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Go BackFriedrich Nietzsche 1844 - 1900
Nietzsche's 'Naturalism'


Antagonistic to "other worlds," Zarathustra marks the reinstatement of nature. We have ignored the earth as best we could, thus we live in dreamlands; "moonstruck and God-struck" we live -- at the expense of everything -- in ignorance, horrified by our own incarnation. (1) The body has become a "blasphemy against God and love." (2) Zarathustra pleads the case for the earth, first of all: nature, life, becoming. Our dreamland is "outside life," (3) caught up in a "second real world," (4) and it creates a morality which risks everything, to the ruin of future possibilities, even to the hope of a final 'baptism by fire!'

the spirit and power of the dream overcome us, and with our eyes open, coldly contemptuous of all danger, we climb up on the most hazardous paths to scale the roofs and spires of fantasy -- without any sense of dizziness, as if we had been born to climb, we somnambulists of the day! (5)

Sleep walking among the ruins of our own making, this abnormal condition of dream sleep in which the mechanics of our sciences wreck havoc upon an ancient god -- this condition of raping the mother in tragic ignorance, we call this safety and improvement. But in fact it is our own condemnation and downfall. Having placed ourselves "in a false order of rank in relation to animals and nature," (6) we have "educated" ourselves through the indoctrination of an error ridden system of "anti-nature" values. (7) Thus Nietzsche conceives a principle:

All naturalism is morality, that is all healthy morality, is dominated by an instinct of life -- some commandment of life is fulfilled through a certain canon of 'shall' and 'shall not,' some hindrance and hostile element of life's road is thereby removed. (8)

Likewise, in Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche writes: "Morality is only an interpretation of certain phenomena, more precisely a misinterpretation." (9) There was always only one world; the other worlds were fantasies and condemnations of this one. The overcoming is a recognition of a nature-morality, and the awakening to naturalistic values in the place of moral ones. Eventually our somnambulism caused a lack which made us long for what was "great in nature;" because nature was dispelled from human being, the lack drew us out of ourselves toward the wilderness, like an alterity. (10) Thus we become "the insane animal, the laughing animal, the weeping animal, the miserable animal." (11) And the "great human beings" choose "evil" because to choose nature's way is to succeed toward life's "most spectacular effects." (12)

I find those people disagreeable in whom every natural inclination immediately becomes a sickness, something that disfigures them or is downright infamous: it is they that have seduced us to hold that our inclinations and instincts are evil. They are the cause of our great injustice against our nature, against all nature. (13)

Thus we are far away from ourselves, (14) holding onto the remnants of our greatest lies, even to the extent that not only religion, but even the so called 'natural sciences' try to affirm the "absolute certainty" of 'other worlds.' (15)

Natural science being just another "prejudice" against the abyss, an interpretation of the world which removes us from the world, from the exigency of existence, regards the earth as nothing more than a type of mathematical puzzle. Another kind of tyranny. Another kind of faith!

the faith in a world that is supposed to have its equivalent and its measure in human thought and human valuations -- a 'world of truth' that can be mastered completely and forever with the aid of our square little reason. (16)

This whole attempt to establish a refined universe of 'pure facts' built upon the mind's 'absolute understanding' of the "in-itself" fails to address our "original" or "native" openness upon the world and the kind of living knowledge which the body thereby is able to read. Reason wants to do away with the very "organ" of human understanding, as if to see without eyes, to touch without hands. (17) Nietzsche makes us stop and question this desire:

What? Do we really want to permit existence to be degraded for us like this -- reduced to a mere exercise for a calculator and an indoor diversion for mathematicians? (18)

That logic which gave us a pre-constituted world will have to be replaced by a re-discovery of another logos. (19) Empirical explanation (the sterile mechanism of a lifeless clock) must give way, must collapse by the heavy weight of its own stupidity and meaninglessness. (20) And even though music can be framed by the metronome, by itself, the tick tick tick means very little. The undenied body knows how to dance with the earth. The denied body is hated and held in contempt because it wants to dance, wants to break the settled bindings, wants to celebrate the lack of final intentions: "There is more reason in your body than in your best wisdom." (21)

And that is why you are angry with life and the earth. An unconscious envy speaks out of the squint-eyed glance of your contempt. (22)

The new freedom will set itself against this contempt, (23) and it will do so through the body: "the awakened and knowing say: body am I entirely, and nothing else." (24) Thus the whole tradition of western metaphysics as it pertains to the persistent and irreconcilable dispute between rationalist and realist conceptions of the world shall be shattered. The body itself is this hammer, and once set free, we shall shoulder the task of interrogating directly this "rich ambiguity" -- this "new infinity" beneath our feet. (25)

