ABSTRACT

Recent scholarship shows that in the late 1870s and early 1880s Nietzsche attempted to make contemporary naturalism, especially various strands of evolutionary biology, the basis of a new method of historical inquiry and a new style of moral criticism and experimentation. This scholarship demonstrates that nineteenth-century evolutionary thought was crucial to Nietzsche's formulation of his moral and political project. In this article I claim that Nietzsche did not simply draw on and apply contemporary naturalistic theories. Rather I argue that he attempted to refract the ancient model of philosophy and its “spiritual exercises” through the new evolutionary paradigm. In particular, this article argues that Nietzsche tried to hinge one particular ancient spiritual exercise—the “view from above”—to the new evolutionary naturalisms. Nietzsche, I suggest, recast this spiritual exercise in terms of Darwinian evolution. Nietzsche's anchoring of the classical model of philosophy in contemporary naturalisms underpins and explains his claims that joy is the key “philosophical” emotion. By ascending to the Darwinian view from above, as we might call it, Nietzsche suggests that the “joyful” scientist experiences Schadenfreude—he can delight in rather than lament human misfortune and suffering. Nietzsche's fröhliche Wissenschaft derives from and expresses Schadenfreude. I argue that despite his attempt to found his philosophy on the new strands of Darwinian naturalism Nietzsche's own ethical orientation fatally compromises his naturalism.

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