Here Zig does a few different things: one goal is to "flex" his chops as a versatile academic. Zig's second goal is the following: to use this paper to point out that science isn't all that it's cracked up to be: that at bottom it too is more or less a religious faith. And Nietzsche would agree. So take that for what it's worth.
Nietzsche’s critique of science is associated with a number of interrelated themes discussed at length throughout his entire philosophical career including language, truth, perspectivism, faith, religion, and master and slave morality. A substantial number of scholars have used most of these concepts as entry points for their interpretation of Nietzsche’s views on science. In this paper I argue that for Nietzsche, the formation of scientific theory begins with the advent of language, which also gives way to the master and slave types, and from which Nietzsche returns to critique the scientific enterprise.
Moreover I argue that Nietzsche, although appreciative for the contributions science has made, is critical of science for its reliance on faith, and the type of men who embark in scientific endeavors, specifically because the scientific enterprise undermines the development of world philosophies and world interpretations.
In The Gay Science Nietzsche explains how the development of consciousness is intertwined with the development of language, which is clearly plays a role in the development of science. As Nietzsche notes “the subtlety and strength of consciousness always were proportionate to a man’s (or animal’s capacity for communication, and as if this capacity in were proportionate to the need for communication”. Communication emerged “where need and distress have forced men for a long time to communicate and to understand each other quickly and subtly,the ultimate result is an excess of this strength and art of communication”.
This leads Nietzsche to conclude “consciousness has developed only under the pressure of the need for communication”. Moreover the genesis of language is intertwined with the utility of language, of which it was only “useful… between human beings (particularly between those who commanded and those who obeyed)”. And this happened because man was in a constant state of peril, and needed the protection of peers. This leads Nietzsche to conclude “the development of consciousness (not of reason but merely of the way reason enters consciousness) go hand in hand”. What’s significant about this passage is that not only did Nietzsche foreshadow some aspects of the linguistic turn in philosophy, but that his philosophy of language begins with the creation of language, and terminates within the political realm of commander and commanded, master and slave.
From the above section on Nietzsche’s conception of the development of language we are already presented with an idea of his at general hint about how he views the world. The world generally is divided between two classes, commander and the commanded, or in his later thought, master and slave. Nietzsche emphatically asserts there are master and slave moralilty
There are master morality and slave morality—I add immediately that in all the higher
and more mixed cultures there also appear attempts at mediation between these two
moralities, and yet more often the interpenetration and mutual misunderstanding of
both, and at times they occur directly alongside each other—even in the same human
being, within a single soul. The moral discrimination of values has originated either
among a ruling group whose consciousness of its diʃerence from the ruled group was
accompanied by delight—or among the ruled, the slaves and dependents of every
A lengthy discussion on the intricacies and general confusion surrounding his moral distinction between these two categorically different moralities is not necessary for the overall purposes of this paper. However, since this distinction on the basis of his entire philosophical standpoint, it will be necessary to provide a brief synopsis of these opposing forms of morality.
At the most general level, the distinction between master and slave morality is a distinction between how the human agent responds to exploitation, hardship, injury, and appropriation, which are the most basic categories of Nietzsche’s characterization of reality. The slave type is characterized as excessively empathic, and their general aim is to abolish suffering. A good slave will feel pity, have a “complaisant and obliging hand, [a] warm heart, patience, industr[iousness], humility, and friendliness”. A bad slave “is too feeble to resist stimuli, unable to ignore or forget… cannot control his emotional response” and most importantly longs for revenge”. A bad slave has a negative reaction to the stimuli of exploitation, hardship, injury, and appropriation and seek a cause for this suffering. A bad slave “seeks a cause of his suffering-- an agent who is to blame, against whom violent emotions may be released”. This amounts to a revolt in morals, and the establishment of religious or scientific dogmas, contrary to what is most beneficial for the master types, which will be discussed in depth later in this paper.
Nietzsche’s master and slave morality informs his views on the societal and ethical value of science. On the individual level Nietzsche likens scholars to scientists and vice versa, and he frequently lambastes the cultural smallness of these characteristically slavish men. For example “among scholars who are really scientific men, tings may be different-- “better,” if you like-- there you may really find something like a drive for knowledge, some small, independent clockwork that, once well wound, works on vigorously”, with “total indifference”, indicating the slavish propensity to remain content and historically insignificant compared to the master types.
For Nietzsche the “scientific instinct” of scientists can “after thousands of total and semi-failures , ... blossom[...] and bloom[...] to the end”. This passage indicates that Nietzsche is not opposed to all scientific theories, however he believes that while the scientific instinct is “one of the most precious instruments there are” it ultimately “belongs in the hand of one more powerful” . A world interpretation, i.e. a complete philosophy discussing all philosophy’s major branches, posits “a goal and mold[s] facts according to it”, which signifies that slavish fact finding is subservient to crafting a philosophy.
The objective, scientific man at best “is accustomed to submit before whatever wants to be known, without any other pleasure than that found in knowing”, and if taken metaphorically this passage represents the slavish desire to receive the command of the master, who allows the slavish type to remain content to do the handiwork for masters.
The seemingly harsh tones of Nietzsche’s ostensible criticism of the scientific type is mitigated by Nietzsche’s recognition of scientific men as capable of possessing greater virtue. When faced with the prospects of bad health, loneliness, or personal conflict with family or friends, the ideal scientific man does not lose “any seriousness for himself… he is cheerful, not for lack of distress, but lack of fingers and handles”, or in other words, the praiseworthy scientist remains faithfully committed to the scientific enterprise even at the expense of his relationships with others. A good scientific man will not seek to undermine the importance of philosophy, but will remain content to continue his work regardless of the circumstance. Despite enduring personal discomfort in an admirable fashion for the continuation of the scientific enterprise, the scientist can never be considered the“model man”.
The model man, used in this instance as a synonym for his master type, is characterized as someone in “whom the rest of existence is justified…. [someone who is] tough, powerful, self-reliant that wants to be master”. Or in other words these noble types are“ the higher man, the higher soul, [possessing] the higher duty, the higher responsibility, and on the wealth of creative power and mastery-today the concept of"greatness" entails being noble, wanting to be by oneself, being capable of being different, standing alone, and having to live independently”. These types of men who experience the most pain will “honor life because it pits its greatest opposition against them”. This strength justifies their “the characteristic right of masters to create values” either through the creation of new philosophies, or through political conquest. Likewise masters do not dogmatically postulate a universal monism or morality for everyone as there are “no limit to the ways in which the world can be interpreted… inertia needs unity (monism); plurality of interpretations a sign of strength. Not to desire to deprive the world of its disturbing and enigmatic character”. Clearly these types of men denounce the overthrow of multiple world interpretations by dogmatic ideologies.
The most direct comparison between science and religion is found in the Gay Science. Here Nietzsche notes “it always remains a metaphysical faith upon which our faith in science rests… a faith thousands of years old has kindled: that Christian faith, which was also Plato’s faith, that God is truth, that truth is divine”. Here we note that there is evidence to suggest that Nietzsche believes that science is built on a foundation of faith, and idealizes truth in the same fashion of Christianity. The danger is that science, like religion, can usurp the possibility of philosophy as the ultimate domain of knowledge, as it did with the slave revolt in morals who Nietzsche claims inverted the aristocratic value judgments.
Nietzsche’s concern with science is it’s usurpation of philosophy as the ultimate domain of all knowledge. Nietzsche “venture[s] to speak out against an unseemly and harmful shift in the societal devaluation of philosophy in favor of science”. Consider the following passage
The scholar’s declaration of independence, his emancipation from philosophy, is one
of the more reɹned eʃects of the democratic order—and disorder: the self-gloriɹcation
and self-exaltation of scholars now stand in full bloom, in their ɹnest spring,
everywhere—which is not meant to imply that in this case self-praise smells pleasant.
“Freedom from all masters!” that is what the instinct of the rabble wants in this case,
too; and after science has most happily rid itself of theology whose “handmaid” it was
too long, it now aims with an excess of high spirits and a lack of understanding to lay
down laws for philosophy and to play the “master”
The concern expressed above stems from the prominence of Eugen Duhring and Hartmann in his time as examples of these types. The problem for Nietzsche is
“hodgepodge philosophers who call themselves “philosophers of reality” or positivists…. are all losers who have been brought back under the hegemony of science, after having desired more of themselves at some time without having had the right to this “more” and its responsibilities—and who now represent, in word and deed, honorably, resentfully,and vengefully, the unbelief in the masterly task and masterfulness of philosophy”.
Ultimately Nietzsche is concerned that “philosophy [will be] reduced to “theory of knowledge” and for Nietzsche this is unacceptable. The masters seek “the overcoming of narrower interpretations; that every strengthening and increase of power opens up new perspectives and means believing in new horizons”
Although Nietzsche does criticize science based on these associations, that’s not to say Nietzsche is anti-science. Rather Nietzsche’s condemnation of science, as mentioned above, is based on it’s on its tendency to perpetuate the concept of absolute truth, or to act as if the concept of the absolute truth, although unattainable now, could be attained at a later date in history. When Nietzsche is not engaged in rhetorical attack against the nearly insufferable mediocrity of his social milieu, Nietzsche recognizes the important role science has for the vast majority as a tool for contentment, and as a tool for the masters to create enhance their philosophies as noted above. Additionally Nietzsche does place a special emphasis on the scientific enterprise of psychology.
