Nietzsche/Darwin Part VIII: Truth as Justice:

Charles Darwin

When Darwin speaks of “survival of the fittest” as the “how” of living beings, he is making a statement regarding justice or the praxis or actions of living beings i.e. how they are required to be if they are to be at all. His statement is an ontological one; it says something about the essence of the being of beings. Whether his statement is compatible with democracy and “equality” as the political ends of action, human beings living in communities, is quite another matter; but we are examining the foundation of the metaphysics of the thinking here. “Survival” is the urge or will to permanence and this will is the command of life itself. “Fittest” are those living beings who are most successful in applying the law of contradiction to the conditions of life, or what has been called algorithms lately, our conception of ourselves as the animal rationale as our essence.

As I have said in these writings on Nietzsche and elsewhere, technology is the highest form of will to power. Technology is conceived as both the means for making events happen and the establishment of the ends or goals of the actions through the use of those means. The word “technology” expresses the uniqueness of the “knowing” that understands itself as “will to power” (“enhancement”) and the “making” of modern civilization that was not present in, for example, Greek civilization. This co-penetration of the arts and the sciences is shown most clearly in Nietzsche. This thinking is Western: the history of Chinese science and the writings of those civilizations based on the Sanskrit of the Vedanta show that such an understanding of knowing and making was not present in them. What was known regarding Nature in the Greek, Chinese and Vedanta was not a knowledge that put the energies of nature at their disposal, a knowledge of nature that viewed the beings of nature as disposables. It was through  Nietzsche, primarily, that our understanding of the arts and sciences was changed from what was meant by those civilizations prior to our own.

Knowledge is the securing of permanence through a conception of truth i.e. it is a value. Art, however, is of a value of higher value and is more necessary than knowledge. The transforming of life creates greater possibilities for the “surpassing” of life including all those noble activities undertaken to alleviate the suffering of human beings that are brought about by the conditions of life. Knowledge posits the fixated boundaries or horizons so that there can be something to surpass. Art and knowledge require each other in their essence. Art and knowledge (techne + logos) come together to bring about the full securing of permanence of the animate world. The securing of permanence comes about through the fixation of chaos through knowledge and the transforming of chaos through art. Knowledge and art assimilate (homoiösis) human beings to chaos. This assimilation is what Nietzsche understands as justice, not justice understood as a moral or legal term. Justice as a holding-to-be-true makes assimilation to chaos possible and necessary. It is what is “right” or correct, exact, the suitable, what makes sense, what fits. Justice is what points in the right direction and what conforms to that direction, to set a direction, and to send someone along the way in that direction. The desire to achieve “results”, for example, and the manners in which that desire will be achieved are examples of what is meant by “justice” here. A current cliche metaphor being used is “moral compass”. Justice is the grounding and understanding of the “moral compass”.

Nietzsche sees justice as a “mode of thinking”. What kind of thinking? “Justice as a constructive, exclusive, annihilative mode of thought, arising from estimations of value: supreme representative of life itself”.

What role does “freedom” play here? In Thus Spoke Zarathustra in the section “On the Way of the Creator” the relation of justice to freedom is outlined:

You call yourself free? Your dominating thought I want to hear, and not that you escaped from a yoke.

Are you the kind of person who had the right to escape from a yoke?

There are some who threw away their last value when they threw away their servitude.

Free from what? What does Zarathustra care! But brightly your eyes should signal to me: free for what?

Can you give yourself your own evil and good and hang your will above yourself like a law? Can you be your own judge and the avenger of your law?

It is terrible to be alone with the judge and avenger of one’s own law.

Thus does a star get thrown out into desolate space and into the icy breath of solitary being (loneliness).

Today you suffer still from the many, you lonely one: for today you still have your courage and your hopes intact…

Injustice and filth they throw at the lonely one. But my brother, if you want to be a star then you must shine through for them all the more!

The justice that is the mode of thinking for Nietzsche is not an everyday thinking that calculates by moving back and forth within a fixed horizon without being aware of that horizon. Thinking as poetizing and commanding is the thinking of Nietzsche and it is the establishment of the horizon in advance whose permanence provides a condition of the vitality of what lives. Justice is a way of thinking “arising from estimations of value”. Value-estimation is positing the conditions of life. By “values” Nietzsche does not mean the arbitrary circumstances of life. “Value” is an essential condition for what lives. “Value” is the essence of the making possible. The values of making possible are technology itself. “Values” are what are posited in determining what the essence of man is and what the essence of all beings are. Justice is not one way of thinking among many possible ways of thinking. Thinking is the activity of value-positing itself and is not a consequence of previous estimations of value. It is constructive, exclusive and annihilative. It is “technological thinking”.

This mode of “technological thinking” is “constructive” because it fashions the sort of thing that is not yet and is not yet ready-to-hand. We use the words “invent”, “create”, “produce” to indicate this mode of thinking to ourselves. It is “novelty”. To fashion is to “erect”, to build towards the heights. First, “the heights” must be attained and cleared. Those heights are the drive towards a perfection inherent in every “pro-duction” and “bringing forth” when that bringing forth is completed.

This constructive thought is “exclusive”. It fixes and maintains what can support the edifice of “pro-duction” and fends off whatever endangers it. It secures the foundation and selects the building materials. The most common example of this “exclusive” and “excluding” thought is the “fact/value” distinction arising from the “scientific method” and its applications in the social sciences.

This thinking is also “annihilative” in that it destroys whatever stoppages and restraints hinder the construction to the heights. Annihilation offers security against decline. Popper’s suggestion of “falsification” as a mode of thinking in the sciences would be an example of this annihilative thought, but also most of the conclusions that you arrive at in your TOK discussions. It can be said to be captured in the words of Robert Oppenheimer who led American efforts to develop the atomic bomb: “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and you argue about what to do about it only after you have had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

This constructive, exclusive, annihilative thinking characterizes the way of thinking by which justice is understood i.e. they are “fitting” for the being that is human being. By being constructive, the thinking moves towards erecting the heights (the goals, the concepts) so that this height may be achieved and surpassed in order to bring about what is fixated in the theories and concepts under and behind itself. It is a self-surpassing way of thinking, becoming master of oneself from moving to a higher height. We call such self-surpassing heightening empowerment.  It is the essence of power.

Power is a kind of force, the storing up of energies. Force is not in control of itself. Energy is the ability to do work. “To work” means to change something at hand into something else. Nietzsche speaks of “energy” and “expressions of energy” rather than of power and power relations. For “Justice as the function of a panoramic power that looks beyond the narrow perspectives of good and evil, and thus has a broader horizon of advantage—the intention to preserve something that is more than this or that person.” To “function” means execution, carrying out—how the power we are referring to is power and empowers. Advantage in its original meaning means “what has been allotted to someone in a distribution before the actual dividing takes place” i.e. what is “owed” to someone in advance. For Nietzsche, justice is the ground of every possibility and necessity of the harmony of human beings with chaos whether this harmony is the higher one of art or the one of knowledge. In this constructive allotment of what is due to other human beings and beings, there are some beings to whom nothing is due. We see something of this in the current agricultural industry, but it is also present in all our technological institutions and technologies.

Much confusion over the thought of Nietzsche has come from the equating of will and power. Nietzsche views will as “commanding” and as self-empowerment, empowerment as the excelling of itself. This empowerment is the homoiösis that is the reciprocal relation of knowledge and art—technology.

Nietzsche’s philosophy may be called extreme humanism: “To ‘humanize’ the world, that is, to feel ourselves more and more masters within it—(WP #614). His anthropomorphism is the end of the history of Western metaphysics: that thinking which thinks beings as a whole, that thinks the what and the how of beings. This end brings about the “overcoming” of the animal rationale together with human being considered as subjectum and ushers in what Nietzsche called the “overman” and what the German philosopher Martin Heidegger called “the technology of the helmsman”.


When we speak of justice in the modern age, we have to understand that that technology understood as justice by Nietzsche, that will to mastery, will be turned towards other human beings. Emotion as a way of knowing in TOK, for instance, partly founds its inclusion, its origins back in the 1990s in the ideas of “emotional intelligence” and its use as a tool to help create “the kinder, gentler nation” that would become the USA, but it has its deeper origins in existentialism. One does not need Hemingway’s ‘bullet-proof crap detector’ to see the farce behind such aspirations. One finds the shift in this use of “emotional intelligence” or emotion as a way of knowing in the use of the word “sensitivity” today in a number of writings as another false means of hope in looking for a way to escape the quagmire that is the attempt to understand this technology that understands itself as modern rationality. This use of “emotional intelligence” and “sensitivity” is, perhaps, indicative of our inability to use the word “love” in any kind of meaningful way outside of a biological definition that has become the norm in its understanding of love as primarily sexuality.

As our education system achieves its end of producing mass meaninglessness in its demonstrations of the “what” of things (cosmology), the medical profession (psychiatry) with its palliative drugs as the solution to this lack of meaning pro-duced from this view of nature, will be among those most highly regarded. The new technologies of both human and non-human nature are responses to the crises brought about by technology itself. “Technology” is pervasive in our political and social lives and thus in our praxis. What we have done to nature we first had to do to our own bodies, and we are beings in bodies. We are this technology ourselves and solutions to the problems of the thinking within it are not to be found in the logic and rationalism that created the problems in the first place.

When we remember that technology viewed as the systematic application of reason (framing) to the invention of instruments to assist in the objectifying and the commandeering and ordering of the beings of nature for our disposal, we need to understand that these instruments are not merely hydro dams, computers or drugs, but also our systems of organization: our corporations, bureaucracies, and factories. We do not have the dams, the drugs or the computers without the social organizations necessary for their making. In the West, the novelty (Nietzschean creativity, inventiveness) of our civilization has reached the highest level of effectiveness because it is systematically related to our sciences and their co-penetration with the arts. This is now becoming world-wide.

To describe our fate as human beings as technological is not to judge that fate. The fundamental presuppositions that the majority of us inherit as our ‘shared knowledge’ in our civilization and which are taken for granted as the way things are that they are given to us as an almost absolute status (Darwinism, for instance) may be a great step forward in the ascent of human beings. The destiny imposed on us, technology as fate, has brought about the machines that have assisted us in freeing ourselves from many of the limitations that nature has imposed on us. But we ask, as Nietzsche asked, “What for? Whither? And what then?” One can see from the responses to these blogs that “results” are the goal, not knowledge.

The accounts of justice given to us in the dominant ideologies of our age (liberalism, communism, and historicism) come forth from the account of reasoning which is made so clear in the writings and thinking of Nietzsche. The instruments and our standards of justice in using them are bound together in the same destiny, and both have come forth from that destiny.



Darwin/Nietzsche Part VII: On Aristotle, Algorithms and the Principle of Contradiction and the Overturning of the True and Apparent Worlds

Friedrich Nietzsche


Why Nietzsche? Nietzsche is the modern conscious of itself. The god of Delphi’s command sends us, directs us towards the path, the journey towards knowledge. “Know thyself” is the imperative that directs us not to see our psychologist as quickly as possible and to get ourselves in therapy as soon as possible, but to know for ourselves, to leave the Oracle priestesses (and psychiatrists) alone to indulge in their volcanic visions from the vent. What we learn while on this path is that we can come to know “who” and “what” we are, both as individuals and as human beings. On the path/journey, “thy self” can be an obstacle, a hindrance to knowledge rather than an aid to knowledge.

Nietzsche and Knowledge:

Nietzsche in Will to Power #515 writes  of the essence of reason and of thinking, what reason and thinking are, and their biological nature: “The subjective compulsion by which we are unable to contradict here is a biological compulsion …” Nietzsche thinks: all thinking in categories, all thinking in schemata i.e. in accordance with rules is perspectival, conditioned by the essence of life (Being) and accords with the rule of all thought which is the avoidance of contradiction.

Aristotle establishes the law of contradiction as the height of reason in Metaphysics IV 3-10. According to Nietzsche, this law has its origin and interpretation as logic in the essence of reason, and reason itself has its origin in life’s securing of permanence. In WP #516 Nietzsche says: “We are unable to affirm and to deny one and the same thing at the same time—this is a subjective empirical principle, the expression not of any necessity but only of an inability.”

This “subjective compulsion” is sometimes readily lacking; any look at the daily news indicates this. But why “facts” and the appeal to “facts”? “Facts” are secured solely on the basis of our following the principle of non-contradiction. What the law of contradiction expresses, what is posited in it, does not rest on experience, just as 2X2=4 does not rest on experience i.e. on a cognition that is always valid only as far as and as long as our knowledge extends at the time. We know 2X2=4 because we already think 4. The thinkability of this equation is made possible because it is something arrived at not from experience at all (Kant Critique of Pure Reason).

Aristotle in Bk IV 3 1005b of Metaphysics writes: “That the same thing come to be present and not come to be present at the same time is impossible in the same and with respect to the same”. We could also use this principle to understand the play Macbeth and the “non-being” of evil in general. Presence is the unfolding of Being. The law of contradiction deals with the Being of beings. Contradiction, for Nietzsche, is an “inability”, not an “impossibility” and not a matter of “necessity”. This means that the fact that something cannot be something and its opposite at the same time depends on the fact that we are not able “to affirm and deny one and the same thing”. Some thing cannot be represented, fixed as some thing and its opposite at the time, that is to say that it cannot “be”.  Confusion, stress results.

When Macbeth asks himself “Is this a dagger that I see before me”, the two-fold nature of beings as both Being and non-being is shown. One dagger is that which represents the soldier/savior of his country, his “manliness” (his “virtue”) as a human being; the other is the murder weapon that he will use to kill Duncan. Lady Macbeth’s bell tolling at the end of Macbeth’s speech signifies the death not only of Duncan but of Macbeth as a human being as well for his is now a mind that sees daggers and is no longer of the nature that is “too full of the milk of human kindness”. The play makes it clear that the old man, Duncan, who “had so much blood in him” is really the one who “outlives”, in his offspring Malcolm, the other that murdered him. The dagger as “symbol” is more “real” than the dagger that is used as a murder weapon.

