Darwin and Nietzsche Part IV: Metaphysics as “Logic”: The Grounds of the Principle of Reason

“Natural selection” is a unifying theory of the “how” of human beings and determines the viewing of what are called the “life sciences”. Its premise is that human reason is historical and is a product of the modifications which human beings have undergone through time. For Darwin, “life” is the determiner of what “modifications” shall succeed and which shall not through the principles of “natural selection” embodied in the phrase “survival of the fittest”. For Nietzsche, “life” is will to power and it is the principle upon which what exists persists in its existence. “Survival” is a persistence in the presence of beings that exercise their will to power. How is this will to power expressed?

Knowledge is a grasping and retaining of what is true. Truth and the grasping of truth are “conditions of life” and are prior to what we call “experience”. Knowledge takes place when we think and make assertions about things. Such assertions are “judgements”. The thinking that represents beings/things prevails in perception and cognition “in every kind of experience and sensation”. “To perceive” means to take something in advance as being in this or that way or else not, or as differently, being as it is (reality). Conversely, things/beings only “reveal” themselves to such a perceiving in such and such a manner. To be the same means to belong together in essence: beings/things are not in being as beings, not present, without such perceiving i.e. we are incapable of “seeing” them in any other way. As the Greek philosopher Parmenides would say: “Perceiving and Being the same”. (As an aside, this is why we teach Darwinism as a “reality” rather than a theory of reality in our classrooms i.e. as one among many possible ways of perceiving the world.)


One cannot think Parmenides saying in a modern way such as Schopenhauer’s in his World as Will and Representation i.e. “representation and Being are the same” that the world is merely our representation and that it “is” nothing in itself and for itself. Nor can it be thought in Bishop Berkeley’s esse est percipi which denies any reality to beings outside ourselves without our perceiving them or as upheld in their presence through the perceptions of God. Rather, the saying means that Being (Life) is only where perceiving is and perceiving is only where beings/things are. What yokes together being and perceiving is what we conceive as “truth”.

For the Greeks this yoking is called nous: the thinking that we associate with Reason which is the enjoinment of thought to beings/things. This enjoining relation was called logos by the Greeks and it expresses how things are addressed: katagorein (the categories). The schemata of the categories (quality, quantity, relation, etc.) is how beings/things are addressed, the form into which we address something as something. This is what is understood as species: that from which and in return to which beings/things are: what they are made of, how large/small, how they are related to other beings/things. Perceiving things as such unfolds in thinking and thinking expresses itself in the assertion, in the logos.

Western metaphysics determines things/beings in advance as what is conceivable and definable i.e. what is not “imaginary” or “fantastical”. “Common sense” and metaphysical thinking rest on the “trust” that beings/things show themselves in the thinking of reason and its categories: that what is true and truth are grasped and secured in reason. This has been called the principle of reason. Nietzsche states: “Trust in reason and its categories, in dialectic (Hegel), thus the value estimation of logic, proves only their usefulness for life, proved by experience—not their ‘truth’”.

We cannot view the “trust in reason” and the dominance of logos as ratio as one-sidedly rationalism or rationalistic. Irrationalism belongs within the “trust” in reason where irrationalism determines the “world view”: the triumphs of rationalism, the principle of reason, are both celebrated within the technological and the adherence to fundamental irrational world views.

“Trust in reason” is a basic constitution of human beings—the animale rationale. The power and the capacity that brings human beings before beings/things and that represents beings/things for human beings is delivered over to reason. Only what represents and secures rational thinking has claim to the assertion of a being that is in being. Reason determines what is in being and what is not. Reason is the most extreme pre-decision as to what Being (Life) means.

“Logic” and the “logical” are calculated on the basis of trust in reasons. When physics thinks beings/things in certain categories (matter, cause, energy, potential) and in its thinking trusts these categories from the start and in its research continually attains new results, such trust in reason in the form of science does not prove that “nature” reveals its essence in anything that is objectively shaped and represented by the categories of physics. Such scientific knowledge only demonstrates that our thinking about nature is “useful” for “life”. (See the blog entry on The Natural Sciences). What generates practical use is true and the truth of what is true is to be estimated only according to its degree of usefulness. Here in TOK we refer to this as “robust knowledge” if that usefulness is great. That something is “useful” pertains to the conditions of “life”. What we think these conditions are, the essential determination of these conditions, the ways of their conditioning, and the character of their conditioning depends upon the way in which life itself is defined in its essence.

That something is useful for life means that scientific knowledge through the principle of reason posits and has posited “nature” as being in a sense that secures modern technological success in advance through the calculations of the schemata adopted. This is the framing that is the technological and why “technology” is referred to as a fate in these writings and why “choice” is placed in quotations marks.

