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NIETZSCHES NAT UR A L IS M

This book explores Nietzsches philosophical naturalism in its his-


torical context, showing that his position is best understood against
the background of encounters between neo-Kantianism and the life
sciences in the nineteenth century. Analyzing most of Nietzsches
writings from the late 1860s onwards, Christian J. Emden recon-
structs Nietzsches naturalism and argues for a new understanding of
his account of nature and normativity. Emden proposes historical rea-
sons why Nietzsche came to adopt the position he did; his genealogy
of values and his account of a will to power are as much influenced
by Kantian thought as they are by nineteenth-century debates on
teleology, biological functions, and theories of evolution. This rich
and wide-ranging study will be of interest to scholars and students of
Nietzsche, the history of modern philosophy, intellectual history, and
history of science.

c h r i s t i a n j. e m d e n is Professor of German Intellectual History


and Political Thought at Rice University. He is the author of Friedrich
Nietzsche and the Politics of History (2008) and Nietzsche on Language,
Consciousness, and the Body (2005) and recently co-edited Beyond
Habermas: Democracy, Knowledge, and the Public Sphere (2012) and
Changing Perceptions of the Public Sphere (2012).
N I E T Z S C H E S N AT U R A L I S M
Philosophy and the Life Sciences in the Nineteenth Century

CHRISTIAN J. EMDEN
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Christian J. Emden 2014


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Contents

Acknowledgments page vii


Nietzsches writings ix

Introduction 1

part i varieties of philosophical naturalism


1 Introduction 13
2 The neo-Kantian stance 20
3 Nietzsches anti-Darwinism? 34
4 Psychology, experiment, and scientific practice 49
5 Three kinds of naturalism 60

part ii evolution and the limits of teleology


6 Introduction 77
7 Problems with purpose 83
8 The politics of progress 95
9 Naturalizing Kant 101
10 Genealogy and path dependence 125

part iii genealogy, nature, and normativity


11 Introduction 145
12 Darwinisms metaphysical mistake 147

v
vi Contents
13 Living things and the will to power 167
14 Toward a natural history of normativity 184
15 Naturalism in morality 204

Bibliography 215
Index 241
Acknowledgments

Over the course of this project, I was extraordinarily fortunate to receive


detailed criticisms, suggestions, and many surprising hints from friends
and colleagues who have read individual chapters and, at times, even
worked through the thicket of the entire manuscript. I am grateful to
Christa Davis Acampora, Keith Ansell-Pearson, Karl Ameriks, Nicholas
Boyle, Jeffrey Church, Daniel Conway, Steven Crowell, Anthony Jensen,
David Midgley, John Zammito, and Rachel Zuckert for being so generous
with their advice, time, and knowledge. It is their incisive questions and
perceptive comments that have often forced me to rethink central parts of
the argument. Although I might not always have been able to do justice
to the questions they have raised, I hope that the revisions they rightly
demanded have made the argument more cogent. Hilary Gaskin, my editor
at Cambridge University Press, has thoughtfully guided the project in its
final stages, and detailed comments by two anonymous readers were helpful
in clarifying a number of issues that I would have otherwise overlooked.
Part I of this book has profited greatly from comments by members of
the audience at the conference Nietzsche on Mind and Nature, held at
Oxfords St. Peters College in September 2009, and I should like to thank
Manuel Dries and Peter Kail for the kind invitation to present some prelim-
inary ideas about Nietzsches naturalism. These ideas will be published as
On Natural Beings: Nietzsche and Philosophical Naturalism, in Manuel
Dries (ed.), Nietzsche on Consciousness and the Embodied Mind (Berlin: Wal-
ter de Gruyter, forthcoming in 2015). I am also grateful to my colleagues
at Rice Universitys History of Philosophy Workshop, whose disagreement
with my account of Nietzsches reflections on teleology was extremely help-
ful in reformulating central claims of Part II. A much abridged version of
Part II appeared as Nietzsche, Kant, and Teleology, in Karl Ameriks,
Nicholas Boyle, and Liz Disley (eds.), The Impact of Idealism: The Legacy of
Post-Kantian German Thought, Volume I. Philosophy and Natural Sciences
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 16690. An early version
vii
viii Acknowledgments
of some of the material on metaethics in Part III can be found in Polit-
ical Realism Naturalized: Nietzsche on the State, Morality, and Human
Nature, in Manuel Knoll and Barry Stocker (eds.), Nietzsche as Political
Philosopher (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2014) 31344. I am grateful to the
editors and publishers for allowing me to draw on this material.
Conversations with John Richardson, Joseph Rouse, Hans-Jorg Rhein-
berger, and James Tully have directly contributed to my thinking in
this book, and I am still asking myself, more than ten years after I left
Cambridge, whether Barry Nisbet would find my argument sufficiently
lucid. At those times when I doubted that this really was the case, it was
the intellectual context and close-knit community at Rice, crossing dif-
ferent disciplines and sharing many common interests, that provided the
right space in which my ideas could develop. Among the friends at Rice
who continue to make intellectual life surprisingly enjoyable Peter C. Cald-
well, Steven Crowell, Kirsten Ostherr, Uwe Steiner, Sarah Whiting, Harvey
Yunis, and John Zammito hold a special place because of their friendship,
example, and wit.
Life in Houston would not be quite the same, of course, without Peter
Killoran, Kirsten Ostherr, and Messrs. B. and T., whose warm friendship
provides much enjoyment and comfort. Once all is said and done, however,
this book is for Carla Sharp, my wife and so much more, a scientist proper,
who continues to tolerate, against her better judgment, a husband who
works at odd hours of the day. It is also for our wonderful daughter
Milla, who came along when the project started, accompanied it with a
bright smile and colorful pictures throughout, and excitedly emptied our
bookshelves into a backpack, claiming to head off for college, at a time
when she was still learning how to read.
Nietzsches writings: editions, abbreviations,
and translations

A The Anti-Christ: A Curse of Christianity, in The Anti-Christ,


Ecce Homo, Twilight of the Idols, and Other Writings, trans.
Judith Norman, ed. Aaron Ridley and Judith Norman
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 167. Quoted
according to section.
BGE Beyond Good and Evil, trans. Judith Norman, ed. Rolf-Peter
Horstmann and Judith Norman (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2002). Quoted according to section.
BT The Birth of Tragedy, in The Birth of Tragedy and Other
Writings, trans. Ronald Speirs, ed. Raymond Geuss and
Ronald Speirs (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999),
1116. Quoted according to chapter.
D Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality, trans. R. J.
Hollingdale, ed. Maudemarie Clark and Brian Leiter
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997). Quoted
according to section.
EH Ecce Homo: How to Become What You Are, in The Anti-Christ,
Ecce Homo, Twilight of the Idols, and Other Writings, trans.
Judith Norman, ed. Aaron Ridley and Judith Norman
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 69151.
Quoted according to chapter and section.
GM On the Genealogy of Morality, trans. Carol Diethe, ed. Keith
Ansell-Pearson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1994). Quoted according to essay and section.
GS The Gay Science, trans. Josefine Nauckhoff, ed. Bernard
Williams (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).
Quoted according to section.
ix
x Nietzsches writings: editions, abbreviations, and translations
GSA Unpublished Notes in the Goethe- und Schiller-Archiv,
Weimar, Germany. Quoted according to signature and page
reference.
HA Human, All Too Human, trans. R. J. Hollingdale, intro.
Richard Schacht (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1996). Quoted according to volume, part, and section.
KGB Briefwechsel: Kritische Gesamtausgabe, ed. Giorgio Colli and
Mazzino Montinari (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1975).
Quoted according to volume and page reference.
KGW Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe, founded by Giorgio Colli and
Mazzino Montinari, ed. Volker Gerhardt, Norbert Miller,
Wolfgang Muller-Lauter, and Karl Pestalozzi (Berlin and New
York: Walter de Gruyter, 1967). The Philologica are quoted
according to volume and page number. The Nachla is quoted
according to volume and fragment number.
TI Twilight of the Idols, or How to Philosophize with a Hammer, in
The Anti-Christ, Ecce Homo, Twilight of the Idols, and Other
Writings, trans. Judith Norman, ed. Aaron Ridley and Judith
Norman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005),
153229. Quoted according to chapter and section.
TL On Truth and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense, in The Birth of
Tragedy and Other Writings, trans. Ronald Speirs, ed.
Raymond Geuss and Ronald Speirs (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1999), 13953. Quoted according to page
reference.
UM Untimely Meditations, trans. R. J. Hollingdale, ed. Daniel
Breazeale (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).
Quoted according to part and section.
Z Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for Everyone and Nobody, trans.
and ed. Graham Parkes (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
2005). Quoted according to part and section.
Introduction

There is one question that is crucial to any understanding of Friedrich


Nietzsches philosophical thought: what does it mean to translate human-
ity back into nature (BGE 230)?1 Although he explicitly formulates this
question only in the volumes of The Gay Science (1882/7) and Beyond Good
and Evil (1886), it is difficult to overlook that its implications were present
right from the beginning, even before his essay On Truth and Lying in a
Non-Moral Sense, written in 1872/3. Focusing on only this question, this
book has three aims, and it will be good to outline them at the beginning.
The first aim is to reconstruct Nietzsches philosophical naturalism. The
latters central concern, I argue, is the problem of normativity. How can we
obtain an understanding of the sources of normativity without appealing
to normativity as a standard separate from the agency, affects, conceptual
commitments, and also cells and organs, that make us natural beings? At
its core, Nietzsches naturalism holds that what we regard as normative as
belonging to the world of knowledge and morality but also to the world of
affect is already constitutive of our existence and agency as natural beings.
We cannot appeal to concepts of either normativity or nature that are
external to our existence as natural beings, nor can normativity be located
outside the historically emerged contexts within which we engage with
what we regard as the world we inhabit. This is a difficult position to hold,
precisely because it seeks to overcome the traditional opposition between
materialism and idealism that, in one way or another, remains at the heart
of modern philosophy. Nietzsches position is perhaps best understood as
a naturalized version of Kantian epistemology, and his naturalism indeed
develops in dialogue with the first generation of neo-Kantians. This claim
departs in many ways from standard readings of Nietzsches naturalism that
often present his thought as opposed to Kant and the neo-Kantians.2 Such
1 See also GS 109.
2 See, for instance, Christoph Cox, Nietzsche: Naturalism and Interpretation (Berkeley, CA: University
of California Press, 1999), 17684.

1
2 Nietzsches Naturalism
standard readings, I argue, rest on a historical misunderstanding. There
are, in short, different kinds and different generations of neo-Kantians,
and Nietzsches naturalism is of a rather particular kind, which continues
to make his arguments relevant for current philosophical discussions about
normativity.
The second aim of this book is to show that there are specific histor-
ical reasons why Nietzsche came to adopt a position best understood in
terms of philosophical naturalism. These reasons are not only to be found
in his encounter with early neo-Kantian thought, but also in his con-
tinued and surprisingly detailed engagement with the contemporary life
sciences. The latters evolutionary framework, Darwinian and otherwise,
forces Nietzsche to revisit Kants discussions of teleology and causality in
order to reach a philosophical understanding of development in nature
that adequately takes into account new kinds of biological knowledge
about such things as cells, organs, and the development of embryos. The
reconstruction of Nietzsches naturalism requires thick historical contex-
tualization, and the historical perspective of this book parts ways with
many analytic reconstructions of Nietzsches naturalism. While the latter
often tend to project our current knowledge of evolution, together with a
shorthand notion of what constitutes science, into Nietzsches writings,
I will foreground the uncertain and conflicting nature of knowledge in the
nineteenth-century life sciences as emerging disciplines. One consequence
of this approach is the conclusion that Nietzsches naturalism is neither
of a Darwinist kind, nor anti-Darwinian in orientation and, as such, his
work reflects the uncertain outlook of the contemporary life sciences as
it can also be found in the work of scientists such as Darwin, Wilhelm
Roux, August Weismann, Rudolf Virchow, and Carl von Nageli, to name
but a few. Moreover, relating Nietzsches engagement with the life sciences
to the Kantian and neo-Kantian background of his naturalism allows us
to recognize the inherently historical dimension of Nietzsches project:
development in nature, and therefore also the development of our norma-
tive commitments as human beings, is neither teleological, nor completely
arbitrary and random; it is open toward the future and inherently unpre-
dictable, but the range of future possibilities is limited by the constraints
that the past places on this development. This, to be sure, will require some
explanation.
Nietzsches mature project of a genealogy of values, in terms of both
moral values and epistemic commitments, only makes sense on the grounds
of this intersection of Kantian thought and the new life sciences of the
nineteenth century, and in Daybreak (1881) he described his project in
Introduction 3
terms of a natural history of these values (D 112). Following from this,
the third aim of this book is to show how Nietzsches naturalism and his
understanding of the life sciences tie in with genealogy. If the neo-Kantian
dimension of his naturalism is to hold much water, genealogy has to be
understood as a philosophical critique that seeks to deliver a natural history
of normativity. As such, genealogy has to fulfill three demands. It has to
show how the world of values really is constitutive of our existence and
agency as natural beings and how the normative force of our commitments
has come about in the first place. Genealogy also has to answer how we
could have come to hold norms and values that seemingly go against, and
often even deny, some of the basic conditions of our existence and agency
as natural beings, such as our hope in the autonomy of reason. Finally,
as a philosophical practice that, in line with Nietzsches naturalism, must
be part of the world it seeks to describe and criticize, genealogy has to
be able to open up possibilities for the emergence of new kinds of values.
As a normative enterprise, genealogy is only significant because it is able
to point to further development, including the possibility of overcoming
past normative claims that have appeared to be self-contradictory, such as
the moral canon of virtue ethics. Nietzsches conception of the will to
power plays an important role here, since it describes a merely formal
normative standard that he regards as constitutive of the agency of living
things, namely the overcoming of resistance.3
Against this background, I reach two conclusions. First, Nietzsches
genealogy is the inevitable outcome of the intersection of Kantian ideas
with the new life sciences that stands at the center of his naturalism. Second,
genealogy reaches beyond the traditional metaethical distinction between
moral realism and an anti-realism about values. From the perspective of
genealogy, the normative force of our commitments is neither independent
of our existence as natural beings, nor is it specific to our humanity. This
conclusion, once again, distances the argument of this book from many
current discussions of Nietzsches naturalism that either ascribe to him, in
various forms, an anti-realism about values, or conclude that he oscillates
between anti-realist and realist claims about values.4
To make the argument of this book more cogent, three clarifications are
necessary. The first relates to Nietzsches neo-Kantian stance, the second

3 See, along similar lines, Paul Katsafanas, Agency and the Foundations of Ethics: Nietzschean Constitu-
tivism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 14582.
4 Most recently, similar issues have also been raised from a more analytic perspective. See Nadeem J. Z.
Hussain, Nietzsches Metaethical Stance, in Ken Gemes and John Richardson (eds.), The Oxford
Handbook of Nietzsche (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 389414.
4 Nietzsches Naturalism
to the question of what kind of naturalism Nietzsche adopts, and the third
is concerned with the general outlook of the life sciences in the nineteenth
century. In the remainder of this introduction, I will address each of these
issues in turn.
Attributing to Nietzsches naturalism a neo-Kantian stance certainly
invites misunderstanding, and it is important to be precise. If Nietzsches
neo-Kantian stance were simply to imply that he happens to be interested
in authors that are critical of traditional metaphysics and open to advances
in the biological sciences of the time, then it would have little to do
with Kant; his relationship to neo-Kantian philosophers would merely be
a coincidence, a sign of the times, as it were. What is crucial to point
out, rather, is the fact that early neo-Kantian philosophy in contrast to
both Kant and a simple rejection of traditional metaphysics begins to
recognize the paradoxical nature of normativity, and therefore of human
agency, as soon we accept our existence as natural beings: in the realms
of both knowledge and ethical judgment, normative commitments are
co-emergent with our existence as acting natural beings that intervene in,
and interact with, a world of which we are already a constitutive part.
Normatively binding knowledge about evolution, for instance, partakes in
processes that contribute to the evolution of the species which advances
such epistemic claims about evolution in the first place. While German
idealism and materialism both attempt to resolve such paradoxes either
by deferring to the autonomy of human reason or by reducing norms to
natural kinds, early neo-Kantian thought endeavors to reach beyond the
opposition of idealism and materialism.
It is crucial to point out, however, that I refer here to the first genera-
tion of neo-Kantians in the period between the late 1840s and the 1880s
whose work is largely, albeit not exclusively, marked by the direct intersec-
tion of Kantian epistemology and the life sciences. This first generation
of neo-Kantians, roughly speaking, begins with Hermann von Helmholtz,
includes Nietzsches contemporaries Friedrich Albert Lange, Otto Caspari,
and Otto Liebmann, among others, and ends with Ernst Machs Beitrage
zur Analyse der Empfindungen [Contributions to the Analysis of Sensations],
published in 1886, whose last chapter offers the outline of a naturalistic
philosophy of science that does not even mention Kant any more. Lange,
Liebmann, and Caspari, in their work during the 1860s and 1870s, are
concerned with naturalizing Kants theory of knowledge. As such, this
first generation of neo-Kantians is different from those more famous neo-
Kantian philosophers, like Hermann Cohen and Paul Natorp, who gave
up naturalism in favor of new transcendental arguments. This difference
Introduction 5
between the naturalistic interests of the early neo-Kantians and the tran-
scendental claims of the later neo-Kantians is all too often glossed over in
many current accounts of neo-Kantian thought.
There is, of course, a range of problems that such an approach has
to face. Bernard Williams once remarked that Nietzsches writings are
characterized by a resistance to the continuation of philosophy by ordi-
nary means.5 Nevertheless, the persistent interest in Nietzsches thought
seems to suggest that he has become somewhat more ordinary, and less
of a scandalous deviation from the history of modern philosophy, than
often proclaimed. This is not only the case among those working in the
so-called continental tradition, or among intellectual historians, but also
among many commentators who situate themselves in the tradition of
analytic philosophy.6 Since the mid-1990s Nietzsches name has appeared
in seemingly surprising places, especially in the context of debates about
nature and normativity. Leaving aside the considerable influence he had on
Williams, who took over genealogy as a fruitful model to examine the way
we speak about truth, sincerity, and values, his impact can also be traced
in the work of Robert Brandom.7 Recently, Huw Price placed Nietzsche,
together with David Hume, in the tradition of a specific kind of naturalism,
subject naturalism, which holds that, whatever else human beings are,
they always remain natural beings, but it was Joseph Rouse who explicitly
described his discussion of normativity in the natural sciences as marked
by a Nietzschean commitment.8
On the one hand, naturalism has become the central focus of the cur-
rent discussion of Nietzsches work. On the other hand, analytic approaches
often ignore the complexity of Nietzsches historical context: they reduce
this context to one or two dominant themes, such as Darwinism, and
they also tend to take at face value the self-description of the natu-
ral sciences within this context.9 Moreover, they often view Nietzsches

5 Bernard Williams, Nietzsches Minimalist Moral Psychology, in The Sense of the Past: Essays in the
History of Philosophy, ed. and introd. Myles Burnyeat (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,
2006), 299310: 300.
6 See, for instance, Simon Robertson and David Owen, Nietzsches Influence on Analytic Philosophy,
in Gemes and Richardson (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Nietzsche, 185206.
7 See Bernard Williams, Truth and Truthfulness: An Essay in Genealogy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Uni-
versity Press, 2002), 1240, and Robert Brandom, Reason in Philosophy: Animating Ideas (Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press, 2009), 133 and 153.
8 See Joseph Rouse, How Scientific Practices Matter: Reclaiming Philosophical Naturalism (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 2002), 34, 95, 303, and 35960, and Huw Price, Naturalism without
Mirrors (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 186.
9 A particularly influential example is Brian Leiter, Nietzsche on Morality (London: Routledge,
2002).
6 Nietzsches Naturalism
naturalism as merely focusing on psychological questions, such as the
will.10 As I shall argue throughout the following chapters, the intellectual
fields within which Nietzsches naturalism develops are far more complex
than such readings suggest. Of course, an approach that seeks to do justice
to both Nietzsches philosophical import and his historical context might
be contentious. To some it may even seem quarrelsome. Philosophically
inclined readers might despair about the thick historical contextualization
that guides the argument. Historians, meanwhile, could very well raise com-
plaints about the way in which I occasionally draw on more technical work
in the philosophy of science that seems not always directly connected to the
historical contexts at stake. I believe, though, that this is a risk worth taking.
Naturalism, needless to say, can mean many things, but at its very core it
generally holds, first of all, that human beings are no special case vis-`a-vis
the rest of nature and, second, that the way we think philosophically about
our position in the world should entertain a close relationship to the natural
sciences broadly conceived. A naturalized account of our knowledge about
the world cannot successfully be detached from the problem of normativity.
Asking what we know, and how we know it, leads to normative claims about
the world, which govern the realm of our knowledge as much as they guide
our ethical commitments. Whatever distinctions we might draw between
different kinds of naturalism, the latter remains connected to the most
efficient, and the only reasonable, way of thinking about nature, that is,
the sciences. This was not lost on Nietzsche, who often praised what he
called, in The Gay Science, the severity of science (GS 293).
The way in which our normative commitments are grounded in nature,
of course, is open to debate. Fine distinctions have been drawn between
more substantive versions of naturalism and varieties that merely empha-
size philosophys methodological continuity with the sciences. Substantive
forms of naturalism have run into serious difficulties, however: to verify the
meaning of analytical statements about the world by appealing to phys-
icalist reductionism, that is, by assuming that such statements can only
be correct if they are based on a logic derived from an immediate access
to empirical reality, is virtually impossible in most cases. It is, as Willard
Van Orman Quine once noted, ultimately an unempirical dogma of
empiricists, a metaphysical article of faith.11 Nietzsches criticism of

10 See, most recently, Maudemarie Clark and David Dudrick, The Soul of Nietzsches Beyond Good and
Evil (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).
11 Willard Van Orman Quine, Two Dogmas of Empiricism, in From a Logical Point of View: Nine
Logico-Philosophical Essays, 2nd edn., rev. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1961), 2046:
37.
Introduction 7
nineteenth-century scientific materialism pointed to exactly the same prob-
lem. Quines naturalism, however, is also based on a continuity between
philosophical inquiry and scientific method that Nietzsche would have
found more difficult to endorse.12 Philosophy, for Quine, can only be
worth our while if it focuses on the cognitive aspect of the way we gain
knowledge about the world, and it needs to be guided by the very same
formal methods that Quine regarded as unifying the natural sciences.13
Where does the normative force of the sciences come from, however, Niet-
zsche would ask. Indeed, work in the nineteenth-century physiological
research laboratory, not unlike todays benchwork in molecular biology,
rarely if ever conforms to the neat formal methodological commitments
assumed by Quine. Nietzsches image of science, of how the sciences work,
is shaped, rather, by the mangle of scientific practice.14 His description of
genealogy, in Beyond Good and Evil, largely draws on the kinds of practices
that can be found in the biological and medical sciences: examination,
dissection, interrogation, vivisection (BGE 186). While Quines under-
standing of what constitutes scientific method is indebted to the math-
ematical and physical sciences of the mid twentieth century, Nietzsches
understanding of science is shaped by the untidy experimental endeavors
of the nineteenth-century life sciences and by the ensuing debates about
the reach of biological explanations.
The reason why this distinction is important, is that there is no unity of
method among the nineteenth-century life sciences. Although all the life
sciences subscribe to an evolutionary model of development, and conceive
life as an exclusively biological phenomenon, they do so in very different
ways and with very different outcomes: natural selection, animal morphol-
ogy, cell theory, experimental psychology, and research in physiological
laboratories tend to overlap only partially.15 Seen from this perspective, it
is also inherently problematic to give too much weight to the question
whether, or not, Nietzsche accepted Charles Darwins theory of evolu-
tion. Whether he is a Darwinist strictly speaking, and whether his claims
are therefore more reasonable than otherwise, is not the crucial issue. It

12 See Willard Van Orman Quine, Epistemology Naturalized, in Ontological Relativity and Other
Essays (New York: Columbia University Press, 1969), 6990.
13 See ibid., 82.
14 See Andrew Pickering, The Mangle of Practice: Time, Agency, and Science (Chicago, IL: University
of Chicago Press, 1995).
15 See Lynn K. Nyhart, Biology Takes Form: Animal Morphology and the German Universities, 18001900
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), and Robert J. Richards, The Meaning of Evolution:
The Morphological Construction and Ideological Reconstruction of Darwins Theory (Chicago, IL:
University of Chicago Press, 1992).
8 Nietzsches Naturalism
would be wrong to assume that, by the 1880s, all biological questions were
answered by reference to natural selection and adaptation.16
Nietzsche, to be sure, does accept a Darwinian framework, and there are,
as we shall see, good reasons for him to do so. But the modern evolutionary
synthesis emerges only in the early twentieth century; it simply was not
yet in place in the second half of the nineteenth century. Darwin is just
Darwin; he is not a neo-Darwinian or even a Darwinist. Indeed, Darwins
program overlaps and competes with other approaches of, at the time, equal
explanatory value. Cell theory and animal morphology, for instance, often
addressed issues for example, cell division, genetic inheritance, or the
morphological development of embryos that natural selection could not
yet integrate into its overall theoretical claims. There is, in short, no unity
to the life sciences of the nineteenth century, and this is as true around
1800 as it is during the 1880s. It would be a historical misunderstanding to
view the life sciences of the nineteenth century through the lens of the neo-
Darwinian synthesis of evolution, but it is a common misunderstanding.
What makes the contemporary life sciences philosophically interesting
for Nietzsche and the neo-Kantians, are precisely the tensions between
different explanatory models and the messy conceptual arsenal that always
mark emerging disciplines, but also the unclear status of the concrete
knowledge the life sciences produce through fieldwork, experiment, and
observation.
Moreover, as emerging disciplines with an uncertain vocabulary the
life sciences in the second half of the nineteenth century continued to be
marked by the language of earlier Naturphilosophie. This is not a specifically
German phenomenon. The circulation of ideas between Britain, Germany,
and France is a feature common to the sciences in nineteenth-century
Europe.17 Darwin, in his famous second notebook on the transmutation
of species from 1838, refers freely, and with enthusiasm, to authors in close
proximity to Romantic Naturphilosophie, such as Gottfried Reinhold Tre-
viranus and Carl Gustav Carus, speculating about a possible spirit of life
16 For the assumption that Nietzsche is a critic of Darwinian accounts of evolution see, for instance,
Dirk R. Johnson, Nietzsches Anti-Darwinism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), and
Gregory Moore, Nietzsche and Evolutionary Theory, in Keith Ansell-Pearson (ed.), A Companion
to Nietzsche (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006), 51731.
17 British biologists and philosophers were sufficiently familiar with German Romantic Naturphiloso-
phie, for instance, through J. B. Stallo, General Principles of the Philosophy of Nature, with an
Outline of Some of Its Recent Developments among the Germans, Embracing the Philosophical Systems
of Schelling and Hegel, and Okens System of Nature (London: Chapman, 1848), and Samuel Taylor
Coleridge, The Idea of Life: Hints Towards the Formation of a More Comprehensive Theory of Life,
ed. Seth B. Watson (London: Churchill, 1848).
Introduction 9
and a thinking principle that ordered the endless forms of the natural
beings.18 Thus, when Nietzsche and Darwin refer to evolution, they have
something in mind that is rather different from what we, today, understand
by the very same term. Nietzsche is not more, or less, influenced by the
German tradition of biological research than by Darwin and Darwinism.
Rather, he draws on both in equal measure precisely because the apparent
differences among these strands of biological thought are less relevant in
the nineteenth century than they might appear to be today. Nietzsches
relationship to Darwin, then, is as intricate as his relationship to Kant, and
when he seems to criticize Darwin, such criticism is often directed against
popularized versions of Darwinism rather than against Darwins program
of evolution.
Nietzsches interest in the life sciences is central to the development of
his philosophical project as a whole. In a letter he sent in the summer of
1881 from Sils Maria to his close friend Franz Overbeck in Zurich, he noted
emphatically: Said in confidence: the little I can work on with my eyes
belongs almost exclusively to physiological and medical studies (I am so
badly informed! and really have to know so much!) (KGB iii/1, 117). A
sober historical understanding of this interest in the life sciences began to
gain traction only fairly recently.19 Nevertheless, the philosophical discus-
sion is often still influenced by Martin Heideggers claim that Nietzsches
notion of science bore little relation to the contemporary natural sciences
as they took shape over the course of the nineteenth century.20 Also, Hei-
deggers famed lectures at the University of Freiburg im Breisgau, delivered
between 1936 and 1940, argued that Nietzsches proper philosophy was to
be found in his notes, creatively compiled and published in 1901, and subse-
quently in several revised formats, as The Will to Power. There is little doubt
that this has done much damage, so much so that one recent commentator
noted that Nietzsches will to power was merely a wild-eyed speculation
not untypical in nineteenth-century German metaphysics, which simply
18 See Charles Darwin, Notebooks on Transmutation of Species, Part ii: Second Notebook (February
to July 1838), edited with an Introduction by Sir Gavin de Beer, Bulletin of the British Museum
(Natural History): Historical Series 2/3 (May 1969), 75118: 93, 98, and 108. Darwin refers here to
Gottfried Reinhold Treviranus, Biologie, oder Philosophie der lebenden Natur fur Naturforscher und
Aerzte (Gottingen: Rower, 180222), and Carl Gustav Carus, On the Kingdoms of Nature, their
Life and Affinities, Scientific Memoirs Selected from the Transactions of Foreign Academies of Science
and Learned Societies and from Foreign Journals 1 (1837), 22354.
19 See, for instance, the contributions in Gregory Moore and Thomas H. Brobjer (eds.), Nietzsche and
Science (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004).
20 Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche, trans. David Farrell Krell, Joan Stambaugh, and Frank A. Capuzzi,
ed. David Farrell Krell (New York: Harper & Row, 197987), ii, 20.
10 Nietzsches Naturalism
does not merit serious attention.21 Despite such reservations, I will argue
that Nietzsche posed the right questions about the reach of naturalism and
about normativity questions that continue to be relevant today. He is not
always able, however, to deliver convincing solutions. To a considerable
degree, he shares this fate with Kant, but asking the right questions is
already a good way forward.

21 Bernard Reginster, The Affirmation of Life: Nietzsche on Overcoming Nihilism (Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 2006), 104.
part i
Varieties of philosophical naturalism
chapter 1

Introduction

Writing from the bustling Mediterranean city of Nice in November 1887,


Friedrich Nietzsche asked his publisher, Constantin Georg Naumann, in a
probably somewhat dreary Leipzig, to send free copies of his most recent
book to some of the main figures of the scientific establishment in the
German-speaking lands (KGB iii/5, 188). The book in question was On
the Genealogy of Morality, which Nietzsche had written mostly in July and
August 1887 during his regular summer retreat in the stunning natural
setting of Sils Maria in the Swiss Engadin valley, surrounded by the Alps,
not too far from Lake Silvaplana and only a few miles from northern Italy.
The list of recipients he sent to his publisher, however, had little to do with
an aesthetic appreciation of nature. Among the scientists he mentioned to
Naumann were, for instance, Wilhelm Wundt and Emil DuBois-Reymond.
Wundt was at the time professor of philosophy and experimental psychol-
ogy at the University of Leipzig, Nietzsches own alma mater, and already
internationally regarded as the main representative of the new field of exper-
imental psychology. DuBois-Reymond was professor of physiology at the
University of Berlin and permanent secretary to the Prussian Academy of
Sciences. Another recipient was one of the most towering figures of the
natural sciences in nineteenth-century Europe, Hermann von Helmholtz,
whose early work on thermodynamics and physiology Nietzsche had read
in some detail. These were followed by Ernst Mach, the professor of exper-
imental physics at Charles University in Prague, which was then part of the
Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Carl Vogt, professor of zoology in Geneva
who was one of the main figures of scientific materialism. A final copy was
to go to Rudolf Leuckart, professor of zoology at Leipzig, who was mainly
working in the field of parasitology.
This, to be sure, is an odd list of scientists generally not connected to
Nietzsches work, at least not in the popular imagination. Even in most
philosophical accounts of Nietzsches writings, these figures tend to be
either absent or mentioned only in passing. To some extent, the list received
13
14 Part I Varieties of philosophical naturalism
by Nietzsches publisher was certainly intended to generate public interest
in his recent publications, with the faint hope, perhaps, of an endorsement
by a prominent figure in Germanys scientific establishment. But it also
shows that Nietzsche clearly situated his moral and political thought, as
it was expressed in the three essays of On the Genealogy of Morality, in a
broad intellectual framework characterized by the intersection of philos-
ophy and the natural sciences. What united the scientists he mentioned
to his publisher was, first of all, a commitment to experimental research,
representing both the ethos and the instrumental practices of the mod-
ern research laboratory. Helmholtz and DuBois-Reymond, for instance,
who had both worked for some time under the direction of the physiol-
ogist Johannes Muller in Berlin, headed their own laboratories: DuBois-
Reymond, who taught at the Physiological Institute in Berlin opened his
own laboratory in 1877, while in 1887 Helmholtz, who had already led
several extremely successful research programs at different German uni-
versities, such as Konigsberg and Heidelberg, had just been appointed
president of the Imperial Physico-Technical Institute in the Berlin suburb
of Charlottenburg. Wundt, one of Helmholtzs former assistants in Hei-
delberg, founded the Institute for Experimental Psychology at Leipzig in
1879, which was the first modern psychological research laboratory.
There is, however, a second feature that unites these scientists. Their
work was, at some stage in their careers at least, directly concerned with
the human body, with organic life, and with the description of the latters
physiological and developmental processes. DuBois-Reymonds research
focused on electric phenomena in organic tissue, in particular nerve fibres
and muscles, while Helmholtz had become famous, among other things,
for his early studies on the perception of space, color, and sound, as well
as for his experimental investigations into the rate of nerve induction,
measuring the speed at which stimuli are transmitted in nerve fibers.1 Mach
and Wundt, like Helmholtz, had experimented extensively on sensory
perception.2 Leuckarts research interest was the morphological study of
marine invertebrates, before he began to turn his attention to the life cycle
of parasitic tapeworms and roundworms, while Vogt was one of the most
1 See, for instance, Emil DuBois-Reymonds Untersuchungen u ber thierische Elektricitat (Berlin: Reimer,
18484); Hermann von Helmholtzs Messungen u ber den zeitlichen Verlauf der Zuckung ani-
malischer Muskeln und die Fortpflanzungsgeschwindigkeit der Reizung in den Nerven, Archiv
fur Anatomie, Physiologie und wissenschaftliche Medicin (1850), 276364, and Die Lehre von den
Tonempfindungen als physiologische Grundlage fur die Theorie der Musik (Braunschweig: Vieweg,
1863).
2 See Wilhelm Wundt, Grundzuge der physiologischen Psychologie (Leipzig: Engelmann, 1874), and
Ernst Mach Grundlinien der Lehre von den Bewegungsempfindungen (Leipzig: Engelmann, 1875).
Introduction 15
vocal supporters of Darwins theory of evolution in the German-speaking
world a support he also regarded as a political commitment.3 Together
Nietzsches cast of scientists represented the experimentalization of life
in the nineteenth century.4
The link between DuBois-Reymonds research on electrical currents in
the skin of frogs and the author of Thus Spoke Zarathustra (18835) might
be a curiosity of modern intellectual history, but there is more at stake.
After Nietzsche had left Sils Maria for Venice, where he spent the autumn
of 1887, making some necessary revisions to the essays of On the Genealogy
of Morality, he set himself the charge to transform social thought he
speaks of sociology into a study of the structures of domination [Lehre
von den Herrschaftsgebilden]. The latter was also coupled with two further
tasks: an account of epistemology that was to be centered on affect and
instinct and, most importantly, an understanding of moral values in terms
of naturalistic values, aimed at a naturalization of morality (KGW viii/2,
9 [8]). The very fact that this notebook entry comes after the publication
of The Gay Science and Beyond Good and Evil, with the proofs of On the
Genealogy of Morality on the way to the printer, might be seen as somewhat
surprising. After all, it is in these three works that Nietzsche seems to have
already fulfilled much of this philosophical program. But it also suggests
that his main concern was decidely not the kind of metaphysics of culture,
of art and human existence, that still continues to be attributed to his work.
The central interest of Nietzsches philosophical thought is the emer-
gence of normative order. This interest has both epistemological and ethical
components, and the connection between the latter already comes to the
fore in the essay On Truth and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense, where he
immediately pointed to the presumed moral authority of our notions of
truth. Truth, he seemed to suggest, is not a value-neutral concept. The
question remained, however: where does the binding force of such nor-
mative commitments originate? This, to be sure, was a difficult question
to answer, once Nietzsche had endorsed what amounted to a radical epis-
temological skepticism. Nevertheless, already in 1873 he suggested, not
unlike many representatives of scientific materialism, that the normative
force of statements about the world, as much as the normative force of
3 See Rudolf Leuckart, Die Parasiten des Menschen und die von ihnen herruhrenden Krankheiten (Leipzig:
Winter, 186376), and Carl Vogt, Vorlesungen u ber den Menschen, seine Stellung in der Schopfung und
in der Geschichte (Gieen: Ricker, 1863). For Darwins appreciation of Vogt, see his The Descent of
Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (New York: Appleton & Co., 1871), i, 1.
4 For an overview, see the contributions in Hans-Jorg Rheinberger and Michael Hagner (eds.),
Die Experimentalisierung des Lebens: Experimentalsysteme in den biologischen Wissenschaften 1850/1950
(Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1993).
16 Part I Varieties of philosophical naturalism
moral judgment, was to be located in the physiological organization and
biological makeup of human beings. Perception, knowledge, and our con-
ceptual articulation of the world began with the stimulation of nerves and
with the translation of such stimuli into images and sounds. The way in
which specific stimuli came to be associated with equally distinct mental
images, Nietzsche claimed, resulted in a conditioning of our physiological
apparatus, forcing us to see causality where there was none and allowing
for the construction of natural laws and values that bore little resemblance
to the world out there (TL 144 and 149).
Although the much-discussed essay on truth and lying already posed the
problem of philosophical naturalism, Nietzsche moved on thin ice. He was
far from clear how to address this particular problem in any substantive
way. Above all, the naturalistic commitment he advanced ran counter to the
overall skepticism displayed by his argument, when he famously claimed,
for instance, that what matters is never truth (TL 144). The apparently
radical epistemological skepticism he advocated on such occasions, reject-
ing the idea that the scientist [Forscher] is able to have immediate access
to pure objects (TL 148), seems to amount to a fairly direct attack on
scientific knowledge, intent on defending the intuitive and creative mind
of the artistic individual. His own readings, however, betray a different pic-
ture. After he had begun making a series of notes from May 1872 onward,
there was much delay until he completed the essay in late June 1873, when
he dictated the final version to his close friend Carl von Gersdorff. Niet-
zsche was at the time working on several projects concurrently. Apart from
the essay on truth and lying and his usual teaching commitments at the
University of Basel, he presented five public lectures, On the Future of
Our Educational Institutions (1872), and he started to compose some first
drafts for his Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks (1873). But this
was not the only reason for the delayed completion of the essay, for in
spring 1873 he had turned to a broad range of scientific textbooks that
reflected the current state of knowledge across different disciplines, such as
chemistry, physics, astronomy, and physiology.5 Against this background,
Nietzsches argument in the essay on truth and lying should not be misun-
derstood as a simple, and often rather polemical, rejection of science or as
an assault on the latters epistemic authority. Rather, it appears as a critical

5 Among the books Nietzsche borrowed from the university library in Basel were Friedrich Mohr,
Allgemeine Theorie der Bewegung und Kraft, als Grundlage der Physik und Chemie (Braunschweig:
Vieweg, 1869), and Hermann von Helmholtz, Handbuch der physiologischen Optik (Leipzig: Voss,
1867). For Nietzsches reading during the time he taught at the University of Basel, see Luca Crescenzi,
Verzeichnis der von Nietzsche aus der Universitatsbibliothek in Basel entliehenen Bucher (1869
1879), Nietzsche-Studien 23 (1994), 388442.
Introduction 17
endorsement of the philosophical consequences that resulted from con-
temporary scientific practice consequences that belied the popular image
of nineteenth-century science as an enterprise of value-neutral objectivity.
The sciences that Nietzsche found most interesting tend to be, by and
large, experimental sciences. The creative mind he celebrated at the end of
his essay was not only that of the artist unbound by convention and tradi-
tion, but resembled that of the experimenter, testing, observing, rearrang-
ing his instrumental arrays to generate new phenomena, and continuously
rearticulating the conceptual foundations of his field:
That vast assembly of beams and boards to which needy man clings, thereby
saving himself on his journey through life, is used by the liberated intellect as
a mere climbing frame and plaything on which to perform its most reckless
tricks; and when it smashes this framework, jumbles it up and ironically
re-assembles it, pairing the most unlikely things and dividing those things
which are closest to one another, it reveals the fact that it does not require
those makeshift aids of neediness, and that it is now guided, not by concepts
but by intuitions. (TL 152)
Despite the emphasis on intuition, Nietzsches liberated intellect clearly
does what any experimenter does. The scientific enterprise, as he continued
to remark many years later in Daybreak with regard to his own philosophical
project, was not characterized by a unity of method or by formal theoretical
principles:
Investigators and experimenters. There are no scientific methods which
alone lead to knowledge! We have to tackle things experimentally, now
angry with them and now kind, and be successively just, passionate and
cold with them. One person addresses things as a policeman, a second
as a father confessor, a third as an inquisitive wanderer. Something can
be wrung from them now with sympathy, now with force; reverence for
their secrets will take one person forwards, indiscretion and roguishness in
revealing their secrets will do the same for another. We investigators are, like
all conquerors, discoverers, seafarers, adventurers, of an audacious morality
and must reconcile ourselves to being considered on the whole evil. (D 432)
Science proper, in other words, was of a practical kind. It required, above all,
a kind of flexibility that responded to the resistance offered by phenomena,
thus often putting into question the moral authority of widely accepted
truths. Philosophy, on the other hand, always exhibited a tendency to
beautify the laborious process of scientific practice in much the same
way as rococo horticulture transformed untamed nature into something
altogether different (D 427).
Given Nietzsches obvious embrace of the experimental life sciences, it is
not surprising that his own philosophical project should return, throughout
18 Part I Varieties of philosophical naturalism
most of his writings, to the relationship between human knowledge and
physiological and biological organization, between the intellectual world
and the world out there. Addressing this relationship, first of all, provided
him with an epistemological framework that allowed for skepticism about
the authority of our normative commitments. This was already the case
in his early essay on truth and lying and it would continue to shape his
approach in his later writings.6 While, on the surface, such skepticism
might be seen as clashing with a thoroughly naturalistic perspective on
the world, Nietzsche nowhere seriously denies the existence of the natural
world, or that human experience is part of this natural world; he rather
seeks to question the ways in which we articulate knowledge about the
world and in which our normative commitments and values, in science
as much as in morality, have come about in the first place. The fact, for
instance, that [t]he world, as far as we can recognize it, is the activity of our
own nervous system, nothing more, does not entail that what we regard
as the world would be simply irrelevant and of no value to our existence
(KGW v/1, 10 [E 95]).
Second, Nietzsches early combination of naturalism with skepticism
can be regarded as a step toward that much more ambitious project that,
several years later, began to gain momentum in the pages of Human, All Too
Human (187880): the genealogy of morality, concerned with the natural
history of normative order. When he described this project, during his
so-called middle period, as being concerned with the knowledge of the
preconditions of culture (HA i: 25), his philosophical thought had already
become a critical enterprise that went far beyond the justification of life
through art which had taken center stage during his fascination with Arthur
Schopenhauers metaphysics of the will and Richard Wagners musical
aesthetics. The clear shift away from both Schopenhauer and Wagner,
that is, the departure from an existential brand of metaphysics and from
aestheticism, was itself already preconditioned by his early interest in the
natural sciences. Nietzsches profound concern with the question as to how
our knowledge about the world the world of nature as much as the
world of social life was able to gain any kind of binding normative force
could not be answered by either metaphysics or art.7 Instead, metaphysics
itself emerged as a problem linked to our biological organization and

6 On Nietzsches early skepticism, see the discussion in Jessica N. Berry, Nietzsche and the Ancient
Skeptical Tradition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 4967.
7 Nietzsches shift away from Wagner and Schopenhauer has been examined by Manfred Riedel, Ein
Seitenstuck zur Geburt der Tragodie: Nietzsches Abkehr von Schopenhauer und Wagner und seine
Wende zur Philosophie, Nietzsche-Studien 24 (1995), 4561.
Introduction 19
natural history. The lasting focus of his philosophical thought on the
emergence of normative order also entailed a commitment to naturalism
a naturalism that was informed as much by epistemological questions
as it was by his knowledge of the experimental sciences and his reading
in evolutionary theory. This required Nietzsche to adopt a philosophical
approach that would take what was seemingly most familiar, human beings,
and render them into something unfamiliar, as he once remarked in The
Gay Science (GS 355). Human beings had to be turned back into natural
beings; humanity had to be naturalized and translated back into nature
(GS 109 and BGE 230).
Part I will situate Nietzsches concerns in the broader context of the
nineteenth-century encounter between philosophy and the life sciences.
I argue that his position is increasingly marked by a neo-Kantian stance
that continues to be present even in his later work. Within this context,
evolutionary biology is of crucial importance. Nietzsche is closer to Darwin
than either he or many of his readers are willing to admit. His presumed
anti-Darwinism, I will contend, is based on a fundamental misreading of
the nineteenth-century life sciences as a unified field of research. In reality,
the difference between competing evolutionary programs such as natural
selection, animal morphology, and cell theory often led to particularly
fruitful conceptual innovations and explanatory models. Against the back-
ground of Nietzsches neo-Kantian stance and his relationship to Darwin
it will then be possible to provide a more general outline of Nietzsches
naturalism.
chapter 2

The neo-Kantian stance

In his essay on truth and lying, Nietzsches attempt to relate a naturalistic


account of human experience to epistemological skepticism hints at a deci-
sive problem that would accompany his philosophical interests throughout
much of his career: how should it be possible to claim, on the one hand,
that conceptual knowledge about the world falsifies reality, while on the
other relying on a fairly straightforward empirical understanding of what
constituted reality in the first place?1 Nietzsche, it seems, either has to
take the stance of the hardened scientific materialist for whom everything
pertaining to human experience can be reduced to, say, chemical reactions
that sustain and help reproduce living organisms, or if he wishes to take
his own skepticism seriously he has to deny the existence of such facts.
Although, in The Anti-Christ (1888), he still described the sceptics as
the decent types in the history of philosophy (A 12), and although it
is difficult to ignore his pessimism about human affairs, he continued to
emphasize the value of philosophizing and the value of scientific inquiry,
all the while criticizing, and at times ridiculing, the scientific materialism
that can be found among many of his philosophical peers. Such a seemingly
idiosyncratic position seems quite possible, though, within a thoroughly
neo-Kantian framework.
The first generation of neo-Kantians, in the period between the late
1840s and 1870s, emphasized epistemological concerns over the substantive
ontological claims of materialism.2 Philosophers such as Friedrich Albert

1 See Nadeem J. Z. Hussain, Nietzsches Positivism, European Journal of Philosophy 12 (2004), 32668:
3278.
2 On the first generation of neo-Kantians, see Klaus Christian Kohnke, Entstehung und Aufstieg des
Neukantianismus: Die deutsche Universitatsphilosophie zwischen Idealismus und Positivismus (Frank-
furt/M.: Suhrkamp, 1993), 151365. For an interesting case study, focusing on Langes arrival at
the University of Marburg and subsequent institutional changes, which contributed to the rise
of the second generation of neo-Kantians, see Ulrich Sieg, Aufstieg und Niedergang des Marburger
Neukantianismus: Die Geschichte einer philosophischen Schulgemeinschaft (Wurzburg: Konigshausen &
Neumann, 1994), 25123. The importance of the early neo-Kantians is often underestimated. See, for

20
The neo-Kantian stance 21
Lange, Afrikan Spir, and Otto Liebmann, whom Nietzsche read in much
detail, largely regarded substantive ontological claims as the consequence
of an epistemologically unsophisticated approach to the natural sciences.
Philosophys blind spot was an unjustifiably radical empiricism that had
to assume the existence of both an unmediated access to the world as it
really was and standards of objectivity that were independent of human
experience. From the early neo-Kantian perspective, this stood in sharp
contradiction to both the practice of the natural sciences and to their
actual empirical results. Drawing on Hermann von Helmholtzs seminal
1847 memoir on the theory of energy, Uber die Erhaltung der Kraft [On
the Conservation of Force], Lange, for instance, argued that the idea of
an unmediated access to pure substance, to reality as it really is, was
simply nonsensical.3 Any talk about substances and matter was inherently
dependent on recognizing the latter through their effects in terms of energy,
but the notion of energy itself only made sense if it was preceded by
substances able to release energy.4 Talk of substances and energy, much
like talk about reality, always took place in the realm of abstraction, so
that the claims of scientific materialism were, ironically, as metaphysical as
the speculations of German idealism. Idealism and materialism, in other
words, were effectively the same, as Lange pointed out, much to the chagrin
of his materialist peers.5
Langes reference to Helmholtz is telling for the wider intellectual field
and the social self-perception of the first generation of neo-Kantians, which
differ from the later neo-Kantians around 1900. The early neo-Kantians
situated themselves at the intersection of scientific practice and philosophy
and occasionally came into conflict with the more traditional conception
of scientific professionalization at German academic institutions. During
the mid 1840s, Helmholtz, for instance, had been involved in experiments
in Johannes Mullers physics research laboratory in Berlin, studying physi-
ological heat produced by muscle contraction.6 It was this work that posed

instance, the contributions in Marion Heinz and Christian Krijnen (eds.), Kant im Neukantianismus:
Fortschritt oder Ruckschritt? (Wurzburg: Konigshausen & Neumann, 2007).
3 See Friedrich Albert Lange, Geschichte des Materialismus und Kritik seiner Bedeutung in der Gegenwart
(Iserlohn: Baedeker, 1866), 37980, referring to Hermann von Helmholtz, Uber die Erhaltung der
Kraft: Eine physikalische Abhandlung (Berlin: Reimer, 1847), 37. Nietzsche also read Helmholtzs
memoir. See Thomas H. Brobjer, Nietzsches Philosophical Context: An Intellectual Biography (Urbana,
IL: University of Illinois Press, 2008), 232.
4 die Erhaltung der Kraft, 4.
See Helmholtz, Uber 5 See Lange, Geschichte des Materialismus, 496.
6
See, for instance, Helmholtzs Uber die Warmeentwickelung der Muskelaction, Archiv fur
Anatomie und Physiologie (1848), 14464, and Bericht u ber die Theorie der physiologischen
Warmeerscheinungen betreffende Arbeiten aus dem Jahre 1845, Fortschritte der Physik 1 (1847),
34655.
22 Part I Varieties of philosophical naturalism
more fundamental questions about causality and matter, and like many
of his generation he sought to provide a rigorous theoretical framework
for the new experimental physiology but also for physics.7 Rejected by the
prestigious Annalen der Physik und Chemie as too theoretical, his essay on
the conservation of energy had to be published separately as a pamphlet,
or memoir, albeit to such international acclaim that, for instance, the fur-
ther development of the theory of energy in British physics was largely a
response to Helmholtz.8 Helmholtzs mathematization of nature based
on the reduction of organic life to chemical processes that, in turn, could
be described as physical relationships undoubtedly stipulated a unity of
the sciences. Such unity, though, depended on a Kantian trick: while the
physical explanation of natural forces could only be successful if it led to
the irreducible causes of these forces, such as the conservation of energy
in both the inorganic and organic worlds, the theoretical scientist as well
as the practical experimenter had to already assume what they set out to
prove, namely that nature could be conceptualized in terms of causality.9
Helmholtz, on this occasion, certainly leaves open where the normative
authority of causality might come from, but he did not regard the Kantian
dimension of his argument as in any way contradictory to his empiricist
claims.10
Linkages among different disciplines and epistemic fields were of central
importance for the first generation of neo-Kantians. The manner in which
they took into account recent advances in the study of human physiology
based as much on comparative anatomy as on laboratory experiments on
sense organs, the nervous system, and muscle reflexes certainly shaped
their overall naturalistic perspective. Knowledge of the world was less

7 The exact relationship, temporally and causally, between Helmholtzs physiological experiments and
his theory of energy is somewhat unclear. See Fabio Bevilacqua, Helmholtzs Ueber die Erhaltung der
Kraft: The Emergence of a Theoretical Physicist, in David Cahan (ed.), Hermann von Helmholtz
and the Foundations of Nineteenth-Century Science (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press,
1993), 291333; and Timothy Lenoir, The Strategy of Life: Teleology and Mechanics in Nineteenth-
Century German Biology (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1982), 197215.
8 See Crosbie Smith, The Science of Energy: A Cultural History of Energy Physics in Victorian Britain
(Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 12649.
9 die Erhaltung der Kraft, 24. While Helmholtz mainly focuses on the conser-
See Helmholtz, Uber
vation of energy in mechanical and electromagnetic phenomena, at the end of his memoir he turns
to the chemical processes of organic life. On Helmholtzs understanding of the unity of the sciences,
see Edward Jurkowitz, Helmholtz and the Liberal Unification of Science, Historical Studies in the
Physical and Biological Sciences 32 (2002), 291317.
10 Edward Jurkowitz, Helmholtzs Early Empiricism and the Erhaltung der Kraft, Annals of Science
67 (2010), 3978, even argued that the lesson Helmholtz took from Kant was the primacy of the
empirical. See also Peter M. Heimann, Helmholtz and Kant: The Metaphysical Foundations of

Uber die Erhaltung der Kraft, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 5 (1974), 20538.
The neo-Kantian stance 23
dependent on the properties of things out there than on the physiological
and ensuing cognitive processes that brought the world into existence for
the observer in the first place. This, however, should not be understood as a
return to idealist metaphysics among the first generation of neo-Kantians.
If the perceived structure of reality was itself a product of the body, the
observer and knowing self were always already part of this world, lacking
any privileged point of view grounded in the autonomy of reason.11 It is
this intermingling of cognitive and physiological processes, shaped by our
biological makeup, that took the place of Kants a priori conditions of
reason about which not very much could be said. This also implied that,
as Otto Liebmann remarked, neo-Kantianism had to be a Kantianism
without things in themselves. Demanding a return to Kant did not mean
that all aspects of Kants critical system had to be accepted.12
A properly neo-Kantian stance certainly entailed skepticism with
regard to the claims of the scientific materialists, such as Ludwig Buchner,
Heinrich Czolbe, and Jacob Moleschott, as well as with regard to the meta-
physical commitments that characterized late German idealism.13 Niet-
zsches naturalism is marked by precisely such a neo-Kantian stance, and
the latter is not limited to his early thought during the late 1860s and 1870s,
but it gained increasing relevance during the 1880s, when the genealogi-
cal project was in full swing and Nietzsche himself had reached a broader
understanding of the nineteenth-century life sciences, including the theory
of evolution. Nietzsche, in other words, was closer to Kant and the first
generation of neo-Kantians than he was often willing to admit.14
Pointing to the failure and contradictions of Schopenhauers meta-
physics as early as 1867/68 (KGW i/4, 57 [51] and [55]), Nietzsche increas-
ingly became concerned with a naturalistic account of life that, under
the heading Teleology since Kant, began to dominate his notebooks of
April and May 1868 (KGW i/4, 62 [6]). Part of this early project, which

11 See, for instance, Otto Liebmann, Ueber den objektiven Anblick: Eine kritische Abhandlung (Stuttgart:
Schober, 1869), 12947 and 15868.
12 See Otto Liebmann, Kant und die Epigonen: Eine kritische Abhandlung (Stuttgart: Schober, 1865),
2069, 2048, and 215.
13 See, for instance, Afrikan Spir, Denken und Wirklichkeit: Versuch einer Erneuerung der kritischen
Philosophie (Leipzig: Findel, 1873), 11631. Nietzsche read the first edition, but mainly relied on the
much enlarged and revised second edition, which appeared in two volumes in 1877.
14 The neo-Kantian dimension of Nietzsches thought has not been entirely overlooked. See R. Kevin
Hill, Nietzsches Critiques: The Kantian Foundations of His Thought (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
2003); Steven Crowell, Nietzsche Among the Neo-Kantians: Or, the Relation between Science and
Philosophy, and R. Lanier Anderson, Nietzsches Views on Truth and the Kantian Background
of his Epistemology, both in Babette Babich and Robert S. Cohen (eds.), Nietzsche and the Sciences
(Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1999), i, 7786, and ii, 4760, respectively.
24 Part I Varieties of philosophical naturalism
was initially supposed to lead to a proper philosophical dissertation that
never came to fruition, was an encounter with a broad range of literature
in the biological sciences. It was this literature that directly posed the cen-
tral question of the relationship among mind, normativity, and nature
from Johannes Mullers seminal Handbuch der Physiologie des Menschen
[Elements of Human Physiology] (183340) to Wilhelm Wundts Vorlesun-
gen u ber die Menschen- und Thierseele [Lectures on Human and Animal
Psychology] (1863), among others.15 Most importantly, however, Nietzsches
reading of Langes Geschichte des Materialismus [History of Materialism],
first published in 1866, allowed him to situate this relationship within a
theoretical framework that explicitly raised the crucial problem any philo-
sophical naturalism has to face, even if we might not wish to share Langes
own conclusions:
For the time being it is entirely irrelevant as to whether the phenomenal
world can be reduced to mental representations or to the mechanism of our
organs, as long as we regard it as a product of our organization in the widest
possible sense of this term. As soon as this has become obvious not only
with regard to individual perceptions, but is acknowledged as sufficiently
universal, the following series of conclusions is the result:
(1) The world of sensory perception is a product of our organization.
(2) Our visible (bodily) organs are, like all other parts of the world of
appearances, merely images of an unknown object.
(3) Our true organization is therefore as unknown to us as is external
reality [die wirklichen Auendinge]. In all cases, we are merely faced
with the product of their interaction.16

The dilemma that Lange outlines in this passage, and that Nietzsche took
up in his philosophical project, is a central feature of the epistemological
outlook among the first generation of neo-Kantians. It is present from
Helmholtz in 1855 to Ernst Mach in 1886, precisely because naturaliz-
ing Kant is unable to appeal to any transcendental argument that could
distinguish between intellect and nature, between the normative and the
natural.17 If the world, as Lange had noted, was a product of our organiza-
tion, what was left were not natural kinds, but rather a world of dynamic

15 See Johannes Muller, Handbuch der Physiologie des Menschen (Koblenz: Holscher, 183340), and
Wilhelm Wundt, Vorlesungen u ber die Menschen- und Thierseele (Leipzig: Voss, 1863). For Nietzsches
reading lists of the time, see KGW i/4, 62 [48] and [53].
16 Lange, Geschichte des Materialismus, 493.
17 See, for instance, Hermann von Helmholtz, Ueber das Sehen des Menschen, in Vortrage und
Reden, 4th edn. (Braunschweig: Vieweg & Sohn, 1896), i, 85117, and Ernst Mach, Beitrage zur
Analyse der Empfindungen (Jena: Fischer, 1886), 14168.
The neo-Kantian stance 25
interacting forces. As a philosophically viable alternative to Schopenhauers
metaphysics, Langes neo-Kantian naturalism was to provide the backdrop
against which Nietzsches own views were to develop in the following
decades.18 Even in his later writings of the 1880s, he remained unable to
escape the way in which Lange formulated the relationship among the
external world, bodily organs, and the intellect. In fact, he encountered the
problem outlined by Lange repeatedly in a number of sources, philosoph-
ical and otherwise, which had a lasting impact on his more mature version
of naturalism.19
The question is whether at some stage in his career Nietzsche gave up this
neo-Kantian framework. I will argue that he did not. When he repeated
the above passage from Lange almost verbatim in a letter to his friend Carl
von Gersdorff in August 1866 (KGB i/2, 15960), it might not have been
entirely obvious to him that Langes position vis-`a-vis contemporary dis-
cussions of German and British materialism would be central to his own
attempt at adopting a philosophical naturalism without falling into the
trap of reductionist physicalism. Only a few years later, in his notebooks
from April and May 1868, when he was thinking about his philosophical
dissertation on Teleology since Kant, his seemingly offhand remark that
organisms are a product of our organization bears the traces of his read-
ing of Lange (KGW i/4, 62 [6] and [26]). There was no escape from the
problem that naturalism required a proper concept of the organic world,
but any such concept was, at the same time, the product of processes that
occurred in the organic world, or were at least shaped by the organic world.
Only metaphysics was able to sidestep this problem, but as Nietzsche
already knew from his critical assessment of Schopenhauers The World
as Will and Representation (181944) and the subsequent Parerga and Par-
alipomena (1851) in the winter of 1867/8 metaphysical speculation was
grounded in assumptions for which there was no evidence, such as things
in themselves and the principle of a will in nature (KGW i/4, 57 [51], [52]
and [55]). The apparent success of metaphysics rested on the production of
images and names without real referents. At best, it was an unwittingly
anthropomorphic enterprise, whose central concepts were simply the result
of our own physiological organization (KGW i/4, 57 [55]). This was still

18 On Lange as an alternative to Schopenhauer, see George J. Stack, Lange and Nietzsche (Berlin:
Walter de Gruyter, 1983), 195223. On Langes position among the neo-Kantians, see Kohnke,
Entstehung und Aufstieg des Neukantianismus, 23357.
19 One of these much later sources is Harald Hffding, Psychologie in Umrissen auf Grundlage der
Erfahrung, trans. F. Bendixen (Leipzig: Fues, 1887), 6287, who argued, for instance, that the rela-
tionship between consciousness and the brain should be understood in terms of complementarity.
26 Part I Varieties of philosophical naturalism
the case in 1884, when he concluded: That which is commonly attributed
to the mind [Geist] seems to me to be the essence of the organic: and in the
highest functions of the mind I can find only a sublimated form of organic
functions (assimilation selection secretion etc.) (KGW vii/2, 25 [356]).
Given the way in which Nietzsche conceived in these, and many other,
passages of the relationship between the intellectual world and organic
functions, it seems at first sight reasonable to assume that he subscribed
to the core program of scientific realism.20 On this account, the sciences
describe the practices and methods that render observable phenomena
obvious as the results of underlying processes that are initially unobservable.
The fabric of reality exists, as such, independently of its interpretation: that
is, independently of the intellectual world. Scientific practice genuine
science, in Nietzsches words constitutes the imitation of nature in
concepts, as he contended in Human, All Too Human (HA i: 38); it does
not provide an explanation of nature but rather a description (GS 112).21
On the other hand, scientific realism raises the question as to whether it
remains reasonable, even possible, to distinguish between facts and values,
between the world of nature and the intellectual world. For Nietzsche, the
question is not whether nature, the fabric of reality, is mind-independent
or whether it is produced by the mind, but the opposition between nature
and the intellectual world might only be helpful, if at all, as a kind of
regulative principle. As he noted with regard to the physical sciences, the
latter deliver, above all, an interpretation and arrangement of the world
(according to ourselves! If I may say so) (BGE 14). This should not
be simply taken to mean that all human knowledge about the world is
inherently anthropomorphic, as he suggested in the early essay on truth
and lying (TL 1468), but the very need for such anthropomorphism is
indicative of the way in which we are always part of what we observe.
Already during the early 1870s Nietzsche suggested that even philosoph-
ical thinking ultimately continues a natural drive: on the one hand, it
is this drive that generates the illusions governing our knowledge about
20 Although many commentators consider Nietzsches epistemological framework along the lines of
such realism, there is genuine disagreement as to how far Nietzsches realist commitments extend.
See, for instance, Maudemarie Clark, Nietzsche on Truth and Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1991), 3161 and 846; Tsarina Doyle, Nietzsche on Epistemology and Metaphysics
(Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009), 53110; and Daniel Conway, Beyond Truth and
Appearance: Nietzsches Emergent Realism, in Babich and Cohen (eds.), Nietzsche and the Sciences,
ii, 10922. Cox, Nietzsche, 50, 103, and 15263, argues against a realist interpretation of Nietzsche.
The reason might simply be that, for Cox, realism is exclusively metaphysical realism.
21 See also Maximilian Drossbach, Uber die scheinbaren und die wirklichen Ursachen des Geschehens
in der Welt (Halle/Saale: Pfeffer, 1884), 101, who makes a similar case with regard to the task of
philosophy.
The neo-Kantian stance 27
the world, including the metaphysical illusion of a distinction between
self and world. On the other hand, it is precisely such illusions that allow
us to interact with nature (KGW iii/4, 19 [134]). Assuming that natu-
ral laws might be nothing but an anthropomorphism, as he continued to
point out during the 1880s (KGW vii/3, 40 [55]), such an anthropomorphic
interpretation and description of nature is grounded in human physiology
and biological organization and, moreover, it provides us with the tools
to recognize that this is indeed the case (KGW vii/3, 39 [14]). There is
a physiological need to employ anthropomorphism and metaphor, while
acknowledging that a conceptual fixation of what we regard as real does
not result in a direct access to nature, a world in which everything remains
in flux (KGW v/2, 11 [153]). Even the natural sciences do not offer an escape
from this web of illusions, although this is not a weakness but precisely
their strength (KGW v/2, 11 [252]). That central scientific concepts, such as
force, matter, mass, density, and so on, are interpretive constructs, as both
Lange and Liebmann had suggested, does not imply that they lack descrip-
tive power or that statements about the world based on such concepts are
devoid of normative force.22
The illusions that Nietzsche repeatedly speaks of (truth as correspon-
dence, identity, number, self, causality, etc.) perform an evolutionary func-
tion in the sense that they enable us to live in a world that conforms to the
laws of causality and that makes nature as a whole appear to be ordered
according to such laws (KGW iii/4, 19 [35]; KGW vii/2, 25 [94] and 34 [46];
KGW viii/2, 11 [415]). This is the reason why he continued, throughout
the 1870s, to emphasize wholeheartedly that such illusions are part of our
biological makeup:
That which we now call the world is the outcome of a host of errors and
fantasies which have gradually arisen and grown entwined with one another
in the course of the overall evolution of the organic being, and are now
inherited by us as the accumulated treasure of the entire past as treasure:
for the value of our humanity depends upon it. (HA i: 16)
While this passage from 1878 clearly speaks the language of naturalism,
it was during the early 1880s, once his reading in the contemporary life
sciences had intensified, that he explicitly began to attribute a biological
function to these illusions: Through immense periods of time, the intellect
performed nothing but errors; some of them turned out to be useful and

22 See, for instance, Lange, Geschichte des Materialismus, 37281, and Otto Liebmann, Die Arten
der Notwendigkeit, in Gedanken und Thatsachen: Philosophische Abhandlungen, Aphorismen und
Studien, I (Strasbourg: Trubner, 1881), 145: 1112. See KGW viii/2, 9 [92].
28 Part I Varieties of philosophical naturalism
species-preserving; those who hit upon or inherited them fought their fight
for themselves and their progeny with greater luck (GS 110).
Given such a wholehearted endorsement of the evolutionary background
of our knowledge about the world, it might certainly seem at first sight that
Nietzsche would have to adopt a position that is congruent with scientific
materialism. But what makes his philosophical naturalism interesting is
that he is intent on avoiding the route taken by many of his peers in the
nineteenth century from Jacob Moleschotts Der Kreislauf des Lebens [The
Circulation of Life] (1852) and Ludwig Buchners Kraft und Stoff [Force and
Matter] (1855), to the way in which Eduard Zeller, unintentionally perhaps,
sought to dissolve philosophical thinking into scientific method.23
Although Nietzsches views certainly entail a critique of precisely the kind
of metaphysical speculation about the a priori conditions of knowledge that
nineteenth-century materialism sought to distance itself from, his position
has little in common, for instance, with Buchners rejection of innate ideas
or Moleschotts reduction of human life to metabolic processes.24 He cer-
tainly appreciated Moleschott, but there seemed more to life than digestion.
Indeed, viewed against the background of the famous Materialismusstreit,
triggered by Carl Vogts Physiologische Briefe [Physiological Letters] (1847),
which raged in Gottingen and Heidelberg during the 1850s, and in which
Buchner and Moleschott played a pivotal role, Nietzsche appears skeptical
with regard to the actual reach of materialist arguments.25 In a certain sense,
he was able to avoid the strong program of materialism because he entered
these debates only between the late 1860s and late 1880s, when the dis-
course of materialism itself had already undergone many transformations
and when philosophers such as Lange and natural scientists like Rudolf
Virchow and Emil DuBois-Reymond began to voice serious concerns about