For Nietzsche, Aristotle’s “impossibility” is an “inability” in our thinking, a “subjective not being able to” and has nothing to do with the object itself. The law of contradiction has only “subjective validity” for Nietzsche; it depends on the constitution of our faculty of thinking. In the event of a mutation in our faculty of thinking brought about by “life” itself, the law of contradiction could lose its validity. Algorithms, for example, are historical not permanent.

We can follow Nietzsche’s own interpretation of the essence of thinking, of the holding-to-be-true and of truth and where truth rests:

“If, according to Aristotle, the law of contradiction is the most certain of all fundamental principles, if it is the ultimate and most basic , upon which every demonstrative proof rests, if the principle of all other axioms lies in it, then one should consider all the more rigorously what sorts of assertions it already fundamentally presupposes. Either it asserts something about actuality, about being, as if one already knew this from another source, that is, as if opposite attributes could not be predicated from it. Or, perhaps, the presupposition means opposite attributes should not be predicated of it? In that case, logic would be an imperative, not to know the true, but to posit and devise a world that is to be called true for us.

Aristotle holds that the principle of the law of contradiction is the “principle of all other axioms.” Aristotle says (Metaphysics IV 3 1005b 33-34) “For according to its essence, this is the point of departure for and ruling for all the other axioms, indeed thoroughly so.” Nietzsche sees the law of contradiction as an axiom of logic and the most certain of all principles. Aristotle’s statement says something about “Being” and about the Being of beings. How does Aristotle hold that the law of contradiction is a law of Being as such? For Aristotle, the law of contradiction is a law of Being; for Nietzsche, the law of contradiction is a command of Being.

Nietzsche asks: “If the law of contradiction is the highest of all principles, “what sorts of assertions does it already fundamentally presuppose”? Aristotle answered this question: the law states something essential about things as such: that every absence is foreign to presence because it steals presence away into its non-essence, thus positing impermanence and destroying the essence of Being. Since Being has its essence in presence and permanence, the aspects according to which things are to be represented as things will have to take the “at the same time” and “in the same respect” into account. (How Being falls into non-essence as “shadow” is discussed in the writings on Plato’s allegory of the Cave and in the comments on Plato’s Sophist. Aristotle’s position on Plato’s account of Being is also discussed in his Metaphysics but this is not the place to engage in thinking about that great disagreement which is crucial for the development of philosophy in the West.)

Aristotle says that if the same thing is affirmed and denied of a being (i.e. the “alternate facts” of our current popular language), if human beings maintain themselves in contradiction, they are excluded from representing things as such and forget what they really want to grasp in their yes and no i.e. they become “mad” because they have displaced themselves from their essence into non-essence and dissolve their relations to things as such. This fall into non-essence appears “harmless” in that our everyday activities go on just as before and it doesn’t seem so important at all what and how one thinks until the catastrophe arrives that was centuries in its generation and growth i.e. the dominance of nihilism. More will be said about nihilism in later writings.

The essence of beings, for Aristotle, consists in the constant absence of contradiction. Martin Heidegger, the great philosopher of the 20th century, believes that Nietzsche does not understand the metaphysics of Aristotle and Plato and therefore does not successfully overturn the Western tradition of metaphysics as Nietzsche himself believes and claims he does. For Aristotle, Being is understood as presence, actuality and power. Nietzsche, instead, becomes deeply entangled in the web that is Western metaphysics.

Nietzsche decides that the positing of the law of contradiction as the essence of beings comes as command. In WP #516 he writes: “In short, the question remains open: are the axioms of logic adequate to reality or are they a means and measure for us to first create reality, the concept “reality”, for ourselves?—In order to be able to affirm the former, one would, as already said, have to have a previous knowledge of beings—which is simply not the case. The proposition therefore contains no criterion of truth, but an imperative concerning that which should count as true”.

How does Nietzsche affirm the possibility of a positing that determines how beings are to be grasped in their essence? This positing is not our thinking and representing adapting themselves to things in order to learn the essence of these things/beings. The law of contradiction determines beforehand what beings are and what alone can count as in being i.e. what does not contradict itself. We experience this “law” as “command”. We can see how this “command” is understood in today’s sciences where the law of contradiction and the “algorithms” of modern biology are perceived as “command” required by “practical need” understood as “survival”. But for Nietzsche, survival is not the highest form of will to power. “Enhancement” through art (techne) is the highest form of will to power.

The law of contradiction is the fundamental principle of a “holding-to-be-true” and makes possible the essence of holding-to-be-true. What we call knowledge has, for Nietzsche, the nature of command within it. Knowledge as the securing of permanence, whether in the form of algorithms or otherwise, is not brought about because it is advantageous and useful. These are “effects”, not causes. The securing of permanence is necessary because it enables a necessity to arise in and from itself, and from out of this necessity arises the “freedom of decision”. (Kant) What brings about this securing of permanence we call “robust knowledge”.

For Nietzsche, the law of contradiction posits a standard: positing, poetizing and commanding are contrasted with copying and imitating something at hand, or what is given in the Platonic mimetic arts. Truth as a holding-to-be-true is a necessary value. Necessity is a must of the commanding (empowerment) and poetizing that arises from freedom. Being-together-with-itself is what Nietzsche means by freedom and what we mean by “empowerment”. This “self-empowerment” is what distinguishes human beings from all living species—and is what essentially distinguishes Nietzsche from Darwin. The human adherence to the law of contradiction he calls an “instinct”, an “imperative” that lies in the realm of freedom. The essence of the compulsion that lies in the law of contradiction does not rest in the “biological realm”, but rather in the human commanding and poetizing, the determination of the perspective and the horizon representing beings, the things that are. Nietzsche calls this will to power and human “empowerment”.

When Nietzsche speaks of art he does not mean art in our familiar understanding of its many genres. For Nietzsche, art is the name for every form of transfiguring, transforming and transposing of life to higher possibilities (“added value”). What truth cannot do, art accomplishes: the transfiguration of what is alive to higher possibilities or the actualization and activity of life in the midst of the truly actual—chaos. Truth fixates chaos and maintains itself in the chaotic apparent world by stabilizing what is in becoming. Art transforms what becomes into its possibilities, frees what becomes into its becoming (genetic manipulation as an example) and thus moves about in the “true” world. Here, the inversion of Platonism is accomplished by Nietzsche from the arising of the techne-logos. The “true” world is the world of becoming; the “apparent” world is the stable and constant world. The worlds have exchanged places in Nietzsche. With this exchange of places, technology thence becomes the highest form of will to power.

Since we ourselves are this technology, how does this embrace become our “fate”? The “true”, as understood historically, is a denial of chaos; as a denial of chaos, it is not appropriate to the truth of that chaos. So: “Truth is the kind of error without which a certain kind of living being could not live”. (WP #493) Truth is an error because it does not harmonize or correspond with the chaos of the real; arts harmonizes or corresponds with chaos. But doesn’t art “fixate” and provide the error of “semblance”?

What is alive always maintains itself in a stand based on a perspectival range of possibilities that are “fixated” whether as the “true” of knowledge or the “work” of art. The delimiting and drawing of a horizon is a giving of semblance (“algorithms” are the latest attempt to define these installations). What is “figured” looks like the actual, but as figured it is no longer chaos but a determined urging, according to Nietzsche. “Semblance” originates where the actual perspective, with its definite point-of-view to which the horizon is “relative” prevails. In WP #567 Nietzsche says: “The perspectival therefore lends the character of the “appearance”. As if a world would still remain after one deducted the perspectival! By doing that, one would deduct the relativity!”

