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4 - Science and the Will to Truth

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 August 2012

David Dudrick
Affiliation:
Colgate University, New York
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Summary

The preface to BGE tells us that the “magnificent tension of the spirit” was produced by a struggle between those who endorsed Platonism and those who opposed it. The latter, we have seen, include all those who promoted dogmatism, understood as the view that knowledge is to be gained using a priori means. The former are those who reject dogmatism and therefore endorsed empirical methods for gaining knowledge. This clash is, on Nietzsche’s view, one between those motivated more by the will to value (the dogmatists) and those motivated more by the will to truth (the empiricists). If this is right, then Nietzsche regards natural science as the crowning achievement of the will to truth, because it is the chief triumph of the forces of antidogmatism.

Though we have seen in the previous chapter that Nietzsche does not want a philosophy inspired solely by the will to truth, we would still expect his philosophy to manifest this will, and so to be sympathetic to the rejection of a priori knowledge in favor of empirical methods. And we certainly find this in the works of his middle period, starting with Human, All-Too-Human. When we look at BGE 14–16, however, a couple of problems arise for our interpretation. First, Nietzsche’s attitude toward the view that knowledge is gained through the senses seems to range from grudging acceptance to outright rejection. Further, especially when these passages are combined with BGE 21’s claim that causality is a fiction, they seem to show that Nietzsche views modern science as manifesting not the will to truth but a will to falsify reality. That is, in these passages BGE seems once again to provide evidence that Nietzsche is still committed to the falsification thesis, which we argued in Chapter 2 he had overcome by the time he wrote BGE. In the second half of this chapter (4.3 and 4.4), we will argue that far from exhibiting a reversion to the falsification thesis, BGE 14–16 actually show part of how Nietzsche overcame it. We begin the chapter by arguing that Nietzsche is not attacking science in these aphorisms but only certain interpretations of science. In the second section we argue further that a careful reading of these aphorisms shows Nietzsche to endorse a version of empiricism.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2012

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