Back to Nietzsche

Okay, back to Nietzsche for a bit. In response to a post from Mike, I had to rethink the way I was characterizing Nz as a naturalist. Basically, a naturalist is someone who thinks science has basically the right picture of what humans are and what the world is, leaving some room for future insights and developments. I think Nz is partial to this view, but he adds an important qualification: namely, he thinks that all scientists, being human, are subject to all sorts of psychological traps, illusions, and distortions. His favorite example is the belief in the atom, which he thinks comes from our language and our inclination to think of the world as built from a bunch of identical-type things. He thinks that’s purely fiction, and so atomism is a kind of psychological projection on the world.

He’s getting this, I think, from neo-Kantian philosophers of his day (like Lange and Helmholtz). They were very excited by the idea of tying in Kant’s philosophy to what was being discovered about the physiology of perception — the way that the structure of the eyes, nerves, brain, etc. shape our experience of the world. (Basically, human neuro-anatomy replaces the two forms and twelve categories.)

So, I have ended up characterizing Nz as “a skeptical neo-Kantianesque naturalist,” meaning that he broadly accepts the scientific view of the world, once it has been purged (through skeptical examination) of the add-ons coming from human psychology.

A further interesting thing discovered along the way: in HH, when Nz talks about science, he usually has in mind something like sober, stone-cold skepticism. He has in mind a certain kind of approach to experience — the sort of “Skeptical Inquiror,” Michael-Shermer-type attitude, that always tries to explain away the appearance of magic. At one point (HH1, #256) he says that science is more useful for the attitude it encourages than for any nuggets of knowledge it manages to unearth: it teaches us to be more confident and tough-minded.

About Huenemann

Curious about the ways humans use their minds and hearts to distract themselves from the meaninglessness of life.
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63 Responses to Back to Nietzsche

  1. Kleiner says:

    I don’t want to sidetrack you, but a quick thought:
    I have never read Nz as all that committed to naturalism. Granted, I read Nz from a postmodern point of view (given my background), so I come to Nz in a much different way than Huenemann does.
    Here is my reading:
    For Nz, there is no such thing as an uninterpreted fact. There is no “getting behind” the “psychological traps” (prejudices) that Huenemann mentions. One cannot say that “behind the illusions X is true”, for there is no objective standpoint on Nz’s view. It is interpretation wall to wall.
    Insofar as Nz expresses a naturalism, this is just his “attempt” (the philosophers of the future will be “attempters”). Science is just one interpretation of the world, one which carries with it values that are values only because of their relation to other values, all of which are grounded in some kind of prejudice. The philosopher of the future does not get beyond prejudice/interpretation – you can’t. But he is aware of our condition, and so does not become seduced by the siren of objectivity and fall into dogmatism.

    So I don’t think that Nz is tied to scientific naturalism, even with the qualifications that Huenemann adds. If Nz is right, and if he followed his own prophetic advice, he would not have attached himself to any view at all. In short, there is no ground for saying any one interpretive schema is better than any other (though Nz does allow meta-values to sneak in to judge between them, like nobility and health vs herd and weakness). I can imagine Nz saying that Huenemann’s attachment to scientific naturalism says far more about Huenemann than it says about the world.

    Huenemann gets to these points at the end of his post, but he treats it as a note of further interest rather than the heart of the story. If naturalism is attractive for Nz, it is not because it is true or because it “has basically the right picture of what humans are and what the world is”. To say that is to assume a dogmatically objective point of view! You become, frankly, indistinguishable from the dogmatic theist (and Nz mocks scientists for making this move in BGE). If Nz is attracted to naturalism at all, then, it is for its instrumental value – it makes us tougher because it, among other things, removes afterworlds.

    It is probably not surprising that I am giving a heavily pomo reading of Nz here because that is my prejudice. And is not at all surprising that Huenemann gives a naturalist reading, that is his prejudice. Remember that for Nz all philosophy is autobiography, a working out of one’s own prejudices. This is the pomo appopriation of Nz – the world IS text, there is no uninterpreted Nz, no uninterpreted self, no uninterpreted world, … There is no getting behind the veil of interpretation (of psychological tricks, delusions, illusions, “facts”, etc).
    Isn’t is hard (impossible?) to remember this when reading Nz, Derrida, and others? After all, once we take this seriously, what the hell are we supposed to say?!


  2. Huenemann says:

    I should have clarified exactly what I’m working on — Human, All too Human, a comparatively early work in Nz’s career (1878). In this early work, he is explicit about being able to peek behind the veil and see how our psychology is screwing things up, and fixing it. It *might* be that by the time I get into his later works (after 1883 or so) I will start to see the sort of loopy “everything is interpretation” view Kleiner is describing. *Maybe*. Actually, my suspicion is that Nz’s own very skeptical form of naturalism stays with him to the end. The only thing that changes is that he starts feeling comfortable inventing fictions (like will to power and eternal recurrence) that he knows are fictions, but which he thinks will make him healthier in some philosophical way. But I underline: they are fictions. If everything is interpretation, then there ain’t no fictions. (Again, this is just a hypothesis on my part right now, so maybe I’m wrong.)

    One reason for thinking my hypothesis is right is the “Four Great Errors” in Twilight of the Idols. Every one of them is an error about causality in some way — getting the causality wrong, or imagining causes, etc. I don’t think he could make these claims if he thought everything is an interpretation. (Well, I guess he could; he could just be offering up an interpretation, and ready to offer up a contrary interpretation if need be. But where are those noncausal interpretations?)

    But on the whole we agree a lot on this, Kleiner. i think Nz’s main reason for doing philosophy is to solve the problems in his own life. It is very different from what Kant or Hegel think they are doing, which is discovering truth for the sake of discovering truth. Of course, whether they were really doing that is another matter!


  3. Mike says:

    I think the tie in with skepticism’s beliefs and appearances is the right route. That article on Nietzsche and Montaigne is pretty enlightening. Also Hadot’s Goethe one “Veils of Isis”. A lot of this just sounds like disagreements with terminology but “there is no getting behind the veil of interpretation” isn’t something I imagine Nietzsche would say. I wouldn’t interpret him like that unless he uses those exact words. It sounds too pro-systematizer to me.


  4. Kleiner says:

    We might be talking past each other a bit, but I will press on with my pomo interpretation all the same. I do think we are talking past each other, for far from making Nz sound too “pro-systematizer”, I am actually offering an interpretation that has fidelity to Nz’s hatred of systems/dogmas.

    Huenemann said, regarding the eternal return, “But I underline: they are fictions. If everything is interpretation, then there ain’t no fictions.”

    I agree, the eternal return is a fiction. The will to power is a fiction. But if everything is interpretation, that does not mean that there “ain’t no fictions”. It means that all there is is fictions. Religion, metaphysics (of which the will to power is a sort), are all fictions. And while this is so very hard for you naturalists to accept, naturalism and science are just more fictions! (Sorry, I could not resist the potshot). It is interpretation wall to wall (what I meant when I said we cannot “get behind the veil of interpretation/subjectivity”).

