Where Nietzsche Went Wrong.
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23-11-2013, 12:55 PM (This post was last modified: 24-11-2013 05:29 AM by Philo.)
RE: Where Nietzsche Went Wrong.
Nietzsche is something of an "academic hobby" of mine (my specialties are epistemology and philosophy of science), so I thought I might just clear up a few common misconceptions and answer a few questions.

(13-11-2012 10:46 PM)Dark Light Wrote:  He believed we could become whatever we wanted to be if we just gave it the ole' college try.

I think this is a very common misconception arising from the use of Nietzsche by certain poststructuralist thinkers, but it has very little textual basis. Indeed, Nietzsche thinks that certain natural facts about a person significantly constrain the development their outlook, beliefs, etc., a fatalism he inherited from Schopenhauer (where he differs with Schopenhauer is that Schopenhauer thinks fatalism is a cause for pessimism, whereas Nietzsche calls for an ultimate optimism in amor fati, love of fate). Just like how other causal factors can influence, say, the growth of a tomato plant, the tomato plant is still anything but "self-made," and the biological nature of tomato plants very significantly constrains the possible paths of its development; it won't metamorphose into an apple tree, for example. This isn't strict determination; a person's "nature" or "essence" (in the original, he frequently uses this word, Wesen) does not necessitate one and only one course of development, but severely constrains what is possible. The structure of the main sort of argument in the Genealogy of Morality, for example, is that people's metaphysical beliefs are best explained in terms of their moral beliefs, and in turn that their moral beliefs are best explained in terms of certain core psychological facts, what some Nietzsche scholars call "type facts."

One can see this explicitly in the 1888 book Ecce homo. For example, the title of one important section is "Wie man wird, was man ist" or "How one becomes what one is." And the first line of the book is "The good fortune of my existence lies in its fatality." He writes in a voice of ironic detachment from his own agency, as if he is a mere spectator on his own life.

Quote:Another mistake is his 'God is dead' hypothesis. He believed (not unlike ideal future of Gene Roddenberry) that religion, and God had served it's purpose and humanity was ready to just move on.

The "God is dead" claim is not a sociological hypothesis about the prevalence of professed religious belief. It is, instead, the claim that regardless of people's professed religion, our culture no longer operates in the way it would if people could simply assume it was underwritten by divine authority, like the great chain of being. Even if in the end people still turned to religion (it would be very odd of Nietzsche to claim that, on the one hand, religion is as a sociological fact withering away, and to on the other hand spend so much time polemicizing against it), Nietzsche's claim is that a profound shift has occurred in that the certainties of religion can no longer be simply assumed. This is clear from the context, which is a speech to a bunch of everyday 19th century people (who, it is implied, are nominally religious but don't act like it) by a character of Nietzsche's, in The Gay Science. It's not even in Nietzsche's own voice. Now, he could be wrong about that claim, but it's different than the secularization hypothesis in sociology.

Quote:This eternal re-occurrence is something alien to me.

It's really pretty simple. The idea that it's some mysterious metaphysical notion is largely an inheritance of, a-hem, creative interpretations of Nietzsche by Martin Heidegger and Pierre Klossowski. The eternal return is really just a thought experiment; the idea is that to live a truly affirmative life, it should be a life you would be willing to live over and over again down to the last detail for eternity. Anything less and you have not lived a fully affirmative existence, you are one of Zarathustra's "last men." He not only does not think such a thing actually happens, he would be vociferously opposed to that sort of metaphysics (it's only early on, in the 1870s, that Nietzsche still has some vestiges of Schopenhauer's metaphysics).

Luminon,

Luminon Wrote:He just omitted the fact that population is a bell curve and he was a minority and most people still need guidance.

He didn't omit this, it's in fact central to his thought. Nietzsche was a deeply illiberal thinker in the sense that he did not think his ideals were for the vast majority of humanity. Indeed, as long as the "herd" (as he sometimes calls people) isn't so beholden to ideas of morality and religion that they threaten and constrain the "higher types" Nietzsche does care about, he doesn't seem to care very much about what most people do one way or the other. This is part of why Nietzsche is not, despite the efforts of fascist propagandists, a political thinker. He is mostly concerned with liberating a small elite (what I like to call the "existential" elite, because it is not a political or economic elite) from ideas like ascetic morality and religion which hold them back from being truly great. Examples:

"The demand of one morality for all is detrimental to the higher men." - Beyond Good and Evil

