Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Penultimate (essentially final) version of "Nietzsche's Naturalism Reconsidered" Now On-Line

Here. I am grateful to those who commented on it last year at this blog. This will appear in The Oxford Handbook of Nietzsche (edited by Ken Gemes and John Richardson), due out later this year. There may be a few stylistic or citation tweaks, but this version is final as to substance, and is available for citation and quotation.

Additional comments are, of course, welcome, since these are topics and issues I'm still working on.


Timothy McWhirter said...

The point you make in footnote 9 is well taken. The idea of a “disinterested, impersonal, and affectively detached” scientist is now considered to be dated in contemporary discussions of the philosophy of science. Naturalists, like Phillip Kitcher, are now pointing out how scientists who have self interested motives can actually serve the collective epistemic interests of science.

Kitcher argues in "The Division of Cognitive Labor" (The Journal of Philosophy 87 1990) that taking different approaches to scientific problems increases the chances of coming up with a solution (Kitcher 1990). We need to have different scientists seeking evidence to support their proposed solution to a scientific problem even if it presently does not have as much evidence to support it as other proposed solutions, Kitcher argues. Over time, experiments could show that one of these proposed solutions without as much objective evidence supporting it presently is actually superior. Kitcher provides a number of interesting examples from the history of science to make his case.

Kitcher concludes that the self interested desires that lead scientists to pursue proof of their theory in the absence of objective evidence serve our collective epistemic interests. In this context, Nietzsche’s concern about Ree’s “selfless” attitude would be well taken from the perspective of the epistemic interests of science: Kitcher would have to see that attitude as undermining the growth of science.

Timothy McWhirter said...

Since it appears that I successfully buried my essay “Nietzsche Physics” where it is safe from any scrutiny, I thought I would bring the empirical argument for the will to power into greater relief in a paper for the upcoming conference creatively entitled:
The Empirical Argument for the Will to Power

The concept of selforganization that has emerged in the sciences over the past half century explains the transformative processes that enable natural systems to develop in a manner consistent with the second law of thermodynamics. My paper explores the parallels between the concept of selforganization and the will to power and develops an argument based on the second law that all natural systems are products of selforganization or the will to power.

When the many fascinating parallels between the will to power and the concept of selforganization are understood, the will to power will not present a problem for Nietzsche’s Naturalism as Janaway suggests (Janaway 2007: 52); it will represent a powerful confirmation of it. A number of texts gather together essays from different scientific disciplines to demonstrate the broad explanatory power of selforganization. I am just scratching the surface here.

Krohn, Kuppers, and Nowotny, eds. 1990. Selforganization: Portrait of a Scientific Revolution. Boston: Kluwer.

Zeleny ed. 1980. Autopoiesis, Dissipative Structures, and Spontaneous Social Orders. AAAS Selected Symposium, (Boulder: Westview Press, 1980);

Allen and Schieve eds. 1982. Self-Organization and Dissipative Structures: Applications in the Physical and Social Sciences. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Babloyantz ed. 1991. Self-Organization, Emerging Properties, and Learning. NATO ASI Series. New York: Plenum Press.

david mc callum said...

My question relates to the place that "type facts" occupies in explaining human behaviour? In footnote 12 you appear to say that other "cultural" factors can and do act as causal factors, as long as it is remembered that a substratum of physiological factors necessarily play a part in determining behaviour.

My question is thus whether you regard immutable "type facts" as the sole and exclusive causal factor, or whether you allow, on top of this, a place for
"consciousness" as itself part of an entirely naturalistic account of causation?

In other words, don't the pre-cultural drives need to be
"educated" in order to prompt a specific behavioural pattern?

david mc callum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Timothy McWhirter said...

I have written a paper on your ‘Nietzsche’s Metaethics’ essay—entitled Nietzsche’s Naturalistic Metaethics. I essentially accept your critical review of Schacht’s ‘argument’ for n-realism and the millian argument you make on behalf of his privilege reading. I develop a new empirical argument for a privilege reading based on two components.

First, I use the mode of explanation Richardson describes Nietzsche borrowing from Darwin, where drives are viewed as operating on an unconscious levels and they are explained in an etiological fashion, in terms of their past contributions to the structural end of evolution (which he describes in terms of the will to power) (Richardson 2002: 552-553; 2004).

Second, this mode of explanation is employed from the perspective of the science of non-equilibrium thermodynamics (rather than merely evolutionary biology) and its concept of selforganization and the maximum power principle. All natural systems are viewed from the perspective of growth, understood in terms of the maximum power principle.

I argue that this thermodynamic interpretation of the will to power is viewed as a privileged perspective according to Nietzsche and this privilege follows as an implication of his substantive and methodological naturalism. When we view social systems as natural systems and use the contemporary sciences in our analysis, we find that natural systems do strive to maximize their power. And the human ability to think and act evolved from this process because it served this goal. It is the past contributions to this goal that explain the existence of our human ability to act and think now. In this way, contemporary empirical investigations of natural systems justify Nietzsche’s privilege view of the will to power.

Section 2 merely reviews your paper and accepts your findings. Sections three, four and five lay out the argument for the privilege reading. I am sure you have plenty of reading and writing planned for the summer and you don’t need more to look at. But if you do have any comments or suggestions about this paper, I would, of course, be very interested.

Richardson, J (2002), ‘Nietzsche Contra Darwin’, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research
65/3: 3.
________. (2004), Nietzsche’s New Darwinism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Timothy McWhirter said...

I have gathered together some of my papers and a few of my postings here on a blog about my interpretation of Nietzsche’s naturalism. I wanted to bring the ontological, epistemological and ethical implications of this interpretation into clearer view in preparation for the upcoming conference at Oxford. It should enable me to make more concise contributions to the discussions here with links to further elaborations.