    I could find dozens of places where Nz says this, though not in those exact words as Mike requested. (By the way, I am attached to the point I was trying to make, but I am not all that attached to that particular phrase of “veiling”, though the Heideggerian in me likes the play of concealment / unconcealment). Here is one example from Nz (from Will to Power):

    “[Some will say] “There are only facts”— I would say: No, facts is precisely what there is not, only interpretations. We cannot establish any fact “in itself”: perhaps it is folly to want to do such a thing.”

    Huenemann might have had it right to begin with – for Nz you have appearances only but no thing in itself. But he is no Kantian because he denies that we have any a priori faculties that ground an objective viewpoint. Instead, our viewpoints are always rooted in prejudice (contingent subjectivity). And you cannot get behind those, which means everything is interpretation. What Nz knows, what the “attempters” know, is that you have two choices: follow or create. The philosophers of the future create values (interpretations). They know that it is all “play”, so they are not serious and are not attached.

    All of this said, it may be that Nz’s own skeptical naturalism stayed with him to the end. But, again, that says more about Nz than the world. And we need not think that it stuck with Nz to the end because he thought it was a view that “basically got the world right”. Far too objective of a claim for Nz, and it would make Nz far too “attached”. If he was attached to his view, that would just make him a failure based on his own criteria of success/health.

    Huenemann is right, Nz does philosophy not for truth’s sake but for his own sake. He is working out his own life and his own prejudices. For that reason, Nz does not have to offer the counter-interpretation in Twilight. That is not his narrative. It might be someone else’s, and that other narrative would be every bit as legitimate as Nz’s since no view has any “legitimacy” (if what we mean by that is having an objective, absolute grasp).

    I may be all wrong on this (though, if I am right, it is not really possible to be “wrong”, is it?). Of course, I think Nz is wrong, though I appreciate his critique – it is important for us to separate the wheat from the chaff in our foundations.


  5. Kleiner says:

    By the way, Huenemann might well be right that the young Nz was attached to this view, and my pomo reading (if it is ever right) does not appear until later.


  6. Kleiner says:

    Sorry, but one more thought.

    It is so hard to not fall into this trap, but haven’t we all fallen into the trap of reading Nz too seriously? He who hated seriousness in philosophy!!!


  7. Mike says:

    I would only add that interpretation is never a singularity (system) for Nietzsche there is no “I am right” or “you are right”, those would be veils/myths and not interpretations. I would guess his interpretations could only be associated with drives which wouldn’t be on the plane of right or wrong.

    I view him as holding as few beliefs as possible but recognizing those beliefs he sees as inescapable, understanding his situated context. That doesn’t mean anything goes. The method is just different, it’s more psychological. What you genuinely believe is limited but there’s plenty of room for disingenuous beliefs, these are fictions. You’re free to use them as you will as long as you understand them as such. If you fail to understand them as such you fall into dishonesty and weakness.

    So, drawing this out to other people, you can have quite different views and still be “right” but you still have to follow his full blown process so you might have beliefs that are more the peculiarities of your time period but if you drew too much out as peculiarities to your person (threw out the ‘god’ gene hypothesis) he’d quickly throw the bullshit flag. At this point you might say you just have to agree to disagree but he’d just think you were fooling yourself. This method isn’t much different than when you size up anyone.

    This is where I think I disagree with Nietzsche. I always want to advocate for peculiarities, they’re the only things I can bring myself to completely defend. In some ways he’s too much of an advocate of sameness. He wants you to ‘know thyself’ but only if you’re good enough, he doubts most are up to the task. I want you to express yourself even if your dominant thought is about fairyland (especially if your dominant thoughts are about fairyland). Sameness is always boring and I’ve got plenty of me to go around (‘I am large, I contain multitudes’ -Whitman). Even though I value others for themselves, for myself I don’t want a bunch of junk hanging around in my psyche so I pay attention to his process (his isn’t the only one).


  8. Kleiner says:

    I quite agree that the interpretations are associated with drives (I have called them prejudices). But I am not sure there is a big difference between “veils/myths” and “interpretations”. Everyone is a myth-maker (including Nz, see the eternal return and will to power, even naturalism). The relevant difference is not that some make myths/interpretations while others don’t. Instead, the relevant difference is that the attempters know that this is all they are doing, while most have delusions of objectivity. But all interpretations are associated with drives, even the ones Nz hates (see Nz’s remarks on Plato in BGE, remarks that are at once complimentary for how he allowed one drive to become great, but also mocking for the trick of absolutism he played on himself).

    If you want to call the latter “myths” while calling the former “interpretations”, well okay. But I don’t see a big difference. Both are “systematic” in some sense (after all, the will to power looks an awful lot like a foundation for a systematic, even a metaphysics). Everyone has a narrative and no narrative has any particular claim to validity over and against any other. To your point, one of Nz’s insight is that once you realize this, you are beyond good and evil (which are just the products of other narratives). But every attempt, even Nz’s, will be accompanied by “I am right” and “you are wrong”. This is what so frustrates students of Nz, he groundlessly judges (is there any philosophy so frankly judgmental as Nz?). But that is the point, you have to judge and it will always be groundless!!


  9. Mike says:

    I clarified my comment, sorry for the late changes.

    I wouldn’t say that he groundlessly judges, I would say that he judges as one who doesn’t consider himself above the animals (his grounding is still ‘shared space’). There’s a natural purity in the judgment as a human animal. The “ultimate grounding” is where the impurity is introduced. Judging from ultimate ground is worse since it’s judging from a space we don’t occupy.

    Seriously the article on Montaigne and Nietzsche is great if Charlie already printed it out you should try to get a copy from him. Alternatively I can email it to you, let me know if you’re interested at all. I’m not sure if you consider Montaigne’s route genuinely Christian or not, like I’ve said before, I’m a pluralist so I think there are a range of right answers (like a slice out of a pie chart) where anything outside that range is wrong but there might be a Christian path in that pie slice. If so, it flows from Montaigne. I wouldn’t go through the effort of working it out, I’m more concerned with the questions which define the slice but I have a glimpse of it. What defines that slice for me is all about attitude and lived existence, not “correct” concepts/beliefs. So people can dream up all kinds of craziness as long as they don’t act like asses (or buttress those who do).

    I also don’t think drives are the same as prejudices. Your interpretations of Nietzsche seem to lack in the will/attitude area, you’re turning him into a conceptual artist. He’s trying to communicate about managing the whole person where concepts (e.g. prejudices) are the minor voice, the outgrowth. You’d be better off with “predisposition”. A drive might be a predisposition.

    As far as I know the will to power as a metaphysics is a bit of a stretch, not that Nietzsche didn’t engage in that thought experiment. There is the option that interpretations (based on drives) are randomly/irrationally connected (flux is a key component) instead of a system (rationally connected). He only wants to allow for honest modes of thought. I’ll grant that it could be an unrestrained irrational system but once you put those qualifiers on I’m not sure we’re really talking about a system.


  10. Kleiner says:

    I am up late, this has been a fun conversation. You are right, it is too quick to identify drive with prejudice. But I disagree that I am short-changing the will/attitude in Nz and making him too conceptual. His whole point is that concepts are rooted in willings/drives. So I think we agree on this.

    By the way, by “groundless” I meant what you mean by having no “ultimate ground”. After all, that is what philosophers (for instance, Kant) mean by “ground”.

    One more thought, and we have gone round a bit on this before. I just don’t see in the way you do the way in which “lived existence” and “concepts/theory” are so radically separate. Even Nz does not think they are radically distinct. For all of us, life is an interplay/interface between theory/practice, reason/emotion, mind/heart, control/urge, etc. See the necessary relation between the Apollonian and the Dionysian in the Birth of Tragedy. It is concepts/myths/narratives (the Appolonian) that make life possible. You have to have a story to tell yourself, and we all do.

    Where I part ways with Nz (or at least the pomo interpretation of Nz) is that I think that there is a ground (even if philosophers have usually mischaracterized it or tried to get too much out of it). I think that some stories are better than others.


  11. Mike says:

    I’m working on a paper, once it’s done it’ll be easier to talk about what I mean. I don’t think they’re radically separate so much as I view humans as a broad brush, we only understand to the extent we appropriate, usually demonstrate knowledge. We fool ourselves when we adopt beliefs that have an unnecessary relationship with living.

    Only changing our core attitudes a number of times shows us which beliefs are truly central (i.e. inescapable). So what exactly constitutes this bit can be spoken but not understood without this peculiar shared experience.

    Something else I wrote recently to try to clear this up…

    More often than not, theory has no necessary relationship with specific practice. In the best case a broad, nearly infinite multiplicity of theories corresponds with that specific practice. At worst a theory corresponds to no practice, it can only be said and not shown and thus lacks meaning altogether.

    If you make a completely perfect defense of christianity but then can twiddle one slight bit (make Mary a Virgin with blond hair instead of brown) does the defense still hold for this new Christianity+? Perhaps each defense is a defense of infinite possibilities within a range. I hope those sorts of defenses are satisfying.

    I’m usually responding to something or other on usuphilosophy so it’s no surprise that my statements don’t all tie up together nicely. I’m also human, all too human so don’t expect anything too philosophically pure out of me. I’m usually trying to express a possible attitude to adopt and not a perfect structure. I’m concerned with the actual possibilities that people live in and can be lived in, not logical completeness. Some of the more fundamentalist beliefs are more valuable to entertain because they’re getting at that real piece where as most “good” theories are too perfect to be lived and they hold close to zero street value. I’m also not interested in creating new language to combat perspective problems since that route just distances you from ordinary language users (that’s the real nihilism). That doesn’t mean we should give up the revaluing/reframing (devaluing/deframing) project.

    As far as I can tell, at the moment I’m just another outgrowth of Pyrrhonian skepticism although once I start making artistic claims I’ll start to seem flamboyant.

    Think how unsteady the “ultimate ground” is that you stand on. At one point you weren’t standing upon it yet you still existed as a human in the world. Nietzsche’s ground is the ground that you can’t escape no matter how many conceptual conversions you go through (natural drives). The danger is taking too much meaning from the conversion experience (which I’ll grant is a valid philosophical act, though not always a sound one). It has a natural trajectory, run with it but don’t forget there are other trajectories. “grounding” isn’t ultimate if it’s optional.

    The old telos is too shallow, the world has become too deep for it.

    the value of life rests solely on the fact that he regards himself more highly than he does the world. — HAH I,33.

    The human ‘pride’ and arrogance attacked by both Montaigne and Nietzsche, however serviceable it may at times have been for the survival of the species, originates in make-believe, a kind of projection.
    — From the Montaigne/Nietzsche article

    One Charlie sent to me recently (very off topic)…

    The best way of beginning each day well is to think on awakening whether one cannot this day give pleasure to at any rate *one* person. If this could count as a substitute for the religious practice of prayer, then this substitution would be to the benefit of one’s fellow men.
    — Human, all too Human, #589


  12. Kleiner says:

    We are straying from the Nz point, but if all you mean is this:

    ‘We need better theories because a) too many theories are hopelessly abstracted from the concrete lived experience of man and b) most theories aim for a kind of completeness that is impossible.’

    then I am largely on board with you. The former is what attracts me to Thomism (Aquinas is a very concrete and common sensical thinker) and the latter is what attracts me to phenomenology (which tends to deny the possibility of a completed project).


  13. Mike says:

    I mean those two things as pointing toward adopting a different attitude towards beliefs (as a spiritual practice) and I’m interested more in writing and reading philosophy that understands itself in these Nietzschean ways…

    [philosophers] are not honest enough in their work

    They are all advocates who resent that name, and for the most part even wily spokesmen for their prejudices which they baptize “truths” –and very far from having the courage of conscience that admits this, precisely this, to itself; very far from having the good taste of the courage which also lets this be known, whether to warn an enemy or a friend, or, from exuberance, to mock itself.

    BGE, Section 5 (Kaufmann)

    Gradually it has become clear to me what every great philosophy so far has been: namely, the personal confession of its author and a kind of involuntary and unconscious memoir; also that the moral (or immoral) intentions in every philosophy constituted the real germ of life from which the whole plant had grown.

    BGE, Section 6 (Kaufmann)

    I’m interested in the projects of the philosopher-traveller, better elucidated in some of my scribblings. I’m an advocate and a moralist who’s concerned with philosophy and philosophical acts as therapy. I speak from my situated context to another who might understand but not to another who’s looking for proofs. Ordinary advice giving is understood as coming from particular experiences, particular existence. Philosophy should see itself as ordinary advice giving though engaged with its own particular tradition. I don’t believe in other stories as possible main stories because each person’s existence itself is that main story.

    The only advice I have to give so far is boring “live deliberately” stuff, nothing groundbreaking, just ordinary advice that’s largely ignored so could use some repeating, reframing.

    What kind of person requires this sort of context to give ordinary advice? Someone in need of some serious therapy.


  14. Huenemann says:

    Wow! clearly I went to bed too early last night!

    This is a very interesting conversation. Let me just comment on one of the early ideas. The quote from W2P takes my breath away. Then again, I’m still deciding how to best use that text — it is a bunch of notes Nz never published, organized mainly by his sister, and so one never knows if it is something Nz would allow for broadcast or just an idea he’s playing with (or something his sister drug in).

    Still, it is weird that at the same time Nz seems to say “there are no facts” and also “everything is will to power.” My temptation is to explain it this way: he finds W2P a really attractive view, since it pulls together many themes he wants to have in his life. And IF he accepts it as true, then he is entitled to say that what many people take to be facts most of the time are really just artifacts constructed by hidden W2Ps (their unconscious drives). So the “no facts” view is one he promotes while taking W2P seriously. What about his meta-view, or his view about his own acceptance of W2P? I can’t see what he should say. He could say, “well, that’s just an interpretation I’m putting on experience,” but there is no way to say that without postulating some kind of thing-in-itself. And that he would avoid like the devil himself. (Well, okay, for Nietzsche it would be Paul himself!)

    That’s what I meant when I said if everything is interpretation, there ain’t no fictions — because the notion of “interpretation” requires that there is something getting interpreted, doesn’t it? If it doesn’t, then how can any interpretation be preferable to another, and how can anyone get anything wrong? (I’m not thinking large scale here: if everything really is fiction, it would be impossible to lose your car keys.)


  15. Huenemann says:

    Oh, and there is an interesting discussion about whether Nz was a fictionalist over on Leiter’s Nz blog (link on my blogroll). A ‘fictionalist’ is one who thinks we need to make up stories to orient our actions, basically. Nadeem Hussain at Stanford thinks this is what Nz is up to, and (like Kleiner) thinks what marks off the free spirits is that they know they are just making up stories (“honest illusions” Hussain calls them).


  16. Mike says:

    I view them as disingenuous illusions that become honest when they are understood as such (there’s still a category of beliefs that are initially honest). I think we all agree with Kleiner’s statement

    the relevant difference is that the attempters know that this is all they are doing, while most have delusions of objectivity.

    I should have mentioned that earlier but, of course, I was caught up with stuff I didn’t agree with.

    If Nietzsche thinks we should make up stories to orient our actions then we are opposites. I think we should make up actions to orient our stories (human beings are a broad brush). Actions are what have formed our stories so far, why shouldn’t it remain the same?

    “In the beginning was the deed.” –Goethe

    In reality I think these things sound like opposites but they point at the same way of being.

    From that earlier quote, “the value of life rests solely on the fact that he regards himself more highly than he does the world” maybe we can just see Nietzsche’s naturalism as just not making the claim that man is higher than the world? That’s the funny part about the “higher” man.

    But then again, he’s always going to clear things up with method against method so it’s no surprise that he uses what’s available from science.


  17. Kleiner says:

    This is just a stab at things here:

    Huenemann said:
    “He could say, “well, that’s just an interpretation I’m putting on experience,” but there is no way to say that without postulating some kind of thing-in-itself. And that he would avoid like the devil himself.”

    That is the trick for the attempter, isn’t it? One has to let a drive run its course and one has to allow the Appollonian some say in order to be creative. That means that the attempters will invariably posit something about the thing in-itself. (Nz must experiment with something, like W2P). They have to have the discipline to really live it out (to experiment with really believing it) without – and here is the trick – really becoming attached to the view or too serious about it.

    In a sense, the attempter would have to fall into some forgetfullness of his meta-situation in order to do this, while not so forgetting his meta-view that he falls into dogmatism and seriousness.

    That is so damn hard to do. In short, it is very hard to be like a child. Imagine a child dressed up in a cape. For a time, the child will play (pretend) he is a superhero flying from his secret base to save the city from ultimate doom. And during that play, the child really believes and lives as if this is all the case (he won’t eat his veggies because they are krypton to his powers). A few hours later, though, the parent sees him run through the room and asks the caped child, “Which city are you saving now?” And the child responds, “What are you talking about? I am the good King Anima on his way to storm Kingdom Materia’s walls.”

    The child moves easily, playfully, and joyfully from one “interpretation” to another, all along living each out with a kind of “this is the real deal/thing-in-itself” type commitment but without any real dogmatic attachment to any none mode.


  18. Kleiner says:

    Is Calvin (from Calvin and Hobbes) the overman?


  19. Jordan says:

    No-He’s too attached to Hobbes.


  20. Mike says:

    Kleiner– I wonder what you think of this question Nietzsche’s Mask?


  21. Huenemann says:

    I think we may have been running together two questions. One is whether Nz denies facts; the other is whether he denies moral facts. I am inclined to think Kleiner’s “let’s pretend” scenario does capture Nz’s view on morality. The free spirits have this child-like capacity to dip into and out of valuative structures as they like or as they deem useful. They can be Kantians in the morning, anarchists in the afternoon, and (God forbid!) utilitarians in the evening.

    I am tempted to say that what will guide their selection will be a concern for health — they will do what will make them the healthiest, or most robust, or most powerful, given the circumstances. Health seems special, for Nietzsche; in Twilight, he regards it as a value that can’t be called into question, since as living beings we can’t adopt the frame of reference one would need in order to call it into question. (I call it a “massively intersubjective value.”) So it seems to me that health isn’t just another let’s-pretend value.

    I guess the reason I think it isn’t is that, again, it seems fully supported by what Nz’s skeptical naturalism tells him about the world. In HH, he singles out “dietetics” as something we might now have sufficiently confident knowledge of in order to use that as a basis for ‘everlasting’ truths. Here is where his biography comes in — health was such a big deal for him, and he took himself to be such an expert at it, that he felt ‘here is something we really know.’


  22. Kleiner says:

    Interesting comments on that passage from BGE. Like Huenemann, I don’t have Kaufman’s view that Nz is writing one thing but meaning another. But I don’t agree with Huenemann, that the overman will just have to wear masks “sometimes in public”. Instead, I take it to be actual praise for masks. We have to wear masks because we have to wear “interpretations”. Those that think they are unmasked are really just dogmatically wearing one particular mask, and their mask becomes static (it does not “grow”). Our situation is such that our real situation (the uninterpreted) will always remain hidden both from us and from others – so we will always be “misunderstood”.

    Just a stab there. I must confess that Nz is clearly focusing here on how others will shallowly interpret, rather than the situation being interpretive as such.


  23. Kleiner says:

    I am not so sure that there is such a hard and fast distinction between “facts” and “moral facts” for Nz. Even so called facts will depend, for their factuality, on our valuing other things (like reason, consistency, evidence, etc). There just is no uninterpreted fact, moral or otherwise.

    That said, Huenemann is surely right that things like “health” operate in Nz as deeper than the make-pretend. But Huenemann then gets right back to those being still interpretations when he rightly points out that health was so personally important for Nz. All philosophy is autobiography for Nz, that is so important. That means that health as a value is not, for Nz, “something we really know”. Instead it is just the core principle of Nz’s own narrative. Was he aware of that? I don’t know. Is the child “aware” that the rules of his games are merely posited and don’t have “thing-in-itself” status? Not really. The profound spirits will wear their masks too. (I think what I am suggesting is that “health” as value is just part of Nz working out his own mask).


  24. Kleiner says:

    To inject a bit of levity here: Why is it that naturalists convince themselves that their mask is authentic and “really is how things are” but anyone else’s mask (say, the theist’s) is inauthentic? How is that not dogmatism?!?!

    More seriously, does Nz just accuse the theist? In short, doesn’t Nz’s philosophy accuse us all? Isn’t the naturalist reading of Nz just a way of making him an ally in the working out of a prejudice that the naturalist already has deep within him?


  25. Huenemann says:

    I’ll take up that gauntlet! First, let me trim down naturalism a bit. If we regard it as a full-blown metaphysics, like a complete A to Z story of what can exist and what does exist, then I agree with Kleiner that it is as dogmatic as anything. But naturalism can be less.

    All of us engage in critical reasoning in all sorts of ways — fixing the car, figuring out what health plan is best, etc. If these same principles are extended to the sorts of things we see in physics labs and psychology labs, then (I say) we end up with a natural theory of how the world works: the apparently simplest hypotheses able to cope with all the weird things we see. There could be more to the world than we see. Some needlessly more complicated theory could be true. As Quine said, “The Humean condition is the human condition,” i.e., we are always under-justified in our scientific claims. With that understanding naturalism is less than a full-blown metaphysics, precisely because it lacks any dogmatic claims. It is a half-assed metaphysics.

    But that’s its virtue: it tries as hard as it can to stay near to what is testable. Non-naturalistic metaphysics — whether half-assed or full-blown — makes all sorts of claims that you can’t really test (except through introspection, which is demonstrably unreliable). Why don’t contemporary cognitive scientists use a lot of the details of Aristotle’s or Aquinas’s philosophies of mind? Because — though some general claims work out just fine — the rest of it just isn’t testable in objective ways. (How do we test for the existence of substantial forms?)

    I anticipate the rejoinder: but who says the scientific way of testing stuff is the guide to truth? YOU DO, sir, as you go about fixing the car and choosing an insurance plan. You’re just following the same sorts of principles scientists are using.


  26. Huenemann says:

    P.S. – “There just is no uninterpreted fact, moral or otherwise.” Is that a fact? 🙂


  27. Kleiner says:

    Two things:

    When I go about fixing the car, or choosing insurance, I invariably consider the telos of the thing in question!!!! So do you!

    On your latter point. That is, in short, why analytically trained philosophers think continental philosophy (say, Derrida) is so stupid, isn’t it? 🙂
    More seriously, you are quite right. It means that Nz’s claim that there is no uninterpreted fact is itself another interpretation. The question then returns, once again, to foundations. If there is no uninterpreted starting point (which is the “hermeneutic situation” as understood by Heidegger), then where do we start? And how do we know which interpreted facts which should treat as “foundations”?

    “‘Wood’ is an old name for forest. In the wood are paths that mostly wind along until they end quite suddenly in an impenetrable thicket. They are called “woodpaths”. Each goes its peculiar way, but in the same forest. Often it seems as though one were identical to another. Yet it only seems so. Woodcutters and foresters are familiar with these paths. They know what it means to be on a woodpath.” (Heidegger, from Holzwege).

    This is our situation. Every interpretation discloses but also conceals.


  28. Kleiner says:

    Regarding naturalism as “half-assed metaphysics”. Okay. But almost every naturalist I know, try as he might, ends up presuming his naturalism (and its apparent sibling materialism) to be more. It is so difficult to resist the temptation to not have it become dogmatic. While it may try to stay as near what is testable it holds dogmatically to something (naturalism itself) which is not itself testable! In other words, it is so hard to not fall into dogmatism with it.


  29. Mike says:

    I think I personally only believe in honesty as grounding for anything and think pluralism is the mirror image of that.

    When Kleiner finds everyone making metaphysical claims even when they don’t claim to be I just find that to be an unsympathetic reading.

    On the other hand, when people call themselves athiests I think they’re just begging for misinterpretation. I don’t know anyone except perhaps Charlie (and him only on occasion) who considers himself a naturalistic materialist.

    Are you a naturalistic materialist Charlie?


  30. Kleiner says:

    I don’t consider it an uncharitable reading – since I don’t think metaphysics is evil! Look, people can deny running while they run, if they want. But it is in our nature to ask “why” questions (men by nature desire understanding), so I don’t find it the least bit surprising – or bad – that people end up making metaphysical claims.

    While Huenemann can speak for himself, I pressed him once on his materialism commitments, and his response was something like, “Everyone in my field just uncritically assumes materialism to be true.”


  31. Kleiner says:

    Upon reading Mike’s post again, I am more and more surprised. “I don’t know anyone except perhaps Charlie (and him only on occasion) who considers himself a naturalistic materialist.”

    Really? I don’t know ANY naturalist who is not (explicitly but usually implicitly) a materialist. It is usually snuck in the back door, of course, since many desperately want to act like they are mere scientists who have no metaphysical commitments. The problem for them is that science has metaphysical and epistemological commitments!!! (See the Machuga book).


  32. Mike says:

    There might be a bunch of hidden metaphysical and epistemological stories going on but they aren’t the prominent points, even of the subconscious.

    Humans are a ball of snakes, even conceptually, they don’t ever pin themselves down, they’re flux things. If you do it to them that says something about you.


  33. Kleiner says:

    I am probably beginning to overstay my welcome here at Huenemanniac. But, isn’t this: “Humans are a ball of snakes” just a metaphysical claim cloaked in poetic language? And in saying this, aren’t you trying to “pin men down”?

    This is not a critique, it is an inevitability! This is why the life of the attempter – not being tied to anything – is so bloody difficult (impossible?). For my part, I don’t think metaphysical commitments are bad – so long as we heed the Nzian and pomo critiques and separate the wheat from the chaff.

    Now for a wholly uncharitable remark, for which I hope readers will forgive me: What chafes me is the naturalist “skeptic” (who really is pretty dogmatic) who pretends to be above it all.

    [Note: I don’t necessarily include Mike or Huenemann in that charge, for I know that Huenemann blinks! :)]


  34. Kleiner says:

    Here is a concrete example of the dogmatism of the naturalist (sorry Huenemann, I am going to go after you here).

    Above Huenemann argues that the scientific method is legit because all it presumes are the very things I presume when I go about everyday things like fixing my car or buying insurance. Fair enough.
    BUT – is there anything I presume more in my everyday actions than real teleology? But yet the naturalist tends to be hell bent against real teleology. Why? Not because it isn’t part of our everyday actions/choices/thinking (it clearly is). They are bent against it because the metaphysical commitments that travel with teleology (ultimately, theism) are an anathema to them. In short, the rejection of teleology is as dogmatic a rejection as one can have, and that rejection is part of the basic “creed” of naturalism!!
    So I don’t care if those metaphysical commitments are in the background or not. They are there, they are too often unreflective, and they also happen to be false!!

    Okay, I should probably take a break from Huenemanniac for a while.


  35. Kleiner says:

    Here is a concrete example of the dogmatism of the naturalist (sorry Huenemann, I am going to go after you here).

