“Clever beasts who invented knowing”: Nietzsche's evolutionary biology of knowledge [Book Review]

Biology and Philosophy 2 (1):65-91 (1987)
Nietzsche was a philosopher, not a biologist, Nevertheless his philosophical thought was deeply influenced by ideas emerging from the evolutionary biology of the nineteenth century. His relationship to the Darwinism of his time is difficult to disentangle. It is argued that he was in a sense an unwitting Darwinist. It follows that his philosophical thought is of considerable interest to those concerned to develop an evolutionary biology of mankind. His approach can be likened to that of an extraterrestrial sociobiologist studying clever beasts... in some out of the way corner of the universe ... It is shown how be uses this viewpoint to account for the origin of the central psychobiology of humankind: for dualistic philosophies, such as that of Descartes (which Ryle famously called the official doctrine), for human notions of truth and falsehood, being and becoming, and for other fundamental concepts of Western philosophy and science. All these, he argues, are no more and no less than the necessary adaptations of a zoological species, Homo sapiens, in its struggle for life in a Darwinian world. It is concluded that Nietzsche was the first philosopher to accept and use in their full depth the philosophical implications of nineteeth-century evolutionism, implications which are still resisted to this day. It is also argued that this interpretation of Nietzsche's aphoristic writings provides them with an organic consistency.
Keywords Nietzsche  Darwin  evolution  epistemology  sociobiology
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/BF00127565
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 24,411
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Edward O. Wilson (2000). Sociobiology: The New Synthesis. Journal of the History of Biology 33 (3):577-584.

View all 33 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

39 ( #123,663 of 1,924,732 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

4 ( #211,819 of 1,924,732 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.