In life, earth, becoming: there are no eternal facts, no permanent truths. (26) There is but our contact with the abyss, our return to a pre-objective seduction which reinstates an 'original wonder' in the face of the world. Storms, lightening flashes, earthquakes: wild forces beyond all good and evil (27) (in a windstorm even the trees can be killers). "Flight into nature, where its beauty is coupled with frightfulness." (28) Beneath human efforts, beneath the pretense of our metaphysical concepts there is an abyss once called Physis. Our relationship is but a surface contact -- "what is most apparent, its skin and sensualization" (29) reaches in to find "a more comprehensive, stranger, richer world beyond the surface, an abysmally deep ground behind every ground, under every attempt to furnish 'grounds.'" (30) Thus every philosophy, every attempt at conjuring meaning from our inscription, Nietzsche says, is a "foreground philosophy." (31) The horizon expands.

The world has become "infinite" for us all over again, inasmuch as we cannot reject the possibility that it may include infinite interpretations. (32)

There are no avenues to a 'deepest meaning.' All interpretations are nothing more than garments, surface clothing, styles of perspective. (33) The motives are always questionable, perpetually suspicious, for "it is our needs that interpret the world; our drives and their For and Against." (34) Our concern is not to create another false god, but to hearken to the god who remains in the depths of silence, that "monster of energy" (35) beyond all belief. Against the eighteenth century's "deification of nature," we must answer to what was always already there. (36) It is a "return to nature," (37) as an initial integration rather than a re-integration. Thus: "Not 'return to nature' -- for there has never been a natural humanity." (38)

The scholasticism of un- and anti- natural values is the rule, is the beginning; man reaches nature only after a long struggle -- he never 'returns'...(39)

The "tyranny of truth and science' has lasted and will last for a time to come ("a few millennia"?) (40). As a result, our questions concern when and how we begin this initial integration.

When may we begin to "naturalize" humanity in terms of a pure, newly discovered, newly redeemed nature? (41)

When will we begin to learn how to love the mother? "For love, thought of in its entirety as great and full, is nature..." (42) It is the "madness" and the multiplicity of "paganism." (43) "To give human beings back the courage to their natural drives..." (44) To is-interpret natural forces from vices to abilities; to reverse the reversal of values: does this overcoming, this going under, take its direction from the abyss? Or does the earth attain new meaning through this act, another violence of interpretation, another human meaning? Not surprisingly, Nietzsche is ambivalent on this point. On the one hand:

The will to power...The grandiose prototype: man in nature -- the weakest, shrewdest creature making himself master, subjugating the stupider forces. (45)

There comes a point in time when man has strength in excess at his disposal: science aims at establishing this slavery of nature... (46)

Dominion over the earth as a means of producing a higher type... (47)

On the other hand: No more "fatal megalomanias," no more false idols, that was our mistake:

...when this species of man began to reverse values according to his own image, as if he were the meaning, the salt, the measure, and the standard of all the rest -- one should have built madhouses for them and nothing more. (48)

Let your will say: the overman shall be the meaning of the earth! I beseech you, remain faithful to the earth... (49)

The overcoming shall be the meaning of the earth because the meaning of the earth will have been drawn from the earth itself. Apollo and Dionysus intertwined, at the point of our primordial interconnectedness with the one world, of life, nature, becoming -- no longer an anthropology. No longer a subjectivity:

The 'subject' is not something given, it is something added and invented and projected behind what there is. (50)

No longer a denial of the "real origin of morality," (51) the veneration of nature is the recognition of a natural morality. (52) It is a return to the finite, non-absolute body as our insertion into the world. Nature as the realm which holds its mystery before us as it holds us for its own: the body as the "skin and sensualization" of the world, against the yearning for an "ideal without flesh," (53) and the desire to crucify desire.

We are the heirs of the conscience-vivisection and self-crucifixion of two millennia: in these we have had longest practice, in these lies our mastery perhaps, certainly our subtlety; we have conjoined the natural inclinations and a bad conscience.

A reverse attempt would be possible: to conjoin the unnatural inclinations, I mean the inclination for the beyond, for things contrary to sense, reason, nature, in short all previous ideals, which were all world-slandering ideals, with a bad conscience. (54)

Thus naturalization as 'double negation' becomes the "revaluation of all values." Nietzsche gives this process a name: "moralistic naturalism." (55) task is to translate the apparently emancipated and denatured moral values back into their nature -- i.e., into their natural 'immorality.' (56)

"Investigation of the soil..." (57) Destruction of morality for the liberation of life. The will to refrain from crimes against the earth. (58) Restoration of nature: infection free, "moraline free." (59) Road to recovery.

