Darwin and Nietzsche: Part V: The World as Life and “Becoming”:

Friedrich Nietzsche

When Nietzsche writes: “There is no truth” (WP #616) that “truth” is in quotation marks must be seen as indicating that “truth” as understood prior to Nietzsche is an “illusion”, but as “illusion” a necessary condition of life. Life itself demands illusions. Is Nietzsche saying that there is no truth? Not at all. What is meant by ‘truth’ is that ‘truth’ is not what is most important or essential to ‘life’, that it is not the ‘highest value’. For Nietzsche, if the true is synonymous with beings/things (nature) or our common concept of “reality”, how Nietzsche understands beings/things becomes most important. If the true cannot be the highest, and if the true is equivalent to beings/things, then beings/things cannot constitute the essence of the world either. The world/”reality”/ actuality cannot consist in some sort of Being.

In the modern world, truth becomes certainty, a holding-to-be-true, and knowledge becomes the question of the what and the how certainty is, of what being certain of oneself consists in, of what “robust” knowledge is based on.  The essence of truth is based on the essence of knowledge, what we hold some thing to be in its presence when encountering us. Truth as ‘value’ is a necessary condition to life, a valuation that life brings about for its own sake. But what is the essence of life? In attempting to answer this question we can determine what is meant by “natural selection” and come to question the historicism that gave rise to it.

When a “theory of knowledge” is erected as a “knowledge framework”, a self-knowing is already implicit in it. This “knowledge framework” is the way we take the things that are in advance and the way we have determined what is decisive in our relation to them (“knowledge” that is both “personal” and “shared” and how we conceive it). In what way does Nietzsche determine in advance what is encountered as “knowable”; and what is the criterion of the knowing relation (logos and what will come to be determined as the logos) to what is encountered and to human beings’ surroundings?

Nietzsche writes: “Not ‘to know’ but to schematize—to impose upon chaos as much regularity and as many forms as our practical needs require.” (WP #516) This statement needs to be held together with what has already been said about “truth”. The “schema” is connected to the principle of reason and its use of categories and is related to how we experience time and space.

What human beings encounter is, according to Nietzsche, “chaos”, and this “chaos” is to be imposed on with a schema of “regularity”, and this “regularity” is determined by our “practical needs” (survival). The praxis of life, not the theoretical, is the ground of knowing and is determined from “experience”. Knowing as representing, as a bringing a world before us is, basically, “schematizing” chaos in accordance with our practical needs. In today’s academic jargon, this “schematizing” is called the imposition of an algorithm.  But, according to the modern biological sciences, this algorithm is not imposed by us; it is imposed by nature or life itself. What is an algorithm?

In a recent popular text called Homo Deus, the writer Yuval Harari defines an algorithm as a “methodical set of steps that can be used to make calculations, resolve problems and reach decisions.” (Deus pg. 97) He goes on to say that “these algorithms undergo constant quality control by natural selection. Only animals that calculate probabilities correctly leave offspring behind.” One can see the last remnants of the principle of reason, first articulated by Leibniz, being used here to explain “life” and its mysteries wherein reason as calculation which controls human beings’ reactions to chaos can now be attributable to “pigs, baboons, otters and chickens” (Deus p. 99). The superiority of the “rationality” of the animale rationale is put in question. For Nietzsche, this is the viewing of ‘the last men’. We will say more on ‘the last men’ and the ‘overman’ at a later time.

Why does “chaos” play such an essential role in and for knowing? The question of “what is knowledge?’ is already a thinking project of the essence of what human beings are and their position within beings/things as well as a projection of these beings/things themselves.

What is “chaos”? In its original Greek sense it means “the gaping that points to the measureless, supportless and groundless” or what we sometimes call “the abyss”. For us, “chaos” means the unordered, the tangled in confusion, something in a shambles. This always implies something in motion. To see things as a “chaos” presupposes a prior order to the things in their relation to one another. Think of your home prior to the arrival of burglars who have turned it into a “chaos”. We must already know this “thing” as our home and how the things within it are supposed to be in relation to each other. We encounter things in our everyday experience as a “chaos” of sense perceptions, that which is constantly and immediately experienced in the knowledge of the living things about us. This fundamental experience of the world as a “chaos” occurs because we are beings in bodies.

In Thus Spoke Zarathustra Nietzsche writes: “The apes are too good-natured for man to have originated from them”. The animality of man for Nietzsche has a deeper metaphysical ground than could ever be inferred biologically and scientifically from an existing animal species that appears to be similar to him. What is Nietzsche’s metaphysical ground for the animality of human beings? In our direct statements about an everyday object like our home, “our home” already lies at the very basis as knowledge. What lies in the knowledge of what is given to us and is encountered by us is the “chaos” of sensations through our bodies in “bodily states” through our “living”, what modern biologists call algorithms. This conception of “algorithmic” thinking is founded upon the principle of reason. Modern biology’s “progress” is Nietzschean, not Darwinian; but the consequences of the thinking have not been thoroughly thought through i.e. it is a thinking that is “deadly” in Nietzsche’s words and we will explore what is ‘fatal’ in this thinking at a later time.

For Nietzsche, “chaos” is the “world” as a whole: the inexhaustible, urgent, and unmastered abundance of self-assertion and self-destruction (WP #467) in which law and anarchy are found and dissolve. Our practical needs in this chaos determine our need for a schema through the formation of a horizon and perspective, the dominion of the principle of reason and of the logos understood as reason.

Our next steps will be to determine an understanding of “practical needs”.

Author: theoryofknowledgeanalternativeapproach


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Theory of Knowledge: An Alternative Approach

Why is an alternative approach necessary?

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