"Every choice human being strives instinctively for a citadel and a secrecy[sic] where he is saved from the crowd, the many, the great majority." - Beyond Good and Evil

"...physiological casualties and the disgruntled are the majority of mortals." - Genealogy of Morality

"There is among men as in every other animal species an excess of failures, of the sick, degenerating, infirm, who suffer necessarily; the successful cases are, among men too, always the exception." - Beyond Good and Evil


...you get the idea

Quote:He is good at avoiding pitfalls both of academical scientism and vulgar occultism

Nietzsche was no enemy of scientism, quite the contrary! In many ways, Nietzsche was more scientistic than many contemporaries, because he thought that most of the traditional areas of "philosophy," like metaphysics and morality, would be explained and dissolved by psychology/an understanding of human nature. That's why Nietzsche usually frames his critiques as diagnoses couched in psychological or even physiological terms. He provides an attempt at an a posteriori causal explanation for certain traditionally "philosophical" notions rather than a normative a priori justification for them. Of course, many of these accounts were speculative, as Nietzsche lived before the explosive advances that have occurred in those fields. In this he is like David Hume, for example. Both lived before the relevant scientific details were in, but what was important was that they tried to provide naturalistic, often psychological explanations for traditional philosophical worries.

Nietzsche's reverence for science is immediately obvious to those familiar with the main corpus. In works like the Genealogy, Beyond Good and Evil, and Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche frequently praises science for the "severity of its service, its inexorability..." In Beyond Good and Evil section 207, he calls scientific scholars "the ideal scholar....certainly one of the most precious instruments." Indeed, in the late 1870s (mainly in Human, All-too Human) Nietzsche goes through an unabashed positivist phase. And in Twilight of the Idols part III section 3, he describes non-scientific views as "miscarriages...in which reality is not encountered at all." Doesn't sound like anti-scientism to me!

This post is already long, but I'd like to finish off by talking about the ways in which Nietzsche's relationship with science is complicated. There are important ways in which he would indeed be critical of the "New Atheists." Most importantly, he'd see them as just another variation on the ascetic ideal, just wrapping themselves in the language of science, insofar as the idea is that we could somehow find "salvation" from our existential situation in science. Nietzsche explicitly discusses this in part III of the Genealogy, and has no patience for the idea that, say, the problem of nihilism might be resolved by treating science as a religion-substitute. He does think science is the only way to get the truth about states of affairs, but for Nietzsche, the truth is not going to solve the problem, which Nietzsche takes to be the "revaluation of all values," the total re-conceiving of our outlook and purging it of the malign influence of the "ascetic ideal" (Nietzsche's term for the prototypically "Christian" morality of temperance). That's a fundamentally creative, not a descriptive, goal.

Nietzsche also does not have much patience for those who turn science (usually certain parts of science) into traditional metaphysics. That is, he's opposed to what we would now call a strong metaphysical realism. This is not to say Nietzsche does not believe in objective truth, he just doesn't think that the objective truths of science somehow capture the "intrinsic nature of reality," a hidden reality that is "more real" than the real world (he calls this the "true world" in an extended discussion of the matter in Twilight of the Idols). This is actually a parallel of a current debate in philosophy between different camps who are both ostensibly pro-scientific; Nietzsche would endorse scientific realism but would oppose metaphysical realism. That is, successful scientific theories have at least some referents that are real, but that does not mean these theories limn the intrinsic or fundamental nature of reality as such.

All of this makes sense in Nietzsche's historical context, which I can discuss in another post if people want, as this is already way too long. Basically, he tried to take the best lessons of two popular philosophical movements in Germany at the time - scientific neo-Kantianism and "German materialism" - to heart while also moving beyond them.
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24-11-2013, 03:47 AM
RE: Where Nietzsche Went Wrong.
(23-11-2013 12:55 PM)Philo Wrote:  Nietzsche is something of an "academic hobby" of mine (my specialties are epistemology and philosophy of science), so I thought I might just clear up a few common misconceptions and answer a few questions.

You are fucking this thread up with facts. You've actually read Nietzche and understood him so you shouldn't be posting here. Wink

You posted everything I was going to post and much more so thank-you.
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24-11-2013, 05:02 AM
RE: Where Nietzsche Went Wrong.
(24-11-2013 03:47 AM)Chippy Wrote:  
(23-11-2013 12:55 PM)Philo Wrote:  Nietzsche is something of an "academic hobby" of mine (my specialties are epistemology and philosophy of science), so I thought I might just clear up a few common misconceptions and answer a few questions.

You are fucking this thread up with facts. You've actually read Nietzche and understood him so you shouldn't be posting here. Wink

You posted everything I was going to post and much more so thank-you.

Ooooooh! Chippy gave a 'like'!!!!

It musta been good.

He'll be giving out rep points next and then the world will end.

/sarcasm

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24-11-2013, 05:46 AM
RE: Where Nietzsche Went Wrong.
(23-11-2013 12:55 PM)Philo Wrote:  Nietzsche is something of an "academic hobby" of mine (my specialties are epistemology and philosophy of science), so I thought I might just clear up a few common misconceptions and answer a few questions.

(13-11-2012 10:46 PM)Dark Light Wrote:  He believed we could become whatever we wanted to be if we just gave it the ole' college try.

I think this is a very common misconception arising from the use of Nietzsche by certain poststructuralist thinkers, but it has very little textual basis. Indeed, Nietzsche thinks that certain natural facts about a person significantly constrain the development their outlook, beliefs, etc., a fatalism he inherited from Schopenhauer (where he differs with Schopenhauer is that Schopenhauer thinks fatalism is a cause for pessimism, whereas Nietzsche calls for an ultimate optimism in amor fati, love of fate). Just like how other causal factors can influence, say, the growth of a tomato plant, the tomato plant is still anything but "self-made," and the biological nature of tomato plants very significantly constrains the possible paths of its development; it won't metamorphose into an apple tree, for example. This isn't strict determination; a person's "nature" or "essence" (in the original, he frequently uses this word, Wesen) does not necessitate one and only one course of development, but severely constrains what is possible. The structure of the main sort of argument in the Genealogy of Morality, for example, is that people's metaphysical beliefs are best explained in terms of their moral beliefs, and in turn that their moral beliefs are best explained in terms of certain core psychological facts, what some Nietzsche scholars call "type facts."

One can see this explicitly in the 1888 book Ecce homo. For example, the title of one important section is "Wie man wird, was man ist" or "How one becomes what one is." And the first line of the book is "The good fortune of my existence lies in its fatality." He writes in a voice of ironic detachment from his own agency, as if he is a mere spectator on his own life.

Quote:Another mistake is his 'God is dead' hypothesis. He believed (not unlike ideal future of Gene Roddenberry) that religion, and God had served it's purpose and humanity was ready to just move on.

The "God is dead" claim is not a sociological hypothesis about the prevalence of professed religious belief. It is, instead, the claim that regardless of people's professed religion, our culture no longer operates in the way it would if people could simply assume it was underwritten by divine authority, like the great chain of being. Even if in the end people still turned to religion (it would be very odd of Nietzsche to claim that, on the one hand, religion is as a sociological fact withering away, and to on the other hand spend so much time polemicizing against it), Nietzsche's claim is that a profound shift has occurred in that the certainties of religion can no longer be simply assumed. This is clear from the context, which is a speech to a bunch of everyday 19th century people (who, it is implied, are nominally religious but don't act like it) by a character of Nietzsche's, in The Gay Science. It's not even in Nietzsche's own voice. Now, he could be wrong about that claim, but it's different than the secularization hypothesis in sociology.

Quote:This eternal re-occurrence is something alien to me.

It's really pretty simple. The idea that it's some mysterious metaphysical notion is largely an inheritance of, a-hem, creative interpretations of Nietzsche by Martin Heidegger and Pierre Klossowski. The eternal return is really just a thought experiment; the idea is that to live a truly affirmative life, it should be a life you would be willing to live over and over again down to the last detail for eternity. Anything less and you have not lived a fully affirmative existence, you are one of Zarathustra's "last men." He not only does not think such a thing actually happens, he would be vociferously opposed to that sort of metaphysics (it's only early on, in the 1870s, that Nietzsche still has some vestiges of Schopenhauer's metaphysics).

Luminon,

Luminon Wrote:He just omitted the fact that population is a bell curve and he was a minority and most people still need guidance.

He didn't omit this, it's in fact central to his thought. Nietzsche was a deeply illiberal thinker in the sense that he did not think his ideals were for the vast majority of humanity. Indeed, as long as the "herd" (as he sometimes calls people) isn't so beholden to ideas of morality and religion that they threaten and constrain the "higher types" Nietzsche does care about, he doesn't seem to care very much about what most people do one way or the other. This is part of why Nietzsche is not, despite the efforts of fascist propagandists, a political thinker. He is mostly concerned with liberating a small elite (what I like to call the "existential" elite, because it is not a political or economic elite) from ideas like ascetic morality and religion which hold them back from being truly great. Examples:

"The demand of one morality for all is detrimental to the higher men." - Beyond Good and Evil

"Every choice human being strives instinctively for a citadel and a secrecy[sic] where he is saved from the crowd, the many, the great majority." - Beyond Good and Evil

"...physiological casualties and the disgruntled are the majority of mortals." - Genealogy of Morality

"There is among men as in every other animal species an excess of failures, of the sick, degenerating, infirm, who suffer necessarily; the successful cases are, among men too, always the exception." - Beyond Good and Evil


...you get the idea

Quote:He is good at avoiding pitfalls both of academical scientism and vulgar occultism

Nietzsche was no enemy of scientism, quite the contrary! In many ways, Nietzsche was more scientistic than many contemporaries, because he thought that most of the traditional areas of "philosophy," like metaphysics and morality, would be explained and dissolved by psychology/an understanding of human nature. That's why Nietzsche usually frames his critiques as diagnoses couched in psychological or even physiological terms. He provides an attempt at an a posteriori causal explanation for certain traditionally "philosophical" notions rather than a normative a priori justification for them. Of course, many of these accounts were speculative, as Nietzsche lived before the explosive advances that have occurred in those fields. In this he is like David Hume, for example. Both lived before the relevant scientific details were in, but what was important was that they tried to provide naturalistic, often psychological explanations for traditional philosophical worries.

Nietzsche's reverence for science is immediately obvious to those familiar with the main corpus. In works like the Genealogy, Beyond Good and Evil, and Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche frequently praises science for the "severity of its service, its inexorability..." In Beyond Good and Evil section 207, he calls scientific scholars "the ideal scholar....certainly one of the most precious instruments." Indeed, in the late 1870s (mainly in Human, All-too Human) Nietzsche goes through an unabashed positivist phase. And in Twilight of the Idols part III section 3, he describes non-scientific views as "miscarriages...in which reality is not encountered at all." Doesn't sound like anti-scientism to me!

This post is already long, but I'd like to finish off by talking about the ways in which Nietzsche's relationship with science is complicated. There are important ways in which he would indeed be critical of the "New Atheists." Most importantly, he'd see them as just another variation on the ascetic ideal, just wrapping themselves in the language of science, insofar as the idea is that we could somehow find "salvation" from our existential situation in science. Nietzsche explicitly discusses this in part III of the Genealogy, and has no patience for the idea that, say, the problem of nihilism might be resolved by treating science as a religion-substitute. He does think science is the only way to get the truth about states of affairs, but for Nietzsche, the truth is not going to solve the problem, which Nietzsche takes to be the "revaluation of all values," the total re-conceiving of our outlook and purging it of the malign influence of the "ascetic ideal" (Nietzsche's term for the prototypically "Christian" morality of temperance). That's a fundamentally creative, not a descriptive, goal.

Nietzsche also does not have much patience for those who turn science (usually certain parts of science) into traditional metaphysics. That is, he's opposed to what we would now call a strong metaphysical realism. This is not to say Nietzsche does not believe in objective truth, he just doesn't think that the objective truths of science somehow capture the "intrinsic nature of reality," a hidden reality that is "more real" than the real world (he calls this the "true world" in an extended discussion of the matter in Twilight of the Idols). This is actually a parallel of a current debate in philosophy between different camps who are both ostensibly pro-scientific; Nietzsche would endorse scientific realism but would oppose metaphysical realism. That is, successful scientific theories have at least some referents that are real, but that does not mean these theories limn the intrinsic or fundamental nature of reality as such.

All of this makes sense in Nietzsche's historical context, which I can discuss in another post if people want, as this is already way too long. Basically, he tried to take the best lessons of two popular philosophical movements in Germany at the time - scientific neo-Kantianism and "German materialism" - to heart while also moving beyond them.

I posted this thread forever ago in forum years. Now I'm gonna have to dig out my old books again. Thanks for the astounding post!

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24-11-2013, 08:27 AM
RE: Where Nietzsche Went Wrong.
(24-11-2013 05:46 AM)Dark Light Wrote:  I posted this thread forever ago in forum years. Now I'm gonna have to dig out my old books again. Thanks for the astounding post!

Thanks, I try! I normally don't get quite so pedantic when it comes to interpretive issues, but Nietzsche is my homeboy so he gets special treatment.
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