Schlick, Wittgenstein, and Waismann: Three Responses to Nietzsche

In Shunichi Tagaki & Pascal F. Zambito (eds.), Wittgenstein and Nietzsche. Routledge. pp. 47-76 (2023)
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It is commonly assumed that while Nietzsche’s intellectual influence significantly marked 20th century ‘continental’ philosophy, his sway over analytic philosophy was conspicuously minimal. To challenge this received view, this essay demonstrates that the reception of Nietzsche’s philosophy formed a space of dialogue among three founding figures of analytic philosophy: Schlick, Wittgenstein, and Waismann. A significant Nietzschean influence guided Schlick’s project of naturalising ethics. Schlick nonetheless maintained a critical attitude towards various aspects of Nietzsche’s philosophy, such as his assertion of the will to power. Despite their proximity, Wittgenstein’s understanding of several of Nietzsche’s views (under the influence of Spengler) deviated from Schlick’s more elaborate interpretation. Wittgenstein concurred with Schlick’s criticism of an absolute ‘ought’, despite his overall rejection of Schlick’s naturalisation of ethics. In Waismann’s articulation of his own view of the relation between ethics and science, we find an emphasis on an element that is common in Schlick and Wittgenstein, namely their rejection of the possibility of scientifically justifying moral claims. Waismann’s criticisms of Nietzsche’s ethics can thus be brought into dialogue with Schlick’s and Wittgenstein’s responses, especially in the case of the notion of eternal recurrence.



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Andreas Vrahimis
University of Cyprus

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