Artificial and Unconscious Selection in Nietzsche's Genealogy: Expectorating the Poisoned Pill of the Lamarckian Reading

Genealogy 3:1-23 (2019)
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Abstract

I examine three kinds of criticism directed at philosophical genealogy. I call these substantive, performative, and semantic. I turn my attention to a particular substantive criticism that one may launch against essay two of On the Genealogy of Morals that turns on how Nietzsche answers “the time-crunch problem”. On the surface, there is evidence to suggest that Nietzsche accepts a false scientific theory, namely, Lamarck’s Inheritability Thesis, in order to account for the growth of a new human “organ”—morality. I demonstrate that the passages interpreted by some scholars to prove that Nietzsche is a Lamarckian can be reinterpreted along Darwinian lines. I demonstrate that Nietzsche hits upon the right drivers of phenotypical change in humans, namely, torture and enclosures (e.g., walls of early states), but misinterprets their true impact. Nietzsche believes that these technologies are responsible for producing what I call “culture-serving memory” and the bad conscience by causing emotions that once were expressed outwardly to turn inward causing the “psychological digestion” of the human animal. In reality, however, these mechanisms are conducive to breeding a particular type of individual, namely, one who is docile, by introducing artificial and unconscious selective pressures into the environment of early humans. In showing that Nietzsche’s genealogical account of memory and bad conscience is not underpinned on a false scientific theory and is consistent with Neo-Darwinism, I deflect a potentially fatal blow regarding the veracity of Nietzsche’s genealogies.

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Brian Lightbody
Brock University

References found in this work

The Emotional Construction of Morals.Jesse Prinz - 2007 - Oxford University Press.
Nietzsche, Genealogy, History.Michel Foucault - 1978 - In John Richardson & Brian Leiter (eds.), Nietzsche. Oxford University Press. pp. (139-164).

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