In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche champions psychology as “the queen of the sciences, for whose service and preparation the other sciences exist”. The question then becomes, how can Nietzsche serve as an advocate of psychology given his contempt for scientific practice? For Nietzsche psychology is a useful tool for the masters and can use to learn “not...perish of inner distress and uncertainty when one inɻicts great suʃering and hears the cry of this suffering—that is great, that belongs to greatness”. Additionally the field of psychology offers masters the opportunity to for masters to better understand the arts of self control and self-outwitting, as demonstrated by“ those magical, incomprehensible, and unfathomable ones arise, those enigmatic men predestined for victory and seduction, whose most beautiful expression is found in Alcibiades and Caesar [...]and among artists perhaps Leonardo da Vinci” . Viewed this way, the type of scientist Nietzsche advocates for is content to work for the enhancement of the master types.
These repeated criticisms of science are intended to demonstrate the dogmatic tendencies of science, tendencies that Nietzsche likens to that of Christianity. His concern is not necessarily that science will effectively replace religion as the new dogma of an empirically minded age. What Nietzsche is concerned with is that the dogmatic tendencies of science will lend itself to limiting the conceptual possibility of new interpretation, and new world philosophies.
Nietzsche’s Holistic Philosophy of Science-- The Challenges
Patrick A. Heelan in his article Nietzsche’s Perspectivalism:A Hermenutic Philosophy of Science challenges the interpretation of Nietzsche’s Philosophy of Science that I offered above. The central claims of his argument for his interpretation of Nietzsche’s philosophy of science, is that his frequently discussed concept of perspectivialism is a philosophy of meaning or in other words “not of ‘truth’ but of true (or false) meanings”. Meaning, according to Heelan “is not a private mental entity but a shared social entity embodied in a language” . This much Nietzsche would agree with, as the world is determined by the concepts laid out by the master class, and this is compatible with the thesis I have developed. However, after jumping from a discussion of meaning, to a discussion of hermeneutics, Heelan draws two implications not clearly implied or deducted from the content of his article, nor from Nietzsche’s later, more philosophically insightful and focused text. At this point, he notes an aspect of Nietzsche’s perspectivialism he believes is of special interest, which are the “indispensability of metaphor to the pursuit of perspectival insights” that promotes “the condition that a meaningful relationship to some public, scientific or non-scientific, often shifting cultural form be maintained throughout the inquiry” via science. This comes from a passage where he cites Nietzsche as believing truth is “a movable host of metaphors, metonyms, anthropomorphisms: in short a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified…. which after long usage seem …. fixed, canonical, and binding”. However both of these passages are taken out of context, and have nothing to with the creation of value, which is a characteric right of the masters. Secondly the perspectives are already set for Nietzsche, as there are only master and slave types, or an admixture of both. Thirdly the process of maintaining cultural dialogue is of secondary importance, as Nietzsche is primarily concerned with preventing the emergence of new dogmas.
The second is “the role of the Dionysian myth in the discovery process of scientific research”. Here the support is drawn from Heelan’s interpretation of Nietzsche’s perspectivism as an “a hermeneutic philosophy [which treats science ( and in general all scholarship) as a form of human culture constituted by the search for an eventual discovery and articulation of new meaning”, which is partially accurate. The masters, are concerned with the articulation of new meaning, but are not consent to search for it. They actively create it. As my thesis above as demonstrated, science is a slavish activity, that can only serve as handmaid for the improvement of the life of the masters. Slaves on the other hand are not going to be concerned with the search for new meaning, but a search for truth, which constricts the possibility of multiple world interpretations.
Joshua Andresen argues that Nietzsche presents us with a series of falsification theses. The theses he identifies in Nietzsche’s texts are “falsification due to language, reason, or consciousness; falsification due to the senses; and falsification due to improper judgments about our cognitive status” and asks whether or not theses theses taken on their own or as a collection “commit Nietzsche to… falsification of the world such that all of our beliefs about the world would turn out to be false”Anderesen concludes that the second and third thesis he believes Nietzsche presents are direct endorsements of a general and inevitable falsification. Further, Anderesen attempts to make the case that we can both take falsification seriously and avoid claims Nietzsche rejects, such as a metaphysical commitment to things in themselves by introducing Nietzsche’s alleged naturalism as a way to avoid discrediting falsification and committing Nietzsche to things in themselves.