We become more profound, mistrustful, 'immoral,' stronger, more confident of ourselves -- and to this extent, 'more natural': this is 'progress." (60)

But this 'reformation' holds within its movement an inevitable danger, a dreadful responsibility. It is a responsibility which presents itself to the overcoming as a task at hand, a burning question whose 'answer' is a difference between "two futures." (61)

Inexorably, hesitantly, terrible as fate, the great task and question is approaching: how shall the earth as a whole be governed? (62)

We are entering a period where the human being 'returns' to nature as a being-towards-the-world, a relationship in which the will to power finds its own drastic exposure, its own "nakedness." (63) Such "terrible images of knowledge" (64) are experiences of the sublimity of "Dionysian joy," and its slippage into the trepidation of a "continual creation." (65) From out of the "subsoil" of that "divine order of terror," (66) to the sculptured gardens of high culture: "Dionysus is a judge!" (67) We finally participate in the tragedy of our contingency and finitude. Becoming our own sentinels, sensitive now to our most dreadful reversions, having learned the smell of celestial cadavers, we begin becoming who we are.


(Page numbers might differ from subsequent publications.)

1. Gay Science, sect. 59, p. 122.

2. Gay Science, sect. 59, p. 122. Also: "They despised the body: they lift it out of the account: more, they treated it as an enemy. It was their delusion to believe that one could carry a 'beautiful soul' about in a cadaverous abortion -- To make this conceivable to others they needed to present the concept 'beautiful soul' in a different way, to revalue the natural value, until at last a pale, sickly, idiotically fanatical creature was thought to be perfection, 'angelic,' transfiguration, higher man." (Will To Power, sect. 226, p. 1331.)

3. Twilight of the Idols, p. 45.

4. Human All To Human, p. 14

5. Gay Science, sect. 59, p.123. Also, Nietzsche writes: "We belong to an age whose culture is in danger of perishing through the means to culture." (Human All To Human, p. 512.)

6. Gay Science, sect. 115, p. 174.

7. Twilight of the Idols, p. 45.

8. Twilight of the Idols, p. 45.

9. Twilight of the Idols, p. 55.

10. Nietzsche writes: "Thus men also plunge into wild nature, not to find themselves but to lose and forget themselves in it. "To be outside oneself" as the desire of all the weak and the self-discontented." (Will to Power, sect. 941, p. 495.)

11. Gay Science, sect. 224, p. 211.

12 Gay Science, sect. 225, p. 211.

13. Gay Science, sect. 294, p. 236.

14. Gay Science, sect. 335, p. 263.

15. Gay Science, sect. 344, p. 283; sect. 347, p. 288. It is interesting to note that both Nietzsche and Merleau-Ponty equate our current conception of "natural science" with "Spinozistic dogma." In the "working notes" Merleau-Ponty writes that the project of the revaluation of nature "must be presented without any compromise with humanism, nor moreover with naturalism, nor finally with theology -- precisely what has to be done is to show that philosophy can no longer think according to this cleavage: God, man, creatures -- which was Spinoza's division." (Visible and the Invisible, p. 273. cf. Gay Science, p. 292)

16. Gay Science, sect. 373, p. 335.

17. To the "pure perceivers," Nietzsche says: "'This would be the highest to my mind' -- thus say your lying spirit to itself -- 'to look at life without desire and not, like a dog, with my tongue hanging out. To be happy in looking, with a will that has died and without the grasping and greed of selfishness, the whole body cold and ashen but with drunken moon eyes. This I should like best' -- thus the seduced seduces himself -- 'to love the earth as the moon loves her, and to touch her beauty only with my eyes. And this is what the immaculate perception of all things shall mean to me: that I want nothing from them, except to be allowed to lie prostate before them like a mirror with a hundred eyes." (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, p. 122.)

18. Gay Science, sect. 373, p. 335.

19. Not only science, but religion, too, has its "antinatural" logic: "Consider the damage all human institutions sustain if a divine and transcendent higher sphere is postulated that must first sanction these institutions. [...] Nature has been ill-judged to the extent to which one has brought into honor the antinaturalness of a God. 'Natural' has come to mean 'contemptible,' 'bad' -- [...] With relentless logic one arrived at the absolute demand to deny nature." (Will To Power, sect. 245, p. 141; cf. sect. 283, p. 160.)

20. Gay Science, sect. 373, p. 335.

21. Thus Spoke Zarathustra, pp. 34-35.

22. Thus Spoke Zarathustra, p. 35.

23. Twilight of the Idols, p. 92.

24. Thus Spoke Zarathustra, p. 34.

25. Gay Science, sect. 374, p. 335.

26. Human All Too Human, p. 13.

27. In a letter to von Gersdorff, written April 7, 1866, Nietzsche writes: "I experienced an incomparable ratpure...What did I care about man and his agitated willing! What did I care about the eternal 'You ought,' and 'You ought not'! How different was the lightning, the storm, the hail: unrestrained forces devoid of anything ethical!"

