychology needed to investigate the soul must be an interpretive, and not merely and strictly a causal, form of inquiry see Pippin While this suggestion, and even the very idea of self-creation, has remained controversial both textually and philosophically see, e.

    Most of us this entry included are defeated by the bewildering richness of the subject matter and content ourselves with a few observations of special relevance to our other purposes. Perhaps Alexander Nehamas 13—41 comes closest to meeting the explanatory challenge by highlighting the key underlying fact that defeats our interpretive efforts—the seemingly endless variety of stylistic effects that Nietzsche deploys. Most philosophers write treatises or scholarly articles, governed by a precisely articulated thesis for which they present a sustained and carefully defended argument.

    Many are divided into short, numbered sections, which only sometimes have obvious connections to nearby sections. While the sections within a part are often thematically related see, e. To the natural complaint that such telegraphic treatment courts misunderstanding, he replies that. One does not only wish to be understood when one writes; one wishes just as surely not to be understood. Thus Spoke Zarathustra is unified by following the career of a central character, but the unity is loose and picaresque-like—a sequence of episodes which arrives at a somewhat equivocal or at a minimum, at a controversial conclusion that imposes only weak narrative unity on the whole.

    Lichtenberg wrote his fragments for himself rather than the public, but the strategies he developed nevertheless made a serious impact. His aphorisms revealed how the form could be extended from its essentially pedagogical origins providing compressed, memorable form for some principle or observation into a sustained, exploratory mode of reasoning with oneself. Occasionally, these aphorisms are even set up as mini-dialogues:. But the reader should take care, for not every Nietzschean aphorism is an experiment, and not every short section is an aphorism.

    Indeed, many sections build up to an aphorism, which enters only as a proper part included within the section, perhaps serving as its culmination or a kind of summative conclusion rather than experiment. But the first section itself is not simply one long aphorism. Instead, the aphorism that requires so much interpretation is the compressed, high-impact arrival point of GM III, 1; the section begins by noting a series of different things that the ascetic ideal has meant, listed one after another and serving as a kind of outline for the Treatise, before culminating in the taut aphorism:.

    That the ascetic ideal has meant so much to man, however, is an expression of the basic fact of the human will, its horror vacui : it needs a goal ,—and it would rather will nothingness than not will. GM III, 1. It is to this compressed formulation, and not the entirety of the section, that Nietzsche returns when he wraps up his interpretation in GM III, But the aphoristic form is only one challenge among many. What is more, Nietzsche makes heavy use of allusions to both contemporary and historical writing, and without that context one is very likely to miss his meaning— BGE 11—15 offers a particularly dense set of examples; see Clark and Dudrick 87— for one reading to which Hussain and Anderson propose alternatives.

    Almost as often, Nietzsche invents a persona so as to work out some view that he will go on to qualify or reject BGE 2 is a clear example , so it can be a steep challenge just to keep track of the various voices in action within the text. Nevertheless, such comprehensive readings are there to be had. Clark and Dudrick offer a a sustained, albeit controversial, close reading exploring the unity of Part I of Beyond Good and Evil ; their efforts reveal the scope of the difficulty—they needed an entire book to explain the allusions and connections involved in just twenty-three sections of Nietzsche, covering some couple-dozen pages!

    Following such connections, he proposes, allows us to understand the books as monologues presented by a narrator. It is impossible to conclude that the work is not deliberately designed to be as offensive as possible to any earnest Christian believer. He achieves both at once by ensuring that exactly those readers will be so offended by his tone that their anger will impair understanding and they will fail to follow his argument. If this is right, the very vitriol of the Genealogy arises from an aim to be heard only by the right audience—the one it can potentially aid rather than harm—thereby overcoming the problem that.

    There are books that have opposite values for soul and health, depending on whether the lower soul… or the higher and more vigorous ones turn to them. Commentators have therefore expended considerable effort working out rational reconstructions of these doctrines. This section offers brief explanations of three of the most important: the will to power, the eternal recurrence, and perspectivism.

    Nietzsche and Metaphysics

    Others receive it as an anti-essentialist rejection of traditional metaphysical theorizing in which abstract and shifting power-centers replace stable entities Nehamas 74—, Poellner —98 , or else as a psychological hypothesis Kaufmann [] , Soll ; Clark and Dudrick , or a quasi- scientific conjecture Schacht ; Abel ; Anderson , b. As we saw 3.

    Nietzsche on Epistemology and Metaphysics: The World in View

    Some commentators take this to suggest a monistic psychology in which all drives whatsoever aim at power, and so count as manifestations of a single underlying drive or drive-type. He thought that past philosophers had largely ignored the influence of their own perspectives on their work, and had therefore failed to control those perspectival effects BGE 6; see BGE I more generally. This famous passage bluntly rejects the idea, dominant in philosophy at least since Plato, that knowledge essentially involves a form of objectivity that penetrates behind all subjective appearances to reveal the way things really are, independently of any point of view whatsoever.

    There is of course an implicit criticism of the traditional picture of a-perspectival objectivity here, but there is equally a positive set of recommendations about how to pursue knowledge as a finite, limited cognitive agent. In working out his perspective optics of cognition, Nietzsche built on contemporary developments in the theory of cognition—particularly the work of non-orthodox neo-Kantians like Friedrich Lange and positivists like Ernst Mach, who proposed naturalized, psychologically-based versions of the broad type of theory of cognition initially developed by Kant and Schopenhauer see Clark ; Kaulbach , ; Anderson , , ; Green ; Hill ; Hussain The Kantian thought was that certain very basic structural features of the world we know space, time, causal relations, etc.

    In particular, the Genealogy passage emphasizes that for him, perspectives are always rooted in affects and their associated patterns of valuation. Thus, theoretical claims not only need to be analyzed from the point of view of truth, but can also be diagnosed as symptoms and thereby traced back to the complex configurations of drive and affect from the point of view of which they make sense.

    Nietzsche makes perspectivist claims not only concerning the side of the cognitive subject, but also about the side of the truth, or reality, we aim to know. These efforts argue for strong connections between perspectivism and the will to power doctrine section 6. Nietzsche himself suggests that the eternal recurrence was his most important thought, but that has not made it any easier for commentators to understand.

    But the texts are difficult to interpret.

    Nietzsche and Metaphysics - Oxford Scholarship

    Skeptics like Loeb are correct to insist that, if recurrence is to be understood as a practical thought experiment, commentators owe us an account of how the particular features of the relevant thoughts are supposed to make any difference Soll already posed a stark form of this challenge. Three features seem especially salient: we are supposed to imagine 1 that the past recurs , so that what has happened in the past will be re-experienced in the future; 2 that what recurs is the same in every detail; and 3 that the recurrence happens not just once more, or even many times more, but eternally.

    The supposed recurrence 1 plausibly matters as a device for overcoming the natural bias toward the future in practical reasoning. Since we cannot change the past but think of ourselves as still able to do something about the future, our practical attention is understandably future directed. By imaginatively locating our entire life once again in the future, the thought experiment can mobilize our practical self-concern to direct its evaluative resources onto our life as a whole.

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    Nietzsche on epistemology and metaphysics : the world in view Nietzsche on epistemology and metaphysics : the world in view
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