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Nietzsche's New Darwinism 1st Edition

2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195380293
ISBN-10: 0195380290
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Editorial Reviews


"This lucid and closely argued book offers an infinitely more rewarding approach to Nietzsche than the once fashionable postmodernism."--Laird M. Easton, German Studies Review

About the Author

John Richardson is Professor of Philosophy at New York University and author of Nietzsche's System (OUP, 1996).


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (September 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195380290
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195380293
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 0.8 x 6.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,926,014 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Policyman on November 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Friedrich Nietzsche's published references to Charles Darwin and Darwinism are typically negative, even contemptuous. Nietzsche calls one section of Twilight of the Idols "Anti-Darwin." In Beyond Good and Evil, he calls Darwinism "incomprehensibly one-sided" and "the greatest possible stupidity" and lists Darwin among a group of "mediocre Englishmen." Richardson doesn't buy it. He argues persuasively that Nietzsche is not so much refuting Darwin as building on and extending his insights.

Richardson breaks his arguments into four parts. In the first, he looks at Nietzsche's doctrine of the will to power, which Nietzsche often sees (followed by most commentators) as a refutation of Darwin's idea of a "struggle for existence." Richardson claims that, if one looks at the will to power as a result of that struggle rather than an alternative to it, it makes more sense as a philosophical doctrine. He next looks at Nietzsche's perspectival metaethics not so much as a rejection of natural selection, but an addition to natural selection of social selection and self-selection by those powerful enough to do it. In the former sense, Nietzsche may be a forerunner of modern notions of memetics or gene-culture coevolution. Richardson ends with evaluations of Nietzsche's first-order ethical views and his aesthetics, reinterpreting them both as extensions and revisions of Darwin.

In the end, although I am not persuaded by some of the readings he propounds, this is a fascinating, well thought-out, careful book. Although certainly not intended for a popular audience, it is relatively clear and understandable.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Roy E. Perry on October 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Nietzsche referred to Darwin as "mediocre" and most of his comments on Darwin are similar negative criticisms. However, argues John Richardson, we should not be misled by such "attacks." He argues persuasively that Nietzsche accepted Darwin's basic evolutionary mechanism: natural selection, but sought to add to, transform, and improve Darwinism. Nietzsche's "new Darwinism" (or neo-Darwinism) incorporates two additional "steps" that humans have taken (or can take) beyond Darwin's natural selection. These two are "social selection:" and "superhuman (over-human) selection. The third step involves a "self-overcoming" and "self-selection" which incorporates the best of natural selection and breaks away from the "herd" (which has been created by social selection). Only by such a break from the "mediocrity" of the tamed or domesticated herd can a person attain the "super-human" or "superior individual" (der Ubermensch) who rises above the "human-all-too-human."

I learned a new word by reading Richardson's book. The word is "exapt," a word that Richardson uses often. To "exapt" something involves incorporating the best of that subject or concept, and revising, redesigning, and re-aiming it so as to make an advance or improvement. Richardson argues that Nietzsche's project is to "exapt" Darwinian natural selection and transform its basic truth into something higher. I suspect that by doing so, Nietzsche is engaged in a kind of "oneupmanship," seeking to demonstrate that his (Nietzsche's) explication of evolution is superior to Darwin's.
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