23 See Jacob Moleschott, Der Kreislauf des Lebens: Physiologische Antworten auf Liebigs Chemische Briefe
(Mainz: Zabern, 1852); Ludwig Buchner, Kraft und Stoff: Empirisch-naturphilosophische Studien
in allgemein-verstandlicher Darstellung (Frankfurt/M.: Meidinger, 1855); and Eduard Zeller, Ueber
Bedeutung und Aufgabe der Erkenntniss-Theorie: Ein akademischer Vortrag (Heidelberg: Groos, 1862).
24 See Ludwig Buchner, Kraft und Stoff: Empirisch-naturphilosophische Studien in allgemein-
verstandlicher Darstellung, 6th edn., enlarged and corr. (Frankfurt/M.: Meidinger, 1859), 14388,
and Moleschott, Der Kreislauf des Lebens, 286321. On Moleschotts unwittingly bizarre emphasis
on metabolic processes, see Monika Ritzer, Physiologische Anthropologien: Zur Relation von
Philosophie und Naturwissenschaft um 1850, in Andreas Arndt and Walter Jaeschke (eds.), Mate-
rialismus und Spiritualismus: Philosophie und Wissenschaften nach 1848 (Hamburg: Meiner, 2000),
11340: 12532.
25 Carl Vogt, Physiologische Briefe fur Gebildete aller Stande (Stuttgart: Cotta, 1847). The accessible style
of Vogts letters and his emphasis that scientific knowledge has to cross social boundaries clearly
shows the political dimension of materialism. On the Materialismusstreit, see the contributions
in Kurt Bayertz, Walter Jaeschke, and Myriam Gerhard (eds.), Weltanschauung, Philosophie und
Naturwissenschaft im 19. Jahrhundert, i: Der Materialismusstreit (Hamburg: Meiner, 2007).
The neo-Kantian stance 29
the epistemological emptiness of materialism.26 Nietzsche, who was quite
familiar with the finer points of the Materialismusstreit through Langes
detailed account, shared these concerns.27 This continued to inform his
position during the mid 1880s, when he remarked about the positivist
dimension of scientific materialism: Against positivism, which stops with
the phenomenon there are only facts, I would contend: no, especially facts
do not exist, merely interpretations (KGW viii/1, 7 [60]).
Such statements are directed against scientific materialism, but also
against the kind of empiricist epistemology that had gained much ground
by the 1870s and that stipulated the possibility of an unmediated access to
reality. Eugen Duhring, whom Nietzsche read in great detail, for instance,
suggested that, ultimately, a mathematically oriented method of science
had to take the place of philosophy.28 From the perspective of Duhrings
self-proclaimed Wirklichkeitsphilosophie, the logical structure of knowledge,
together with the unity of scientific method, was inscribed into the world
of material things, so that science, as he noted, simply corresponds to a real
connection among things [Zusammenhang der Dinge].29 Not surprisingly,
Duhring had little positive to say about any science that operated with a
historical perspective and thus implied the kind of change that contradicted
the universal claims of logic and mathematics. This also led to a general
rejection of the importance of evolutionary thinking, which Nietzsche was
not willing to follow.30 From the latters vantage point, the presumed factic-
ity of our knowledge about nature was the outcome of epistemic processes
that were grounded in our biological organization. The normativity of the
factual was itself no simple fact, and the cardinal mistake of those that
proposed such an empiricist understanding of scientific practice was their
detachment from serious philosophical reflection (BGE 204).
Nietzsche shared much common ground here with Otto Caspari, whose
influence is often emphasized but not really discussed in any detail. The

26 On materialism as a contested concept in the second half of the nineteenth century, see Gudrun
Kuhne-Bertram, Zum Begriff Materialismus in der zweiten Halfte des 19. Jahrhunderts, in
Arndt and Jaeschke (eds.), Materialismus und Spiritualismus, 15366. For Virchows and DuBois-
Reymonds critiques, see Annette Wittkau-Horgby, Materialismus: Entstehung und Wirkung in den
Wissenschaften des 19. Jahrhunderts (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1998), 11525, and Emil
DuBois-Reymonds famous lecture Uber die Grenzen des Naturerkennens, 2nd edn. (Leipzig: Veit,
1872).
27 See Lange, Geschichte des Materialismus, 32257.
28 See Eugen Duhring, Cursus der Philosophie als streng wissenschaftlicher Weltauffassung und Lebens-
gestaltung (Leipzig: Koschny, 1875), 490525. On Nietzsches encounter with Duhring, see Aldo
Venturelli, Asketismus und Wille zur Macht: Nietzsches Auseinandersetzung mit Eugen Duhring,
Nietzsche-Studien 15 (1986), 10739.
29 Duhring, Cursus der Philosophie, 14. 30 See ibid., 10027.
30 Part I Varieties of philosophical naturalism
latters seminal collection of philosophical essays published in 1881 as
Der Zusammenhang der Dinge [The Constitution of Things] and heavily
annotated in Nietzsches copy proposes a naturalism along evolution-
ary lines that did not simply seek to reduce knowledge and consciousness
to the aftereffects of sense impressions.31 Indeed, Caspari, who praised
Langes cautious attempt to establish a viable philosophical position that
would overcome the tensions between idealism and materialism, and who
wholly endorsed Darwins theory of evolution, argued that nature should
not be regarded simply in terms of matter, that is, as a fixed object to be
examined from outside by detached scientific observation.32 Rather, nature
should be seen in terms of dynamic relationships and interactions whose
constituent parts could not be reduced to one another: The parts and
particles of the real world relate to . . . one another similar to the way in
which the autonomous elements of real organic systems relate to the organ-
ism as a whole, forming a constitutive relationship [eine Constitution im
Zusammenhange].33 Nature would have to be conceived as a sum of liv-
ing forces whose relationships at times certainly converged into typical,
enduring forms, but such forms were also often rearranged by evolu-
tionary processes, which Caspari described in terms of transformation
or transmutation.34 Human individuals were part of such processes and
unable to simply represent nature through the sciences; rather, scientific
practice, as much as philosophy, continuously interacted with the world
out there, thus intervening in the evolutionary process itself.
It is within this framework that the fundamental philosophical question
of the Cartesian dualism between res extensa and res cogitans also appeared
at the contemporary intersection of philosophy and the sciences, most
notably in the work of Rudolph Hermann Lotze and Gustav Theodor
Fechner authors that Nietzsche had consulted since the late 1860s.35
Casparis attempt to rethink the relationship between the intellectual world
and the world out there was bound to lead him to conclusions that would
also form the background to Nietzsches engagement with the problem of
naturalism:

31 See Otto Caspari, Die moderne Naturphilosophie und ihre Richtungen, in Der Zusammenhang
der Dinge: Gesammelte philosophische Aufsatze (Breslau: Trewendt, 1881), 2568.
32 See Caspari, Philosophie und Transmutationstheorie and Der Begriff der Zielstrebigkeit unter
dem Gesichtspunkte der Darwinschen Lehre, both in Der Zusammenhang der Dinge, 69104: 71,
and 10539: 1078, respectively.
33 Caspari, Philosophie und Transmutationstheorie, 77. 34 Ibid., 88.
35 Caspari, Die moderne Naturphilosophie, 33 and 38. See Rudolph Hermann Lotze, Medicinische
Psychologie, oder Physiologie der Seele (Leipzig: Weidmann, 1852), and Gustav Theodor Fechner,
Elemente der Psychophysik (Leipzig: Breitkopf & Hartel, 1860).
The neo-Kantian stance 31
We contend . . . a certain similarity between the intellectual processes of
the brain, on the one hand, and the external processes of nature and the
world, on the other. . . . The conscious processes of the intellectual world
[des Denkens] and the processes of nature in the world of concrete being are,
thus, neither identical nor do they entirely conform to one another.36
As a constitutive part of nature, the intellectual world merely continued, on
a higher order, the dynamically changing sum of relationships that could
be discovered among, say, ants, amoebae, and molecules.37 Mind and body
were not altogether different, but they were also not entirely the same a
conclusion Nietzsche had to address if he wished to adopt a philosophical
naturalism different from the scientific materialism of his time.
Sometime in the middle of 1873, seven years after his initial reading
of Lange, Nietzsche noted that the world out there could not possibly
be regarded as a quality of the brain. Any such claim would also have
to refer to the brain itself as a presumably material object that could
be dissected, measured, weighed, and experimented upon: was the brain,
then, as Nietzsche asked, the source of our conception of reality, or was
it its product, or perhaps both (KGW iii/4, 27 [37])?38 The way in which
human beings seemed the source of consciousness and, at the same time,
the latters effect, as he put it in early 1881 (KGW v/1, 10 [E 93]), was
more than a merely playful paradox. On one level, it highlighted that, as
illogical beings, human individuals were fundamentally unable to escape
what he regarded as the disharmonies of existence (KGW iv/1, 9 [1]). The
bodily organization of human beings, their organic life, did not provide
the epistemological framework necessary to make successful distinctions
between the intellectual world and the material world, between the illusions
we live by and their status as effects of our evolutionary history: we have no
categories, he declared in a notebook entry from spring 1888, according
to which we would be allowed to separate a true world from a world of
appearances (KGW viii/3, 14 [103]).
Against the background of the debates between scientific materialism
and late German idealism, Nietzsches emphasis on the undecidable status

36 Caspari, Philosophie und Transmutationstheorie, 104.


37 See Caspari, Der Begriff der Zielstrebigkeit, 119.
38 For Nietzsche, this remained a central question, and several years later he repeated these remarks
about the human brain with regard to visual perception: Our sense organs are the causes [Ursachen]
of the external world? But they are themselves only the effects of our senses. Our image of the
eye is a product of the eye (KGW vii/1, 24 [35]). He was also sufficiently interested in experi-
mental knowledge about brain functions and cerebral localization that Eduard Hitzigs seminal
Untersuchungen u ber das Gehirn: Abhandlungen physiologischen und pathologischen Inhalts (Berlin:
Hirschwald, 1874) appeared on his reading lists. See, for instance, KGW vii/1, 1 [99].
32 Part I Varieties of philosophical naturalism
of our knowledge about the world seems to render obvious the shortcom-
ings of both positions, each of which had to deny what was most obvious.
This becomes particularly clear in a decisive passage in the early pages of
Beyond Good and Evil:
To study physiology with a good conscience, we must insist that the sense
organs are not appearances in the way idealist philosophy uses that term: as
such, they certainly could not be causes! Sensualism, therefore, at least as a
regulative principle, if not as a heuristic principle. What? and other people
even say that the external world is the product of our organs? But then our
body, as a piece of this external world, would really be the product of our
organs! But then our organs themselves could really be the product of
our organs! This looks to me like a thorough reductio ad absurdum: given
that the concept of a causa sui is something thoroughly absurd. So does it
follow that the external world is not the product of our organs ? (BGE 15)

In other words, the reason why it was impossible and irrelevant to decide
whether or not the external world was a product of the senses and, therefore,
a product of biological organs is twofold: on the one hand, we have to
assume for reasons of epistemological consistency that there is a difference
between our senses and the external world and that we are, thus, able to
think about the world and observe what is not identical with us; on the
other hand, biology made it more than obvious that our senses have to
be part of the external world and that, therefore, the distinction between
internal and external world is inherently misleading.
Nietzsche was aware that neither Lange nor Caspari, nor other neo-
Kantians he had turned to, such as Liebmann, were able to offer a feasible
way out of the dilemma they had formulated.39 For good reason, Nietzsche
himself had no interest in resolving this dilemma. Indeed, it might simply
be best to embrace it, as Ernst Mach did, and see it as a starting point from
which to rethink the relationship between the normative and the empirical
world, folding them into each other.40 This was an attractive proposition
for Nietzsche, since it avoided some of the pitfalls of early neo-Kantian
thought. Helmholtz, for instance, despite his attempt to naturalize Kant
in his theory of perception, had to hold on to a normative understanding
of causality that could not itself be naturalized: we have to presuppose the
existence of external objects as the cause of our nerve excitation, he wrote

39 See, for instance, the detailed discussion in Otto Liebmanns Zur Analysis der Wirklichkeit: Eine
Erorterung der Grundprobleme der Philosophie, 2nd edn., enlarged (Strasbourg: Trubner, 1880),
50955.
40 See, Mach, Beitrage zur Analyse der Empfindungen, 1412.
The neo-Kantian stance 33
in 1855, and this also meant that causality preceded experience.41 The law
of causality, he summarized his position in 1878, really is a law that is
given a priori, a transcendental law. A proof of it from experience is not
possible, for the first steps of experience are not possible . . . without using
inductive inferences, that is, without the law of causality.42
Folding the normative into the natural, and vice versa, is a central feature
of Nietzsches philosophical project. It underlies his genealogy, as we shall
see, and also his reflections on the will to power. For the time being it
is sufficient to recognize, however, that such a move does not necessarily
imply either some kind of bald materialism or phenomenalism that both
rely on self-contradictory metaphysical assumptions about our access to the
world out there.43 Nietzsches naturalism, it seems, resists such categories.

41 Helmholtz, Ueber das Sehen des Menschen, 116. Nietzsche was familiar with Helmholtzs dis-

cussion of causality already through Johann Carl Friedrich Zollner, Uber die Natur der Cometen:
Beitrage zur Geschichte und Theorie der Erkenntniss, 2nd edn. (Leipzig: Engelmann, 1872), 34277.
42 Helmholtz, Die Thatsachen in der Wahrnehmung, in Vortrage und Reden, ii, 21347: 243. On
Helmholtzs failure to naturalize causality, see Gary C. Hatfield, The Natural and the Normative:
Theories of Spatial Perception from Kant to Helmholtz (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1990), 196218.
43 See, however, the debate between Hussain, Nietzsches Positivism, 32940 and 3505, and Maude-
marie Clark and David Dudrick, Nietzsches Post-Positivism, European Journal of Philosophy 12
(2004), 36985: 37280.
chapter 3

Nietzsches anti-Darwinism?

Apart from Nietzsches neo-Kantian stance, there is a second aspect that


renders his philosophical naturalism particularly interesting, namely its
inherently historical dimension. The latter is shaped to a considerable
extent by his interest in evolution and Entwicklungsmechanik two central
developments in the nineteenth-century life sciences whose philosophical
implications were discussed at length not only by Caspari but also by the
botanist Carl von Nageli, whose work Nietzsche consulted in great detail
during the mid 1880s.1 Leaving aside Nagelis peculiar criticism of Darwin
and his strangely willful ignorance of Gregor Mendels experiments on the
genetic inheritance of traits among pea plants, Nietzsche was able to find in
Nagelis chief work the idea that traits were inherited through idioplasma,
that is, through a molecular web that is similar to the nervous system and
part of physiological organization itself: idioplasma was that part of cell
protoplasma, which was responsible for hereditary transmission.2

1 See Casparis Philosophie und Transmutationstheorie, Der Begriff der Zielstrebigkeit, and
Darwinismus und Philosophie, all in Der Zusammenhang der Dinge, 69104, 10540 and 14175,
as well as Carl von Nageli, Die Schranken der naturwissenschaftlichen Erkenntniss, in Mechanisch-
physiologische Theorie der Abstammungslehre (Munich: Oldenbourg, 1884), 555680. Nagelis essay, first
die Grenzen des Naturerkennens.
published in 1877, was a direct response to DuBois-Reymonds Uber
On DuBois-Reymonds influence on Nageli, see Hans-Jorg Rheinberger, Der Ignorabimus-Streit
in seiner Rezeption durch Carl Wilhelm von Nageli, in Kurt Bayertz, Myriam Gerhard, and
Walter Jaeschke (eds.), Weltanschauung, Philosophie und Naturwissenschaft im 19. Jahrhundert, iii:
Der Ignorabimus-Streit (Hamburg: Meiner, 2007), 8997.
2 See Nageli, Mechanisch-physiologische Theorie der Abstammungslehre, 2190. Although Mendels
research was not widely discussed at the time, and even Darwin was unaware of it, Nageli cor-
responded with Mendel over several years without recognizing the implications of the latters exper-
iments on the hybridization of plants. See Gregor Mendel, Versuche u ber Pflanzen-Hybriden,
Verhandlungen des naturforschenden Vereines in Brunn 4 (1865), 347, and Gregor Mendels Briefe
an Carl Nageli, 18661873, Abhandlungen der Koniglich-Sachsischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften
zu Leipzig: Mathematisch-physische Klasse 29/3 (1905), 189265. Within its historical context, Nagelis
understanding of idioplasma was not as far-fetched as it might sound today. See, for instance, the
discussion in August Weismann, Die Continuitat des Keimplasmas als Grundlage einer Theorie der
Vererbung (Jena: Fischer, 1885). Both Nageli and Weismann are discussed at length in standard medi-
cal textbooks of the time. See, for instance, Charles Sedgwick Minot, Human Embryology (New York:

34
Nietzsches anti-Darwinism? 35
Nagelis influence on Nietzsche during the mid 1880s should not be
underestimated, but his wholehearted emphasis on the emergence of order
in nature as an inherent, law-governed developmental tendency was not
unproblematic. Unlike Darwin, Nageli had to assume that chance and
external circumstances had no effect on evolutionary processes and, thus, a
strong program of teleology crept into his theory.3 Nietzsche, on the other
hand, was less convinced that such a strong program of teleology was a
reasonable option, even though he complained, in the draft of a letter to
his friend Franz Overbeck in mid July 1886, that Nagelis work had been
sidelined by the Darwinists (KGB iii/3, 204).
It is often claimed that Nietzsche was critical of Darwin and Dar-
winism, and even that he simply rejected the central tenets of Darwins
theory of evolution.4 It is, however, necessary to be cautious. This is even
more important given the uneven and highly complex reception of Dar-
wins notions of development and descent among German biologists from
the 1860s onward.5 Nietzsches knowledge of Darwins theory was largely
mediated by other philosophers and biologists, such as Lange, Caspari, and
Nageli.6 Indeed, as he reported to his friend Carl von Gersdorff on Febru-
ary 16, 1868, Lange had provided him with crucial guidance about both
Darwins scientific endeavors and their possible philosophical ramifications
(KGB i/2, 257). The general complaint that Nietzsche, after all, did not
read Darwin in great detail and therefore had a limited grasp of the issues

William Wood & Co., 1892), 8790. For a concise account of Nageli, see Hans-Jorg Rheinberger,
Naudinn, Darwin, Nageli: Bemerkungen zu den Vererbungsvorstellungen des 19. Jahrhunderts,
Medizinhistorisches Journal 18 (1983), 198212: 20611.
3 See, in contrast, Charles Darwins remarks on the laws of variation and the conditions of existence
in On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (London: John Murray, 1859), 13170 and
206.
4 See Dirk R. Johnson, One Hundred Twenty-Two Years Later: Reassessing the Nietzsche-Darwin
Relationship, and Catherine Wilson, Darwin and Nietzsche: Selection, Evolution, and Morality,
both in Journal of Nietzsche Studies 44 (2013), 34253 and 35470, as well as Gregory Moore,
Nietzsche, Biology and Metaphor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 2155, and Robin
Small, Nietzsche and Ree: A Star Friendship (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005), 18198. Nietzsches
presumed anti-Darwinism was first stressed by Claire Richter, Nietzsche et les theories biologiques
contemporaines (Paris: Mercure de France, 1911), 2334, who sought to transform Nietzsche into an
adherent of Lamarck. In contrast, see Werner Stegmaier, Darwin, Darwinismus, Nietzsche: Zum
Problem der Evolution, Nietzsche-Studien 16 (1987), 26487. On the ambivalence of Nietzsches
relationship to Darwin and Darwinism, see Andreas Urs Sommer, Nietzsche mit und gegen Darwin
in den Schriften von 1888, Nietzscheforschung 17 (2010), 3144, and Keith Ansell-Pearson, Nietzsche
contra Darwin, in Viroid Life: Perspectives on Nietzsche and the Transhuman Condition (London:
Routledge, 1997), 85122.
5 See Nyhart, Biology Takes Form, 10542.
6 See, for instance, Lange, Geschichte des Materialismus, 397403. For Nietzsches reading of Darwin,
see Thomas H. Brobjer, Nietzsche and the English: The Influence of British and American Thinking
on His Philosophy (Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 2008), 23571.
36 Part I Varieties of philosophical naturalism
at stake in contemporary evolutionary theory is in many ways disingenu-
ous. He could find a surprisingly solid account of Darwins central claims
in some of Eduard von Hartmanns publications, even though he ulti-
mately rejected the latters naturphilosophisch conclusions about an organic
principle in nature.7 Likewise, Oscar Schmidt, a zoologist with a keen
interest in porifera, who embraced Darwins theory right from the begin-
ning, provided Nietzsche with a thoroughly detailed historical overview of
the development of evolutionary thought from the later eighteenth century
to Darwin. Reconstructing Darwins theoretical advances from Schmidts
Descendenzlehre und Darwinismus [The Theory of Descent and Darwinism]
(1873) was not particularly difficult, while Karl Sempers Die naturlichen
Existenzbedingungen der Thiere [The Natural Conditions of Existence as They
Affect Animal Life] (1880), with Nietzsches pencil marks, contained some
of the most central quotations from Darwins On the Origin of Species
(1859).8
While staying in the Bernese Alps in 1877, at the foot of the impressive
Rosenlaui Glacier, Nietzsche also made the acquaintance of the philoso-
pher George Croom Robertson, who taught at University College London
and was the editor of the newly founded journal Mind. Robertson was par-
ticularly suited to bridge part of the perceived gap between German and
British philosophy at the time: he had been a student in Heidelberg, Berlin,
and Gottingen, working with, among others, Emil DuBois-Reymond. As
the editor of Mind one of his central aims was to bring the new life sci-
ences into conversation with philosophy, and this also included a keen
attention on developments in Germany.9 Although his stated intention
was the establishment of philosophy as that discipline which was supposed
to provide the unity that belonged to human knowledge, his demand to
rediscover such unity obviously indicates that the latter was fundamentally
lacking in a complex intellectual field that encompassed philosophy and
logic, the life sciences, and comparative psychology.10 The first few volumes

7 See Eduard von Hartmann, Wahrheit und Irrthum im Darwinismus: Eine kritische Darstellung der
organischen Entwickelungstheorie (Berlin: Duncker, 1875), 2653 and 67108.
8 See, for instance, Oscar Schmidt, Descendenzlehre und Darwinismus (Leipzig: Brockhaus, 1873),
73151, and the endnotes to the first chapter of Karl Sempers Die naturlichen Existenzbedingungen
der Thiere (Leipzig: Brockhaus, 1880), i, 249 (Anna Amalia Bibliothek, Weimar, Germany, Sig. C
408-a).
9 The inaugural volume of Mind 1 (1876) opened with an article by Herbert Spencer on The
Comparative Psychology of Man (720), which was followed, among others, by James Sullys
Physiological Psychology in Germany (2043). The first review article was concerned with Franz
Brentanos Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkte, i (Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, 1874) and a
longer report surveyed German Philosophical Journals (13643).
10 Prefatory Words, Mind 1 (1876), 16: 2.
Nietzsches anti-Darwinism? 37
of the journal also render obvious that Robertson was particularly inter-
ested in an ongoing exchange between British and German thought. Not
only did Darwin and Herbert Spencer contribute to Mind, but Robertson
also commissioned articles, for instance, from Wilhelm Wundt, and the
journal regularly reviewed a broad range of German publications in philos-
ophy, biology, and psychology.11 Judging from Nietzsches correspondence,
the conversations with Robertson predominantly dealt with the effect of
Darwin on British thought, and Nietzsche clearly seems to have enjoyed
this encounter (KGB ii/5, 266, 268, and 270). Above all, these conversa-
tions will haven given him a more balanced understanding of Darwin and
Darwinism than is often assumed, and he was particularly impressed with
Robertsons direct contacts to Darwin and Spencer (KGB ii/5, 270).12
Robertson, of course, will have spoken particularly highly of Spencer,
with whom Nietzsche was already somewhat familiar. Two years later,
toward the end of 1879, Nietzsches attention once again turned to Spencer,
and although he was to disapprove of the latter in many of his publica-
tions during the 1880s, in 1879 things stood differently: referring to The
Data of Ethics (1879), he noted that Spencer not only provided substantial
ammunition against the German detractors of Darwin, such as Eduard von
Hartmann, but he was also most instructive . . . because he is sitting in the
midst of extraordinary collections of English source material (KGB iii/1,
166).
It was after his conversations with Robertson that Nietzsche seems to
have viewed doing philosophy with Darwin rather favorably (KGB ii/5,
266). Indeed, he even hoped that this direction would achieve pub-
lic appreciation through the work of his friend Paul Ree, who had just
published, in 1877, his Der Ursprung der moralischen Empfindungen [The
Origin of Moral Sensations], which was followed in 1885 by Die Entstehung
des Gewissens [The Development of Conscience], sharply criticized by Niet-
zsche once their friendship had come to a sudden end in 1882 because of
their competition over Lou von Salome. Nietzsches critical remarks about
Ree, for instance, in the preface to On the Genealogy of Morality, are often
read as indicative of his distance from Darwin: while Ree fully endorsed
Darwin, it is easy to assume that Nietzsches rejection of Ree also implied

11 While holidaying in the Rosenlaui region, Robertson was translating Wundts article Philosophy
in Germany, which mentioned Nietzsche, albeit in a largely negative way. See Wundt, Philosophy
in Germany, Mind 2 (1877), 493518: 509.
12 Nietzsche (KGB iii/5, 266) particularly singled out an occasional piece by Darwin, A Biographical
Sketch of an Infant, Mind 2 (1877), 28594, which appeared in German translation as Biographi-
sche Skizze eines kleines Kindes, Kosmos 1 (1877), 36776. Nietzsche read the latter volume.
38 Part I Varieties of philosophical naturalism
that he positioned himself against Darwin.13 We need to be cautious, how-
ever, for the problem with Rees account was not really that it developed
within a Darwinian framework, but that he had made the Darwinian
beast and the ultra-modern, humble moral weakling who no longer bites
politely shake hands (GM pref. 7). The Darwinian beast was far more
acceptable to Nietzsche than the hypocritical altruist, and if the choice
was between Darwin and Ree, then the former remained more interesting
than the latter. The way in which Ree and Spencer had unwittingly left
Darwin behind by placing greater emphasis on altruism and the common
good as intrinsic values that governed the evolution of the human species
deescalated the critical import of evolutionary thought and brought the
latter in line with traditional moral ideas. To Nietzsche, this seemed the
crucial metaphysical mistake of the Darwinists, which was not warranted
by evolutionary biology itself. Nietzsches remark, in Ecce Homo (1888/9),
that he does not wish for his philosophy of the will to power to be con-
fused with Darwinism (EH iii: 1) thus hints more at a frustration with
regard to the popularized image of Darwin among contemporary philoso-
phers and public intellectuals in both England and Germany than at an
anti-Darwinian position.
Nietzsches skepticism about the popular image of Darwin and Dar-
winism was not unjustified. The situation was complex. Darwins theory
of evolution by natural selection and adaptation certainly influenced, and
also constrained, the development of evolutionary biology in the second
half of the nineteenth century and it is not entirely coextensive with what
is often referred to, by Nietzsche as much as today, as Darwinism.14 Not
all evolutionary biology is, strictly speaking, Darwinian: natural selection,
for instance, has an intricate relationship to the field of animal morphol-
ogy, while Mendels theory of genetics, largely unknown in the nineteenth
century, or August Weismanns theory of germ plasma, were as crucial to
the development of evolutionary biology in terms of an institutionalized
research paradigm as Darwins theory of natural selection.15 Weismanns
position, for example, accurately reflects the multilayered relationship
between Darwinism, strictly speaking, and other evolutionary theories:
13 For a version of this argument, see Small, Nietzsche and Ree, 1816.
14 See Jean Gayon, From Darwin to Today in Evolutionary Biology, in Jonathan Hodge and
Gregory Radick (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Darwin (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2003), 24064: 241.
15 On the encounter between Mendelian genetics and Darwins theory of natural selection, which led to
a new pluralism of explanatory models in evolutionary biology, see Jean Gayon, Darwinisms Struggle
for Survival: Heredity and the Hypothesis of Natural Selection, trans. Matthew Cobb (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1998), 253317.
Nietzsches anti-Darwinism? 39
although he unequivocally endorsed the theory of evolution by natural
selection and adaptation, his work in the field of cell theory, in particular his
research on germ plasma, also pointed to some limitations of what is pop-
ularly understood as Darwinism.16 Weismann distinguished, for instance,
between germ cells that carried heritable information and somatic cells that
played no role in heredity. Heritable information could pass between gen-
erations, from parents to their offspring, only through germ cells, whereas
somatic cells, themselves responsible for bodily functions, played no part
in reproduction. As a consequence, Weismann concluded that there was
no inheritance of acquired characteristics.17 It might seem that it would
be difficult to integrate this conclusion into nineteenth-century standard
models of evolution by natural selection, since the assumed continuity of
germ plasma across generations did not allow for any fundamental change
and excluded external factors affecting how single cells in the reproductive
process produced entire organisms.18 But Weismann regarded his position
merely as fine-tuning Darwins framework, shifting the attention from
species, individuals, and biological traits to cells and molecules.19
Darwin was, for Nietzsche, as important as the traditions of German
morphology and cell theory. This is not surprising, since some of the most
prominent contemporary physiologists and biologists he read explicitly
pointed out that the future of the life sciences was dependent on integrat-
ing Darwins insights into the research program of morphology, without
favoring one over the other. Karl Semper, for instance, clearly followed Dar-
win and argued that the latters understanding of evolution was entirely
compatible with the tradition of animal morphology.20 Likewise, Wilhelm
His, whose tenure as professor of anatomy and physiology at the University
of Basel coincided with Nietzsches presence there, and who was no friend
of Ernst Haeckels more naturphilosophisch ideas of evolution, insisted that
natural selection and the study of morphology, especially with regard to
embryonic development, had to be brought together.21 Given the theo-
retical and experimental uncertainties of the contemporary life sciences,
16 For Weismanns endorsement of Darwin, see his lecture Ueber die Berechtigung der Darwinschen
Theorie (Leipzig: Engelmann, 1868).
17 Weismann concluded this already in his Ueber die Vererbung: Ein Vortrag (Jena: Fischer, 1883).
18 See Weismann, Die Continuitat des Keimplasmas, 56 and 614.
19 For Weismann on Darwin, see ibid., 2. In contrast to his cautious remarks on Darwin, Weismann
explicitly doubted the explanations of heredity given by Ernst Haeckel, Die Perigenesis der Plastid-
ule, oder die Wellenzeugung der Lebenstheilchen (Berlin: Reimer, 1876), and Wilhelm His, Unsere
Korperform und das physiologische Problem ihrer Entstehung: Briefe an einen befreundeten Naturforscher
(Leizpig: Vogel, 1874).
20 See Semper, Die naturlichen Existenzbedingungen der Thiere, i, 12, 20, 23, and 27.
21 See His, Unsere Korperform, 176 and 20714.
40 Part I Varieties of philosophical naturalism
he concluded that there should be no room for dogmatism, which would
ultimately come to limit our understanding of evolution.22
Following almost two decades of immersion in some of the debates
that stood at the forefront of the life sciences after 1800, it seems as though
Nietzsche sought to situate his own philosophical project in close proximity
to the discourse of animal morphology (KGW vii/3, 36 [19]). While the
latter, from Nietzsches perspective, sought to deliver a coherent account of
the development and diversification of life forms, genealogy, as it reached
its mature formulation in Nietzsches thought during the mid 1880s, aimed
at providing a similarly descriptive account of the evolution of normative
order. Observing the development of the will to power required something
akin to morphology, as he suggested in Beyond Good and Evil (BGE 23).
When Nietzsche, in the same passage, thus claimed that, from now on,
psychology is again the path to the fundamental problems, what he had in
mind was a genuine physio-psychology, that is, a morphology of mental
forms and intellectual configurations, which is always already linked to the
material world since it is embedded in the body.
Again, this reference to morphology should not be taken to imply that
Nietzsche distanced himself from Darwins theory of evolution. On the
contrary, in the context of German biological thought during the 1870s
and 1880s, natural selection, Entwicklungsmechanik, new ideas of cell devel-
opment and genetics, and the earlier language of Romantic Naturphiloso-
phie often entered into fruitful dialogue, challenging one another and
increasingly giving rise to a pluralism of models that sought to describe
evolutionary development. Animal morphology did not require natural
selection, but natural selection fundamentally altered the way in which
morphology and cell theory were practiced at German universities. Dar-
win himself had to take into account morphology, which he described,
after all, as the most interesting department of natural history.23
Nietzsche was certainly critical about a range of Darwinist and quasi-
Darwinist ideas that had migrated into the popular imagination of the
nineteenth century, such as the presumed link between the natural selection
22 See ibid., 21415.
23 Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 434. For the full discussion of morphology and embryology,
see ibid., 43450. Darwin refers here predominantly to work by Georges Cuvier, Geoffroy Saint-
Hilaire, Louis Agassiz, and Richard Owen, dealing with comparative anatomy, but he was, at this
point, already familiar with much of the German tradition of animal morphology. For the wider
sources of Darwins argument, see the overviews by Georges Cuvier, Lecons danatomie comparee

(Paris: Baudouin, 18005); Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire and Georges Cuvier, Histoire naturelle des
mammif`eres (Paris: Belin/Blaise, 182442); Louis Agassiz, Twelve Lectures on Comparative Embryology
(Boston, MA: Redding & Co., 1849); and Richard Owen, On the Nature of the Limbs (London: van
Voorst, 1849).
Nietzsches anti-Darwinism? 41
of the fittest and the notion of human progress (KGW iv/1, 12 [22] and KGW
viii/3, 14 [123]). His main attacks were less directed against Darwin than
against the school of Darwin represented, among others, by Spencer,
David Friedrich Strau, and Ernst Haeckel (KGW viii/3, 14 [123]). He
regarded the latter as presenting the philosophy of a butchers apprentices
and as offering a mythologizing theory (KGW iv/1, 12 [22]; KGW v/1, 3
[149] and 4 [38]). Presumably, he referred here more to Haeckels popular
Naturliche Schopfungsgeschichte [The Natural History of Creation] (1868),
which bears considerable pantheist overtones, rather than to his Generelle
Morphologie der Organismen [General Morphology of Organisms] (1866),
which was oriented toward a scientific audience.24
Nietzsche became particularly skeptical about the strong teleological
program that seemed to be part of the German reception of Darwin and
that, in popular accounts of Darwinism, tied in neatly with the ideologies
of progress that were part of the experience of modernity.25 At least in
On the Origin of Species, Darwins idea of an evolutionary progress to
perfection simply implied that there was room for improvement and,
as such, referred more to a directional trend than to a teleological goal
of historical advancement.26 It was not lost on Nietzsche that such talk
about perfection and perfectibility, at least in the German context, had
distinctly metaphysical overtones, reminding the educated reader of Hegels
philosophy of history, even though the case was different with Darwins
reference to perfection. An evolutionary theory built on the principles of
natural selection and adaptation can certainly make general predictions
about the likelihood of developmental trends, but it cannot be used to make
predictions about individual cases: it can say much about the likelihood of
pigs growing wings, but it can say fairly little about the evolution of pigs on,
say, a farm in Shropshire or Westphalia. Moreover, evolution was always
subject to contingency; pure chance governs the emergence of a particular
variation as much as natural selection. It is likely that any given variation
will be perpetuated if it happens to contribute to the fitness, or robustness,
24 See Ernst Haeckel, Generelle Morphologie der Organismen (Berlin: Reimer, 1866), and Naturliche
Schopfungsgeschichte (Berlin: Reimer, 1868). On Haeckels reception of Darwin, see Robert J.
Richards, The Tragic Sense of Life: Ernst Haeckel and the Struggle over Darwinism (Chicago, IL:
University of Chicago Press, 2008), 11368. For similarities between Nietzsche and Haeckel, see
Moore, Nietzsche, Biology and Metaphor, 4, 89, 8995, and 110. Nevertheless, for some critical
comments on Haeckel, see KGW v/1, 8 [68]; KGW v/2, 11 [249] and [299]; KGW vii/2, 25 [403].
25 To misunderstand Darwins evolutionary theory in terms of a strong program of teleology is not
limited to the popular perception of Darwinism, such as Hartmanns Wahrheit und Irrthum im
Darwinismus, 10915 and 14877. See, for instance, Albert von Kolliker, Uber die Darwinsche
Schopfungstheorie, Zeitschrift fur wissenschaftliche Zoologie 14 (1864), 17486: 175.
26 Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 489.
42 Part I Varieties of philosophical naturalism
of the organism in question. A variation does not emerge, however, because
it simply contributes to the fitness of the organism, but natural selection, as
it were, tends to favor advantageous variations: variations often disappear
if they do not tend to contribute to the fitness of the organism.27
The emergence of variations is neither completely random, nor should
it be understood in teleological terms. Darwins much-quoted evolutionary
progress to perfection was inherently open and unpredictable. There was,
after all, no limit to the amount of change evolutionary developments
could undergo.28 Only by 1871, in The Descent of Man, once the popu-
lar reception of his theory was in full swing, both in Britain and on the
European continent, did Darwin cautiously begin to field an account of
human progress by evolution that clearly reflected the hopes of modern
society as much as the self-perception of the British Empire as a civiliz-
ing commonwealth.29 Stipulating a general advancement in the standard
of morality, which provided an immense advantage to one tribe over
another, he observed that civilized nations are everywhere supplanting
barbarous nations, pushing the savages increasingly to the periphery of
empire.30
It is important to point out, however, that Darwin himself, even on this
occasion, was sufficiently careful to introduce a crucial caveat: Progress
seems to depend on many concurrent favorable conditions, far too com-
plex to be followed out.31 From the long-term perspective of evolutionary
biology it seemed that, for civilized nations with an advanced standard
of morality, the model Darwin had advanced in On the Origin of Species
yielded few results: as far as modern society was concerned, natural selec-
tion apparently effects but little.32 Indeed, the most hyperbolic passages
on the progress of humanity, and the most questionable conclusions with
regard to savages and the very poor and reckless that populated the
crime-infested alleys of the average Victorian city, are not at all derived
from Darwins theory of natural selection. Rather, Darwin reported and
paraphrased from a broad range of sources, some of which Nietzsche was
himself aware of, even though he had not always read them, such as

27 See James G. Lennox, Darwinism and Neo-Darwinism, in Sahotra Sarkar and Anya Plutynski
(eds.), A Companion to the Philosophy of Biology (Oxford: Blackwell, 2008), 7798: 857.
28 Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 109 as well as 4459 and 13170, for Darwins discussion of
variation under natural conditions.
29 For a balanced account of Darwins understanding of progress, see Timothy Shanahan, The
Evolution of Darwinism: Selection, Adaptation, and Progress in Evolutionary Biology (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2004), 17695.
30 Darwin, The Descent of Man, i, 154 and 159. 31 Ibid., i, 160. 32 Ibid., i, 166.
Nietzsches anti-Darwinism? 43
Francis Galtons Hereditary Genius (1869).33 A particularly striking example
is Darwins conclusion that the poor are an obstacle to moral progress
simply because they tend to increase at a quicker rate than the provident
and generally virtuous members of society: they marry younger and have
more offspring. None of this, of course, can be derived from the theory
of natural selection as it was presented in 1859, and Darwin largely para-
phrased Galtons views.34 It was English Darwinism, not Darwins theory
of evolution, that exudes something like the stuffy air of English overpop-
ulation, like the small peoples smell of indigence and overcrowding (GS
349). Urban life in Victorian Britain, in London as much as in Manchester
or Liverpool, was hardly an example for the moral advancement seemingly
promised by the social implications of evolutionary ideas.
Despite the controversial passages that can be found throughout The
Descent of Man, Nietzsche had few qualms with the arguments Darwin
proposed in On the Origin of Species. On the whole, one of Nietzsches
early comments that he believed Darwin to be correct was as true in 1873 as
it was during the 1880s (KGW iii/4, 19 [132]). When he presented evolution
as a viable alternative to German idealism during the early 1870s, it almost
seems as though he anticipated that during the early 1880s, in The Gay
Science, he would come to present Darwins theory of evolution, the last
great scientific movement, as continuing a critique of metaphysics that was
suggested but never fully realized by Leibniz, Kant, and Hegel (KGW iii/4,
29 [52] and GS 357). Nietzsches position, in short, is not anti-Darwinian,
but he is highly critical of popular Darwinism, in particular its social and
political conclusions.35
The seemingly antagonistic relationship between Nietzsche and Dar-
win, marked both by Nietzsches appreciation of evolutionary theory and
by his increasing criticism of popular Darwinisms wider claims, is not
as clear-cut as it might seem at first sight.36 First of all, we have to be

33 There is no indication that Nietzsche consulted the 1869 treatise, but in April 1884 he did read
Galtons Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its Development (London: Macmillan & Co., 1883),
while he was in Nice. A copy of the latter is in Nietzsches personal library. See Marie-Luise
Haase, Friedrich Nietzsche liest Francis Galton, Nietzsche-Studien 18 (1989), 63358, and Giuliano
Campioni, Paolo DIorio, Maria Cristina Fornari, Francesco Fronterotta, and Andrea Orsucci (eds.),
Nietzsches personliche Bibliothek (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2003), 2389.
34 Darwin, The Descent of Man, i, 167, which summarizes Francis Galton, Hereditary Genius: An
Inquiry into Its Laws and Consequences (London: Macmillan & Co., 1869), 3527.
35 See, in contrast, Jean Gayon, Nietzsche and Darwin, in Jane Maienschein and Michael Ruse
(eds.), Biology and the Foundation of Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 15497,
who takes Nietzsches polemical statements at face value.
36 On the antagonistic relationship between Nietzsche and Darwin, see Johnson, Nietzsches Anti-
Darwinism, 79107.
44 Part I Varieties of philosophical naturalism
aware that Nietzsche is extremely conscious of the wider intellectual field,
and of the often contentious scientific debates, within which his thought
developed. He certainly understood the difference between Darwin and
Darwinism, but his encounter with evolution also predates much of the
work that falls into his so-called middle period, in which we can find the
first sustained references to Darwin. Nietzsche gravitates toward Darwin
precisely because of his early interest in organic forms, questions of tele-
ology, and the philosophical implications of the life sciences, which in
his notebooks from April and May 1868 were still almost exclusively
connected to the German research paradigm of animal morphology, to
Kants discussion of the organic world, and to the language of Romantic
Naturphilosophie. Nietzsche was crucially aware that the theory of evolu-
tion simply did not begin with Darwin, and against this background it is
rather doubtful that his interest in the life sciences, and his references to
evolution, can successfully be reduced to his relationship to Darwin and
Darwinism.
Given the way in which Nietzsche situated himself within the broader
context of the philosophical debates about the life sciences in nineteenth-
century Germany, it must have seemed to him that the controversy between
idealism and scientific materialism that stood in the background of most
philosophical quarrels in the period between the 1850s and 1880s was far
from fruitful. The question was not whether nature was mind-independent
or produced by the mind. Rather, the constant philosophical chatter about
the relationship between intellect and nature, mind and body, was based
on a false opposition. Mind had to be part of nature and there had to be
some form of interaction between what was generally described as mind
and what was assumed to be the organic world. If this should constitute
the basic framework of Nietzsches naturalism, the latter must also be able
to account for the emergence of normative order along evolutionary lines.
In a striking and much-quoted passage from The Gay Science, he noted, for
instance, that the strength of knowledge lies not in its degree of truth, but
in its age, its incorporation [Einverleibtheit], its character as a condition of
life (GS 110).37 Epistemic and moral claims, that is, the normative claims
with which we tend to describe our actions and environment, can only
become normative because they are, quite literally, embodied. It is in this
respect that normative claims about the world are able to sustain any bind-
ing force and become, evolutionarily speaking, advantageous (KGW v/2,

37 Josefine Nauckhoff translates Nietzsches term Einverleibtheit as embeddedness, while Nietzsche


himself alludes directly to the way in which knowledge is appropriated on an organic level.
Nietzsches anti-Darwinism? 45
11 [262]). While metaphysics German idealism and its forerunners from
Plato to Descartes and beyond invariably had to assume a distinction
between mind and body, such a distinction was merely based on the prej-
udice, as he noted in Beyond Good and Evil, that the norms which govern
our knowledge as much as our ethical judgments could not possibly be
derived from the lowly world of nature (BGE 2).
As we have already seen, Nietzsche was far from willing to adopt the
reductionist outlook of scientific materialism as an alternative. Even though
he clearly stated that consciousness was not opposed to instinct (BGE 3)
and thus belonged to the organic world, consciousness was not identical
with instinct; it was both of greater complexity than mere instinct and, at
the same time, continuous with organic life: Consciousness is the latest
development of the organic, and hence also its most unfinished and unro-
bust feature, whose main function, from the perspective of evolution, was
assimilating knowledge and making it instinctive (GS 11). This continuity
between organic life and intellect stands at the center of Nietzsches nat-
uralism: the intellect was a continuation and consequence of the organic
(KGW vii/1, 7 [126], 9 [41], and 24 [16]) different from the cell structures
of amoebae but belonging to the same realm.38
In the context of the nineteenth century, such claims were not quite
as outlandish as they might appear at first sight, and it is necessary to
link Nietzsches understanding of Darwin to a broader intellectual field.
By 1784 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, in a famous study, had already
noted that the intermaxillary bone, or os intermaxillare, in the upper jaw
was not missing from humans and that, as a consequence, there was an
obvious continuity between humans and animals.39 Despite the fact that
most of the scientific establishment of the time from the Dutch anatomist
Peter Camper to the German physician Johann Friedrich Blumenbach
remained skeptical, the results of Goethes research, as much as his idea of
a unity of nature, circulated widely in the early 1800s and was compatible
with the new Romantic Naturphilosophie as it developed in Schellings work
from the late 1790s onward. Arguing that all life, from human beings to
simple organisms, was based on the organization of cells and evolved from
protoplasma as the accumulation of cells, Schellings pupil Lorenz Oken,
38 The example of amoebae is not entirely arbitrary. Nietzsche must have found these organisms
sufficiently interesting to leave several pencil markings on the relevant pages of his copy of Semper,
Die naturlichen Existenzbedingungen der Thiere, i, 178 (Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek, Weimar,
Germany, Sig. C 408-a).
39 See Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Dem Menschen wie den Thieren ist der Zwischenknochen
der obern Kinnlade zuzuschreiben, in Werke: Hamburger Ausgabe, 16th, rev. edn., ed. Erich Trunz
(Munich: C. H. Beck, 1996), xiii, 18496: 1956.
46 Part I Varieties of philosophical naturalism
who was later appointed by Goethe to a professorship at the University
of Jena, concluded that there simply was no real difference to be found
between worms and human beings: We have traced back the generation of
human beings to the birth of the worm, and found that the essence of both
was one.40 But while naturalists like Oken and anatomists like Johannes
Muller, nevertheless, held on to the fundamental difference between the
organic and inorganic worlds, Goethe and, subsequently, Nietzsche were
more ready to wonder whether the organization of organic nature could be
seen as necessarily different from that of inorganic matter at least from a
philosophical point of view, as Nietzsche already suggested in April or May
1868 (KGW i/4, 62 [45]).41 The life sciences of the later nineteenth century
continued to be shaped by theoretical frameworks and even by research
programs dating back to the later eighteenth century. Not surprisingly,
Mullers and Okens publications appear on Nietzsches reading lists during
the late 1860s (KGW i/4, 62 [49]).42
The description of organic life as based on the growth of cells, and the
role of cellular structure for the organization and development of living
organisms, moved into the center of the German life sciences after Matthias
Jacob Schleidens microscopic observations of plants in the mid 1830s.43
A practicing lawyer who subsequently switched to an academic career in
botany at some of Germanys leading universities, including Jena, and who,
together with Nageli, founded the seminal Zeitschrift fur wissenschaftliche
Botanik in 1844, Schleiden focused on the importance of the cell nucleus
and of cell division in plants. This work, which was quickly translated
into the fields of animal physiology and cell pathology, also led him to
emphasize a purely mechanical explanation of nature.44 The growth of
cells, for instance, was seen as analogous to the process of crystallization in
the inorganic world, with a cell nucleus produced by the accumulation of
minute elementary particles in the undefined matter of the cytoblastema.
Schleiden explicitly distanced himself from the earlier tradition of
Romantic Naturphilosophie and adopted what is perhaps best understood as
40 Lorenz Oken, Die Zeugung (Bamberg: Goebhardt, 1805), 216.
41 Compare the remarks in ibid., 15; Muller, Handbuch der Physiologie des Menschen, i, 20; and Goethe,
Die Natur: Fragment, in Werke, xiii, 457.
42 See Lorenz Oken, Lehrbuch der Naturphilosophie (Jena: Frommann, 1809). It is unclear whether
Nietzsche also consulted Okens much more detailed Lehrbuch der Naturgeschichte (Leipzig: Reclam,
181226).
43 See William Coleman, Biology in the Nineteenth Century: Problems of Form, Function, and Transfor-
mation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 2356.
44 See Matthias Jacob Schleidens Beitrage zur Phytogenesis, Archiv fur Anatomie, Physiologie und wis-
senschaftliche Medicin (1838), 13776. On Schleidens position in the context of scientific materialism,
see Wittkau-Horgby, Materialismus, 4757.
Nietzsches anti-Darwinism? 47
a relentlessly reductionist materialism. Superficially paying homage to Kant
by presenting the latter as a materialist, he vigorously attacked Naturphiloso-
phie and late German idealism as a kind of metaphysical poetry deficient
of proper empirical knowledge.45 Once Theodor Schwann and Rudolf
Virchow, among others, had widened Schleidens research to animal and
human physiology, the continuity of organization in living nature stretched
from cells and simple plants to complex animals such as human beings.46
Schwann, in particular, argued that the formation of cells was the devel-
opmental principle common to the elementary parts of all organisms.47
Organisms develop according to blind laws of necessity, that is, by forces
which are co-emergent with matter (durch die Existenz der Materie gesetzt)
much like energy, mass, and density were connected in the inorganic
world.48
Schwanns assumptions, representing the wider commitments of cell
theory, also found their way into a broader biological literature that
Nietzsche read in great detail, including the work of Karl Semper. Depend-
ing on which external factors affected the molecular structure of individual
cells in living organisms, Semper noted, the same cells could develop in
many different ways. Drawing on contemporary embryology, he concluded
that identical cells, or identical clumps of cells, could develop into different
organs with different functions. Cell plasma, on this account, both enabled
and constrained the evolutionary development of organs and, by implica-
tion, of entire organisms.49 For Semper, however, this also suggested a kind
of feedback loop that marked evolution as a whole, extending well beyond
individual cells and organs. Responding to, among other things, changes in
their environment, the same cells produced different kinds of organs, and
fully developed biological traits in return influenced the molecular struc-
ture of cells, which would then be inherited by subsequent generations
of the same species.50 The consequence of this view blended Romantic
Naturphilosophie and scientific materialism: [T]he entire fauna appears to
us as a great organism, whose individual members the different species
45
See, for instance, Matthias Jacob Schleiden, Uber den Materialismus der neueren deutschen Natur-
wissenschaft, sein Wesen und seine Geschichte (Leipzig: Engelmann, 1863), and Schellings und Hegels
Verhaltniss zur Naturwissenschaft (Leipzig: Engelmann, 1844), which was triggered by a scathing
review of the first volume of his Grundzuge der wissenschaftlichen Botanik (Leipzig: Engelmann,
1842) in the Neue Jenaer Literatur-Zeitung in May 1843.
46
See Theodor Schwann, Mikroskopische Untersuchungen u ber die Ubereinstimmung in der Struktur
und dem Wachstum der Thiere und Pflanzen (Berlin: Sander, 1839), 416 and 22057, and Rudolf
Virchow, Die Cellularpathologie in ihrer Begrundung auf physiologische und pathologische Gewebelehre
(Berlin: Hirschwald, 1858).
47 See Schwann, Mikroskopische Untersuchungen, iv, xiiixv, and 1916. 48 Ibid., 226.
49 See Semper, Die naturlichen Existenzbedingungen der Thiere, i, 1618. 50 See ibid., i, 1819.
48 Part I Varieties of philosophical naturalism
of animals are living parts and that had its own embryology, that is, its
evolution in time.51 Cell theory, animal morphology, and natural selec-
tion, brought together, indicated an evolutionary continuity from cells, via
organs and organisms, to entire species and the organic world as a whole.52
While Semper clearly appreciated Darwins approach, connecting the
latter to the study of animal morphology, the work of Schwann and Schlei-
den preceded Darwins theory. Both had worked as assistants to Johannes
Muller in Berlin, and the latters encyclopedic Handbuch der Physiologie
des Menschen [Elements of Human Physiology] was the most comprehensive
account of human physiology in the first half of the nineteenth century,
bringing together research from the entire spectrum of the life sciences.53
Muller, whose textbook Nietzsche had used on more than one occasion,
was no scientific materialist in the narrow sense of the term, unlike many
of his pupils. Rather, he provided an important link between Romantic
Naturphilosophie, rooted in German idealism, and the dramatic growth
of empirical knowledge in the life sciences throughout the remainder of
the nineteenth century. Against this background, it becomes clearer that
Nietzsches naturalism emerged in the context of an extremely complex
intellectual field, which shaped his understanding of what it means to
translate humanity back into nature (BGE 230) until the very end. Niet-
zsches remarks on evolution precisely reflect the disunity of the life sciences
in the nineteenth century as a set of emerging disciplines. Historical con-
text matters a great deal, and any appreciation of Nietzsches position will
be worse off if it fails to take this context into account. Darwin, certainly,
was part of this context.

51 Ibid., i, 39. 52 See ibid., i, 3940.


53 On Schleidens and Schwanns work in the context of Mullers scientific network, see Laura Otis,
Mullers Lab (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 4274, and Henry Harris, The Birth of the
Cell (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999), 94105.
chapter 4

Psychology, experiment, and scientific practice

Nietzsches attempt at revising the relationship between human intellect


and the seemingly lowly world of nature required an account of nature,
and of science, without metaphysics or so it seemed. If genealogy as a
philosophical project, as it developed from Human, All Too Human to the
essays of On the Genealogy of Morality, wished to provide any critical insight
into the emergence and development of normative forms of epistemic and
moral order, it had to adopt a clear commitment to naturalism. Nietzsche
himself was quite clear about the general direction of his project, especially
during the 1880s: the body and physiology as starting points [Ausgangspunkt
vom Leibe und der Physiologie] (KGW vii/3, 40 [21]). Such an account was
rooted in the assumption that human beings, including the ethical norms
they subscribe to, cannot be seen as a special case vis-`a-vis the rest of nature,
even though it might initially seem that the normative dimension of ethical
judgments separate human beings from the natural world (D 31 and 333).1
Nietzsche was skeptical about the special epistemic status that humanity
ascribed to itself already in the opening pages of his early essay On Truth
and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense (TL, 1412). His rejection of the idea that
human beings are in any way exceptional continued to grow after his crit-
ical engagement with Eugen Duhrings Wirklichkeitsphilosophie. Although
Duhring initially accepted that human beings, qua natural beings, have
to be embedded in the natural world, he also assumed a fundamental
separation between humanity and the rest of nature: the logical faculties
of human beings, and their ability to represent the world according to
a unified scientific method, made them distinct from the natural world
at large.2 Nietzsche, as we can expect, had little patience for such views.
1 For a standard interpretation of this view, see Leiter, Nietzsche on Morality, 7. In contrast, Richard
Schacht, Nietzschean Normativity, in Schacht (ed.), Nietzsches Postmoralism: Essays on Nietzsches
Prelude to Philosophys Future (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 14980: 1603 and
1756, argues that Nietzsches naturalism still assumes humans to be a special case, even though
normativity is not an exclusively human phenomenon.
2 See, for instance, Duhring, Cursus der Philosophie, 1415.

49
50 Part I Varieties of philosophical naturalism
Increasingly influenced by his readings in the life sciences, he continued his
criticism of humanitys special status throughout the 1880s, for instance,
when he noted, in The Gay Science, that [m]an . . . has placed himself in a
false rank order in relation to animals and nature. The successful outcome
of the genealogical enterprise would have to be a discounted humanity,
humanness, and human dignity (GS 115).3 The most direct denuncia-
tion of humanitys privileged place, however, comes toward the end of his
philosophical career, in The Anti-Christ, which outlines the ontological
consequences of naturalism:
We have changed our minds. We have become more modest in every way.
We have stopped deriving humanity from spirit, from divinity, we have
stuck humans back among the animals. . . . Humans are in no way the crown
of creation, all beings essentially occupy the same level of perfection. (A 14)
The long-term outcome of the history of metaphysical thought and the
result of Nietzsches own philosophical project are very much the same: a
rejection of supernatural forces as much as of humanitys special status.
Nietzsches anti-metaphysical stance clearly raises questions with regard
to the sources of normativity. It is inevitable to assume, for instance, that
the psychology of moral judgment cannot be examined in any serious way
without taking into account natural drives and instincts.4 This has led to
a predominantly psychological reading of Nietzsches naturalism, focusing
on moral sentiment and the will to power.5 Nietzsche himself certainly
invited such a reading, when he emphasized in Human, All Too Human, at
the beginning of his genealogical project, the advantages of psychological
observation and argued for a psychological dissection and computation
of our normative commitments (HA i: 35). Likewise, in Beyond Good and
Evil, he famously demanded that psychology again be recognized as queen
of the sciences, since only psychology offers the path to the fundamental
problems (BGE 23). We need to be cautious, however, for Nietzsche
immediately described psychology in terms of physio-psychology. This
clearly shows that psychology could not seriously be detached from the
human body, from organic life and its evolution. Biology, in other words,
is more than merely a framework of the natural preconditions for human
agency and moral psychology that are otherwise detached from biology. It is
3 See also Schmidt, Descendenzlehre und Darwinismus, 26290.
4 See Bernard Williams, Naturalism and Genealogy, in Edward Harcourt (ed.), Morality, Reflection,
and Ideology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 14861: 153.
5 See, for instance, Leiter, Nietzsche on Morality, 8; Reginster, The Affirmation of Life, 13947; Clark
and Dudrick, The Soul of Nietzsches Beyond Good and Evil, 137210; and Robert B. Pippin, Nietzsche,
Psychology, and First Philosophy (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2010), 121 and 4565.
Psychology, experiment, and scientific practice 51
a fatal mistake to read Nietzsches emphasis on psychological phenomena
such as moral feeling, will, and the self as proposing a conception of
psychology without biology.
A psychological reading of Nietzsches genealogy also faces a second
problem. It is obvious that an exclusive focus on the psychology of norma-
tive commitments tends to reduce his philosophical project to a continu-
ation of the moral skepticism that can be encountered among the French
moralistes.6 While the influence of the moralistes is perhaps most obvious in
Daybreak, we should be careful not to overestimate this influence. Doing so
would come dangerously close to misreading Nietzsches genealogy along
therapeutic lines. At worst, it has to reject any naturalistic component of
his thought, regarding naturalism simply as an extreme form of scientific
positivism, or as some kind of materialism, thus denying, for instance, that
the genealogy of morality takes into account the organic world.7 What is
left in such an exclusively psychological reading of Nietzsches philosoph-
ical enterprise is the minimal claim that the reason why we hold certain
normative commitments is simply that we are emotionally attached to
them.8 On the other hand, Nietzsches dramatic emphasis on the role of
the human body, and on life as a principally biological phenomenon, even
comes to the fore in Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Z i: 4), and in The Anti-Christ
he reminded his more psychologically inclined readers: when we discount
the nervous system and the senses, the mortal shroud, we miscount (A
14).
Such skepticism about the value of psychological explanation did not
come unprepared. By the time Nietzsche was drafting what were to become
his final publications, he had read Harald Hffdings work on psychol-
ogy. Hffding, a Danish philosopher with strong Kantian leanings, might
have presented his work in a phenomenological vein, but throughout he
relied on the most recent research in biology and physiology in order to
explain specific psychological phenomena. As a serious and relevant field
of research, psychology only made sense if it was able to look beyond
mere introspection, drawing on physiology as much as on the new social
sciences.9 This need to widen the perspective of psychology toward both
the body and society revealed a serious shortcoming in the latters theo-
retical framework, which was also crucial for Nietzsche: psychology could
not explain why the general principles according to which it proceeded
6 See, for instance, Pippin, Nietzsche, Psychology, and First Philosophy, 9.
7 See ibid., 735 and 8996.
8 Ibid., 258, describes such attachment in terms of an erotic attachment.
9 Hffding, Psychologie in Umrissen, 2632.
52 Part I Varieties of philosophical naturalism
should themselves be normatively valid.10 A psychology grounded in mere
introspection was always in danger of producing illusory explanations.11
Nietzsches own emphasis on the nervous system, on the senses, dis-
section, and empirical observation in the passages mentioned above high-
lights that he understood psychology, when he made use of the term,
not exclusively as a field of knowledge concerned with introspection or
self-observation. Indeed, the rise of psychology in nineteenth-century
Germany for instance, in Wundts laboratory in Leipzig initially devel-
oped in tandem with the growth of the physiological research laboratories
instituted, among others, by Helmholtz and DuBois-Reymond. The exper-
imental measurement of bodily functions, of the contraction of muscles
and reaction times, or of the visual perception of color, was embedded in a
doctrine of precision measurement and, thus, also in a technological setting
closely related to the physical sciences.12 The experimentalization of life was
less a matter of self-reflection than one of curves, graphs, and registration
instruments. The human body became itself part of complex experimental
arrangements; physiology, praised by Nietzsche throughout his writings,
was an experimental science. Throughout his time at the University of
Basel, from 1869 until his retirement in 1879, he specifically sought out
the company of colleagues directly involved in the experimentalization of
life. In the small intellectual circle in Basel a city largely dominated by
patrician families involved in merchant and banking activities such com-
pany was easy to find, and he spent much time with the physician Eduard
Hagenbach-Bischoff, the anatomist Ernst Hoffmann, and the pathologist
Hermann Immermann.13 The topics of conversation will not have been
limited to wine, academic intrigue, and Nietzsches various ailments.
That science was a practical and experimental enterprise, thus, was
not lost on Nietzsche. The assumption that his later work, including the
concept of science advanced in The Gay Science, has to be seen as a
radical break with all the authoritative normal sciences of the day is

10 See ibid., 452.


11 This was also a general lesson Nietzsche could learn from James Sullys Les illusions des sens et de
lesprit (Paris: Bailli`ere, 1883).
12 See Kathryn M. Olesko, The Meaning of Precision: The Exact Sensibility in Early Nineteenth-
Century Germany, in M. Norton Wise (ed.), The Values of Precision (Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press, 1997), 10334. The epistemic values of such experimental science were not limited
to actual research but also characterized the schooling and training of scientists in Germany to
such an extent that the difference between teaching and research laboratories became increasingly
irrelevant. See the contemporary remarks in Emil DuBois-Reymond, Der physiologische Unterricht
sonst und jetzt (Berlin: Hirschwald, 1878), 1118.
13 See, for instance, KGB ii/1, 141, 164, 181, 281, 291, 299, 3078, and 319; KGB ii/3, 74, 99, 113, 122,
262; KGB ii/5, 1314, 589, 64, 69, 979, and 132.
Psychology, experiment, and scientific practice 53
simply questionable.14 Rather, Nietzsche was surprisingly well-informed
about the difference between what scientists publicly claimed to do and
what they actually did within the confines of the research laboratory, which
was marked by much greater epistemic uncertainty, that is, by what Andrew
Pickering described as the mangle of practice and the tricky business of
coping with material agency, than seemed obvious in the popular lectures
scientists delivered on the occasion of important anniversaries or other
celebratory events.15
As is well known, Nietzsche was an avid reader of the Textbook of Physi-
ology by the Cambridge physiologist Michael Foster, published in German
translation in 1881 (KGB iii/1, 94).16 The many underlinings and marginal
marks that can be found in his personal copy cover virtually the entire
field of human physiology: muscle contractions and the makeup of nerve
fibers, cells and ganglia, heartbeat, cardiovascular circulation, perspiration,
metabolism, and the functions of the spleen, spinal cord, and brain.17 It is
in these pages that Foster presents in considerable detail individual exper-
imental arrangements, his own as much as those of other physiologists,
from the initial setup of a myograph to measure the force of muscle con-
traction to the final diagrams and graphs that have transformed the agency
of the human body into a well-defined curve of statistical significance.18
Successful experimental arrangements played as central a role as failed and
abandoned experiments, or improvements to existing technical tools, which
can have unexpected consequences and results. Fosters handbook is not
only a meticulously written compendium reflecting the state of knowledge
in contemporary physiological research, but it also allows much insight
into the practice of doing such research.19 Within this context, the human
body, but also the bodies of frogs and other animals, became integrated
into technical experimental arrays. Organic life was transformed into a
technological ensemble. Nietzsche himself, albeit somewhat late in Twi-
light of the Idols, suggested a conjunction of experimental science and the
human senses:

14 Pippin, Nietzsche, Psychology, and First Philosophy, 33.


15 See Pickering, The Mangle of Practice, 67.
16 See Michael Foster, Lehrbuch der Physiologie, trans. N. Kleinenberg, introd. W. Kuhne (Heidelberg:
Winter, 1881). Nietzsches copy (Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek, Weimar, Germany, Sig. C 386)
has many reading traces.
17 See, for instance, ibid., 3645, 1045, 111, 1957, 336, 3746, 506, 51315, and 52535.
18 See, for instance, ibid., 3942, 67, and 87.
19 Foster was also involved in the production of one of the standard British textbooks on physio-
logical laboratories. See E. Klein, J. Burdon-Sanderson, and Michael Foster, The Handbook for the
Physiological Laboratory (London: Churchill, 1873).
54 Part I Varieties of philosophical naturalism
And what excellent tools for observation we have in our senses! Take the nose,
for instance no philosopher has ever mentioned the nose with admiration
and gratitude, even though it is the most delicate instrument we have at our
disposal: noses can detect tiny differences in motion that even spectroscopes
do not notice. We have science these days precisely to the extent that we
have decided to accept the testimony of the senses, to the extent that
we have learned to sharpen them, arm them, and think them through to
the end. Everything else is deformity and pre-science: I mean metaphysics,
theology, psychology, epistemology. Or formal science, a system of signs: like
logic and that application of logic, mathematics. They do not have anything
to do with reality, not even as a problem; they are equally distant from
the question of whether a sign-convention like logic has any value at all.
(TI iii: 3)
Experimental science, then, is not merely an extension of the senses, but
the latters epistemic value derives from an experimental intervention in
the material world quite unlike psychology, which was merely a pre-
science. Experimental practice, as Nietzsche could glean from the many
pages of scientific literature he read over the years, provided a conceptual
articulation of the world that, at the very same time, transformed what was
seen as the world.
What Nietzsche did not read in the natural sciences, together with the
readings he abandoned, is at times as instructive as the books and journal
articles that he consulted. A good example is his somewhat sudden interest
in the work of Adolf Fick who, at the time, taught at the Physiological
Institute of the University of Wurzburg in northern Bavaria. Writing from
Sils Maria to his friend Franz Overbeck on August 20 or 21, 1881, he asked
for Ficks epistemological essay Ursache und Wirkung [Cause and Effect]
(1867/82), which was the latters attempt to draw more general philosoph-
ical conclusions from contemporary research in human physiology (KGW
iii/1, 117). One month after his initial letter, though, Nietzsche informed
Overbeck that Ficks slim volume was not necessary any more (KGB iii/1,
129). Although he does not give any specific reasons, we are safe in assuming
that Nietzsche already had a rough understanding of Ficks conclusions.
Largely written while Fick was heading an experimental research labora-
tory in Zurich, the study argued, among other things, that it is difficult to
distinguish clearly between cause and effect as soon as we are faced with
a multitude of bodies in space that exhibit complex relationships.20 From
20 See Adolf Fick, Ursache und Wirkung: Ein erkenntniss-theoretischer Versuch, 2nd edn., enl. (Kassel:
Wigand, 1882). Presumably, Nietzsche did not refer to the first edition of 1867, which is extremely
rare, but to the second enlarged edition, which was broadly discussed by German philosophers and
which probably already had been announced by its publisher in 1881.
Psychology, experiment, and scientific practice 55
the perspective of physiology, the breakdown of the relationship between
cause and effect also undermined the consistency of reality, since natural
laws required a relatively clear-cut distinction between cause and effect.
As the author of highly influential physiological textbooks that could be
found on the bookshelves of any aspiring physiologist and physician, Fick
certainly represented the experimentalization of life that stood in the back-
ground of Nietzsches own understanding of the life sciences.21 Not only
did he study the electrical stimulation of nerves and develop a mathemat-
ical formula for the calculation of blood flow to human organs based on
measuring their oxygen consumption the so-called Fick principle but he
also introduced a number of technical innovations that changed the instru-
mentation of the nineteenth-century research laboratory. These included
the tonometer to measure intraocular pressure, the pendulum myograph
which measures muscle reflexes, and the sphygmograph which, attached
to the wrist of human subjects, transformed pulse frequency into lines and
curves on a piece of paper.22 Drawing on the same experimental research
that made up the background to his earlier studies on cause and effect, he
concluded in a public lecture at Wurzburg that space and causality could
not be regarded as a priori principles but had to be consequences of the
physiological processes of sensory perception.23 Fick, in other words, opted
for a naturalized version of Kant, which also provided the framework for
Nietzsches encounter with the life sciences. Even though Nietzsche aban-
doned a more detailed engagement with Ficks work, it is difficult to deny
that his conception of science was shaped by the kind of experimental
practices represented by Ficks research in Zurich and Wurzburg, and by
1886 Nietzsche had also consulted Ernst Machs studies on the physiology
of sense perception, which relied heavily on a broad range of respective
experiments. When he sent a copy of his On the Genealogy of Morality
to Mach in Prague, he received in return an unbound offprint of Machs
famous physics paper on shockwaves.24

21 See, for instance, Adolf Fick, Lehrbuch der Anatomie und Physiologie der Sinnesorgane (Lahr:
Schauenburg, 1864).
22 See, for instance, Adolf Fick, Ein neues Myographion, Vierteljahrsschrift der Naturforschenden
Gesellschaft in Zurich 7 (1862), 30720, and Untersuchungen u ber elektrische Nervenreizung (Braun-
schweig: Vieweg, 1864).
23 See Adolf Fick, Die Welt als Vorstellung: Academischer Vortrag (Wurzburg: Stahel, 1870), 516. The
research of Ficks Zurich laboratory is collected in Fick (ed.), Untersuchungen aus dem physiologischen
Laboratorium der Zurcher Hochschule, i (Vienna: Braumuller, 1869).
24 Nietzsche read Machs Beitrage zur Analyse der Empfindungen (1886) and received a copy of Ernst
Mach and Peter Salcher, Photographische Fixirung der durch Projectile in der Luft eingeleiteten
Vorgange, Repertorium der Physik 23 (1887), 58799 (Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek, Weimar,
Germany, Sig. C 395).
56 Part I Varieties of philosophical naturalism
Nevertheless, Nietzsches well-known and much-discussed lament, in
The Birth of Tragedy (1872), about the advent of theoretical man incarnated
by the figure of Socrates promises a thoroughly anti-modern criticism of
scientific rationality motivated by an aesthetic appreciation of life (BT 15).
At first sight it might seem that such a criticism of the sciences continued to
stand at the center of some of his later work, when he described science in
terms of a self-anaesthetic whose claim to disinterested objectivity seeks
to skirt philosophical questions about normativity (GM iii: 23). Likewise,
in Beyond Good and Evil he delivered a sustained attack on that tradition of
British thought, from Francis Bacon to David Hume, which had prepared
much of the ground for modern philosophical naturalism (BGE 20 and
252). At the very beginning of On the Genealogy of Morality, Nietzsche
also famously rejected those English psychologists (GM i: 1), who sought
to extrapolate the inevitable progress of morality toward a civil society
based on the greatest happiness from Darwins theory of natural selection,
as was the case with Spencers Data of Ethics.25 Moreover, although most
commentators would agree that his mature philosophical thought might be
best described in terms of naturalism, Nietzsches own artistic and rhetorical
strategies the aphoristic and undisciplined style of his published works
suggest that there is limited continuity between his philosophical project
and the natural sciences.26 Nietzsche, in short, simply did not write like
a scientist and he noted himself that it would not be possible to practice
philosophy on a strictly scientific foundation (GM iii: 24).
Skepticism about science is certainly part of Nietzsches epistemological
concerns, but such skepticism mainly targeted the optimistic assumption
that the formal methods seen as integral to successful scientific practice
provide a supreme knowledge of things. Real things, as he complained
in Human, All Too Human, are notably absent from such formal meth-
ods grounded in logic and mathematics which lack any direct relation-
ship to the world (HA i: 11). At the same time, he fully endorsed the
significance of the sciences for the evolution of culture, praising their
rigorous methods of acquiring truth as well as the current state of knowl-
edge. The central problem was not science but the latters metaphysical
commitments commitments that always, and necessarily, exceeded the
realm of its practical endeavors. The widespread talk of physical forces

25 See Herbert Spencer, The Data of Ethics (London: Williams & Norgate, 1879), 20118 ( 7581).
Nietzsches reading of Spencer is not entirely correct: Spencer freely admits that such altruism is
inherently connected to egoism.
26 See Christopher Janaway, Beyond Selflessness: Reading Nietzsches Genealogy (Oxford: Oxford Uni-
versity Press, 2007), 345, 39, and 523.
Psychology, experiment, and scientific practice 57
that move objects, for instance, or of species that develop, was suggestive
of supernatural claims. One of the most fundamental problems of those
scientific disciplines that Nietzsche valued throughout his career, such as
physiology or morphology, was their unwitting tendency to project some
form of intentionality into nature, thus presenting natural phenomena as
quasi-conscious subjects involved in some sort of agency: all our science,
he concluded, in spite of its coolness and freedom from emotion, still
stands exposed to the seduction of language (GM i: 13).
Such remarks are critical of an idealized understanding of what con-
stituted science in the nineteenth century. The latter was, and largely
continues to be, centered on an image of science as a disinterested and
value-neutral enterprise. In order to better understand Nietzsches position,
we need to relate the seemingly ambivalent image of scientific knowledge
as it appears in his later work to a central passage of Human, All Too
Human, which stood at the beginning of the genealogical enterprise. The
popular, as well as philosophical, conception of what constituted science
was based less on its practical engagement with the world than on claims
about its quasi-moral epistemic authority: Conviction is the belief that
on some particular point of knowledge one is in possession of the unqual-
ified truth. Such a scientific ethic of conviction had three characteristics:
that unqualified truths exist, that perfect methods of attaining to them
have been discovered, and that everyone who possesses conviction avails
himself of these perfect methods. For Nietzsche, these characteristics were
considerably removed from the everyday experimental practices of the
contemporary sciences. The conviction that a specific substantive result of
scientific research was correct, such as Helmholtzs claim that the speed
of nerve induction was about 24.6 to 38.4 m/s, does itself not qualify
the holder of this conviction to replicate Helmholtzs experiments, while
the conviction that evolution follows some kind of divine plan is cer-
tainly not based on any coherent scientific methods. Scientific practice was
different from conviction. What was questionable, from this perspective,
was the moral authority the sciences adopted in the popular imagina-
tion of the nineteenth century: All three assertions demonstrate at once
that the man of convictions is not the man of scientific thought (HA i:
630).
Eight years later, Nietzsche argued in Beyond Good and Evil that
what remained problematic were not even the metaphysical commit-
ments of the sciences. It was rather that their public claim to objectivity
and disinterested knowledge rendered insight into these commitments
impossible:
58 Part I Varieties of philosophical naturalism
However gratefully we might approach the objective spirit . . . nevertheless,
in the end we have to be cautious of our gratitude, and put an end to
the exaggerated terms in which people have recently been celebrating the
desubjectivization and depersonification of spirit, as if this were some sort
of goal in itself, some sort of redemption or transfiguration. (BGE 207)
The moral authority expressed in the presumed value-neutral stance of the
scientific enterprise, in other words, precluded an understanding that the
value-neutral stance itself entailed a normative commitment (D 111). It was
not only that objectivity was not neutral, but neutrality itself could not be
neutral.
The endorsement of empirical knowledge and of the contemporary
natural sciences that can be discovered in Nietzsches later works seems
to suggest that his reflections on the value of scientific knowledge shifted
from the kind of radical skepticism that marked the early essay On Truth
and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense to an increasingly empiricist position.27
Although, in Daybreak, he hinted at the possibility to be [r]edeemed from
skepticism (D 477), such an interpretation stands in some contrast to
a broad range of statements in his later works that clearly emphasize a
skeptical attitude. Nietzsches positive understanding of what constituted a
science is characterized by a remarkable continuity: it is not based on what
philosophers assume scientists do, but rather on how scientific practice
itself proceeds in the field, in the laboratory, or in the notebooks of the
historian of morality. It is, indeed, such practices and procedures that
he valued most about the contemporary sciences:
On the whole, the procedures of science are at least as important a product
of inquiry as any other outcome: for the scientific spirit rests upon an insight
into the procedures, and if these were lost all the other products of science
together would not suffice to prevent a restoration of superstition and folly.
There are people of intelligence who can learn as many of the facts of science
as they like, but from their conversation, and especially from the hypotheses
they put forward, you can tell that they lack the spirit of science: they have
not that instinctive mistrust of devious thinking which, as a consequence
of long practice, has put its roots down in the soul of every scientific man.
(HA i: 635)
It is the practice of the sciences, or rather: their mangle of practice, which
guards against metaphysical speculation by giving rise to that kind of
thinking that also, Nietzsche believed, was a prominent feature of his own
philosophical project.
27 See, for instance, the claims in Leiter, Nietzsche on Morality, 14, and Clark, Nietzsche on Truth and
Philosophy, 105.
Psychology, experiment, and scientific practice 59
Given Nietzsches neo-Kantian stance, such a practical engagement with
the world should not be mistaken for a positivist celebration of an unmedi-
ated access to reality. Indeed, in the summer of 1881, Nietzsche read an
article by Ernst Bratuschek, the editor of the prestigious Philosophische
Monatshefte, which directly argued against such a positivist understanding
of the sciences. Bratuschek concluded with a quotation from Justus von
Liebig, the German chemist who had introduced live experimentation to
the teaching of chemistry at German universities: An empirical natural
science in the narrow sense does not exist at all.28 Liebig continued with
an assertion that was not quoted by Bratuschek: An experiment which is
not preceded by a theory, that is, by an idea, stands in the same relationship
to natural science as the clatter of a baby rattle to music.29 A practical
engagement with the world, including the scientific experimentalization of
life, in other words, required normative commitments, which themselves,
however, were the outcome of our practical engagements with the world.
Nietzsche fully accepted that scientific practice first needs a value-ideal, a
value-creating power, serving which it is allowed to believe in itself (GM iii:
25). Neither the results of scientific practice, nor its formal methods, how-
ever, could be seen as the origin of the sciences value-creating power, and
he ended the previous sentence by noting that science itself never creates
values. The normative force exhibited by scientific statements about the
world, thus, had its origin elsewhere: the way in which we make scientific
statements about the world needed to be naturalized itself. What he called
the inner evolution of scientific ideals, such as value-neutral objectivity,
could not be detached from nature, since science, after all, was done by
natural beings. In contrast, traditional faith in science, in its value-neutral
objectivity, rests on the same base as the ascetic ideal: it was based on
an impoverishment of life that, to some extent, was the consequence of
conceiving science as a mere representation of life (GM iii: 25). In contrast,
Nietzsche hoped that scientific practice would have a liberating effect,
seeking to talk man out of his former self-respect.

28 Ernst Bratuschek, Der Positivismus in den Wissenschaften, Philosophische Monatshefte 11 (1875),


4964: 64, quoting from Justus von Liebig, Ueber Francis Bacon von Verulam und die Methode der
Naturforschung (Munich: Literarisch-artistische Anstalt, 1863), 49.
29 Liebig, Ueber Francis Bacon, 49.
chapter 5

Three kinds of naturalism

Contemporary philosophical accounts of Nietzsches position often dis-


tinguish between two different kinds of naturalism: a substantive and
a methodological version.1 In the first instance, a substantive version of
naturalism is marked by an ontological dimension, which excludes quasi-
supernatural forces from philosophical and scientific explanations of the
world. On this account, naturalism has to show that the entire field of
human experience from mere intuition to complex ethical norms
can only be coherently explained in terms of physical entities and their
functions. Substantive versions of naturalism do not merely deny the exis-
tence of quasi-supernatural forces. Rather, they entail a kind of physicalist
reductionism with regard to both the natural world and human cognition.
Substantive naturalism seeks to close the traditional gap between facts and
values, between the natural and the normative, by reducing values to facts.2
This also means, however, that substantive versions of naturalism tend to
fall into the trap of what is, rightly or wrongly, described as a naturalistic
fallacy.3
The question is on what grounds substantive versions of naturalism
would be able to naturalize their own preconditions, since it seems that
they have to operate with a concept of nature, and of facts, that pre-
cedes their explanation of natural facts. A substantive version of naturalism
would therefore be hard pressed to explain why scientific explanations
about the world should be normatively binding in the first place: either we
1 See, prominently, Leiter, Nietzsche on Morality, 56. In what follows I build on my earlier discussion
of naturalism in Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of History (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2008), 26974.
2 John McDowell, Mind and World, with a new introduction (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 1996), 723, describes this as bald naturalism.
3 See G. E. Moore, Principia Ethica, 2nd edn., rev., ed. and introd. Thomas Baldwin (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1993), 619 (i. 10). Bernard Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985), 1212, rightly questioned whether reducing values
to facts, or deriving the value of something from its natural existence, amounts to a logical fallacy,
properly speaking. It is simply a mistake.

60
Three kinds of naturalism 61
have to adopt a concept of normativity that exists prior to such scientific
explanations and thus cannot be naturalized, or we have to dissolve nor-
mativity into a natural kind without being able to justify why we continue
to speak of norms. Substantive varieties of naturalism, in other words, are
either empty or they need to make assumptions of a metaphysical kind.
Nineteenth-century scientific materialism, Nietzsche knew, falls into this
category.
In contrast to naturalism of the substantive variety, a methodological
version of naturalism makes limited substantive claims. Instead of holding
that any philosophical account of the world out there can only be reason-
able, and by implication successful, if it corresponds to results obtained by
empirical scientific investigation, methodological forms of naturalism con-
tend that explanations of the world simply need to follow those methods
that have been shown to be successful in the natural sciences. Such a version
of naturalism is more interesting because it has largely epistemological con-
cerns and because it seems able to avoid the kind of physicalist reductionism
that stands at the center of substantive versions of naturalism.4
One of the advantages of the kind of naturalized epistemology that,
for instance, Willard Van Orman Quine advocated is its underlying con-
ception of philosophy as on a par with the natural sciences, albeit with-
out becoming a natural science properly speaking. Nietzsche would have
endorsed, without doubt, Quines view that the posits of science are simply
more efficacious than those of myth or religion: the normative force of
statements about photosynthesis, for instance, is more binding than the
idea that Homeric deities, or a Judeo-Christian God, created the air we
breathe.5 For Quines naturalized epistemology, as much as for Nietzsches
philosophical naturalism, the appeal to the normative force of science is
in many ways an appeal to conceptual contextualization, since any direct
access to the things that surround us, if such access were remotely possi-
ble, would not tell us very much: immediate experience simply will not,
of itself, cohere as an autonomous domain, since it is the way we speak
about the physical world that holds this world together.6 Indeed, Quines
adage that: [t]he philosopher and the scientist are in the same boat, also
underlies Nietzsches naturalistic account of our situatedness in the world
as natural beings. Science, thus, belongs to the world that we imagine.7
4 See Quine, Epistemology Naturalized, 6990. For a sophisticated attack on strong versions of
epistemological naturalism, see Michael Friedman, Philosophical Naturalism, Proceedings and
Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 71/2 (1997), 721.
5 See Quine, Two Dogmas of Empiricism, 44.
6 Willard Van Orman Quine, Word and Object (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1960), 2.
7 Ibid., 3 and 5.
62 Part I Varieties of philosophical naturalism
Despite such similarities, there are, however, also fundamental differ-
ences between Quines and Nietzsches naturalism. Quine, not unlike
Rudolf Carnap, assumes a unity of science, grounding such unity in the
uniformity of scientific method. That scientific method is guided by a taste
for simplicity already hints at a particular conception of science and sci-
entific knowledge.8 The manner in which normative scientific knowledge,
and thus our claims about the world, come about is best studied along the
lines of psychology. Epistemology is simply a chapter of psychology and
hence of natural science.9 Examining how sense experience is translated
into normative knowledge about the world should therefore provide us
with an understanding of the conceptual unity of the natural sciences, and
it is striking that Quine always tends to use the singular natural science.
Naturalized versions of epistemology, to put it more sharply, postulate a
unity of method across the natural sciences, in the same manner in which
all mathematical statements can be reduced to logic and set theory.10
Although Nietzsche accepted that [a]ll credibility, good conscience,
and evidence of truth first come from the senses (BGE 134), the conse-
quence of this is neither a unity of science, nor the unity of our knowledge
about the world, but rather a conspicuous skepticism about our concep-
tual ability to represent the world. For Quine, however, there is little doubt
that such unity in our representations of the world is a feature that can
be observed in the way we speak about the world: The uniformity that
unites us in communication and belief is a uniformity of resultant patterns
overlying a chaotic subjective diversity of connections between words and
experience.11 While Nietzsche, of course, accepted that successful com-
munication was dependent on some form of conceptual uniformity, the
relationship between our language and the world was more complex than
a mere connection between words and experience.
Some commentators, most prominently Brian Leiter, have attributed to
Nietzsche a more or less methodological form of naturalism based on the
assumption of a continuity of Nietzsches philosophical project with the
uniform methods of the natural sciences.12 Given that critics of natural-
ism often point out that reductionism looms large in the background of all
forms of naturalism, and that naturalism, by its very definition, should tend
toward physicalism, it is not altogether surprising that the methodologi-
cal naturalism Leiter ascribes to Nietzsches mature philosophical thought

8 Ibid., 23. See also, ibid., 1920. 9 Quine, Epistemology Naturalized, 82.
10 See ibid., 69 and 71. 11 Quine, Word and Object, 8.
12 See Leiter, Nietzsche on Morality, 7.
Three kinds of naturalism 63
also bears the visible traces of a more substantive variety of naturalism.13
Although Leiter distinguishes Nietzsches position from nineteenth-century
scientific materialism, the underlying claim of a continuity between Niet-
zsches philosophical project and the natural sciences or simply science,
as Leiter writes seems to tell the story of precisely such a substantive
naturalism: Nietzsches account of the emergence and function of moral
norms, for instance, can be verified by the substantive results of current
cognitive science.14 This might very well be the case, but it sheds less light
on Nietzsche than on advances in current cognitive science.15
Nietzsche, of course, will have assumed that his account of morality is
substantively correct and he would have appreciated the results of current
cognitive science. He would have also asked, however, whether the reason
why we have come to value and, thus, attach epistemic and moral authority
to some set of substantive results over others is to be found in our own
natural history. Taking Nietzsches philosophical project, including his
skepticism, seriously should prevent us from accepting the results of specific
individual cases as akin to universal natural kinds, while those results that
we are able to accept as being universally valid are strikingly general,
such as heredity plays a major role in the shaping of personality.16 The
methodological naturalism Leiter attributed to Nietzsche, in other words,
is in fact of the substantive ilk, unwittingly or not. In this respect, it has
some shortcomings.17
The reason for these shortcomings is not simply that all forms of
naturalism, substantive or otherwise, have to be reductionist. Rather,
Leiter tends to project current scientific results especially from cognitive

13 For such a criticism of naturalism, see Hilary Putnam, The Content and Appeal of Naturalism,
in Mario de Caro and David Macarthur (eds.), Naturalism in Question (Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 2004), 5970. For a physicalist endorsement of naturalism, see David Papineau,
Philosophical Naturalism (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993).
14 See Joshua Knobe and Brian Leiter, The Case for Nietzschean Moral Psychology, in Brian Leiter
and Neil Sinhababu (eds.), Nietzsche and Morality (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 83109:
92103, and Brian Leiter, Nietzsches Naturalism Reconsidered, in Gemes and Richardson (eds.),
Oxford Handbook of Nietzsche, 57698: 578 and 5946.
15 A clear example for the problematic conjunction of Nietzsche and cognitive psychology is Jesse
J. Prinz, The Emotional Construction of Morals (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 21520,
2349, and 2446.
16 Knobe and Leiter, The Case for Nietzschean Moral Psychology, 99.
17 One of the reasons why Leiter ultimately has to defer to a more substantive version of naturalism has
to do with the source of his distinction between methodological and substantive naturalism: Peter
Railtons Naturalism and Prescriptivity, Social Philosophy and Policy 95 (1989), 15174. Railton
defends a form of moral realism that is based on the assumption that there are objective moral facts
and that such moral facts are natural facts. Although Leiter, in Nietzsche on Morality, 14655, argues
that Nietzsche adopts an anti-realism about values, Railtons moral realism seems responsible for
the substantive naturalism Leiter unwittingly ascribes to Nietzsche.
64 Part I Varieties of philosophical naturalism
psychology and genetics into Nietzsche, all the while operating with a
fairly unreflected notion of what constitutes science that implicitly stip-
ulates a unity of method across all scientific disciplines. This only seems
plausible if the nature and dynamics of scientific practices are discounted in
favor of presumably formal methods. Such an approach neither reflects the
often confusing complexity of Nietzsches reception of the natural sciences,
nor does it accurately grasp the nature of the experimental sciences in the
nineteenth century. This is especially the case with regard to the practices
of the life sciences, which, as emerging disciplines, were not characterized
by the kind of unity imagined by many analytic interpreters of Nietzsches
naturalism.18 What Ken Gemes and Christopher Janaway described as a
sanitizing of Nietzsche for an Anglo-American audience accustomed to
the neat naturalistic arguments of analytic philosophy is also a sanitizing
of nineteenth-century scientific practice.19 The latter is a messy business.
Scientific practice is more than the simple verification, or falsification,
of hypotheses about the world by empirical evidence, and the failure of
experimental practices, for instance, can be more productive than the ver-
ification of any hypothesis and deliver greater insights into the normative
commitments at stake in any given experiment. This is certainly also the
case with regard to Nietzsches philosophical project: it is at times most
interesting when his naturalistic commitments go wrong, or when he relies
on a questionable understanding of a specific scientific discipline.
Leiters account of Nietzsches naturalism, it seems, has three conse-
quences that are strikingly at odds with the general orientation of Niet-
zsches thought, especially if the latter is seen in the context of the wider
intellectual field of the nineteenth-century life sciences. First of all, under-
standing Nietzsches naturalism along the lines of an empiricist continuity
with the natural sciences underestimates the consistency of the neo-Kantian
stance that shaped his naturalistic commitments from his early notebooks
and On Truth and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense to his final notebooks
of 1888 and 1889. Although Leiter remarks, for instance, that Nietzsche
remained critical of scientific materialism, his account of Nietzsches natu-
ralism increasingly renders the latter as co-extensive with the former.20 If

18 For a general discussion of the disunity of the sciences, see Ian Hacking, The Disunities of the
Sciences, in Peter Galison and David J. Strump (eds.), The Disunity of Science: Boundaries, Contexts,
and Power (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996), 3774.
19 Ken Gemes and Christopher Janaway, Naturalism and Value in Nietzsche, Philosophy and Phe-
nomenological Research 71 (2005), 72940: 739.
20 Compare, for instance, the remarks in Leiters Nietzsche on Morality, 78 and 235, and Nietzsches
Naturalism Reconsidered, 5789.
Three kinds of naturalism 65
this should be the case, it would be impossible to offer a coherent account
of Nietzsches epistemological and moral skepticism. At least Nietzsches
skepticism would have to be equated with the central ontological claims of
a substantive naturalism. The question, then, would be whether Nietzsches
skepticism merely amounts to a new metaphysics in disguise.
Second, Leiter has to discount one of the central figures of thought
in Nietzsches later philosophical project: the will to power.21 It will be
necessary to return to this issue at a later stage. For now it is sufficient
to point out that de-escalating the importance of the will to power for
Nietzsches later thought as problematic as this notion certainly is can
only be successful on the basis of a highly selective reading of Nietzsches
writings. Finally, the way in which Leiter has to exclude the creative and
normative dimension of Nietzsches genealogy that is, the question as to
how different, or new, normative commitments can be made to emerge
seems problematic.22 If Nietzsches naturalism is supposed to be plausible,
it also has to show how novel normative commitments come into being.
In contrast to Leiter, Christopher Janaway has rejected the notion that
values can simply be explained by the psychophysical constitution of those
individuals that hold these values.23 Instead, he argued that such values,
from the perspective of Nietzsches genealogical enterprise, are acquired
habits inculcated by means of the specific culture I find myself in. The
cultural context of our normative commitments, including the facts of its
historical evolution and the way in which values are passed on by social insti-
tutions, then, are the focus of Nietzsches naturalistic project. Genealogy
is concerned with the cultural-psychological prehistory of those values.24
It seems, however, that while the naturalism Leiter ascribes to Nietzsche is
too reductionist to accurately reflect the latters position, Janaways account
attributes to Nietzsche a naturalism that is perhaps too weak to still count
as naturalism.
It is certainly possible to argue that all possible forms of naturalism suf-
fer from a particular problem. Precisely because naturalism already brings
something to the table, namely a commitment to a specific way of doing
things, it lacks an ontology of natural objects and is unable to justify
its own position naturalistically.25 For any naturalism to be consistent,

21 See Leiter, Nietzsche on Morality, 13846. See also Clark, Nietzsche on Truth and Philosophy, 21227,
for the view that the will to power is simply a construction unrelated to empirical reality.
22 See Leiter, Nietzsche on Morality, 11. 23 Janaway, Beyond Selflessness, 47.
24 Ibid., 49. See also ibid., 523.
25 See Robert C. Koons, The Incompatibility of Naturalism and Scientific Realism, in William Lane
Craig and J. Moreland (eds.), Naturalism: A Critical Analysis (London: Routledge, 2000), 4963.
66 Part I Varieties of philosophical naturalism
though, normativity cannot be detached from nature. For Nietzsche, as
we shall see, this is a decisive problem precisely because his much-quoted
attempt to translate humanity back into nature, as much as his genealogical
project as a whole, has to include normativity itself. Nietzsche must be able
to explain the emergence of normativity naturalistically. Methodological
varieties of naturalism seek to address this problem in a way that seems
questionable from Nietzsches perspective: they assume a methodological
unity that pertains to all sciences. Nevertheless, the normative claims of
such unity are based on an idealized notion of universal natural laws as they
are seen to be characteristic of modern physics. Methodological varieties
of naturalism, thus, privilege one particular science, physics, over others,
such as biology, within which universal natural laws do not have the same
centrality. To put it more pointedly, methodological varieties of naturalism
operate with a concept of nature that is grounded entirely in the way phys-
ical laws are seen to represent nature, albeit not necessarily by practicing
physicists.
These critical remarks about naturalism should not be taken to imply
that, in Nietzsches account, nature simply does not exist. The question,
rather, is: how do human agents and the world out there come together?
In order to answer this question, Nietzsche has to reach beyond the neat
distinction between substantive and methodological varieties of naturalism.
A third variant of naturalism, connected to recent work by Joseph Rouse,
moves into this direction by shifting the attention from scientific methods
and their presumed formal unity to practices, that is, to the way in which
we actually engage and interact with the material world.26 If human beings
are natural beings, any normative claims about reality that such beings
make, and any norms that govern these claims themselves, are necessarily
embedded in the material as much as conceptual interaction with reality.
It is through such interaction that normative claims ultimately acquire and
sustain their binding force. This also implies that it cannot be made explicit,
or determined in advance, what constitutes science, method, or even nature,
since scientific practice discloses not objects or laws independent of us and
our concerns, but phenomena that we are part of.27
Our normative commitments are the result of such practical engage-
ments, which Rouse describes as patterns of practical/perceptual intra-
action within the world, and it is the emergence of such patterns that
continually reshapes the situations in which agents live and understand
themselves.28 Such patterns are intra-active because they both make up

26 See Rouse, How Scientific Practices Matter, 30910. 27 Ibid., 331. 28 Ibid., 20 and 227.
Three kinds of naturalism 67
what we see as the world and intervene in this world, thus changing it. It
is important to point out that the patterns of these practices do not simply
configure what we regard as the world, but the latter also reconfigures
the practices in which we engage. Moreover, this form of intra-action is
also affected by other patterns and practices in the same environment that
exhibit a dynamic similar to our own practices.29 This, of course, would
have to be the same for individual organisms within a particular environ-
ment as it would be for entire social configurations, from physiological
research laboratories and communities of naturalistic philosophers to eco-
nomic associations, neighborhoods, and states. Such naturalism avoids the
charge of constructivism because it accepts that normativity is rooted in
the world out there. It also escapes the charge of metaphysics, since the
practices and patterns at stake lack any unity and since only those practices
and patterns continue to be relevant whose normative claims emerge, as
already mentioned, in the world out there.
Rouses approach to philosophical naturalism ties in rather well with the
wider intellectual field of Nietzsches own sources. This is especially the
case once we turn our attention to a range of seemingly secondary authors
that have rarely, if at all, been discussed in recent philosophical interpre-
tations of Nietzsches naturalism. Julius Hermann von Kirchmann, for
instance, who was primarily a civil servant and politician, representing the
liberal Deutsche Fortschrittspartei in Imperial Germanys parliament, came
to philosophy via a theoretical critique of contemporary jurisprudence.30
Within this context, he also encountered the problem of naturalism or,
as he described it, realism. In a public lecture at the Philosophical Society
in Berlin, which Nietzsche read around 1875 or 1876, he pointed out that
conceptual knowledge and the intellectual world, including the normative
claims they make on us, cannot seriously be detached from the world of
nature. Since conceptual knowledge, however abstract it might be, had its
roots in physiological processes and sense perception, it took part in the
world of things, even though it could not be successfully reduced to the
latter.31 The practices with which we order the world derive their norma-
tivity from the way in which they are themselves grounded in the world
they engage.
29 See ibid., 2589. Rouse adopts the concept of intra-action from Karen Barad, Meeting the
Universe Halfway: Realism and Social Constructivism without Contradiction, in Lynn Hankinson
Nelson and Jack Nelson (eds.), Feminism, Science, and the Philosophy of Science (Dordrecht: Kluwer,
1996), 16194: 179, 185, and 188.
30 See Julius Hermann von Kirchmann, Die Werthlosigkeit der Jurisprudenz als Wissenschaft (Berlin:
Springer, 1848).
31 das Prinzip des Realismus (Leipzig: Koschny,
See, for instance, Julius Hermann von Kirchmann, Uber
1875), 10.
68 Part I Varieties of philosophical naturalism
By the middle of 1880s, Nietzsche also turned to the work of two
celebrated French philosophers Alfred Fouillee and his stepson Jean-
Marie Guyau.32 In seminal publications both had adopted the concept of
idees-forces in order to describe how ideas do not simply influence the way
in which we see the social world but shape this social world itself. Fouillee
and Guyau suggested that the normative dimension of such idees-forces
certainly had much to do with the fact that they became manifest in terms
of social forces and moral values, but also described the space in which the
internal world of consciousness and abstract thought intersected with the
world of material circumstances.33 Idees-forces were central to the evolution
of social groups, political associations, and institutions, but they also had
to be seen as material factors in that they became manifest in the world out
there.
Although Rouses position is certainly more sophisticated than the
approaches described above, the latter are concerned with a similar con-
stellation of problems which also characterized the general outlook of
Nietzsches naturalism. Rouse himself repeatedly describes his account as
representing a Nietzschean commitment: scientific and social practices,
technological arrangements, and philosophical thinking itself continue to
reshape what it is to be nature, and how we can understand ourselves and
our possibilities as natural beings.34 Indeed, as Nietzsche came to realize
in late summer of 1884:
As a matter of fact, the existing world, which is relevant for us, is made by
us by us, that is, by all organic beings it is the product of the organic
process, which as such appears to be productive and formative, generating
values [produktiv-gestaltend, werthschaffend]. (KGW vii/2, 26 [203])
It is these values if one were to continue Nietzsches thought that allow
us, yet again, to intervene in the organic world, in nature. What is gener-
ally called life was thus, for Nietzsche, not the result of any existential
experience, but a shorthand description for the multitude of forces
including all so-called feeling, imagining, thinking that contributed to

32 After Nietzsches death, Alfred Fouillee also began to introduce his German peer into French
thought, albeit with some critical distance. See his highly successful Nietzsche et limmoralisme
(Paris: Alcan, 1902), which went through three editions. For a concise assessment of Fouillees
position in French thought, see Jean Lawruszenko and Jordi Riba, Plus qune simple anecdote:
Introduction a` la pensee dAlfred Fouillee, Corpus: Revue de philosophie 53 (2007), 532.
33 See Alfred Fouillee, La science sociale contemporaine, 2nd edn. (Paris: Hachette, 1885), xixii and 173,
185, 3845, and Jean-Marie Guyau, Esquisse dune morale sans obligation ni sanction (Paris: Alcan,
1885), 248.
34 Rouse, How Scientific Practices Matter, 3, 303, and 360.
Three kinds of naturalism 69
the reshaping of nature as much as to the reshaping of ourselves as natural
beings (KGW vii/1, 24 [14]).
This kind of naturalism differs fundamentally from substantive natural-
ism, which has to start out from a predetermined concept of nature, but
it also differs from methodological naturalism, which has to assume that
there are normative standards for scientific method and explanation exter-
nal to scientific practices, and that do not come into existence through
such practices themselves.35 Most relevant to Nietzsche, such a form of
naturalism contends that cognition and normativity are always embedded
in the material world, so that the traditional opposition between mind
and matter is undercut by the structure of normativity itself.36 Facts are
already normative in the sense that they make certain claims on us, that
is, they shape the way we act, think, imagine, and so on, while norms
emerge to be factual in the sense that we cannot escape the claims they
make.
Nietzsche, I would argue, held a fairly strong version of such naturalism.
This is the reason why, for instance, right at the beginning of Human, All
Too Human he explicitly noted that his own philosophical project can
no longer be separated from natural science (HA i: 1). What he came to
describe as historical philosophizing (HA i: 2) ultimately conforms to the
very idea of scientific practice. As such a practice, Nietzsches philosophical
project both describes the world and interacts with the latter, reconfiguring
its object of research as it moves along: dehumanizing nature [die Entmen-
schung der Natur] and then naturalizing the human, which in mid 1881 he
described as the central task of his philosophizing, should ultimately
lead to a better concept of nature (KGW v/2, 11 [211]), even though
such a concept of nature remained unstable hence Nietzsches quotation
marks.
The link between philosophizing and living, which Nietzsche stressed
throughout his writings, that is, the demand to live philosophically [eine
Philosophie zu leben] (KGW iii/4, 29 [197]), refers to the way in which
even the philosopher, or especially the philosopher, does not stand outside
life, peering in, but intervenes in the very notion and fabric of life through
conceptual practices by describing and reshaping how we see ourselves as

35 See, for instance, Alexander Rosenberg, Normative Naturalism and the Role of Philosophy,
Philosophy of Science 57 (1990), 3443, who argued that epistemological claims are able to set
normative standards for scientific method. The question remains, however, where the normative
force of these standards originates.
36 See also John Haugeland, Mind Embodied and Embedded, in Having Thought: Essays in the
Metaphysics of Mind (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), 20737.
70 Part I Varieties of philosophical naturalism
natural beings. This certainly implies that Nietzsche has to reject abso-
lute normative distinctions of an exclusionary kind: there is no correct, or
wrong, way of living, but there are good and bad ways of living, depend-
ing on whether the practices of our lives, our agency as natural beings,
contribute to our overall growth.37
The reason for the emphasis on practices, on human agency, which is
central to Nietzsches philosophical naturalism (GS 372), has much to do
with the practices of science themselves: we might retrospectively appeal
to normative methods in order to explain the success of a particular sci-
entific experiment, but while the experiment was under way the practices
it involved might not easily be represented in terms of formal methods.
A philosophical naturalism based on such methods would have to assume
that the latter are independent of actual practices and that there was some
kind of unity to science. Such unity, however, as Nietzsche was quick to
point out, would turn science into metaphysics, whereas scientific practice
showed that the sciences did not possess a common logic (HA i: 6 and
31).
It should now be more obvious why Nietzsche rejected the claims of
what he polemically described as materialistic natural scientists, referring
to Jacob Moleschott and Ludwig Buchner as much as to the popularized
version of Darwinism: their claims were based on faith and entangled
with the Spinozistic dogma deus sive natura (GS 373 and 349).38 They
merely replaced God with nature and unwittingly contributed to the
continued survival of religious and metaphysical residues in modern science
(KGW vii/3, 36 [15] and KGW viii/1, 2 [131]).39 In contrast, Nietzsche, who
did not deny that it is still a metaphysical faith upon which our faith in
science rests, sought to turn such faith, and with it the moral authority of
science, against itself: if the will to truth or truth at any price constitute
the moral ground on which scientific practice is able to assert its authority,

37 It would be a misunderstanding to reduce Nietzsches philosophical project to an art of living


well which largely excludes any normative commitments. See, however, Peter Railton, Nietzsches
Normative Theory? The Art and Skill of Living Well, in Christopher Janaway and Simon Robertson
(eds.), Nietzsche, Naturalism, and Normativity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 2051: 25
6 and 48.
38 Baruch de Spinoza, Ethics, ed. and trans. G. H. R. Parkinson (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
2000), 226 (Part IV, Preface) and 231 (Part IV, Proposition 4). On Nietzsches ambiguous reception
of Spinoza, see Gunter Abel, Nietzsche: Die Dynamik der Willen zur Macht und die ewige Wiederkehr,
2nd edn. (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1998), 4959, and Volker Gerhardt, Vom Willen zur Macht:
Anthropologie und Metaphysik der Macht am exemplarischen Fall Friedrich Nietzsches (Berlin: Walter
de Gruyter, 1996), 1903.
39 See, along similar lines, Caspari, Die moderne Naturphilosophie, 56 and 62.
Three kinds of naturalism 71
science emerges as a regulative fiction, as he noted in reference to Kant
(GS 344).40
The authority of science, however, cannot simply be the result of faith,
especially if Nietzsche was intent on naturalizing the normative commit-
ments with which we engage in the world. Normative claims, he seems to
suggest, should not be taken at face value, even though it is difficult to deny
that some claims are more reasonably normative than others. Normative
claims derived from the idea of a divine plan of nature are as reasonable
as those derived from the assumption that pigs have wings. This does not
exclude, however, that contradictory normative claims can be equally rea-
sonable, or valid, as in the nineteenth-century case of evolution by natural
selection, on the one hand, and morphological conceptions of evolutionary
development which do not have to place great emphasis on natural selec-
tion, on the other. Nietzsche, on this view, seems to adopt something akin
to what John Dupre has termed promiscuous realism: there are countless
legitimate, objectively grounded ways of classifying objects in the world,
which often cross-classify one another in indefinitely complex ways.41
Such an understanding of realism stands in the background of Nietzsches
philosophical naturalism; taking philosophical naturalism seriously means
to renounce the much-cherished idea of a unity of science.
The honesty that Nietzsche demanded from his imagined philosophers
of the future researchers to the point of cruelty should also be valid
in the realm of scientific practice (GS 335; BGE 44 and 210). Cell theory
and natural selection trumped theology every time. Moreover, philosophy
had to take pointers from the sciences and vice versa. Nietzsche himself
had little interest, for instance, in a science of morals, as he noted in
Beyond Good and Evil, but the practices of science provided examples for
the practice of genealogy:
We should admit to ourselves with all due severity exactly what will be nec-
essary for a long time to come and what is provisionally correct, namely: col-
lecting material, formulating concepts, and putting into order the tremen-
dous realm of tender value feelings and value distinctions that live, grow,
reproduce, and are destroyed, and, perhaps, attempting to illustrate the
recurring and more frequent shapes of this living crystallization, all of
which would be a preparation for a typology of morals. (BGE 186)

40 See Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. and ed. Paul Guyer and Allen W. Wood
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 65960 (B 799).
41 John Dupre, The Disorder of Things: Metaphysical Foundations of the Disunity of Science (Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), 18.
72 Part I Varieties of philosophical naturalism
The practical preparations that Nietzsche describes in this passage col-
lecting material from the living world of our normative commitments, as it
were closely resemble the practice of contemporary naturalists. In a cer-
tain sense, Nietzsche was behaving like Charles Darwin, on his voyage on
H.M.S. Beagle between 1831 and 1836, collecting specimens, observing the
living forms of flora and fauna, and recording everything in journals.42 It
was these practical preparations, generally free of any reflection on method,
that allowed Darwin to increasingly formulate a theoretical framework,
which shortly after his return to England led to that famous sketch in his
First Notebook on Transmutation of Species (1837) with the diagram of the
evolutionary tree and the tentative inscription: I think.43 But in contrast
to Darwins followers, Nietzsches conclusions led him less to a feeling of
scientific clarity than to an insight into the limits of traditional philosophy.
Genealogy, as the mature expression of his naturalism, sought to provide a
natural history of the normative order that was an integral part of human
beings as natural beings.
It is important to understand the motivation behind Nietzsches turn
to genealogy.44 If normativity, and the normative force of our commit-
ments, has some kind of history along evolutionary lines, it seems that
those commitments that deny the primacy of the natural world, and that
are essentially life-denying from Nietzsches perspective, must also be part
of this history. Furthermore, is a natural history of our normative com-
mitments able to provide the tools to overcome such life-denying values?
While these are crucial problems for Nietzsches genealogical project, he
will only be able to come to terms with them on the grounds of a proper
understanding of development in nature. Such development, it seems, can-
not be of a teleological kind, since this would have to assume that there
was, after all, some kind of normative standard external to the world we
inhabit. But it also could not be entirely random, since it would then be
pointless to ask how our norms and values had come about in the first
place. Nietzsche clearly understood the issues at stake when he noted, in

42 For Darwins journals and notebooks of his voyage, see Charles Darwins Zoology Notes and Specimen
Lists from H.M.S. Beagle, ed. Richard D. Keynes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000)
and Charles Darwins Beagle Diary, ed. Richard D. Keynes (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2001).
43 See Charles Darwin, Notebooks on Transmutation of Species, Part i: First Notebook (July 1837
February 1838), edited with an Introduction and Notes by Sir Gavin de Beer, Bulletin of the British
Museum (Natural History): Historical Series, 2/2 (January 1960), 2373: 46.
44 See David Owen, Nietzsche, Re-evaluation, and the Turn to Genealogy, European Journal of
Philosophy 11 (2003), 24972.
Three kinds of naturalism 73
Daybreak: We have accustomed ourselves to believe in the existence of
two realms, the realm of purpose . . . and the realm of chance . . . The belief
in the two realms is a primeval romance and fable (D 130). The historical
perspective of Nietzsches philosophical naturalism will have to take this
problem seriously.
part ii
Evolution and the limits of teleology
chapter 6

Introduction

Biological life is a fickle thing, as one of Nietzsches late sources pointed out,
and organisms tend to be less stable than inorganic matter.1 Nevertheless,
the life sciences, in the nineteenth century as much as today, had to operate
with the assumption that something like life actually exists. Living things
have a metabolism, at least potentially so, which incorporates material from
their environment and transforms such material into energy and waste. As
entities made up of cells and molecules, living things also tend to lose their
essential properties if they are subdivided into their constitutive parts.
Moreover, organisms are able to adapt to changes in their environment, or
to an entirely different environment. In principle, they have the ability to
grow and reproduce, although this is not a necessary characteristic. They
tend to evolve over long periods in time, but they also inevitably enter
into a state of decay, which is the case for individual organisms as much
as for entire species. Life, it seems, has something to do with change; it
exhibits a dynamic of development that is not exhaustively the result of
external forces but that is part of its constitutive structure, or so it seems.
Leaving aside Nietzsches occasional drift into hyperbole, this is what he
seems to have had in mind when he once noted: I consider life itself to
be an instinct for growth, for endurance, for the accumulation of force,
for power (A 6). Such change or growth, in Nietzsches terms does
not need to be slow and gradual; it can also be characterized by periods of
rapid and sudden events that are followed by periods of relative stability.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, the concept of life began to
lose some its metaphysical clout, and attention shifted to the experimen-
talization of life in the modern research laboratory. Not surprisingly, the
metaphysical stipulations about life prevalent in German Naturphilosophie
around 1800 increasingly came to an end by the time Nietzsche began

1
See Joseph Delbuf, La mati`ere brute et la mati`ere vivante: Etude sur lorigine de la vie et de la mort
(Paris: Alcan, 1887), 2839 and 5463.

77
78 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
to consider the problem of life. Indeed, when he read, probably in late
summer of 1881, a longer article by the Jena physiologist William T. Preyer,
which discussed the idea of life emerging from protoplasma, he could find a
fairly detailed account of the current standard of the experimentalization of
life in German research laboratories, including the work of Helmholtz and
Virchow. Preyer himself, who was born in Manchester and had studied in
Heidelberg, Paris, Berlin, and Bonn, represented the common concerns of
British and German biological thought at the time, moving easily between
Darwins theory of evolution by natural selection and the German dis-
courses of animal morphology and cell theory. The experimental setting
of the biological sciences in nineteenth-century Germany in particular
confirmed to him that any attempt to consider the origin of life quickly
ran into difficulties. He concluded that the emergence of living forms was
diffuse and that they took their developmental course without any distinct
origin.2 What was left, then, appeared to be a minimal definition of life,
largely derived from contemporary cell theory: assimilation and reproduc-
tion, as the German zoologist Karl Semper suggested, remained the central
features of living things. This also implied that a literal understanding of
natural selection was not sufficient to explain how living things developed
over time; rather, natural selection always had to be understood in terms
of transformation.3
That change is part of life might be a truism, but it does raise a number
of questions that any philosophical understanding of the life sciences, and
of living nature in general, has to face: above all, the question how it is
possible to conceive of developmental processes in a way that also accounts
for the inevitable contingency that marks the evolution and decay of living
things. If Nietzsche wishes to advance a serious conceptual framework for
the discussion of life, he will need to address this issue. The latter is par-
ticularly important, since evolutionary explanations of nature regardless
of whether they focus on the morphogenesis of individual organisms or on
processes of natural selection that affect entire species have to face the
problem of teleology. Explanatory models in the life sciences are inevitably
marked by teleological language even if they explicitly deny any strong
concept of teleology.4 For Nietzsche, as for the philosophy of biology in

2 See William T. Preyer, Kritisches u ber die Urzeugung, Kosmos 1 (1877), 37787.
3 See Semper, Die naturlichen Existenzbedingungen der Thiere, ii, 218 and 253.
4 The persistence of such teleological language can be seen as the consequence of an artifact model
of nature that has been shared by biologists since the early nineteenth century, that is, they tend
to talk of organisms as though they were designed objects. Tim Lewens, Organisms and Artifacts:
Design in Nature and Elsewhere (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004), 2 and 12.
Introduction 79
general, the question of teleology cannot be detached from the problem of
causation. Teleology and causation are what he regarded as the two most
problematic aspects of the contemporary natural sciences.5
It certainly seems counter-intuitive to assume that Nietzsche adopted a
perspective on human knowledge, the emergence of normative commit-
ments, or even nature in the abstract, that could reasonably be labelled
teleological. This is particularly the case with regard to his mature philo-
sophical thought. One of the most central statements in The Gay Science,
for instance, seems to directly reject any teleological understanding of
nature: The total character of the world . . . is for all eternity chaos, not
in the sense of a lack of necessity but a lack of order, organization, form,
beauty, wisdom, and whatever else our aesthetic anthropomorphisms are
called (GS 109). Teleology would merely amount to an anthropomorphic
illusion that sees some kind of goal-directed process where none is to be
found.
Teleology, then, would not even be a regulative fiction with heuristic
value; it would constitute a fundamental error, perhaps the most far-
reaching and consequential error to be found in the tradition of meta-
physical thought. Philosophical naturalism should prevent Nietzsche from
entertaining any teleological argument:
Man as a species does not constitute any progress in comparison to any
other animal. The entire realm of animals and plants does not develop from
something low to something higher . . . But everything [develops] at the
same time, and one on top of the other and disorderly and in competition
with each other. (KGW viii/3, 14 [133])

While for both Darwin and Spencer, as much as for other nineteenth-
century evolutionary thinkers, the development of species, if they survive,
tends to move from simple to complex forms over long periods in time,
Nietzsche, at first sight, seems to adopt a position that runs counter to
Darwinism. Darwin, of course, is no teleologist. Not unlike Nietzsche, he
hinted at the dynamic complexity of evolutionary development:
I can see no limit to the amount of change, to the beauty and infinite
complexity of the coadaptations between all organic beings, one with another
and with their physical conditions of life, which may be effected in the long
course of time by natures power of selection.6

5 See Christa Davis Acampora, Naturalism and Nietzsches Moral Psychology, in Ansell-Pearson
(ed.), A Companion to Nietzsche, 31433: 31617.
6 Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 109.
80 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
Leaving aside Darwins rhetorical reference to the beauty of nature and the
latters seemingly inherent power, evolution does not necessarily imply tele-
ology. Nietzsche will have been well aware of this. Teleological descriptions
of natural history, however, belonged to the general stock of evolutionary
thought throughout the nineteenth century.7 It is, thus, not entirely far-
fetched to ask whether his emphasis on an expansion of power over time,
which can be observed both in terms of our normative commitments and
with regard to the natural world, suggests that he reintroduces teleological
models in his later writings.8 If he wishes to put forth an argument for some
kind of teleology, it seems, he will have to focus more on functions, less on
goals. But even if we grant that teleology is goal-directed, this does not have
to imply that goals need to be understood as concrete events in the future.
A teleological description, for instance, of human agency merely states that
someone has the intention to do something in the future.9 The reason why
Nietzsche does not adopt such a position is that this account of teleology
dissolves the latter into mere intentionality. We cannot help but project
our intentional stance into the world of things, trying to explain their
behavior.10 From Nietzsches perspective, however, intentionality would
have to be regarded as secondary: the intention, or the desire, to do some-
thing, and thus human agency as a whole, is the manifestation of natural
processes that precede such intentionality.11 The mistake of metaphysics
would be to bring teleology together with intentionality.
Throughout the 1880s Nietzsche specifically argued against the notion
of goals: becoming has no goal [keinen Zielzustand], it does not flow into a
being (KGW viii /2, 11 [72]). This is particularly the case for the natural
history of human beings: Mankind has no goal, just as little as dinosaurs
did, but it has development: i.e. its end [Ende] is not more important than
any other moment of its path (KGW v/1, 6 [59]). Nietzsche uses the term
end in this passage clearly not as a reference to a possible goal of history,
but simply implies that, not unlike dinosaurs, humanity will eventually

7 See Lenoir, The Strategy of Life, 24675.


8 Indeed, referring to some of the very same passages, Abel, Nietzsche, 1205, and Peter Poellner,
Nietzsche and Metaphysics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 16273, come to diametrically
opposed conclusions: while Abel claims that Nietzsche rejected teleological arguments, both in his
earlier as well as later writings, Poellner suggests that Nietzsches presumed anti-Darwinian stance
made him prone to introducing teleological arguments with regard to the will to power.
9 See Andrew Woodfield, Teleology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976), 205.
10 See Daniel C. Dennett, The Intentional Stance (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987), 17.
11 See, in contrast, Lowell Nissen, Teleological Language in the Life Sciences (Lanham, Md.: Rowan &
Littlefield, 1997), who presents an argument for understanding biological functions as analoguous
to intentionality.
Introduction 81
disappear, one way or another.12 If there is still a teleological description
to be found in Nietzsche, he might have to argue that the function of
something has evolved in time, historically, and that functions merely
contribute to the general capacity of an organism but do not say anything
about its future apart from the fact that there can be some kind of future
if the organism is sufficiently robust. Things become more complicated,
however, once we realize that he specifically criticized the idea that natural
selection is purposive (KGW v/2, 11 [42] and [43]). Nevertheless, he does
seem to present us with a model of path dependent development: the
preliminary outcome of some process allows us to see that this outcome
is not entirely random and that a series of events in the past has made
this outcome more likely than others. This model, however, is always
retrospective and it does not justify the meaning or function of any specific
outcome in the present, thus avoiding the problem of a genetic fallacy.
That claims about biological functions are, first and foremost, claims
about the contribution of current traits to the fitness, or robustness, of
an organism in the present, does not preclude that such functions have
changed over time and that they have a history, regardless as to why
changes occur.13 Nietzsche seems to imply as much when he emphasized,
in a note from mid 1884, that the future functions of something cannot be
deduced from its origin (KGW vii/2, 26 [329]). Likewise, in Daybreak he
suggested that the utility of something in the present does not explain its
origin (D 37 and 44), and a few years later, in the winter of 1886/7, he also
explicitly criticized Darwinism by pointing out that the present usefulness
of an organ does not explain its emergence, on the contrary (KGW viii/1,
7 [25]).14 If anything, it would have to be the emergence and development
of something that is able to describe how something continues to be useful
in the present, even though evolution often produces traits that are simply
not useful at all.
Nietzsches attitude toward teleological models continues to be marked
by a certain ambivalence throughout many of his writings. Much of the
confusion surrounding his notion of teleology has to do with the fact
12 By the time Nietzsche wrote this note, fossil finds of dinosaur remains were still a novelty and
posed taxonomic difficulties. See Georges Cuvier, Recherches sur les ossemens fossiles, 4th edn. (Paris:
DOcagne, 18346), and Richard Owen, Report on British Fossil Reptiles, ii, in Report of the
Eleventh Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (London: John Murray,
1842), 60204.
13 See Lewens, Organisms and Artifacts, 1018 and 11215.
14 Nietzsche probably draws here on Semper, Die naturlichen Existenzbedingungen der Thiere, i, 104,
but his formulation is also highly reminiscent of Gottfried Reinhold Treviranus, Die Erscheinungen
und Gesetze des organischen Lebens, neu dargestellt (Bremen: Heyse, 18312), i, 30: We cannot deduce
the purpose of an organ from its descent from another organ nor deduce its origin from its purpose.
82 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
that he often presents contradictory accounts, occasionally endorsing some
kind of teleological description of natural processes, while at the same
time rejecting teleology wholesale. It will be important to ask why these
contradictions emerge in the first place, and one possible reason is that his
understanding of teleology has neither to do with goals nor with functions,
since any talk of goals and functions would itself have to be seen as deriving
from a dynamic in nature that is not easy to conceptualize: Cause and
effect: there is probably never such a duality; in truth a continuum faces us,
from which we isolate a few pieces, just as we always perceive a movement
only as isolated pieces; i.e. do not really see, but infer (GS 112). What we
are facing, in other words, is an infinite number of processes (GS 112) of
which our talk of causality, functions, goals, and so on, is itself a part after
all, our explanatory models belong to our constitution as natural beings.
We might wish that the purpose, or function, of the eyes development
was to make mammals see, but the fact that such mammals can see,
rather, is merely a contingent consequence of the formation of their organs
(D 122).15
If teleology, in the narrow sense of the term, does not remain a viable
option for Nietzsche, how is he able to conceive of development in nature,
given that his philosophical naturalism entails a strong historical perspec-
tive? To answer this question, we initially need to return both to his earlier
writings and to Kants discussion of teleology, situating them in their wider
intellectual context, before we can gain a better understanding of Niet-
zsches arguments about teleology and development in his more mature
work.16 Although it will be necessary, then, to focus on Kant in some
detail, Part II seeks to reconstruct, above all, Nietzsches reading of Kant
and neo-Kantian models of development in nature. This is particularly
important, since the notions of development that Nietzsche begins to
adopt in his later writings during the 1880s, and that are the backbone
of genealogy, continue to draw on Kantian themes. From Nietzsches per-
spective, we shall see, processes in nature are neither teleological nor are
they entirely contingent.

15 A similar point is made in Gustav Jager, Die Organanfange, Kosmos 1 (1877), 949 and 2018:
979. Nietzsche seems to have read this article, albeit after the publication of Daybreak.
16 For a similar approach, see Dirk Solies, Das Organische und der Zweck: Zwei Grundkategorien bei
Nietzsche und ihre ideengeschichtlichen Voraussetzungen, in Beatrix Himmelmann (ed.), Kant
und Nietzsche im Widerstreit (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2005), 32433.
chapter 7

Problems with purpose

April and May 1868 was a rather busy period for Nietzsche. Only a year
before he left Leipzig for Basel, these two months, like any, were devoted
to his work as a young classical scholar. His health still affected by an
equestrian accident when he was completing his short military service,
he nevertheless finished several longer philological pieces that were to be
published in the prestigious Rheinisches Museum fur Philologie.1 At the
same time, we can observe how in spring 1868 his interests underwent
a remarkable shift. Immersed in an ambitious project on Democritus of
Abdera and ancient Greek materialism, which he had begun in 1867, he
recognized that some of the most fundamental questions he dealt with
could not be answered properly within the framework of philological
scholarship.2 What was necessary was a more modern perspective able to
shed some light on the concepts with which we seek to describe nature
and, in particular, organic life. As a consequence, he began to undertake a
more concerted effort toward a philosophical dissertation, focusing among
other things on Kant and the problem of teleology in contemporary natural
philosophy (KGW i/4, 62 [3][57]). The overall direction of the notebook
entries he composed during April and May 1868 clearly indicates that
he sought to link a reassessment of Kants arguments in the Critique of
the Power of Judgment (1790) to more recent debates in the life sciences
that had emerged in the context of the so-called Materialismusstreit. As
always, Lange, Caspari, and the first generation of neo-Kantians stood

1 See, for instance, Friedrich Nietzsche, Beitrage zur Kritik der griechischen Lyriker, i and De Laertii
Diogenis fontibus, both in Rheinisches Museum fur Philologie, new series 23 (1868), 4809 and 63253,
respectively.
2 On Nietzsches reading of Democritus, see Berry, Nietzsche and the Ancient Skeptical Tradition, 133
207, and James I. Porter, Nietzsche and the Philology of the Future (Stanford, CA: Stanford University
Press, 2000), 82126.

83
84 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
in the background, while Schopenhauers detailed account of teleology is
mentioned only in passing (KGW i/4 57 [55]).3
Nietzsches extensive reading lists not only refer to Kant and to Schellings
Naturphilosophie, as well as to more recent interpretations of their thought,
but also include much material at the intersection of contemporary sci-
ence and philosophy.4 Nietzsches title for this series of notes, Teleology
since Kant, certainly hints at a fairly ambitious philosophical project that
he eventually had to abandon, but it also circumscribes a field of knowl-
edge that continued to be of crucial importance for much of his later,
more mature work (KGW i/4, 62 [6]). No serious discussion of Nietzsches
philosophical naturalism is able to ignore these notes.5
Nietzsches remarks about the implications of Kants discussion of tele-
ology for the contemporary life sciences seem often somewhat vague, but
it is not difficult to see that his reading of Kant was, at this moment, still
largely shaped by Lange and also by Kantians like Kuno Fischer.6 Not sur-
prisingly, Nietzsches approach to the problem of teleology mainly repeated
the central Kantian assumption of teleology as a mental construct projected
onto nature (KGW i/4, 62 [7]): It is in fact indispensable for us to subject
nature to the concept of an intention if we would even merely conduct
research among its organized products by means of continued observation;
and this concept is thus already an absolutely necessary maxim for the
use of our reason in experience.7 As far as any philosophically informed
account of organic life was concerned, it was simply impossible to dispense
with teleological principles, even though the explanatory value of teleology
was quite limited:
The purposiveness of nature is thus a special a priori concept that has its
origin strictly in the reflecting power of judgment. For we cannot ascribe
to the products of nature anything like a relation of nature in them to

3 See Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, trans. E. F. J. Payne (New York:
Dover, 1966), i, 15361, and ii, 32741.
4 See, for instance, Hermann von Helmholtz, Ueber die Wechselwirkung der Naturkrafte und die
darauf bezuglichen neuesten Fortschritte der Physik (Konigsberg: Grafe & Unzer, 1854), and Rudolph
Hermann Lotze, Medicinische Psychologie oder Physiologie der Seele (Leipzig: Weidmann, 1852).
5 These notes have received only limited attention. See, in particular, Hill, Nietzsches Critiques, 8394,
and Elaine Miller, Nietzsche on Individuation and Puposiveness in Nature, in Ansell-Pearson (ed.),
A Companion to Nietzsche, 5875, especially 624.
6 See, for instance, the discussion of teleology in Kuno Fischer, Immanuel Kant: Entwicklungsgeschichte
und System der kritischen Philosophie (Mannheim: Bassermann, 1860), ii, 54963 and 62965. Another
seminal book on Kant that Nietzsche seems to have consulted, Karl Rosenkranzs Geschichte der
Kantschen Philosophie (Leipzig: Voss, 1840), 2404, only contains a superficial discussion of teleology.
7 Immanuel Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, trans. Paul Guyer and Eric Matthews, ed. Paul
Guyer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 269.
Problems with purpose 85
ends, but can only use this concept in order to reflect on the connection of
appearances in nature that are given in accordance with empirical laws.8
Purposiveness is a formal principle, belonging to the observers power
of judgment, rather than to the objects observed. In this respect, Kants
argument differs fundamentally from Hermann Samuel Reimaruss highly
influential ideas about the goal-directedness of animal drives: for Reimarus,
the latter were innate, and thus of divine origin, and their purpo-
sive development among animals and humans merely confirmed divine
predestination.9 Kant, on the other hand, warned quite explicitly that
teleology cannot find a complete answer for its inquiries except in a
theology, and issues of theology remained outside the purview of either
philosophy or natural history.10
In contrast to Reimarus, one of Kants interlocutors, the physician and
zoologist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach argued that drives could not possi-
bly be preformed, but that, as belonging to the so-called living forces, the
nisus formativus or Bildungstrieb, driving the development of both species
and individual organisms, they emerged in organized matter.11 Kant, who
corresponded with Blumenbach and drew on the latters work in the Third
Critique, appreciated the way in which Blumenbachs evolutionary argu-
ment minimized any appeal to the supernatural. Organic development was
not a matter of God, but it belonged solely to the realm of nature. Nev-
ertheless, as the principle of an original organization, the Bildungstrieb
remained inscrutable and could only be accepted as a kind of regula-
tive fiction that described phenomena of emergence without recourse to
theology or any prime mover.12

8 Ibid., 68.
9 See Hermann Samuel Reimarus, Allgemeine Betrachtungen u ber die Triebe der Thiere, hauptsachlich
u ber ihre Kunsttriebe, 2nd edn. (Hamburg: Bohn, 1762), 359400 ( 4456).
10 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 269.
11 Johann Friedrich Blumenbachs Uber den Bildungstrieb (Gottingen: Dieterich, 1789), 245, and
den Bildungstrieb und das Zeugungsgeschafte (Gottingen: Dieterich, 1781), 123 ( 2). Nietzsche
Uber
was aware of this connection not only because of Kants own references to Blumenbach, but also
through the discussion in Fischer, Immanuel Kant, ii, 665.
12 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 292. On Kants reading of Blumenbach, see in particular
Robert Richards, The Romantic Conception of Life: Science and Philosophy in the Age of Goethe
(Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2002), 22937, and Brandon C. Look, Blumenbach and
Kant on Mechanism and Teleology in Nature: The Case of the Formative Drive, in Justin E. H.
Smith (ed.), The Problem of Animal Generation in Early Modern Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2006), 35573. On the one hand, it is possible to argue that it was Blumenbachs
influence that shifted Kant away from preformationist ideas; on the other, it is also difficult to
overlook that, for Blumenbach, the Bildungstrieb was constitutive of organic nature, whereas for
Kant this could not be the case. See the discussion on Philip R. Sloan, Preforming the Categories:
Eighteenth-Century Generation Theory and the Biological Roots of the A Priori, Journal of the
86 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
The relationship between Kant and Blumenbach reflects the unclear sta-
tus of teleology around 1800, which remained a fairly powerful explanatory
model deep into the nineteenth century, both in the context of the Mate-
rialismusstreit and in more metaphysical quarters. Heinrich Czolbe, for
instance, who began his career as a military physician only to become
a philosopher after retirement, argued for the assumption of a life
force, Lebenskraft, without any reference to the supernatural world, while
Schopenhauer advocated a return to Aristotle: teleology served as a basic
explanatory model for developmental processes in nature, albeit without
any need for theological speculation.13 By 1868, Nietzsche praised Kants
beautiful remarks against the theological point of view, fully endorsing
an attempt to think about purpose in nature without any reference to the
supernatural (KGW i/4, 62 [5] and [57]). Teleology was able to at least
describe aspects of biological life that flatly resisted those mechanical mod-
els of nature, in particular the laws of motion, which shaped the Newtonian
framework of Kants First Critique, the Critique of Pure Reason (1781/7).14
Even in the Third Critique, the Critique of the Power of Judgment,
however, Kant did not give up the Newtonian, mechanical understanding
of nature that marked the First Critique. As a consequence, he largely
denied that the life sciences would ever achieve the kind of methodological
rigor that could be observed in the physical sciences. This was also one of
the central problems that Nietzsche had to grapple with, when he pointed
out that, at least from a Kantian perspective, an exact natural science had
to be grounded in mechanical principles and that, in turn, whatever could
not be explained according to such principles could simply not become an
object of pure understanding (KGW i/4, 62 [23], [27] and [40]).
At a time when the new life sciences, from the middle of the nine-
teenth century onward, grasped for explanatory models that could accu-
rately describe the complexity of living organisms, mechanical explanations
increasingly came to be seen as deficient. Michael Foster, for instance, in his
seminal textbook, pointed out that the physiological functions of individ-
ual organs, such as the heart pumping blood, could certainly be described
along the lines of mechanical models, but any such description would
necessarily have to ignore the way in which the heart, its valves, arteries,
History of Philosophy 40 (2002), 22953: 24650, and Robert J. Richards, Kant and Blumenbach
on the Bildungstrieb: A Historical Misunderstanding, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological
and Biomedical Sciences 31 (2000), 1132.
13 See Heinrich Czolbe, Neue Darstellung des Sensualismus: Ein Entwurf (Leipzig: Costenoble, 1855),
192204, and Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, ii, 32741.
14 See Michael Friedman, Kant and the Exact Sciences (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,
1992), 16061 and 1678.
Problems with purpose 87
and so on, are dependent on a wide range of other physiological functions,
morphological preconditions, and external factors, such as an organisms
adaptation to changes in climate.15 The body emerged as a dynamic system
of interrelated and mutually dependent functions that seemed to escape
mechanical explanation. As Nietzsche knew, this posed serious questions
with regard to causality: the mechanical world, the world of objects moving
in space, had to be a world of causality, but it was questionable whether
causality could be found in the organic world (KGW i/4, 62 [41]).
Kants remarks, in the Third Critique, about the inevitability of a tele-
ological description of the organic world remains connected to central
arguments of the First Critique, especially the so-called Analogies of Expe-
rience. If the task of teleological descriptions is to gain empirical cognition
of the intrinsic character of the organic world, as Kant put it in the passage
of the Third Critique quoted above, it can only be successful if it proceeds
along the lines of the Analogies of Experience, as Nietzsche himself pointed
out (KGW i/4, 62 [4]).16 The Analogies of Experience, Kant noted in the
Critique of Pure Reason, seek to bring the existence of appearances under
rules a priori and therefore have to be regarded as regulative principles:
if a perception is given to us in a temporal relation to others . . . it cannot
be said a priori which and how great this other perception is, but only how
it is necessarily combined with the first, as regards its existence, in this
modus of time.17 Shifting the perspective from Kants Newtonian concept
of nature to the life sciences of the nineteenth century, this would mean,
for instance, that empirical evidence of the different developmental stages
of a species cannot be understood as evidence for the development of this
species according to a plan in nature. Such evidence merely establishes rela-
tions in time; it establishes development as a regulative principle. Teleology
is not constitutive of nature, but can only be valid as a regulative fiction:
An analogy of experience will . . . be only a rule in accordance with which
unity of experience is to arise from perceptions . . . and as a principle it will
not be valid of the objects (of the appearances) constitutively but merely
regulatively.18
15 See Foster, Lehrbuch der Physiologie, 1556 and 178.
16 Nietzsches subsequent understanding of the Analogies of Experience will have been influenced by
Kuno Fischer, Kants Vernunftkritik und deren Entstehung, 2nd edn., rev. (Heidelberg: Bassermann,
1869), 40025.
17 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 297 (B 2212). For a fuller discussion of the Analogies of Experience
in the context of the First Critique, see Henry E. Allison, Kants Transcendental Idealism: An
Interpretation and Defense, rev. and enl. edn. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004), 229
73, and Paul Guyer, Kant and the Claims of Knowledge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1987), 20776.
18 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 298 (B 222).
88 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
Even though the Critique of Pure Reason remains largely unconcerned
with organic nature, the understanding of nature and of natural laws that
Kant derived from his Newtonian framework are indeed compatible with
his later remarks, in the Third Critique, about teleology as an absolutely
necessary and indispensable maxim.19 This maxim belongs to reflective
judgment, guiding the formation of our concepts about nature by seeking
higher laws. There is, however, a crucial difference between Kants earlier
perspective and his remarks in the Critique of the Power of Judgment. In
the first instance, he introduces teleology as a regulative principle that
provides the systematic unity of nature.20 In the second instance, Kant
begins to recognize that teleological judgments are restricted to the world
of living things. While the motion of planets and comets, for example, can
be explained according to a mechanical concept of efficient causality, not
everything in nature can be understood in these terms. Organisms must be
judged teleologically.21 This leads to the antinomy of teleological judgment:
on the one hand, everything must be judged according to mechanical laws,
since it is only the latter that guarantee scientific certainty; on the other
hand, not everything can really be judged according to such mechanical
laws.22 The inevitable conflict between these principles undermines the
systematic unity of nature Kant stipulated in the First Critique.23
For Kant, nature, in terms of the world out there available to the senses
and to knowledge, was the product of formal cognitive structures that,

19 See Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 269. There is, however, also an important difference
between the First and Third Critiques: in the former, all causal and teleological judgments are of a
merely regulative kind, whereas in the Third Critique, Kant begins to make a distinction between
efficient causality, which is constitutive of our understanding of the succession of events in time,
and teleological judgments which are purely regulative. My own account admittedly emphasizes
the role of the regulative, and thus of reflective judgment, over that of the constitutive, since
this is also the lesson Nietzsche seems to have drawn from Kant. On the other hand, Michael
Friedman, Regulative and Constitutive, Southern Journal of Philosophy 30 (1991), supplement,
73102, has argued that, despite Kants initial distinction between regulative and constitutive in the
First Critique, the critical project as a whole required the convergence of regulative and constitutive
principles.
20 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 614 (A 6867).
21 See Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 2334 and 2534. While in the Critique of Pure Reason
purposiveness falls under the three main regulative ideas (the soul, the unity of nature, and God),
in the Critique of the Power of Judgment purposiveness becomes a separate regulative principle that
pertains to reflective judgment. See the insightful discussion in Rachel Zuckert, Kant on Beauty
and Biology: An Interpretation of the Critique of Judgment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
2007), 2937 and 905.
22 See Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 2589.
23 Although Paul Guyer, Organisms and the Unity of Science, in Kants System of Nature and
Freedom: Selected Essays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 86111: 929, sees this conflict as
crucial to the argument in the Third Critique, he is optimistic that Kants ideal of a unity of science
can be saved.
Problems with purpose 89
first of all, render it possible for us to know that there is something out
there, even though such cognition itself has to be part of nature. Nature
and natural laws, in other words, only come into existence through a priori
cognitive principles the synthetic principles of pure understanding
that make things out there observable as law-governed. As soon as we
approach nature, we have already accepted the principle of causality, even
though this does not mean that there are, indeed, necessary empirical laws
in nature. As Nietzsche commented: The purposiveness of the organic
world, the lawfulness of the inorganic world are brought into nature by
our faculty of understanding (KGW i/4, 62 [7]). Indeed, without rules
and laws nothing would be observable: Even laws of nature, if they are
considered as principles of the empirical use of the understanding, at the
same time carry with them an expression of necessity, thus at least the
presumption of determination by grounds that are a priori and valid prior
to all experience.24 The laws of nature, inasmuch as they are the product
of the a priori principles of pure understanding, cannot be constitutive of
nature itself. In this respect, Kants discussion of the laws of nature and his
discussion of teleology bear a strong resemblance, even though the First and
Third Critiques operate within a different epistemological framework.25
If teleology is to be taken seriously as a necessary maxim for our under-
standing of living things, then this can only be the case because it is the
product of the principles of pure understanding, much like our concept of
nature as a whole, as Kant notes in the First Critique: By nature (in the
empirical sense) we understand the combination of appearances as regards
their existence, in accordance with necessary rules, i.e., in accordance with
laws. There are therefore certain laws, and indeed a priori, which first make
nature possible.26 The empirical study of nature cannot proceed without
the assumption of natural laws, that is, developmental processes in nature,
especially with regard to organic life, have to be seen as governed by some
kind of order even if such order remains a regulative principle. This was
one of the lessons Nietzsche drew from his reading of Kant (KGW i/4,
62 [3]). At the same time, and it is important to emphasize this particular
point, neither physical laws, such as those concerning gravitation, nor the
Kantian concept of teleology assume any kind of concrete goal or purpose.

