Monday, November 2, 2009

Nietzsche As Naturalist: Discussing Leiter's Nietzsche

There are some interesting threads worked out in B. Leiter's paper available on the the Social Science Research Network, Nietzsche's Naturalism Reconsidered and while we may not see eye to eye on many things, I have been having similar thoughts about Husserl given my exposure to the proprioception literature in Shaun Gallagher's How the Body Shapes the Mind, and his call for a neurophenomenology. For me, it seems that Husserl's critique of the natural attitude is a critique of strong naturalism:

Strong Naturalism (SN): All events require physical explanation.

If all events require physical explanation, then the laws of logic must be physically based, and the move to psychology to explain the rules of logic is the very source of the psychologism Husserl defends against.

Weak Naturalism (WN): All events require explanation, but not all explanations need to be physical (some can be simply descriptive like phenomenological descriptions)

I digress.

I am particularly interested in Leiter's paper as a good example of scholarship on Nietzsche despite some skepticism of poster's in another thread that Leiter is a hack Nietzsche scholar. Being skeptical about the PGR is a separate issue from his view of "naturalizing Nietzsche" So, given that my audience has always been MORE Continental, I thought that we should look to the arguments presented in the most clear concise writing I know of Leiter, and propose where he goes wrong (if he does).

For me, this is a wonderfully written piece where the argument is very clear. My exact skepticism falls on method here. I'm skeptical that every piece of Nietzsche's corpus can be unified under one single authored motivation. Philosophical exegesis sometimes tries to unify disparate elements into one single guiding thread for interpretation--sometimes this seems to quick, other times too slow. This is often done in hard cases like Aristotle in which the Metaphysics resist easy unification of theme since we cannot account for how the author's mind regarded the place of the various inconsistencies (where did Aristotle change his mind?). The same may be said of how particular some of the texts in Nietzsche's corpus seem to be.

However, let's give Leiter his due despite people emailing me that we shouldn't. If you don't think that Nietzsche can be naturalized, then argue for the claim. As I said, I'm sympathetic that there are degrees of rejecting naturalism that doesn't admit of reading Husserl as a full-blown anti-naturalist. There could be many shades of naturalism, even open for Nietzsche.

Right now, I'm wondering about distinction between a therapeutic and speculatively naturalist reading of Nietzsche. Can such a distinction hold?


mark said...

well said...I agree strongly with your skepticism that every piece of a philosopher's corpus "can be unified under one single authored motivation," especially Nietzsche, tho I am certainly no expert.

Carbondale Chasmite said...

It seems that much of Leiter's case is textual and environmental (which is good). Nietzsche was influenced by the German materialists seems a starting point. I'm not convinced of some of his responses to Janaway either.

How does the article seem to you?