Science, Culture, and Free Spirits: A Study of Nietzsche's Human, All-Too-Human

Humanity Books (2010)

Jonathan Cohen
University of South Carolina
Full-length studies of individual books of Nietzsche have been lacking until now both because of the immaturity of the field and because Nietzsche's style itself seems to contraindicate them. Close reading, however, reveals a great deal of literary and philosophical unity. This holds good even of Human, All-Too-Human, Nietzsche's longest and most unwieldy work. The book represents Nietzsche's break with Schopenhauer and Wagner, as well as the birth of Nietzsche as we know him in the later works. The book's embrace of science as conducive to culture follows the early works' vilification of science as anathema to culture. This reassessment is possible because science is now seen as a method and a discipline rather than an insatiable drive for knowledge, and culture is now a broad set of symbols and activities rather than a narrowly focussed "unity of artistic style." Both changes were motivated by Nietzsche's rejection of Wagner. Part of the help science provides culture is its release from restrictive metaphysical beliefs. Nietzsche battles metaphysics, principally that of Schopenhauer, by means of scientific arguments meant both to provide alternative explanations of phenomena and to expose the origin of countervailing metaphysical beliefs. However, even when combined in a two-pronged attack, these arguments still fall short of their goal of refuting metaphysics. The scientific world-view may nonetheless aid the development of "free spirits," whose unalloyed devotion to knowledge makes them science's paragons. The free spirits are the prototypes for the later works' strong individuals, yet here they are viewed as crucial elements in the cultural development of general society. Nietzsche seeks both to create them and to encourage their devotion to the needs of culture. Part of his effort to do this is the deployment of a terse, elliptical style which will involve the reader more thoroughly than can be done by means of argument alone. Study of the book's structure reveals that its core, Parts 1, 5, and 9, outlines the relation between science, culture, and free spirits
Keywords Human beings
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Call number B3313.M53.C64 2009
ISBN(s) 9781591026808   1591026806  
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