24 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 283 (A 159).


25 See, however, Philippe Hunemann, Reflexive Judgement and Wolffian Embryology: Kants Shift
between the First and Third Critique, in Hunemann (ed.), Understanding Purpose: Kant and the
Philosophy of Biology (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2007), 75100.
26 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 320 (A 216).
90 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
In the Third Critique, Kant drew on a wider intellectual field that
brought together the life sciences and philosophy in the second half of
the eighteenth century.27 This intellectual field also extended well into the
immediate context of Nietzsches own interest in the question of living
things and their development, during the late 1860s and the 1880s. There
was, in many respects, a straight line from Blumenbachs work on the Bil-
dungstrieb via Karl Ernst von Baers research in embryology to Carl von
Nagelis work on Entwicklungsmechanik, and this line had a complementary
development in the shift from Kants critical project to the Naturphilosophie
of German Romanticism, whose vocabulary still influenced the philosoph-
ical framework of the life sciences in the nineteenth century, even though
the latters substance had changed dramatically.
As a consequence of this broader intellectual field, Nietzsches reading of
Kant, as it becomes apparent in his notes from April and May 1868, initially
linked the Third Critiques discussion of nature to more Goethean ideas.28
Goethe, from the late 1780s onward, began to entertain an interpretation
of developmental processes in nature along the lines of a metamorphic
transformation that could be particularly observed in the life of plants.29 It
is this early work that provided the foundation for his continued study of
morphology a term Goethe introduced about 1796 but which was broadly
used only after 1800.30 Increasingly influenced by Kants philosophy, to
which he was introduced by his friend Friedrich Schiller, Goethe also
discovered Blumenbachs work, describing the latters Bildungstrieb, or nisus
formativus, as a variant of the metamorphosis that ran through the organic
world, as he noted around 1817/18.31
Nietzsche held Goethe in high esteem throughout much of his career,
consistently referring to him in a positive vein and cherishing the fact that
he was a rare creature among German thinkers around 1800: not an ascetic
priest (GM iii: 20). More important, though, for his reflections on nature
in 1868, the Goethe-Kant connection initially seems to have suggested to
Nietzsche that our concept of an organism was a mere abstraction and
that there was some kind of causa finalis, which itself could not be known

27 On this broader European context, see Peter Hanns Reill, Vitalizing Nature in the Enlightenment
(Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2005), 15997.
28 Nietzsche is, of course, not alone in linking Goethe to Kant. See, for instance, Fischer, Immanuel
Kant, ii, 659.
29 See Goethe, Die Metamorphose der Pflanzen, in Werke, xiii, 54101.
30 See Goethe, Betrachtungen u ber Morphologie, in Werke, xiii, 12027. On Goethes coinage of
the term morphology, see Olaf Breidbach, Goethes Metamorphosenlehre (Munich: Wilhelm Fink,
2006), 65186.
31 See Goethe, Bildungstrieb, in Werke, xiii, 324: 334.
Problems with purpose 91
(KGW i/4, 62 [22], [28] and [30]). The existence of final causes, however,
posed considerable problems. On the one hand, this was an assumption
Nietzsche found in Schopenhauer and Aristotle: the explanation of nature,
from falling rain to the teeth of animals, required a final cause to account for
regularity in nature.32 Schopenhauer occasionally denied such a teleological
model, but his entire enterprise the metaphysics of the will had to
rely on a strong teleological commitment without which the world could
not be rational or comprehensible. Likewise, Goethe specifically excluded
contingent events from his theory of metamorphosis.33 It is also in this
respect that Goethes position was further removed from Darwin than
many nineteenth-century authors, such as Haeckel, led their audience
to believe: metamorphosis was entirely an internal development, largely
independent of any external influences.34 Nietzsche, as we shall see, was
rather skeptical about such claims, despite his praise of Goethes person.
The continued influence of functional morphology among German biol-
ogists throughout the nineteenth century was indebted in no small part
to Kant, Goethe, and the tradition of Romantic Naturphilosophie. Even
though the arrival of Darwinism in the midst of this shifted the focus from
the internal developmental laws of organisms to natural selection, Darwin-
ism itself did not constitute a radical break with the past, a revolutionary
rupture in the history of the life sciences. Rather, Darwins theory contin-
ued, refined, and transformed a body of knowledge that had been in place
since the later eighteenth century. This also explains why, for Nietzsche,
Kant and Darwin could not seriously be separated but rather described the
parameters within which the problems of philosophical naturalism and the
new life sciences had to be negotiated. Indeed, the connection between
Kant and Darwin is far more crucial for Nietzsches understanding of
development in nature than any vague residues of Goethe and Romantic
Naturphilosophie.

32 See Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, ii, 329, and Aristotle, Physics, trans. Philip
H. Wicksteed, I (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963), ii.8. One of Nietzsches own
sources on final causality in Aristotle, Gustav Schneiders De causa finali Aristotelea (Berlin: Reimer,
1865), 38, 156, and 236, argues for a strong program of teleology.
33 See, for instance, Goethe, Die Metamorphose der Pflanzen, 65.
34 On the difference between Darwin and Goethe, see Timothy Lenoir, The Eternal Laws of Form:
Morphotypes and the Conditions of Existence in Goethes Biological Thought, in Frederick
Amrine, Frank J. Zucker, and Harvey Wheeler (eds.), Goethe and the Sciences: A Re-appraisal (Dor-
drecht: Reidel, 1987), 1728. See, in contrast, Haeckels opening remarks in Generelle Morphologie
der Organismen, i, xivxv and ii, xviixviii, or David Friedrich Strau, Der alte und der neue Glaube:
Ein Bekenntni, 5th edn. (Bonn: Strau, 1873), 1817, who draws a line from Goethe via Kant to
Darwin.
92 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
It is easy to assume that Darwin eliminated the problem of teleology
from the life sciences by introducing an explanatory model for evolu-
tion that is empirically verifiable and conceives of evolution in terms of
functions instead of goals. Nevertheless, theories of generation, selection,
and adaptation introduced teleological models of growth and inheritance
into the discourse of evolutionary thought, and even those who supported
Darwins evolutionary theory, such as Lange, discovered in Darwinism a
tendency to employ teleological language and argument.35 Darwins own
references to the increasing perfection of organisms are more than mere
figures of speech and a prominent example for Nietzsches suspicion that
the biological sciences of the nineteenth century were unable to escape
the metaphysical language of teleology: the structure, for instance, of the
woodpecker, with its feet, tail, beak, and tongue could not be attributed
to mere external conditions, but was the result of a long-term process
whose function it was to allow the woodpecker to catch insects under the
bark of trees, while the function of the cell-making instinct of honey
bees was the latters ability to build their cells of the proper shape to hold
the greatest possible amount of honey, with the least possible consumption
of precious wax in their construction.36 It is not surprising, then, that
Darwin referred to the perfection of structure as the proper function of
natural selection, and such perfection was always related to the forma-
tion of new species and variations in the natural world.37 Perfectibility
had its limits, of course, and Darwin explicitly denied that natural selec-
tion would ever produce something akin to absolute perfection: Natural
selection tends only to make each organic being as perfect as, or slightly
more perfect than, the other inhabitants of the same country with which
it has to struggle for existence.38
The conclusions Darwin drew from his observations suggest that evo-
lutionary development was not to be understood as random and arbitrary,
but variation was always part of the program: the perfection of any organ
or instinct, which we may consider, either do now exist or could have
existed, each good of its own kind, he noted, continuing that all organs
and instincts are, in ever so slight a degree, variable, and lastly that
there is a struggle for existence leading to the preservation of each prof-
itable deviation of structure or instinct.39 Profitability, of course, refers
to the usefulness and function of a specific organ or instinct, even though
35 See Nyhart, Biology Takes Form, 10542, and Lenoir, The Strategy of Life, 15694. For Langes
remarks, see his Geschichte des Materialismus, 401.
36 Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 3 and 224. 37 See, for instance, ibid., 3, 172, 182, and 187.
38 Ibid., 201 and 206. 39 Ibid., 459.
Problems with purpose 93
the future development of such organs and instincts had to be inherently
open. Darwin might have been highly critical of a notion of teleology in
terms of a simple goal-directed drive, but it is not necessary to understand
teleology in this way.40 Indeed, Langes conclusion from his discussion
of Darwin demanded a separation of purposiveness, Zweckmaigkeit, in
terms of biological functions, from a strong teleological program, while
Caspari repeatedly pointed out that the theory of evolution did not entail
any teleological argument, or at least should not do so.41
Nietzsches early notebooks clearly show that he was aware of such
questions in the biological sciences, and he situated these questions within
a Kantian framework. It is precisely within the context of this Kantian
framework that he increasingly came to realize that developmental processes
in nature could not seriously be reduced to some kind of vitalist principle, to
a striving force or Bildungstrieb as a causa finalis. This becomes particularly
obvious in his outlines for a possible dissertation on teleology. A first
outline, most likely written in late April 1868, leaves the impression that he
intended to redefine the concept of teleology in such a way as to allow him
to retain the notion of purpose in nature without any appeal to supernatural
forces:
1. Abolishing the wider concept of teleology.
2. Boundaries of the concept. That which has purpose in nature.
3. Purposive equals viable to exist.
4. Organisms as multitudes and unities.
(KGW i/4, 62 [37])
Nietzsche clearly had no intention of returning to pre-Kantian ideas about
teleology. If teleology was supposed to be a reasonable explanatory model
at all, its central claim that processes in nature are marked by some
kind of purpose had to be reformulated: what had traditionally been
described as purpose would now have to be recast in terms of biological
functions, that is, the only purpose the feature of an organism could have
was that it contributed to the continued robustness of the organism as a
whole. In late 1870, Nietzsche thus came to replace his earlier references
from 1868 to a purpose in nature with the notion of necessity in nature
40 On Darwins highly ambivalent view of teleological models, see Marjorie Grene and David Depew,
The Philosophy of Biology: An Episodic History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 208
15. The debate about Darwins possible teleological inclinations can lead to heated exchanges. See
James G. Lennox, Darwin was a Teleologist, Biology and Philosophy (1992), 40922, and Michael T.
Ghiselin, Darwins Language May Have Been Teleological, but His Thinking is Another Matter,
Biology and Philosophy 9 (1994), 48992.
41 See Lange, Geschichte des Materialismus, 405, and Caspari, Der Begriff der Zielstrebigkeit, 1224,
1301, and 136.
94 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
(KGW iii/3, 5 [83]). But the assumption that there was something like
biological functions still operated within a Kantian framework and was
derived from human organization, as Nietzsche, probably in May 1868,
wrote in a second outline. As a consequence, he could not any more answer
the question as to what the Bildungstrieb might actually refer to: Living
force. = (KGW i/4, 62 [49]). It comes as no surprise that he increasingly
began to wonder whether any form of teleology, with or without reference
to supernatural forces or purposes, could be of any explanatory value.
chapter 8

The politics of progress

As soon as we recognize, even within a Kantian framework, the constructed


nature of teleological explanations, we are forced to assume, as Nietzsche
pointed out in his early notes from 1868, that whatever processes can be
observed in nature are marked by contingency and chance. Nature in a
state of flux undercuts teleology (KGW i/4, 62 [45]). Only six years later, in
the second Untimely Meditation, On the Uses and Disadvantages of His-
tory for Life, he wholeheartedly rejected any speculation about a unifying
teleological development that structured the course of human history (UM
ii: 1 and 8). Taking teleological arguments seriously amounted to sheer
nonsense. In an unsympathetic reading of Hegels remarks about the end
of history, which in truth was directed more at Eduard von Hartmanns
popular, quasi-Hegelian ideas, Nietzsche gleefully remarked that for Hegel
the climax and terminus of the world-process must have somehow coin-
cided with his own existence in Berlin (UM ii: 8).1 Protestant Prussia
stood at the end of world history. There is no indication, of course, that
this was indeed Hegels assumption, since he merely pointed out that the
1820s was the point which consciousness has now reached and no further
historical events had occurred.2 History was inherently open-ended and
any attempt to describe historical development had to forgo appeals to
supernatural forces, thus naturalizing history instead of theologizing his-
torical processes. In contrast, Hegels contention that world history was to
be understood as the progressive unfolding of consciousness and the actu-
alization of freedom in terms of a true theodicy implied to Nietzsche a

1 See Eduard von Hartmann, Philosophie des Unbewussten: Versuch einer Weltanschauung (Berlin:
Duncker, 1869), 62843. Hartmann also interprets Darwins theory in terms of a teleological argu-
ment. See ibid., 482504.
2 Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of History, in Political Writings, trans. H.
B. Nisbet, ed. Laurence Dickey and H. B. Nisbet (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999),
223.

95
96 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
strong teleological program, even though it was mainly intended to outline
a genealogy of the modern state as the prime manifestation of reason.3
Such a strong teleological program as it seemed to be present among
the Hegelians of the nineteenth century was historically and conceptually
related to that kind of unbridled optimism which could occasionally be
observed in the eighteenth century, as Nietzsche had already suggested
in his notes from April and May 1868 (KGW i/4, 62 [4] and [17]). By
the end of his intellectual career, twenty years later, he remarked once
again that Hegel had about him something of a Swabian trust in God,
of a cow-like optimism (KGW viii/3, 18[14]), presenting Hegel not as the
Prussian philosopher at the University of Berlin but rather referring back
to Hegels upbringing and education in southwest Germany, centered on
the provincial university town of Tubingen and its Protestant seminary
with a view of the river Neckar, not too far away from the cow pastures of
the surrounding villages.
The ideologies of progress that were prevalent in the nineteenth-century
experience of modernity, in Britain and America as much as in Germany
and France, extended this link between teleology and optimism well into
Nietzsches time.4 This can easily be discerned in the writings of David
Friedrich Strau, Nietzsches bete noire of the bourgeois imagination in
the first Untimely Meditation of 1873. Strau blended together metaphors
from the railway, the telegraph, the steam-engine, the stock-exchange in
order to highlight the intense uniqueness of modern culture par excellence
(UM i: 11).5 The realm of biological thinking was far from immune to such
unrestrained enthusiasm for humanitys presumed progress, and Haeckel
in particular presented an image of human perfectibility that stipulated
a quasi-Hegelian unfolding of freedom as the consequence of natural
selection.6
That biological evolution was suggestive of social and political per-
fectibility, that there were biologically grounded laws of historical devel-
opment was not, of course, a German prerogative. It stood at the very core
of the reception of the natural sciences in British philosophy and political

3 Ibid., 224.
4 Nietzsche read and annotated, for instance, John William Draper, Geschichte der geistigen Entwick-
elung Europas, trans. A. Bartels, 3rd. corr. edn. (Leipzig: Wigand, 1886), 62243, which grounds a
doctrine of progress in the dissemination of knowledge and its impact on science and industry.
5 See, for instance, Strau, Der alte und der neue Glaube, 178 and 271, which compares Darwins theory
of evolution to newly built railway tracks and likens the constitutional principles of Britain to a
steam engine.
6 See, for instance, Ernst Haeckel, Naturliche Schopfungsgeschichte, 2nd edn., corr. and enl. (Berlin:
Reimer, 1870), 156. This remark is not part of the first edition from 1868.
The politics of progress 97
thought, and this was already the case before the broad popular reception of
Darwin. When Nietzsche read the German translation of Henry Thomas
Buckles unfinished but influential History of Civilisation in England (1857
61) in the library of Chur in Switzerland, while he was working on the
essays of On the Genealogy of Morality, he could find the idea that the study
of history should proceed along the lines of the natural sciences, seeking
to discover precise and universal laws that explained the social progress of
European nations.7 Influenced, to some extent, by Emile Littres negative
review of Buckles claims, Nietzsche had little patience for the latters spec-
ulations and described him as one of his strongest antagonists (KGB iii/5,
79).8 Buckle himself had also come under fire from another British author
that Nietzsche read in some detail and whose influence continues to be
somewhat underplayed: Walter Bagehot.9
Bagehot, who criticized Buckle for reducing the laws of historical devel-
opment almost exclusively to material circumstances, still operated with a
concept of progress that Nietzsche should have found both unconvincing
and disingenuous after all, it stipulated Victorian England to be the
crown of historical evolution and thus the standard against which to mea-
sure the success of other cultures.10 Nevertheless, Nietzsche, who seems to
have discussed Bagehot at length with George Croom Robertson during
their conversations in the summer of 1877, clearly found specific aspects
of the formers thought quite attractive. Bagehot, for instance, limited his
application of Darwins ideas, in particular natural selection and the inher-
itance of traits, to early human history. He was interested less in the
current state of affairs than in the political prerequisites of progress, and
especially of early progress.11

7 The German translation is Henry Thomas Buckle, Geschichte der Civilisation in England, trans.
Arnold Ruge (Leipzig: Winter, 186061). Nietzsche also owned Buckles Essays, trans. David Asher
(Leipzig: Winter, 1867). On the broad and highly ambivalent German reception of Buckle, see Chris-
tian Mehr, Kultur als Naturgeschichte: Opposition oder Komplementaritat zur politischen Geschichts-
schreibung, 18501890? (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2009), 4982.
8
See Emile Littre, De lhistoire de la civilisation en Angleterre par Buckle, in La science au point
de vue philosophique, 4th edn. (Paris: Didier & Cie., 1876), 478521. Nietzsche might have claimed
that he did not read Littres book in any great detail (KGB iii/1, 117), but several marginal markings
in his copy (Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek, Weimar, Germany, Sig. C 295) seem to suggest
otherwise.
9 See Small, Nietzsche and Ree, 1215, and David S. Thatcher, Nietzsche, Bagehot and the Morality
of Custom, Victorian Newsletter 62 (1982), 713. Nietzsche owned Bagehots Der Ursprung der
Nationen, ed. I. Rosenthal (Leipzig: Brockhaus, 1874), which is the German translation of Physics
and Politics (New York: Appleton & Co., 1873). It is difficult to overlook how some of Bagehots
ideas have found their way into Schopenhauer as Educator (UM iii: 3 and 8), Human, All Too
Human (HA i: 96), Daybreak (D 9), and Zur Genealogie der Moral (e.g., GM ii: 3 and 16).
10 For the criticism of Buckle, see Bagehot, Physics and Politics, 1011. 11 Ibid., 24 and 2234.
98 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
What seemed crucial to Nietzsche was, among other things, the dismissal
of human autonomy in the formation of normative order and the tentative
rejection of traditional notions of the primacy of the good. Arguing that
the interplay between natural selection and the inheritance of specific
traits over time generated a disciplinary regime of internalized normative
order, the cake of custom, Bagehot noted: That this regime forbids free
thought is not an evil, it is the necessary basis for the greatest good; it is
necessary for making the mould of civilization, and hardening the soft fibre
of early man.12 This regime was directly dependent on the way in which
the nervous organs, and thus human physiology in general, physically
retained customary normative commitments: the biological stores of will-
made power, as he described them, allowed human beings to intervene
in the natural environment of which they were an integral part. This,
to be sure, became particularly obvious in the conflicts that stood at the
beginning of the formation of moral communities and ordered polities.13
Such conflicts, and their sublimation into the increasingly free discussions
that took place in civic polities, also introduced an element of uncertainty
and change into Bagehots account, thus weakening what initially might
appear to be a fairly deterministic narrative of historical development.14
Already in his essay Schopenhauer as Educator (1874), Nietzsche
praised the manner in which Bagehot resisted the temptation to transform
his evolutionary take on the historical development of political commu-
nities into a rigid philosophical system, whose abstract deductions would
have been far removed from the unpredictable fluidity of processes in
nature:
[E]veryone will agree with the impartial Englishman Bagehot when he says
of our contemporary system-builders: Who is not almost sure beforehand
that they will contain a strange mixture of truth and error, and therefore that
it will not be worthwhile to spend life in reasoning over their consequences?
The mass of a system attracts the young and impresses the unwary; but
cultivated people are very dubious about it. . . . Unproved abstract principles
without number have been eagerly caught up by sanguine men and then
carefully spun out into books and theories which were to explain the whole
world. The world goes totally against these abstractions, and it must do so
since they require it to go in antagonistic directions. (UM iii: 8)15

12 Ibid., 27. 13 See ibid., 10 and 4181. 14 See ibid., 156205.


15 See also KGW iii/4, 29 [197]: The strict scientists distrust against any deductive system, vid.
Bagehot. Nietzsches quotation in Schopenhauer als Erzieher reverses the sentences in Bagehots
passage. This does not, however, alter their meaning. See Bagehot, Der Ursprung der Nationen,
21617, and Physics and Politics, 1901.
The politics of progress 99
Although neither Bagehot nor Nietzsche, in this passage, refer to the prob-
lem of teleology, the latter was precisely such an abstract principle that
did not accurately reflect the complexity of development in nature and
human history.
Bagehot unsurprisingly favored the view that British parliamentary gov-
ernment was the endpoint of the historical trajectory he sketched out;
there was some quality in English thought which outperformed all other
nations, European and otherwise. English originality as the apparent pin-
nacle of evolution also implied a Victorian imperial vision that presented
the world outside Europe as savage and primitive, as unable to improve
and advance.16 While Nietzsche regarded such grandiloquent claims with
much skepticism, Bagehots account still entailed a much less deterministic
and much weaker teleological perspective than Nietzsche could find among
social Darwinists in Germany. After consulting, for instance, Friedrich von
Hellwalds writings on cultural history, he described the latter as presenting
the wisdom of a frogs nose [Froschnasen-Weisheit] (KGW v/2, 11 [299]).
Although Hellwald emphasized, like Nietzsche, that human beings were
no special case vis-`a-vis the rest of nature, he presented a thoroughly deter-
ministic explanation of human and cultural progress. Drawing on Haeckel,
and referring to some of the same sources that Nietzsche had consulted,
Hellwald portrayed the struggle for existence as the sole driving force for
historical development, explicitly excluding any contingent and random
events.17
The consequences of Hellwalds account were more worrying than Bage-
hots imperial vision. Hellwalds attempt to directly map natural selection
onto cultural processes, thus taking the stance of the reductionist scientific
materialist, led to a plainly racist justification for the presumed superiority
of Europeans that even Bagehot would have felt uncomfortable with.18 The
attempt to naturalize historical processes turned into an ideological pro-
gram that highlighted the political dangers of strictly teleological accounts.
Another of Nietzsches sources, Johann Julius Baumann, not only claimed
that it was the non-European savages who could not advance because of
their failure to learn, but that other European nations, such as the Poles,
did not fare much better, since, for Baumann, they lacked the kind of high
16 See Bagehot, Physics and Politics, 42 and 204.
17 See Friedrich von Hellwald, Kulturgeschichte in ihrer naturlichen Entwicklung bis zur Gegenwart, 3rd
edn., enl. (Augsburg: Lampart & Co., 1875), 5, 8, 13 and 1922. On Hellwalds reductionism, see
Mehr, Kultur als Naturgeschichte, 160212. Nietzsche first asked for Hellwalds book on a postcard
to Franz Overbeck on July 8 1881. See KGB iii/1, 101 and 110.
18 See, for instance, Hellwalds Kulturgeschichte, 627, and Naturgeschichte des Menschen (Stuttgart:
Spaemann, 188285), ii, 64251.
100 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
culture that could only be found among the morally developed Germans.19
But while Baumanns ideas could simply be explained by the latters political
predilections, Hellwalds political claims were the outcome of physicalist
reductionism.
Nietzsches philosophical naturalism did not lend itself to such crude
social Darwinism, even though he had to admit that the scientific culture
of the nineteenth century remained unable to overcome the language of
teleology (KGW vii/1, 7 [229]). Teleology was part of the family failure
of all philosophers, who lacked any real understanding of development in
nature and elsewhere. Teleological arguments, ironically, were marked by a
lack of historical sense, and the failure to recognize fully that everything
has become was part of contemporary philosophy (HA i: 2).

19 See Johann Julius Baumann, Handbuch der Moral nebst Abriss der Rechtsphilosophie (Leipzig: Hirzel,
1879), 3940 ( 14) and 78 ( 23).
chapter 9

Naturalizing Kant

Many recent philosophical accounts of Nietzsches naturalism tend to sep-


arate his criticism of teleology from his discussion of causation. Nietzsche,
it is often argued, rejected teleological explanations of development in
nature and history, but he still retained a fairly strong, straightforward,
and uncomplicated understanding of causation. Moreover, in contrast to
the supposedly adolescent criticism of causality in his early writings, his
more mature publications of the 1880s are generally seen as giving up such
skepticism about causation.1 As Christopher Janaway argued, Nietzsche
was, by and large, committed to a species of theorizing that explains X
by locating Y and Z as its causes, where Y and Zs being the cause of X is
not falsified by our best science.2 The question is, however, whether Niet-
zsche operates here on the level of causal explanation or whether he refers
to causes in order to describe developments in nature, accepting that cause
and effect remain regulative principles that are not constitutive of X, Y,
and Z. Although Nietzsche might be committed to a species of theorizing
that relies, occasionally rather heavily, on causation, his understanding of
what this entails reflects the fact that causation, as much as teleology, was
a highly contested concept in the nineteenth-century life sciences.
There was no shortage of philosophical approaches that adopted teleo-
logical principles deep into the nineteenth century. Lorenz Oken, writing
in the context of German Romantic Naturphilosophie, defined the latter
explicitly as the science of the eternal transformation of God into nature,
so that any account of the evolution of matter from atoms to complex
organic beings what Oken termed Weltzeugungsgeschichte always had
to defer to God as representing the whole.3 God was the final cause.
Even though references to supernatural forces began to wane among philo-
sophical accounts of the organic world, Jakob Friedrich Fries, who attacked

1 See Leiter, Nietzsche on Morality, 223, and Clark, Nietzsche on Truth and Philosophy, 1035.
2 Janaway, Beyond Selflessness, 38. 3 Oken, Lehrbuch der Naturphilosophie, I, vii.

101
102 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
German Romanticism while teaching at Jena and who was critical of Hegels
idealism, continued to stipulate the existence of causal formative drives
and morphotic processes [morphotische Processe] that could be observed
across all natural phenomena, from the formation of crystals and minerals
to the growth of plants and the development of animal life.4 In Berlin,
Johannes Muller also emphasized that all processes within living organic
matter had to be understood as being governed by a purpose, which causally
organized the constituent parts of any given organism into a viable whole.5
Muller assumed the factual existence of a causal force which generated
and shaped organic life, but which itself had to precede the existence of
organic life as a kind of primum movens. The latter, he had to concede,
could not be observed in any direct manner, since the philosophically
inclined natural scientist always already encountered in nature the factual
unity of organizing force and organized matter.6
It is precisely against this background, with Darwin on the horizon, that
Nietzsche, throughout his published writings as much as in his notebooks,
continued to deliver a sustained attack on any strong program of teleology
that returned to pre-Kantian assumptions about causality and causation.
He continuously, and often in polemical terms, criticized philosophical
speculation about superfluous teleological principles, as he put it in Beyond
Good and Evil (BGE 13). There simply was no purpose and certainly
no hidden guidance by reason to be found in the history of nature
and humanity but merely one basic precept: chance, chance, chance
[Zufall, Zufall, Zufall], as he noted impatiently at the beginning of 1880,
emphasizing that such contingent events could be rather beneficial to
historical development as a whole (KGW v/1, 1 [63]).7 Any talk of nature,
which did not adhere to the Kantian framework he had outlined already in
his early notes, carried clear religious and theological connotations (KGW
v/2, 11 [16]). Indeed, as Nietzsche could not help himself to note with
some amusement: Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, Schleiermacher, Feuerbach,
Strau all of them theologians (KGW vii/2, 26 [8]).
While Nietzsche was not incorrect about this, even though most of the
philosophers he mentioned had a fairly uneasy relationship with prevailing
Protestant dogma, it is crucial that Kant does not appear on this list.
Throughout the 1880s, much of Nietzsches thought about the organic
world continued to operate within a Kantian framework as critical of Kant
4 Jakob Friedrich Fries, Die mathematische Naturphilosophie nach philosophischer Methode betrachtet
(Heidelberg: Winter, 1822), 6619 ( 115).
5 Muller, Handbuch der Physiologie des Menschen, i, 189. 6 Ibid., I, 20 and 236.
7 See also KGW iii/3, 5 [83]; KGW iii/4, 29 [72]; KGW iv/1, 6 [34]; and KGW v/1, 4 [55].
Naturalizing Kant 103
as he often appeared to be. Indeed, the problematic notion of a purpose in
nature only comes into existence on the basis of the Analogies of Experience,
he noted at the beginning of 1880, repeating his much earlier reflections
from 1868. As such, the notion of purpose shared central characteristics
with the notion of causality which also could not be conceived of in terms
of a natural kind (KGW v/1, 1 [127]). Since we always tend to speculate
about some alleged spider of purpose . . . which is lurking behind the great
spiders web of causality, as he wrote in On the Genealogy of Morality (GM
iii: 9), it should also be possible to reject strong teleological explanations
of development in nature by casting doubt on a reified notion of causality.
His claim that there are no causes and effects in nature a claim that
appears in various guises throughout most of his writings seems certainly
far removed from Kants position and is perhaps more reminiscent of David
Humes attack on causalitys presumed a priori status.8 As is usually the
case with Nietzsche, however, things are more complex. His discussion of
causality and teleology is an attempt to naturalize Kants account.
Nietzsches rejection of causality is to a considerable extent influenced
by his reading of contemporary philosophers, in particular Lange but also
Afrikan Spir and Richard Avenarius.9 Spir a private scholar and wealthy
Russian emigre who, during the late 1860s and throughout the 1870s,
lived in southwest Germany and Switzerland speculated, for instance,
that change in nature did not require a principle of causality. It should
rather be understood as a form of becoming without cause.10 Likewise,
Avenarius himself a fairly staunch positivist, who later became the main
representative of empirio-criticism and influenced both Ernst Mach and
Edmund Husserl argued that the notion of causality should be replaced
by that of a necessary continuity of events occurring in time.11 Lange,
Spir, and Avenarius themselves responded to the discussion of causality
as it appeared in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: Lange largely

8 See, for instance, D 912, 33 and 121; KGW v/1, 6 [152]; KGW vii/1 24 [36]; KGW viii/3, 14 [98] and
[145].
9 See, for instance, Stack, Lange and Nietzsche, 207; Michael S. Green, Nietzsche and the Transcendental
Tradition (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2002), 7583; and Brobjer, Nietzsches Philosophical
Context, 59, 712, and 915.
10 Afrikan Spir, Denken und Wirklichkeit: Versuch einer Erneuerung der kritischen Philosophie, 2nd edn.
(Leipzig: Findel, 1877), ii, 213. Nietzsche had followed Spirs work since 1869/70, but returned to
Spir in greater detail after the publication of the much enlarged and revised second edition. Spirs
influence on Nietzsche has been discussed in some detail. See Robin Small, Nietzsche in Context
(Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001), 120, and Paolo DIorio, La Superstition des philosophes critiques:
Nietzsche et Afrikan Spir, Nietzsche-Studien 22 (1993), 25794.
11 See Richard Avenarius, Philosophie als Denken der Welt gemass dem Princip des kleinsten Kraftmasses
(Leipzig: Fues, 1876), 456 ( 825).
104 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
adopted a Kantian framework, Spir was indebted to both Hume and Kant,
while Avenariuss early work especially his 1868 doctoral dissertation
at the University of Leipzig, Nietzsches own alma mater was concerned
with Spinozas pantheism.12 Spinoza, Hume, and Kant, thus, constitute the
background against which Nietzsches discussion of causality gains shape
from the late 1860s to the late 1880s.
The problem of causation is of central importance for the early modern
mechanistic understanding of bodies in motion, and of the relationship
between mind and nature. Early modern metaphysics often attributed
causal powers to objects themselves with the effect that a broad range
of entities, material and spiritual, could be described as causes.13 The
theoretical transition that can be observed in the thought of Hume and
Kant is to a large degree dependent on a Newtonian concept of science. By
the middle of eighteenth century, causes and effects could not be viewed
any more as substances and the attention shifted to causal relations as
events in space and time without the need for a prime mover.14 While
Spinoza, for instance, was in agreement with Hume and Kant, but also
with Nietzsche, that all things and events in existence were connected to
each other, and could thus possibly interact, causality, for Spinoza, was
built into the world of things an assumption Hume, Kant, and Nietzsche
certainly were not able to share: everything in existence is determined to
existence and operation by another cause. The chain of causal relationships
stretches to infinity, but the cause of the existence of these things and
events was not to be found in the natural world. Even though Spinoza is
often presented as a radical materialist, God remained absolutely the first
cause.15 This lead Spinoza to argue for necessity as the principle underlying
causal relationships between things, and necessity did not leave any room
for exceptions: In Nature there exists nothing contingent, but all things
have been determined by the necessity of the divine nature to exist and
operate in a certain way.16

12 See Richard Avenarius, Ueber die beiden ersten Phasen des Spinozischen Pantheismus und das Verhaltnis
der zweiten zur dritten Phase (Leipzig: Avenarius, 1868).
13 On the complexity of the causation debate in early modern philosophy, see Kenneth C. Clatter-
baugh, The Causation Debate in Modern Philosophy, 16371739 (London: Routledge, 1999), 1766.
14 Neither Humes nor Kants reflections on causation should be understood as a radical break with
early modern philosophy, since they continue to respond to Descartes, Spinoza, and in the case of
Kant Leibniz and German Schulphilosophie. See Walter R. Ott, Causation and the Laws of Nature
in Early Modern Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 191246, and Eric Watkins,
Kant and the Metaphysics of Causality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 23100.
15 Spinoza, Ethics, 98 (Part i, Proposition 28) and 90 (Part i, Proposition 16, Corollary 3).
16 Ibid., 99 (Part i, Proposition 29). For a detailed interpretation, see Margaret Wilson, Spinozas
Causal Axiom (Ethics i, Axiom 4), in Yirmiyahu Yovel (ed.), God and Nature: Spinozas Metaphysics
(Leiden: Brill, 1991), 13360.
Naturalizing Kant 105
This, of course, was a view that Nietzsche was unable to take seriously
(KGW viii/2, 9 [91]). For Spinoza, the substances and things that could be
found in nature were not discreet substances in the first place but rather
the constituent parts of one substance, that is, God. From Nietzsches
perspective, however, the psychological need to believe in causality as
inscribed into the world of things was merely the result of our own inability
to imagine events without purpose. There are, as we shall see, specific
reasons why he assumed that we are unable to give up concepts such as
purpose and causality, but for now it is sufficient to realize, as he put it in a
note from 1886: The belief in causae falls with the belief in a telos (against
Spinoza and his causalism) (KGW viii/1, 2 [83]).
While it is difficult to overlook Nietzsches reception of Spinoza, which
already gained shape during his student years at the University of Bonn,
when he attended Carl Schaarschmidts lecture course on the history of
philosophy in the summer semester of 1865, it is important to point out
that this reception was always rather critical.17 His initial understanding
of Spinozas metaphysics largely depended on Schaarschmidt (GSA 71/41,
448) himself an expert on Spinoza, who was quite skeptical of the neo-
Kantian atmosphere among German philosophers.18 It was also shaped by
the standard histories of philosophy Nietzsche consulted repeatedly from
the late 1860s onward.19 Already Lange, however, rejected Spinoza as adher-
ing to an idealist Pantheism, while Eduard von Hartmanns endorsement
of Spinozas philosophical mysticism will have made Nietzsche more than
suspicious.20 But it was to a considerable degree his reading, in 1873 and
1874, of Roger Boscovichs work on atoms and force fields, which distanced
Nietzsche from Spinoza in a fundamental way. While Spinozas focus on
God as the only existing substance delivered a unifying theory of nature,
Boscovich argued that nature had to be structured by force fields so that
matter, bodies, could only be understood as the centers of forces. This was

17 On Nietzsches reading of Spinoza, see Abel, Nietzsche, 4959 and 98102.


18 For Schaarschmidts interest in Spinoza, see especially his doctoral dissertation at the University
of Berlin, Plato et Spinoza philosophi inter se comparati (Berlin: Schade, 1845), and Descartes und
Spinoza: Urkundliche Darstellung der Philosophie beider (Bonn: Marcus, 1850).
19 Among the general accounts Nietzsche consulted on Spinoza were Albert Schwegler, Geschichte der
Philosophie im Umri (Stuttgart: Verlag der Franckhschen Buchhandlung, 1848), 10510; Friedrich
Ueberweg, Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophie von Thales bis auf die Gegenwart, iii: Die Neuzeit
(Berlin: Mittler & Sohn, 1866), 5677; and Kuno Fischer, Descartes und seine Schule, 2nd edn. (Hei-
delberg: Bassermann, 1865), 88580. Nietzsche also read Adolf Trendelenburgs Ueber Spinozas
Grundgedanken und dessen Erfolg, in Historische Beitrage zur Philosophie, ii: Vermischte Abhand-
lungen (Berlin: 1855), 31111, which Fischer had criticized sharply. See Andreas Rupschus and Werner
Stegmaier, Inconsequenz Spinozas? Adolf Trendelenburg als Quelle von Nietzsches Spinoza-
Kritik in Jenseits von Gut und Bose 13, Nietzsche-Studien 38 (2009), 299308.
20 Lange, Geschichte des Materialismus, 150, and Hartmann, Philosophie des Unbewussten, 288.
106 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
still a unifying theory of nature, but its principles were more diffuse and
dynamic than what Spinoza offered.21
Boscovichs influence in the later eighteenth century remained quite
limited, but he was, indeed, rediscovered to some extent by nineteenth-
century physicists such as Joseph Priestley and Michael Faraday, since his
atomic theory could be regarded as anticipating the shift from matter to
energy and force that shaped the physical sciences after 1800.22 Nietzsche
himself concluded from his reading of Boscovich that nature should best
be conceived as a dynamic collection of forces, as opposed to the well-
ordered spatial universe of Newtonian mechanics. While philosophical
thought from Descartes via Spinoza to Hume and Kant discussed causation
largely in terms of bodies and spatial events that reacted upon one another,
Boscovichs approach suggested something entirely different: An effect
between successive moments in time is impossible (KGW iii/4, 26 [12]).
The central conclusion that Nietzsche drew from Boscovich was that the
possibility of force fields clearly implied that a conception of nature based
on matter was highly problematic (BGE 12 and KGW vii/2, 26 [302]).23
Since Boscovich matter does not exist anymore, he remarked on March 20,
1882 to Heinrich Koselitz. Boscovich had thought atomistic theory to its
end (KGB iii/1, 183).
What we regard as processes in nature, that is, developments in time,
clearly point to a dynamic conception of nature (KGW vii/2, 26 [410]).
Although, in a note mentioning Boscovich from late 1884, Nietzsche
seemed to indicate that this position was inherently antiteleological
(KGW vii/2, 26 [432]), a dynamic conception of the physical world was
certainly not incompatible with the evolutionary framework that charac-
terized his overall naturalism. But it is also obvious that his reading of
21 See Roger Joseph Boscovich, A Theory of Natural Philosophy, ed. J. M. Child (Chicago: Open Court,
1922), 368 ( 7). On Nietzsches reading of Boscovich, see Greg Whitlock, Roger Boscovich,
Benedict de Spinoza and Friedrich Nietzsche: The Untold Story, Nietzsche-Studien 25 (1996),
20020, and Stack, Lange and Nietzsche, 22461.
22 See M. Harman, Energy, Force, and Matter: The Conceptual Development of Nineteenth-Century
Physics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 77 and 14955.
23 This conclusion proved to be of considerable importance, for instance, for Nietzsches criticism
of metaphysics in Beyond Good and Evil (BGE 123). See Laurence Lampert, Nietzsches Task:
An Interpretation of Beyond Good and Evil (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001), 418.
Boscovich is not the only source for Nietzsches increasing emphasis on a dynamic conception of
nature. See, among others, Julius Robert Mayers Ueber die Krafte der unbelebten Natur, and Die
organische Bewegung in ihrem Zusammenhange mit dem Stoffwechsel, both in Die Mechanik der
Warme in gesammelten Schriften (Stuttgart: Cotta, 1867), 112 and 13126, respectively. Nietzsches
remarks on Mayer, however, are less enthusiastic. See KGB iii/1, 183. Nietzsche also owned an earlier
edition of the second piece: Die organische Bewegung in ihrem Zusammenhange mit dem Stoffwechsel:
Ein Beitrag zur Naturkunde (Heilbronn: Drechsler, 1845) = Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek,
Weimar, Germany, Sig. C 421.
Naturalizing Kant 107
Boscovich prevented him from adopting Spinozas views on causality and
causation.24 Causal relationships could not be attributes of bodies in space,
of the material world. Perhaps, Nietzsche mused, one had to give up the
concept cause and effect (KGW vii/2, 26 [411]).
In contrast to Spinoza, Hume came to argue that necessity is merely
secondary. Although all things are, in principle, able to interact with one
another, a thing can be contiguous and prior to another, without being
considerd as its cause. We can only speak of causality and causation if there
is a necessary connexion, but the necessity underlying this relationship
is not to be found in the world of things, or in God for that matter, but
it is based on inference and, thus, on past experience.25 The more we
recognize the same kind of event as triggered by the same kind of cause,
the more we feel that all events of this type have the same cause. Causality
is neither a phenomenon of the external world, nor can it be regarded as
an a priori principle of the understanding:
I shall venture to affirm, as a general proposition, which admits of no excep-
tion, that the knowledge of this relation [i.e. the causal relation between
things] is not, in any instance, attained by reasonings a priori; but arises
entirely from experience, when we find that any particular aspects are con-
stantly conjoined with each other.26
Necessity allows for contingency, and Humes necessary connection was
merely a connection of extremely high probability.27
It is important to recognize that probability, for Hume, does not imply
randomness or pure chance. The reason why causal relationships are gov-
erned by probability rather results from the fact that our knowledge about
the world remains inherently imperfect: while our philosophical notions of
causality and causation are derived from natural relations between things
apples falling from trees, billiard balls striking each other, comets crash-
ing into planets, and such like our knowledge about these relations and
their constitutive elements is never exhaustive. Hume inhabited a world
in which human beings, including philosophers, were characterized by a

24 See also Poellner, Nietzsche and Metaphysics, 4951.


25 David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge and H. Nidditch, 2nd edn., rev.
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), 77 (i. iii. 2) and 88 (i. iii. 6).
26 David Hume, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, in Enquiries Concerning Human Under-
standing and Concerning the Principles of Morals, ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge and H. Nidditch, 3rd edn.
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), 27 (iv. 1). See also Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, 170 (i. iii.
14).
27 Humes remarks on necessity seem to run counter to his assumption that causality needs to be based
on inference from past experience. See Helen Beebee, Hume on Causation (London: Routledge,
2006), 75107.
108 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
natural state of ignorance with regard to the powers and influence of all
objects.28 Indeed, as Nietzsche concurs, our incomplete understanding of
nature as becoming implies that, if there are any laws of nature, the latter
should not be understood in terms of causality (KGW v/2, 11 [293]). For
Hume, as much as for Nietzsche, this also meant that to describe the natural
world in terms of causality was the result of custom and habit, which
had evolved over time, and we are unable to escape our habit of ordering
events according to causes, effects, intentions, and purposes (KGW viii/1,
2 [83]).29
This was also the lesson Nietzsche was able to draw from Maximilian
Drossbachs radically Humean account of causality a much undervalued,
albeit central source for Nietzsches mature philosophical thought. Dross-
bach situated himself explicitly in the company of the new life sciences
but also in the footsteps of Langes cautious neo-Kantian materialism.30
Seen from this perspective, Hume and Kant asked the right questions with-
out, however, delivering solutions that were sufficiently radical. There was,
he noted, simply no such thing as causality in the world of appearances:
the experience of causality was a mere illusion.31 For Drossbach, events
still happened in time, but a proper distinction between cause and effect
seemed arbitrary, since any cause was itself an effect and any effect must
have had some kind of cause, in the traditional sense of the term. What
the natural sciences as much as philosophy really faced was a dynamic con-
tinuum of forces: Every event is a process of mutual interaction among
entities not an effect of preceding processes.32 Nietzsche, we shall see,
increasingly moved into a similar direction, and Drossbachs slim volume
had a lasting effect on his conceptions of becoming and the will to power.
Nietzsches discussion of causality has led some commentators to assume
that he holds an essentially Humean position.33 His presumed radicalization
of Humes line of argument which leads him to deny the existence of any
type of causal relationship (KGW vii/1 24 [36]; KGW viii/3, 14 [81], [98]

28 Hume, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 37 (iv. 2). See also Hume, A Treatise of Human
Nature, 84 (i. iii. 6).
29 Hume, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 43 (v. 1).
30 See Drossbach, Uber die scheinbaren und die wirklichen Ursachen des Geschehens, 3942. Nietzsches
copy (Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek, Weimar, Germany, Sig. C 252) has many marginal notes
and underlinings throughout.
31 See ibid., 110.
32 Ibid., 19 (emphasized in the original). See also the discussion of Drossbach in Mattia Riccardi,
Nietzsches Sensualism, European Journal of Philosophy 21 (2013), 21957: 2279.
33 See the remarks in Poellner, Nietzsche and Metaphysics, 3046; Clark, Nietzsche on Truth and
Philosophy, 21617; and Arthur C. Danto, Nietzsche as Philosopher (New York: Macmillan, 1965),
7581.
Naturalizing Kant 109
and [145]) is seen as running counter to Kants emphasis on the a priori
conditions of causality.34 On the other hand, there are good reasons to
suggest that Nietzsches account of causality does not deny central precepts
of Kants discussion in the First Critique. His position combines crucial
features of both Hume and Kant, and in his own intellectual biography he
encountered them at roughly the same time. In his early-morning lectures
on the history of philosophy at the University of Bonn in 1865, Carl
Schaarschmidt presented Humes discussion of causality as a central line
of attack against metaphysics: There is thus no metaphysics [Es giebt also
keine Metaphysik], Nietzsche noted laconically (GSA 71/41, 4951).35
Hume, of course, also featured prominently in some of the histories
of philosophy that Nietzsche had consulted throughout his life, and the
interest in Hume among contemporary German philosophers had as much
to do with the rise of neo-Kantian thought as with philosophys encounter
with the natural sciences during the middle of the nineteenth century.
For Kuno Fischer and Friedrich Ueberweg, Hume represented the crucial
step from early modern metaphysics to Kants critical project, which was
a view also shared by Lange.36 Much like Fischer, Ueberweg, and Lange,
and echoing the general neo-Kantian trends of the time, Nietzsche clearly
devoted more intellectual energy to Kant, and his reading of Kant had
a more lasting effect on the epistemological framework within which he
sought to come to terms with the problem of causality. His earliest proper
encounter with Kant, again in Schaarschmidts lectures, clearly introduced
him to the central tenets of Kants critical philosophy, albeit in a very
shorthand manner. What he could hear, during those early mornings in
Bonn, was above all that there is no access to things in themselves and
that philosophical abstractions are regulative ideas (GSA 71/41, 61).37 Niet-
zsche was able to link this interpretation to the account he found in
Schopenhauers long essay Criticism of the Kantian Philosophy, added
34 See, for instance, Tracy B. Strong, Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of Transfiguration, exp. edn.
(Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1988), 6970.
35 See also Schwegler, Geschichte der Philosophie im Umri, 11315, which came highly recommended
by Schaarschmidt. For Nietzsches comments on Schaarschmidt, with whom he also had much
personal contact in Bonn, see KGB i/2, 18, 2023, 35, and 46.
36 See Fischer, Kants Vernunftkritik und deren Entstehung, 3745; Ueberweg, Grundriss der Geschichte
der Philosophie, iii, 1216; and Lange, Geschichte des Materialismus, 145, 23743, and 25864.
37 For a fuller discussion of Nietzsches earliest encounters with Kant, see Konstantin Broese, Niet-
zsches fruhe Auseinandersetzung mit Kants Kritizismus, in Himmelmann (ed.), Kant und Niet-
zsche im Widerstreit, 36372. Schaarschmidt seems to have followed in his lectures the general
narrative of his earlier Der Entwicklungsgang der neueren Speculation als Einleitung in die Philosophie
der Geschichte kritisch dargestellt (Bonn: Marcus, 1857), 7892. Unlike Schaarschmidts somewhat
idiosyncratic account, Fischer, Kants Vernunftkritik und deren Entstehung, 2546, limited Kants
skepticism to his encounter with Hume.
110 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
already to the first edition of The World as Will and Representation from
1819.
Although ostensibly an attempt to adopt a thoroughly post-Kantian
stance, Schopenhauers essay reserved its harshest criticism for the later
phase of German idealism, in particular Hegel. German idealism, for
Schopenhauer, was the greatest effrontery in serving up sheer nonsense
and a ponderous and general mystification of philosophy it simply was
a lasting monument of German stupidity.38 In contrast, Schopenhauers
image of Kant was far more positive, even though he presented his own
position as diametrically opposed to the latters critical project. Warning
that Kants works, thirty-eight years after the first publication of the
Critique of Pure Reason, were still very new and that the proper impor-
tance of Kants teaching will become evident only in the course of time,
Schopenhauer fully understood that the epistemological problems Kant
was grappling with could not easily be brushed aside.39 The central point
of contention was that Kants thought already started from reflected and
abstract knowledge, whereas Schopenhauer himself sought to ground his
metaphysics in direct and intuitive knowledge.40 Although he accepted
that such direct knowledge did not equal unmediated and pure perception
but already constituted some kind of cognitive act, Kants conception of
pure reason as the foundation for any kind of knowledge about the world
turned the procedure of our faculty of knowledge upside down and
thus ignored the knowledge of perception in which the world lies before
us.41 Kants central distinction between appearances and things in them-
selves suggested to Schopenhauer that the philosopher from Konigsberg
simply reduced the world to phenomena without any access to things in
themselves. Viewing the world exclusively in terms of phenomena and
representations meant that everything, including the laws of causality,
was merely subjective. Kants position appeared absurd since it implied
that reason established objects that did not exist previously.42
Schopenhauer clearly attributed a radical form of skepticism to Kant: if
it should really be the case that the world merely consisted of subjective
representations, causal laws would be mere illusions without any reference
to the world out there. For Schopenhauer, however, causality remained

38 Schopenhauer, Criticism of the Kantian Philosophy, in The World as Will and Representation, i,
413534: 429. See also ibid., 437.
39 Ibid., 416. On Schopenhauers ambivalent relationship to Kant, see Terry Pinkard, German Philos-
ophy, 17601860: The Legacy of Idealism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 33345.
40 Schopenhauer, Criticism of the Kantian Philosophy, 452.
41 Ibid., 475 and 508. 42 Ibid., 421, 4267, 436, and 475.
Naturalizing Kant 111
the condition of empirical perception and the principle of all becoming
and passing away.43 Seen from the perspective of the metaphysics of the
will, causality could be reduced to necessity: For all that happens, happens
necessarily, because it happens from causes, but these themselves in turn
have causes, so that the whole course of events in the world, great as
well as small, is a strict concatenation of what necessarily takes place. In
Schopenhauers metaphysical world, in which matter did not undergo
any changes, there was no place for contingency; the latter was merely a
result of the limitation of the horizon of our understanding.44
Nietzsche seems to have taken two lessons from this discussion. First of
all, Schopenhauers account of causality did not necessarily entail a strong
teleological commitment: it merely suggested that things were somehow
connected in time. Second, the a priori nature of the laws of causality,
which was crucial for Kant, could not be deduced from a mere concatena-
tion of events: causality was always already bound up with the perception
of concrete events and could not precede such events.45 Moreover, it was
in the third edition of The World as Will and Representation, published
in 1859, that Schopenhauers criticism of Kant gained new relevance, and
it is unlikely that this point was lost on Nietzsche. In a direct attack on
Darwins competitor Richard Owen, Schopenhauer argued that a teleolog-
ical conception of evolutionary development entailed barely camouflaged
theological commitments that clearly resembled Kants ideas about the a
priori nature of causal laws.46 Owens open proclamation that there was
not much difference between physiology and scientific theology con-
firmed to Schopenhauer that there was a straight line from Plato via Kant
to the persistence of theological models in the contemporary biological
sciences.47 Necessity in nature existed, or so Schopenhauer believed, but
teleology was nonsense even though this ran counter to the basic outlook
of his metaphysics of the will.
43 Ibid., 448 and 472. 44 Ibid., 4678 and 472.
45 See ibid., 473. Schopenhauer here refers back to his earlier discussion of this problem in his doctoral
thesis from 1813, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, trans. E. F. J. Payne
(Chicago: Open Court, 1974), 12233 ( 23), as well as to Johann Georg Heinrich Feder, Uber
Raum und Kausalitat zur Prufung der Kantischen Philosophie (Gottingen: Dietrich, 1787), 12546
( 2830), and Gottlob Ernst Schulze, Kritik der theoretischen Philosophie (Hamburg: Bohn, 1801),
ii, 42242.
46 See Schopenhauer, Criticism of the Kantian Philosophy, 513. Schopenhauer refers to the French
edition of Owens On the Archetype and Homologies of the Vertebrate Skeleton (1848): Principes
dosteologie comparee ou Recherches sur larchetype et les homologies de squelette vertebre (Paris: J.-B.
Bailli`ere, 1855), 8 and 1112. In the French preface, Owen establishes a direct link between evolution
and theology, which is missing in the English edition.
47 See Owen, Principes dosteologie comparee, 8, and Schopenhauer, Criticism of the Kantian Philos-
ophy, 4867.
112 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
Although the Kant that Nietzsche encountered in Schopenhauer and
elsewhere was a highly ambivalent figure, the neo-Kantian framework
largely remained intact. We should be cautious, then, with some of Niet-
zsches own proclamations, when he asserted, for instance, toward the end
of his intellectual career that Kant was the biggest calamity of recent phi-
losophy (KGW viii/3, 18 [14]). Such statements can be found throughout
many of his writings and notebooks, when he complained about the
grotesque tastelessness of this Chinese of Konigsberg, who was more of a
Prussian civil servant than one of the philosophers of the future (KGW
vii/2, 26 [96]). Kant may have had a pedantic soul, but even Nietzsche
had to admit that the philosopher of pure reason had a fine mind (KGW
vii/3, 34 [37]). Nietzsches repeated attacks on things in themselves, or on
Kants conception of the moral law, should not be misunderstood as a
rejection of Kants position in its entirety. He remained, almost at all times,
in the vicinity of those neo-Kantians who sought to rescue Kant from the
consequences and implications of his own metaphysical commitments.48
Neo-Kantianism was to a considerable degree marked by debates about
how to read Kant, and about which elements of his philosophical cri-
tique remained relevant under the conditions of the nineteenth century,
a period in which the experimental sciences and the life sciences at large
began to offer new perspectives on reason, intuition, and on the relation-
ship between the intellectual and material worlds. But while the second
generation of neo-Kantians, such as Paul Natorp and Hermann Cohen,
also rediscovered Plato and began to return to the kind of transcendental
arguments that Nietzsche rightly brushed aside as pure metaphysical spec-
ulation, Nietzsches attempt at naturalizing Kant is more closely aligned
with the first generation of neo-Kantians, such as Lange and Liebmann.49
Indeed, his harshest critique of Kant is generally reserved for the latters
conception of the moral law, reflecting, from Nietzsches point of view, the
dogma of contemporary Protestantism, as he noted in The Anti-Christ (A
10). It is interesting to see that Nietzsches former philosophy professor,
Schaarschmidt, made a similar point several decades earlier: Kant went
wrong as soon as he left behind the skepticism of critical philosophy in
order to find certainty in the formal structure of the moral law.50 Nietzsches
48 For a detailed assessment of Nietzsches take on Kants things in themselves, see Mattia Riccardi,
Nietzsches Critique of Kants Thing in Itself, Nietzsche-Studien 39 (2010), 33351.
49 On the transcendental turn of neo-Kantianism under the influence of Plato, see Manfred Kuhn,
Interpreting Kant Correctly: On the Kant of the Neo-Kantians, in Rudolf A. Makkreel and
Sebastian Luft (eds.), Neo-Kantianism in Contemporary Philosophy (Bloomington, IN: Indiana
University Press, 2009), 11331.
50 See Schaarschmidt, Der Entwicklungsgang der neueren Speculation, 93103.
Naturalizing Kant 113
line of attack against Kant, in his early notes as well as in his later publica-
tions, is therefore only partially defined by epistemological questions; it is
primarily directed against Kant as a moralist (A 11). His attempt at natu-
ralizing Kant should, thus, be seen as an example for the return to Kant in
the later nineteenth century, so aptly described by Wilhelm Windelband:
We, who philosophize in the nineteenth century, are all students of
Kant. . . . The deeper we grasp the antagonism, which exists among the
different themes of his thinking, the more we find in it the means to work
through the problems, which he has given rise to through his solutions.
Understanding Kant means to move beyond him [Kant verstehen, heit u ber
ihn hinausgehen].51
Moving beyond Kant implied taking the implications as well as short-
comings of Kants critical project seriously. From Nietzsches perspective
this meant, above all, that the critical project had to face the life sciences
after 1800, that is, the empirical knowledge they produced as much as the
changing theoretical outlook within which they operated.
Nietzsches interest in Kants philosophy of science should not be con-
fused with the current resurgence of a neo-Kantian philosophy of science.
While Michael Friedman, for instance, has recovered the value of continen-
tal philosophy of science as practiced, for instance, by Ernst Cassirer
for current analytic discussions of naturalism, it is important to emphasize
that Friedman, mirroring the general conception of neo-Kantianism in the
English-speaking world, is mainly concerned with the second generation
of neo-Kantian philosophers. One of the reasons for this turn towards the
later neo-Kantians is their concept of a unity of science and knowledge and
also their historical proximity to Rudolf Carnap and, thus, to the claim
of a logical structure of the world.52 Such a move, indeed, makes the neo-
Kantians more palatable within the context of analytic philosophy, which,
after all, often traces its origin back to Kants First Critique.
Nietzsches epistemological stance is hardly compatible with the reduc-
tion of neo-Kantian philosophy to the work of the Marburg School, Her-
mann Cohen, and Cassirer. The latters attempt at saving Kants a priori,
coupled with a return to idealist metaphysics, stands in stark contrast to
the first generation of neo-Kantians, that is, the generation of Lange and
Liebmann. Nietzsches own project of historicizing nature and naturalizing
51 Wilhelm Windelband, Vorwort, in Praludien: Aufsatze und Reden zur Einfuhrung in die Philosophie
(Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1884), vi.
52 See, for instance, Michael Friedmans A Parting of the Ways: Carnap, Cassirer, and Heidegger
(Chicago: Open Court, 2000), 2537 and 11128, and Reconsidering Logical Positivism (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1999), 15262.
114 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
knowledge, from the early essay on truth and lying to the mature project
of genealogy, operates without the need for an a priori that serves as a
transcendental point of reference for the unity of knowledge. Naturalizing
and historicizing the a priori undercuts the unity of science and knowledge,
which played such a central role for the second generation of neo-Kantians.
Emphasizing the internal unity of reality, and speaking about a general
logical structure that unites modern philosophy since the scientific revo-
lution of the seventeenth century, Cassirer, for instance, clearly opts for a
transcendental perspective that is deeply influenced by Cohens claim for
a formal unity of scientific knowledge: our knowledge about the world is
only possible on the grounds of universal norms that provide continuity for
our experience of reality.53 The lesson of this kind of neo-Kantian philos-
ophy, Friedman explicitly notes, is a rational continuity that undergirds
the history of science and knowledge as a whole based on constitutively a
priori principles.54
From Nietzsches perspective, the unity of science and knowledge, as
it takes center stage in Cohen and Cassirer, and the logical structure of
the world, as it appears in Carnap, are empty propositions. The hope
for a unified science and an objective world . . . which is identical for all
observers, grounded in the assumed primacy of the exact and mathematical
sciences, is an irredeemable fancy if viewed from the vantage point of
the life sciences and their practices, and this is the case in Nietzsches
time as much as it is today.55 It only appears a feasible option if Kants
critical philosophy, at the origin of the problems at hand, is limited to a
philosophy of the exact sciences, and Friedman shares this image of Kant
to a great extent with Cohen and Cassirer.56 The historical context of the
first generation of neo-Kantians, however, and thus also the context most
relevant to Nietzsches epistemological stance, is largely shaped not by the
exact sciences but by the life sciences, by physiology, biological bench work,
laboratory experimentation, and zoological field studies.
The way in which Nietzsche began to naturalize Kant becomes par-
ticularly apparent if we return to the Analogies of Experience as Kant
53 See Ernst Cassirer, Das Erkenntnisproblem in der Philosophie und Wissenschaft der neueren Zeit
(Berlin: Bruno Cassirer, 190620), i, vii and 16, and Substance and Function and Einsteins Theory
of Relativity, trans. William Curtis Swabey and Marie Collins Swabey (Chicago, IL: Open Court,
1923), 22033, as well as Hermann Cohen, System der Philosophie, Erster Theil: Logik der reinen
Erkenntnis (Berlin: Bruno Cassirer, 1902), 5664.
54 Michael Friedman, Dynamics of Reason: The 1999 Kant Lectures at Stanford University (Stanford,
CA: CSLI Publications, 2001), 67 and 117.
55 The quotations are from Rudolf Carnap, The Logical Structure of the World and Pseudoproblems
in Philosophy, 2nd edn., trans. Rolf A. George (Chicago: Open Court, 2003), 7.
56 See Friedman, Kant and the Exact Sciences, 1524 and 4752.
Naturalizing Kant 115
presented them in the First Critique. In the First Analogy, Kant points to
the need of grounding the apprehension and perception of appearances,
which take place in time and are therefore always changing, in something
that itself does not undergo any changes. There must be a substratum
of everything real, that is, we have to assume substance. The empirical
representation of time that events occur, whatever these events are
requires some form of determination since time itself simply cannot be
perceived.57 In the Second Analogy, he stipulates that the empirical world,
the manifold of appearance, can only be experienced as occurring in time if
we assume a relation of cause and effect, while the Third Analogy argues
that the succession of events must be complemented by the principle of
simultaneity, that is, substances in space interact with one another.58 Sub-
stance, succession, and simultaneity, then, circumscribe the field in which
any knowledge about the world is able to take place, and Kants emphasis
on spatial and temporal relations makes it clear that his arguments refer to
life within a thoroughly Newtonian universe.
It is crucial to recognize that Kants Analogies of Experience are not con-
stitutive of the world of appearances, but are regulative principles without
which we could not make any valid statements about the world.59 As such,
they make both metaphysical and epistemological claims: metaphysically
speaking, they postulate the coexistence of objects in space prior to, and
independent of, our knowledge about these objects, while on an epistemo-
logical level there must be an order of knowledge that is, pure reason
prior to our apprehension of objects and events in space.60
Kants ideas tie in well with Nietzsches philosophical naturalism.
Although our knowledge of the external world is a product of our bio-
logical organization, the product of our organs, from molecules and
kidneys to brain functions, the latter cannot seriously be separated from
the external world. Our organs are not appearances in the way idealist
philosophy uses that term (BGE 15). Nietzsches naturalism only holds
water if he makes the metaphysical claim that there is something out there,
albeit not Kantian things in themselves. Whatever is out there can only
be articulated through concepts, abbreviations, signs, language, and so on
(GS 354). Causality, for Nietzsche, falls into the latter category, and this is
the lesson he draws from Kants emphasis of the Analogies of Experience
as merely regulative principles that govern our knowledge of things.