    Above Huenemann argues that the scientific method is legit because all it presumes are the very things I presume when I go about everyday things like fixing my car or buying insurance. Fair enough.
    BUT – is there anything I presume more in my everyday actions than real teleology? But yet the naturalist tends to be hell bent against real teleology. Why? Not because it isn’t part of our everyday actions/choices/thinking (it clearly is). They are bent against it because the metaphysical commitments that travel with teleology (ultimately, theism) are an anathema to them. In short, the rejection of teleology is as dogmatic a rejection as one can have, and that rejection is part of the basic “creed” of naturalism!!
    So I don’t care if those metaphysical commitments are in the background or not. They are there, they are too often unreflective, and they also happen to be false!!

    Okay, I should probably take a break from Huenemanniac for a while.


  36. Mike says:

    You’re funny.

    Here are a couple examples, you decide (because it looks like you will) if I’m making a metaphysical claim or just drawing a hypothesis from experience.

    My mom thinks she believes what her church teaches, but when I pin her down on a number of issues, she’s quite heretical. Still, she identifies herself as a particular sort of evangelicalish Christian. Her ideas are crazy and interesting but if I nailed all the discrepancies down for her she’d be quite unhappy. It might be good for her but I think she’s got enough things to worry about. It’s pretty obvious to me that she’s focused on something like social identity in this case.

    My grandma has recently been showing strong signs of dimensia. She now often thinks that people who are long dead are with us or waiting for us in another room. She thinks her home is in Ranchitos de Taos, in New Mexico. She hasn’t lived there since the late 40s. Her home is really in rural Utah. She’s still very perceptive about what’s going on around her but she adds all sorts of crazy stuff in. It’s interesting and bazaar, teaches me a lot.

    So somehow this reconstructing of people into their metaphysical and epistemological commitments (that will probably only hold for the next moment) is useful?


  37. Mike says:

    Good luck with your problems with teleology … if purposes somehow require a zillion metaphysical entities, I’ll give them to you. The more the merrier. I prefer to see the structure of my life in the form of muses anyhow.


  38. Kleiner says:

    I was going to quit Huenemanniac again, really.

    I don’t quite see your point, because I don’t see any metaphysical or epistemological claims there. I see particular claims about two individuals, from which we might infer more general claims about human beings in general. The latter (which you do not do), would start to look epistemological and metaphysical.

    But from what you have, I guess we can conclude as general truths that:
    a) Some people are inconsistent and unreflective, but seem to get by all right just the same
    b) Physical ailments (dimensia) can really affect our judgment. In other words, Platonism is false, for the mind is really attached and is in some way dependent on the body. And in such cases, we can tell that something has “gone wrong” (which presumes that it can and usually does “go right”).

    By the way, drawing conclusions from experience is not anti-thetical to doing metaphysics. One need not be a rationalism to do metaphysics! All of our understanding (including our metaphysical understanding) begins in sense perception (see Aristotle, Aquinas). I don’t fall into skepticism because I trust my inductive reason. As a practice, so does everyone else.


  39. Mike says:

    Well, if that’s all you mean then it doesn’t seem very problematic for me but I don’t find it interesting either. Sounds like you’re fighting battles I find suspect in terms of importance. I’m only concerned with how a person holds their metaphysical beliefs, not whether they think they have them or not.


  40. Kleiner says:

    This will do Huenemanniac readers some good:
    Here is Aquinas’s argument that makes a general metaphysical and epistemological claim based on experiences like Mike’s with his grandmother:

    I answer that, In the present state of life in which the soul is united to a passible body, it is impossible for our intellect to understand anything actually, except by turning to the phantasms [sensible images]. First of all because the intellect, being a power that does not make use of a corporeal organ, would in no way be hindered in its act through the lesion of a corporeal organ, if for its act there were not required the act of some power that does make use of a corporeal organ. Now sense, imagination and the other powers belonging to the sensitive part, make use of a corporeal organ. Wherefore it is clear that for the intellect to understand actually, not only when it acquires fresh knowledge, but also when it applies knowledge already acquired, there is need for the act of the imagination and of the other powers. For when the act of the imagination is hindered by a lesion of the corporeal organ, for instance in a case of frenzy; or when the act of the memory is hindered, as in the case of lethargy, we see that a man is hindered from actually understanding things of which he had a previous knowledge.

    Summa, Q 84.7


  41. Kleiner says:

    Mike seems to rarely find traditional philosophical questions interesting. Fair enough. My guess is that most philosophers will find such questions – the reality of the soul, the powers of the soul, the relationship between the soul and body, the manner and possibility of knowledge, the bounds of human understanding – interesting and important.


  42. Mike says:

    It sounds like you think, ultimately all non-theists are fooling themselves for obscure philosophical reasons. I don’t tend to think polytheism, theism or non-theism (in the ordinary sense of what people claim for themselves, not as a drawn out less consciously derived hypothesis) have much to do with the extent to which people are fooling themselves. There are more obvious signs to look for.

    True that, I’m looking for the better life, better ability to enjoy and respect life. Philosophy should only be understood as one of life’s muses. I am quite concerned with wisdom and how we should live, those are also “philosophical” concerns. I just don’t feel the need to beat the dead horse (i.e. some traditional “problems” have shown their true identity via history unless you read half of humanity unsympathetically).


  43. Kleiner says:

    I don’t think that all non-theists are fooling themselves for obscure reasons. I think many are (just as there are many theists doing the same). While answerable, I think the problem of evil and the problem of miracles are two pretty good reasons to question theism (I follow Aquinas here).

    Mike and I must have different conceptions of philosophy. Mike says, “I’m looking for the better life, …”. Good, me too. But then Mike acts like philosophy is just some idle pastime. No! Philosophy is the investigation into what a good life would look like. In order to know that life x would be better than life y, you first have to know what you are!!! (Read Book I of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. I don’t I’ve ever met anyone who did not agree with what Aristotle is saying there, at least at some level).

    In short, practical philosophy always presumes theoretical philosophy. You can’t do ethics (knowing what is good for man) unless you first do some metaphysics (what is man).


  44. Kleiner says:

    Back to Nz, this is why Nz has to posit something like the W2P. In order to make the value claims he clearly wants to make (about the sickness of Chrisianity and the health of the overman), he has to have a “metaphysical” story to ground it. Our original question was this: is this metaphysical story something he really holds, or it is itself just a necessary co-experiment along with the experiment to create values? I say the latter (and this would hold for his naturalism too).


  45. Mike says:

    I don’t mind people saying theoretical philosophy and practical philosophy are intricately tied together. I hate it when people say “practical philosophy always presumes theoretical philosophy”. You might think that’s just a chicken/egg problem but in this case the answer is clearly chicken. You can call what ordinary people do “theoretical philosophy” but only if you’re willing to abuse language.

    I really only believe in the school of hard knocks, the rest is sophistry.


  46. Kleiner says:

    This is a very interesting question. My initial inclination is to say that practical philosophy presumes metaphysics. Either way, I certainly don’t think the answer is “clearly” chicken in this chicken-egg problem. In fact, pretty much everyone up to Nz, or perhaps even all the way up to Levinas, disagrees with you.

    Regarding Nz, we might then say that if Nz is going to hold his “metaphysics” so loosely (not be attached to the W2P story or naturalism) then he will have to be equally unattached to his value claims. Huenemann seems to think he is very attached to his value claims (like health). I think Huenemann might be right. But that just means that Nz is more of a metaphysician than we (or he) might think. This is, essentially, Heidegger’s critique of Nz.

    The whole affair raises an interesting question, though. Can ethics be first philosophy? This is Levinas’ claim. But it is awfully hard to read Levinas without building in a metaphysics (though a quite different one than what we usually see).


  47. Kleiner says:

    By the way, insofar as I commit myself to the claim that ethics presumes metaphysics, I am not committed to the claim that everyone has actually worked out their metaphysical views. Clearly, most have not. Most presume/inherit a metaphysical view without even knowing it, and probably have a hornets nest of incompatibilities if you were to get them to reflect on it.
    But those lives are “not worth living” – if Socrates is to be believed.


  48. Mike says:

    I find this whole discussion terribly funny (though it was probably more productive when we were all focused more on Nietzsche). I hardly ever get to represent the anti-philosophy view, usually I have to represent the pro-philosophy one though I don’t try to reframe people’s entire worlds with long dead philosophies, I just try to use whatever they’ve got going on and move it around a bit.

    I’ve read some NE, I need to read more. I’m somewhat Aristotelean following Nussbaum in regard to ethics.

    I think I clarified a couple statements there after you’d already responded to them. I’ll try not to do that, usually this form (blog comments) gives me enough time! 🙂


  49. Kleiner says:

    I have not given you time to edit, sorry! I’ve been at my computer all night last night and all day today grading – so I have really enjoyed the distraction of checking this every hour or so! Of course, my students won’t be as happy if I don’t get my grading done today!


  50. Mike says:

    I deny that certain types of philosophy are really after life’s questions. That’s certainly true. Mostly I deny that any book is any better than paying attention though ultimately books are part of paying attention. Still, life is short so choose where you spend your time well. For me that means having some idea about the history of metaphysics and using that to guide the extent to which I pursue it as a discipline.

    What I’m interested in is listening to people and hearing how they actually make sense of their lives (I also look at their lives) and then I stamp that as “one instance”. Then I give it every possible benefit of the doubt I can to try to understand it. Some I find ultimately unsatisfying, others I find satisfying but I always presume that means something about me and not them. This is ethics as first philosophy. Lived existences are much more telling than logical or metaphysical clarity. Logical and metaphysical clarity do not exist (in the world). Lived existences are what you look at when you try to solve life’s questions.

    Even if all my statements presume a metaphysics the fact that you call it such and need to call it such says something about you, not me. The worry that everything is a metaphysical claim and people are hiding behind it is just one way to worry about things. It doesn’t seem too bad but may as well try out some other ways of looking at things too.

    My method for doing philosophy is the second paragraph (above). What’s your method, why is it better?


  51. Mike says:

    I take too much time editing and rethink things too much. So definitely not your fault.


  52. Kleiner says:

    I don’t think my “method” is all that different from yours – I tend to begin with ordinary experience, and I am skeptical that we could have absolute starting points or absolute completions.

    I think you are packing more into the term “metaphysics” than I am. I don’t have in mind “metaphysics” in the sense in which you would likely study it in Steinhoff’s metaphysics class, and by epistemology I have in mind something that would look quite different that what you might study in his epistemology class. I am not talking about lots of logic chopping (remember I have continental training, so I am trained to be fast and loose and not at all rigid in my thought! 🙂 )

    All I am saying is that assertions like “logical and metaphysical clarity do not exist in the world” are epistemological and metaphysical assertions (assertions that make claims about us and our relationship with the world). If you don’t want to call them that because you have some hang up (perhaps you’ve been exposed to excessively abstract metaphysics), then that is your business. I don’t really care what you call it. For my part, I am pretty close to what you said here – metaphysics is primarily interesting only insofar as it is existential (I mean that in a broad sense). Philosophy is best understood as a way of life, not a preparatory logical exercise.


  53. Mike says:

    Well, I’m quite at odds with the terminology you choose to employ (as is a huge percentage of the population). You might choose to communicate differently. I’m pretty sure I will.

    Of course, sometimes I’m just an idiot, so what can I say?

    As far as I can tell you at least want all people

    1) to call some claims metaphysical and
    2) to know when they’re making metaphysical claims

    I don’t want either of those things. That’s the last thing I want. I’m an elitist, I’m the first to admit it but that’s just way too extreme for me. So I’ll try to train myself differently.


  54. Kleiner says:

    Leaving aside the little tangent that Mike and I went on (a tangent that I mus confess I find rather tiresome), and back to Nz and naturalism:

    Huenemann: I don’t think we all limit ourselves to the empirically demonstrable in the way that you say. I already made the point about teleology. But what about love? Can your wife demonstrate (scientfically) her love for you? Can you for your child?
    Kierkegaard argues in ‘Works of Love’ that any love that can be “proven” is not really love at all, but self-love, for the proof will always then make reference to the self, an interest/preference, or a satisfaction.

    The point I want to make here is two-pronged:
    a) I am not at all convinced that naturalism is an adequate account of the world, and things like purpose and love are sufficient to show that it is not (unless you really want to say that your love for your child can be completely explained by his scent or something silly like that).
    b) Either way, I don’t think Nz cares to “demonstrate” anything in the first place. The guy is the most inconsistent philosopher I have ever read! He’ll often contradict himself from paragraph to paragraph. This is not meant as a criticism, mind you. I don’t think he cares. Proof or demonstration are just not games he is interesting in playing. Those games presume, frankly, an absolute standpoint. Nz asserts and creates, doesn’t demonstrate (the latter is so very dependent).


  55. Huenemann says:

    Well, there’s Nietzsche and then there’s me. Nietzsche: I’m working through his writings in historical order, and right now (late 1870s) I think it is pretty clear that he takes naturalism very seriously — even more seriously than art, which is a huge turn-around from BT and UM! Maybe he’ll subject that allegiance to science to scrutiny later on — I’m genuinely not sure right now. So far I haven’t seen inconsistency, but I have seen development of thought.

    You’re right he doesn’t demonstrate. I’m beginning to think that he’s not a very good philosopher, all in all — in a narrow sense of the word. He’s unfair to his opponents, he presents no arguments, he’ll always go for the rhetorical phrase rather than the precise one. And he really is poorly educated in philosophy. He’s more like a brilliant prose writer who ransacks the shelves of philosophy for the items he thinks he needs to cure his life-threatening illness: fast, furious, sloppy, desperate. The current philosophers writing about him (Clarke, Hussain, Leiter, Reginster, Richardson) are much better philosophers than he ever was. [Hence, I’m tempted to add, they get him wrong!]

    Me: I do think love can be understood as a natural phenomenon — behavioral patterns, brain chemicals, (something silly like that). When you’re in the grips of it, it’s as powerful as anything a nervous system can generate (except maybe the sudden presence of life-threatening danger; that really gets the old neurons asparkin’!). I’ll put up a post about this.


  56. Hiya’s,

    I have found this thread rather interesting due to my own attempts to understand what I would call the divide between realism and relativism (and thanks Mike for providing a link to this thread). This is a topic that has persisted in the back of my mind ever since I first encountered Nelson Goodman and the “Ways of World making” in undergrad philosophy at the Uni of Newcastle.

    Goodman was responsible for saying therein that “Everything is relative.” At the time this statement seemed pretty reasonable to me and yet it seemed that there was a problem with this line. The analytical minded found an issue with it (and I’m sure that I saw the hint of this argument in the above discussion) namely that if everything was relative then the statement everything is relative must itself also be relative and therefore by its own standards it could not be True.

    Yet… at this point I admit that I thought the criticism somehow missed the point. The question that became important to me as I considered why it was that the realist criticisms of Goodman somehow seemed wrong could be put like this: Does the claim that every theory is necessarily interpretation (and seemingly the claim that all theories are interpretative seems reasonable?) mean that nothing is true? Does it leave us without any means of making claims about truth?

    It seems to me that the hard nosed naturalist, or rather the realist, seems to think that the criteria for truth rest upon the nature of what actually is… yet the relativist insists that our theories, since they are inevitably an interpretation, can’t ever describe what actually is leaving someone like Goodman left with the comment that if there is a true world it is a world well lost… for we don’t ever describe that world.

    Yet… the naturalist makes a good point, we do live in it. There is such a thing as the world which exists which we are a part of… and we can’t simply describe the world any way we like for the world gives resistance… and yet we do not ever describe the world exactly as it is for the very fact that every description is itself an interpretation. In fact I would argue that even though the world exists there isn’t one true reality! We will see the world differently, from our own human perspective, to the way it is seen from other perspectives. Which is the true perspective? There is no ultimately true perspective! Yet, a perspective or theory must relate to what is in a ‘useful’ manner even while they are always an interpretation.
    In any case, truth content is always determined by the relation between a perspective and the way it relates to the world in the world…

    Humpf… I think i said it better elsewhere… see also:
    (no… not a plug per say… i think this is relevant?)

    Oh… as for Nietzsche… my theory is that he didn’t didn’t believe in absolute truth and probably thought that things were interpretative… yet he could still have believed in the existence of the natural world and so not just any theory would do?

    “Blue uniforms are real.
    Guns are real.
    Police arn’t real.”
    (Robert Anton Wilson)

    NB. Blue uniforms are blue when looked at by the human eye… they are really blue when looked at by the human eye… this is true? (leaving the theory of whether color is real aside).
    Is blue really blue when not looked at?

    (Hope this isn’t gibberish… 🙂


  57. Kleiner says:

    VirtualPrimate said:
    “Which is the true perspective? There is no ultimately true perspective! Yet, a perspective or theory must relate to what is in a ‘useful’ manner even while they are always an interpretation.”

    There are some pomo philosophers who agree with this sentiment. The move they make is a move away from the language of “truth” and toward a language of “witness”. (Read Levinas)

    Perhaps Nz is just witnessing to us?


  58. Mike says:

    The skeptics and those extraordinary children of the skeptics, the argonauts of the ideal, have a spirituality that I’m quite comfortable with.



  59. If we use the metaphor ‘witness’ we can easily say that a witness always sees things from their own perspective and yet does this mean that one witness is just as good as any other witness? Are we left having to say that all accounts from any witness are always flawed and unreliable?

    I would have thought that many pomo philosophers don’t carry the idea above so far that all bets are off (that nothing is true and everything is equally wrong) and certainly the pragmatic approach seems appealing when trying to judge whether a given theory has more value when compared to another yet this doesn’t give us a metaphysical idea of what might be occurring?

    From studies in Cognitive science (back when… please forgive me if I am quite a bit rusty) one factor that stood out to me was the question about whether (or how) the brain represents the World? The conclusion I came to was that the brain didn’t have a complete map, represented by some encoding system (which aside from any thing else results in massive problems for describing how anything can ever be learned), instead the brain (together with the nervous system, body and the interactions made possible) simply ‘fit.’ The structure of intelligence enables interaction that works. A complete representation of the world isn’t needed when the critter is an embodied agent interacting directly in the world! In fact what is needed is the truth of the perspective at hand… the context is all important!

    So if the structure of the brain (together with nervous system, body and world) is itself the solution to the problem of acting intelligently as a particular type of agent in the world then what can be said about the truth of the ‘witness’ account of the brain? Clearly it is only one perspective (a human one) and is not objective (does not show the world as it really is). Yet, the perspective of the brain is one that corresponds with the way the world is (with existence) in such a way that it works. In other words the brain captures something about the existing world as it is relevant to the perspective of the brain/agent… and if it didn’t, if it wasn’t coupled in a meaningful and appropriate* way to the things that exist in the world then it wouldn’t work?

    (*whether it is meaningful and appropriate would depend on the perspective at hand, not just on the idea of an objective world… i seem to agree with Nelson Goodman in many ways… the idea of a ‘objective’ world, the one that is supposed to be seen from a God’s eye view, is an idea well lost.)

    In short, it ain’t the Truth… but it’s a truth? (for truth occurs between the theory or perspective or point of view and how that particular witness account interacts in the world?)

    Heh… sheesh… at this rate I’ll over stay my welcome very quickly 🙂


  60. Mike says:


    That makes a lot of sense to me. Especially “whether it is meaningful and appropriate would depend on the perspective at hand”. Brings me back to my more Wittgensteinian sentiments.

    Brian Leiter is discussing Nietzsche’s naturalism on his blog.


  61. Dan says:

    I thought this was an interesting statement regarding science from Kaufmann’s translation of Nietzsche Contra Wagner:

    ‘There are “scientific spirits” who employ science because it gives a cheerful appearance, and because scientism suggests that a man is superficial– they want to seduce others to such a false inference. There are free, impudent spirits who would like to conceal and deny that at bottom they are broken, incurable hearts–the case of Hamlet: and then even foolishness can be the mask for an unblessed all-too-certain certainty.’

    I’d be interested to hear both Kleiner’s and Huenemann’s interpretation!


  62. Huenemann says:

    What an interesting passage, Dan! I’ll need to look it up and its context before saying much about it. But, at first glance, it looks like Nz might have certain socialists in mind with the first sentence — those who try to reduce the good human life to something that can be engineered. But what on earth is going on in the second sentence?!


  63. Huenemann says:

    Virtual primate — very well put. The brain/organism doesn’t need truth so much as a “good fit” with its environment. The beliefs we end up with are, you might say, “truthish,” meaning something real is getting tracked, though it may not be what the holder of the belief thinks it is. It’s been a while since I’ve read it, but I think Hilary Kornblith’s book on naturalized epistemology may take up some of these issues.


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