Relativity is where life creates a perspective and looks forward and from a viewpoint. Theories and theses are products of this perspectivism. “Relativity” expresses the horizon-like scope of perspectives, the creations of the “action” of life itself. We call this “world”. World arises from the life-activity of what is alive and is only what and how it arises. The “semblance” of the world is not one of “appearance”. Why not? Because the opening of a world (theory) through perspective and drawing a horizon with that world are not the result of our adapting to the world subsistent in itself or subsistent at all, that is, a “true” world. If there is no longer a measure or estimate with regard to something true how is the world that arises from the action of life supposed to be “semblance” at all? Nietzsche says: “With the abolition of the “true world” the “apparent world” is also abolished”. Few have grasped the depth of the consequences of this statement. Nietzsche was aware, more than anyone before or since, that “the antithesis of the apparent world and the true world reduces itself to the antithesis ‘world’ and ‘nothing’”. He was aware of the nihilism at the bottom of the thinking that we call modernism. What did he counter- pose to such nihilism?

What happens when the distinction between a true world and an apparent world falls away? What becomes of truth?






Darwin and Nietzsche: Part VI: What is “Practical Need”?

What is “practical need”? Everyone seems to know what this practical need is. If what encounters knowing, if what is “out there”, has the essential character of chaos, and if this chaos is rendered back to something living, to how it is bodied and its life, and if “practical need” is what schematizing responds to regarding the apprehension of the chaos of what is encountered, then “practical need” stands in an essential unity with the living bodily life. We today have termed this practical need as “instinctual need” or “basic need” and have identified algorithms as the manner in which it comes to light.

Friedrich Nietzsche

All living beings, according to Nietzsche, are surrounded by chaos. Chaos is seen as dissolution and annihilation. “Life”, however, for Nietzsche and Darwin is the name for Being, and Being means presencing, subsistence, permanence, withstanding disappearance. If life is the chaotic bodying and oppressive urging of the “instinctual” experienced through the senses, the concern of the living must be to withstand this urging that propels towards annihilation (see the Freudian theory of thanatos or the “death instinct”). Permanence and the urge toward it are not contradictory to the “life urge” (survival) but correspond to the essence of bodying life. In order to live, the living being must be propelled towards the permanent, the stable. This is understood today as the compulsion towards the creation and invention of the algorithms common in modern biological thinking and elsewhere, and later we shall see how this relates to how and why Nietzsche considers “art” as of “higher value” than truth. Yet chaos does not provide stability to living being according to both Nietzsche and Darwin.

In Greek praxis is a “doing”, “activity” that actualizes goals, carries out plans that aim at outcomes and results i.e. the algorithms of “experience”. The ability of the human being to stand in the “chaos” we call “empowerment”. Empowerment is the stability that is secured through praxis. This empowerment secures only through making chaos stable and fixed and thus the need for “schemata”. “Practical need” is the need for forming schemata in order to secure stability in the midst of chaos. This stability is achieved through the establishment of “horizons”. The “horizon” is what limits and stabilizes. The schema is not a limit imposed on human being from without. The forming of horizons belongs to the inner essence of living beings themselves i.e. what they really are according to Nietzsche. When Nietzsche says “God is dead” he means that God has ceased to be a horizon for human beings i.e. God has ceased to provide the limits to the securing of stability for human beings within the chaos of Being.

“Horizons” are not fixed in themselves. They are not a wall separating human being from “life”. Horizons point to what has not been fixed, to what is possible. The horizon is a “seeing and a looking” (what we have been calling the “theoretical”). As “experience” or praxis this “seen through” aspect is “perspective” in Nietzsche. The horizon always stands within a perspective. The perspective is a way of “seeing through” to the “something possible” (Aristotle in Metaphysics on dynamis and energeia) that arises out of chaos. It is the way of “looking through” in which the horizon is formed. The looking through and the looking ahead, together with the formation of a horizon, belongs to the essence of life, what life is. The horizon, which sets limits and stabilizes, not only secures the possible in fixing chaos, it also lets chaos appear as chaos through its stability. Because forming a horizon and imposing a schema have their ground in the “experience” of life, in “doing” as the securing of stability, praxis (doing) and chaos belong together. Chaos makes the securing of stability necessary for the survival of the living being. This “practical need” is reason.

Reason is “practical reason” as Kant understood. Reason is the projective perception of what in itself is out to make life possible. Reason unfolds its concepts and categories in the direction of securing the stability of life. The human being, the animale rationale, has projected the perspectives of reason which view the horizon of its most important possibilities, its “values”.  How is this “reason” related to calculation and the correspondence theory of truth? How does this relate to the essence of human being, what human beings are?

Nietzsche says that “man is the, as yet, undetermined animal”. Socrates, on the other hand, says that human beings are “fitted” to live in communities and to think about the whole of things. With the arrival of “humanism”, the focus came to be on the individual, then the community. Human beings “stand” in relation to each other to the things about them. When we speak of “schematizing” we do not mean a schematic ordering in ready-made compartments of the things which have no order; it an “invention” that places things “on account” in a range of configurations that things move in in order to provide human beings with something constant, in order to provide for the possibility of human beings permanence (survival) and security. The science of Newton is such a schema.

In WP #515 Nietzsche says: “In the formation of reason, logic, the categories, it was need that was definitive: the need “not to know”, but to subsume, to schematize, for the purpose of accordance (correspondence) and calculation”. This phrase is not a Darwinian explanation of the origin of the faculty of reason. It is the permanence provided by the schema that brings the fixed things to presence. Representing beings/things and thinking rationally are the praxis of life, life’s attempts to secure permanence for itself. “Concept formation” is not the work of the theoretical intellect (nous as understood in the Greek), nothing foreign to life, but the basic law of the occurrence of life itself.

Following the quote above, Nietzsche writes: “The development of reason is adjustment, invention, in order to make similar, identical—the same process that every sense impression goes through”. This “same” is the understanding of physis or nature in modern science: uniform masses in uniform calculations of velocity in positions of uniform space. These positings of the “identical” are acts of creation, invention what the philosopher Kant described as the “transcendental imagination” in its relation to the account, the logos of the praxis or “practical reason”.  This is the essence of reason: creation must always occur before the thinking that is presently understood as “reason”, as logic, this a priori creation of the categories: the creation in advance of what the thing is, its relations, effects, causality, magnitude, etc. Some modern biologists use the term “algorithms” to describe the phenomenon that Kant called “transcendental imagination”. This creation is of a higher origin, a more primordial origin, one that lies “above” and “beyond” our most familiar everyday doings and what our everyday doings take up believing that the things present are handy and ready for use. From this we can understand why Nietzsche says that “Art is worth more than truth”. The “transcendental imagination” is the root of what we call “instrumental reason”, ‘pragmatic reason’, for it stabilizes (empowers) the self-secure subject determining the constant presence of what is as object. Nietzsche, though, writes: “Finality in reason is an effect not a cause”.