57 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 300 (A 181) and 301 (A 183).


58 See ibid., 305 (B 234) and 316 (A 211). 59 Ibid., 298 (A 180).
60 This point is particularly emphasized by Watkins, Kant and the Metaphysics of Causality, 2001.
116 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
To a considerable degree, Kants Analogies can be construed as a response
to a set of specifically Humean problems. Given Humes influence on
German Enlightenment thought immediately after the publication of the
Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding in 1748, which was followed by
a German translation in 1755, it is remarkable that Hume initially had a
fairly limited impact on Kant.61 But with increasing distance to German
Schulphilosophie, and with an increasingly sophisticated understanding of
the philosophical problems raised by Newton, Kant returned to Hume
in the 1760s. In 1771 he was also able to read the German translation of
Humes concluding remarks to A Treatise of Human Nature (1739/40),
although a full translation only appeared in 1790, long after the Critique
of Pure Reason had appeared in print.62 In his discussion of the Analogies
in the First Critique, Kant is in general agreement with some of Humes
ideas. His insistence that the apprehension of the manifold of appearance
is always successive and that any form of experience worth our while is
based on a necessary connection between our perceptions would be rela-
tively uncontroversial assumptions from Humes perspective: Experience
is possible only through the representation of a necessary connection of
perceptions.63 Hume and Kant, moreover, would both admit that spe-
cific causal laws as opposed to the philosophical concept of causality
constitute synthetic judgments a posteriori.64 Where Hume and Kant dif-
fer, however, is with the meaning and relevance they attach to the concept

61 Kants knowledge of Hume was to a large extent mediated by other German philosophers who
either translated Hume or responded to Hume directly, such as Johann Georg Sulzer, Johann
Nicolas Tetens, and Moses Mendelssohn. On Humes influence on German Enlightenment thought,
see Gunter Gawlik and Lothar Kreimendahl, Hume in der deutschen Aufklarung: Umrisse einer
Rezeptionsgeschichte (Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Frommann-Holzboog, 1987).
62 This partial translation of Humes Treatise of Human Nature from 1771 was Johann Georg Hamanns,
published in the Konigsberger gelehrte Zeitung of July 5 and 12, 1771. On Kants encounter with Hume,
see Manfred Kuhns Scottish Common Sense in Germany, 17681800: A Contribution to the History of
Critical Philosophy (Kingston and Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 1987), 167207, and
Giorgio Tonelli, Die Anfange von Kants Kritik der Kausalbeziehungen und ihre Voraussetzungen
im 18. Jahrhundert, Kant-Studien 57 (1966), 41760.
63 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 295 (B 218) and 305 (A 189).
64 This is not an uncontroversial issue in contemporary Kant scholarship. The fundamental problem
is whether Kants discussion of causality in the Second Analogy really refers to empirical laws of
nature or whether he seeks to establish a concept of causality that can serve as the premiss for
empirical laws of nature but cannot be reduced to the latter. For the first conclusion, see Michael
Friedman, Causal Laws and the Foundations of Science, in Paul Guyer (ed.), The Cambridge
Companion to Kant (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 16199, and Guyer, Kant and
the Claims of Knowledge, 24158. For the alternative reading, see Watkins, Kant and the Metaphysics
of Causality, 215; Lewis White Beck, A Prussian Hume and a Scottish Kant, in Essays on Kant and
Hume (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1978), 11129; and Henry E. Allison, Causality and
Causal Law in Kant: A Critique of Michael Friedman, in Idealism and Freedom: Essays on Kants
Theoretical and Practical Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 8091.
Naturalizing Kant 117
of a necessary connection, and this will also be the crucial issue for Niet-
zsche. While Hume has to claim that such a necessary connection is the
result of experience, Kant views the former in terms of an a priori causal
judgment that renders experienc possible in the first place.65 There is a nec-
essary order of events in time, characterized by successive states of affairs,
and statements about cause and effect are grounded in this a priori order of
events. Otherwise, we could not say anything about successive states of
affairs, for the concept of cause . . . always requires that something A be
of such a kind that something B follows from it necessarily and in accor-
dance with an absolutely universal rule.66 If causality were to be grounded
only in the experience of individual and dissimilar events, it would be a
mere illusion and on a par with the assumption that some kind of invisible
demon moves billiard balls across the green felt. This is the reason why
Kant, a few pages later, continued:
Although we learn many laws through experience, these are only particular
determinations of yet higher laws, the highest of which (under which all
others stand) come from the understanding itself a priori, and are not
borrowed from experience, but rather must provide the appearances with
their lawfulness and by that very means make experience possible.67
Since the empirical cognition of sequential events in space and time is only
possible on the basis of causality as a universal law, experience as a whole
needs to be seen as governed by such a priori laws.68
Nietzsche is certainly in agreement with Kant as long as causality is
regarded along the lines of a regulative idea, but he is less certain about
its relationship to a priori laws. After all, if we accept the general outlines
of Nietzsches naturalism, the a priori laws of reason or understanding
would themselves have to belong to the manifold of appearances (BGE
11 and KGW viii/1, 7 [4]). But since Nietzsches naturalism also puts into
question Kants crucial distinction between things in themselves, about
which not much can be said, and the manifold of appearances, as the
actual object of human knowledge, causality cannot be grounded in the a
priori of reason. For Nietzsche the world is just what it is, and it is simply
not sensible to speculate about a possible substratum of human experience:
causality is a regulative principle that allows us to order a continuum of
events, things, processes, and forces that is without succession and without
65 See Beck, Once More Unto the Breach: Kants Answer to Hume, Again, in Essays on Kant and
Hume, 1306: 135.
66 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 223 (A 91). 67 Ibid., 242 (A 126).
68 See ibid., 3089 (A 196). For Nietzsche, this remains a necessarily circular argument: metaphysicians
like Kant rediscovered in things . . . what they had put into them in the first place (TI vi: 3).
118 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
contiguity (KGW v/2, 11 [281]), even though such a regulative principle
has to be seen as the outcome of our biological organization.
Kant, on the other hand, warned that such a move would ultimately
confuse appearances with things in themselves and render experience
impossible.69 But, as Nietzsche pointed out from his early essay On Truth
and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense to his late Twilight of the Idols, since
nothing can be said about things in themselves, they are simply irrelevant:
they are impossible . . . to grasp and, thus, not at all desirable from an
epistemological point of view, as he noted in 1873, and they constitute the
assumption of a true world . . . that is of no further use, not even as an
obligation, as he pointed out many years later (TL 144 and TI iv).70
No knowledge can really be derived from Kantian things in themselves.
Moreover, the metaphysical appeal to a priori principles is based on the
illusion of a unified self that would have to be in possession of these
principles.71 Upon closer inspection as Nietzsche argued in crucial pas-
sages of Beyond Good and Evil there was no sufficient reason to assume
that such a quasi-Cartesian self actually exists. Nevertheless, the Cartesian
cogito was a powerful and seductive assumption. Even if one were to give
up the personification of thinking implied by the cogito as the seat of reason
and its a priori principles and refer simply to a res cogitans if one were to
replace the I think with an it thinks a unified form of consciousness
or mind would still remain in place. Even the it thinks, as Nietzsche
noted, was a grammatical habit that did not accurately reflect the process
itself. In contrast, he suggested that there was no immediate certainty
with regard to the cogito and that it would be best to get rid of it altogether
(BGE 167).72 The self could not serve as the grounding for our causal

69 See Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 3056 (A 190) and 316 (A 21011).
70 Nietzsche is here more radical than some of his own sources. Paul Heinrich Widemanns Erkennen
und Sein: Losung des Problems des Idealen und Realen (Karlsruhe: Reuther, 1885), 2367, for instance,
merely argued that things in themselves do not exist in any metaphysical sense: what was called
things in themselves were simply things that were not yet known, or fully understood. Likewise,
Johann Gustav Vogts Die Kraft: Eine real-monistische Weltanschauung, Erstes Buch (Leipzig: Haupt &
Tischler, 1878), 35, presented energy as the immaterial equivalent of things in themselves, drawing
heavily on contemporary theories of ether. On Nietzsches reading of Vogt, which was decisive for his
conception of eternal recurrence, see Martin Bauer, Zur Genealogie von Nietzsches Kraftbegriff:
Nietzsches Auseinandersetzung mit J. G. Vogt, Nietzsche-Studien 13 (1984), 21127.
71 Widemann, Erkennen und Sein, 1218, 15461, and 235, indeed argued that immediate self-
consciousness had to be regarded as the foundation of knowledge and that a unified self served as a
quasi a priori condition of thinking. Quite in contrast to Nietzsche, he claimed that the self was a
perfect thing in itself.
72 Nietzsches argument relies on Drossbach, Uber die scheinbaren und die wirklichen Ursachen des
Geschehens, 1415, who also suggested that the self was to be understood in terms of an ongoing
agency or process, referring back to a seminal article by Nietzsches former philosophy professor,
Naturalizing Kant 119
explanations of the world. Rather, it was secondary, since the causal expla-
nations with which we approach the world are ultimately responsible for
the stipulation that such a self actually exists in the first place: the idea of
an autonomous individual with conscious intentions affecting the way in
which we interact with nature and other individuals based on the feeling
of will as causal agent provides us with the impression of the I as an
acting subject. We have to establish, in other words, the belief that the
will is a thing with causal efficacy, together with the illusory assumption
of the causality of the will as an empirical given, before we can speak
of a self, as he noted in Twilight of the Idols (TI iii: 5 and vi: 3).73
At this point, it is important to remind ourselves that Nietzsche
despite what appears to be an unforgiving critique of Kant is far from
denying the usefulness of causality. Although causality is neither a natural
kind nor an a priori rule of the understanding, we want there to be a
reason why we are in a particular state, or why a particular event occurs:
The memory that unconsciously becomes activated in such cases is what
leads us back to earlier states of the same type and the associated causal
interpretation, and over time a particular causal interpretation comes to
be habituated (TI vi: 4). To use one of Nietzsches examples, even though
it is not necessary to assume that virtue is the cause of happiness, as in
the Judeo-Christian tradition, since it might actually be happiness that
allows us to act in accordance with virtue, the causal link from virtue to
happiness has become habituated and embodied to such an extent that we
are cut off from any alternative account: a certain type of causal attribution
becomes increasingly prevalent, gets concentrated into a system, and finally
emerges as dominant, which is to say it completely rules out other causes and
explanations (TI vi: 5). What certainly sounds like a Humean argument
is, however, credited to Kant. As Nietzsche wrote in the fifth book of The
Gay Science:
Let us recall . . . Kants colossal question mark that he placed on the concept
of causality without, like Hume, doubting its legitimacy altogether: he
started much more cautiously to delimit the realm in which this concept
makes any sense whatsoever (and to this day we have not yet come to terms
with this marking out of the boundaries). (GS 357)

Carl Schaarschmidt: Widerlegung des subjectiven Idealismus, Philosophische Monatshefte 14 (1878),


385403.
73 See also GS 127. Against this background, it does not seem that Nietzsche still has to advocate
for a minimal self as something over and above its constituent drives and affects. See, however,
R. Lanier Anderson, What is a Nietzschean Self? in Janaway and Robertson (eds.), Nietzsche,
Naturalism, and Normativity, 20235: 228.
120 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
We have to take Nietzsches remarks here at face value. Hume might have
been more radical in arguing that causality cannot be based on any a
priori laws, but he cannot answer why there is any need to make the
shift from the experience of similar events to the assumption that these
events exhibit the same causal structure. Hume, in other words, merely
states that we infer a philosophical concept of causality from individual
events, but from Kants perspective he fails to answer why this inference
should be normatively binding. In contrast, Kant argues that efficient
causality, as opposed to the regulative principle of causality that marks his
discussion of purposiveness, is already constitutive of nature and precedes
our experience of reality. Otherwise, reality would disintegrate into discrete
and disconnected events without any relation, not even an indirect one.
Moreover, for Hume causality originates with perception, while for Kant
perception is already bound up with our cognitive structures. Nietzsches
position, it seems, is closer to Kant than to Hume.
The central question, however, is not whether Nietzsche follows Hume
or Kant, but it is how he positions himself vis-`a-vis the neo-Kantian intel-
lectual field of the nineteenth century by combining central aspects of
Humes and Kants discussion of causality. That he is unable to accept
the way in which Kant has to rely on a priori laws, and therefore cannot
accept causality as a synthetic judgment a priori, does not have to imply
that he rejects Kant tout court.74 For Kants synthetic judgments a priori
to exist, reason certainly has to be able to connect and relate different
things and events that occur in space and time, but reason cannot be the
bottom line. Reason as Nietzsche wrote in a long, albeit fragmentary,
discussion of Kant in his notebooks from late 1886 or early 1887 must
possess formative powers, whose origins, once God and innate ideas are
excluded, have to be of a physiological, or biological, kind (KGW viii/1,
7 [4]).75 It is, in short, biological organization that provides for whatever
Kant calls reason. As a regulative principle, causality is grounded in our
physiological makeup. Seeing things in causal terms is the consequence of
this physiological makeup.
This conclusion should not be taken to suggest that biological orga-
nization explains in a straightforward way why we make rational claims
about the world we live in. This would be precisely the kind of causal
explanation that Nietzsche sought to avoid that nature causes us to make
74 Cox, Nietzsche, 181, is incorrect when he notes that Nietzsches critique of causality is, above all, a
critique of Kant.
75 Nietzsche hints at this already during the early 1870s, when he describes causality as the result of
embodied reflexes. See KGW iii/4, 19 [161] and [20910].
Naturalizing Kant 121
certain claims about the world. Instead, claims about the world have a
normatively binding force not because they are caused by something sep-
arate from these claims but because these claims themselves are part of
the natural world. That we, nevertheless, speak in terms of causality is a
heuristic strategy itself conditioned by our physiological organization. The
language of causality does not explain why we make certain claims about
the world, but it describes the world, as he points out in a decisive passage
of Beyond Good and Evil:
We should not erroneously objectify cause and effect like the natural
scientists do (and whoever else thinks naturalistically these days ) . . . ; we
should use cause and effect only as pure concepts, which is to say as
conventional fictions for the purpose of description and communication,
not explanation. . . . We are the ones who invented causation, succession,
for-each-other, relativity, compulsion, numbers, law, freedom, grounds, pur-
pose; and if we project and inscribe this symbol world onto things as an
in-itself, then this is the way we have always done things, namely mytho-
logically. (BGE 21)
Causality might be a mythological explanation, but it does provide for
enormously successful and efficient descriptions of the world and of our
actions in the world we inhabit. The difference between Kant and Nietzsche
is that Nietzsche naturalizes whatever Kant regards as a priori, and the
consequences of this move now bring him closer to Hume.
There is a further problem, however, that Nietzsche has to face. Causality
is generally seen as a source of our normative commitments vis-`a-vis the
world, but it seems that we are unable to speak of causal events without
already having in place some notion of what normativity is.76 For Nietzsche,
speaking of causality, causation, and causal interactions always implies that
events are taken out of context and situated within well-defined patterns
that allow for the stipulation of causal relationships, for instance, between
objects or events. Causality, then, cannot be eliminated, but it is already
implied as soon as we transform processes into concrete events. On this
account, causal descriptions of the world only gain normative force and
relevance within the context of our practical interaction with what we
regard as the world we inhabit. Causality and causation remain useful not
because they are manifestations of universal laws, but because they possess
an evolutionary function: they are comforting in that they answer the
question as to why events occur and they provide a feeling of power in

76 For a more sophisticated account of this problem, see the remarks in Rouse, How Scientific Practices
Matter, 270, 287, 290, 295, 312, and 314.
122 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
that they allow for the conceptual articulation of the world out there (TI
vi: 5). The metaphysical need is, above all, an evolutionary need, and our
repeated talk of purposes and causality in nature is an accessory effect of
needs [Begleit-Erscheinung der Bedurfnisse] (KGW vii/1, 24 [7]).
Assuming that we cannot escape from the need to order the world
in terms of causal relationships, it nevertheless seems to Nietzsche that
human beings suffer from a peculiar psychological tendency: the confusion
of causes and effects. Does our talk of causality, as far as it is relevant for
normative claims about the world, thus always entail backward causation?77
Hume and Kant cannot conceive of backward causation, but to Nietzsche,
in his discussion of cause and effect in Twilight of the Idols, it seems that
backward causation is the norm, at least as far as the psychology of human
agents are concerned: The error of confusing cause and effect. No error is
more dangerous than that of confusing the cause with the effect: I call it the
genuine destruction of reason (TI vi: 1). The error of confusing causes
with effects, he stipulated, was particularly characteristic of religious and
moral norms as integral to the way in which we conceptually order the
world. The Judeo-Christian tradition might present virtue as the cause of
longevity and general happiness, whereas it is not unreasonable to assume
that a long life allows for a greater possibility to act virtuously (TI vi:
2). The error of confusing cause and effect is also intimately related to
what Nietzsche described as the error of imaginary causes (TI vi: 4).
In many ways, this offers a more sophisticated account of the limits of
causality:
Most of our general feelings every type of inhibition, pressure, tension,
explosion in the give and take of our organs, and particularly the nervus
sympathicus excite our causal instinct: we want there to be a reason why we
are in the particular state we are in, we only become conscious of it, once
we have assigned it a type of motivation. The memory that unconsciously
becomes activated in such cases is what leads back to earlier states of the
same type and the associated causal interpretation, not their causality. (TI
vi: 4)

77 Nietzsches discussion of backward causation is directly indebted to Machs reflections on the


perception of time in Beitrage zur Analyse der Empfindungen, 1079. However, the debate about real
backward causation really gains traction only in the early 1950s, at a time when quantum mechanics
introduced new notions of time into the philosophical arsenal. See Michael Dummett, Can an
Effect Precede its Cause, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 28 (1954), supplement, 2744, which
argues for the possibility of backward causation. For the opposite view, see Anthony Flew, Can an
Effect Precede its Cause, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 28 (1954), supplement, 4562, and
Max Black, Why Cannot an Effect Precede its Cause? Analysis 16 (1956), 4958.
Naturalizing Kant 123
For Nietzsche, thus, all causes appear to be imaginary causes since con-
scious causal interpretations always take place after the event, a posteri-
ori, retrospectively. As J. L. Mackie once remarked, causal inferences
both retrace and anticipate the sequences by which the universe creates
itself.78 From Nietzsches perspective, however, the anticipation of events
according to causal laws had to exclusively rely on retracing how similar
events had occurred in the past.
If the psychology of backward causation and imaginary causes is
inescapable and largely shapes the way in which we conceptually order
the world, and the way in which we intervene in the world we are part
of, it also determines the models we employ to describe long-term pro-
cesses in nature. Even though teleological models are prima facie directed
toward the future, seeking to determine a future that is inherently open,
they derive their normative force form backward causation and imaginary
causes. Backward causation and imaginary causes might be absurd, but
they have proven to be quite useful from an evolutionary perspective. The
problem, thus, is not whether human agents perpetually fall into the trap
laid out by backward causation and imaginary causes, but whether we are
aware that, as a consequence, we adopt an epistemologically inconsistent
description of the world. On the other hand, Nietzsche seems to admit
that by giving up this habituated psychology, we would immediately enter
a world of atomistic chaos and flux in which nothing could be said at all. A
world without causality, as tenuous a formulation of the latter as we might
advance, is no world at all.
The limits of teleological explanations of nature, the way in which they
have been evolutionarily useful and inaccurate at the same time, also has
wider ramifications, though, that still need to be addressed:
What is the only teaching we can have? That no one gives people their
qualities, not God or society, parents or ancestors, not even people themselves
( this final bit of nonsense was circulated by Kant and maybe even by
Plato under the rubric of intelligible freedom). Nobody is responsible
for people existing in the first place, or for the state or circumstances or
environment they are in. The fatality of human existence cannot be extri-
cated from the fatality of everything that was and will be. People are not the
products of some special design, will, or purpose, they do not represent an
attempt to achieve an ideal of humanity, ideal of happiness, or ideal
of morality, it is absurd to want to devolve human existence into some
purpose or another. (TI vi: 8)

78 J. L. Mackie, The Cement of the Universe: A Study of Causation (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1980), 296.
124 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
What Nietzsche describes here as the great liberation, restoring the inno-
cence of becoming, would have been a horrifying prospect for Kant. But
our need to speak about the world in terms of purpose, causes, and norms is
a constitutive part of the world of facts, of the material world: The world
of purposiveness, as a whole, is part of the indifferent, unreasonable world
(KGW v/1, 10 [B 37]). The question is how such a world of becoming, a
world in which humanity truly has been translated back into nature, can
still be described from a philosophical point of view. Teleology might be
nonsense, but not everything is arbitrary.
chapter 1 0

Genealogy and path dependence

As soon as causality is regarded as a merely regulative principle, strong


teleological claims lose their normative force. Nietzsche shared this assess-
ment with many of his peers who sought to take the life sciences seriously
without adopting a reductionist materialism. For Lange, teleology was
undoubtedly one of the main characteristics of German idealism, that
teleological-rationalist enthusiasm [Schwarmerei], which once again fea-
tured prominently in the popular philosophical reception of Darwin
even though Darwins own account of evolution flatly contradicted such a
strong program of teleology in terms of a purpose inscribed into nature.1
Likewise, Caspari directly criticized teleological thinking as the most prob-
lematic aspect of idealism and, for good reason, viewed with great skepti-
cism the way in which contemporary philosophers and biologists alike
from Karl Ernst von Baer to Gustav Teichmuller and Gustav Theodor
Fechner unwittingly reactivated teleological models in order to explain
large-scale evolutionary processes.2 For Caspari, this return of teleology
in the aftermath of the Materialismusstreit, however, also highlighted the
hidden relationship between idealism and materialism: the idea that evo-
lutionary processes were marked by some kind of purposiveness and the
notion that development in nature was purely accidental and arbitrary were
equally metaphysical.3 Seen from the perspective of evolution, it was cor-
rect to assume that there was no universal law and that any philosophical or

1 Lange, Geschichte des Materialismus, 3924, 4012, and 519. Stack, Lange and Nietzsche, 90111,
describes Langes position as materio-idealism.
2 See Casparis Philosophie und Transmutationstheorie, 834 and 95, and Der Begriff der Ziel-
strebigkeit, 116. Throughout his essays Caspari refers in particular to Karl Ernst von Baer, Studien
aus dem Gebiete der Naturwissenschaften (St. Petersburg: Schmitzdorff, 1876), and Gustav Theodor
Fechner, Einige Ideen zur Schopfungs- und Entwickelungsgeschichte der Organismen (Leipzig: Breitkopf
& Hartel, 1873), but the most sustained attack is on Gustav Teichmullers pamphlet Darwinismus
und Philosophie (Tartu: Mattiesen, 1877).
3 See Caspari, Der Begriff der Zielstrebigkeit, 1224 and 1301.

125
126 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
scientific account of long-term developmental processes always constituted
a reconstruction after the fact.4
Caspari was directly concerned with the philosophical import of evo-
lution and, thus, with the need to establish an explanatory model able
to account for long-term as much as large-scale developmental processes.
He increasingly began to opt for what might be described as a locally
constrained notion of development. While development in nature had no
overall purpose, the fact that species, variations, and traits continued to
develop, and that specific traits were maintained over many generations,
might indeed explain their function within a specific context. Nature had
no purpose and no goal beyond the overall process that occurs in each and
every moment of the present, but within a specific and limited frame-
work the constituent parts of nature exhibit a kind of directedness
[Zielstrebigkeit] toward a point of culmination after which the forms of
nature either become simplified or grow exponentially and become more
complicated.5 Change occurred, albeit not across all forms of organic life
at the same rate and to the same degree. As Darwin himself had suggested,
there were laws of variation, even though these laws could not be sub-
sumed under a general law of development.6 Caspari agreed that what
could be observed was not a grand teleological process but a multitude
of developments into different directions. These developments did not
anticipate a specific goal but had to be seen as constituting a becoming
in nature that, within a specific context or environment, was inherently
limited. Development in one context was always constrained by other
developmental processes in the same way in which the complex interde-
pendence of organic life effectively prevented the development of certain
traits for certain species.7 Despite the seeming randomness of evolutionary
processes, some developments were simply unlikely and impossible
pigs with wings, felines with three eyes, or purple cows.8 As such, Cas-
pari shared Darwins crucial insight that not everything was possible in
evolution. Once a species was extinct, for instance, it could not reappear.9
Caspari assumed that any form of order, if grounded in empirical obser-
vation, had to exhibit flaws and contingencies. Evolutionary processes
4 See Caspari, Philosophie und Transmutationstheorie, 889.
5 Caspari, Der Begriff der Zielstrebigkeit, 117.
6 See Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 13170 and 31314.
7 See Casparis Der Begriff der Zielstrebigkeit, 11820, and Darwinismus und Philosophie, 151,
as well as Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 745.
8 Casparis Der Begriff der Zielstrebigkeit, 125, and Realen- und Synadenlehre, 4736. The
examples, of course, are not Casparis, whose argument remains within the realm of abstraction.
9 See Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 31516.
Genealogy and path dependence 127
could not be regarded as straightforward developments: contingency and
randomness, disturbances and imperfections, were crucial ingredients of
evolution and might even be the driving forces of evolutionary processes.10
The conservation of order within nature was always undermined by con-
straints and disturbances [Hemmungen und Storungen], whereas the lack
of such constraints ultimately led to the extinction of any given species.11
It almost seems as though, for Caspari, Maxwells demon had migrated
from physics to evolutionary biology. If, at least theoretically, the second
law of thermodynamics, which assumes that isolated systems tend toward
a state of equilibrium, could be violated, then it might also be the case that
there was no equilibrium in the realm of organic life.12 In the mechanical
realm of physics, minor changes to a state of equilibrium, triggered by
peripheral events that cannot be anticipated by the observer, can lead to
large-scale changes and even catastrophic outcomes. For Caspari, the same
effect could also be seen with regard to the chemical components of organic
life. The inevitable decay of specific forms of organic life at a given moment
had as much to do with their use of energy as with their sheer complexity,
which could always be disturbed by minor external changes.13 Contingency
always undermined teleology, but development in the organic world still
suggested the existence of directional trends.
Against this background, it becomes more obvious why Nietzsche, after
his outspoken attack on teleology, seemed to reintroduce descriptions of
development in nature that could easily be misunderstood as teleological.
His account of evolution as growth and expansion of power, opposed to a

10 See Casparis Philosophie und Transmutationstheorie, 91 and 94, and Darwinismus und Philoso-
phie, 17984. Casparis emphasis on contingency stands in sharp contrast to another prime source
of Nietzsches understanding of evolutionary theory, Nagelis Mechanisch-physiologische Theorie der
Abstammungslehre, 293, which wholeheartedly rejected the idea that random events could play any
central role in evolutionary processes.
11 Caspari, Der Begriff der Zielstrebigkeit, 126. See also Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 315.
12 Throughout his collection of essays, Caspari refers to the second law of thermodynamics and its
possible violation. See, for instance, Die moderne Naturphilosophie, 334, 37 and 51. For the
classic description of the thought experiment that the second law of thermodynamics could be
violated, see James Clerk Maxwell, Theory of Heat (London: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1871), 308
9. Maxwell first mentions his thought experiment in 1867, while the term demon was introduced
by William Thomson (Lord Kelvin). See James Clerk Maxwell to Peter Guthrie Tait (December 11,
1867), in Maxwell, Scientific Letters and Papers, ed. M. Harman (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 19902002), ii, 3312, and Note to Tait Concerning Demons (1875), in Scientific Letters
and Papers, iii, 1856, as well as William Thompson, The Kinetic Theory of the Dissipation of
Energy, Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 8 (1874), 32534. For a historical account of
Maxwells demon, see P. M. Harman, The Natural Philosophy of James Clerk Maxwell (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1998), 13444.
13 Nietzsche was able to find these ideas, for instance, in Balfour Stewart, Die Erhaltung der Energie:
Das Grundgesetz der heutigen Naturlehre (Leipzig: Brockhaus, 1875), 1847, 1901 and 1945.
128 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
mere struggle for existence, is a case in point (GS 349). This idea does not
leave the Kantian framework behind. Kants model, in the Third Critique,
of the products of nature as self-organizing beings, together with his
claim that the organic world is characterized, for us, by a self-propagating
formative power, reappears in Nietzsche in post-Darwinian terms.14 As
long as evolution simply implied that things in the natural and social worlds
develop out of each other, as Nietzsche noted in reference to Hegel,
the assumption of directional trends, of path dependent development,
appeared not altogether unreasonable (GS 357).15
In a certain sense, it is possible to differentiate between two different
models of development: an intrinsic teleology of goals, on the one hand,
and a path dependent development of patterns and functions, on the
other. The strong program of a teleology of goals, as we have seen, faces
serious difficulties. Nietzsche, however, often seems to opt for a second
and much weaker model in terms of developmental patterns. Central
to the latter is a historical dimension marked by causal links that can
only be established retrospectively, while any causal link to events in the
future remains highly probabilistic. The future is always marked, in analytic
parlance, by chancy causation there is a good chance that a specific event
will lead to a subsequent and equally specific event, but their relationship
remains tenuous.16 But as far as the past is concerned, Nietzsche seemed to
accept a counterfactual account of causation, which simply states that if an
event, practice, or phenomenon in the past had been different, a present
event, practice, or phenomenon would have differed accordingly.17 Such
a counterfactual account of causation underlies the historical perspective of
genealogy as a, strictly speaking, history of the path dependent development
of our existence and agency as natural beings. Nietzsche suggests as much
when, in Beyond Good and Evil, he noted that we cannot really free ourselves
completely from what has come before us, including the practices with
which our ancestors have engaged with their environment:

14 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 2456.


15 See Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Enzyklopadie der philosophischen Wissenschaften im Grundrisse,
in Werke, ed. Eva Moldenhauer and Karl Markus Michel (Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, 196971), ix,
50216 ( 368, Zusatz). An English translation of the latter, based on a different manuscript is
Hegels Philosophy of Nature: Part Two of the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences (1830),
trans. A. V. Miller (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970), 41728 ( 370, Zusatz).
16 On such chancy causation, see David Lewis, A Subjectivists Guide to Objective Chance and
Postcripts to Causation, both in Philosophical Papers, II (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986),
83113 and 172212, respectively.
17 See the discussion of causal functions in Ruth Garrett Millikan, Language, Thought, and Other
Biological Categories: New Foundations for Realism (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1984), 18 and 20.
The most influential counterfactual theory is Lewiss Causation, in Philosophical Papers, ii, 15371.
Genealogy and path dependence 129
What a mans forefathers liked doing the most, and the most often, cannot
be wiped from his soul: whether they were diligent savers and accessories
of some writing desk or cash box, modest and middle-class in their wants
and modest in their virtues as well; or whether they lived their lives giving
orders from morning to night, fond of rough pleasures and perhaps of
even rougher duties and responsibilities; or whether they finally sacrificed
old privileges of birth and belongings in order to live entirely for their
faith . . . being people of a tender and unyielding conscience, embarrassed
by any compromise. It is utterly impossible that a person might fail to
have the qualities and propensities of his elders and ancestors in his body:
however much appearances might speak against it. This is the problem of
race. (BGE 264)

Nietzsches reference to race, in this passage, merely indicates that there is


a biological grounding to the practices of our past. If these practices had
been different, our practices in the present would differ accordingly.
The question is whether such a model of describing processes in nature,
or the emergence of normative order, involves a genetic fallacy.18 Nietzsche
is clearly aware that this charge is a crucial problem for his genealogical
project, and in the second essay of On the Genealogy of Morality, he clearly
seeks to distance his project from such a genetic fallacy:
[T]here is no more important proposition for all kinds of historical research
than that which we arrive at only with great effort but which we really should
reach, namely that the origin of the emergence of a thing and its ultimate
usefulness, its practical application and incorporation into a system of ends,
are toto coelo separate; that anything in existence, having somehow come
about, is continually interpreted anew, requisitioned anew, transformed and
redirected to a new purpose by a power superior to it; that everything that
occurs in the organic world consists of overpowering, dominating, and in turn,
overpowering and dominating consist of re-interpretation, adjustment, in
the process of which their former meaning [Sinn] and purpose must
necessarily be obscured or completely obliterated. No matter how perfectly
you have understood the usefulness of any physiological organ (or legal
institution, social custom, political usage, art form or religious rite) you
have not yet thereby grasped how it emerged: uncomfortable and unpleasant
as this may sound to more elderly ears, for people down the ages have
believed that the obvious purpose of a thing, its utility, form and shape
are its reason for existence, the eye is made to see, the hand to grasp.
(GM ii: 12)

18 For a fuller discussion of this problem, see Leiter, Nietzsche on Morality, 16970 and 1746, and
Paul S. Loeb, Is There a Genetic Fallacy in Nietzsches Genealogy of Morals? International Studies
in Philosophy 27 (1995), 12541.
130 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
If the use of something be it a biological trait, an artistic style or a
political institution needs to be differentiated from its history, then
it is also obvious that the function something might have in the present
must be separated from any function it might have had in the past. Use-
fulness is historically variable (KGW vii/2, 26 [174]). Nietzsche appears
less interested in the possible causal links between the past and present
use of something than in the process of transformation itself. Examining
the use or function of something in the present simply does not allow
for a proper understanding of this transformation. This is a crucial point.
Genealogy does decidedly not claim that normative commitments should
be abandoned if they have emerged as a consequence of ignoble historical
events.19 The question at the center of the genealogical project, rather, is
why we hold values that are seemingly directed against our existence and
agency as natural beings, and how we have come to hold such values.
At the same time, we need to be cautious with regard to Nietzsches use
of terms such as overpowering and dominating in the passage above.
These terms are merely descriptions of evolutionary processes, which tend
to elude conceptual clarity because we are already part of these processes.20
The metaphors Nietzsche employs merely describe the continuous process
of transformation that characterizes whatever we regard as normative in
any given social, cultural, or historical context:
[E]very purpose and use is just a sign that the will to power has achieved
mastery over something less powerful, and has impressed upon it its own
idea [Sinn] of a use function; and the whole history of a thing, organ,
a tradition can to this extent be a continuous chain of signs, continually
revealing new interpretations and adaptations, the causes of which need not
be connected even amongst themselves, but rather sometimes just follow and
replace one another at random. The development of a thing, a tradition,
an organ is therefore certainly not its progressus towards a goal, still less
is it a logical progressus, taking the shortest route with least expenditure
of energy and cost, instead it is a succession of more or less mutually
independent processes of subjugation exacted on the same thing, added to
this the resistances encountered every time, the attempted transformations
for the purpose of defence and reaction, and the results, too, of successful
countermeasures. The form is fluid, the meaning [Sinn] even more so.
(GM ii: 12)
19 This, however, is the lesson Prinz, The Emotional Construction of Morals, 237 and 239, falsely draws
from Nietzsches genealogy.
20 This is the moment at which Martin Heideggers reading of Nietzsches philosophy goes fundamen-
tally wrong: he argues that the will to power is a metaphysical interpretation of the world, referring
to an ontic substratum of the thingness that surrounds us. See Heidegger, Nietzsche, iii, 1507 and
193300.
Genealogy and path dependence 131
Nietzsches reference to organs, development, and adaptation render it
more than obvious that he understood the processes that were the subject
of genealogy as natural processes, and it makes little sense to decouple
genealogy from his naturalism, history from nature. But the irreducibly
metaphorical quality of his language also emphasizes that this naturalism
has as its point of reference an uncertain and fluid conception of nature
a conception that undergoes changes every time we, as natural agents,
intervene in a world of which we are already part:
It is we, the thinking-sensing ones, who really and continually make some-
thing that is not yet there: the whole perpetually growing world of valuations,
colours, weights, perspectives, scales, affirmations, and negations. This poem
that we have invented is constantly internalized, drilled, translated into flesh
and reality, indeed, into the commonplace, by the so-called practical human
beings (our actors). (GS 301)
As this passage from the fourth book of The Gay Science makes clear,
normative commitments are not natural kinds but rather the outcome of
the way in which human agents are part of the world.
Nietzsches genealogy does not seek to explain why, for instance, a past
cultural practice or group of normative moral commitments has been
transformed into a new cultural practice or a different set of equally nor-
mative moral commitments. The first reason why explanation cannot be
the task of genealogy is that explanation explaining the past as the cause
of the present would have to rely on a strong program of teleology
and causation.21 Second, such explanations could only be successful if the
genealogical observer were able to adopt a view from nowhere. But against
the background of Nietzsches naturalistic commitments, the genealogical
observer is always already a constitutive part of what is being observed: even
genealogy cannot escape the fact that philosophical thought is already
embedded in physiological requirements for the preservation of a particu-
lar type of life, as well as in our conception of this way of life, as he put it
in Beyond Good and Evil (BGE 3). As a consequence, he sought to shift the
emphasis from explanation to description, even though the latter remains
inherently limited, as he argued in The Gay Science:

21 To be sure, not all forms of explanation are characterized by teleological commitments. This might
be the case only for historical explanations. Nevertheless, most theories of explanation involve a
strong concept of causation. See, for instance, Wesley C. Salmon, Scientific Explanation: Causation
and Unification, in Causality and Explanation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 6878; Carl
G. Hempel and Paul Oppenheim, Studies in the Logic of Explanation, Philosophy of Science 15
(1948), 13575; and Peter Lipton, Inference to the Best Explanation, 2nd edn. (London: Routledge,
1991), 219 and 5570.
132 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
We call it explanation, but description is what distinguishes us from older
stages of knowledge and science. We are better at describing we explain just
as little as our predecessors. We have uncovered a diverse succession where
the nave man and investigator of older cultures saw only two different
things, cause and effect, as they said; we have perfected the picture of
becoming but havent got over, got behind the picture. (GS 112)
This emphasis on description, which Nietzsche repeated in Beyond Good
and Evil (BGE 14), is crucial for the genealogical enterprise.
Description might not fall into the trap of a naive understanding of
causality, but it still has to operate with the language of metaphysics. This
is both a strength and a weakness of Nietzsches approach. It is a strength
since it allows him to develop an internal critique of metaphysics, but it
is a weakness since it does not allow for an overcoming of metaphysics.22
Indeed, this becomes painstakingly obvious if we consider that he presented
the entire life of drives as the organization and outgrowth of the will to
power:
Assuming . . . we could trace all organic functions back to this will to power
and find that it even solved the problem of procreation and nutrition (which
is a single problem); then we will have earned the right to clearly designate
all efficacious force as: will to power. The world seen from inside, the world
determined and described with respect to its intelligible character would
be just this will to power and nothing else. (BGE 36)
It is important to point out that Nietzsche is quite attentive to the meta-
physical language he has to rely on. He presents the reduction of life to the
will to power as a thought experiment, tellingly putting his final mention
of the will to power in quotation marks. Arguing that the will to power was
equivalent to life in terms of growth and expansion was a mere description
in the same way as the neo-Kantian Liebmann had argued that evolutionary
theories did not explain processes in nature but merely described them.23
Quoting Pierre Flourens, one of the founders of experimental neurophys-
iology, Liebmann continued that while we were certainly able to observe

22 The presentation of Nietzsche as delivering an internal, or immanent, critique of metaphysics has


been emphasized, for instance, by Reginster, The Affirmation of Life, 1559; Michel Haar, Nietzsche
and Metaphysics, trans. and ed. Michael Gendre (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1996); and Gilles
Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, trans. Hugh Tomlinson, foreword Michael Hardt (New York:
Columbia University Press, 2004), 914. However, Haar and Deleuze tend to underestimate the
crucial role of Nietzsches naturalism.
23 See Otto Liebmann, Platonismus und Darwinismus, Philosophische Monatshefte 9 (1874), 44172:
465. Nietzsche read this article in the summer of 1881. See his reference to the relevant volume of
Philosophische Monatshefte (KGB iii/1, 11718). This article was also part of Liebmanns Zur Analysis
der Wirklichkeit, 31358, which Nietzsche read around the same time.
Genealogy and path dependence 133
the properties of life, such as the sensibility and irritability of the nervous
system, knowledge about the latter does not explain why life existed in the
first place or what it was apart from its biological properties.24
The reason why Nietzsche seems unable to free philosophy entirely
from metaphysics is of a surprisingly pragmatic kind: knowledge about the
world remains inherently limited. Indeed, as Kant already had to admit,
the specific diversity of the empirical laws of nature together with their
effects might just be infinitely manifold and therefore not fitted for our
power of understanding, despite all the uniformity of things in nature
according with . . . universal laws.25 Although Kant might simply warn
that the manifold of appearances in its entirety was beyond our grasp, to
Nietzsche this constituted the reality of normative knowledge. In a sense,
metaphysics compensates for our cognitive limitations and intellectual
deficiencies. Even though metaphysics remains an illusion, it is, after all,
a rather useful one. An acknowledgment of the evolutionary usefulness of
such illusions goes to the heart of Nietzsches genealogical project:
We do not consider the falsity of a judgment as itself an objection to a
judgment; this is perhaps where our new language will sound most foreign.
The question is how far the judgment promotes and preserves life, how
well it preserves, and perhaps even cultivates, life. And we are fundamen-
tally inclined to claim that the falsest judgments (which include synthetic
judgments a priori) are the most indispensable to us, and that without
accepting the fictions of logic, without measuring reality against the wholly
invented world of the unconditioned and self-identical, without a constant
falsification of the world through numbers, people could not live that a
renunciation of false judgments would be a renunciation of life, a negation
of life. To acknowledge untruth as a condition of life: this clearly means
resisting the usual value feelings in a dangerous manner; and a philosophy
that risks such a thing would by that gesture alone place itself beyond good
and evil. (BGE 4)
The judgments Nietzsche refers to in this famous passage, as much as
he speaks about logic and numbers, are, above all, the judgments of
metaphysics, as the mention of Kants synthetic judgments a priori makes
obvious. The illusion of the a priori, as that most basic tenet of Kants
critical philosophy, is useful precisely because it allows for the preserva-
tion and cultivation of life, and life, in this context, carries clear bio-
logical overtones: metaphysics belongs to the realm of the physiological

24 Liebmann, Platonismus und Darwinismus, 466, quoting Pierre Flourens, De la vie et de


lintelligence (Paris: Garnier, 1858), 1567.
25 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 72.
134 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
requirements for the preservation of a particular type of life, as he noted
in the preceding passage (BGE 3). Metaphysics is part of our biologi-
cal makeup.26 As Liebmann argued, it is not possible to escape meta-
physics; the latter has to be understood not as science, but as a (perhaps
unsolvable) postulate and problem.27 Nietzsche knew all too well that he
was unable to escape the logic of his own arguments. This is the reason why
genealogy has to proceed as an internal critique of metaphysics, showing
that even as an illusion metaphysics contributed to life.
That Nietzsches genealogical project cannot truly escape the language
of the normative claims it seeks to describe forces him to argue against
teleology without being able to give up the language of development.
Perhaps we are to some degree trapped in teleology.28 It is in The Gay
Science that he outlined this problem when he noted that, rooted in the
philosophical tradition, we tend to lack any knowledge with regard
the status of our normative claims about the world because any such
knowledge is already bound up with normative claims: when we catch
it for a moment we have forgotten it the next: we misjudge our best
power and underestimate ourselves just a bit, we contemplative ones
(GS 301).
Seen from this perspective, he will have to accept what might be under-
stood along the lines of path dependent development: things do not teleo-
logically evolve towards specific outcomes, but they evolve from something.
Nietzsches model, then, is evolution from in Thomas Kuhns sense.29
He seem to hold that the common temporality of the natural and social
worlds is path dependent, albeit in a very specific way, and it is necessary
to be cautious and precise. As this concept is currently discussed in the
social sciences, path dependence certainly implies a number of characteris-
tics that Nietzsche would not be able to accept. Processes, for instance, are
seen to be triggered by contingent events, but they are also seen as subject
to a fairly strong and surprisingly unproblematic model of causality. As
a consequence, the processes in question for example the emergence of
specific institutional forms are self-reinforcing to such an extent that they

26 See also BGE 6.


27 Liebmann, Platonismus und Darwinismus, 468 (emphasized in the original).
28 This is as true for biological descriptions of development in the nineteenth century as it is today.
See, for instance, Robert Cummins, Neo-teleology, in Andre Ariew, Robert Cummins, and Mark
Perlman (eds.), Functions: New Essays in the Philosophy of Psychology and Biology (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2002), 15772.
29 Thomas S. Kuhn, The Road since Structure, in The Road since Structure: Philosophical Essays,
19701994, with an Autobiographical Interview, ed. James Conant and John Haugeland (Chicago,
IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 90104: 96.
Genealogy and path dependence 135
increasingly become resistant to change and that it is possible to predict
the outcomes of a development in probabilistic ways.30
In contrast to such a rigid understanding of path dependence, Nietzsches
conception of development in nature is much looser and emphasizes the
role of contingency. In this respect, it shares some general features with the
way in which path dependence is used in current historical epistemology.31
In the same manner in which the development of experimental systems
and ensembles in the life sciences is inherently open but bottlenecked,
the development of living things is, for Nietzsche, conditioned by the
past but generates unprecedented events. Path dependence, in this sense,
is connected to differential reproduction, to use an expression of Hans-
Jorg Rheinberger: developments are an ongoing chain of events through
which the material conditions, and thus the viability, of such processes are
maintained, while the lack of strong causal links generates unpredictable
outcomes that are constrained merely by their own past.32
If this is a fair description of Nietzsches understanding of development in
nature, and of our development as natural beings, it entails three substantive
claims. First, whatever organic drives and social practices can be found in
the present, including those drives and practices that make up our moral
framework, they have formed over time and are themselves the diffuse site
of emergence of future drives and practices. Second, current drives, and the
normative claims they lead to, are not merely the effect of past drives and
normative commitments, but rather the entire history of such drives and
their respective normative commitments shapes the possible consequences
of current drives and the value of the normative commitments we hold.33
By the same token, Nietzsche will thirdly have to assume that current
drives, biological traits, and the normative order of present social practices
also exclude an infinitely wide range of possible developments. Much like
pigs, human beings are unlikely to grow wings, neither will they abandon
violence. The lack of wings, however, as much as the use of violence, has
served human beings rather well.
30 See the representative discussions in Scott E. Page, Path Dependence, Quarterly Journal of Political
Science 1 (2006), 87115, and James Mahoney, Path Dependence in Historical Sociology, Theory
and Society 29 (2000), 50748: 507, 51011, and 538.
31 See William H. Sewell Jr., Three Temporalities: Toward an Eventful Sociology, in Terrence J.
McDonald (ed.), The Historic Turn in the Human Sciences (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan
Press, 1996), 24580: 2634, and Andrew Pickering; Explanation and the Mangle: A Response to
My Critics, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 30 (1999), 16771: 1689.
32 See Hans-Jorg Rheinberger, Toward a History of Epistemic Things: Synthesizing Proteins in the Test
Tube (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997), 748.
33 See, along similar lines, John Richardson, Nietzsches New Darwinism (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2004), 34, 45, and 76.
136 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
The description of nature in terms of such path dependence which
Nietzsche increasingly seemed to adopt during the 1880s is not without
precedent. The attempt to understand developmental processes in nature
without recourse to a strong teleological program can certainly be found
in German biological thought around 1800, which prepared much of the
ground for the more refined evolutionary theories during the second half
of the nineteenth century. Gottfried Reinhold Treviranus, for instance,
who coined the modern term biology in 1802, defined the latter as
encompassing the different forms and phenomena of life . . . the condi-
tions and laws under which this state occurs, and the causes that affect this
state.34 What distinguished living things from their counterparts in the
inorganic world was that they existed in a state of agency [Thatigkeit]
characterized by growth and movement, which were both internal to
the organism and shaped by the random effects of the external world.35
This led to an understanding of life that was not based on the idea of
matter but rather on dynamic forces: each of these forces, he noted, is
cause and effect at the same time, means and purpose at the same time,
each an organ, and the whole an infinite organism.36 This also implied
that the central question of the life sciences was not whether the gen-
eration and development of living things were strictly goal-directed, but
rather how living things organized themselves, from individual organs to
entire organisms. The problem of such self-organization was an essentially
Kantian theme that became increasingly prominent after the publication of
the latters Third Critique.37 The development [Entwicklung] of life did
not progress toward any one goal; rather, it was a diffuse process, moving
into a great number of different directions: evolution, on this account,
referred to the emergence of increasing complexity and variation, which
were constrained by past development.38

34 Treviranus, Biologie, i, 4 (emphasized in the original).


35 Ibid., i, 16 and 23 (partly emphasized in the original). Among the external factors that impacted,
and constrained, the development of organisms, Treviranus listed climatic conditions but also the
struggle between populations. See ibid., iii, 1634. The question is, of course, whether Treviranus,
like his teacher Blumenbach, conceived of such living forces as constitutive of nature or whether
he regarded the existence of these forces as a merely regulative idea, as Kant would have done. See
James L. Larson, Vital Forces: Regulative Principles or Constitutive Agents? A Strategy in Germany
Physiology, 17861802, Isis 70 (1979), 23549: 2478.
36 Treviranus, Biologie, i, 52.
37 See, for instance, Christoph Girtanner, Ueber das Kantische Prinzip fur die Naturgeschichte
(Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1796).
38 Treviranus, Die Erscheinungen und Gesetze des organischen Lebens, i, 289. For Treviranuss account
of increasing complexity, see ibid., 2443.
Genealogy and path dependence 137
When Nietzsche initially became interested in these problems in the first
half of 1868, teleology was already on its way out. Abolishing teleology, he
noted laconically, is of practical value. It merely depends on rejecting the
concept of a higher reason: then we are already satisfied (KGW i/4, 62 [16]).
At the same time, the question how something lived still required a different
conception of one of the most important but also most contentious terms of
contemporary biology: purpose, Zweck. Once we refrain from entertaining
the idea of teleological development, what appeared to be purposive
really was merely one case among many that are inexpedient (KGW i/4,
62 [4]), that is, purposiveness did not express the uniformity and regularity
of nature but, on the contrary, highlighted contingency:

That which is purposive is random


As such it reveals a complete lack of reason. (KGW i/4, 62 [5])

Indeed, if whatever we described in terms of purpose actually was a contin-


gent event that sustained the further generation and development of living
things, the meaning of purpose was not of a metaphysical kind. It simply
referred to biological functions. What such functions have in common is
that they make it possible for an organism to continue to live and develop.
Purpose, as Nietzsche suggested in a series of notes from April and May
1868, had to be restricted to the robustness of an organism: Here it proves
to be the case that we call purposive only that which proves itself to be able
to live (KGW i/4, 62 [29]). A few pages later, he continued: Concept of
purposiveness: only the viability to exist, nothing is thus stated about the
degree of reason which reveals itself in this (KGW i/4, 62 [43]). In 1868,
then, Nietzsche did not yet give up the idea of purpose, but he already
de-escalated the latters metaphysical meaning. He accepted that the devel-
opment of organisms could not be described according to a strong program
of teleology, but the very fact that some organisms continued to exist, while
others disappeared, still implied that there were biological or environmental
constraints that prevented completely random variations, such as pigs with
wings and snakes with feathers. That which is purposive, he pointed out
in a decisive notebook entry, has emerged as a special case of the possible:
a myriad of forms come into existence, that is, mechanical combinations:
viable ones can be among these innumerable cases (KGW i/4, 62 [27]).
All other things being equal, snakes with feathers are simply not viable.
It is important to recognize that these early reflections from 1868 con-
tinue to shape Nietzsches later discussion of teleology. From 1881 onward,
138 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
at precisely the moment when his reading in the biological sciences widened
considerably, his early ideas began to reappear. What I have described in
terms of path dependence clearly shifts the attention from goal-directed
processes in nature to processes of a diffuse emergence and open future that
can be observed among living things: All development, he declared July
1882, is emergence (KGW vii/1, 1 [3]), and emergence is self-organizing
toward the future.39 Quoting from Georg Heinrich Schneiders book on
volition among animals, which Nietzsche annotated heavily, he referred to
what he regarded as a striking example for such path dependent develop-
ment: All the actions of the larvae just before pupation are not focused
on their preservation, but on the preservation of the developed insect;
they do not correspond to the needs of the state of the larvae, but to
those of the completely developed animal, etc. (KGW vii/1, 7 [237]).40
The actions of larvae, in other words, lack any purpose for the present
organism but contribute to its future development. Schneider, as much as
Nietzsche, explicitly denied that such phenomena had to be understood as
manifestations of a strong program of teleology.41
Schneiders treatise was at the time an influential publication.42 In the
background stood Haeckels biogenetic law: the development of individual
organisms, their morphogenesis as one would have said in the nineteenth
century, recapitulated the evolutionary development of the species.43 Even
though Nietzsche was quite skeptical about Haeckels general views, he
seems to have drawn some inspiration from this claim, modifying the lat-
ter as he went along. This implied, above all, that those drives which
did survive throughout the long natural history of animals clearly con-
tributed to the preservation of the species, for otherwise they would have

39 Such remarks anticipate Nietzsches interest in the Entstehungsherd, or site of emergence, of our
moral commitments (GM i: 2). Carol Diethe translates Entstehungsherd as breeding ground: in
the medical sense, a Herd is the seat or focus of a disease. But a Herd is also the site of any
biological activity that makes something emerge.
40 Nietzsches note, probably written in late spring or early summer 1883, quotes from Georg Heinrich
Schneider, Der thierische Wille (Leipzig: Abel, 1880), 58. Nietzsche also read Schneiders subsequent
volume Der menschliche Wille vom Standpunkte der neueren Entwickelungstheorien (des Darwinis-
mus) (Berlin: Dummler, 1882).
41 Moore, Nietzsche, Biology and Metaphor, 734, however, attributes to Schneider a strong teleological
concept of purpose. Schneider, Der thierische Wille, 58, speaks of a purposive action without a
conscious purpose, which suggests that he accepts the relevance of biological functions while
denying a strong program of teleology.
42 Schneiders book received very positive reviews in both England and Germany. See James Sullys
review in Mind 5 (1880), 4248, and Friedrich von Baerenbachs review in Philosophische Monatshefte
21 (1885), 28995.
43 Nietzsche was familiar with Haeckels biogenetic law, for instance, through Schmidt, Descenden-
zlehre und Darwinismus, 179204, and Eugen Dreher, Der Darwinismus und seine Consequenzen in
wissenschaftlicher und socialer Beziehung (Halle/Saale: Pfeffer, 1882), 3942.
Genealogy and path dependence 139
disappeared. In line with his earlier notes from 1868, he stipulated in
spring or summer 1881 that the function of any particular biological trait
consisted in the robustness of the species as a whole, which he described as
the Gattungs-Zweckmaigkeit of such traits (KGW v/2, 11 [122]).
Path dependent development showed that evolution was not completely
random but, nevertheless, remained marked by contingency: [N]ot every-
thing is unpredictable, undetermined! There are laws which remain true
beyond the standard of the individual! Indeed, another result could have
emerged! . . . The individual . . . as the most complicated fact of the world,
the highest coincidence (KGW v/2, 11 [72]). At any given time, an individ-
ual organism could, in principle, develop in an infinite number of ways,
giving rise to completely random forms, while in reality, and in historical
hindsight, individual organisms seem to have developed in a fairly limited
number of ways (KGW v/2, 11 [98]). Nietzsche, thus, began to conclude
that there is something akin to necessity in nature: Let us believe in abso-
lute necessity in the universe, but let us be wary of asserting that any law,
be it even a primitive mechanical law derived from our experience, governs
it and is its perennial attribute (KGW v/2, 11 [201]).
Tracing the evolutionary development of organic forms requires an
understanding of their functions, that is, their utility (KGW viii/1, 7 [25]).
In this note from late 1886 or early 1887, which bears the title Against
Darwinism and which is often taken literally as a prime example of Niet-
zsches rejection of Darwin, he initially argues that the utility of an organ
does not explain its emergence, on the contrary. The crucial point is, how-
ever, that Nietzsche widens the definition of utility to comprise lack,
degeneration [Entartung], and exigency [Nothlage], since they are able
to stimulate the development of specific biological traits. The term Entar-
tung, or course, had increasingly negative connotations by the end of the
nineteenth century and was linked to the idea of cultural decadence, but
what Nietzsche seems to have had in mind in this specific context rather
was transmutation.44 Existing organs and biological traits change, or give

44 Nietzsche uses the term Entartung rather loosely in this context, although it is not difficult to
see how his expression ties in with the language of degeneration that dominated the cultural
imagination of the fin-de-si`ecle. Evolutionary models of natural selection and adaptation, but
also research in physiology, were applied to specific populations and social phenomena, such as
crime, psychological illness, or racial difference with questionable results, needless to say. See,
for instance, Galton, Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its Development, 618 and 30517; Edwin
Ray Lankester, Degeneration: A Chapter in Darwinism (London: Macmillan & Co., 1880); and
Charles Fere, Degenerescence et criminalite: Essai physiologique (Paris: Alcan, 1888). Nietzsche read
Feres long essay. See Bettina Wahrig-Schmidt, Irgendwie, jedenfalls physiologisch: Friedrich
Nietzsche, Alexandre Herzen (fils) und Charles Fere 1888, Nietzsche-Studien 17 (1988), 53465, and
Hans Erich Lampl, Ex oblivione: Das Fere Palimpsest, Nietzsche-Studien 15 (1986), 22549. In the
140 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
rise to new organic forms, for instance, by responding to environmental
changes. Although he complained, in the very same note, that Darwin
had a tendency to overestimate the external circumstances that affected
evolutionary change, thus somewhat misunderstanding Darwins argument
about the development of variation, Nietzsche did not deny that the lat-
ter played a prominent role.45 But, following more closely the research
program of animal morphology, for which natural selection played a less
central role, he pointed to a functional description of evolutionary pro-
cesses that, like Darwins arguments, sought to avoid strong teleological
claims:
that the internally developed new forms have not been formed with regard
to a purpose, but that, in the struggle of the parts, a new form will not for
long be without a relation to a partial advantage [Nutzen] and subsequently
develop with ever greater perfection according to this use. (KGW viii/1, 7
[25])
The emergence of biological forms, in other words, could not be seriously
detached from the functions they performed, although it was not possible
to anticipate these functions.
Nietzsche, once again, continued here a Kantian theme. The parts that
make up organized nature are characterized by reciprocal causality: every-
thing is an end and reciprocally a means as well.46 Causality in the biological
world does not only imply succession in time but also future-directedness.
On this account, purpose, to use Kants terminology, does not represent
the future state of an organism but merely a state from which other states
are bound to follow. Life, as it were, is simply directed toward its own con-
tinuation, not toward specific forms.47 Kant, thus, suggested what Rachel
Zuckert once again emphasized as purposiveness without a purpose.48
What is at stake here, one could argue from Nietzsches perspective, is
functions without a purpose.
Such claims are not unproblematic. Explanatory models of evolutionary
biology from the late eighteenth century to the present often depend on an
understanding of functions that remains defined by some kind of purpose
which can be detected in the history of natural selection. A specific trait is
said to have a function if it exists in order to perform this function, that is,
if the function is a consequence of the biological trait.49 To Nietzsche it,
German context, the idea of cultural degeneration became most virulent after the publication of
Max Nordaus Entartung (Berlin: Duncker, 18923).
45 See Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 13170. 46 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 2478.
47 See ibid., 292. 48 See ibid., 105, and Zuckert, Kant on Beauty and Biology, 767 and 86.
49 See Larry Wright, Functions, Philosophical Review 82 (1973), 13968: 161.
Genealogy and path dependence 141
nevertheless, seemed reasonable to argue for a description of functions that
was not geared toward their presumed purposiveness. Functional traits in
the present do not explain anything about the history and origin of these
functions.
Functions can mean different things in the context of evolution. They
might simply denote the activity of any living thing, describe the biological
role of a specific trait or organ, refer to the distinct biological advantage
that a particular trait has, or refer to the effects for which such a trait
was selected in the past.50 Once we reject a teleological understanding of
natural selection, as Nietzsche does, functions are whatever contributes
to the robustness of any given organism in the present: something has a
function if it contributes to the preservation, reproduction, and growth
of an organism, supporting its overall viability.51 From the perspective of
Nietzsches genealogical enterprise it would appear that the utility of a
specific value, or the utility of an institution, would thus consist in the way
it renders possible a particular way of living that is advantageous. But as
soon as this advantage is lost, utility will undergo change.
It seems that such an approach still has to rely on the assumption that
there are values for example, the value of fitness or self-preservation
which have to be brought to the explanation of living things from outside.52
Function statements remain marred by teleological structures.53 One way
to escape this problem is to shift the focus from a causal explanation of
development in nature to describing such development. Nietzsche seems
to have had this in mind when he noted in June or July 1885: In reality,
nothing is explained by morphological demonstration, but, assuming it
would be complete, a tremendous matter of fact is described (KGW vii/3,
36 [28]). More importantly, though, Nietzsches naturalism implied that
the value of fitness, or the value of further growth, could not be seen
as external to the processes described. The reason why the growth and

50 See Arno G. Wouters, Four Notions of Biological Functions, Studies in History and Philosophy of
Biological and Biomedical Sciences 34 (2003), 63368: 63552.
51 In current evolutionary parlance, functions merely refer to the way in which the parts of any self-
reproducing system contribute to the latters stability and growth. As such they are by-products
of natural selection, without constituting the latters core. See Peter McLaughlin, What Functions
Explain: Functional Explanation and Self-reproducing Systems (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2001), 209 and 212.
52 See Mark A. Bedau, Can Biological Teleology be Naturalized? Journal of Philosophy 88 (1991), 647
55, which takes issue with earlier attempts at naturalizing teleology, such as Ernest Nagel, Teleology
Revisited, Journal of Philosophy 74 (1977), 261301, and Larry Wright, Teleological Explanations
(Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1976).
53 See William C. Wimsatt, Teleology and the Logical Structure of Function Statements, Studies in
History and Philosophy of Science 3 (1972), 180, and McLaughlin, What Functions Explain, 1641.
142 Part II Evolution and the limits of teleology
expansion of life constituted a normative standard was simply that they
were a constitutive characteristic of living things. For Nietzsche, it was just
the way life was.
Naturalizing Kants discussion of teleology against the background of the
nineteenth-century life sciences provided Nietzsche with a better under-
standing why the metaphysical claims with which we tend to order the
world, and the normative commitments in the realms of morality that
came along with them, were of crucial importance and belonged to the
natural history of what it means to be human. The history of the genesis of
thought, which he projected in Human, All Too Human and which was
to culminate in the genealogical project of the 1880s, would have to accept
one central conclusion:
That which we now call the world is the outcome of a host of errors and
fantasies which have gradually arisen and grown entwined with one another
in the course of the overall evolution of the organic being, and are now
inherited by us as the accumulated treasure of the entire past as treasure:
for the value of our humanity depends on it. Rigorous science is capable
of detaching us from this ideational world only to a limited extent and
more is certainly not to be desired inasmuch as it is incapable of making
any essential inroad into the power of habits of feeling acquired in primeval
times: but it can, quite gradually and step by step, illuminate the history of
the genesis of this world as idea and, for brief periods at any rate, lift us
up out of the entire proceeding. (HA i: 16)
The science, Wissenschaft, of historical philosophizing was an internal
critique of metaphysical commonplaces that had to rely on such common-
places in order to still make coherent claims about the natural history of
our normative commitments.
part iii
Genealogy, nature, and normativity
chapter 1 1

Introduction

In a decisive passage of his second Untimely Meditation, On the Uses and


Disadvantages of History for Life, Nietzsche outlined what was to become
one of the central problems of his later genealogy:
For since we are the outcome of earlier generations, we are also the outcome
of their aberrations, passions and errors, and indeed of their crimes; it is
not possible wholly to free oneself from this chain. If we condemn these
aberrations and regard ourselves as free of them, this does not alter the fact
that we originate in them. (UM ii: 3)

The normative commitments of the present, including the institutions in


which they become manifest, will always be haunted by the past. Thinking
about normative commitments, and about the sources of normativity, can
successfully proceed only along historical lines. It is precisely in this sense
that genealogy is best understood as seeking to deliver a natural history of
normative order.
As the mature manifestation of Nietzsches naturalism, genealogy has to
answer a number of fundamental questions. In the first instance, it will be
necessary to ask why genealogy should be a philosophically more sophis-
ticated and, thus, more pertinent naturalistic account of the emergence of
normative order than, for instance, social Darwinisms attempt to map cul-
tural mentalities directly onto evolution. The popular idea that evolution
by natural selection and adaptation can be transferred from species to social
institutions is marred, I will argue, by a particular metaphysical mistake:
it has to opt for a substantive kind of naturalism that is unable to natural-
ize its own preconditions. From Nietzsches perspective, such an approach
lacks the kind of cruel honesty that he required of the philosophers of the
future.
Second, in order to be successful, genealogy is in need of a philosophical
understanding of what living things do. Nietzsches notion of the will
to power, as controversial as it might be, seeks to address this particular
145
146 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
problem. The will to power is neither a metaphysical construct, nor does it
map easily onto evolution if the latter is seen exclusively in terms of natural
selection. Rather, against the background of his reading in the life sciences,
Nietzsche views the will to power as describing the formal conditions
constitutive of living things, such as overcoming resistance, development,
and growth. The will to power, thus, emerges as a normative principle.
This will allow us, in a third step, to present a fuller picture of genealogy
as Nietzsches attempt to deliver a naturalistic account of the emergence of
normative order. Such a project can only be meaningful if it shows how
we could have come to hold norms and values that ostensibly deny the
conditions of our existence and agency as natural beings, as in the case
of virtue ethics or metaphysics. At the same time, it will be necessary to
ask on what grounds genealogy is able to open up possibilities for new
kinds of values that are more relevant than those that have come before. An
answer to this question seems to depend on whether Nietzsche is a moral
realist or whether he adopts an anti-realism about values. In a fourth step,
I will argue, however, that Nietzsches metaethical stance undercuts such
distinctions.
chapter 1 2

Darwinisms metaphysical mistake

Nietzsches relationship to Darwin and Darwinism is of an ambivalent


kind, as we have seen. Much of his knowledge is derived from secondary
sources, ranging from the writings of German biologists to early neo-
Kantian philosophers. In 1881, for instance, he spent his first summer in
Sils Maria in the Swiss Engadin valley, awaiting the arrival of a copy of
his most recent book, Daybreak. Clearly taking comfort in his solitary
existence, interrupted only by occasional correspondence, he read Spinoza
and Wilhelm Roux and sought to avoid even a visit by his old friend Paul
Ree. In August, however, he suddenly wrote to Franz Overbeck back in
Basel with a very specific request: that his old friend should retrieve a
number of books from the chests Nietzsche had left with him in Zurich.
He also asked for a number of journals that Overbeck was to acquire from
Zurichs public library. Among these items were several volumes of the
journals Kosmos and Philosophische Monatshefte as well as books by the
neo-Kantian Otto Liebmann (KGB iii/1, 1178).
Kosmos was a programmatic undertaking that sought to popularize Dar-
wins and Ernst Haeckels thoughts on evolution, showcasing their applica-
tion, often with an obvious monist bend, across a wide range of disciplines.1
Otto Caspari was one of the journals founding editors together with the
zoologist Gustav Jager, who worked on the function of protoplasma for
the inheritance of biological traits, and Ernst Krause, a science writer, who
published under the pseudonym Carus Sterne.2 By 1881, when Nietzsche
wrote his letter to Overbeck, asking for the inaugural volume of 1877,
Kosmos had established itself internationally, bringing together British and
German work on evolution. This was the general gist of one of Casparis

1 See Andreas W. Daum, Wissenschaftspopularisierung im 19. Jahrhundert: Burgerliche Kultur, naturwis-



senschaftliche Bildung und die deutsche Offentlichkeit, 2nd edn., enl. (Munich: Oldenbourg, 2002),
35969.
2 Jager was also the author of Die Darwinsche Theorie und ihre Stellung zu Moral und Religion
(Stuttgart: Hoffmann, 1869).