28. Will To Power, sect. 823, p. 435.

29. Gay Science, sect. 373, p. 335.

30. Beyond Good and Evil, sect. 289, p. 197.

31. Beyond Good and Evil, sect. 289, p. 197.

32. Gay Science, sect. 373, p. 336. Also: "In so far as the word 'knowledge' has any meaning, the world is knowable; but it is interpretable otherwise, it has no meaning behind it, but countless meanings. -- 'Perspectivism.'" (Will To Power, sect. 481, p. 267)

33. Will To Power, sect. 481, p. 267.

34. Will To Power, sect. 481, p. 267.

35. Will To Power, sect. 1067, p. 550.

36. Will To Power, sect. 97, p. 61.

37. Will To Power, sect. 117, p. 72.

38. Will To Power, sect. 120, p. 73.

39. Will To Power, sect. 120, p. 73.

40. Gay Science, sect. 20, p. 92.

41. Gay Science, sect. 109, p. 169,

42. Gay Science, sect. 363, p. 319.

43. Will To Power, sect. 147, p. 94.

44. Will To Power, sect. 124, p. 76.

45. Will To Power, sect. 856, p. 457.

46. Will To Power, sect. 953, p. 500.

47. Will To Power, sect. 862, p. 459.

48. Will To Power, sect. 2025, p. 118, cf. sect. 403, p. 218.

49 Thus Spoke Zarathustra, I, Prologue, 3, p. 13.

50. Will To Power, sect. 481, p. 267; Pre-objectivity means pre-subjectivity as well. Nietzsche writes: "At last, the 'thing-in-itself' ...disappears, because this is fundamentally the conception of a 'subject-in-itself.'" But we have grasped that the subject is a fictional construct. It is interesting to compare this to a statement from Merleau-Ponty's "working notes": "The I really, is nobody, is the anonymous; it must be so, prior to all objectification, denomination, in order to be the Operator, or the one to whom this occurs. The named I, the I named, is an object. The primary I, of which this one is the objectification, is the unknown to whom all is given to see or to think, to whom everything appeals, before whom ...there is something." (Visible and the Invisible, p. 246.)

51. Will To Power, sect. 204, p. 120.

52. Will To Power, sect. 204, p. 120.

53. Will To Power, sect. 228, p. 132.

54. Will To Power, sect. 295, p. 166.

55. Will To Power, sect. 299, p. 168, cf. sect. 462, p. 255.

56. Will To Power, sect. 299, p. 168.

57. Will To Power, sect. 341, p. 186.

58. Will To Power, sect. 343, p. 189, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, I, Prologue, 3, p. 13.

59. Will To Power, sect. 401, p. 218.

60. Will To Power, sect. 123, p. 75.

61. Will To Power, sect. 953, p. 500.

62. Will To Power, sect. 957, p. 501.

63. Will To Power, sect. 1024, p. 530.

64. Will To Power, sect. 1029, p. 531.

65. Will To Power, sect. 1049, p. 539.

66. Birth of Tragedy, sect. 3, Basic Writings of Nietzsche, Modern Library Edition, p. 42.

67. Will To Power, sect. 1051, p. 541.

Bibliography and Works Cited (with links to

Dillon, M.C. "Abyss and Logos," Merleau-Ponty's Ontology . Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988: 224-226.

Jaspers, Karl. Nietzsche. trans. Charles F. Wallraff and Frederick J. Schmitz. New York: University Press of America, 1965.

Lingis, Alphonso. "The Will To Power," New Nietzsche: Contemporary Styles of Interpretation . Ed. David B. Allison. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1985.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. The Visible and the Invisible . Trans. Alphonso Lingis. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1968.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Basic Writings of Nietzsche . Trans. Walter Kaufmann. New York: The Modern Library, 1966.

---------. Beyond Good and Evil (Penguin Classics) . Trans. R. J. Hollingdale. Baltimore, Maryland: Penguin Books Inc., 1973.

---------. Nietzsche: Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy) . Trans. R. J. Hollingdale, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

---------. The Gay Science: With a Prelude in Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs . Trans. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Vintage Books, Inc., 1974.

---------. The Portable Nietzsche . Trans. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Viking Penguin, Inc. 1954.

---------. The Will to Power . Trans. Walter Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale. New York: Vintage Books, Inc. 1968.

---------. Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for None and All . Trans. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Viking Penguin, Inc., 1954.

---------. The Twilight of the Idols and The Anti-Christ: or How to Philosophize with a Hammer . Trans. R. J. Hollingdale. Baltimore, Maryland: Penguin Books Inc., 1968.

This draft was written by Danne Polk, as a philosophy graduate student in Walter Brogan's Nietzsche seminar, Villanova University, June 16th, 1991.

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