If we recall our discussions of Aristotle’s four causes, the “causa finalis” was the aitia or “what is responsible for something”. By contrast, the common meaning of our word “cause” is “that which brings about an effect”, the causa efficiens, the “sufficient cause”. The “on account of which” is what is responsible for the fact that something else happens and is done on account of it; it is the goal or purpose towards which something aims. Purpose is what is represented in advance. Purpose is a cause. But Nietzsche reverses this.

Nietzsche says that purpose is an effect not a cause. Nietzsche’s position is that the “on account of which” is fixed in advance as something constant; the “accounts” are produced by reason. Nietzsche emphasizes finality or purpose because he believes it to be the fundamental category of reason due to its origin which he equates with the process of life securing permanence. He writes: “An aside—since no one will maintain that there is any necessity for men to exist, reason, as well as Euclidean space, is a mere idiosyncrasy of a certain species of animal, one idiosyncrasy among many….” The particular species of animal called human being is present, without a reason for being that can be determined. The species is so constituted in its own life as to react in a special way with its encounter with chaos i.e. a definite way securing permanence by devising categories based on “reason” and adapting itself to three dimensional space in order to fix and stabilize chaos. All thinking in categories, in schemata, in accordance with “rules” is “perspectival”, conditioned by life. The avoidance of contradiction in reason becomes the rule of thinking. Human beings are compelled by life to avoid contradiction so that chaos is unified and coherent in the scheme. Just as jellyfish develop and extend their strands for grasping and catching, human beings use reason and its grasping instrument, the law of contradiction, in order to find its way around in its environment to secure its own survival and permanence. Reason and logic, knowledge and truth, are biological appearances in the animal we call “human being”, according to Nietzsche. But more needs to be said about the principle of contradiction and its sources.

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 “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”.



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 the 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 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). The necessity of being stable in our beliefs if we are to prosper requires that we 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.


Darwin and Nietzsche: Part 3: Truth as “Correctness”: Its Relation to “Values”

Friedrich Nietzsche

Artificial intelligence, “designer babies”, cybernetics are all the flowerings of decisions (“choices”) that have been made to the questions posited and the answers which we have decided regarding the “what” and the “how” of “what” human beings are and “how” human beings will be in modern times. To understand the grounds regarding these decisions, it is necessary to understand what philosophy and science have said about what human beings are, and these statements are to be found in the thinking and writings of Charles Darwin and Friedrich Nietzsche. Our decisions or “choices” are ontological/metaphysical decisions; and understanding the answers and the questions which the scientist and the philosopher have given to us will give us answers to what we believe we are and where we believe we are at.

As was said previously, truth is what is essential about knowledge. Nietzsche says: “Truth is the kind of error without which a certain kind of living being could not live” (WP #473).

What are truth and knowledge, knowing and science in Nietzsche? Nietzsche speaks of the “estimation of value” (WP #507), “I believe that such and such is so”, as the essence of truth. This is close to Plato’s definition of truth as “justified true belief” from his Theatetus. In estimations of value are expressed conditions of preservation (survival of the “fittest”) and growth (empowerment) as life-enhancement. All of our Areas of Knowledge and our senses (sense perception as a way of knowing, empiricism) develop only with regard to conditions of preservation and growth. Trust in reason and its categories, in dialectic, the value-estimation of logic, proves only their usefulness for living, proved by experience—not their “truth”, according to Nietzsche. (WP #507) The full section of this passage from Nietzsche (WP #507) should be read. From it, one can understand the grounds for what is called “the pragmatic theory of truth” that is found in the writings of the Americans James, Pierce and Dewey.

Nietzsche constantly writes “truth” in quotation marks. In the history of the West, “truth” is understood as the correctness of representation, and representation means having and bringing before oneself or the bringing to presence of beings/things, a having that perceives and opines, remembers and plans, hopes and rejects. Truth means the assimilation of representing to what things are and how they are. The many positions and definitions of truth that have come to us are all based on this one definition that truth is the correctness of representing. Correctness is being directed toward something, making statements that are ‘fitted’ or ‘suitable’ for the things that are spoken about. In logic the word correctness is “lack of contradiction”, “consistency”. Correctness as consistency means that a statement is deduced from another statement in accordance with the rules of reasoning. Correctness as “free from contradiction” and being “consistent” is called formal “truth”, not related to the content of beings in distinction from the material truth of content. “Correctness” is understood as the translation of the Latin adaequatio and the Greek homoiösis. For Nietzsche, too, truth is understood as correctness.

Nietzsche’s saying that “truth is an illusion” is truth as the correctness of representing. But for Nietzsche truth is an “estimation of value”. The phrase means to appraise something as a value and to posit it as such. “Value” is a perspectival condition for life-enhancement, the “growth” that enables “quality of life”.  Value-estimation is accomplished by life itself, and by human beings in particular. Truth as value-estimation is something that “life” or human being brings about and, thus, belongs to human being. Value-estimation is in the words “I believe that such and such is so”. Values are in the belief.

Knowledge as “justified true belief” means to hold such and such as being this and this. “Belief” does not mean assenting to or accepting something that one oneself has not seen explicitly as a being or can never grasp as in being with one’s own eyes. “To believe” means to hold something that representation encounters as being in such and such a way. Believing is holding for something, holding it as in being. Believing, for Nietzsche, does not mean assent to an incomprehensible doctrine inaccessible to reason but proclaimed as true by an authority, particularly a religious authority, nor does it mean trust in a covenant or prophecy. Truth as value-estimation, as a holding for something as being in this or that way, stands in an essential connection with things as such. What is true is what is held in being as what is taken to be in being. What is true is being.

Truth is synonymous with holding to be true: it is synonymous with judgement. The judgement, an assertion about something, is the essence of knowledge; to it belongs the being-true in the history of Western metaphysics. To hold something for what it is, to represent it as thus and thus in being, to assimilate oneself in representing whatever emerges and is encountered as presence, is the essence of truth as correctness. Nietzsche thinks truth as correctness. Nietzsche appears to be in agreement with Kant who instigated a Copernican revolution in his doctrine of the essence of knowledge in which knowledge is not supposed to conform to objects but the other way around—objects are supposed to conform to knowledge. But how does Nietzsche think the essence of truth differently?

Nietzsche’s insight is that truth as correspondence, correctness is really a “value estimation”. This means that the essence of correctness will not be able to finds its explanation and basis by saying how human being, with representations occurring in his subjective consciousness, can conform to objects that are at hand outside his soul, how the gap between the subject and object can be bridged so that something like a “conforming to” becomes possible.

With truth defined as “estimations of value”, the essential definition of truth is turned in a completely different direction: “In estimations of value are expressed conditions of preservation (survival) and growth.” Here, value is defined 1) as a “condition” for life; 2) that in “life” not only is “preservation” but also and above all “growth” (quality of life) is essential. “Growth” is another name for “enhancement” or “quality of life”. “Growth” is understood as the autonomous development and unfolding of a living being through “empowerment”. “All our organs of knowledge and our senses are developed only with regard to conditions of preservation and growth.” (WP #507) Truth and the grasping of truth are not merely in the service of “life” according to their use and application; their essence, the way in which they are organized and their activity are driven and directed by “life”. Nietzsche is very closely related to Darwin in this thinking. How is this life to be understood?

We can see with our discussion of knowledge and truth that our journey has found its way back to Darwin, the scientist. In our classrooms, Darwinism is not taught as theory but as fact. Nietzsche, like Darwin, equates the basic words “world” and “life” both of which name beings as a whole. Life, the process of life and its course is called bios in Greek: “Bios” as in the word “biography” corresponds to the Greek meaning. “Biology”, on the other hand, means the study of life in the sense of plants and animals. In Nietzsche’s section of The Will to Power entitled “Discipline and Breeding” is the conscious regulation of life; its direction and “quality of life” are a strictly arranged life-plan as a goal and a requirement. The “discipline and breeding” of Nietzsche is similar to Darwin’s analogy of artificial selection in the way farmers choose livestock to the way that nature selects wildlife, including human beings. “Mutation” is seen as “modification”, the random choices of nature. The essential difference between animals and human beings is that human beings have a concept of “world” which they attempt to commandeer and control in order to secure the “self-preservation” and life-enhancement striving to eliminate the element of chance that rules in “natural selection” or “modification”. Now, most “modifications” in nature are done by human beings.

“Survival of the fittest” is not a reference to physical strength which is but one possible element, but refers to what a species is “fitted for” given its modifications and the environment in which it finds itself. This “fittedness” defines what a species is at any given time.

Nietzsche said: “Only that which has no history can be defined”. By this he means that beings/things undergoing “modifications” through the process of Being (life) cannot be considered to “live’ within “horizons” which would delimit their being and make them definable. The essential realm in which biology moves as an Area of Knowledge can never itself be posited and grounded by biology as a science but can only be presupposed, adopted and confirmed through research and experimentation. This is true of every science. Every science rests upon propositions about the area of beings/things with which it operates. These pro-positions about what things are define the things beforehand. This is what is being called metaphysics here. The metaphysics of the sciences are already assumed beforehand. Darwin’s propositions of evolution, modification and natural selection are metaphysical propositions: they are ontological propositions and statements about the “what” and the “how” of beings. Nietzsche’s notorious definition of human being as a “blond beast of prey” which through discipline and breeding comes to secure and dominate its “world” is a next step in the ideas first put forward by Darwin.

The point being made here is that science and reflection in the Areas of Knowledge which the science investigates are historically grounded on the dominance of a particular interpretation of Being (life) and they move within a particular conception of the essence of truth. Nietzsche’s “blond beast of prey” is a metaphysical not a biological conception of human being. From where does this conception of human being arise?


Religious Knowledge Systems: Christianity: Thoughts on the Lord’s Prayer

Religious Knowledge Systems: Christianity: Thoughts on The Lord’s Prayer

It is appropriate for old men to try to reconcile their thoughts on the most important matters in the short time remaining to them. The following entry is a very inadequate attempt to do so on my part. It is left to the greater minds and souls to achieve greater clarity about these matters.

Pope Francis

The Roman Catholic Church’s Pope Francis recently provoked some discussion by suggesting that the Lord’s Prayer should be re-translated and re-worded in order to reflect his belief that it is Satan and not God that leads to temptation, presumably in the belief that God, being all-Good, is not capable of leading to temptation and evil. In this writing I hope to discuss the implications of this thinking and their consequences by examining the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6: 12 ) in light of the three temptations of Christ that occur earlier in Matthew’s gospel of Christ’s ministry on Earth (Matthew 4: 1-11).

To understand the metaphysics of Christianity, its grounds, one needs to recognize that there are three realms: the realm of Necessity in which beings dwell (including human beings) and are given over to its laws (such as gravity), the realm of Being wherein lie those things that do not change (our principle of reason and the mathematics that result from it, for instance) and the realm of the Good which is beyond both Being and Necessity and is the realm of God. The existence of and dominion over these three realms corresponds to the existence of the Triune God or Trinity: the Father (God), the Son (the Father’s Creation, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the Earth, the Word made flesh), and the Holy Spirit (Grace, the Word). The Father is the Good, the Son is His creation and is the Word made flesh, and the Holy Spirit is the mediator between the two.

This is a Platonic interpretation of Christianity. Plato insists that there is a great gulf separating the Necessary from the Good and yet, paradoxically, they are related to each other.

In His creation of the world, God withdraws from His creation, the realm of Necessity, in order to allow it to be. He is, in a way, the great Artist who must also withdraw from his creation in order to allow it to be. The true act of creation is a denial of the Self; it is allowing something to be other than one’s self and is a recognition of “otherness” itself. God’s withdrawal is the example that He gives to us in our relation to ourselves and to the world: we must deny our Selves in order that we may be united with Him.

Because creation is from God, it must be Good for He is all Good and the good is one. Those artists who create from themselves and do not withdraw from their art do not create great art, and this is the foundation of one of our mistaken approaches to appreciating the works of art created where we focus on the biographical, historical and social contexts, and the techniques of artists, thus turning the art into an object over which we stand. Without this withdrawal of Self from that which is created, there can be no creation and certainly no great creation. There is only a “making”.

When God interacts within the web of Necessity and its physical laws, He Himself is subject to these laws and He submits to these laws. Without such submission on the part of God, a great injustice would occur since only human beings would suffer God’s creation and not God Himself. But God does suffer His creation and has chosen to do so. The most prominent and important example of this is the crucifixion of Christ where God Himself accepts the death of His Son without intervening to prevent it from happening even though Christ requests that God intervene on His behalf. God’s presence is His absence and silence in the crucifixion.  The Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world (creation) (Rev 13: 8) and is the creation itself.

Grand Inquisitor
Fyodor Dostoevsky

This preamble is to prepare us for an interpretation that will lead to an understanding of the three temptations of Christ; and from these to an understanding of the wording of the Lord’s Prayer and to see how they are interconnected. Fyodor Dostoevsky has written on the three temptations of Christ in his masterpiece “The Grand Inquisitor” from his great novel The Brothers Karamazov. One may find a link to this text here:

The three temptations or “tests” of Christ focus on “bread” or food for the body and its relation to grace or the “food for the soul”, “gravity” and the web of Necessity’s relation to the body and to the Self, and power, or the Self and its relation to the living of human beings in communities. They speak of our needs, or perceived needs, as human beings.

The Greek word that presents the difficulties for us (and for Pope Francis) is “πειρασθῆναι (peirasthēnai)” in the three temptations of Christ and “πειρασμόν (peirasmon)” in the Lord’s Prayer. It is translated as “to be tempted”, but it could also be understood as “to be tested” in the way that we test something to ensure its genuineness, its trueness. We might say that the three temptations of Christ are “tests” of Christ in order to ensure His genuineness prior to His Ministry on Earth.

The text from Matthew is as follows:

Matthew: 4:1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After he fasted forty days and forty nights he was famished. 3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city, had him stand on the highest point of the temple, 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘with their hands they will lift you up, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” 7 Jesus said to him, “Once again it is written: ‘You are not to put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their grandeur. 9And he said to him, “I will give you all these things if you throw yourself to the ground and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: ‘You are to worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’”11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and began ministering to his needs.

The text of the three temptations suggests that it is the “Spirit” (the Holy Spirit) that leads Christ into the “wilderness” to be tested by the devil. The “wilderness” as the place of temptation or the test is present in many of our fairy tales, such as “Little Red Cap” (“Little Red Riding Hood”). It is sometimes metaphorically presented as “the dark woods” or “the belly of the Beast” and so on, and it is the place where the tests occur. Our stories and our cinema continue this tradition of the place of tests in multivarious forms and guises. Plato’s Cave in Republic is the “belly of the Great Beast” (the social) and the test is whether to recognize the light of truth coming from the Sun (the Good) and to begin one’s journey toward the Good, or to return to the world of the “shadows” and its pleasures and rewards (but this relates more to the third temptation).

“Every word that comes from the mouth of God” is the Holy Spirit and it is His grace that is given to us at every moment of our lives. This “spiritual bread” is as necessary as the bread that is the staple food required of our bodies if we are “to live”. If we are famished we could very well wish that the stones before us would become bread, but they will not do so (the miracles of manna from heaven, the loaves and the fishes, etc. aside) for our hunger, the stones and the lack of bread are of the realm of Necessity, the realm of time and space.

To insist that the stones before us become bread is to deny the will of God and to attribute evil to God: why does He feed others and not me? It is very easy for us to feel that we are favoured by God when we are well fed. But this, too, is a failure to pass the test: God’s justice is to visit rain upon the just and unjust, the fed and the unfed, in equal amounts. We fail the test in not being able to distinguish the realm of Necessity from the realm of the Good. The “spiritual bread” is omnipresent and available to anyone who asks. God is quite capable of turning stones to bread, but to turn stones to bread requires that God cross the vast distance that separates Himself from the Necessity of His creation and He must submit to Necessity’s laws when He does so.

This separation of the realm of Necessity from the realm of the Good and the crossing of the gap between the two realms is highlighted in the second temptation. It is the temptation or test of suicide, an act that we have within our capability but which is denied us because we are not our own.

The belief that we are our own, both body and soul (if we still believe in such a thing) is one that dominates our thinking and actions in the modern age. “To be or not to be” (and this speech of Hamlet’s encapsulates much that is trying to be said here and is Hamlet’s error, that which makes him a tragic hero) is a temptation or test of God to intervene on our behalf and to deny the law of gravity or the laws of Necessity that separate God from us. When the devil takes Christ to the top of the temple of Jerusalem and asks Him to throw Himself down, Christ’s response is that such an act is a “temptation” of God, and we are denied putting God to the test. To test God is a sin.  Our submission to Necessity is our submission to the will of God, and this submission on our part is one of our greatest tests and the denial of the will of God for our own desires is one of our greatest temptations.

The third temptation is that temptation or test given to us regarding our living in communities. The kingdoms of the world and their grandeur belong to Satan, and they, too, are products of Necessity and subject to the same laws that rule over all material things (gravity, for instance).  Satan’s temptation is to “test” us in our desire to serve him or to serve God. Satan can give to us the kingdoms of this world because they are his to give. He cannot give us the Good. He will give us these kingdoms if we are loyal to him. Money, fame, rewards, recognition, “social contacts” are all in his realm. The sin here is our deceiving ourselves that we have the power to achieve the Good: “the good end justifies any means”, a sin that has resulted in the deaths of countless millions of human beings throughout history for it is a sin that comes about through the worship of false gods, the pledging of loyalty to Satan. It is the placing of “interests” before “values” (to use a common phrase nowadays) of those who choose to fall prey to this third temptation which is thinking that they have it in their power to bring about the Good themselves. It is the sin that results from the deception that one is in possession of the sole truth, the highest light. It is to place oneself higher than Christ Himself who during His crucifixion utters the cry: “My God, my God why have you forgotten (forsaken) me?”

To recapitulate: the three temptations of Christ involve the three realms of Necessity, Being, and the Good which correspond to the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity. The temptations or tests occur because we are beings in bodies who must decide to serve God’s will or our own. To overcome the temptations or tests which the Spirit gives us, we are given the Lord’s Prayer, the Word.

This text on the three temptations of Christ can be compared with the text of the Lord’s Prayer. The text of the Lord’s Prayer follows. First the Greek, then the English:

The Lord’s Prayer

Πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς ἁγιασθήτω τό ὄνομά σου, ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου, γενηθήτω τό θέλημά σου, ὡς ἐν οὐρανῷ καί ἐπί τῆς γῆς. Τόν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τόν ἐπιούσιον δός ἡμῖν σήμερον καί ἄφες ἡμῖν τά ὀφειλήματα ἡμῶν, ὡς καί ἡμεῖς ἀφίεμεν τοῖς ὀφειλέταις ἡμῶν καί μή εἰσενέγκης ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν, ἀλλά ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπό τοῦ πoνηροῦ.

Our Father, who is in heaven; holy be Your name, Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses (debts), as we forgive those who trespass against us (our debtors); and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.


As pointed out in the beginning, Pope Francis has called for a re-translation of the Lord’s Prayer in order for it to read: “and do not let us fall into temptation”.  From the three temptations above, we can see that we are already “fallen into temptation”. It is our human condition and temptation or the test is a constant presence or reality for us, just as the Holy Spirit Who is our guide in our moments of being tested is a constant presence for us if we choose to look in the right direction (“Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.” Matthew 7: 7). The Holy Spirit is that Grace which can either lead or not lead us into the tests. God is not to be tempted, but we are to see whether or not we are genuine in our service to His Will.

The Lord’s Prayer is directed to God the Father and is our statement about our service to His Will, but it is the Third Person of the Holy Trinity that leads to temptation, that leads us to our “tests” as was shown in the three temptations passage. I am quite certain that Pope Francis isn’t asking us to deny the Trinity of God in order to remove the confusion present in the wording of the translation of the Lord’s Prayer. Since both the Lord’s Prayer and the Three Temptations come from Matthew, we can assume that the meanings or intentions of the words are to be taken as the same.

Our praying to God is to be done in secret; it is not a communal activity just as the temptations are ours alone as well as those of the communities of which we are a part. But our prayer is a claim for all other human beings, the children of God, when it is spoken. Let us examine the Prayer phrase by phrase.

Our Father who is in heaven: He is our Father and He is in heaven. “Heaven” is not a place in time and space. It is not a place “above” the Earth where the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin could have possibly seen God (although, paradoxically, Gagarin might have been able to see God had he been looking in the right direction with the right eyes!) God is infinitely distant from us as His realm is beyond Being and Necessity. Through the Holy Spirit we, or rather that infinitesimally small part of us that is God and made in His image, are yoked to God and this yoke is the principle of true Life. Since He is the Good Shepherd, His task is to seek for us, not for us to seek for Him. He seeks that infinitely small part of ourselves that is Him and that belongs to Him and Him alone. The infinitely small part is subject to the vicissitudes of Chance because we are beings in bodies and our only choice is the choosing of to whom we shall dedicate this infinite part of ourselves. It is this infinitely small part of us that allows us to see the light as light.

Holy be Your name: It is through our naming that things come to presence for us. The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, once spoke about “the god that sometimes wishes, and sometimes does not wish to go by the name of Zeus”. It is only God who can choose to name Himself; it is beyond our human capacity to do so. The Name is the eternal Life that is always present in the beauty of the world and its order and in that infinitely small part of ourselves that is His. We petition His Presence for us and to us; and in our petitioning He is present to us.

Your Kingdom come: In this part of the Prayer, the Kingdom of the Father is in the future, not in the past or the present. His kingdom where His will reigns is in contrast to the kingdoms of this Earth which, as indicated in the passage from Matthew 4, belong to Satan and where his rule reigns. The third temptation of Christ is the devil offering power in the political realm, and this may be the strongest of the temptations or tests that are devised for us for we believe that we may be able to potentially effect outcomes in the course of events that we believe are in conformity with the Will of God. In the course of human history, this belief in false “goods” and “false gods” has resulted in terrible human suffering and it carries on even today.

Your will be done: Our most difficult test is our submission to the will of God. The temptation not to do so is the reality for us in every waking moment of our lives. We are unable to reconcile the love of God with the suffering of the innocent as being His Will for we do not see Justice in it. We do not have answers for Ivan Karamazov and his “Grand Inquisitor”. We know that what has happened in time, past events, are in accord with the will of God, but we cannot know what this Will is: God’s will is inscrutable to us, and we commit the sin of blasphemy in thinking that it is, in thinking that past events will show us what God’s will is for the future. For the saints and the great human beings, they are capable of an amor fati, a love of fate, which is simply beyond us. We must submit to the fact that what has happened is good because it is the will of God, but it is a Will that passes all understanding. Many have rejected God precisely here, as does Ivan Karamazov; but we notice that as Ivan leaves Alyosha, his novice brother, “He (Alyosha) suddenly noticed that Ivan swayed as he walked and that his right shoulder looked lower than his left. He had never noticed it before.” The image is of Ivan bearing his cross, and it is the cross that all of us, if we are thoughtful human beings, must bear while we are here upon this earth and subject to “Necessity’s sharp pinch” (King Lear).

On Earth as it is in Heaven: The will of God rules in all realms whether of the Good, Being or Becoming, Space, time and the contingency of future events are the limits, the boundaries of creation; and as beings in bodies we are subject to these limits. The existence of these limits are the will of God. Satan’s three temptations involve these limits and our attempts to overcome them in one form or another: the absence of our daily bread for our bodies, the constant presence of the universe and its physical laws, and the realm of human communities and their machinations. When, for example, Kent in King Lear tells Lear that his “good intentions” of dividing his kingdom to ‘prevent future strife’ is “evil”, he is not referring to a bad political decision on Lear’s part (though his decision is bad politically), but to Lear’s ignoring of the laws that are placed on human actions which are just as stringent as the laws placed upon the physical universe. At the beginning of the play, Lear mistakenly sees his will as the will of the gods. He is like most of us who think that our “good intentions” are choices that we can make in this realm because we, presumably, know the will of the gods. In the play Lear, through his great suffering which decreates his ego and his Self, is brought into the true relation of humility that should exist between human beings and God. When in this true relation, Lear shows us that we become “God’s spies” for God is able to see His creation through our eyes which have become His eyes because our selves, our most precious possession, no longer stand between God and His creation. But in this position we are nothing more than mere prisoners.

The first part of the Lord’s Prayer is our submission to God’s will. The second part is our petitioning of the Lord to minister to our needs.

Give us this day our daily bread: The first part of the Lord’s Prayer recognizes that the will of God prevails in the past, present and the future. As human beings we are only able to see the past and to be aware of the present. The good of the future is not within our capacity.

Bread is a need of our bodies. As human beings we are the “needing” beings for our energy comes to us from outside. In order for us to live some other living being/thing must be consumed in this realm of Necessity. As shown in the three temptations of Christ, only the “spiritual bread” which comes from the Holy Spirit in the form of Grace is that energy which is ever present for us and we have only to ask, seek and knock. By our asking, the “spiritual bread” is given to us and it is this spiritual bread that allows us to overcome the temptations that are ever-present and ubiquitous in our daily lives. We are led to evil by our being created bodies, and it is only through the pure energy of grace that we are able to overcome the evils that are ever-present for us. Our need for grace in overcoming the temptations is also ever-present. This is captured in the use of the obscure word epiousios which indicates that the bread is ousia or ever-present and yet it is epi which means “above” or “upon”. We could also translate this as the “supernatural bread”.

And forgive us our trespasses (debts) as we forgive those who trespass against us (those who are our debtors): A debt is an obligation that we have to others, promises we have made, something arising from our past. Our greatest debt to others is the recognition of their “otherness” and our taking care of their physical and spiritual needs through our attention to them. We are obligated to be attentive to the needs of others.

We are obligated to other human beings; when we do not meet these obligations, we “sin”. As we are obligated to others, so they are obligated to us (or at least we feel they are obligated to us from some action in the past). The saints tell us that they are the greatest sinners and we have trouble believing them. But the saints have a greater awareness of the “otherness” of human beings and of their obligation to this otherness. St. Francis’ ministrations to the lepers is an example of this. We are obligated to be charitable; and when we deny this obligation, we sin. How we judge the obligations of others to ourselves is how we will be judged. It is our reparation for our sins. King Lear is the most powerful play in the English language which illustrates this.

To “trespass” is to go beyond the limits or the boundaries that have been set for us as human beings. These limits or boundaries are those which are set by God in all three realms spoken of here and not those which we think we establish through imaginary lines drawn on maps. We are not our own. It is not our wills that we should wish to be recognized, and we should desire no recognition of our “ego” whatsoever. To do so is to “trespass”. We require Grace daily to help us meet our obligations to others and to prevent us from being led by the desires of others. In meeting these obligations, we fulfill the will of God. Our difficulty is that in living in communities with other human beings, we are constantly driven to “where we would not go” by their desires as they impinge on our wishes and we are constantly in danger of doing evil when we consider our actions as a “duty” to others whether it be god, country, or others in our communities.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: This is the phrase from the Prayer that has given rise to, provoked this writing. Pope Francis wishes it to be re-translated since it creates the confusion that it is God who leads us to temptation. From the Three Temptations passage it is clear that the Holy Spirit leads Christ, in a moment of deepest necessity, into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

In the Lord’s Prayer, we contemplate the name, the kingdom, and the will of God, and submit to this Will.  From this submission we receive the supernatural bread of Grace which purifies us from evil. Having been purified from evil, the soul is ready for that true humility which crowns all virtues.  Humility consists of knowing that in this world the whole soul, not only what we term the ego in its totality, but also the supernatural part of the soul, which is God present in us, is subject to time and to the vicissitudes of change (Weil) whether through Nature or through the actions of human beings.  There must be absolute acceptance that these are in accord with the will of God.

But how difficult this is for us! For Lear, Cordelia is hung through the machinations of Edmund and this, finally, breaks his heart. His “Howl, howl, howl, howl” is the suffering the passes all words and thus our understanding of such suffering. One thing is certain: the redemption from temptation and sin and our submission to the will of God is not to be cheaply bought.

The doxology “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever” is a later addition to the original text and is redundant given the interpretation of the first part of the Lord’s Prayer given here. We we speak the words of the first part of the Prayer, our submission to the will of God is already given and does not need the repetition here, though its alignment with the third temptation of Christ illustrates how difficult it is for us to submit to His will.