147
148 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
contributions which argued that it would be wrong, historically and theo-
retically, to assume a fundamental difference between the German discourse
of animal morphology and the British theory of evolution. Both, rather,
aimed at what Caspari described as the genealogical connections among
everything organic [den genealogischen Zusammenhang alles Organischen].3
Not surprisingly, the journal, on its front page, listed an illustrious group
of collaborators, including Darwin and Haeckel, but also Herbert Spencer,
John Lubbock, August Weismann, and the young philosopher Hans Vai-
hinger, who would become the founding editor of Kant-Studien in 1897 and
whose thought was heavily influenced by both Kant and Nietzsche.4 The
volume that Nietzsche requested from his friend Overbeck featured articles
on heredity, on the reproductive cycles of algae and the evolution of sense
organs as well as a long account of German Naturphilosophie and Lamarck
as precursors to Darwin.5 Although some of the articles were rather curious,
such as a piece on the struggle for existence among corals, while others
verged on the truly peculiar, such as a lecture on the evolution of culinary
arts, Kosmos clearly broke much new ground.6
On the one hand, there was no doubt that the overall orientation of the
journal was indebted to Darwin. On the other, there also was no doubt
that the discussion of Darwin required some philosophical underpinning
as soon as it left the realm of algae and plant hybrids. Caspari, in his pro-
grammatic opening essay, emphasized the need for a renewed rapproche-
ment between philosophy and the natural sciences, while Krause related
Darwin back to eighteenth-century German philosophy.7 Most impor-
tantly, however, drawing general conclusions from Darwins theory of evo-
lution invariably led the authors back to Kant: Carl du Prels article on the
nebular hypothesis of the origin of the solar system, for instance, suggested
that long-term evolutionary processes eliminated whatever lacked any
3 Otto Caspari, Uber Philosophie der Darwinschen Lehre, Kosmos 1 (1877), 27792: 280 (my
emphasis).
4 See Hans Vaihinger, Die Philosophie des Als Ob (Berlin: Reuther & Reichard, 1911). Vaihinger also
authored one of the earliest accounts of Nietzsche as a serious philosopher, Nietzsche als Philosoph
(Berlin: Reuther & Reichard, 1902).
5 See the articles in Kosmos 1 (1877) by Gustav Jager, Physiologische Briefe: Ueber Vererbung, (17
25 and 30617) and Die Organanfange (949 and 2018); Arnold Lang, Lamarck und Darwin: Ein
Beitrag zur Geschichte der Entwicklungslehre (13242, 24350, and 40817); and Arnold Dodel-
Port, An der unteren Grenze des pflanzlichen Geschlechtslebens (21933).
6 See Friedrich Bruggemann, Kampf ums Dasein unter den Korallen, and Fritz Schultze, Die
Entstehungsgeschichte der Kochkunst: Ein Vortrag, gehalten im Winter 1874/75 im Rosensaale zu
Jena, both in Kosmos 1 (1877), 1612 and 33248, respectively.
7 See Otto Caspari, Die Philosophie im Bunde mit der Naturforschung, and Ernst Krauses review of
Friedrich von Barenbach, Herder als Vorganger Darwins: Beitrage zur Geschichte der Entwicklungslehre
im 18. Jahrhundert (Berlin: Grieben, 1877), both in Kosmos 1 (1877), 416 and 4567, respectively.
Darwinisms metaphysical mistake 149
purpose in nature, recommending to link Darwin to Kant, while Vai-
hinger discussed Otto Liebmanns neo-Kantianism.8 Even the aforemen-
tioned lecture on the evolution of culinary arts started out, of all things,
with a reference to Kant.9 The Darwin presented in the first volume of
Kosmos was a decidedly Kantian Darwin.
In contrast to Kosmos, the Philosophische Monatshefte were more geared
toward an audience of academic philosophers and directly intervened in the
highly specialized quarrels about the future outlook of German philosophy
in the 1870s and 1880s. Previously edited by Nietzsches former philosophy
professor, Carl Schaarschmidt, and later by Paul Natorp, the journal might
often have portrayed itself as representing the entire field of philosophy
in nineteenth-century Germany, but in fact it exhibited a clearly neo-
Kantian bent. This, to emphasize once again, was the first generation of
neo-Kantians, the generation of Helmholtz, Lange, and Liebmann.10
In the two volumes Nietzsche requested from Overbeck, the discus-
sion of Kant was often shaped either by themes that were also relevant
to the contemporary life sciences at large or by a fairly straightforward
coupling of Kant and Darwin. Johannes Volkelt, for instance, argued that,
from a Kantian perspective, the logical world was immanent to nature,
which came to the fore in particular in the case of teleological thinking.11
Max Eyfferth, himself a friend of Nietzsche when they were both students
in Bonn and Leipzig, rejected any criticism of Darwin by contemporary
German philosophers: if there were any gaps in Darwins account of evo-
lution, they were due to the fact that any serious scientific theory left
some questions unanswered and, philosophically speaking, this should be
regarded precisely as its strength.12 Otto Liebmann explicitly demanded a
Kantian understanding of Darwin, noting that the facts of evolution had
to be regarded as phenomena in the manifold of appearances.13 It was only
8
See Carl du Prel, Uber die notwendige Umbildung der Nebularhypothese, and Hans Vaihinger,
Ueber Liebmanns Analysis der Wirklichkeit, both in Kosmos 1 (1877), 193200: 200, and 44550,
respectively.
9 See Schultze, Die Entstehungsgeschichte der Kochkunst, 161.
10 The conception of science among the later neo-Kantians was oriented more toward physics and
mathematics than the life sciences. See Alan Richardson, The Fact of Science and Critique of
Knowledge: Exact Science as a Problem and Resource in Marburg Neo-Kantianism, in Michael
Friedman and Alfred Nordmann (eds.), The Kantian Legacy in Nineteenth-Century Science (Cam-
bridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006), 21126.
11 Johannes Volkelt, Kants Stellung zum unbewusst Logischen, Philosophische Monatshefte 9 (1874),
4957 and 11323.
12
See Max Eyfferth, Uber die Darwinsche Theorie, Philosophische Monatshefte 9 (1874), 13942 and
189203, which was a sharp attack on Johannes Huber, Die Lehre Darwins kritisch betrachtet
(Munich: Lentner, 1871).
13 See Liebmann, Platonismus und Darwinismus, 46872.
150 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
natural that the main editor of the Philosophische Monatshefte at the time,
Ernst Bratuschek, should flatly reject any sympathies for a positivist or rad-
ically empiricist program: stressing the need to bring philosophy into con-
versation with the natural sciences, albeit on Kantian grounds, Bratuschek
complained that an uncritical kind of empiricism prevented philosophy
from achieving such a rapprochement.14
For Nietzsche, reading these volumes in 1881 once again showed that
Kant and Darwin were the parameters within which his philosophical
enterprise had to develop. Among the books that he ordered from Over-
beck were Liebmanns Kant und die Epigonen [Kant and the Epigones] (1865)
and Zur Analysis der Wirklichkeit [On the Analysis of Reality] (1876). While
the former presented Kants things in themselves as the central misstep of
critical philosophy, the latter fervently argued that our knowledge about
the world, which would have to include evolution in nature, had to rely on
a priori cognitive structures as the basic condition of empirical reality.15
Liebmann explicitly left open whether such a priori structures could be
the subject of scientific investigation.16 The a priori conditions of knowl-
edge did not separate the human observer from nature, but rather made
clear that the phenomenal world of human beings remained part of the
natural world. Such a neo-Kantian model of human knowledge was com-
patible with Nietzsches own naturalized version of Kant: any discussion
of evolution and development in nature from the reproductive cycles of
algae to the formation of social institutions had to avoid a bald reduc-
tive physicalism, since any talk of evolution was itself part of evolutionary
processes.
The much-cited adage of Nietzsches anti-Darwinism is largely mis-
leading and underestimates the complexity and disunity of evolutionary
thought in both nineteenth-century Germany and Victorian Britain.17
Even a cursory glance at the volumes of Kosmos and the Philosophische
Monatshefte Nietzsche read in Sils Maria shows that philosophical dis-
cussions of German biology around 1880 did not amount to a return
to the metaphysical principles of Romantic Naturphilosophie. Likewise,
Nietzsches own reception of contemporary biological thought did not
advocate a return to Naturphilosophie either.18 To be sure, the language

14 See Bratuschek, Der Positivismus in den Wissenschaften, 4964.


15 See Liebmanns Kant und die Epigonen, 656, and Zur Analysis der Wirklichkeit, 250.
16 See Liebmann, Zur Analysis der Wirklichkeit, 256.
17 See, for instance, Johnson, Nietzsches Anti-Darwinism, 80108 and 11114.
18 See, however, Moore, Nietzsche, Biology and Metaphor, 267 and 423, and Nietzsche and Evolu-
tionary Theory, 52431.
Darwinisms metaphysical mistake 151
of Romantic Naturphilosophie continued to play its part in the biological
sciences of late nineteenth-century Germany, and it was also a promi-
nent feature among the philosophical popularizers and critics of Darwin,
such as Eduard von Hartmann and Eugen Dreher, whom Nietzsche read
in some detail.19 But it would be fatally wrong to assume that the life
sciences in nineteenth-century Germany can be reduced to Naturphiloso-
phie. German morphological thought, for instance, should rather be seen
as complementing theories of natural selection, as Caspari pointed out.20
Nietzsches reception of biological thought during the 1880s reflected the
complex constellations and conflicting approaches that characterized the
life sciences. Complications appeared as soon as the theory of evolution by
natural selection had to be integrated with other equally normative biolog-
ical theories that focused on levels of organic life within which the role of
natural selection was still entirely unclear, such as cell theory, embryology,
and comparative anatomy.21 It is also in this respect that we have to under-
stand Nietzsches remark, in Beyond Good and Evil, that natural selection
and the preservation of species should be understood as the consequence
of organic life, not as synonymous with life (BGE 13).
For Nietzsche, the popularized version of Darwinism was characterized
by a particular metaphysical mistake. The latter came to the fore as soon
as Herbert Spencer, and to a considerably lesser degree Darwin himself,
left the realm of ants, bees, and dodos and began to argue for specific
forms of social organization. The popularizers of Darwin had a tendency
to underestimate the real complexity of development in nature, and this
mistake was of a metaphysical order because it represented a substantive
naturalism that quickly exhibited the signs of a naturalistic fallacy: reducing
social norms to properties of nature and mapping human agency directly
onto the presumed behavior of dodos.
As we have already seen, metaphysics is certainly useful. Nietzsche does
not deny its epistemological and biological value:
Through immense periods of time, the intellect produced nothing but errors;
some of them turned out to be useful and species-preserving; those who hit
upon or inherited them fought their fight for themselves and their progeny
with greater luck. Such erroneous articles of faith, which were passed on
by inheritance further and further, and finally almost became part of the

19 See Hartmann, Wahrheit und Irrthum im Darwinismus, 10915 and 14877, and Dreher, Der
Darwinismus und seine Consequenzen, 756.
20 See Caspari, Der Begriff der Zielstrebigkeit, 110.
21 See, for instance, Nyhart, Biology Takes Form, 105241, on the integration of natural selection and
morphology into new research programs at universities like Jena.
152 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
basic endowment of the species, are for example: that there are enduring
things; that there are identical things; that there are things, kinds of material,
bodies; that a thing is what it appears to be; that our will is free; that what
is good for me is also good in and for itself. (GS 110)
Given the list of the articles of faith Nietzsche produced on this occasion,
it is not difficult to see that the quasi-Newtonian metaphysics of matter
and causality, together with Kantian ideas of human autonomy and the
moral law, were some of the prime philosophical targets of his critical
enterprise. At the same time, it is also possible, however, to observe an
almost imperceptible shift in his perspective. In Human, All Too Human,
he was still primarily interested in grasping what he called the historical
justification of the metaphysical illusions that had turned out to be so
useful from the perspective of natural history (HA i: 20). His philosophical
project, thus, aimed at the examination of causal relationships between
past and present. But in The Gay Science, his project was concerned with
how the prehistory of our drives, inclinations, aversions, experiences
had given rise to surprisingly useful metaphysical claims and, above all,
how such things as moral judgements could ever have come into existence
(GS 335).
The wider argument that Nietzsche puts forth in this context is not
incompatible with Darwins account of the long-term outcomes of natu-
ral selection and adaptation among social animals: natural selection will
adapt the structure of each individual for the benefit of the community.22
Although Darwin and Nietzsche differed markedly in their definition of
such a benefit, Nietzsche initially also posited the preservation of the species
as the central function of evolutionary development:
Whether I regard human beings with a good or with an evil eye, I always
find them engaged in a single task, each and every one of them: to do what
benefits the preservation of the human race. Not from a feeling of love for
the race, but simply because within them nothing is older, stronger, more
inexorable and invincible than this instinct because this instinct constitutes
the essence of our species and herd. (GS 1)
What Nietzsche objects to in this passage is not so much the assumption
that evolutionary processes can have valuable consequences that contribute
to the survival and fitness of the species in this case, of course, the human
species. Rather, what he regarded as questionable was the way in which
Darwins initially value-neutral concept of benefit had been transformed,

22 Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 87.


Darwinisms metaphysical mistake 153
almost immediately, into a specific kind of moral theory with substantive
claims:
Nowadays there is a thoroughly erroneous moral theory which is cele-
brated especially in England: it claims that judgements of good and evil
sum up experiences of what is expedient and inexpedient; that what
is called good preserves the species while what is called evil harms it. In
truth, however, the evil drives are just as expedient, species-preserving, and
indispensable as the good ones they just have a different function. (GS 4)
This passage was clearly directed at what Nietzsche perceived to be the
metaphysical mistake that emerged as soon as Spencer, Francis Galton,
and others including his own friend Paul Ree, the author of The Origin
of Moral Sensations translated Darwin into the realm of morality.23
Already in 1880, Nietzsche had turned his attention to the overall effect
of Darwins framework on the study of social norms. Surprisingly, the pop-
ular reception of Darwins ideas had much in common with Enlightenment
moral philosophy, above all the temptation to confuse facts with norms,
that is, to extrapolate norms from facts: The commonest erroneous con-
clusions drawn by mankind are these: a thing exists, therefore it has a right
to. Here the conclusion is from the capacity to live to the fitness to live,
from the fitness to live to the right to live (HA i: 30). It is precisely this
transformation of value-neutral facts into distinctive normative commit-
ments that Nietzsche continued to detect as one of the fundamental errors
of the popular perception of Darwin. It also provided the starting point of
the essays in On the Genealogy of Morality (GM preface, 4, and i: 12).
Even though he might have hoped for this, Darwin himself did not
advance the argument that the evolutionary benefit of natural selection for
any given community of social animals implied some form of universal
good which was primary to self-interest. Natural selection mainly served
the self-interest of any given species, and its wider, possibly positive effects
were quite secondary: Natural selection will never produce in a being
anything injurious to itself.24 In contrast, the appeal to a greater univer-
sal good that Nietzsche observed among utilitarian thinkers in Darwins
immediate context, such as Herbert Spencer, but that he also perceived in
the philosophical narratives of the Enlightenment, was ultimately built on
the illusion of the primacy of altruism:
23 See, for instance, the remarks on moral progress in Paul Ree, The Origin of Moral Sensations, in
Basic Writings, ed. and trans. Robin Small (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2003), 1537.
On Nietzsches changing attitude to Ree, see Small, Nietzsche and Ree, 11198, especially 1904, with
regard to the problem of altruism.
24 Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 2001.
154 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
A persons virtues are called good with respect to their presumed effects
not on him but on us and society the praise of virtues has always been
far from selfless, far from unegoistic! . . . What is . . . really praised when
virtues are praised is their instrumental nature and then the blind drive in
every virtue that refuses to be held in check by the overall advantage of the
individual in short, the unreason in virtue that leads the individual to allow
himself to be transformed into a mere function of the whole. . . . The praise
of the selfless, the self-sacrificing, the virtuous . . . this praise is certainly not
born out of the spirit of selflessness! The neighbour praises selflessness
because it brings him advantages! . . . Hereby we hint at the fundamental
contradiction in the morality that is very much honoured just now: the
motives to this morality stand in opposition to its principle! (GS 21)
Altruism, in other words, is an epiphenomenon of self-interest, and the
assumed primacy of the good was the result of projecting those norma-
tive commitments of the Judeo-Christian tradition into nature that had
emerged as valuable from an evolutionary point of view. The evolution-
ary motives of virtue are the preservation of the self, but these motives
can only be successful that is, contribute to the preservation of the
self if they are translated into principles, into normative commitments
seemingly detached from nature that contribute to the preservation of the
species. Indeed, Darwin, in The Descent of Man, presented a similar picture,
albeit without the philosophical analysis that Nietzsche delivered:
There can be no doubt that a tribe including many members who, from
possessing in a high degree the spirit of patriotism, fidelity, obedience,
courage, and sympathy, were always ready to give aid to each other and to
sacrifice themselves for the common good, would be victorious over most
other tribes; and this would be natural selection.25
Natural selection, for Darwin, extended to the realm of human feeling,
intellectual attitudes, and cultural values a conclusion he had refrained
from in On the Origin of Species, when he simply noted: As natural selec-
tion works solely for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental
endowments will tend to progress towards perfection.26 The concept of
the good that appears in this passage, in contrast to the later remarks,
did not refer to a specific greater good of society, but it merely pointed to
the fitness and survival of the species as much as to the viability of any
organism to continue to live.
Even though Nietzsche agreed with Darwin that it was valuable to
subscribe to values in the sense that doing so mostly safeguarded the

25 Darwin, The Descent of Man, i, 15960. 26 Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 489.
Darwinisms metaphysical mistake 155
community, Nietzsche, ever the realist in matters of ethical and political
life, was more ready to accept that the emergence and maintenance of
such normative commitments also had a negative side. The normative
commitments of altruism, as soon as they were regarded as universal,
connected selflessness to fear:
Ultimately, the love of the neighbor is always somewhat conventional,
willfully feigned and beside the point compared to fear of the neighbor. After
the structure of society seems on the whole to be established and secured
against external dangers, it is the fear of the neighbor that again creates new
perspectives of moral valuation. (BGE 201)
The mechanism that maintains altruism is not so much an insight into its
advantageousness but rather the fear of stepping outside ones community.
Altruism, then, was not merely a positive effect of natural selection, as
Darwin seemed to suggest, but it was inherently dependent on a combina-
tion of self-interest and fear: The neighbor praises selflessness because it
brings him advantages (GS 21), so that under the thin veil of altruism one
could always find layers of opportunism and violence.
Popular Darwinisms idea of a greater social good that should guide
human action in modern society was not so different from earlier ideas
of natural theology, as found in the work of William Paley, which was
still required reading at Cambridge when Darwin, like Paley before him,
attended Christs College.27 A well-ordered civil society ultimately mir-
rored the goodness of the divine order, and this conjunction of moral
order, nature, and theology reached deep into the nineteenth century.
Even though Nietzsche seems to have had little knowledge of Paley, a
quick glance at the state of utilitarian thought confirmed to him that the
latter was merely a secularized version of Christian virtue ethics:
These historians of morality (particularly, the Englishmen) do not amount to
much: usually they themselves unsuspectingly stand under the command of
a particular morality and, without knowing it, serve as its shield-bearers and
followers, for example, by sharing that popular superstition of Christian
Europe which people keep repeating so naively to this day, that what is
characteristic of morality is selflessness, self-denial, self-sacrifice, or sympathy
[Mitgefuhl] and compassion [Mitleiden]. (GS 345)
The social and moral claims connected to Darwinism, it seems, were a
thoroughly Christian affair and, as such, were firmly rooted in the kind of

27 See William Paley, Natural Theology, 2nd edn., corr. (Philadelphia, PA: Thomas Dobson, 1787),
488571, and The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy, 17th edn., corr. (Philadelphia, PA:
Thomas Dobson, 1787), 5963 (ii. 45) and 32936 (vi. 4).
156 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
metaphysical tradition that, as Nietzsche believed, stretched from Plato to
the nineteenth century.
Clearly, Nietzsches position is not Darwinist in the popularized sense
of the term. Nevertheless, he links a Darwinian model of evolutionary
development by natural selection and adaptation to a morphological model
of evolutionary development that, like Darwins own early intellectual
context, was rooted in the biological discussions around 1800. In The Gay
Science, Nietzsche even claims that Darwinism, standing in for evolutionary
models in general, was only possible because of the philosophical and
scientific configurations around 1800, such as Romantic Naturphilosophie.
While Kant began to question the metaphysical foundations of modern
thought, it is in Hegel, as the culmination of German idealism, that we can
find the most direct link between metaphysics and the new understanding
of nature, which gained ground with the life sciences of the nineteenth
century:
Hegels astonishing move, with which he struck through all logical habits
and indulgences when he dared to teach that species concepts develop out
of each other: with this proposition the minds of Europe were preformed for
the last great scientific movement, Darwinism for without Hegel there
could be no Darwin. (GS 357)28
The metaphysical speculations of German idealism about the quasi-
teleological unfolding of consciousness in history and nature, uninten-
tionally, provided the conceptual means to reach beyond their own meta-
physical framework.
Nietzsches claim of the link between idealist Naturphilosophie and the
evolutionary models of the nineteenth century is not unreasonable. Darwin
had read much of Alexander von Humboldt, both during his final year
at Cambridge and while on board The Beagle, noting on February 28,
1832: I am at present fit only to read Humboldt; he like another Sun
illumines everything I behold.29 Although Darwin was predominantly
interested in Humboldts detailed descriptions of Latin America, whenever
Humboldt thought about nature in more general terms, Schelling and
Romantic Naturphilosophie always stood in the background.30 Humboldt
28 See Hegel, Enzyklopadie der philosophischen Wissenschaften im Grundrisse, in Werke, ix, 50216
( 368, Zusatz). For a different contextual interpretation of this passage, see Werner Stegmaier,
ohne Hegel kein Darwin: Kontextuelle Interpretation des Aphorismus 357 aus dem V. Buch der
Frohlichen Wissenschaft, Nietzscheforschung 17 (2010), 6582.
29 Charles Darwins Beagle Diary, 42. On Darwins reading of Humboldt, see Phillip Sloan, The
Sense of Sublimity: Darwin on Nature and Divinity, Osiris 2nd series, 16 (2001), 25169: 25261.
30 See Alexander von Humboldt, Ideen zu einer Geographie der Pflanzen (Tubingen: Cotta, 1807),
5. Darwin also read Humboldts Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain, trans. John Black
Darwinisms metaphysical mistake 157
also appears at crucial moments of Darwins seminal first notebook on
the transmutation of species of 18378, in which he had outlined the basic
principles of what was to become the theory of evolution, and he specifically
refers to Humboldts essay on the geography of plants.31 It is via Humboldt
that German idealism and Darwins theory of evolution are linked, even
though Darwin himself, with a certain false modesty, had once professed
to have little knowledge of philosophy.32
The presence of such influences on Darwins thought is often glossed over
and his philosophical interests are reduced to nineteenth-century British
philosophy of science, such as the work of William Whewell, a towering
figure at Cambridge during Darwins time.33 Whewell, to be sure, was
critical of later German idealism, regarding Hegels and Schellings thought
as mere metaphysical speculation, but his own overview of the philosophy
of biology starts with a positive discussion of the usual German suspects
Albrecht von Haller, Georg Ernst Stahl, and Kant, but also Treviranus
and Humboldt while his account of the nature of causality relies rather
heavily on Kant.34 German idealism had a strange subterranean presence
in nineteenth-century British biological thought, and Darwin himself had
met Whewell several times at Cambridge before he set out on his voyage.
Nietzsche will not have been aware of these connections, and his remark
in The Gay Science was simply based on conjecture.35 It refers to the forms
of thought, and to the epistemic constellations, which had to be in place
before any proper theory of evolution would be possible.
Although Nietzsche had no intention of returning to the metaphysical
speculations of Romantic Naturphilosophie, his conception of life shares
some characteristics, for instance, with Schellings understanding of life.
(New York: Riley, 1811), which at the time was the best informed account of Latin America.
Darwins references to Humboldt, en route around the world, mainly referred to Aime Bonpland
and Alexander von Humboldt, Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of the New
Continent, in the Years 17991804 (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 181829).
31 See Darwin, Notebooks on Transmutation of Species, Part i, 52.
32 See The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 18091882, ed. Nora Barlow (London: Collins, 1958), 109.
33 A good example is Tim Lewens, Darwin (London: Routledge, 2007), 10110, who simply draws on
Michael Ruse, Darwins Debt to Philosophy: An Examination of the Influence of the Philosophical
Ideas of John F. W. Herschel and William Whewell on the Development of Charles Darwins Theory
of Evolution, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 6 (1975), 15981, and M. J. S. Hodge,
The Structure and Strategy of Darwins Long Argument, British Journal for the History of Science
10 (1977), 23746.
34 See William Whewell, The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, 2nd edn., with corrections and
additions (London: Parker, 18478), i, 1725, 2678, 5724, 586, and 6025.
35 On the way in which German Romantic Naturphilosophie had infiltrated British biological thought
in the first half of the nineteenth century, and thus provided part of the theoretical framework within
which Darwin began to propose his theory of evolution, see Richards, The Romantic Conception of
Life, 52233.
158 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
There are, however, also crucial differences. For Schelling, life consisted
in a certain form of being, a composite that is made up of different causes
affecting each other and that was characterized by a free play of forces,
connecting the world of nature and the realm of intellect.36 Such a concep-
tion of life continued well into the second half of the nineteenth century.
Darwin himself might have been familiar with Schellings ideas through
Whewell, and neo-Kantians like Otto Caspari, integrating Darwins theory
of evolution into a philosophical framework, described life as a sum of liv-
ing forces that continuously undergo change in their constellation. Life,
in short, was the transmutation of organisms.37 Not unlike Schelling,
Nietzsche explicitly sought to define life as a process of forces beyond the
metaphysics of matter (KGW vii/3, 36 [22]). As he remarked in The Anti-
Christ: I consider life itself to be an instinct for growth, for endurance, for
the accumulation of force, for power (A 6).
For both Nietzsche and Schelling, nature and intellect ultimately con-
verged in their common organization. From the perspective of both
Romantic Naturphilosophie and Nietzsches neo-Kantian kind of natural-
ism, the ideational world of the intellect was already part of nature but also
rendered the latter possible, or as Schelling had noted in his early writings:
nature should be conceived as Mind made visible, while our intellec-
tual world was invisible Nature.38 Nevertheless, it is crucial to emphasize
that Schellings metaphysical commitments were far from compatible with
Nietzsches commitments to naturalism. For Schelling, the difference that
we perceived with regard to mind and nature ultimately constituted their
identity as the true original substance of all things. Naturphilosophie
was not a critical enterprise but rather retraced the absolute identity of
Mind in us and Nature outside us, obtaining an increasingly theological
perspective on the world.39

36 Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, Von der Weltseele, eine Hypothese der hoheren Physik zur
Erklarung des allgemeinen Organismus, in Sammtliche Werke, ed. Karl Friedrich August Schelling
(Stuttgart: Cotta, 185661), ii, 566. On Schellings debt to contemporary biological thought, see
Dietrich von Engelhardt, Die organische Natur und die Lebenswissenschaften in Schellings Natur-
philosophie, in Reinhard Heckmann, Hermann Krings, and Rudolf W. Meyer (eds.), Natur und
Subjektivitat: Zur Auseinandersetzung mit der Naturphilosophie des jungen Schelling (Stuttgart-Bad
Cannstatt: Frommann-Holzboog, 1985), 3957.
37 Caspari, Philosophie und Transmutationstheorie, 88. See also Whewell, Philosophy of the Inductive
Sciences, i, 586.
38 See Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, Ideas for a Philosophy of Nature as Introduction to the Study
of this Science, trans. Errol E. Harris and Peter Hearth, introd. Robert Stern (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1988), 412.
39 Ibid., 42 and 1378.
Darwinisms metaphysical mistake 159
Unlike Romantic Naturphilosophie, Nietzsches naturalism does not aim
at totality, for the latter would require the reintroduction of strong tele-
ological claims.40 In contrast, the convergence of nature and mind the
one emerging from the other rendered notions of difference and identity,
purpose and totality obsolete: life is not a means to something; it is the
expression of the forms into which power grows [Wachsthumsformen der
Macht] (KGW viii/2, 9 [13]). It was a shorthand description for processes
that withdrew from conceptual formulation.41 As a consequence, there is
no universal process (thought as a system ) (KGW viii/2, 11 [74]). The
system of Naturphilosophie appeared to Nietzsche as a form of monism
and contributed to the emergence of nihilism as the endpoint of metaphys-
ical speculation in the traditional sense: once we have constituted a totality,
a systematization, even an organization in all that occurs [Geschehen], and
underlying all that occurs, there is indeed little left to say (KGW viii/2, 11
[99]).42
Nevertheless, Schelling and Nietzsche both emphasized the irreducible
temporality that characterized the convergence of nature and intel-
lect: nature and intellect took part in the same historical process of
becoming.43 Nietzsches remark, in Human, All Too Human, that what-
ever we humans call life and experience is above all something that has
gradually become, is indeed still fully in the course of becoming, out-
lines precisely the temporality of the normative commitments with which
we seek to understand both nature and ourselves (HA i: 16). That things
develop temporally, furthermore, implied that, as natural forms evolved,
certain developments and traits became less probable than others or simply
impossible.44
At first sight, Nietzsches notion of becoming certainly seems like a return
to metaphysical speculation. Hidden behind the world of phenomena
the world of atoms and molecules, human agents and values we find a

40 It is not surprising that much of Schellings argument rests on a strong concept of purposiveness.
See, for instance, ibid., 401.
41 I agree here with Nadeem J. Z. Hussains The Role of Life in the Genealogy, in Simon May
(ed.), The Cambridge Critical Companion to Nietzsches On the Genealogy of Morality (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2011), 14269: 153, which runs counter to the mainstream interpretation
of Nietzsches notions of life and will to power as either metaphysical or inconsistent.
42 On Nietzsches notion of Geschehen, which is more diffuse than Werden, or becoming, see Abel,
Nietzsche, 8295.
43 See Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, First Outline of a System of the Philosophy of Nature, trans.
Keith R. Peterson (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2004), 16.
44 See Casparis Philosophie und Transmutationstheorie, 98 and 1012, and Der Begriff der Ziel-
strebigkeit, 11730 and 125.
160 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
formless world in which everything is in constant flux.45 He immediately
pointed out, however, that even this world of flux remained a world of
phenomena (KGW viii/2, 9 [106]). The world of becoming is not entirely
abstract; it becomes manifest, most prominently and most directly, in the
body. The biological processes of the body the interactions among cells
and molecules, the transmission of nervous stimuli, the metabolism and
the organic functions of the body render the possibility of becoming
morphologically obvious:
The human body, in which the most remote and the closest past of all
organic becoming comes alive and manifests itself in its entirety, through
which, over which, and from which a prodigious stream seems to flow: the
body is a more astonishing thought than the old soul. (KGW vii/3, 36
[35])
Becoming, if the concept was to make any sense at all, entailed some kind
of development, even though becoming has no goal, does not lead to
being (KGW viii/3, 18 [13] and KGW viii/2, 11 [72]).46
This remark is of crucial importance. As Nietzsche argued in his note-
books in the winter of 1887/8, it is because of merely practical reasons
that we, metaphysically, tend to project being into the conflicting forces
that surround us, extrapolating the existence of lasting entities, such as
atoms, cells, bodies, and values.47 The relative stability that we ascribe
to the material world outside us, as well as to the seemingly immaterial
world of thought and affect, first of all seems to create the possibility
of conceptually ordering the world, including our own actions within the
world, according to numbers, logic, natural laws, and all kinds of biological
things. On the other hand, the conceptual makeup of our world prevents
us from describing properly the dynamic of forces that shape our position
within the world we inhabit: the means of expression that language makes

45 For such a metaphysical interpretation, see Gerhardt, Vom Willen zur Macht, 285321. While
Heraclitus is the central figure for Nietzsches understanding of flux and becoming, Nietzsche also
drew inspiration from Otto Schmitz-Dumonts Die Einheit der Naturkrafte und die Deutung ihrer
gemeinsamen Formel (Berlin: Duncker, 1881), 91: Precise observation has shown that already the
perceptions of our very limited sense organs are hardly able to show the existence of a stable thing
[konstantes Ding]. Further conclusions from physics add that, beyond the boundaries of our senses,
a stable thing cannot exist.
46 John Richardson, Nietzsches System (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 1019, has persuasively
made this point. Heidegger, Nietzsche, iii, 647 and 7783, on the other hand, argued that becoming
and being are to be thought together; it is especially the will to power that is able to arrest becoming.
In Heideggers language, which is as cumbersome in German as it is in English, the will to power
leads to the permanentizing of Becoming into presence (ibid., iii, 156).
47 die scheinbaren und die wirklichen Ursachen des Geschehens, 26, and Mach,
See also Drossbach, Uber
Beitrage zur Analyse der Empfindungen, 1423 and 15461.
Darwinisms metaphysical mistake 161
available are useless to express becoming: it belongs to our inescapable need
for preservation to continuously posit the one crude world of lasting things,
of things, etc. (KGW viii/2, 11 [73]).48 The necessity of our conceptual
apparatus is not merely a question of epistemology, but the metaphysics of
being exhibits a biological usefulness, as Nietzsche argued in spring 1888
(KGW viii/3, 14 [153]).49 It is biologically advantageous to endorse the lan-
guage of metaphysics in order to live in the first place: our knowledge
reaches only as far as it is necessary for the preservation of life, that is, our
knowledge is at all times constrained by our biology, and what we regard
as reality the phenomenal world remains the product of our crude
organs (KGW vii/3, 36 [18] and KGW viii/2, 9 [62]).
Not surprisingly, Nietzsche himself found it difficult to give becoming
greater contours. Nevertheless, the need for such a description, as far-
fetched as it might seem at first sight, is rooted in his critique of causality,
which led him to the assumption that, instead of the well-ordered universe
of causal laws, there is something akin to a continuum of dynamic forces.
Causal explanations merely refer to distinct events, or time periods, with
which we seek to order this continuum to render life and knowledge
possible: Cause and effect: there is probably never such a duality; in truth
a continuum faces us, from which we isolate a few pieces, just as we always
perceive a movement only as isolated points, i.e. do not really see, but
infer (GS 112).
Living things, from cells and amoebae to human agents, were clearly
subject to all kinds of forces, while also interacting with their respective
environments, for instance, by consuming matter and transforming matter
into energy, by exerting a growing influence over their environments, or
simply by reproducing. In late 1886 or early 1887, when Nietzsche was
working on a long draft for his projected book on the will to power, he
specifically drew on the language of cell theory: consciousness and logic
were manifestations of those biological processes that could be observed
to occur in plasma, that is, protoplasma. Seeking to conceptually grasp
the very idea of life, he wrote in his notebooks: The forces in history
can undoubtedly be recognized, once they are stripped of all moral and
religious teleology. They have to be those forces, which also take effect in
the entire phenomenon of organic being (KGW viii/1, 7 [9]). Stipulating
that these forces constituted a will to power in the organic process, he
48 See also KGW vii/3, 36 [23]. For a concise discussion of this dynamics of forces, see Abel, Nietzsche,
11032.
49 See also KGW viii/3, 18 [13]: the doctrine of being, of things, of all kinds of fixed entities is a
hundred times easier that the doctrine of becoming, of development.
162 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
continued to describe the latter under the imperative: growing, and, as he
wrote on another occasion, the will to power consisted in the acquirement
and incorporation [Einverleibung] of the world (KGW viii/2, 9 [151]).
At first sight, Nietzsches increasing emphasis on growth over preserva-
tion seems to mark a departure from Darwin. Since growth, understood as
the expansion of power, could only be successful if the preservation of living
organisms was successful, processes in the organic world always exceeded
mere self-preservation. In The Gay Science, he already complained that the
much-quoted struggle for survival is only an exception, whereas abun-
dance, growth, and expansion should be understood as the proper
hallmarks of living things (GS 349). In Beyond Good and Evil, finally, he
warned:
Physiologists should think twice before positioning the drive for self-
preservation as the cardinal drive of an organic being. Above all, a living
thing wants to discharge its strength life itself is will to power : self-
preservation is only one of the indirect and most frequent consequences of
this. In short, here as elsewhere, watch out for superfluous teleological
principles! such as the drive for preservation. (BGE 13)
Nietzsche, in these passages, clearly took aim at Darwins idea that natural
selection led, above all, to the preservation of traits and variations that
were favorable to the continued survival of a species. Already, in the first
edition of On the Origin of Species, Darwin equated natural selection
with preservation.50 It is, nevertheless, important to realize that such
preservation did not imply the preservation of a status quo, since the
preservation of advantageous traits also provided for the accumulation
of successive slightly favourable variations, which made it possible that
species have changed, and are still slowly changing.51 Although Darwin
certainly saw natural selection in terms of a struggle for existence, he
began to identify natural selection with the survival of the fittest only in
the fifth edition of On the Origin of Species of 1869, after he had read the
first volume of Spencers Principles of Biology, published in 1864, and been
encouraged in a letter by Alfred Russel Wallace to adopt Spencers more
racy expression.52 Survival of the fittest, of course, had less teleological

50 Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 127. See also ibid., 36, 61, 81, 935, 109, 172, and 467.
51 Ibid., 480.
52 See ibid., 6079; Darwin, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, 5th edn. (London:
John Murray, 1869), 912; Herbert Spencer, The Principles of Biology (New York: Appleton & Co.,
1866), i, 4445 ( 165); Alfred Russel Wallaces letter to Charles Darwin (July 2, 1866), and Darwins
response (July 5, 1866), both in Wallace, Letters and Reminiscences, ed. James Marchant (London:
Cassell & Co., 1916), i, 1704.
Darwinisms metaphysical mistake 163
connotations than natural selection, since any reference to selection, in the
context of nineteenth-century natural theology, still implied that something
actively and perhaps even consciously selected for specific biological traits.
By the 1880s, when Nietzsche began to criticize the use of the phrase by
Darwinists, the survival of the fittest had already become a catchphrase
much en vogue far beyond its original meaning, largely referring to forms
of social competition and seemingly racial decline more closely related
to Thomas Malthuss An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798) and
the work of Spencer and Galton.53 The popular reception of Darwinism
in Germany was likewise characterized by an increasingly predominant
interest in social Darwinism.54 The latter ran across the entire political
spectrum, but always produced questionable analogies between natural
selection and social conflict that, in the hands of later political ideologies,
had catastrophic, if predictable, results.55
There is no indication that Nietzsche rejected the idea of natural selec-
tion. The argument that he adopted an essentially anti-Darwinian per-
spective and, thus, positioned himself in sharp contrast to the dominant
contemporary scientific explanation of organisms behaviour in terms of
reactive adaptation to the environment requires some revision.56 It is based
on a misunderstanding of Darwins role within the nineteenth-century life
sciences. Rather than Darwin, it was Spencers translation of Darwin into
the realm of social and political ideas that was, for Nietzsche, the main
point of contention, even though he occasionally misread Spencers argu-
ments. By and large, for instance, Spencer was aware that it is not possible
to simply reduce social norms to natural facts. He rather wrote of some
analogies between the body politic and a living individual body.57 Prob-
lems occurred, however, once Spencer introduced normative judgments
that were not fully justified by the underlying analogies. We might cer-
tainly accept the analogy between the blood of a living body and the
53 See Thomas R. Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population, i, 4th edn. (London: Johnson,
1807), 55580 (ii. xi); Herbert Spencer, The Social Organism, in Illustrations of Universal Progress:
A Series of Discussions (New York: Appleton & Co., 1864), 384428; and Galton, Hereditary Genius,
35176.
54 Among Nietzsches own reading, see Dreher, Der Darwinismus und seine Consequenzen, 78117. In
the nineteenth century, the term social Darwinism, which first appears in Joseph Fisher, The
History of Landholding in Ireland, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 5 (1877), 228326:
250, is rarely used in a positive way. On the history of the term, see Mike Hawkins, Social Darwinism
in European and American Thought, 18601945: Nature as Model and Nature as Threat (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1997), 61150.
55 On the broader German reception, see Kurt Bayertz, Sozialdarwinismus in Deutschand, 1860
1900, in Eve-Marie Engels (ed.), Charles Darwin und seine Wirkung (Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp,
2009), 178202.
56 See, for instance, Janaway, Beyond Selflessness, 38. 57 Spencer, The Social Organism, 388.
164 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
circulating mass of commodities in the body politic. But concluding that
indigenous cultures in the colonial empire of Victorian Britain displayed
the behavior of primitive organisms, such as protozoa and the freshwater
hydra, while the constitutional monarchy of the British Isles represented a
fully developed human brain, betray a somewhat more problematic impe-
rial gesture, to put it mildly.58 Nietzsche was quite right when he pointed
out, in early 1884: The Europeans reveal themselves through the manner
in which they have colonized (KGW vii/2, 25 [152]) and, he might have
added, through the way in which they spoke of their colonies.
Thinking about the political world in biological terms was certainly not
a prerogative of British imperialism. Albert Schaffles writings on the social
body proved particularly influential in Germany.59 German ideas about
the Zellenstaat, or cell state, directly derived from the hotly debated results
of cell theory, were prevalent among liberal scientists like Rudolf Virchow,
but they also fell on fertile ground in the biopolitical commitments of
the nationalist right in Imperial Germany.60 From Nietzsches perspective,
Spencer was an interesting case, however, since underlying his analogies
was a straightforward concept of purposive historical development. The
latters source, surprisingly, was not Darwin or British biology, but the
vitalist theories of organic development that can be found, as Spencer
explicitly noted, among the Germans: Caspar Friedrich Wolff and Karl
Ernst von Baer, the founders of modern embryology, and Goethe.61 It is
this teleological background which Spencer projected into the theory of
evolution as a whole. The law of organic progress became the law of all
progress, including the evolution of the social organism.62 The purpose
of Spencers conception of natural selection, as Nietzsche quickly realized,
was the establishment of a greater social good (KGW v/2, 11 [43]).
From the perspective of Nietzsches genealogy, such arguments exhibited
a strange naturalistic fallacy that was ultimately the result of their strong
teleological orientation:

58 Ibid., 398402, 411, and 4245.


59 See Albert E. F. Schaffle, Bau und Leben des socialen Korpers (Tubingen: Laupp, 18758), which
attempted to present a complete system of political economy along the lines of human metabolism.
Schaffle largely followed Spencers model. See Schaffle, Aus meinem Leben (Berlin: Hofmann &
Co., 1905), ii, 1223.
60 See Eva Johach, Krebszelle und Zellenstaat: Zur medizinischen und politischen Metaphorik in Rudolf
Virchows Zellularpathologie (Freiburg/Br.: Rombach, 2008). It is important to point out, however,
that the metaphor of the Zellenstaat gained much wider political only currency after 1890, that is,
after the end of Nietzsches intellectual career.
61 Spencer, Progress: Its Law and Cause, in Illustrations of Universal Progress, 160: 2. Progress was
defined here as a development toward complexity, or heterogeneity of structure, as Spencer wrote.
62 Ibid., 3 and 16.
Darwinisms metaphysical mistake 165
At every moment of a beings present, innumerable paths are open for its
development: but the dominating drive only sanctions one as good, the one
of its ideal. In this way Spencers image of the future of humanity is not a
scientific necessity, but a wish according to the ideals of the present. (KGW
v/2, 11 [98])
The backward causation of Spencers teleological argument, in other words,
made him stipulate a concrete purpose that was then projected into evo-
lutionary history.63 As can be expected, this purpose mirrored the social
and political hopes of British liberalism. If Hegel assumed a Prussian con-
stitutional monarchy to be the goal of history, it seemed that Spencer
regarded British parliamentarism as the goal of evolution. Given the fairly
limited historical perspective of such claims in comparison to the long
evolutionary history of organic life, there was, however, a real chance that
whatever we regarded at any given time as representing progress might
actually have disastrous consequences in the very long term, including the
possible destruction of the human species (KGW v/2, 11 [45]). Spencer, as
it were, underestimated the ambivalence of progress.
Morally good conduct, Spencer noted, was to be understood primarily as
conduct which aids the lives of others, while evolutionary perfection was
the greater happiness provided by well-adjusted self-conserving acts
that sought to further the complete living of others.64 By spring 1888,
Nietzsche viewed such well-adjustedness with some skepticism. In two
longer notebook entries, which both bear the heading Anti-Darwin, but
which are actually directed against Spencers reading of Darwin, he argued
that, once we subscribe to a greater social good as the teleological purpose
of evolution, we cannot help but commit the most basic naturalistic fal-
lacy: translating reality into morality (KGW viii/3, 14 [123]). Although
Nietzsche did not know this, Darwin himself, in his autobiography, com-
plained about Spencers deductive manner, which exhibited a tendency
to make the facts of nature fit a theory.65 Nietzsche, it goes without saying,
went much further. Spencers morality was a morality grounded in the
Judeo-Christian tradition, and the question was whether Spencers often
proclaimed survival of the fittest, and also Darwins metaphor of a strug-
gle for existence, really produced excellent and more perfect individuals.
It rather seemed that Spencers evolutionary ethics was geared toward a
domestication of humanity that had to rely not on excellence and human
63 A similar tendency can also be detected in Drehers discussion of egoism in Der Darwinismus und
seine Consequenzen, 11617.
64 Spencer, The Data of Ethics, 30 ( 10), 34 ( 12), and 44 ( 15).
65 The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1089.
166 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
flourishing but on the production of a deferential herd morality (KGW
viii/3, 14 [133]).
Nietzsche was not alone in such an assessment of Spencers views.
William James, four years after Nietzsches death, grumbled at Harvard that
Spencers unwieldy account of evolution was based on a purely mechan-
ical explanation of Nature that rested squarely on teleological ground.66
In much greater detail, Henry Sidgwick, at Cambridge, attacked what he
regarded as Spencers wholesome simplification of evolutionary thought
along teleological lines.67 This was more than a quarrel among philosoph-
ical specialists. As James pointed out, the fact that Spencer had enlarged
the imagination . . . of thoughtful laymen generally was precisely the prob-
lem: a wider audience merely accepted the narrowness of intent which
characterized Spencers social thought and his popularization of evolution-
ary theory.68 The necessarily vague generalizations of Spencers account of
evolution, as both Sidgwick and Jamess colleague Josiah Royce noted, led
to a simplification of philosophical issues and biological theory.69
It is doubtful that, on the basis of such criticism, James, Sidgwick or
Royce would be characterized as anti-Darwinian philosophers. In the same
way, Nietzsches remark, in Twilight of the Idols, that the much-quoted
struggle for existence, if it was to make much sense, should really be
understood on more realistic terms as a struggle for power, is less directed
against Darwin than against the latters populist reception (TI ix: 14). Mere
existence, or survival, suggested to Nietzsche, above all, that development
of whatever kind stood still, or that it had come to an end. Power, on
the other hand, implied a future-oriented and inherently open dynamic
of development. It was something more fluid than existence and more
compatible with the idea of evolutionary becoming.

66 William James, Herbert Spencer, Atlantic Monthly 94 (1904), 99108: 1056.


67 See Henry Sidgwick, Lectures on the Ethics of T. H. Green, Mr. Herbert Spencer, and J. Martineau
(London: Macmillan & Co., 1902), 13542.
68 James, Herbert Spencer, 104 and 108.
69 See Henry Sidgwick, The Theory of Evolution in Its Application to Practice, Mind 1 (1876),
5267, and Josiah Royce, Herbert Spencer: An Estimate and Review (New York: Fox, Duffield & Co.,
1904), 97115.
chapter 1 3

Living things and the will to power

Nietzsches conception of life is at its core of a biological kind.1 It is


against this background that, in Beyond Good and Evil, he emphasized
that, as far human knowledge and its normative commitments were con-
cerned, psychology in terms of introspection was of limited relevance.
The presumed queen of the sciences was physio-psychology. What was
needed was a morphology of the forms that our normative commitments
took over time and of the way in which these forms shape and deter-
mine how we see the world of which we are a constitutive part. Behind
the question of politics and morality stood the question of biological life:
the doctrine of the development of the will to power (BGE 23).2 This refer-
ence to morphology makes it obvious that the will to power, as a philosophi-
cal concept, was embedded in Nietzsches understanding of the life sciences.
By the mid 1880s he noted that the will to power became manifest in the
functions of the organic (KGW vii/2, 26 [273]); the transformations of
the will to power, its forms [Ausgestaltungen], its specializations had to be
described in parallel to morphological development (KGW viii/1, 1 [57]).
The will to power remains Nietzsches most controversial philosophical
concept, which began to emerge around the same time as the genealogical
project had reached its climax in Beyond Good and Evil and the essays of
On the Genealogy of Morality.3 That the will to power seems provocative to
many commentators, especially to those who situate themselves squarely
in the analytic tradition, is difficult to overlook. A biological reading of
the will to power is regularly presented as an absurd attempt to outdo
Darwins theory of evolution in a manner that can only be described as
silly or as crackpot metaphysical speculation.4 As a consequence, some
1 See Barbara Stiegler, Nietzsche et la biologie (Paris: P.U.F., 2001), 78.
2 See also KGW viii/3, 14 [72].
3 For a concise account of the slow appearance of the will to power in Nietzsches thought, see Gerhardt,
Vom Willen zur Macht, 167202.
4 Julian Young, Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2010), 5458, and Leiter, Nietzsche on Morality, 252.

167
168 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
have sought to exclude the notion of a will to power from a broadly
speaking naturalistic reading of Nietzsches philosophical project. There
are mainly three reasons for this.5 First, it is possible to argue that the
will to power is merely a rhetorical device, part of Nietzsches polemical
arsenal, with somewhat ironic overtones. Nietzsche, in other words, was
not quite serious about the will to power. Second, one might point out that
the discussion of the will to power takes place mostly in his notebooks,
the so-called Nachla, not intended for publication and often bearing the
visible traces of quick reading notes and thought experiments.
There is, however, a third and more sober reason why we might need to
view Nietzsches talk of the will to power with some caution: the concept
seems self-contradictory. Nietzsche cannot seriously reject metaphysical
conceptions of the will as a causal agent and subsequently introduce a
similarly metaphysical notion of the will. If this should be correct, the
will to power, especially if it is intended to relate to processes in the
organic world, would flatly contradict the naturalistic commitments of
his philosophical project.6 The will to power, then, would have much in
common with Schopenhauers equation of the will with the will-to-live:
The will, considered purely in itself, is devoid of knowledge, and is only a
blind, irresistible urge, as we see it appear in inorganic and vegetable nature
and in their laws, and also in the vegetative part of our own life. Through
the addition of the world as representation, developed for its service, the
will obtains knowledge of its own willing and what it wills, namely that this
is nothing but this world, life, precisely as it exists.7
Life and living forms, on this account, are, in Schopenhauers parlance,
what the will wills, and the will emerges merely as another term for the
will-to-live.
It is not difficult to see that Nietzsche had no real intention to adopt
this position. Nevertheless, he seems to accept, for instance, in the third
essay of On the Genealogy of Morality, that such metaphysical talk cannot
be avoided: But to eliminate the will completely . . . assuming we could:
well? Would that not mean to castrate the intellect? (GM iii: 12) His own
references to a will to power would appear to be the result of a need for
metaphysical concepts as regulative fictions: the concept of the will allows
us to conceive of something in an efficient way that, otherwise, we could
5 For different variants of these reasons, see in particular Clark, Nietzsche on Truth and Philosophy,
21227; Janaway, Beyond Selflessness, 156 and 160; and Leiter, Nietzsche on Morality, 13846.
6 For another reading of the will to power as a metaphysical construction, see Poellner, Nietzsche and
Metaphysics, 266305.
7 Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, i, 275.
Living things and the will to power 169
not express at all. In fact, however, there is no being behind the deed, its
effect and what becomes of it; the doer is invented as an afterthought,
the doing is everything (GM i: 13).
One way in which to avoid the self-contradictory structure of the will
to power is by detaching the latter from the realm of the organic world
and restoring it to a psychological idea.8 Nietzsche seems to hint at this
interpretation when he spoke of the doctrine of the feeling of power in The
Gay Science (GS 13). There is something to be said for such a psychological
reading, which predominantly focuses on the manifestations of the will
to power in the realm of normative moral commitments and the various
affects connected to them, such as guilt, bad conscience, ressentiment, and
suffering. There is, though, also a certain danger in such an interpretation,
especially if it is detached from his repeated claim that the will to power
is related to organic life (BGE 36): it will eventually abandon the perspec-
tive of Nietzsches naturalism in favor of a therapeutic understanding of
philosophizing, transforming philosophy into simple advice about exem-
plary human flourishing. The critical edge and uncomfortable conclusions
of Nietzsches thought, undoubtedly, are lost in such a quasi-existentialist
reading.9
Any discussion of such a controversial concept as the will to power will
do well to take into account how the intellectual field of the nineteenth-
century life sciences shaped Nietzsches mature naturalism. However, such
a contextual reading of the will to power also creates the peculiar problem of
the will to powers precise relationship to Darwins theory of evolution: on
the one hand, it seems that the will to power seeks to replace natural selec-
tion as a descriptive model; on the other hand, it appears to be a product of
natural selection.10 In the first instance, Nietzsche would appear to take a
thoroughly anti-Darwinian stance; in the second, the will to power would
merely replace Darwins idea of a preservation of profitable traits and
deviations as the outcome of natural selection.11 John Richardson argued
that it is more coherent to regard Nietzsches will to power as describing
a process that is produced by natural selection. Despite Nietzsches use
of the term will, the will to power should not be misunderstood as a

8 See, among recent commentators, Clark and Dudrick, The Soul of Nietzsches Beyond Good and Evil,
21144; Leiter, Nietzsche on Morality, 24854; and Reginster, The Affirmation of Life, 10347.
9 The effect of such an approach can be seen clearly in Young, Friedrich Nietzsche, 5458 and 562: at
best Nietzsches philosophy is seen as dealing with some kind of numinous meaning of life; at worst
it is presented as growing out of his own existence as a manic-depressive.
10 See Richardson, Nietzsches New Darwinism, 4552.
11 See Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 459.
170 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
vitalist principle that attributes intentionality to nature.12 Nietzsche, in
other words, took Darwin more seriously than he was willing to admit.
As we have seen, by the 1880s discussions in the life sciences were
characterized by an idiosyncratic complexity that is difficult to grasp from
our own historical perspective. There was, for instance, no unified theory
of evolution. Even though the general principles of Darwins theory were
broadly accepted, much of the debate was concerned with the way in which
cell theory, animal morphology, and the results of experimental physiology
related to the principles of natural selection and adaptation. Cell theory,
to use but one example, was not seen as replacing natural selection, or as
competing with natural selection, but it simply explained processes that
could not yet be accurately described within Darwins framework. When
Nietzsche suggested, for example, that adaptation was just a reactivity,
that is, the way in which organisms reacted to changes in their environment,
he also contended that adaptation had to be seen as a second-rate activity
(GM ii: 12). This, to be sure was not at all directed against Darwin,
whom he does not even mention in this passage, or against the theory of
evolution in general, since he explicitly appreciates Thomas Henry Huxley,
one of Darwins staunchest defenders.13 Rather, his remarks were directed,
yet again, against the idea that life itself had to be seen exclusively
as an increasingly efficient inner adaptation to external circumstances,
which he attributed, not incorrectly, to Herbert Spencer.14 In contrast,
life not only had to be understood in terms of will to power, but
the latter was merely a summary expression for spontaneous, aggressive,
expansive, re-interpreting, re-directing and formative powers that allowed
for adaptation to occur in the first place (GM ii: 12). The question Nietzsche
seems to have had in mind is: why should natural selection, or evolution
in general, occur at all? It is important, in this respect, to relate his ideas
about the will to power to some of the central sources he read during the
1880s.
When Nietzsche, probably in 1885, read Jean-Marie Guyaus Esquisse
dune morale sans obligation ni sanction [A Sketch of Morality Independent
of Obligation or Sanction] (1885) now largely forgotten but at the time

12 See Richardson, Nietzsches New Darwinism, 5965. This does not mean, however, that the will to
power is unrelated to biology, as Maudemarie Clark, On Nietzsches Darwinism, International
Studies in Philosophy 39 (2007), 11734, suggests.
13 See, for instance, Huxleys review of Darwins On the Origin of Species in The Westminster Review,
new series 17 (JanuaryApril 1860), 54170.
14 See Spencer, The Principles of Biology, i, 7281 ( 2730).
Living things and the will to power 171
one of the most important texts of French moral philosophy he could
certainly find the idea that the central goal of human agency was the
intensification of the experience of living.15 Referring to some of the very
same sources in contemporary evolutionary thought as Nietzsche, Guyau
not only wrote of the power [puissance] of life, but he described life,
in the most straightforward way, as a productive force that acquired its
environment and continually expanded.16 Where Nietzsche and Guyau
differed, however, was that the latter continued to subscribe to a Darwinist
kind of metaphysics that assumed altruism to be the outcome of this
expansion of life. To Nietzsche it seemed that Guyau did not take his own
conception of power sufficiently seriously, instead projecting the normative
ideals of virtue ethics into the presumed course of evolution.17
It was in Maximilian Drossbachs Ueber die scheinbaren und wirklichen
Ursachen des Geschehens [On the Apparent and Real Causes of Events] (1884),
which Nietzsche read shortly after its publication, that he was able to find
a fully developed notion of power, or force, that closely resembled his own
position as it emerged during the mid 1880s.18 Drawing on a broad range of
contemporary disciplines, from physics to physiology, Drossbach noted in
his discussion of reciprocal forces in nature: We only have a proper under-
standing of force if we recognize it as the striving for expansion [Streben
nach Entfaltung]. Nietzsche underlined the last three words, commenting
in the margins of his copy of Drossbachs book: will to power, is what I
say.19
For Nietzsche, the crucial point of Drossbachs account was that organ-
isms did not develop according to some kind of intrinsic force, after all.
Development in nature was driven, above anything else, by the interaction
among organisms:
Natural beings [Wesen] develop their power by acting upon others and
by meeting the agency of others. Reciprocal agency [Wechselwirkung] is the
means for effective expansion, and the more complete the form of reciprocal
agency, the more fully they [i.e. natural beings] develop.20
15 Guyau, Esquisse dune morale sans obligation ni sanction, 725 and 2445. 16 Ibid., 246 and 250.
17 See Keith Ansell-Pearson, Free Spirits and Free Thinkers: Nietzsche and Guyau on the Future of
Morality, in Jeffrey Metzger (ed.), Nietzsche, Nihilism, and the Philosophy of the Future (London:
Continuum, 2009), 10224.
18 Rudiger W. Schmidt, Nietzsches Drossbach-Lekture: Bemerkungen zum Ursprung des literarischen
Projekts Der Wille zur Macht, Nietzsche-Studien 17 (1988), 46577, has already pointed to the
crucial importance of Drossbach for Nietzsches later work.
19 Drossbach, Ueber die scheinbaren und wirklichen Ursachen des Geschehens, 45. See the comment in
Nietzsches copy: Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek, Weimar, Germany, Sig. C 252.
20 Ibid.
172 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
The dynamically complex and multi-layered interactions among indi-
vidual organisms, from single cells to human beings, rendered development
and growth possible. That organisms often flatly failed in their attempts
at expansion, and that they equally often even failed at surviving, was as
important as successful development. From Drossbachs perspective, this
implied that natural beings are not bound by laws which prescribe a certain
linear development. Clearly denying the relevance of teleological mod-
els, he concluded that organisms enter upon that path which is possible
under a given set of circumstances.21 Development in nature, driven by a
dynamic reciprocal agency among organisms, was inherently open but also
bottlenecked: not everything was possible.
Beyond Drossbach, Nietzsches emphasis on life as an expansion of
power was also rooted in a critical discussion of Spencer as it can be
found in William Henry Rolphs Biologische Probleme [Biological Problems],
published in 1882. Rolph a minor entomologist, who had taught at the
University of Leipzig from 1876 until 1879 and, like Nietzsche, had moved
to the Mediterranean because of ill health criticized Spencers translation
of natural selection into the realm of moral and social development. In
particular, he attacked the underlying assumption that humanity was to
be seen as natures crowning achievement.22 Like Nietzsche, Rolph did not
reject Darwins theory, but he rather sought to ask whether natural selection
and the preservation of species could be the bottom line of evolutionary
processes.23 What, in other words, makes natural selection happen in the
first place? Rolph provided Nietzsche with a crucial metaphor: arguing
that Darwins struggle for existence and Spencers survival of the fittest
falsely implied that evolution had reached its climax in human beings, he
presented a more dynamic model that replaced the struggle for life [Kampf
ums Leben] with that of a struggle for the expansion of life [Kampf um
Lebensvermehrung].24
For Rolph, the expansion of life occurred on the same level of liv-
ing things as Darwins natural selection, that is, on the level of fairly
complex organisms, such as insects and humans. Nietzsche, though,
linked Rolphs arguments to another, equally important group of sources
that shifted his attention from entire organisms to the molecular pro-
cesses within those organisms: Wilhelm Rouxs Der Kampf der Theile

21 Ibid., 46.
22 See William Henry Rolph, Biologische Probleme, zugleich als Versuch zur Entwicklung einer rationellen
Ethik, 2nd edn., enl. (Leipzig: Engelmann, 1884), 3255. Rolphs criticism of Spencer was precisely
what had attracted Nietzsche in the first place. See KGW vii/3, 35 [34].
23 See Rolph, Biologische Probleme, 420 and 71120. 24 Ibid., 97.
Living things and the will to power 173
im Organismus [The Struggle of the Parts in the Organism] (1881), Carl
von Nagelis Mechanisch-physiologische Abstammungslehre [Mechanical-
Physiological Theory of Descent] (1884), and Julius Robert Mayers Die
Mechanik der Warme [The Mechanics of Energy] (1867).25 The emphasis
on the molecular dimension of life that can be found in these publications,
and their attention to organic life in terms of chemical processes, is directly
grounded in the experimental culture of nineteenth-century research labo-
ratories.26 At the time, Roux was director of the Institute of Embryology in
Breslau, now Wroclaw, experimenting on frog eggs and studying cell divi-
sion, while Nageli was a professor at the University of Munich and director
of Munichs Botanical Garden, working on cell division and pollination.27
Only Mayer, a trained physician with a working medical practice in the
German city of Heilbronn, was to any extent an outsider, whose contribu-
tions to thermodynamics, nevertheless, rivalled those of James Joule and
Helmholtz but were recognized more widely only toward the end of his
life.28
Roux, Nageli, and Mayer were representatives of the new experimental
culture that dominated the laboratories at leading German research uni-
versities. Such experimental practices and the genealogical project had in
common an emphasis on description over explanation: in much the same
way as science constituted a transformation of nature into concepts,
philosophy remained an attempt to describe and to abbreviate into signs
the position of human agents within what we call nature (KGW vii/2, 26
[170] and KGW vii/3, 36 [27]).29 It is precisely in this respect that the

25 Ansell-Pearson, Nietzsche contra Darwin, 93, points in the same direction. See also the discussion
in Wolfgang Muller-Lauter, The Organism as Inner Struggle: Wilhelm Rouxs Influence on
Nietzsche, in Nietzsche: His Philosophy of Contradictions and the Contradictions of His Philosophy,
trans. David J. Parent, foreword Richard Schacht (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1999),
16181.
26 See Wilhelm Roux, Der Kampf der Theile im Organismus: Ein Beitrag zur Vervollstandigung der me-
chanischen Zweckmassigkeitslehre (Leipzig: Engelmann, 1881), 215; Nageli, Mechanisch-physiologische
Abstammungslehre, 1169 and 683822; and Mayer, Die organische Bewegung im Zusammenhange
mit dem Stoffwechsel: Ein Beitrag zur Naturkunde, in Die Mechanik der Warme, 13126.
27 For Rouxs experimental work, see the scientific papers collected in Gesammelte Abhandlungen
u ber Entwicklungsmechanik der Organismen (Leipzig: Engelmann, 1895), and Viktor Hamburger,
Wilhelm Roux: Visionary with a Blind Spot, Journal of the History of Biology 30 (1997), 22938.
Nageli even published a textbook on the use of microscopes in biological experiments: Carl Wilhelm
von Nageli and Simon Schwendener, Das Mikroskop: Theorie und Anwendung desselben (Leipzig:
Engelmann, 1867).
28 For an overview of Mayers work and its innovative features, see Kenneth L. Caneva, Robert Mayer
and the Conservation of Energy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993), 1846.
29 Mach, Beitrage zur Analyse der Empfindungen, 1434, 154, and 159, speaks of Nachbildung as the
central task of the natural sciences.
174 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
concept of a will to power as an expansion of life that could be observed in
nature could be linked back to the contemporary life sciences. Nietzsche,
in one of his many outlines for a future work bearing the title Will to
Power, proposed that its second chapter should present a morphology of
the will to power (KGW viii/3, 14 [136]).
Even though Nietzsche for instance, in a letter to his friend Heinrich
Koselitz from March 1882 (KGB iii/1, 183) was often critical of Mayers
materialism, the latters theory of heat tied in with his reading of Rolph.30
In a sense, it provided what Nietzsche regarded as the mathematical veri-
fication of Rolphs assumption that life was characterized by an expansion
of power which wasted energy beyond what was necessary for the simple
preservation of organisms: The chemical process is always larger than
its useful effect, and Mayer proceeded to calculate the energy wasted by
steam engines, cannons, and the metabolism of mammals, which Niet-
zsche, in his notebooks of mid 1881, quoted verbatim and with approval
(KGW v/2, 11 [24]).31 There could be, Nietzsche assumed, no equilibrium
in the world of forces, since any such equilibrium would have to imply
that development has become stagnant.
Preservation, it seemed to Nietzsche, was not the norm in nature and
it was questionable whether all processes that could be observed in liv-
ing things could be explained according to the preservation of species.
Although Nageli accepted natural selection, he argued that natural selec-
tion and adaptation were dependent on molecular processes below the
level of complete organisms.32 In particular, natural selection could not
successfully explain why life should have emerged in the first place, and he
introduced the idea of molecular forces that were present in idioplasma,
or germ plasma.33 The emergence of life was the biological problem that
Nietzsche found most vexing, in particular after he had consulted Nageli
and Roux.34 In mid 1884, he noted, for instance:
30 Nietzsches critical attitude to Mayer can perhaps be explained by the fact that the latters achieve-
ments were extolled in Eugen Duhrings Robert Mayer, der Galilei des XIX. Jahrhunderts: Eine
Einfuhrung in seine Leistungen und Schicksale (Chemnitz: Schmeitzner, 1880). Not only did Niet-
zsche have little positive to say about Duhring, but it also might have bothered him that Duhrings
celebratory piece was published by Ernst Schmeitzner, Nietzsches own publisher. See KGB ii/5,
457.
31 Mayer, Die organische Bewegung im Zusammenhange mit dem Stoffwechsel, 102 and 11618.
32 For the critique of Darwin, see Nageli, Mechanisch-physiologische Abstammungslehre, 284337.
33 See ibid., 10239.
34 Nietzsche purchased Rouxs Der Kampf der Theile im Organismus shortly after its publication in
1881. He asked for a copy of the book from his publisher Ernst Schmeitzner on June 21, 1881 (KGB
iii/1, 94). His notebook entries of the time clearly show that he read Roux several times between
1881 and 1884. Although we can find a fair amount of critical comments in these notebooks, there
is no doubt that Roux provided much of the biological background for Nietzsches will to power.
Living things and the will to power 175
The development of organic life leads to the distinct possibility that the
intellect has grown from very small beginnings, has thus become: the sense
organs have demonstrably developed, previously there were no senses. The
question is, what must have always been there: e.g. which characteristics does
the embryo possess so that eventually thinking emerges in the course of its
development? (KGW vii/2, 26 [80])
Nietzsche is clearly baffled by the step from molecular processes and clumps
of cells to thinking organisms that can converse about the finer details of,
say, Kants categorical imperative.
After the publication of On the Origin of Species, Darwin, much like the
German morphologists, recognized that the emergence of living things and
the inheritance of biological traits from one generation to the next had to
be explained in ways that would complement his ideas about evolution by
natural selection and adaptation. By the late 1860s, he thus speculated about
pangenesis in order to model how inheritance from parents to the cells of
an embryo could occur. All cells of an organism were involved in passing on
information about biological traits to offspring.35 Cells not only proliferate
through division, he suggested, but new cells also grow from granules
or atoms that had been thrown off by mature cells and, when supplied
with proper nutriment multiply by self-division, subsequently becoming
developed into cells like those from which they were derived. Genetic
transmission and the generation of new organisms were dependent not
only on the reproductive elements, but on all cells throughout the body
and during all the stages of development.36
For Darwin, pangenesis could be integrated into the theory of natural
selection. Cell theory did not really stand in any opposition to the principles
of natural selection, and since cell theory also constituted the framework
of Nagelis and Rouxs theoretical reflections, it would be shortsighted to
assume that Nietzsches reading of the latter led him, strictly speaking,
into a anti-Darwinian direction. Neither Nageli nor Roux saw themselves
as critics of Darwin, but rather recognized that a fully fledged theory of
evolution also needed to integrate an understanding of cellular develop-
ment. The question as to whether or not German biological thought in
the later nineteenth century was Darwinian underestimates the true com-
plexity of the intellectual field within which German biologists operated.

