- 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: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,919,818 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Nietzsche's New Darwinism 1st Edition
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"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).
Top customer reviews
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. You certainly don't need to be a philosophy professor to get where he's going, and he provides enough primary citation of Nietzsche's works to allow you to evaluate his arguments for yourself without a deep familiarity with the original texts, at least to a significant extent.
A valuable and important addition to the study of Nietzsche and Darwin.
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. After all, on another occasions, Nietzsche remarked, "Philosophy is the most spiritual form of the will to power."
One of the problems of "reading" (interpreting) Nietzsche is that his work can be (and often has been) divided into three periods: (1) the early Nietzsche--author of The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music, in which he praised art as the highest human pursuit; the middle period--in which he wrote "Human-All-Too-Human," a positivistic celebration of science over art; And the mature period, in which he tried to synthesize art and science. On the penultimate page of Richardsons' book, the author writes, "Nietzsche thinks himself a novelty both in being a poet who is also a philosopher (and so poetizes his own ideas), and in being a philosopher who is also a scientist (and so makes his ideas in the light of selection's truth." Nietzsche sought, in other words, to synthesize the aesthetic drive to art and beauty with the scientific, or epistemic, drive to knowledge and truth. His "new aesthetics," therefore, seeks to incorporate art, poetry, science, and philosophy in a coherent whole.