Saturday, September 10, 2011

Rereading "Beyond Good and Evil"

We sail right over morality, we crush, we destroy perhaps the remains of our own morality by daring to make our voyage there -- but what matter are we!  Never yet did a profounder world of insight reveal itself to daring travelers and adventurers...
By redefining the origin of morality as arising from psycho-social responses to needs (needs of the individual, the tribe, and the species), and through those needs to the evolutionary causes that create them, we move "beyond good and evil".

...and the psychologist who thus "makes a sacrifice" -- it is not the sacrifizio dell' intelletto, on the contrary! -- will at least be entitled to demand in return that psychology shall be recognized again as the queen of the sciences, for whose service and preparation the other sciences exist.  For psychology is now again the path to the fundamental problems.

Nietzsche here suffers somewhat from a lack of vocabulary.  The reference here is not simply to psychology as it is conceived in the modern world, that is as the science of animal behavior (accepting as we do that humans, as always, are laughing apes).  In the words of philosophical idealism, "nothing exists but the mind and it's objects."  To a post-Nietzschean subjecticivist, "all experience of reality is mediated by the process of perception."  The vocabulary of semiotics might assert "Reality presents itself to the mind as an ongoing narrative.  Standing between the individual and the objects in reality signified are the mind and the signs it grasps and manipulates."  Psychology, here to Nietzsche, refers to the study of the mind, and thus includes the study of logic, of semiotics, of perception, of linguistics, of ontology, of neurology, and of the philosophy of science: that is, the mind and its objects.

More than that, the field of psychology itself has sown the seeds Nietzsche has planted here and elsewhere.  Neo-Freudian and Maslowian accounts of behavior assume that animals (laughing apes!) have needs they must satisfy.  However, there are usually barriers, obstacles, and constraints to overcome.  The problem-solving processes present in opportunistic, scavenging omnivores (laughing apes!) exist to overcome those obstacles, avoid those barriers, and chart a path within those constraints (which might be physical or social) in order to fulfill or satisfy those needs (Neo-Freudian translations: the ego finding ways to satisfy the desires of the id).

All of the elaborate games we laughing apes play, including philosophy, society, morality, logic, mathematics, language, and even the sciences and the engineering and technology that unfold from them are simply a way to meet the elaborate web of needs and satisfy the tangled skein of motive.  Ergo, in a sense, the physical and life sciences are obedient to psychology and social psychology.

Googlebombing for a cause:

No comments: