Naturalism and Anti-Naturalism in Nietzsche

Eric S. Nelson

Nietzsche has been associated with naturalism due to his arguments that morality, religion, metaphysics, and consciousness are products of natural biological organisms and ultimately natural phenomena. The subject and its mental life are only comprehensible in relation to natural desires, drives, impulses, and instincts. I argue that such typical naturalizing tendencies do not exhaust Nietzsche’s project, since they occur in the context of his critique of “nature” and metaphysical, speculative, and scientific naturalisms. Nietzsche challenges otherworldly projections of this-worldly beings, as his naturalistic interpreters claim, but further the idolization of immanent worldly natural phenomena, including science itself. “Nature” is an idealization of natural organisms and environments in which its construction, projection, and interpretation is forgotten. Nietzsche strategically uses naturalistic scientific strategies of explanation and demystification, while demystifying science, positivism, and naturalism for the sake of life. These do not provide either certainties or foundations for knowledge or life. Naturalism would be anti-natural if it denies of multiplicity and conflict of the forces of life, bracketing the natural and historical conditions of existence, and the interpretive and perspectival character of life and knowledge. The nexus of nature and history in Nietzsche is better clarified through his portrayal of the feeling of life and its intensification, attenuation, and transformation in relation to the forces andconditions of life, which encompass processes of socialization and interpretive and artistic individuation in the context of a life.


Keywords: Nietzsche · naturalism · anti-naturalism · philosophy of life

Eric S. Nelson – Associate Professor at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell (USA). Main areas of interest: 19th and 20th-Century European Philosophy, Eastern and Comparative Philosophy and Religion, Ethics and Social-Political Philosophy, hermeneutics and the philosophy of nature. He has published over fifty articles and book chapters on Chinese, German, and Jewish philosophy. He is the co-editor of the books: Bloomsbury Companion to Heidegger (London: Bloomsbury, 2013); Rethinking Facticity (Albany: SUNY Press, 2008); Between Levinas and Heidegger (Albany: SUNY Press, 2014); Anthropologie und Geschichte. Studien zu Wilhelm Dilthey aus Anlass seines 100. Todestages (Würzburg: Königshausen &Neumann, 2013); Addressing Levinas (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2005).   »  

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