Anderson’s construction of a Nietzschean naturalism is characterized by a few epistemological claims. The first is a refusal to refer transcendent or teleological principles as an adequate method of explanation. The second virtue is to show how the ontological status of concepts such as permanence, substance or being are superfluous but useful tools from human life and human knowledge. the success of scientific claims are not successful because of an isomorphism between objective reality and subjective existence, rather it is because our basic conceptual capacities allow us to sustain existence and allow us to plan ahead. Supposedly, the underlying explanation for the success happens to lie in the luck of evolutionary development according to Anderson’s interpretation.
This, in Anderson’s view, is enough “to understand Nietzsche’s claims of fundamental falsification by both the senses and the higher linguistic elements of cognition in a naturalistic-evolutionary manner”, and this point of view seems to have a general degree of validity. As Kaufmann and many other scholars note, Nietzsche did endorse a Lamarckian conception of evolutionary behavior. Thus, the evidence procured by Anderson seems to support a widely agreed upon aspect of Nietzsche’s philosophy.
There is plenty of textual support for Andresen’s argument. For example, after discussing the “evolving Eurpoean” who are under “ new conditions that will on the average lead to the leveling and mediatization of man”, that the “power of adaptation which keeps trying out changing conditions and begins some new work with every generation, almost with every decade, does not make possible the powerfulness of the type” .
And in more than one instance it does seem as if Anderson’s claim is correct as Nietzsche does acknowledge that “we simply lack any organ for knowledge, for “truth”: we “know” (or believe or image) just as much as may be useful in the interests of the human herd the species” However directly proceeding that excerpt is the assertion “ and even what is here called “utility” [useful=synonym for utility] is ultimately also a mere belief, something imaginary, and perhaps precisely that most calamitous stupidity of which we shall perish some day”. As we can see, Andresen omits the part of the paragraph that seems to diminish the possibility of Nietzsche being a evolutionary naturalist.
Andresen’s argument does indeed make a strong case that Nietzsche believed that some conceptual frameworks and critical orientations towards the world and universe at large, have been useful instruments for preserving human existence. Even if we accept this part of Andresen’s argument, we are left with a less than holistic account of Nietzsche’s overall philosophy of science. Insofar as I’ve adequately established the connection between religion and science, both of which Nietzsche criticizes as slavish ideology seeking to perpetuate a single world view, then it seems to apply that any criticism of religion will equally apply to science, as both are instruments of belief held by what Nietzsche designates as the herd and slavish type of individual. In Beyond Good and Evil 62 Nietzsche presents us with another scathing criticism applying to both religion and science. Here he states that religious belief will
“seek to preserve, to preserve alive whatever can possibly be preserved; indeed, as a matter of principle, they side these cases as religions for sufferers; they agree with all those who suffer life like a sickness and would like to make sure that every other feeling about life should be considered false … nevertheless, in a total accounting, ... we have had so far are among the chief causes that have kept the type of “man” on a lower rung-- they have preserved too much of what ought to perish”.
This discussion pertains to the biological types of human beings religion produces, but it also applies to science, in that as long as it is produces a fundamentally narrow world view it too deserves to perish in order to give way to multiple world interpretations. The idea that multiple world interpretations are preferred, suggests that Nietzsche himself could not be an evolutionary naturalist, because that comes from one limited perspective from science, which can perpetuate dogma and diminish the value of philosophy.
Moreover, it’s been frequently noted that Nietzsche was not an advocate of truth, as he famously proclaims there is no such thing as facts only interpretation of phenomena. Being the case that Nietzsche claims there is no such thing as truth, it follows that the conceptual antipode of a claim or interpretation being false is also destroyed. What we are left with is a series of interpretations, some of which are better than others, as determined by the master types who have the right to create and judge concepts. In other words, Nietzsche’s conception of interpretation should be viewed as a flexible scale, where claims, theories, or hypotheses are better or worse than others. Thus there can be no falsification because nothing is absolutely false.
Nietzsche’s philosophy of science revolves around his conception of the master and slave types. The concern for Nietzsche is that science has the potential to undermine the importance of philosophical inquiry, which limits our ability to interpret the world in new and philosophically interesting ways. The importance of Nietzsche’s philosophy is that it demonstrates the continual need to remain open minded when confronted with conflicting methods and views about our own world views. By doing such, we refrain from our possibly innate dogmatic tendencies, and open up new ways to explore and characterize the ever changing flux of human reality. Perhaps by adhering to a commitment to openness we can position ourselves to truly stand beyond good and evil.
Did you enjoy getting through this? I hope so.
With schadenfreude and confidence, Zigmund E. Reichenbach
Did you enjoy getting through this? I hope so.
With schadenfreude and confidence, Zigmund E. Reichenbach
Zigmund Reichenbach -- the primary writer for this blog -- is just a concerned citizen eager to make a contribution to the world. You can help support him -- or his excellent undergraduate professor-- here and here. Thanks friends!
*Again citations not provided or some are missing. Thanks for the understanding fam.