Home » Darwinism, News, Philosophy » Paper: Nietzsche, possibly the Nazis’ favourite well-known philosopher, criticized Darwinism on aesthetic grounds.

Paper: Nietzsche, possibly the Nazis’ favourite well-known philosopher, criticized Darwinism on aesthetic grounds.

File:Friedrich Nietzsche-1872.jpg

Nietzsche, 1872

Only. Which makes sense if you follow the plot. This 2011 paper sets out his issues:

Despite his position as one of the first philosophers to write in the “post-Darwinian” world, the critique of Darwin by Friedrich Nietzsche is often ignored for a host of unsatisfactory reasons. I argue that Nietzsche’s critique of Darwin is important to the study of both Nietzsche’s and Darwin’s impact on philosophy. Further, I show that the central claims of Nietzsche’s critique have been broadly misunderstood. I then present a new reading of Nietzsche’s core criticism of Darwin. An important part of Nietzsche’s response can best be understood as an aesthetic critique of Darwin, reacting to what he saw as Darwin having drained life of an essential component of objective aesthetic value. For Nietzsche, Darwin’s theory is false because it is too intellectual,fbecause it searches for rules, regulations, and uniformity in a realm where none of these are to be found – and, moreover, where they should not be found. Such a reading goes furthest toward making Nietzsche’s criticism substantive and relevant. Finally, I attempt to relate this novel explanation of Nietzsche’s critique to topics in contemporary philosophy of biology, particularly work on the evolutionary explanation of culture. – Charles H. Pence, Hist. Phil. Life Sci., 33 (2011), 165-190

The paper’s author rejects the criticism of Darwin (of course) but allows Nietzsche’s reputation to stand.

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2 Responses to Paper: Nietzsche, possibly the Nazis’ favourite well-known philosopher, criticized Darwinism on aesthetic grounds.

  1. Semi related:

    The Atheist’s Guide to Intellectual Suicide – video
    https://vimeo.com/60437420

    James N. Anderson lectures on the self-refuting nature of atheism via Cornelius Van Til’s apologetic methodology.

    From the same video channel:

    An Interview with Jonathan Wells (On various icons of evolution) – video
    https://vimeo.com/63553563

    Dr. Behe, in an inappropriately named lecture, gives a talk on Intelligent Design in this video upload from a ‘fixed point foundation’ conference (Of note, the last half of the video is a Q&A session that gets into some of the interesting technical details of his defense of Irreducible Complexity of blood clotting from some of the high level criticisms he recieved)

    Theistic Evolution – Michael Behe – video
    https://vimeo.com/69602914

    and

    Reasoning with Unbelievers – Greg Bahnsen – video
    https://vimeo.com/65875358

  2. 2
    Kantian Naturalist

    Both the Darwin-Nietzsche connection and the Nietzsche-Nazi connection have been extensively documented and interpreted for decades. In recent years, Richardson’s Nietzsche’s New Darwinism and Johnson’s Nietzsche’s Anti-Darwinism are both really good. On the broader question of Nietzsche’s “naturalism,” I learned the most from Cox’s Nietzsche: Naturalism and Interpretation and from Green’s Nietzsche and the Transcendental Tradition. My own view is that Nietzsche saw the conflict between naturalism and normativity, but saw no way to reconcile them, so he jettisoned normativity — but then experimented with some way of getting something like normativity back in the picture. I don’t find it terribly compelling, which is why I don’t write on Nietzsche any more.

    As for Nietzsche and the Nazis, that’s been extensively covered all the way from Walter Kauffmann’s whitewashing in Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist to the other side. I got the most out of Nietzsche: Godfather of Fascism?, ed. Golomb and Wistrich. My own view is that, while Nietzsche hated anti-Semitism and German nationalism and militarism, he also said a lot of things that, if taken out of context, sound Nazi-ish. That’s not his fault, obviously. But he was dimly aware of anti-Semitic German nationalists using his work out of context in their newsletters, and he complained about it, but he didn’t do anything to prevent it. I think we can justly blame Nietzsche for that.

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