35 See Charles Darwin, The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication (London: John
Murray, 1868), ii, 357404, especially 373404, and The Descent of Man, i, 19, 2806. On the
development of pangenesis as a hypothesis, see R. C. Olby, Charles Darwins Manuscript of
Pangenesis, British Journal of the History of Science 1 (1963), 25163.
36 Darwin, The Variation of Animals and Plants, ii, 374.
176 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
August Weismanns theory of germ plasma is a case in point: it certainly
affirmed natural selection, which Weismann had explicitly endorsed on
many occasions, but nevertheless rejected, on quite reasonable grounds,
Darwins speculations about pangenesis, which already Galton had been
unable to confirm.37
What loomed large in the background of Nagelis and Rouxs reflections
on the emergence and development of life was the earlier research program
of German cell theory from the late 1830s through the late 1850s. On the
basis of extensive microscopic observations, cell theorists concluded that
the formation of cells had to be understood as the common develop-
mental principle of the most diverse elementary parts of organisms, as
Theodor Schwann had put it.38 Schwann explicitly rejected any vitalist
arguments about the formation of cells: the forces that shape the forma-
tion and development of cells were the result of interacting molecules.39
There was no vital force or unfolding of consciousness to be observed,
but merely the dynamic plasticity of cells. The emergence of cells and the
subsequent development of cell structures making up different organisms
were dependent on the supply of nutrients.40 Different kinds, and differ-
ent amounts, of nutrients made for different cell structures, and once this
process was under way it was not altogether different from natural selection
and adaptation, although Schwann, of course, had no knowledge of either.
The history of cell theory, as much as anything in the history of
nineteenth-century biology, was a history of incomplete knowledge, of
error and speculation. Schwanns account of the emergence of cells in
terms of spontaneous generation was as incorrect as Darwins pangenesis,
whereas Rudolf Virchow was more on track in observing cell division
mitosis, meiosis, and binary fission as the source of the formation of new
cells.41 Nagelis hypotheses about idioplasma were unlikely, as Weismann
showed, and Nageli, moreover, dismissed Gregor Mendels laws of inheri-
tance, which were based on the cultivation of a sheer endless amount of pea
plants during the 1850s and 1860s, even though they corresponded, while
37 Weismann, Die Continuitat des Keimplasmas, 2, and Francis Galton, Experiments in Pangenesis,
Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 19 (187071), 393410. Darwin, Pangenesis, Nature 3
(April 27, 1871), 5023, grudgingly accepted Galtons criticism, with Galton responding a week later.
See Galtons letter to the editor in Nature 4 (May 4, 1871), 56. On Galtons reception of pangenesis,
see Michael Bulmer, The Development of Francis Galtons Ideas on the Mechanism of Heredity,
Journal of the History of Biology 32 (1999), 26392.
38 Schwann, Mikroskopische Untersuchungen, 196 (emphasized in the original).
39 See ibid., 2216 and 229. 40 See ibid., 2014.
41 Although Schwann (ibid., 21820) recognized the importance of cell division, he failed to understand
that new cells are the result of cell division, not of spontaneous generation. See Virchow, Die
Cellularpathologie, for example 19, 1434, and 283, and Harris, The Birth of the Cell, 13848.
Living things and the will to power 177
Darwin seems to have had no knowledge of Mendel at all.42 Fundamental
uncertainties persisted in cell theory throughout the nineteenth century,
both in Britain and Germany, and in 1868 Darwin conceded that the
cellular theory is not fully established.43 Nevertheless, Nagelis and Rouxs
accounts represented what was, at the time, normal science.
The reason why it is important to point to this wider context is that
Nietzsches second-hand knowledge of cell theory, to a considerable extent,
shaped his attempt to see the will to power not merely as a metaphysical
principle, but as grounded in biology. A crucial link between the con-
temporary life sciences and philosophical naturalism was provided by yet
another, more inconspicuous source: the work of Basel physiologist Gustav
von Bunge, who had arrived in the Swiss city in 1885, six years after Niet-
zsches own departure from academic life. In one of his early public lectures
on vitalism and materialism, Bunge sought to distance himself from the
physicalist reductionism he thought prevailing in his own field without,
however, returning to naturphilosophisch vitalism. As such, he adopted a
position that resembled Nietzsches but was grounded in a specific biolog-
ical problem rather than in wider philosophical considerations: the active
functions of cells.44 Contemporary physiological and biological research,
Bunge pointed out, ironically highlighted that whatever happened within a
given single cell could not be sufficiently explained according to a mechan-
ical model of causation. Without any understanding of modern genetics he
unsurprisingly argued that cells exhibited agency [Activitat].45 Neverthe-
less, the latter should not be misconstrued as some kind of mysterious life
force about which nothing could be said after all, physics and chemistry
were the only acceptable tools of the trade.46 The natural sciences simply
lacked the necessary conceptual precision:
The most simple cell, the formless, microscopically small blob of proto-
plasma without structure it still exhibits all the constitutive functions of
life: nutrition, growth, reproduction, movement, irritability indeed, even

42 See Weismann, Die Continuitat des Keimplasmas, 56, 217, 3943, 4852, and 614. There is no
indication in Darwins writings and letters that he had any knowledge of Mendels work. Starting
in 1875, Darwin corresponded with the young Hugo de Vries, who was to rediscover Mendels
contribution in 1901, but who had dismissed Darwins theory of pangenesis already in his doctoral
dissertation De invloed der temperatuur op de levensverschijnselen der planten (s-Gravenhage: Nijhoff,
1870). See Peter W. van der Pas, The Correspondence of Hugo de Vries and Charles Darwin,
Janus 57 (1970), 173213.
43 Darwin, The Variation of Animals and Plants, ii, 374.
44 Gustav Bunge, Vitalismus und Mechanismus (Leipzig: Vogel, 1886), 7. 45 Ibid., 6 and 112.
46 See ibid., 20. Bunge himself draws heavily on experimental papers, such as Theodor W. Engelmann,
Beitrage zur Physiologie des Protoplasma, Pflugers Archiv fur die gesammte Physiologie des Menschen
und der Thiere 2 (1869), 30722.
178 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
functions which at the very least resemble the sensorium, the intellectual
life of higher animals. . . . In the smallest cell there we can already find all
the puzzles of life, and in investigating the smallest cell there we already
reach the limits of our means thus far.47
Agency, it thus seemed to Bunge, was the only way to describe the
processes of life within the cell.48 It was not difficult to see, even for
Bunge, that agency explained very little and threatened to transport
experimental physiology into the realm of the metaphysical.
Given the high degree of uncertainty that permeated cell theory, there
was a real need to find an accurate conceptual language to describe epistemic
things that continued to resist any straightforward explanation and that
generated new obstacles. Cell theory was an almost philosophical under-
taking, often bordering on metaphysics; it intertwined scientific practice
and philosophizing.49 Nietzsches reading of Roux, whose account of cel-
lular processes was meant to complement the framework proposed by
Darwin, suggested to him a tentative philosophical answer to the prob-
lem of emerging life forms.50 On a molecular level, Roux noted, organic
processes display an overcompensation: they tend to use more energy
than is really necessary, and this allows for the self-regulation of the parts
that make up individual organisms.51 As Nietzsche put it: The struggle
within [organic] tissue becomes a regulative principle: the principle of the
functional self-formation of the most useful proportions among cells (KGW
vii/1, 7 [190]). Self-regulation and overcompensation, for Roux, were thus
the basic characteristics and necessary preconditions of life.52 This focus

47 Bunge, Vitalismus und Mechanismus, 13 and 17. The last sentence is emphasized in the original.
48 See ibid., 12.
49 See Georges Canguilhem, Knowledge of Life, trans. Stefanos Geroulanos and Daniela Gisburg,
introd. Paola Marrati and Todd Meyers (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008), 2556, and
William Bechtel, Discovering Cell Mechanisms: The Creation of Modern Cell Biology (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2006), 6872.
50 For Rouxs relationship to Darwin, see the illuminating remark in Der Kampf der Theile im Organ-
ismus, 220. Roux sent a copy of his book to Darwin. In a letter to his friend George John Romanes,
inventor of the term neo-Darwinism, Darwin complained about Rouxs German, which made
the book difficult for him to read, but he nevertheless proclaimed that [a]s far as I can imperfectly
judge, it is the most important book on Evolution which has appeared for some time. See The Life
and Letters of Charles Darwin, iii, 244.
51 See Roux, Der Kampf der Theile im Organismus, 21623.
52 Ibid., 226. My reading differs here somewhat from that of Muller-Lauter, The Organism as
Inner Struggle, 17482, which concludes that Nietzsche derives from Roux primarily the idea of
a command structure among cells. Nietzsche, to be sure, thinks of an organizational structure
among cells, which pertains to reality as a whole, but not in terms of the more hierarchical model
that Muller-Lauter seems to have in mind. On the importance of organization for Nietzsches
thought during the 1880s, see Ciano Aydin, Nietzsche on Reality as Will to Power: Toward an
Organization-Struggle Model, Journal of Nietzsche Studies 33 (2007), 2548: 2935.
Living things and the will to power 179
on molecular processes entailed an understanding of what constituted an
organism which was fundamentally different from that of either Natur-
philosophie or the newer evolutionary paradigms in the second half of the
nineteenth century: the relative unity of the organism as a stable object
of research was dissolved into a field of interacting forces and overlapping
force fields that first of all rendered the organization of molecules and cells
possible.53
Does this mean, however, that Nietzsches reference to a will to power
introduces metaphysical arguments through the back door? When he
noted, for instance, that the will to power was the final fact to which
we can descend and demanded a [r]eduction of all fundamental func-
tions of the organic to the will to power, it seems that he returned to
precisely the kind of metaphysical speculations that he had criticized so
vehemently on many occasions (KGW vii/3, 40 [61] and KGW viii/1, 1
[30]). It is important to point out, however, that as soon as he introduced
the will to power into his conceptual arsenal, he recognized its inherent
limitations and admitted that the very idea of a will was based on a
false reification (KGW viii/1, 1 [62]).54
Nietzsche was not alone in worrying about the possible implications such
reified quasi-scientific concepts could have, even though they belonged to
the bread and butter of the life sciences. In a public speech in 1877 at the
Congress of German Natural Scientists and Physicians, the Versammlung

deutscher Naturforscher und Arzte, in Munich, the most important annual
scientific congress in the German-speaking lands, Rudolf Virchow deliv-
ered a broad attack on Haeckel, arguing that the latter had overstepped
the boundaries of reasonable scientific discourse.55 Virchow was clearly
bothered by Haeckels attempt to formulate a unified theory of evolution
that claimed a continuity between the organic and the inorganic and that
also could be translated from the realm of species development to politi-
cal organization. The tentative and uncertain results of highly specialized
scientific disciplines should not be unduly generalized:
I have received the most wonderful contributions from America and Europe,
in which the whole of astronomy and geology were based on cell theory,
because one had assumed it to be impossible that something which was
decisive about the life of organic nature on earth should not also be applied
to celestial bodies, which are also round bodies, which appeared in clusters

53 See along similar lines Abel, Nietzsche, 11220.


54 See also KGW viii/1, 1 [57]. 55 See Richards, The Tragic Sense of Life, 31229.
180 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
and represented cells that moved around the sky and that played a role quite
similar to the cells in our bodies.56
This, to be sure, was taking structural similarities one step too far, and
Virchow praised the modesty of the real scientist who had to be aware of
the limitations of his knowledge: general scientific statements were always
context-dependent, and this was also the case with regard to evolution.
Nietzsche, likewise, regarded claims about the universe as some kind of
organism as pure nonsense:
Let us beware of thinking that the world is a living being. Where would it
stretch? What would it feed on? How could it grow and procreate? After all,
we know roughly what the organic is; are we then supposed to reinterpret
what is inexpressibly derivative, late, rare, accidental, which we perceive
only on the crust of the earth, as something essential, common, and eter-
nal, as those people do who call the universe an organism? This nauseates
me. . . . The astral order in which we live is an exception; this order and the
considerable duration that is conditioned by it have again made possible the
exception of exceptions: the development of the organic. The total character
of the world, by contrast, is for all eternity chaos, not in the sense of a lack
of necessity but a lack of order, organization, form, beauty, wisdom, and
whatever else our aesthetic anthropomorphisms are called. . . . Let us beware
of saying that there are laws in nature. There are only necessities: there is no
one who commands, no one who obeys, no one who transgresses. Once you
know that there are no purposes, you also know that there is no accident;
for only against a world of purposes does the word accident have meaning.
(GS 109)
The central insight of this passage from the beginning of the third book of
The Gay Science, written in 1882 and ending with his demand to naturalize
humanity (GS 109), was so important that he repeated its basic claims
some time in late 1887. There was no such thing as a world process, or
universal process [Gesammtproze], since anything that could be said
about the world as a whole led to the conclusion that the world was
certainly no organism, but chaos, and that meaning and purpose were
merely useful illusions [Scheinbarkeiten] (KGW viii/2, 11 [74]). By the
time Nietzsche made this notebook entry, On the Genealogy of Morality
had already been published and his notion of a will to power had become
a crucial ingredient of his philosophical naturalism.

56 Rudolf Virchow, Die Freiheit der Wissenschaft im modernen Staat, 2nd edn. (Berlin: Wiegandt,
Hempel & Parey, 1877), 12. Haeckel responded with his Freie Wissenschaft und freie Lehre (Stuttgart:
Schweizerbart, 1878), while Caspari sought to mediate in the quarrel with a pamphlet, Virchow und
Haeckel vor dem Forum der methodologischen Forschung (Augsburg: Lampart & Co., 1878).
Living things and the will to power 181
The will to power, it seems, was a necessary reification since the manifold
processes in nature had to be translated into a philosophically viable lan-
guage, and this language remained indebted to the metaphysical tradition.
Both philosophy and the natural sciences were embedded in the conceptual
framework of metaphysics, a framework that ordered the world according
to identical objects, causal relationships, and universal laws, without which
little could be said about the world (KGW v/2, 11 [252] and KGW viii/1,
6 [13]). Nietzsches naturalism could not possibly escape this predicament,
even though he did not want to adopt a metaphysical realism, or an ontol-
ogy of natural kinds. Nevertheless, his mature naturalism invariably raises
questions that fall into the area of metaphysics in much the same way that
doing science requires metaphysical assumptions and false reifications in
order to be successful. As long as the practitioners of philosophy and sci-
ence were aware of the strange persistence of metaphysics, the latter did not
pose a serious problem. Nietzsches description of his doctrine of the will to
power as the attempt at an interpretation of all events [Geschehen] (KGW
vii/3, 40 [50]), is precisely this: an attempt, or Versuch, an experimental
arrangement that seeks to open a perspective on what it means to be human
and what it means to translate this humanity back into nature. Within the
framework of his naturalism, such an interpretive experiment cannot offer
an outside perspective, a view from nowhere, but it is itself part of what
it seeks to describe. He was therefore also ready to accept the limitations
of his own creation and noted: there is no will: there are punctuations of
the will, which continuously grow or lose their power (KGW viii/2, 11
[73]).57 The normative order that was promised by unifying accounts of
nature was, in effect, the outcome of diffuse events, as he suggested in a
note written in the final months of 1887:
That the apparent purposiveness . . . is merely the consequence of the will
to power which takes place in all events
that growing stronger brings along forms of order, which resemble the con-
ceptual design of purposiveness
that the apparent purposes are not intended, but . . . that an order of rank, of
organization has to suggest an order of means and purpose. (KGW viii/2, 9
[91])
The will to power, then, is a normative force, and what is at stake in Niet-
zsches account is the relationship between the natural and the normative.

57 Nietzsches reference to punctuations of the will draws on Vogt, Die Kraft, 21, which speaks of
force centers [Kraftcentren].
182 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
How can Nietzsche assume that the will to power is a normative force?
First of all, and regardless as to whether we view the will to power as
a psychological or a biological phenomenon, it is concerned with the
overcoming of resistance, with the growth and expansion of life (GS
349). As such, the will to power goes beyond the popularized Darwinist
assumption of a mere struggle for existence, even though it should not be
seen in opposition to the general outlook of Darwins theory of evolution
which, after all, presents variation and growth as effects of natural selection.
For Nietzsche, the will to power describes the processes that occur in the
organic world. It does not explain why something happens, but the will
to power merely describes how anything happens, since the things that
exist merely do so by virtue of their effects on other things, and all we
can do is to describe these effects (KGW viii/1, 2 [85]) and [89]). As the
process of such effects, the will to power can only become manifest against
resistances (KGW viii/2, 9 [151]).58
This, however, does not yet fully explain why the will to power should
be a normative force, but its normative dimension becomes more obvious
once we relate the will to power to our agency as natural beings. Such agency
can certainly be understood as being engaged in the process of overcoming
resistance: Everything that happens intentionally can be reduced to the
intention of expanding power (KGW viii/1, 2 [88]). Nietzsche does not
appeal here, however, to the will to power as a teleological principle,
but he merely points out that overcoming resistance is constitutive of
our agency as natural beings; overcoming resistance, as it were, is not
optional, but we are always already engaged in it. Of course, if overcoming
resistance is constitutive of all human agency, since we cannot stop acting,
it gains normative force and emerges as a standard against which to measure
whether our actions contribute to life.59 This, to be sure, is a normative
force we cannot escape.60
Seen against this background, the will to power does not introduce
a teleological argument through the back door. What we regard, in a
shorthand manner, as the intentions and aims of our actions as natural
beings are merely an expression for an organization of spheres of power
[Ordnung von Machtspharen] and their interaction (KGW viii/2 9 [91])
within a broad set of dynamic processes in nature. As a normative force, the
will to power thus occurs below the human condition, that is, overcoming
58 See also Reginster, The Affirmation of Life, 10347.
59 See the discussion in Paul Katsafanas, Deriving Ethics from Action: A Nietzschean View of
Constitutivism, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 83 (2011), 62060: 62651.
60 See Katsafanas, Agency and the Foundations of Ethics, 4767.
Living things and the will to power 183
resistance in the realm of human agency supervenes upon a biological kind
of overcoming resistance:
The will to power can only become manifest against resistances; it seeks
that which resists, this the primary tendency of protoplasma when it
sends out pseudopodia and feels around for something. Acquisition and

incorporation are above all a willing to overcome [Uberw altigenwollen], a
shaping, appropriating and reorganizing, until finally that which has been
overcome is merged into the power of the agent and has expanded the latter.
(KGW viii/2, 9 [151])61
The overcoming of resistance is constitutive of our existence as natural
beings consisting of molecules, cells, organs, and such like. Unsurprisingly,
Nietzsche noted in a shorthand manner: The organic functions, seen as
an organization of the will to power (KGW viii/1, 6 [26]). It is on this
account that he can claim that whatever we regard as natural, at least
whatever we regard as organic life, entails a constitutive normative force.
Since the values we hold supervene upon organic life, genealogy, as the
centerpiece of Nietzsches later philosophical work, has to take into account
the normativity of the natural. Much like the natural world, the normative
force of our commitments thus also has an evolutionary history.

61 Pseudopodia are projections of eukaryotic cells. Nietzsche could find similar examples in Rouxs Der
Kampf der Theile im Organismus, but on this occasion he seems to draw on Emanuel Herrmann,
Das Gesetz der Vermehrung der Kraft, in Cultur und Natur: Studien im Gebiete der Wirtschaft
(Berlin: Allgemeiner Verein fur Deutsche Literatur, 1887), 78130: 817.
chapter 1 4

Toward a natural history of normativity

The nineteenth-century debate about nature and normativity was Kantian


in origin. This is also one of the reasons why Nietzsches philosophi-
cal naturalism adopts a neo-Kantian stance. If he wishes to say anything
substantial about the relationship between nature and normativity, while
naturalizing Kants critical project, he has to address the way in which val-
ues can be linked back to nature. Is Nietzsches genealogy, then, concerned
primarily with psychological phenomena, such as guilt and conscience?
It is important to recognize that the very field of psychology that stands
in the background of neo-Kantian discussions of normativity underwent
decisive changes in the course of the nineteenth century. What emerges in
this context is the increasing attempt to naturalize the mind.
As can be expected, German psychology in the early nineteenth century
was a Kantian enterprise.1 Nevertheless, with the rise of new institutional
structures, such as experimental laboratories, from the 1840s onward, which
were the result of the dramatic modernization of German universities,
research in psychology was increasingly shaped by neighboring disciplines
such as physics and physiology. These experimental arrangements began
to generate new means of representing the processes that occurred in
the body: apparatuses registering muscle reflexes, heart movements, the
rate of nerve conduction, or the sensation of pain produced graphs and
diagrams that translated the organism into an abstract entity of a statistically
relevant kind.2 The intrusion of physics and medical physiology into the

1 For an account of Kant as the predecessor of nineteenth-century psychology, see Johann Friedrich
Herbart, Psychologie als Wissenschaft, neu gegrundet auf Erfahrung, Metaphysik und Mathematik
(Konigsberg: Unzer, 18245), i, 615 ( 20).
2 See Frederic L. Holmes and Kathryn M. Olesko, The Images of Precision: Helmholtz and the
Graphical Method in Physiology, in Wise (ed.), The Values of Precision, 198221, and Soraya de
Chadarevian, Die Methode der Kurven in der Physiologie zwischen 1850 und 1900, in Rheinberger
and Hagner (eds.), Die Experimentalisierung des Lebens, 2849.

184
Toward a natural history of normativity 185
Kantian paradigm increasingly naturalized the mind and thus the sources
of normativity.3
The shift toward the sciences of the brain, running in parallel to the
development of the biological sciences, certainly occasioned the need to
address the philosophical implications of what it meant to naturalize the
mind.4 Helmholtz and DuBois-Reymond are particularly interesting in
this context, since both publicly argued that the empirical study of con-
sciousness and sensory perception, despite its enormous success, left resid-
ual questions that could not be adequately answered within an empirical
framework, or so it seemed. In his 1862 lecture as pro-rector of the Univer-
sity of Heidelberg, Helmholtz thoroughly rejected any metaphysical claims
with regard to the possible a priori structure of human knowledge, criti-
cizing Hegel rather than Kant. He also argued, however, that the natural
sciences were not fully able to provide an explanatory model for aesthetic
experience and moral judgment and that, therefore, questions of norms and
values fell into the domain of the so-called Geisteswissenschaften.5 Likewise,
DuBois-Reymond, in his lecture Uber die Grenzen des Naturerkennens
[On the Limits of Natural Knowledge] at the Congress of German Nat-
ural Scientists and Physicians in August 1872 pointed out that naturalizing
the mind, and even adopting a fully materialist conception of science,
remained unable to answer how consciousness had emerged in the first
place.6
It is important to realize that Nietzsche was fully aware of the intru-
sion of empirical research into the Kantian paradigm of the mind, not
only because of his reading of Lange and Helmholtz, but also because of
the critical exposition of Helmholtzs philosophical ideas by Johann Carl
Friedrich Zollner.7 Much of Nietzsches interest in naturalizing the mind
3 See, for instance, Otis, Mullers Lab, 614 and 2041; Michael Heidelberger, Nature from Within:
Gustav Theodor Fechner and His Psychophysical World View, trans. Cynthia Klohr (Pittsburgh, PA:
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004), 165246; and Kathryn M. Olesko and Frederic L. Holmes,
Experiment, Qualification, and Discovery: Helmholtzs Early Physiological Researches, 184350,
in Cahan (ed.), Hermann von Helmholtz, 50108.
4 For a detailed assessment of this shift, see especially Michael Hagner, Homo cerebralis: Der Wandel
vom Seelenorgan zum Gehirn (Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, 2008).
5 See Hermann von Helmholtz, Ueber das Verhaltniss der Naturwissenschaften zur Gesammtheit der
Wissenschaften, in Populare wissenschaftliche Vortrage, i (Braunschweig: Vieweg, 1865), 130: 147.
Helmholtzs distinction between Naturwissenschaften and Geisteswissenschaften is derived from John
Stuart Mills discussion of the moral sciences. See A System of Logic (London: Parker, 1843), i, 1012,
and ii, 405530.
6 See DuBois-Reymond, Uber die Grenzen des Naturerkennens, 1628.
7 See, for instance, Lange, Geschichte des Materialismus, 32257, and Zollner, Uber die Natur der
Cometen, 32934, 34550, and 378425.
186 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
fell into the 1870s and was influenced by his encounter with Helmholtzs
theory of unconscious judgments, which also led him to reject the meta-
physical speculations in Eduard von Hartmanns popular philosophy of
the unconscious.8 His increasing concern with theories of evolution and
morphology, however, which gained much momentum in the early 1880s,
fundamentally shifted this perspective: psychology and, by implication,
the attempt to naturalize psychological questions did not offer the means
to avoid the reductionist temptations of materialism. An approach along
the lines of evolutionary morphology was an entirely different matter. If
naturalizing Kant meant that thinking belonged to the realm of nature,
normativity had to be naturalized as well. When, in The Gay Science, Niet-
zsche began to outline his attempt to naturalize humanity, demanding a
conception of the natural world that was completely de-deified (GS 109),
his main task was to naturalize normativity by following the historical
development of its formative manifestations, that is, the values we hold.
What was still a somewhat tentative project by the early 1880s had
developed, by the mid 1880s, into a fully fledged demand to draw the
necessary conclusions from taking the life sciences seriously:
To translate humanity back into nature; to gain control of the many vain and
fanciful interpretations and incidental meanings that have been scribbled
and drawn over that eternal basic text of homo natura so far; to make sure
that, from now on, the human being will stand before the human being,
just as he already stands before the rest of nature today, hardened by the
discipline of science. (BGE 230)
It is this reference to the discipline of science, Wissenschaft, that char-
acterizes Nietzsches naturalism. The appeal to Wissenschaft provided a
bridge between the life sciences and historical philosophizing in much the
same way as it had provided, one hundred years earlier, a bridge between
Newtonian physics and Kants critical project. But Nietzsches attempt to
naturalize Kant also brought with it consequences that Kant would not
have been happy to entertain. Most importantly, naturalizing humanity
implied that the normative order we subscribe to at any given moment is
not of a universal kind, but it had itself emerged and undergone dramatic
changes over time. Moreover, the historicity of normative order implied

8 See Anthony Jensen, The Rogue of all Rogues: Nietzsches Presentation of Eduard von Hartmanns
Philosophie des Unbewussten and Hartmanns Response to Nietzsche, Journal of Nietzsche Studies 32
(2006), 4161, and Soren Reuter, ReizBildUnbewusste Anschauung: Nietzsches Auseinanderset-
zung mit Hermann Helmholtz Theorie der unbewussten Schlusse in Uber Wahrheit und Luge im
aussermoralischen Sinne, Nietzsche-Studien 33 (2004), 35172.
Toward a natural history of normativity 187
that human agents, as natural beings, took part in its formation. Geneal-
ogy ultimately demands of us to become who we are, that is, human
beings . . . who give themselves laws, who create themselves by being crit-
ically aware of the complex historicity of our normative commitments,
socially and biologically speaking (GS 335).
Nevertheless, Nietzsche seems to hold the view that all normative claims
that we make about the world, regardless as to whether they concern
knowledge or our moral commitments, must have the same source. The
normative question Why morality? must be negotiated on the very same
grounds as the normative question Why science? Of course, these are two
different questions to the extent that one can follow up on moral obliga-
tions quite successfully without any commitment to the value of scientific
knowledge. Nevertheless, as Christine Korsgaard rightly points out, one of
the most important components of the overarching ethical question Why
should I be moral? is inevitably the question: Where do moral concepts
come from?9 The answer to the latter, from the perspective of Nietzsches
philosophical naturalism, should not be fundamentally different from the
answer to the question: Where do scientific concepts come from? In a
decisive passage of Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche pointed in exactly this
direction when he began to link the world of affect to the material world:
Assuming that our world of desires and passions is the only thing given
as real, that we cannot get down or up to any reality except the real-
ity of our drives (since thinking is only a relation between these drives)
arent we allowed to make the attempt and pose the question as to whether
something like this given isnt enough to render the so-called mechanistic
(and thus material) world comprehensible as well? . . . [I]t might allow us to
understand the mechanistic world as belonging to the same plane of reality
as our affects themselves . . . . We would be able to understand the mecha-
nistic world as a kind of life of the drives, where all the organic functions
(self-regulation, assimilation, nutrition, excretion, and metabolism) are still
synthetically bound together as a pre-form of life? In the end we are not
only allowed to make such an attempt: the conscience of method demands
it. (BGE 36)
Nietzsches reference to a conscience of method is a reference to the ethical
commitment of science: taking the commitments of modern science seri-
ously might ultimately undercut these very commitments, but at the same
time it also opens up a new perspective on the sources of normativity.

9 See Christine M. Korsgaard, The Sources of Normativity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1996), 747.
188 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
Of course, Nietzsches perspective differs considerably from Korsgaards
thoroughly Kantian argument that the sources of normativity must be
found in the agents own will, that is, the authority of moral claims is
based on self-conscious reflection about our actions, granting a degree
of autonomy to reason that Nietzsche was certainly not ready to accept.10
What he describes, in Twilight of the Idols, as a proper naturalism in
morality (TI v: 4) suggests that human beings are no special case vis-
a`-vis the rest of nature and that any claim to autonomy, the claim that
human intellect operates freely in its own sphere, remains shaped by the
biological makeup of our humanity and by the resistance we encounter in
our engagement in the world.11
Nietzsches attempt to undercut well-established distinctions between
the natural world and the world of human values becomes particularly
obvious in the manner he sought to rethink traditional epistemological
questions along the lines of the body: behind all logic . . . stand valuations
or, stated more clearly, physiological requirements for the preservation
of a particular type of life (BGE 3).12 In much the same way as human
consciousness does not stand in opposition to inevitably unconscious drives
and instincts, the values and valuations that we see as governing human
experience are inevitably embodied (GS 354 and KGW v/2, 11 [164]). As
such, they are part of our evolutionary history, and Nietzsche remarked in
his notebooks of late 1885 and early 1886: Valuations are innate, despite
Locke!, inherited (KGW viii/1, 1 [21]).13
Most importantly, however, he also came to suggest that what was
traditionally seen as a result of human biology, such as intellect and affect,
was in fact itself a kind of organ: Drives are higher organs, he noted in mid
1883, and what we perceive as distinct actions, affects, and emotional states
are always coadunated [ineinander verwachsen], organizing themselves,
10 Ibid., 1920. For a fuller discussion of the opposition between Nietzsches naturalism and Korsgaards
view of normativity, see Mathias Risse, Nietzschean Animal Psychology versus Kantian Ethics,
in Leiter and Sinhababu (eds.), Nietzsche and Morality, 5782.
11 John McDowell, Two Sorts of Naturalism, in Mind, Value, and Reality (Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 1998), 16797: 85 and 115.
12 On Nietzsches demand to philosophize am Leitfaden des Leibes, see also KGW vii/3, 36 [35].
13 See also KGW vii/2, 26 [72]: Valuations can be found in all functions of the organic being. For
Lockes criticism of innate ideas, which is mainly directed against Descartes, see John Locke, An
Essay Concerning Human Understanding, ed. and introd. Peter H. Nidditch (Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1975), 95 (i. iv. 1718). Nietzsches own insistence that valuations are innate, however, refers
to the organic world, while the limited number of ideas Descartes accepted as innate are of divine
provenance, such as the idea of Gods existence. See Descartess Meditations on First Philosophy with
Selections from the Objections and Replies, ed. John Cottingham, rev. edn. (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1996), 267, 302, 35, and 47.
Toward a natural history of normativity 189
feeding off one another (KGW vii/1, 7 [198]).14 While the world of values
was certainly dependent on affects and emotional states, Nietzsches talk of
organs and innateness, and of inheriting valuations, renders obvious that
the production of normative commitments was not merely a question of
affect, and perhaps, taste. Even though affects motivate us to act in one
way or another, this affective dimension cannot be seen as the bottom
line of values. Affects might have normative force, but they were not the
source of normativity. Indeed, Nietzsches description of human intellect
as a continuation of human physiology meant that whatever was seen
as belonging to the life of the mind itself had to be seen as part of the
organic world: the entire development of the intellect is perhaps merely
that of the body: it is the tangibly emerging history of the formation of a
higher body (KGW vii/1, 24 [16]). Referring to contemporary discussions
in animal morphology about the nature of ontogeny, he even asked: if
the intellect was part of organic development, then which organic
properties of the human embryo could produce thinking (KGW vii/2,
26 [80])?
Nietzsches mention of the embryo in the above passage is not a random
example. The theoretical implications of the study of chicken embryos and,
somewhat later, human embryos for evolutionary models of natural devel-
opment provided some of the most hotly debated points of contention
among German biologists.15 Haeckel, for instance, famously argued for a
correspondence between the development of individual organisms and the
development of entire species: the presumed fact that ontogenetic develop-
ment recapitulated phylogenetic development was presented as an obvious
proof for common descent.16 On the other hand, Wilhelm His began
to raise serious doubts about Haeckels biogenetic law: Haeckels argu-
ment, His suggested, smacked of Lamarckism with a naturphilosophisch
bent, whereas embryology had to limit itself to experimental study in the
research laboratory. Capping the link between ontogeny and phylogeny,
he focused merely on the actual development of the embryo, observ-
ing and visually recording the latters structure and growth slice by slice
and specimen by specimen.17 This approach yielded spectacular results:

14 See also KGW vii/1, 7 [211].


15 On the philosophical framework and historical devlopment of these debates that go back to the
eighteenth century, see Ron Amundson, The Changing Role of the Embryo in Evolutionary Thought
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 5362 and 10828.
16 See Haeckel, Naturliche Schopfungsgeschichte, 1667 and 22758.
17 See His, Unsere Korperform, 16576 and 21011.
190 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
the development of a simple embryo into an increasingly complex form
consisting of organs, nerves, and brain cells followed the principle of
uneven growth, with folds in the embryo maturing into different parts.18
Nietzsche, who had some social contact with His before the anatomists
departure from Basel to the University of Leipzig, read the latters Unsere
Korperform und das physiologische Problem ihrer Entstehung [Our Physical
Form and the Physiological Problem of Its Development] (1874).19 The devel-
opmental perspective Nietzsche offered in the above notebook entry from
mid 1884 still shows Hiss influence. Indeed, it seems that Hiss arguments
against Haeckels account of embryonic development, and the serious ques-
tions he began to raise about the authenticity of the visual material Haeckel
had used to underscore his arguments, were not lost on Nietzsche. Visual
evidence was of crucial importance in this public quarrel, and already before
Hiss account the Basel zoologist Ludwig Rutimeyer, with whom Nietzsche
also had some personal contact, had voiced some tentative doubts about
Haeckels work.20 Although Nietzsche will not have had any knowledge
of the finer points that were at stake in this ongoing debate, his generally
negative view of Haeckels monist evolutionary theory might very well have
been inspired in part by Hiss open criticism. Moreover, His left no doubt
that he fully endorsed Darwin.21
Hiss work represented a kind of scientific practice free from philo-
sophical speculation.22 While much of his early work focused on chicken
embryos, he increasingly began to collect human embryos in various stages
of development from a network of gynecologists. Using a microtome to
produce thin sections of these specimens that could be put under a micro-
scope and subsequently be photographed, His was able to produce a wide
range of visual evidence and even three-dimensional models that could be
compared.23 Hiss practical work, in other words, mirrored what Nietzsche,
18 See ibid., 1931 and 66118.
19 Nietzsche seems to have read Hiss book in 1876. For Nietzsches contact with His, see KGB ii/1,
236; KGB ii/2, 120 and 388; KGB ii/3, 83; and KGB ii/7.1, 441. When Nietzsche was appointed to
the University of Basel, His served as Rektor of the university. Together with his sister Elisabeth,
Nietzsche was also an evening guest at Hiss house, and Elisabeth was sufficiently impressed to
inquire about Hiss new residence in Leipzig. His is remarkably absent from standard discussions
of Nietzsches take on evolutionary thought.
20 See Ludwig Rutimeyers review of Haeckels Naturliche Schopfungsgeschichte in Archiv fur Anthro-
pologie 3 (1868), 3012. Both His and Rutimeyer were members of the editorial board at the time.
For Hiss attack on Haeckel, see Nick Hopwood, Pictures of Evolution and Charges of Fraud:
Ernst Haeckels Embryological Illustrations, Isis 97 (2006), 260301.
21 See His, Unsere Korperform, 1334, 160, and 176.
22 See Hiss criticism of the popular discussion of evolutionary theory in ibid., 21314.
23 On Hiss practice, see Nick Hopwood, Giving Body to Embryos: Modelling, Mechanism, and
the Microtome in Late Nineteenth-Century Anatomy, Isis 90 (1999), 46296.
Toward a natural history of normativity 191
in Beyond Good and Evil, had described as the task of his own genealogi-
cal approach: collecting material and formulating concepts in order to
describe an uncertain reality with a critical eye (BGE 186).
While His, of course, limited his research to the development of embryos,
the question Nietzsche raised in the passage from mid 1884 about the growth
from embryo to thinking human being went to the heart of his philo-
sophical project. Genealogy, studying the emergence of normative order,
mirrored the theoretical perspective of the life sciences. Examining histor-
ically emerging social practices and customs, including the development
of specific disciplinary regimes of morality, constituted a continuation of
zoology, as he wrote during the mid 1870s: after all, if statistics should
be of any use in the study of society, it showed above all else that human
beings are herd animals (KGW iii/4, 29 [149]).
In his political thought as much as in his account of human biology,
Nietzsche clearly favored the exceptional and exemplary individual that was
separate from the herd the free spirit of The Gay Science, the new
philosophers of Beyond Good and Evil, and the sovereign individual
as it appears in On the Genealogy of Morality. Nevertheless, the research
object of the genealogical enterprise was the life of the herd, and his
reading, for instance, of Alexander von Oettingens influential work on
moral statistics during the 1880s underscored that human beings were
simply behaving as herd animals.24 On the one hand, tracing the complex
natural history of herds of people, such as racial groups, communities,
tribes, folk, states, churches, aimed at establishing how the morality of
herd animals was possible in the first place. On the other hand, it also
enabled Nietzsche to ask under which conditions his philosophers of the
future could emerge (BGE 199 and 2023).
Nietzsches interest in the natural history of human beings as herd
animals does not imply that dodos and human beings were effectively
the same, or that the behavior of human beings could be modeled on
the behavior of ants. In a seemingly inconspicuous note from 1881 Niet-
zsche presented a more sophisticated model of societys embeddedness in
nature that ties in with his commitment to naturalism. If naturalism really
is a reasonable position to hold, and if it is correct to assume that human
24 See Alexander von Oettingens Die Moralstatistik in ihrer Bedeutung fur eine Socialethik, 3rd edn.
(Erlangen: Deichert, 1882), which provided statistical assessments covering virtually every aspect of
German society, from marital and extramarital reproduction, education, crime, disease, death, and
suicide to religious confessions, sects and church attendance. The 135 pages of tables in the books
appendix are intended to show how general laws govern social change, but Oettinger a prominent
Lutheran theologian also uses his statistical apparatus in support of a fairly conservative social
agenda. See ibid., 82632.
192 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
intellect is a kind of higher organ, a continuation of human physiology,
then it might also be reasonable to argue that the human individual as a
whole should be regarded as a continuation of nature, that is, as an organ
that stands in the service of its society. Human individuals as a group
replicate, as it were, the cell structures and molecular parts of the body on
a different level. Although society thus seemed to emerge as an extension
of nature, not as its opposite, it also did not have to map directly onto
the life of ants, dodos, and amoebae, as scientific materialists and social
Darwinists suggested. Rather, Nietzsche continued, as an organ of the
community the human individual merely adopted the entire characteris-
tics of the organic (KGW v/2, 11 [182]). Most importantly, this shows that
the idea of the autonomy of the individual, indeed the very notion of being
a human individual, becomes irrelevant: human individuals merely consti-
tuted an accumulation of natural forces, a Machtmenge (KGW v/2, 11 [63]),
while peoples states societies had to be understood as the highest organ-
isms in terms of their complexity organisms, nevertheless (KGW v/2, 11
[316]).25
Nietzsche was no simple sociobiologist, whose explanatory models hap-
pened to be more interesting and more philosophically sophisticated
than those of the British contemporaries he criticized, such as Galton
or Spencer.26 For Nietzsche, the relationship between nature and society
was never as direct as assumed by Galton and Spencer, who tended to map
social life directly onto biological processes and physiological conditions.27
Such explanations could be unintentionally comical as in the case of Dar-
wins ideas about the dramatic increase of poverty in the Victorian city,
which drew heavily on Galton: not only are the poor the most important
obstacle in civilized countries to an increase in the number of men of a
superior class, but the reason why the poor degraded as they are by vice
and recklessness multiply to such extent is that their children are born
by mothers during the prime of life and thus are heavier and larger, and
therefore probably more vigorous, than the presumably virtuous and lean
gentlemen scientists of Shrewsbury and Downe.28 For Nietzsche, on the

25 Such complexity, as Nietzsche was quick to point out, is not unproblematic: the more complex an
organism, the more flawed [fehlerhafter] it is, and this is particularly the case with regard to herds
and states that can become responsible for their own decline (KGW v/2, 12 [163]).
26 See, however, Daniel C. Dennett, Darwins Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meaning of Life (New
York: Simon & Schuster, 1995), 361.
27 See Galton, Hereditary Genius, 33676, and Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development,
299319 and 3317, as well as Spencer, The Social Organism, and The Data of Ethics, 75101
( 309).
28 Darwin, The Descent of Man, i, 167.
Toward a natural history of normativity 193
other hand, the central problem was how what we see as social forms of life
are able to emerge from what we regard as nature, while keeping in mind
that the distinction between social life and nature was merely of a heuristic
kind, following in the footsteps of particular metaphysical commitments.
Generally speaking, a biological form is said to emerge if its properties
are both novel and, at the same time, it cannot be reduced to whatever it
emerges from.29 Cells, for instance, emerge from molecules, while organs
emerge from cells, and consciousness, or even a set of normative commit-
ments, could be said to emerge from the long chain of events that begin
with single cells. There is, to be sure, no straightforward causal link between
cell structures and a particular way of political life, that is, the latter cannot
be predicted, or justified, in any way by reducing, for instance, cultural
values to the biological organization of the human agents that hold them.
The value of democracy, for instance, cannot seriously be derived from
the way in which cell division works in the human body. The way we live,
however, and the way in which we situate ourselves in nature, while being
a constitutive part of the natural world, is bound to be affected by our
biological organization. To conceive of genealogy in terms of a history
of the emergence of thinking, as Nietzsche noted in 1878 in the opening
sections of Human, All Too Human and emphatically repeated in his note-
books of August and September 1885 (HA i: 16 and KGW vii/3, 40 [27]),
has a distinct advantage: later developments in the history of emergence
for example, the social value of altruism cannot be explained in terms of
earlier stages, at least not along the lines of direct causation, but the process
of emergence can be described retrospectively.
Nietzsches interest in the problem of emergence does not come unpre-
pared. It is conditioned by the intersection of philosophy and the life
sciences. A prominent example for this intersection was George Henry
Lewes, a philosophical autodidact, who nevertheless had a firm footing in
Britains intellectual establishment as the first editor of the highly influen-
tial Fortnightly Review. A keen observer of contemporary developments in
continental European thought, Lewes presented the history of philosophy
as something like a demonstration of the incompetence of the Method
upon which all metaphysical inquiries proceed.30 Placing the scientific
materialism of the German speaking lands prominently at the end of his
account of the history of philosophy, surprisingly overshadowing similar
29 On the aspects of novelty and irreducibility, see Alexander Rueger, Physical Emergence, Diachronic
and Synchronic, Synthese 124 (2000), 297322.
30 George Henry Lewes, The History of Philosophy from Thales to Comte, II: Modern Philosophy, 3rd
edn. (London: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1867), 641.
194 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
trends in Britain and France, he nevertheless adopted a cautious perspective.
While conceding that traditional metaphysics was unable to accommodate
the substantive claims of the new experimental sciences, he also recog-
nized the limitations of scientific materialism.31 How should it be possible
that something which clearly did not seem material in any straightforward
sense, like human intellect and cognition, is the result of something that
was fundamentally material, such as cell structures and nerve fibers? Lewess
response to this problem was the assumption that evolution was bound up
with emergence. Describing evolution in terms of incessant separations
and reunions, chemical and morphological, he noted: Each stage of evo-
lution presents itself as the consequence of a preceding stage, at once an
emergence and a continuance.32 Since evolution seemed limited by the
functions and traits that had been selected in the past, and that had come
about as the consequence of a species adapting to changing environments,
he conceived of evolution as continuance. The emergence of new traits,
functions, and variations indicated, however, that such continuity entailed
qualitative differences: The emergent is unlike its components in so far as
these are incommensurable, and it cannot be reduced either to their sum or
their difference.33 Darwin himself, not surprisingly, appreciated Lewess
remarks on evolution and cell theory, referring to the latter in several of
his works.34
Within the conceptual framework of emergence, social practices could
be regarded as constituting a continuation of organic functions in the same
way in which intellect and affect represented a continuation of human
physiology, down to the cellular level, as Nietzsche saw in the work of
Roux and others.35 Moreover, Haeckels biogenetic law, which stated that

31 Ibid., 645.
32 George Henry Lewes, The Physical Basis of Mind, being the Second Series of Problems of Life and
Mind (London: Trubner & Co., 1877), 212 ( 99a).
33 George Henry Lewes, Problems of Life and Mind: First Series, The Foundations of a Creed, ii (Boston,
MA: Osgood & Co., 1875), 369 (V, 66).
34 See, for instance, Darwins references to Lewes in On the Origin of Species, 5th edn., 536 and 573;
Pangenesis: Mr Darwins Reply to Professor Delpino, Scientific Opinion (October 20, 1869), 426;
and The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, 2nd edn. (London: John Murray,
1875), ii, 370 (fn. 42) and 378 (fn. 54). Darwin was particularly taken by Lewess discussion and
criticism of his position in Mr Darwins Hypotheses, Fortnightly Review, new series 3 (AprilJune
1868), 35373 and 61128, and 4 (JulyNovember 1868), 6180 and 492509.
35 Nietzsche, suffice to say, did not limit this argument to animal life, but also included plant life, as
shown by his interest in Hermann Mullers seminal Die Befruchtung der Blumen durch Insekten und
die gegenseitigen Anpassungen beider: Ein Beitrag zur Erkenntniss des ursachlichen Zusammenhangs
in der Natur (Leipzig: Engelmann, 1873), which focused precisely on the link between animal and
plant life. See KGW vii/3, 39 [21]. Moreover, Nietzsche also speculated about [t]he link between the
organic and the unorganic, arguing that organic life was merely a special form of what we regard
as the unorganic world, the latter being the largest synthesis of forces (KGW vii/3, 39 [13] and
KGW viii/1, 1 [105]). Even though he occasionally lamented that Darwin paid too much attention
Toward a natural history of normativity 195
ontogeny recapitulated phylogeny that individual development recapitu-
lated the evolutionary development of the species indicated to Nietzsche
at the very least that evolutionary development as a whole contributed
to the morphological development of individual organisms.36 Despite his
critical attitude to Haeckels monist claims, it must have seemed to him
that human intellect, social practices, even entire states were subject to the
organizing temporality of nature.
The emergence of social customs, disciplinary regimes, and moral norms
was inherently intertwined with natural selection and broader evolutionary
processes. When Nietzsche described thinking as corresponding to drives,
he immediately added: Darwins theory is to be brought up (KGW
v/1, 6 [184]). Any form of what we regard as social selection, which,
in the first instance, leads to specific customs and, in the long run, to
a set of seemingly universally valid moral norms, was always embedded
in evolutionary processes of natural selection.37 A specific moral feeling,
such as bad conscience, thus had its origin in the internalization of our
animal instincts and drives, as Nietzsche remarked in the second essay
of On the Genealogy of Morality, outlining human beings as animals that
turn against themselves. The evolutionary process at stake, however, was
not gradual . . . and did not represent an organic assimilation into new
circumstances. Rather, it was a breach, a leap (GM ii: 16).
While it might seem that Nietzsches perspective thus differed funda-
mentally from the image of a gradual evolutionary process of selection and
adaptation favored by most nineteenth-century authors, there is no real
evidence that Darwin, for one, adopted what is now described as phyletic
gradualism. In contrast, and not unlike Nietzsche, Darwin noted in the
fourth edition of On the Origin of Species from 1866 that the periods during
which species have been undergoing modification . . . have probably been
short in comparison with the periods during which these same species
remained without undergoing any change.38 Evolution did not have to be

to environmental factors influencing the evolution of organisms, Nietzsche himself noted: The
unorganic determines us through and through: water air soil topography electricity etc. We are like
plants under such conditions (KGW v/2, 11 [210]).
36 See the remarks in Haeckel, Generelle Morphologie der Organismen, ii, 610 and 300. For an
interpretation of these passages, see Richards, The Tragic Sense of Life, 14856, and Stephen Jay
Gould, Ontogeny and Phylogeny (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1977), 7684. While
Gould sees in Haeckels biogenetic law an increasing distance from Darwins theory of evolution,
Richards, The Meaning of Evolution, 11164, convincingly shows that Haeckel and Darwin are much
closer than generally assumed.
37 See Richardson, Nietzsches New Darwinism, 7094.
38 Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, 4th edn., with additions
and corrections (London: John Murray, 1866), 35960. While the remark does not appear in the
first edition from 1859, it is reformulated in the 5th edition of 1869 as: the periods, during which
196 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
a gradual process but could be marked by the kinds of leaps Nietzsche sug-
gested for the formation of morality.39 It was such a leap, he claimed, that
led to the shaping of a population through violence and, subsequently,
institutional forms of domination. Society, in other words, did not begin
with the fantasy of a contract, but it began with a leap in natural history
that created Herrschafts-Gebilde: a structure of domination that lives, in
which parts and functions are differentiated and co-related, in which there
is absolutely no room for anything which does not first acquire meaning
with regard to the whole (GM ii: 17).40 Such structures of domination
were not detached from nature but were part of the natural world, and
as such they were subject to historical constraints that Nietzsche could
also find outlined in the work of the Danish Kantian philosopher Harald
Hffding: each developmental stage in the evolutionary history of any
species, but in particular the human species, provided a set of conditions
and circumstances, biological and otherwise, that constrained the kind of
experiences this species could make in the future.41
Nietzsche himself discusses one concrete possibility for the emergence
of normative order in On the Genealogy of Morality, when he related the
physical effects of corporal punishment to the emergence of a psychology
of moral conscience:
A thing must be burnt in so that it stays in the memory: only something
which continues to hurt stays in the memory that is a proposition from the
oldest (and unfortunately the longest-lived) psychology on earth. . . . When
man decided he had to make a memory for himself, it never happened
without blood, torments and sacrifices: the most horrifying sacrifices and
forfeits (the sacrifice of the first born belongs here), the most disgusting
mutilations (for example, castration), the cruellest rituals of all religious
cults (and all religions are, at their most fundamental, systems of cruelty)
all this has its origin in that particular instinct which discovered that pain
was the most powerful aid to mnemonics. . . . With the aid of such images

species have undergone modification, though long as measured by years, have probably been short
in comparison with the periods during which they have retained the same form. Darwin, On the
Origin of Species, 5th edn., 551.
39 Such leaps in macroevolutionary development have been discussed since Stephen Jay Goulds
and Niles Eldredges papers, Punctuated Equilibria: An Alternative to Phyletic Gradualism, in
Thomas J. M. Schopf (ed.), Models in Paleobiology (San Francisco, CA: Freeman, Cooper & Co.,
1972), 82115, and Punctuated Equilibria: The Tempo and Mode of Evolution Reconsidered,
Paleobiology 3 (1977), 11551. Nevertheless, Gould and Eldredge seem to mischaracterize Darwins
position somewhat, attributing to the latter a model of evolution as gradual and uniform change.
40 One of Nietzsches sources makes a similar claim. See Arthur Bordier, La Vie des societes (Paris:
Reinwald, 1887), 31213.
41 See Hffding, Psychologie in Umrissen, 451.
Toward a natural history of normativity 197
and procedures, man was eventually able to retain five or six I-dont-want-
tos in his memory, in connection with which a promise had been made, in
order to enjoy the advantages of society and there you are! With the aid
of this sort of memory, people finally came to reason! (GM i: 3)
Social control can only be successful, Nietzsche believed, if the physical
inscriptions of violence at its source have been physiologically internalized
to such an extent that they are forgotten, while at the same time being
passed on from one generation to the next. The emergence of a social
normative order was less dependent on the will, or on self-control, but
on shaping the organically and psychologically elementary foundations
of the will, as one of Nietzsches sources, the philosopher Johann Julius
Baumann, put it.42 Walter Bagehot had termed this hereditary drill,
drawing on Darwins close friend Thomas Henry Huxley.43 The latter had
remarked that the power which the nervous system possesses consisted
in organizing conscious actions into more or less unconscious, or reflex,
operations. The success of moral education, like the conditioning of
all other behavior, rested on such an involuntary internalization of norms,
whether we desire it or not.44
That the social practices we adhere to are embedded in the material
world of nature, exemplified by the human body, allowed Nietzsche to
ask on what grounds claims about the world could be normative. At first
sight, one might argue that normativity only pertains to human practices,
but such practices belonged to the natural world, and this was already
the case because they had an evolutionary history. The drive to truth, the
striving for knowledge, as much as our belief in the autonomy of reason,
were nothing but a continuation of the alimentary drive and the drive to
hunt (KGW v/2, 11 [47]). It is with this in mind that Nietzsche increas-
ingly naturalized reason, presenting the latter as a kind of supplementary
organ [Hulfsorgan] that emancipates itself from other drives without
ever transcending its natural background. Even the presumed predomi-
nance of reason remained a natural phenomenon, in much the same way
as the drive to truth was an infinitely slow acquirement of mankind
and, thus, a physiological phenomenon (KGW iii/4, 19 [97] and [102]
and KGW v/2, 11 [243]).
42 Baumann, Handbuch der Moral, 16 ( 89). The importance of Baumanns handbook for Niet-
zsches genealogy has been discussed in some detail by Marco Brusotti, Die Leidenschaft der Erken-
ntnis: Philosophie und a sthetische Lebensgestaltung bei Nietzsche von Morgenrothe bis Also sprach
Zarathustra (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1997), 3356.
43 Bagehot, Physics and Politics, 6.
44 Thomas H. Huxley, Lessons in Elementary Physiology (London: Macmillan & Co., 1866), 286
(xi, 26).
198 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
In contrast, any attempt to extrapolate from evolutionary descriptions of
the natural world a given set of moral claims unduly moralized the natural
world, instead of naturalizing humanity (BGE 13). If human individuals,
as much as societies and states, should be seen in terms of a continuation
of nature, as inherently belonging to the realm of organic life, then a view
at some historical examples from Cesare Borgia to Napoleon Bonaparte,
perhaps was bound to show that the natural history of our normative
commitments was not a history of virtue, at least not in the sense of Judeo-
Christian virtue ethics. Rather, genealogy highlighted that the natural
history of normative order knew no difference between altruistic selflessness
and what we regard as its very opposite:
Hatred, delight in the misfortunes of others, the lust to rob and rule,
and whatever else is called evil: all belong to the amazing economy of the
preservation of the species, an economy which is certainly costly, wasteful,
and on the whole most foolish but still proven to have preserved our race
so far. (GS 1)

Human individuals are here understood primarily in terms of natural


beings, and the economy Nietzsche speaks of refers to the dynamic of
evolution itself, reminiscent of Rouxs argument about the self-regulation
of individual organisms and their cells. Within this economy of nature
there is no distinction between different kinds of moral values to be found.
Even that which we tend to describe in morally negative terms remains
crucial for our history as natural beings:
The strongest and most evil spirits have so far done the most to advance
humanity: time and again they rekindled the dozing passions every ordered
society puts the passions to sleep , time and again they reawakened the
sense of comparison, of contradiction, of delight in what is new, daring,
unattempted; they forced men to pit opinion against opinion, ideal model
against ideal model. Mostly by force of arms, by toppling boundary stones,
by violating pieties but also by means of new religions and moralities! . . . In
truth . . . the evil drives are just as expedient, species-preserving, and indis-
pensable as the good ones they just have a different function. (GS 4)

Transgressing the status quo in any given social context belongs to the
economy of nature as a driving force for the evolutionary development of
human individuals as natural beings.
Nietzsche remained unconvinced that whatever had a function in terms
of evolution automatically had to be regarded as linked to pleasure and
the greater good and stability of a community. This separated him, once
again, from Spencer, who clearly suggested that, over the course of human
Toward a natural history of normativity 199
history, pleasure was increasingly associated with specific forms of behavior
and that these associations were inherited physiologically until a commit-
ment to the happiness of the majority became intuitive in the modern
liberal state.45 Darwins natural selection had to be extended into society as
the survival of the fittest, which, for Spencer, referred to the stability of civil
society at large.46 Nietzsche, on the other hand, was not inclined to accept
a straightforward causal link between evolutionary fitness and moral good-
ness. Nevertheless, his naturalism still had to hold that moral goodness,
in one way or another, remained part of the natural world. Thus, he was
unable to deny that so-called good actions have evolutionary functions.
It is just the case that so-called evil actions also have such functions. From
the vantage point of natural history, there was no qualitative distinction to
be made with regard to good and evil actions.47
If Nietzsches naturalism was supposed to be a coherent position it also
had to turn against itself. If genealogy was a worthwhile undertaking it
had to be naturalized itself: it constituted one of the many practices with
which we interact and engage with nature, while it was also the outcome of
the processes it sought to describe. In providing a conceptual description
of what we regard as the historically emerged world we inhabit, genealogy
transforms what we see as this world. As such, it includes inherently nor-
mative claims, the first and foremost of which is to see ourselves not as a
special case vis-`a-vis the rest of nature.
Nietzsche returned to the normative dimension of his philosophical
project once again at the end of his intellectual career in The Anti-Christ:
although the task of genealogy was to reveal the corruption of humanity,
this task itself had to proceed along moraline-free lines, thus rejecting
the moral indictment of human beings (A 6). The question, of course, is
how Nietzsche would have been able to describe corruption without moral
indictment. He could do so, it seems, because he still relied on a standard,
the will to power: I consider life itself to be an instinct for growth, for
endurance, for the accumulation of force, for power: when there is no will
to power, there is decline, that is, corruption (A 6). Our values could

45 See Spencer, The Data of Ethics, 121 ( 45) and 1334 ( 489). See, along similar lines, already
Jeremy Bentham, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, ed. J. H. Burns and H.
L. A. Hart, intro. F. Rosen (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 1213 ( 36).
46 See Spencer, The Principles of Biology, i, 4445 ( 165). For a more positive account of Spencers
social evolutionary ideas, see David Weinstein, Equal Freedom and Liberty: Herbert Spencers Liberal
Utilitarianism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 3366 and 13980.
47 This is also the reason why, in The Gay Science, Nietzsche is able to present selflessness as a variant
of egoism (GS 21). Although Spencer, The Data of Ethics, 21018 ( 7581), also linked altruism
and egoism, he merely noted that they are dependent on each other.
200 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
be judged according to such a standard precisely because, in Nietzsches
account, their normative force was derived from this will to power (A 2).
The latter cannot be understood, however, as a standard external to human
beings to which we can appeal in our moral indictments of humanity.
Rather, the normative force of this standard is dependent on the utility of
our articulations of the world and on the utility of our messy engagement
with what we regard as the world. The central question is whether holding
specific values over others contributes to our existence as natural beings
and whether doing so opens up the possibility for further growth.
Seen against this background, it appears doubtful that Nietzsches
emphasis on the possible creation of new values should not be part of
his naturalistic project.48 While it might certainly be questionable from
our own perspective whether he really succeeded in linking a naturalistic
account of the human material with an account of creative agency, as
Christopher Janaway put it, his attempt to show that the natural history
of our normative commitments opened up the possibility of creating new
values is not unreasonable.49 On these grounds, Nietzsche fully accepted
the value of past illusions, as he pointedly remarks in The Gay Science:
A morality could even have grown out of an error, and the realization
of this fact would not as much as touch the problem of its value (GS
345).50
One of the prime examples for such errors is the denial that we are natural
beings, which Nietzsche, in the third essay of On the Genealogy of Morality,
called the ascetic ideal. The ascetic ideal constituted a self-denial of
what it meant to be human, but as a specific conceptual articulation of the
world it also aimed to compensate for the chaos of our experience of nature
by an appeal to supernatural forces of normative order. Even the ascetic
ideal, however, was only superficially life-denying since it contributed to
the enhancement of life. The very fact that the ascetic ideal was able to
become a central force in the natural history of normative order suggested
to Nietzsche that life itself must have an interest in preserving such a
self-contradictory type as the ascetic priest or the philosopher of virtue
ethics (GM iii: 11).
48 There is no coherent reason for arguing as, for instance, Leiter Nietzsche on Morality, 11, does
that the critical dimension of genealogy is a naturalistic project, while the creative dimension of
Nietzsches philosophical thought falls outside naturalism.
49 Janaway, Beyond Selflessness, 123, ultimately doubts that Nietzsches account is successful.
50 Much later, Nietzsche could find a similar view on the usefulness of illusions in the history of
philosophical thought in Eug`ene de Roberty, LAncienne et la nouvelle philosophie: Essai sur les lois
generales de developpement de la philosophie (Paris: Alcan, 1887), 309.
Toward a natural history of normativity 201
The most obvious, but also perhaps least interesting, example for the
ascetic ideal was, of course, the contempt for nature that arose in the
Judeo-Christian tradition (A 15). Two more interesting areas in which
the values of the ascetic ideal were dominant were philosophy itself and
the morality of altruism. In the first case, metaphysics, from Plato to Hegel
and beyond, appeared to Nietzsche as a clear manifestation of the ascetic
ideal, since the way it gave priority to the soul, spirit, and consciousness
was directed against sensuality (GM iii: 7). Platos reflections on the
immortality of the soul certainly fall into this category as well as his
denigration of bodily desires that do not allow for the same access to
form, justice, and virtue as truth and reason.51 But, within Nietzsches
framework, it was the entire history of modern philosophical thought,
perhaps with the notable exception of the French moralistes, that worked
toward the condemnation of the physical world. Descartes cogito belongs
to this tradition, but also German idealisms emphasis on self-consciousness
as the beginning of philosophy, or Hegels arguments for the realization of
reason in world history.52 Nevertheless, such metaphysical systems emerged
as a specific kind of normative order, allowing for what Nietzsche, despite
his skepticism, did indeed regard as a useful engagement with the world.
At the same time, metaphysics drive to analyze unwittingly provided
the necessary conceptual tools to question its own normative structure.
The drive to research, investigate, dare, which Nietzsche saw as cru-
cial to any philosophical project therefore ultimately made an important
contribution to translating humanity back into nature (GM iii: 9). Even
skepticism, which is bound to demote physicality to the status of an illu-
sion, belonged to the ascetic ideal (GM iii: 12), but it also offered the tools
for an internal critique of metaphysics. Genealogy, as it were, stood on the
shoulders of metaphysics, and the ascetic ideal also becomes manifest in
Nietzsches own philosophical project. Enabling him to undertake an inter-
nal critique of metaphysics, the ascetic ideal was not simply life-denying,
but it directly contributed to life by opening up the possibility of novel

51 See, for instance, Platos Phaedo, trans. G. M. A. Grube, 2nd edn. (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett,
1977), 78b80b, and The Republic, ed. G. R. F. Ferrari, trans. Tom Griffith (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2000), 437b443e, 571a592b, and 608d.
52 See Rene Descartes, Discourse on the Method, in Philosophical Writings, trans. John Cottingham,
Robert Stoothoff, and Dugald Murdoch, i (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 12631;
Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Foundations of Transcendental Philosophy (Wissenschaftslehre) nova methodo
(1796/99), ed. and trans. Daniel Breazeale (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992), 10820 ( 1);
and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of World History: Introduction, trans.
H. B. Nisbet, introd. Duncan Forbes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), 44124.
202 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
normative commitments.53 It is in this respect, he argued, that we have to
understand the ascetic ideal as a necessity of the first rank: an ideal that
was hostile to life supported the growth and development of life (GM
iii: 11).
The same dynamic can be observed in Nietzsches discussion of selfless-
ness and altruism as they become manifest in normative commitments,
such as love thy neighbor (GM iii: 18). In short, the normative force of
the commitment to help others is grounded in the reasonable hope that
others will help me, thus contributing to the preservation and continued
growth of my own life (GS 21). Altruism did not only belong to the peculiar
economy of evolution, but had to be understood as a manifestation of the
will to power: selfless action, and thus the denial of the value of ones own
life, was the arousal of the strongest, most life-affirming impulse, albeit
in the most cautious dose, the will to power (GM iii: 18). The emer-
gence of the ascetic ideal was itself a manifestation of the will to power,
compensating for a perceived lack of power by introducing new means of
empowerment.54
Not unlike biological traits, the historical appearance of specific nor-
mative commitments will not necessarily be governed by their usefulness.
Those normative commitments, however, that are reproduced and repli-
cated over longer periods in time can prove to be useful within specific
stages of our natural history, such as the values that come along with the
ascetic ideal. Values, however, that either lose their usefulness, or become
self-contradictory, not only fail to contribute to our growth and flour-
ishing as natural beings, but they also provide the means for their own
disintegration. This is what Nietzsche, in Daybreak, described in an almost
Hegelian manner as the self-sublimation [Selbstaufhebung] of morality
(D, preface, 4). We are, as natural beings, continually engaged in such a
process of self-overcoming, as he continued this idea in the third essay
of On the Genealogy of Morality: All great things bring about their own
demise through an act of self-sublimation: that is the law of life, the law of
necessary self-overcoming in the essence of life (GM iii: 27). Genealogy,
thus, not only contributes to the self-overcoming of obsolete normative
commitments, but the vacuum this creates, nihilism, also provides the
opportunity for the emergence of new kinds of values, even though the
latters long-term effects and usefulness always remain uncertain (GS 343).
53 See, along similar lines, Ken Gemes, Nietzsche on Free Will, Autonomy, and the Sovereign
Individual, in Ken Gemes and Simon May (eds.), Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2009), 3349: 45.
54 On the ascetic ideal as an expression of the will to power, see also GM iii: 23.
Toward a natural history of normativity 203
The self-overcoming of obsolete moral claims might be that great drama
in a hundred acts reserved for Europe in the next two centuries, the most
terrible, most dubious drama, but it also offered new opportunities and
therefore was the one most rich in hope (GM iii: 27).55

55 See also GM, preface, 5, i: 12, and iii: 4.


chapter 1 5

Naturalism in morality

Against the background of Nietzsches discussion of the ascetic ideal, it is


reasonable to assume that the will to power has to be counted as a standard
constitutive of living things against which to measure our normative com-
mitments. Nietzsche had no intention of denying the value of normative
order. In The Gay Science, for instance, he suggested that moral univer-
salism and moral relativism were equally childish: it was certainly not
reasonable to present the normative commitments of a specific historical
and social context as universal, but it was also wrong to argue that differ-
ences in moral valuations necessarily meant that no morality is binding
(GS 345). He also advanced an understanding of such normative order that
emphasized the central role of power and domination:
For as long as there have been people, there have been herds of people
as well (racial groups, communities, tribes, folk, states, churches), and a
very large number of people who obey compared to relatively few who
command. So, considering the fact that humanity has been the best and
most long-standing breeding ground for the cultivation of obedience so far,
it is reasonable to suppose that the average person has an innate need to obey
as a type of formal conscience that commands: Thou shalt unconditionally
do something, unconditionally not do something, in short: Thou shalt.
(BGE 199)
Nietzsches reference, in this passage of Beyond Good and Evil, to breeding
and innate needs certainly suggests that the normative order he described,
that is, the normative order of Judeo-Christian morality, was the outcome
of a natural history. This was precisely the kind of natural history he was to
sketch out, a year later, in On the Genealogy of Morality. It is important to
point out, however, that even the new philosophers and free spirits did
not undercut this normative order. Rather, Nietzsche regarded them in the
position of a new type of . . . commander, who would still partake in, and
who would still be constrained by, the natural history of normativity (BGE