Truth and what is true:

How are we to understand “truth as correctness” or what is called “the correspondence theory of truth” according to Nietzsche? How is “correctness” to be understood?

Truth as a characteristic of reason (and thus knowledge) and that this characteristic is used to assemble and represent beings/things and why it must be used as such must be clarified.

In (WP #507) Nietzsche says: “that a great deal of belief must be present; that judgements may be ventured, that doubt concerning all essential values is lacking that is the pre-condition for every living thing and its life”. What Nietzsche is saying is that truth and what is true are not determined subsequently in terms of practical use merely accruing to life i.e. from experience, but rather that truth must already prevail in order for what is alive to live so life as such can remain alive. Accordingly, what is believed and held to be true can (“in itself”) be a deception and untrue; it suffices for it merely to be believed and, best of all, for it to believed unconditionally and blindly.

Does Nietzsche somehow support or believe the current “alternate facts” and machinations that are so much a part of modern politics and propaganda? Is Nietzsche’s conception of truth quite mad? There is the statement that the truth must exist but that it does not necessarily need to be “true”.  For Nietzsche, “truth” is a necessary “value” but it is not the highest value. Our current actual historical conditions and situations are the consequences of the hidden essence of truth, and as consequences they have no control over their ground or origin. Irrationalism and rationalism are bound together.

What is essential is conceived as essential in relation to “value” and to its character as a value. “Survival of the fittest” is a value and as a value is a “condition of life”. The conditions of our preservation are predicates of Being (Life) for Nietzsche. The necessity of being stable in our beliefs if we are to prosper requires that we determine a “true” world that is in opposition to a world of change and becoming. The “modification” apparent in Being which is a product of necessity and chance is countered by the “true”, stable world of the principle of reason grounded in Being. Being (nature) chooses which modifications will survive and which will not, and these “surviving” modifications are evidence of “progress” conceived as more “fitter” or “fitted”.  This apparent opposition of the worlds of Being (nature) and becoming (modification) is something which has been present in the thinking of the West since its beginnings.

In Platonic philosophy (Platonism, which is to be distinguished from the thinking of Plato himself) the eidos or the outward form/appearance and the idea or the “whatness” of something are enjoined. But in Plato, the things that are: this computer, these letters, this software, are eidola or outward appearances only because they must show their form in sensuous appearance. They are lacking in true “substance”. Yet what is computer-like, software-like still shows itself in its presence here and now, but what makes a computer be a computer and software be software are not in the things themselves but only in the eidos and the ideas of the things.

We say that something is which we always in advance encounter as always at hand: what is always present and has constant stability in this presence. We call this the true world, reality. The “apparent world” is what is not in being, what is inconstant and without stability, what constantly changes and in appearing disappears again. The Christian faith’s distinction between the earthly and the eternal, shaped by faith in redemption and salvation is an example of the distinction between the “true” and “apparent” worlds. Nietzsche states: “Christianity is Platonism for the masses”. Nietzsche’s thought searches for the origin of this distinction between the worlds and he finds this origin in “value relations”. What is constant and stable is of higher value to what is changing and flowing. Why?

Nietzsche understands “value” as a “condition of life”. To “condition”, being a “condition” signifies essence, what something is, what state it is in. Life, both of human beings and of “nature”, stands under certain conditions and it posits and preserves these as its own and in so doing preserves itself. Value-positing does not mean a valuation that someone gives to life from the outside; valuation is the fundamental occurrence of life itself; it is the way life brings its essence to fulfillment. Essence precedes existence. Human life will in advance direct the positing of the conditions securing it preservation (survival) according to how life itself determines its essence to itself for itself. If life is only constantly concerned with maintaining itself and being secured in its constancy, if life means securing the constancy that has come down to it and been taken over by it, then life will make whatever is enough for securing its constancy (preservation) its most proper conditions and these will have the highest value. Only what has the character of maintaining and securing preservation in general can be taken as a condition of life i.e. has a value. Only this is real. Nietzsche says: “We have projected the conditions of our preservation as predicates of Being in general”. Human beings are driven to securing their own permanence (currently manifested in the drive for AI). The only condition is that life instill of itself and in itself a belief in something it can constantly hold in all matters (the reasoning behind the statement made elsewhere that religion is what we bow down to or what we look up to—what we hold to be of “highest value”.)

The taking of something to be true is not some arbitrary activity; it is not like the machinations of the “alternative facts” charlatans who float on a sea of nihilism. It is rather the behaviour necessary for securing the permanence of life itself.

The next steps are to gain insight into the metaphysical connections between life as “preservation”/constancy and the role of value in this determination of what gives this preservation permanence.

Author: theoryofknowledgeanalternativeapproach


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