“Sounding out idols”: Knowledge, History and Metaphysics in Human, All Too Human and Twilight of the Idols

In Volker Gerhard & Renate Reschke (eds.), Nietzscheforschung, vol. 16 (2009)
Twilight of the Idols has a main role in Nietzsche’s work, since it represents the opening writing of his project of Transvaluation of all values. The task of this essay is sounding out idols, i.e. to disclose their lack of content, their being hollow. The theme of eternal idols is in this work strictly related to the idea of a ‘true’ world and, consequently, a study on this latter notion can contribute to a better comprehension of what does that emptiness mean and which is the way that Nietzsche wants to follow to set his thought free from any metaphysical heritage. The analysis of the notion of truth Nietzsche concerns with in Twilight of the Idols takes us back to the content of his early writings, when he gives the first sketches of his theory of knowledge. The perspective he exposed in the ‘70s is constructed on the basis of Schopenhauer’s philosophy, that Nietzsche merges with the main ideas of Lange, Spir and other neo-Kantians. The outcome of his reflections on this matter is an evolutionary epistemology, a view that leads Nietzsche to define the historical reconstruction as the only resource through which the fact that concepts are mere thoughts gradually evolved can be point out. These observations correspond in many ways to what the Austrian physicist Ernst Mach wrote in his works, and one can say that Nietzsche agrees with his “anti-metaphysical intent”, i.e. his criticizing a thought still depending on “concepts which we forgot how we’ve reached”. With my paper I’ll try to show that Nietzsche wage his war against metaphysics with the theoretical ‘weapons’ he prepared in the ‘70s, indeed that his last attack to western knowledge arises from some contents he exposed in Human, All Too Human. In this text Nietzsche reflected on the mechanisms of language and world’s representation, and connected human knowledge with the overall development of organic beings. Moreover, in his work from 1878 the philosopher presented a comparison between “metaphysische Philosophie” and “historische Philosophie”, an idea that cannot be found in the following writings, but that comes up again in the Twilight of the Idols. Indeed, in this work Nietzsche repeats his complaining philosopher’s “lack of historical sense” he dealt with in the opening pages of Human, All Too Human, and he reflects on the kind of inquiry western thinkers should adopt to set themselves free from the fixed forms of metaphysics. Thus, Nietzsche’s observation about the role of history in philosophy testifies the connection between this main works, and allow us to define the way he wants to follow to carry his critic to eternal idols out and, in doing so, to show the way forward to his last thoughts.
Keywords F. Nietzsche  Twilight of the Idols  History and metaphisics
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