204
Naturalism in morality 205
203).1 While the morality of the herd invariably translated power and dom-
ination into public spirit, goodwill, consideration, industry, moderation,
modesty, clemency, and pity, the new philosophers were not supposed to
take part in this kind of moral hypocrisy (BGE 199). Instead, Nietzsche
argued, they had to be severe spirits: these philosophers admit to taking
pleasure in saying no, in dissecting, and in a certain level-headed cruelty
that knows how to guide a knife with assurance and subtlety, even when
the heart is bleeding (BGE 210).
Normative order, at its core, was a question of power rather than a
question of justice or the common good. The latter, albeit not impossible
even from Nietzsches point of view, were secondary. Appeals to justice
and the common good can only be successful as long as they recognize
that they are inherently bound up with power.2 An appeal to the will
to power would be able to decide whether or not holding certain moral
commitments contributed to the flourishing of our life as natural beings.
Any such appeal has to keep in mind, though, that the normative force
of the will to power is not external to our actions and practices as natural
beings, but it is constitutive of the latter. It would be a grave mistake to
argue, however, that the will to power entails any concrete substantive
commitments of an epistemic or moral kind; inasmuch as it is constitutive
of life it lacks any content and merely allows for the possibility that our
drives and practices can be realized.3 That human beings tend to have feet
does not justify any specific moral or political claims, and the same is true
of the existence of the will to power. Having feet, nevertheless, allows us to
follow up on the moral commitments we subscribe to and save a drowning
child, and this is also the case with regard to the will to power. The latter
merely allows for the overcoming of resistance whatever this resistance
might be in any given context.
It is also only in this respect that clearly negative and life-denying phe-
nomena, such as suffering and guilt, are able to retain their value: within
the natural history of our normative commitments, they allow for a domes-
tication of our natural cruelty, rendering it possible for human beings both
to exist and to flourish.4 As Nietzsche noted in Twilight of the Idols, a
1 Compare also Nietzsches remarks at BGE 211.
2 In contrast to Philippa Foot, Nietzsches Immoralism, in Richard Schacht (ed.), Nietzsche, Geneal-
ogy, Morality (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1994), 314, a Nietzschean concept of
justice seems quite possible, even though the latter could not be based on virtue ethics.
3 See, along similar lines, Richardson, Nietzsches System, 218.
4 For a more detailed discussion of this point, see Reginster, The Affirmation of Life, 22935, and
Janaway, Beyond Selflessness, 1412.
206 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
naturalism in morality had to emphasize that the practices with which
we conceptually articulate our historically contingent interventions in the
world were governed by an instinct of life. This, needless to say, also
extended to the normative commitments we subscribe to, unwittingly or
consciously. Commitments that govern what we should or should not
do could not reasonably be based on a supernatural understanding of nor-
mativity that denied life, but they needed to be seen as deriving from a
naturalized understanding of normativity (TI v: 4).
Nietzsches talk of domesticating and breeding humanity, which con-
tinues to be misunderstood as indicating questionable political convictions,
suggests that the idea of improving humanity the central ethical and polit-
ical concern of Enlightenment philosophy only made sense within the
context of a naturalized conception of normativity:
People have always wanted to improve human beings; for the most part,
this has been called morality. But this one term has stood for vastly different
things. The project of domesticating the human beast as well as the project of
breeding a certain species of human have both been called improvements:
only by using these zoological terms can we begin to express the realities
here realities, of course, that the typical proponents of improvement,
the priests, do not know anything about, do not want to know anything
about . . . Boiling this down to a formula, you could say: all the methods that
have been used so far to try [sic] make humanity moral have been thoroughly
immoral. (TI vii: 2 and 5)
Breeding and domesticating are, for Nietzsche, descriptive terms that
refer to precisely the kind of practices that make us part of the natural
world. Breeding, in this respect, is a value-neutral term that describes the
emergence of the morality of the herd as much as the emergence of an
aristocratic community (such as Venice or an ancient Greek polis) (BGE
262).
It is difficult to overlook that Nietzsches overall perspective shares some
central characteristics with Michel Foucaults notions of biopower and
biopolitics.5 Foucault conceived of the latter as a discursive regime, or
practice, that exists in any social and political association, since the sta-
bility of such associations ultimately depends on shaping the practices of
their constituent members. Biopower, thus, is not a simple mechanism of
social control enacted by institutions, but belongs to the realm of social

5 See the insightful discussion by Vanessa Lemm, The Biological Threshold of Modern Politics:
Nietzsche, Foucault and the Question of Animal Life, in Herman W. Siemens and Vasti Roodt
(eds.), Nietzsche, Power and Politics: Rethinking Nietzsches Legacy for Political Thought (Berlin: Walter
de Gruyter, 2008), 71939.
Naturalism in morality 207
self-regulation.6 Biopolitics, in turn, depends on technical advances that
appeared from the end of the eighteenth century onward, from statistical
analysis to the implementation of public health policies. It is directed, much
like Nietzsches naturalism, not at man-as-body but at man-as-species,
seeking to optimize a state of life.7 As such, biopolitics constitutes a set of
practices that intervene in the life of human beings as natural beings. When
Nietzsche speaks of breeding and domesticating, describing these terms
as zoological, this, it seems, is precisely what he had in mind.
The question that arises at this moment is that of freedom. The existence
of the latter, at least at first sight, seems thoroughly denied in Nietzsches
attempt to translate humanity back into nature. At the end of his genealog-
ical project, there is no such thing as free will any more:
People were once endowed with free will as their dowry from a higher
order of things: today we have taken even their will away, in the sense that
we do not see it as a faculty any more. The old word will only serves to
describe a result, a type of individual reaction that necessarily follows from a
quantity of partly contradictory, partly harmonious stimuli: the will does
not affect anything, does not move anything any more. (A 14)
The consequence of naturalizing normativity is the destruction of free
will, or so it seems. Free will might have been a useful illusion, but it
contradicted central tenets of Nietzsches naturalism.8 Unsurprisingly, he
put free will in quotation marks.
Nietzsche did not deny, however, the notion of freedom tout court;
indeed, he could not have done so, given the hope he placed in the free
spirits throughout the 1880s (GS 343 and 347; BGE 2444 and 227; A 13).
He required some notion of freedom in order to allow for the success of
his skepticism about the value of metaphysical and religious commitments.
While he might occasionally have demanded a freedom from . . . the sum
of commanding value judgements that have become part of our flesh
and blood, as in the fifth book of The Gay Science (GS 380), he seems

6 Foucault, it is necessary to point out, distinguishes biopower from mere regimes of discipline. See his
Society Must be Defended: Lectures at the Coll`ege de France, 19751976, ed. Francois Ewald, Mauro
Bertani, and Alessandro Fontana, trans. David Macey (New York: Picador, 2003), 2423.
7 Ibid., 243 and 246.
8 See also BGE 1819 and 21. On Nietzsches critique of the free will, see the discussions in John
Richardson, Nietzsches Freedoms, in Gemes and May (eds.), Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy,
12749: 13841, and Leiter, Nietzsche on Morality, 87101. While Richardson regards Nietzsches
account as part of a more emancipatory project, arguing that the freedom of human agency comes
to the fore in the individuals recognition of her own natural limitations, Leiter, on the other hand,
opts for a deterministic account that ultimately has to deny the role of freedom in Richardsons
sense. My own reading is closer to that of Richardson.
208 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
to have been fully aware that such freedom could only exist as a thought
experiment, as a counterfactual perspective which was itself conditioned by
our existence as natural beings. As a consequence, he remarked in Twilight
of the Idols that freedom could only be measured by the resistance that
needs to be overcome, and the latter was a reference to the will to power
as a manifestation of the processes of organic life (TI ix: 38).
Freedom, for Nietzsche, remains fundamentally ambivalent. On the one
hand, he seems to field a notion of freedom as self-determination, or as
the natural ability to set ones own norms. On the other hand, our ability
to do so is constrained by our natural history. Our freedom, to be sure, is
bound up with our normative practices.9 But the latter always defer back
to their own natural history, and to cash in on freedom, as it were, also
requires us to affirm these constraints. There is no such thing as radical
autonomy, but the futural openness of our own natural history allows
for a space of possibilities. The latter are always limited, however, since
changes both in the wider environment and with regard to our situated-
ness in this environment reconfigure what are intelligible and binding
possible choices.10 In much the same way in which the will to power,
for Nietzsche, opens up a field of further possibilities for life, albeit con-
strained by the resistance of our environment, the normative significance
of anything arises from its pointing toward further possibilities.11 It is
only on these grounds that we are able to hold practically useful normative
commitments.
The notion of freedom that Nietzsche accepted, then, remained the
freedom of the sovereign individual as it appeared in On the Genealogy
of Morality. This sovereign individual is a paradoxical figure, to be sure.
On the one hand, it is the outcome of that long history of the origins
of responsibility, which made human beings reliable, regular, automatic
[notwendig] and which thus fundamentally denied any sovereign actions
properly speaking (GM ii: 1 and 2). Human beings, then, are animals able
to make promises, but at the end of this history stands their transformation
into beings who have the right to make a promise. Being able to do
X and having a right to do X are, of course, two different things. On
the other hand, the sovereign individual, thus, has freed itself from the
morality of custom, endorsing a morality grounded in its own drives,
biological conditions, and environmental circumstances (GM ii: 2). The
sovereign individual, after all, does not transcend the natural history
9 See Robert Guay, Nietzsche on Freedom, European Journal of Philosophy 10 (2002), 30227:
31718.
10 Rouse, How Scientific Practices Matter, 3467. 11 Ibid., 358.
Naturalism in morality 209
of our normative commitments, but it is the ripest fruit on its tree
(GM ii: 2).
Human autonomy is based on the insight into the limits of this auton-
omy, but these limits are also shifting. As natural beings, for instance, we
are certainly shaped by organic life, but by conceptually articulating the
way in which we are shaped by organic life, we already transform what
we regard as organic life. If this neo-Kantian stance Kant without the a
priori, as it were should be a general feature of Nietzsches naturalism,
it also affects the metaethical questions raised in his later work. What is
at stake are the conditions under which our commitments, values, and
judgments gain normative force. It seems that he had to claim that there
truly were objective facts with regard to what is morally good and bad,
what we should do and should not do. Such moral realism, which always
has to appeal to some kind of objective standard, would have to regard
normative commitments and values as independent of those human agents
that hold them. In the sense that Nietzsche naturalizes our normative
commitments, arguing that values only have normative force because they
defer to organic life, it is certainly possible to suggest that he is a moral
realist or at least that he eventually became one.12 The will to power, for
instance, could serve as an objective standard against which to measure
whether our normative commitments are life-enhancing or life-denying.
Such an account, however, runs into two difficulties. First, it has to assume
that Nietzsche gave up the skepticism of his early work, trading in such
skepticism for an increasingly empiricist position. We have already seen,
however, that skepticism remained a crucial feature throughout his career
and that skepticism does not necessarily have to run counter to genealogy
as a naturalistic project. Second, the will to power cannot serve as an exter-
nal objective standard, since it is already bound up with the emergence of
values and commitments.13
Despite these reservations, Nietzsches position still shares some general
features with moral realism, as it has been advanced, for instance, by Peter
Railton. Nietzsche would agree that any naturalistic account of values needs
to link the normative to the empirical. To achieve this, moral realism makes
two central claims, among others: first, moral properties supervene upon
12 See, for instance, Schacht, Nietzsche, 3489, and Maudemarie Clark and David Dudrick, Nietzsche
and Moral Objectivity: The Development of Nietzsches Metaethics, in Leiter and Sinhababu (eds.),
Nietzsche and Morality, 192226: 193201 and 21625.
13 Leiters claim (Nietzsche on Morality, 139) that no values can follow from the fact of the will
to power does not strike me as a convincing argument against the assumption of Nietzsches
moral realism. It is based on precisely that distinction between norms and facts which Nietzsches
philosophical naturalism seeks to undermine.
210 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
natural properties to which they can be reduced; second, moral inquiry
is an inquiry into the empirical world.14 Although Nietzsche would have
difficulty accepting that supervenience implies reducibility, there is no
reason to assume that he would reject either claim. This is the moment,
however, at which Nietzsche parts company with Railtons moral realist.
While Nietzsches naturalism implies that normative commitments are
bound up with our practices as natural beings, and do not come from
outside, the moral realist assumes the existence of objective interests as a
standard independent from human agency. Although the moral realist can
argue that such interests merely supervene upon natural and social facts,
and that there is no such thing as absolute goodness, the assumption
of objective interests makes a strong claim for the role of rationality in
moral action.15 There are facts about what an individual has reason to
do that are independent of, and normatively more compelling than, that
individuals conception of her reasons. These rational facts would become
obvious if the interests of all individuals were counted equally and if
there was full information available about all these interests and reasons.16
Nietzsche would deny that such rational facts exist, and Railtons moral
realist unwittingly does exactly what Nietzsche criticized in the work of
Spencer and the British Darwinists: the moral realist presupposes . . . a
particular substantive moral theory as rational, which is then projected
into human agency in order to argue for, or against, a concrete set of
normatively binding moral standards.17 Although it might be the case that
such a substantive moral theory cannot be known a priori but becomes
manifest only a posteriori, for instance, in the historical development of a
particular community, the moral realist, nevertheless, has to assume that
the normative force of this theory exists a priori.18 Normativity, in other
words, is external to human agency, not unlike the autonomy of reason
in Kants moral philosophy. From Nietzsches perspective, however, moral
realism is therefore unable to naturalize its own preconditions.
Is Nietzsche, then, an anti-realist about values? There are, indeed, good
reasons to make this assumption: he described morality as a myth, claimed
that good and evil do not exist, and concluded that there are absolutely
14 See Peter Railton, Moral Realism, The Philosophical Review 95 (1986), 163207: 165.
15 Ibid., 183.
16 See ibid., 18990. For a criticism of Railtons argument for objective interests, see Neil Sinclair,
Two Kinds of Naturalism in Ethics, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 9 (2006), 41739: 4234.
17 Railton, Moral Realism, 190. Such an argument tends toward relativism: any moral theory could
be justified along these lines. See Justin DArms, Relationality, Relativism, and Realism about
Moral Value, Philosophical Studies 126 (2005), 43348: 434.
18 See Railton, Moral Realism, 1923.
Naturalism in morality 211
no moral facts (D 3; Z ii: 12; and TI vii: 1).19 The question is, however, what
the term moral refers to in such statements. It cannot refer to the idea
that values are detached from organic life and that our moral practices have
to be situated outside nature. Rather, when he contended that there are
no moral facts, he seems to have had in mind what is regarded as factual
in the metaphysical tradition, such as the a priori structure of Kants moral
law. Nietzsche also uses the term facts in this context rather loosely.
To be sure, it is not entirely unlikely that he oscillated between moral
realism and moral anti-realism, depending on the themes he addressed in
his writings.20 Given our account of Nietzsches philosophical naturalism,
though, it seems that his position must be more complex.
Bernard Reginster has pointed in this direction, when he distinguished
between two different claims that moral realism has to make: the first claim
is that there are objective values, in terms of facts, and the second that the
value of values depends on their objective standing.21 It is entirely possi-
ble to subscribe to the latter claim without accepting the first. Nietzsche,
undoubtedly, rejected the idea that there are objective values independent
of the natural beings that hold them. Therefore he also has to be regarded
as a moral anti-realist, but given his continued insistence on the value of
having values, he does seem to have accepted that the usefulness of such
values actually depends on their objective standing as a kind of regula-
tive fiction: human beings create values that they hold to be objective.22
Nietzsche, therefore, seemed willing to entertain moral realisms second
claim as outlined above. The principal difference between the members of
Nietzsches herd morality and his free spirits would be that the latter, as
Nadeem Hussain argued, engage in a simulacrum of valuing by regarding
things as valuable in themselves while knowing that they are not.23
However, this conclusion does not resolve one of the underlying issues
of Nietzsches naturalism. To accept, in terms of a normative fiction, that
we hold values to be objective and factual which, ultimately, are neither,
still requires an objective standard, an epistemically privileged position
able to distinguish between fictional norms and objective facts. Nietzsches

19 For influential accounts of Nietzsches moral anti-realism, see Leiter, Nietzsche on Morality, 13661,
and Richardson, Nietzsches New Darwinism, 10432.
20 This is the view of Tamsin Shaw, Nietzsches Political Skepticism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
Press, 2007), 78136.
21 Reginster, The Affirmation of Life, 910 and 5669, calls these different claims descriptive objec-
tivism and normative objectivism, respectively.
22 See ibid., 8597.
23 Nadeem J. Z. Hussain, Honest Illusion: Valuing for Nietzsches Free Spirits, in Leiter and
Sinhababu (eds.), Nietzsche and Morality, 15791: 178.
212 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
understanding of human agents as natural beings denied that such a dis-
tinction was reasonably possible. It seems, then, that the neat distinction
between realism and anti-realism in Nietzsches moral thought is inherently
problematic. On the one hand, claiming that normative commitments are
natural kinds, or properties of nature, cannot give any compelling reasons
why these commitments, as much as our conceptual articulation of nature,
should undergo change. On the other hand, claiming that nature is anor-
mative is not sufficient to provide compelling reasons why anything should
have normative force in the first place. The problem, however, runs deeper.
Arguments for Nietzsches anti-realist claim that objective values do not
exist generally point out that the illusory objective standing of these values
as transcending nature can simply be explained away by reference to nature.
This implicitly assumes, however, the existence of nature as a well-defined
object external to human beings. The kind of naturalism that supports
this position is precisely the kind that Nietzsche rejected out of hand:
neither our normative commitments nor our knowledge about the world
simply represent nature; rather, they emerge from our existence as natural
beings within this world, continually reconceptualizing and engaging in
what we regard as nature. To explain something away by referring to a
unified concept of nature does not explain why we continue to hold what
we are busy explaining away, unless we simply assume that nature counts
as an objective standard for our normative commitments. Then, however,
Nietzsches presumed anti-realism about values would be grounded in
moral realism.
Both moral realism and moral anti-realism implicitly require that we
are able to make an objectively valid distinction between us, as human
beings, and the rest of nature. Both moral realism and moral anti-realism
are based on the assumption of a privileged epistemic position, even though
anti-realism in particular claims to reject such a position.24 The attempt
to conceive of Nietzsches metaethics along the lines of a tidy distinction
between moral realism and moral anti-realism largely fails to recognize its
own metaphysical presuppositions and, as such, it fails to naturalize these
presuppositions.
What, then, are we to make of the overall outlook of Nietzsches natu-
ralism, that is, his demand to translate humanity back into nature (BGE
230)? After all, as I pointed out at the beginning, this is the central task
24 This is the central problem of Leiters rejection of moral realism as adopting a privileged epistemic
position. In order to carry through this criticism, his argument ultimately has to rely on the very
assumption that he seeks to reject. See his Nietzsches Metaethics: Against the Privilege Readings,
European Journal of Philosophy 8 (2000), 27797.
Naturalism in morality 213
of Nietzsches philosophical project. First of all, the metaethical impli-
cations of his genealogy, as I have outlined them, are a consequence of
the overall trajectory of his philosophical project and, as such, they are
also a consequence of the historical contexts within which this project
gains shape. Genealogy is a direct outcome of Nietzsches naturalism. It
entails an understanding of normativity, and of the emergence of nor-
matively binding claims about the world we inhabit, that is shaped in
equal measure by his take on the philosophical tradition, especially Kant,
and by his encounter with the life sciences of his time, from Darwin and
morphology to cell theory. It is this intersection of philosophy and the life
sciences that, throughout the nineteenth century, posed new questions with
regard to the actual linkages between the normative and the natural. These
questions, as we have seen, are also the central focus of the first generation
of neo-Kantians, such as Lange, Caspari, and even Ernst Mach. Very much
like these early neo-Kantians, Nietzsche seeks to overcome the unfruitful
opposition between materialism and idealism by arguing that any natural-
istic account of our values has to take seriously the historical dimension of
the normative commitments we hold: the normative force of our ethical
claims, as much as the normative force of our epistemic claims about the
world we inhabit, is dependent on our history as natural beings.
The skepticism about human knowledge that comes to the fore in
Nietzsches early reflections, and that is in no small part influenced by
neo-Kantians like Lange, forces him to show how we come to subscribe to
values that are seemingly directed against our existence and agency as natu-
ral beings. Viewing these normative commitments against the backdrop of
evolutionary development, as it is conceived in the contemporary life sci-
ences, brings him to emphasize the path dependent development of living
things: in the development of our values, as much as in the development
of our organs and biological traits, not everything is possible, but neither
is anything predetermined. Integrating the evolutionary perspective of the
life sciences into his neo-Kantian kind of naturalism means for Nietzsche
that the future of our values is inherently open, albeit constrained by those
commitments that have proven to be useful in the past. Against this back-
ground, normativity is neither something that stands outside the natural
world, nor can it be understood as a natural kind. Rather, the normative
force of our values and epistemic commitments emerges from the way in
which we interact with a world of which we, as natural beings, are already
a constitutive part.
Nietzsches demand to naturalize humanity, in other words, is an attempt
to come to terms with the paradox of our existence as natural beings. For
214 Part III Genealogy, nature, and normativity
a brief moment in 1887, Nietzsche was not entirely without hope that
we could actually embrace this paradox of a naturalized humanity: there
is evidence that the European of the nineteenth century is less ashamed
of his instincts; he has made a great step toward admitting, finally, his
unconditional naturalness, i.e., his amorality, without exacerbation: on the
contrary, with sufficient strength to cope with this view alone (KGW
viii/2, 10 [53]). Such cheerfulness, however, did not last long and, perhaps,
continues to be misplaced today. We might accept that we are simply
natural beings, and that everything else is an illusion, but we seem far
from ready to acknowledge the possible consequences our amorality
included.
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Index

a posteriori, 123, 210 Baumann, Johann Julius, 99100, 197


a priori, 33, 55, 87, 89, 107, 113, 114, 117, 118, 119, becoming, 100, 108, 111, 124, 15961, 166
120, 121, 1334, 150, 209, 210 and causality, 161
laws and principles, 11718 bees, 92, 151
adaptation, 8, 38, 39, 41, 77, 87, 92, 130, 131, 145, being, 80, 160
152, 156, 170, 174, 175, 176, 195 benefit, 152, 153
coadaptations, 79 Berlin, 14, 21, 36, 48, 67, 78, 102
affect, 1, 15, 187, 1889 Imperial Physico-Technical Institute, 14
agency, 1, 3, 50, 70, 80, 119, 128, 136, 182, 183, Philosophical Society, 67
200 Physiological Institute, 14
human agency, 146, 151, 182, 210 University of Berlin, 13, 96
in cells, 1778 Bildungstrieb, 85, 90, 93, 94
in nature, 1712 biogenetic law, 138, 189, 194
material agency, 53 biology, 19, 32, 38, 501, 66, 136
algae, 148, 150 in Germany, 1501
altruism, 38, 1535, 171, 193, 198, 2023 biopolitics, 164, 2067
and fear, 155 biopower, 2067
and violence, 155 Blumenbach, Johann Friedrich, 45, 856, 90
amoebae, 31, 45, 161, 192 body, 23, 32, 40, 44, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 87, 160,
Annalen der Physik und Chemie (journal), 188, 189, 197
22 experimentalization of, 184
anthropomorphism, 25, 267, 79, 180 social body, 164
ants, 31, 151, 191, 192 Bonn, 78, 109, 149
appearances, 24, 31, 32, 85, 87, 89, 108, 110, 115, University of Bonn, 105
117, 118 Borgia, Cesare, 198
manifold of, 117, 133, 149 Boscovich, Roger, 1057
Aristotle, 86, 91 botany, 46
ascetic ideal, 59, 2003, 204 brain, 31, 53, 164, 185
assimilation, 26, 187, 195 brain cells, 190
astronomy, 16, 179 brain functions, 115
atomism, 1057 Brandom, Robert, 5
autonomy, 152, 209 Bratuschek, Ernst, 59, 150
Avenarius, Richard, 1034 breeding, 204, 2067
Breslau (Wroclaw)
Bacon, Francis, 56 Institute of Embryology, 173
Baer, Karl Ernst von, 90, 125, 164 Buchner, Ludwig, 23, 28, 70
Bagehot, Walter Kraft und Stoff, 28
hereditary drill, 197 Buckle, Henry Thomas, 97
on evolution and progress, 979 History of Civilisation in England, 97
Basel, 83, 147, 177, 190 Bunge, Gustav von
University of Basel, 16, 39, 52 on cellular agency, 1778

241
242 Index
Cambridge, 53, 155, 156, 157, 166 counterfactual account of, 128
Christs College, 155 final causes, 901
Camper, Peter, 45 in cell theory, 177
Carnap, Rudolf, 62, 113, 114 in early modern metaphysics, 104
Cartesian dualism, 30 cell pathology, 46
Carus, Carl Gustav, 8 cell theory, 7, 8, 19, 389, 40, 468, 71, 78, 151,
Caspari, Otto, 4, 2931, 32, 34, 35, 83, 93, 1257, 1612, 164, 170, 1759, 194, 213
148, 151, 158, 213 and emergence, 193
concept of genealogy, 148 and materialism, 467
Der Zusammenhang der Dinge, 30 and natural selection, 170, 175, 176
on contingency in evolution, 1267 epistemic uncertainty of, 1767, 178
on evolution, 2930, 1478 cells, 1, 2, 39, 45, 46, 47, 48, 53, 77, 160, 161, 172,
Cassirer, Ernst, 11314 175, 176, 177, 178, 180, 183, 193
causa finalis, 93 binary fission, 176
causa sui, 32 brain cells, 190
causal laws, 110, 116, 123 cell division, 8, 46, 173, 175, 176, 193
a priori nature of, 111 cell nucleus, 46
causal relationships, 107, 121, 122 cell plasma, 47
in history, 152 cell state (Zellenstaat), 164
causalism, 105 cell structure, 194
causality, 2, 16, 22, 27, 323, 545, 87, 89, 101, cellular agency, 177
10310, 111, 11523, 125, 132, 152 cellular structure, 46
a priori conditions of, 107, 108 cytoblastema, 46
a priori laws of, 11718, 120 development of, 47, 176
and becoming, 161 functions of, 177, 178
and habituation, 119, 123 germ cells, 39
and normativity, 1202 growth of, 46
and probability, 1078 meiosis, 176
as embodied, 11921 mitosis, 176
as natural kind, 103 molecular structure of, 47
as regulative principle, 11718, 125 organization of, 45, 179
biological account of, 120 plasticity of, 176
causal agent, 119 self-regulation of, 198
causal attribution, 119 somatic cells, 39
causal descriptions, 121 chance, 73, 102
causal efficacy, 119 chemistry, 16, 177
causal explanation, 101, 119, 120, 161 Chur, 97
causal force, 102 civil society, 155, 199
causal inference, 107, 123 civilization, 98
causal instinct, 122 cogito, 11819, 201
causal interactions, 121 cognitive science, 63
causality of the will, 119 Cohen, Hermann, 4, 112, 11314
efficient causality, 88 colonies, 164
evolutionary function of, 121 community, 152, 155, 192, 198, 210
imaginary causes, 1223 comparative anatomy, 22, 151
laws of, 27, 33, 110, 111 compassion, 155
psychological need for, 105 competition, 79
psychology of, 1223 complexity, 79, 192
reciprocal causality, 140 emergence of, 136
reification of, 103 of consciousness, 45
usefulness of, 119 of evolutionary development, 79, 99,
causation, 79, 101, 107, 121 151
and emergence, 193 of life forms, 127
backward causation, 1223, 165 of organisms, 86
chancy causation, 128 compulsion, 121
Index 243
conscience, 184, 196 and racism, 99100
bad conscience, 169, 195 and teleology, 41
emergence of, 1967 neo-Darwinism, 8
formal conscience, 204 Nietzsches criticism of, 403
consciousness, 31, 45, 68, 11819, 161, 185, 188, Nietzsches criticism of social Darwinism,
193, 201 1516
study of, 185 Nietzsches view of, 358, 434
constitutive v. regulative, 87 on civilization, 42
constructivism, 67 on moral progress, 423
contiguity, 118 political aspects of, 1626
contingency, 41, 82, 91, 99, 102, 107, 130, 135, 137 social and political implications of, 423
in evolution, 1267, 139 social Darwinism, 145, 1636, 1923
continuity, 6, 456, 103, 117 social Darwinism in Germany, 99100
across nature, 47, 1912, 194 teleological language of, 92
in evolution, 48 degeneration (Entartung), 139
continuum, 82, 161 democracy, 193
corals, 148 Democritus of Abdera, 83
corruption, 199 Descartes, Rene, 45, 106, 201
cows, 126 description, 26, 27, 121, 131, 132, 141, 159, 161
cruelty, 205 deus sive natura, 70
culture development, 3, 81, 131, 136, 146, 156, 160, 189
preconditions of, 18 as emergence, 138
custom, 108, 129 as path dependent, 81, 1289, 1346, 1389
Czolbe, Heinrich, 23, 86 developmental patterns, 128
different models of, 128
Darwin, Charles, 2, 79, 15, 19, 30, 346, 37, 38, evolutionary model of, 7
39, 414, 45, 48, 56, 72, 78, 91, 97, 102, 111, in cell theory, 47
125, 126, 13940, 147, 151, 152, 1535, 158, in nature, 2, 72, 78, 80, 86, 90, 101, 103, 1258,
1623, 164, 165, 166, 167, 16970, 172, 176, 13440, 1712
177, 178, 190, 192, 194, 1956, 199, 213 in nature, neo-Kantian model of, 82
First Notebook on the Transmutation of language of, 134
Species, 72 morphological, 8
and cell theory, 1756 of life forms, 40
and teleology, 7980 of organisms, 77
evolutionary tree, 72 of species, 79
in German biology, 389, 1756 ontogenetic, 189
neo-Kantian reception of, 14750 phylogenetic, 189
Nietzsches appreciation of, 434, 156 dinosaurs, 80
on natural selection and morality, 1545 disharmonies of existence, 31
on pangenesis, 1756 dissection, 52
on perfection in nature, 92 dodos, 151, 191, 192
on teleology and evolution, 923 domestication, 2067
On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural domination (Herrschaft), 15, 196, 204, 205
Selection, 36, 41, 42, 43, 154, 162, 175, 195 Dreher, Eugen, 151
on variation, 923 drives, 26, 50, 85, 102, 132, 138, 152, 187, 188, 195,
reception of Naturphilosophie and German 197, 198, 205
idealism, 1567 as higher organs, 188
The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation path dependent evolution of, 135
to Sex, 42, 43, 154 reality of, 187
Darwinian beast, 38 Drossbach, Maximilian
Darwinism, 5, 79, 19, 3544, 70, 79, 91, 14756, on agency in nature, 1712
1923, 210 on causality, 108
and modernity, 41 on evolution, 1712
and morphology, 3940 Ueber die scheinbaren und wirklichen Ursachen
and Naturphilosophie, 91 des Geschehens, 171
244 Index
Du Prel, Carl, 148 experience, 18, 20, 21, 62, 84, 87, 89, 114, 117, 118,
DuBois-Reymond, Emil, 13, 1415, 28, 36, 52, 120, 139, 152, 200
185 aesthetic experience, 185

Uber die Grenzen des Naturerkennens, and causality, 33, 107, 108, 116, 117
185 and life, 159, 171
Duhring, Eugen, 29, 49 and values, 188
Dupre, John, 71 immediate experience, 61
naturalistic account of, 20, 60
embodiment, 11921 unity of, 87
embryo, 2, 8, 175, 189, 190, 191 experiment, 8, 1718, 64, 70
chicken embryo, 189, 190 experimental practices, 64
embryonic development, 39 experimental systems, 135
embryology, 47, 48, 90, 151, 164, 18991 experimentalization, 1415, 173
emergence, 81, 136, 138, 139, 140, 159, 175, 176, experimentalization of life, 15, 52, 53, 55, 59,
1935 77, 78, 184
and continuity, 194 experimentation, 114
of intellect, 189 experimenter, 17, 22
of moral norms, 195 laboratory experiment, 22
of normativity, 1957 explanation, 121, 131, 132
empiricism, 29, 58, 59, 150, 209 extinction, 126
empiricists, 6 Eyfferth, Max, 149
empirio-criticism, 103
energy, 21, 22, 47, 77, 106, 127, 130, 161, 174, facts, 20, 26, 29, 60, 153, 163
178 in morality, 21011
Enlightenment, 116, 153, 206 normativity of, 69
Entwicklungsmechanik, 34, 40, 90 falsification, 64
environment, 44, 47, 67, 77, 98, 123, 126, 128, Faraday, Michael, 106
137, 161, 163, 208 fear, 155
and life, 171 Fechner, Gustav Theodor, 30, 125
environmental changes, 139, 170, 194, 208 felines, 126
resistance of, 208 Feuerbach, Ludwig, 102
epistemology, 15, 54 Fichte, Johann Gottlieb, 102
naturalized, 612 Fick, Adolf, 545
equilibrium, 127 Fick principle, 55
evil, 153, 198, 199, 210 Ursache und Wirkung, 54
evolution, 2, 4, 15, 30, 34, 35, 389, 40, 413, 44, fictionalism, 211
50, 65, 71, 78, 79, 80, 81, 96, 111, 1258, Fischer, Kuno, 84, 109
13940, 145, 146, 151, 156, 157, 158, 167, fitness, 41, 42, 81, 141, 152, 153, 154,
16970, 179, 186 199
and cell theory, 478 Flourens, Pierre, 132
and Christian virtue ethics, 1556 force, 171, 179
and emergence, 194 force fields, 1056, 179
and morality, 1526, 1989 reciprocal forces, 171
and teleology, 923 Fortnightly Review (journal), 193
and variation, 923 Foster, Michael, 53, 867
constraints, 1267, 136, 137, 196 Textbook of Physiology, 53
developmental trends, 41 Foucault, Michel, 2067
directional trends, 41, 127, 128 Fouillee, Alfred, 68
leaps in, 1956 free spirits, 204, 207, 211
modern synthesis of, 8 free will, 207
neo-Darwinism, 8 freedom, 95, 96, 121, 123, 2079
neo-Kantian understanding of, 14750 Freiburg im Breisgau
Nietzsches understanding of, 1278, 1523 University of Freiburg, 9
of social groups, 68 freshwater hydra, 164
phyletic gradualism, 195 Friedman, Michael, 11314
Index 245
Fries, Jakob Friedrich Guyau, Jean-Marie, 68, 1701
on formative drives, 1012 Esquisse dune morale sans obligation ni
frogs, 53 sanction, 170
functions, 26, 27, 47, 80, 812, 86, 87, 92, 93, 94,
128, 130, 137, 139, 153, 160, 183, 187, 194 habit, 108
in biology, 13941 Haeckel, Ernst, 39, 41, 91, 96, 99, 138, 147, 148,
of drives, 198 179
biogenetic law, 189, 1945
Galton, Francis, 43, 153, 163, 176, 192 embryology, 18990
Hereditary Genius, 43 Generelle Morphologie der Organismen, 41
ganglia, 53 Naturliche Schopfungsgeschichte, 41
Geisteswissenschaften, 185 Hagenbach-Bischoff, Eduard, 52
Gemes, Ken, 64 Haller, Albrecht von, 157
genealogy, 5, 7, 18, 23, 33, 40, 50, 51, 57, 65, 66, happiness, 119, 122, 123, 165, 199
713, 82, 12834, 164, 187, 191, 2023, 213 Hartmann, Eduard von, 36, 37, 95, 105, 151,
and causation, 128 186
and description, 1312 Harvard University, 166
and evolution, 1301, 148 heart, 86
and explanation, 131 Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, 41, 43, 102,
and metaphysics, 1324, 2012 110, 128, 156, 157, 185, 201
and morphology, 40 and teleology, 956
and naturalism, 3, 65, 131, 1456 philosophy of history, 956
and normativity, 134 Hegelians, 96
and the body, 49 Heidegger, Martin, 9
as continuation of zoology, 191 Heidelberg, 14, 28, 36, 78
as a naturalistic project, 23, 213 University of Heidelberg, 185
as a normative project, 199200 Heilbronn, 173
as a practice, 3, 712, 1901 Hellwald, Friedrich von, 99100
generation, 92 Helmholtz, Hermann von, 4, 13, 1415, 212, 24,
genetic fallacy, 81, 129 52, 57, 78, 149, 173, 1856
genetics, 38 on causality, 323
genetic inheritance, 8 on the unity of science, 22
Geneva, 13 research on perception, 14
geology, 179 research on rate of nerve induction, 14
germ plasma, 389, 174, 176
Uber die Erhaltung der Kraft, 21
German idealism, 4, 21, 31, 43, 45, 47, 48, 102, herd animals, 191
110, 125, 156, 157, 201 morality of, 191
metaphysical commitments of, 23 heredity, 34, 389, 47, 63, 92, 148, 175, 176
German Romanticism, 90, 102 His, Wilhelm, 3940, 18991
Gersdorff, Carl von, 16, 25, 35 Unsere Korperform und das physiologische
Geschehen, 159, 181 Problem ihrer Entstehung, 190
goals, 80, 82, 89, 128 history, 130, 156, 161, 165
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 456, 901, 164 and evolution, 95100
on metamorphosis, 901 and human physiology, 98
good, 153, 154, 164, 165, 199, 209, 210 biological laws of, 967
common good, 205 historical sense, 100
primacy of the, 98, 154 historicity, 187
Gottingen, 28, 36 Hffding, Harald, 51, 196
graphs, 52, 53 Hoffmann, Ernst, 52
growth, 77, 92, 102, 136, 1412, 146, 158, 159, honesty, 145
1612, 172, 181, 182, 200, 202 human beings, 6, 19
in cell theory, 46 and nature, 188
of cells, 177 as herd animals, 1912
of embryo, 190 naturalized, 72, 1912
guilt, 169, 184, 205 human existence, 123
246 Index
humanity, 27, 42, 102, 142, 165, 200, 204 introspection, 52
and freedom, 207 intuition, 17, 112
corruption of, 199 invertebrates, 14
domestication of, 165, 206
extinction of, 80 Jager, Gustav, 147
ideal of, 123 James, William
moral drives of, 198 criticism of Spencer, 166
moral improvement of, 206 Janaway, Christopher, 64, 65, 101, 200
naturalistic conception of, 1, 19, 48, 4950, Jena, 46
66, 124, 180, 181, 186, 188, 198, 201, 212, University of Jena, 46
213 Joule, James, 173
Nietzsches conception of, 4950 Judeo-Christian tradition, 154, 165, 201
progress of, 96 justice, 201, 205
Spencers conception of, 172
Humboldt, Alexander von, 157 Kant, Immanuel, 1, 2, 4, 9, 10, 23, 24, 43, 44, 47,
influence on Darwin, 1567 55, 71, 82, 1023, 104, 106, 10813, 11418,
Hume, David, 5, 56, 103, 104, 106, 1089, 11921, 123, 1334, 140, 142, 14850, 156, 157,
11920, 121 175, 185, 186, 209, 210, 211, 213
A Treatise of Human Nature, 116 Analogies of Experience, 878, 103, 11417
Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, and the life sciences, 86
116 conception of nature, 87, 889
on causality, 1078 Critique of Pure Reason, 86, 87, 88, 110, 116
on causality and necessity, 11617 Critique of the Power of Judgment, 83, 86, 88
Hussain, Nadeem, 211 Nietzsches view of, 11213
Husserl, Edmund, 103 on antinomy of teleological judgment, 88
Huxley, Thomas Henry, 170, 197 on causality, 115, 11618
on causality as regulative principle, 120
idealism, 1, 4, 21, 30, 32, 44, 45, 125, 213 on efficient causality, 88, 120
idees-forces, 68 on empirical study of nature, 89
identity, 27 on mechanical laws, 88
idioplasma, 34, 174, 176 on natural laws, 89, 117
illusions, 267, 31 on power of judgment, 845
evolutionary function of, 278, 1334 on purposiveness in nature, 845
metaphysical, 152 on reflective judgment, 88
Immermann, Hermann, 52 on regulative principles, 878, 89
incorporation, 44, 162, 183 on self-organization in nature, 128
innate ideas, 28, 120 on synthetic judgments a posteriori, 116
innate needs, 204 on synthetic judgments a priori, 120, 133
innateness, 189 on synthetic principles of pure understanding,
of values, 188 89
instinct, 15, 45, 50, 188, 195 on teleology, 8391
causal instinct, 122 on unity of nature, 88
evolution of, 923 reception of Hume, 11617
institutions, 65, 68, 145, 150, 206 Kantian, 1, 2, 51, 93, 94, 95, 102, 104, 136, 184
instruments, 52, 53, 54 Kant-Studien (journal), 148
intellect, 45 Kirchmann, Julius Hermann von, 67
development of, 189 knowledge, 1, 4, 6, 16, 18, 268, 45, 56, 57, 58, 62,
naturalized, 1889 67, 110, 115, 132, 133, 150, 161
intentionality, 57, 80, 119, 170 a priori conditions of, 28, 150
interaction, 24, 667, 108, 119, 121, 213 a priori structure of, 185
among organisms, 1712 and normativity, 134
and the will to power, 182 and physiological organization, 18, 267
intermaxillary bone (os intermaxillare), 45 and things in themselves, 118
intervention, 54 empirical knowledge, 113
intra-action, 667 evolutionary function of, 278
Index 247
facticity of, 29 living things, 1612
logical structure of, 29 molecular dimension of, 173
naturalistic conception of, 445, 114 Nietzsches conception of, 167
of reality, 313 Rouxs conception of, 178
unity of, 62, 113, 114 social life, 192, 193
Konigsberg, 14, 110, 112 life sciences, 2, 186
Korsgaard, Christine, 1878 disunity of, 2, 78, 19, 64, 151, 170
Koselitz, Heinrich, 106, 174 explanatory models in, 78
Kosmos (journal), 1479, 150 in the nineteenth century, 79, 867
Krause, Ernst, 147, 148 Nietzsches interest in, 9
Kuhn, Thomas, 134 philosophical debates about, 44

Littre, Emile, 97
laboratories, 7, 14, 52, 53, 54, 55, 58, 67, 77, 78, Liverpool, 43
173, 184, 189 Locke, John, 188
laboratory logic, 54, 161, 188
laboratory experiments, 22 London, 43
Lamarck, Jean-Baptiste, 148 University College, 36
Lamarckism, 189 Lotze, Rudolph Hermann, 30
Lange, Friedrich Albert, 4, 21, 245, 27, 28, 29, Lubbock, John, 148
30, 32, 35, 83, 84, 92, 93, 103, 105, 108, 109,
112, 113, 149, 185, 213 Mach, Ernst, 4, 13, 14, 24, 32, 55, 103, 213
Geschichte des Materialismus, 24 Beitrage zur Analyse der Empfindungen, 4
larvae, 138 Mackie, J. L., 123
Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm, 43 Malthus, Thomas
Leipzig, 13, 52, 83, 149 An Essay on the Principle of Population, 163
Institute for Experimental Psychology, 14 Manchester, 43, 78
University of Leipzig, 13, 104, 172, 190 mangle of practice, 7, 53, 58
Leiter, Brian, 625 Marburg, 113
Leuckart, Rudolf, 13, 14 materialism, 1, 4, 21, 25, 28, 29, 30, 33, 467, 51,
Lewes, George Henry 125, 174, 177, 186, 213
on emergence, 1934 ancient Greek, 83
liberalism, 99, 165, 199 neo-Kantian materialism, 108
Liebig, Justus von, 59 Nietzsches criticism of, 289, 445, 701
Liebmann, Otto, 4, 21, 23, 27, 32, 112, 113, 1323, scientific materialism, 7, 13, 15, 20, 21, 289,
134, 147, 149 31, 445, 47, 61, 63, 64, 701, 99, 193,
Kant und die Epigonen, 150 194
on a priori conditions of knowledge, 150 strong program of, 28
on Darwin and Kant, 14950 Materialismusstreit, 289, 83, 86, 125
Zur Analysis der Wirklichkeit, 150 materialists
life, 7, 22, 23, 44, 458, 50, 51, 59, 6870, 778, scientific materialism, 23
79, 83, 84, 86, 102, 127, 1324, 136, 1412, mathematics, 54
151, 1579, 161, 168, 169, 170, 171, 172, 174, matter, 21, 22, 27, 30, 85, 105, 106, 111, 152, 158,
177, 1789, 182, 187, 188, 199200, 201, 202, 161
2056 in cell theory, 47
aesthetic appreciation of, 56 Maxwells demon, 127
and power, 77, 159 Mayer, Julius Robert, 1734
and the will to power, 167, 170, 174, 182 Die Mechanik der Warme, 173
as normative standard, 142 measurement, 52, 55
emergence of, 1745, 176, 178 mechanical principles
expansion of, 182 in biology, 867
experimentalization of, 1415, 52, 53, 55, 59, memory, 119, 196, 197
77, 78 Mendel, Gregor, 34, 38, 176, 177
in cell theory, 178 metabolism, 28, 53, 77, 160, 174, 187
instinct of, 206 metaethics, 3, 146, 20914
living force, 30, 85, 94, 158 and nature, 212
248 Index
metaphor, 27 morphology, 3940, 57, 71, 78, 151, 156, 167, 186,
metaphysics, 6, 9, 1819, 23, 25, 27, 45, 49, 54, 213
65, 67, 70, 79, 91, 109, 110, 111, 112, 1324, animal morphology, 7, 8, 19, 38, 39, 44, 48,
146, 152, 156, 158, 181, 1934 170, 189
and biological organization, 18 functional morphology, 91
as evolutionary need, 122 Goethes concept of, 90
biological account of, 134 of norms, 167
evolutionary usefulness of, 1512, 1601 of the will to power, 174
internal critique of, 132, 134, 142, 201 morphotic processes, 102
metaphysical faith, 70 Muller, Johannes, 14, 21, 46, 48, 102
metaphysical need, 122 Handbuch der Physiologie des Menschen, 24,
self-overcoming of, 2012 48
microscope, 190 Munich
microtome, 190 Botanical Garden, 173
mind, 26, 45, 11819, 158, 159, 185 University of Munich, 173
and nature, 44, 189 Versammlung deutscher Naturforscher und
Kantian paradigm of, 185
Artzte (1877), 179
naturalized, 1889 myograph, 53
Mind (journal), 367 pendulum myograph, 55
modernity, 41
molecules, 31, 39, 77, 115, 159, 160, 183, 193 Nageli, Carl von, 2, 345, 46, 90, 173, 174, 175,
interaction of, 176 176, 177
molecular processes, 172, 174, 175, 179 Mechanisch-physiologische Abstammungslehre,
organization of, 179 173
Moleschott, Jacob, 23, 28, 70 Napoleon Bonaparte, 198
Der Kreislauf des Lebens, 28 Natorp, Paul, 4, 112, 149
monism, 147, 159, 195 natural history, 3, 19, 40, 63, 80, 85, 138, 142, 152,
moral anti-realism, 3, 146, 21012 191, 196, 199, 202, 208
moral law, 112, 152 of morality, 1525
a priori structure of, 211 of normativity, 3, 18, 72, 142, 145, 198, 200,
moral realism, 3, 146, 20910, 21112 204, 205, 208
moralistes, 51, 201 natural laws, 16, 27, 55, 108
morality, 1, 15, 18, 42, 63, 142, 153, 154, 155, 165, natural selection, 7, 8, 19, 26, 389, 40, 413, 48,
187, 200 71, 78, 79, 81, 91, 92, 96, 97, 99, 140, 145,
amorality, 214 146, 151, 152, 153, 155, 156, 1623, 164,
and evolution, 1525 16970, 172, 174, 175, 176, 182, 195, 199
as myth, 210 and morality, 154
emergence of, 195 and social selection, 195
herd morality, 166, 191, 206, 211 as transformation, 78
ideal of, 123 naturalism, 1, 57, 10, 19, 45, 56, 6073, 181,
Judeo-Christian, 204 1912, 199, 21214
moral communities, 98 and metaethics, 20914
moral feeling, 51, 195 and morality, 20414
moral goodness, 199 as different from Naturphilosophie, 159
moral judgment, 16, 50, 152, 185 in morality, 188, 206
moral norms, 63, 122, 195 methodological version of, 6, 613, 66
moral relativism, 204 neo-Kantian dimension of Nietzsches, 3
moral sentiment, 50 neo-Kantian version of, 213
moral universalism, 204 Nietzsches early version of, 256
morality of custom, 208 psychological conception of, 501
natural history of, 1525 subject naturalism, 5
naturalistic account of, 20414 substantive version of, 6, 601, 63, 66, 69,
typology of, 71 145
morphogenesis, 138 naturalistic fallacy, 60, 151, 153, 164, 165, 198
morphological demonstration, 141 naturalized epistemology, 612
Index 249
nature, 6, 19, 22, 25, 26, 27, 301, 45, 48, 4950, On the Future of Our Educational
60, 66, 70, 79, 83, 84, 889, 95, 102, 103, Institutions, 16
104, 106, 120, 126, 156, 1589, 170, 181, On the Uses and Disadvantages of History
212 for Life, 95, 145
and ethics, 212 On Truth and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense,
and normativity, 657, 689 1, 1517, 18, 49, 58, 64, 118
as continuum of forces, 108 Schopenhauer as Educator, 98
dynamic conception of, 1067 Teleology since Kant, 23, 25, 84
historicized, 113 Beyond Good and Evil, 1, 7, 15, 32, 40, 45, 50,
in German idealism, 156 56, 578, 71, 102, 118, 121, 1289, 131, 132,
knowledge of, 44 151, 162, 167, 187, 191, 204
mathematization of, 22 Daybreak, 2, 17, 51, 58, 73, 81, 147,
mechanical models of, 86 202
Newtonian concept of, 87 Ecce Homo, 38
Nietzsches conception of, 131 Human, All Too Human, 18, 26, 49, 50, 56, 57,
regularity of, 137 69, 142, 152, 159, 193
unifying theory of, 106 Nachla, 168
unity of, 45 neo-Kantian stance of, 12, 3, 45, 19, 2033,
Naturphilosophie, 89, 36, 39, 40, 44, 456, 47, 64, 209
48, 77, 84, 90, 91, 101, 148, 1501, 156, On the Genealogy of Morality, 1314, 15, 37,
1579, 177, 179, 189 49, 55, 56, 59, 97, 103, 12930, 153, 167,
Nietzsches criticism of, 159 1689, 180, 191, 195, 196, 200, 2013, 204,
Naumann, Constantin Georg, 13 2089
nebular hypothesis, 148 Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, 16
necessity, 111, 139, 180 The Anti-Christ, 20, 50, 51, 112, 158, 199
and causality, 107, 11617 The Birth of Tragedy, 56
in nature, 93, 104, 180 The Gay Science, 1, 15, 19, 43, 44, 50, 52, 79,
needs, 122 119, 131, 134, 1523, 156, 157, 162, 169, 180,
neo-Kantian, 2, 120 186, 191, 200, 207
neo-Kantian philosophy, 2, 45, 2033, 105, 109, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 15, 51
11214, 184 Twilight of the Idols, 534, 118, 119, 122, 166,
and the natural sciences, 212 188, 205, 208
conception of science, 22 Will to Power, 9
current reception of, 113 nihilism, 202
Marburg School, 113 nisus formativus, 85, 90
naturalistic perspective of, 245 normative commitments, 4, 6, 18, 65, 66, 72, 80,
neo-Kantian philosophy of science, 11314 130, 202, 204, 209
neo-Kantians as natural kinds, 212
first generation of, 4, 203, 112, 113, 114, force of, 15
14950, 213 historical dimension of, 213
naturalistic perspective of, 22 natural history of, 205, 209
second generation of, 45, 21, 112, 11314 normative force, 3, 15, 18, 59, 61, 121, 209, 212,
nerves, 190 213
nerve fibres, 14, 53, 194 emergence of, 213
nervous system, 18, 22, 34, 51, 52, 133, 197 of affects, 189
nervus sympathicus, 122 of backward causation, 123
rate of nerve induction, 14, 57 of causal descriptions, 121
stimulation of, 16, 55 of science, 61
Newtonian, 86, 115, 152, 186 normative methods, 70
concept of science, 104 normative order, 98
Newtonian mechanics, 106 emergence of, 15, 19, 146, 1967
Nice, 13 evolution of, 40
Nietzsche, Friedrich, 204 natural history of, 18, 145
David Strauss, the Confessor and the of nature, 181
Writer, 96 of social practices, 135
250 Index
normative practices biological, 27, 118, 120, 193
natural history of, 208 of cells, 45
normative standard, 69, 72 of matter, 102
life as, 142 of molecules and cells, 179
will to power as, 3 of nature, 46, 47, 158
normativity, 2, 6, 10, 1819, 445, 51, 601, physiological, 25, 31, 34, 197
6570, 723, 1202, 134, 1813, 184, 197, self-organization, 128, 136, 138, 1789
210, 21112, 213 social, 151
and affects, 1889 organs, 32, 47, 48, 82, 92, 93, 115, 129, 130, 131,
and evolutionary advantage, 44 136, 141, 183, 189, 193, 197
and freedom, 208 emergence of, 81
and genealogy, 131 higher organs, 188, 192
and naturalism, 1 human individuals as, 192
and path dependence, 135 perfection of, 92
and power, 2045 usefulness of, 81
emergence of, 66 utility of, 139
evolution of, 1959 Overbeck, Franz, 9, 35, 54, 147, 148, 149, 150
historicity of, 1867 Owen, Richard, 111
in science, 71
natural history of, 3, 142, 145, 146, 204 Paley, William, 155
naturalized, 207 pangenesis, 1756
normative claims, 3, 6, 44, 66, 67, 71, 134, 135, pantheism, 104, 105
187, 199 parasitology, 13
normative distinctions, 70 Paris, 78
of the factual, 29 path dependence, 81, 1289, 1346, 1389
of the natural, 183 patterns, 128
sources of, 50, 145, 185, 1869 of intra-action, 667
norms pea plants, 176
internalization of, 197 perception, 16, 120
perfection, 50, 92, 140, 154
obedience, 204 in evolution, 413, 92, 165
objectivity, 17, 59 of organs, 92
Oettingen, Alexander von, 191 perfectibility, 41, 92, 96
Oken, Lorenz, 456 phenomena, 110
on final causes, 101 phenomenalism, 33
ontogeny, 189, 195 philosophers, 2045
ontology, 65, 181 Philosophische Monatshefte (journal), 59, 147,
optimism, 96 14950
organisms, 47, 48, 77, 87, 93, 102, 136, 137, 140, philosophizing, 69
141, 162, 172, 175, 179, 180, 184 value of, 20
development of, 77, 85, 137, 138, 139 philosophy, 5, 17, 21, 30, 56, 71, 173
developmental laws of, 91 with Darwin, 37
fitness of, 42 analytic philosophy, 5, 64, 113
functions of, 81 and life, 6970
generation of, 175 and science, 56, 61, 623
Nietzsches conception of, 90 and the natural siences in neo-Kantian
perfection of, 92 philosophy, 148
robustness of, 81, 93, 137, 141 continental philosophy, 5
Rouxs conception of organism, 1789 philosophy of biology, 78
social organism, 164 photosynthesis, 61
social organisms, 192 phyletic gradualism, 195
viability of, 154 phylogeny, 189, 195
organization, 24, 46, 85, 94, 102, 132, 180, 188, physical sciences, 26
193 physicalism, 6, 25, 62, 150, 177
and the will to power, 182, 183 physicalist reductionism, 60, 61
Index 251
physics, 16, 22, 66, 106, 127, 171, 177, 184 moral psychology, 50
experimental physics, 13 Nietzsches view of, 502
physiology, 13, 16, 22, 27, 32, 46, 47, 48, 49, 52, of moral judgment, 50
545, 57, 111, 114, 1201, 170, 171, 178, 184, physio-psychology, 40, 50
189 punishment, 196
practice of, 53 purpose, 73, 82, 89, 102, 103, 105, 108, 121, 129,
physio-psychology, 40, 50, 167 130, 137, 138, 180, 181
Pickering, Andrew, 53 in nature, 86, 934, 103
pigs, 41, 71, 126, 135, 137 purposiveness, 81, 845, 89, 120, 124, 125, 126,
plant hybrids, 148 137, 181
plasma, 161 and biological functions, 1401
Plato, 45, 111, 112, 123, 156, 201 Nietzsches criticism of, 180
porifera, 36
positivism, 29, 51, 59 Quine, Willard Van Orman, 67, 612
power, 121, 129, 158, 159, 166, 171, 174, 182, 205
as expansion, 171 race, 129
expansion of, 80, 127, 162 Railton, Peter, 20910
practices, 589, 67, 70, 1289, 131, 205 rationality, 210
in the life sciences, 114 realism, 67
naturalistic account of, 667, 197 promiscuous realism, 71
path dependent evolution of, 135 metaphysical realism, 181
Prague, 55 reality, 21, 23, 24, 26, 27, 59, 66, 120, 150, 161,
Charles University, 13 187
preservation, 28, 131, 138, 141, 1523, 161, 162, 174 epistemological dilemma of, 24, 313
drive for, 162 logical structure of, 114
of life, 161, 188, 202 unity of, 114
of species, 151, 152, 153, 172, 174, 198 reason, 84, 96, 102, 110, 112, 115, 197, 201
of the self, 154 a priori conditions of, 23, 117
of traits and variations, 162, 169 a priori laws of, 117
self-preservation, 141, 162 and biology, 120
Preyer, William T., 78 autonomy of, 4, 23, 188, 197, 210
Price, Huw, 5 naturalistic account of, 197
Priestley, Joseph, 106 reductionism, 6, 62, 63, 99, 100, 150, 177, 186
primum movens, 102 Ree, Paul, 378, 147, 153
profitability Der Ursprung der moralischen Empfindungen,
in evolution, 92 37, 153
progress, 41, 423, 130 Die Entstehung des Gewissens, 37
ambivalence of, 165 Reginster, Bernard, 211
biological underpinnings of, 978 regulative fiction, 71, 79, 85, 87, 168, 211
cultural and moral, 95100 regulative ideas, 109
ideologies of, 96, 99100 regulative principle, 26, 32, 87, 89, 101, 115,
in evolution, 413 11718
laws of, 164 reification, 17981
promise, 197, 208 Reimarus, Hermann Samuel, 85
Protestantism, 102, 112 representations, 110
protoplasma, 34, 45, 78, 147, 161, 177, 183 reproduction, 141
protozoa, 164 res cogitans, 30, 118
Prussian Academy of Sciences, 13 res extensa, 30
pseudopodia, 183 resistance, 17, 130, 182, 183, 188, 205
psychology, 40, 54, 62, 123, 167, 184, 196 of environment, 208
as pre-science, 54 overcoming of, 3, 146, 182, 183, 205,
as experimental science, 523 208
comparative psychology, 36 responsibility, 208
experimental psychology, 7, 13 ressentiment, 169
in nineteenth-century Germany, 1846 Rheinberger, Hans-Jorg, 135
252 Index
Rheinisches Museum fur Philologie (journal), 83 metaphysical commitments of, 567
Richardson, John, 169 Newtonian concept of, 104
Robertson, George Croom, 367, 97 Nietzsches conception of, 1617, 26, 569
robustness, 41, 81, 93 Nietzsches skepticism about, 567
of organisms, 137, 141 normative claims of, 1867
of species, 139 objectivity in, 578
Rolph, William Henry, 174 scientific concepts, 27, 179, 187
Biologische Probleme, 172 scientific inquiry, 20
on evolution, 172 scientific observation, 30
Rouse, Joseph, 5, 667, 68 scientific rationality, 56
Roux, Wilhelm, 2, 147, 1723, 174, 175, 176, 177, scientist, 16, 22, 61, 180
194, 198 unity of, 22, 62, 64, 66, 113, 114
Der Kampf der Theile im Organismus, 173 Wissenschaft, 142, 186
on biological self-organization, 1789 scientific method, 7, 17, 28, 57, 61, 62, 66
Royce, Josiah, 166 unity of, 29, 49
criticism of Spencer, 166 scientific practice, 7, 17, 29, 30, 523, 57, 589,
Rutimeyer, Ludwig, 190 634, 69, 70
scientific realism, 26
Schaarschmidt, Carl, 105, 109, 112, 149 scientist, 56
Schaffle, Albert, 164 self, 27, 51, 11819, 154
Schelling, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph, 45, 84, 102, self-control, 197
156, 157 self-interest, 153, 154, 155
on nature and life, 1579 selflessness, 154, 155, 198, 202
Schiller, Friedrich, 90 self-overcoming, 2013
Schleiden, Matthias Jacob, 467, 48 self-regulation, 187
Schleiermacher, Friedrich Daniel Ernst, 102 of organic processes, 1789
Schmidt, Oscar, 36 of organisms and cells, 198
Descendenzlehre und Darwinismus, 36 social, 207
Schneider, Georg Heinrich, 138 self-sacrifice, 155
Schopenhauer, Arthur, 18, 23, 25, 84, 86, 10912 self-sublimation, 202
Criticism of the Kantian Philosophy, 109 Semper, Karl, 39, 478, 78
criticism of Kant, 10910 Die naturlichen Existenzbedingungen der
on causality and necessity, 11011 Thiere, 36
on teleology, 91 sense organs
on will-to-live, 168 evolution of, 148
Parerga and Paralipomena, 25 senses, 54, 62
The World as Will and Representation, 25, 110, sensory perception, 14, 24, 55, 185
111 sensualism, 32
Schulphilosophie, 116 Sidgwick, Henry
Schwann, Theodor, 467, 48, 176 criticism of Spencer, 166
science, 2, 6, 7, 16, 18, 26, 29, 49, 54, 58, 59, 63, Sils Maria, 9, 13, 15, 54, 147, 150
64, 66, 702, 132, 173, 187 simultaneity, 115
and naturalism, 61 skepticism, 1516, 1718, 20, 23, 267, 51, 567,
and Nietzsches philosophical practice, 712 58, 62, 63, 645, 110, 112, 201, 207, 209, 213
authority of, 57, 70 snakes, 137
conviction in, 57 social contract, 196
disunity of, 667, 70, 71 social control, 206
ethical commitment of, 187 social forces, 68
experimental nature of, 523 society, 51
experimental science, 17, 19, 525, 112, 184, and nature, 1913
194 sociology, 15
faith in, 70 Socrates, 56
Kants conception of, 86 soul, 160, 201
materialist conception of, 185 immortality of, 201
metaphysical assumptions of, 181 sovereign individual, 191, 2089
Index 253
species, 4, 8, 39, 47, 48, 57, 77, 78, 92, 126, 127, teleological description, 80, 81, 82, 87
145, 152, 153, 157, 196 teleological explanation, 95, 101, 103, 123
and adaptation, 194 temporality
and breeding, 206 of nature, 159, 195
development of, 79, 85, 87, 138, 162, 179, 189, theodicy, 95
195 theology, 54, 71, 85, 86, 111, 155
fitness of, 152, 154 thermodynamics, 13, 173
human beings as, 38, 79, 152, 207 second law of, 127
preservation of, 28, 138, 151, 152, 153, 154, 172, things in themselves, 109, 110, 112, 115, 117, 118
174, 198 tonometer, 55
robustness of, 139 traits, 39, 47, 81, 98, 126, 130, 135, 139, 147, 159,
survival of, 152, 154, 162 162, 163, 169, 175, 194, 202, 213
specimens, 72 and biological functions, 1401
Spencer, Herbert, 37, 41, 79, 148, 151, 153, 1626, inheritance of, 34, 97
170, 172, 192, 1989, 210 transcendental law, 33
naturalistic fallacy, 164, 165 transformation, 30, 130
on body politic, 1634 transmutation, 30, 139, 157, 158
on evolution and morality, 1656 Treviranus, Gottfried Reinhold, 8, 136, 157
on progress, 1645 truth, 5, 15, 16, 27, 44, 56, 57, 62, 70, 197, 201
Principles of Biology, 162 moral authority of, 17
The Data of Ethics, 37, 56 will to truth, 70
sphygmograph, 55 Tubingen, 96
Spinoza, Baruch de, 104, 147
Nietzsches criticism of, 1056 Ueberweg, Friedrich, 109
on causality and causation, 1047 usefulness, 12930
Spir, Afrikan, 21, 1034 as historically variable, 130
Stahl, Georg Ernst, 157 in evolution, 81, 92
statistics, 53, 191 utilitarianism, 153
moral statistics, 191 utility, 129, 200
Sterne, Carus (= Ernst Krause), 147 and exigency (Notlage), 139
Strau, David Friedrich, 41, 96, 102 in evolution, 13941
struggle for existence, 92, 99, 128, 148, 1623,
165, 166, 172, 182 Vaihinger, Hans, 148, 149
stuggle for the expansion of life, 172 values, 3, 5, 15, 16, 18, 26, 38, 60, 65, 68, 71, 723,
substance, 21, 104, 105, 115 130, 131, 1412, 146, 160, 186, 189, 193, 198,
succession, 115, 116, 117, 121 200, 2045, 209, 210, 21112, 213
supervenience, 183, 210 as embodied, 188
survival of the fittest, 1623, 165, 172, 199 in science, 59
sympathy, 155 value feelings, 133
variation, 412, 92, 126, 137, 140, 162, 182, 194
Teichmuller, Gustav, 125 Venice, 15, 206
teleology, 2, 35, 42, 72, 7882, 839, 901, 924, verification, 64
99, 103, 111, 123, 124, 1256, 127, 128, 134, Versammlung deutscher Naturforscher und Arzte
136, 137, 142, 159, 161, 162, 172, 182 1872, 185
and biological functions, 812 1877, 179
and causality, 82, 101 viability
and functions, 141 in evolution, 137, 141
and goals, 801 of organisms, 154
and intentionality, 80 violence, 135, 155, 196, 197
and theology, 85, 102 Virchow, Rudolf, 2, 28, 47, 78, 164, 176
cultural and moral progress, 95100 on science, 17980
in Naturphilosophie, 1012 virtue, 119, 122, 129, 154, 201
Nietzsches criticism of, 102 and backward causation, 122
Nietzsches early criticism of, 934 virtue ethics, 3, 146, 171, 198, 200
strong program of, 128, 137, 138 vitalism, 93, 164, 176, 177
254 Index
Vogt, Carl, 13, 14 Nietzsches sources, 1705
Physiologische Briefe, 28 normative dimension of, 1813
Volkelt, Johannes, 149 psychological reading of, 169
Williams, Bernard, 5
Wagner, Richard, 18 Windelband, Wilhelm, 113
Wallace, Alfred Russel, 162 Wirklichkeitsphilosophie, 29, 49
Weismann, August, 2, 389, 148, 176 Wolff, Caspar Friedrich, 164
Weltzeugungsgeschichte, 101 woodpecker, 92
Whewell, William, 158 world
on German philosophy of biology, 157 logical structure of, 114
will, 51, 11819, 1689, 179, 181, 197, 207 worms, 14, 46
will to power, 33, 40, 50, 65, 108, 130, 132, 1456, Wundt, Wilhelm, 13, 14, 37, 52
1612, 16770, 1712, 1734, 1813, 2045, Vorlesungen u ber die Menschen- und Thierseele,
208, 209 24
and natural selection, 16970 Wurzburg, 55
and organic life, 170, 182 Physiological Institute, 54
and philosophical naturalism, 180 University of Wurzburg, 54
and teleology, 182
and the ascetic ideal, 202 Zeitschrift fur wissenschaftliche Botanik (journal),
as experimental concept, 181 46
as metaphysical concept, 145, 1689, 179 Zeller, Eduard, 28
as normative standard, 3, 146, 199200, 204 Zollner, Johann Carl Friedrich, 185
as overcoming resistance, 1823, 205 zoology, 13, 114, 207
biological account of, 167, 169, 177, 183 Zuckert, Rachel, 140
morphology of, 174 Zurich, 9, 54, 55, 147