Advertisement

Nietzsche’s Fling with Positivism

  • Jonathan Cohen
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 204)

Abstract

By “positivism” (which can mean many things) I mean here a stance which prizes science for its ability to both produce reliable knowledge and contribute crucially to human flourishing. By “fling” here I mean merely a temporary attachment. Nietzsche was, by any definition, an ardent anti-positivist for most of his philosophical career. My thesis here is that he can nevertheless be described as a positivist (at least in the above sense) during a certain phase in (what must now be called) his philosophical development. I am thus arguing that we must periodize Nietzsche with regard to issues of science and epistemology: positivism belongs to Nietzsche’s middle phase, beginning with Human,All Too Human (published in 1878) and concluding some time before The Gay Science (published in 1882). The connotation of “fling” as being somewhat fleeting and not especially serious or heartfelt is also intended, for not only does Nietzsche give up his positivism after a short time, but even while professing it holds at the same time some of the views which will develop into the perspectivism for which he is better known in his later works.

Keywords

True Nature Artistic Culture Unify Focus Philosophical Career Temporary Attachment 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    Friedrich Nietzsche, BT sections 14 and 15.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Section 7. This and all translations from the Untimely Meditations are by Hollingdale.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Though there are others; cf. UM III 6.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Thus one of the discarded titles found in the early notebooks is “The Philosopher as Cultural Physician” (Der Philosoph als Arzt der Kultur). See Philosophy and Truth: Selections from Nietzsche’s Notebooks of the Early 1870’s,trans. ed. by Daniel Breazeale, (New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1979), p. 69.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    This handy phrase comes from section 25 of The Philosopher,yet another discarded beginning found in the early notebooks, as translated by Breazeale, p.7; by contrast philosophy is characterized as “the selective knowledge drive.” The published argument, which runs along the same lines even though it does not use these exact phrases, can be found in UM II 4 6.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Section 7; cf. section 6. This and all HH translations are by Hollingdale.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
  8. 8.
    Section 252.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    The Philosopher 41 (Breazeale, p. 13).Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Section 3.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    The contrast with TL (and other unpublished material), which denied that science produced any knowledge at all, is even more shocking.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Darwin, at least, is explicitly referred to in UM L7.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Section 256.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Section 264.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Section 265.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Section 256.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
  18. 18.
    Section 244.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Sections 276 and 281.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    The metaphor of heat and cooling applied to artistic culture and science runs throughout HH; cf. sections 38, 244, et passim. Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    See my “The Roots of Perspectivism,” International Studies in Philosophy 28:3 (1996), p.60.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Section 3.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    See the discussion of HH 637 (and of Hollingdale’s translation) on pp. 149–150 of my dissertation, Science, Culture, and Free Spirits,available from University Microfilms, 1991.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Cf., for example, the notion of interpretation in section 16.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Cf. especially sections 110 ff.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    By this token TL can be seen as latent perspectivism as well, taken up again after the positivistic fling has run its course.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Cf. BGE 204–213 and Ch.1 of my dissertation, op.cit.,esp. pp. 35–37.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    See my “The Roots of Perspectivism,” pp. 69–71.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Such individual cultures are still justified, however, by the role they play in the progress of the overall societal culture; see my “Nietzsche’s Elitism and the Cultural Division of Labor,” in Rending and Renewing the Social Order, ed. Yeager Hudson, ( Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1996 ), pp. 389–400.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    See HH Preface, sections 3 through 6, especially 4.Google Scholar
  31. 31.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan Cohen
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Maine at FarmingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations