- II pragmatismo di Nietzsche. Saggi sul pensiero prospettivistico by Pietro Gori
Milan: Mimesis, 2016. 206 pp. isbn: 978-88-5753-552-4. €24.
Pietro Gori's book is an admirable and successful attempt to define and critically discuss one of the most controversial aspects of Nietzsche's philosophy—that is, the meaning of his perspectivism. Overinterpreted by postmodernist and poststructuralist philosophers and assaulted by the supporters of "new realism," Nietzsche's perspectivism remains an interpretative black hole for academic and nonacademic readers alike. Gori's book sheds light on this obscure topic. If at least one residual dark point remains, the fault is not Gori's, but reflects the inner complexity of Nietzsche's position. Or so I will argue in the following.
Gori's book is composed of five independent, but interconnected, chapters. His aim is both to treat the concept of perspectivism by focusing on Nietzsche's published and unpublished writings and to consider their context, or what Mazzino Montinari called "the extra-text" of Nietzsche's reflections—that is, the cultural debates that influenced Nietzsche. Thus, Gori compares Nietzsche's position with those of authors and thinkers like Ernst Mach, Hans Vaihinger, Gustav Teichmüller, Herbert Spencer, Afrikan Spir, Hans Kleinpeter, and Henri Poincaré, and later figures like Donald Campbell, Karl Popper, and the American pragmatist William James. Importantly, in discussing James, Gori emphasizes that in defining Nietzsche as a "pragmatist," he does not mean to reduce Nietzsche's late philosophy to this position. Rather, his intention is simply to "shed light on the 'pragmatist feature' of Nietzsche's thought," and to show that it is "deeper and more significant than one commonly thinks" (16, my translations throughout).
The first chapter of the book works as a sort of general introduction to Nietzsche's perspectivism, despite the specificity of its two framing questions. The first of these questions is, did Nietzsche defend an "evolutionary [End Page 439] epistemology," the research program defined in the twentieth century by Donald T. Campbell, and by Karl Popper before him? The second, and more general question is, what is Nietzsche's point of view on both knowledge and truth?
Gori's answer to the first question is negative. He stresses that, even though they start from similar epistemological premises—including the rejection of the correspondence theory of truth, an evolutionary conception of knowledge, and the idea that the categories of thought are "a priori for the individual but a posteriori for the species" (20, 50)—Nietzsche and Campbell arrive at substantially different conclusions. In particular, they diverge on one essential point, namely, how to deal with the unavoidable threat of epistemological relativism. Campbell thinks that our intellect is shaped by adaptation to an external world whose actual existence it is possible to state hypothetically, and, moreover, that from the features of our organs and categories of reason it is possible to infer some "real" attributes of reality. Campbell's "hypothetical realism" (as Michael Bradie calls it ) thus constitutes an objective point of reference for human knowledge, which wards off ontological relativism. In contrast, Nietzsche rejects any form of realism, and stresses the falsifying character of human knowledge.
It is at this point that Gori broaches the analysis of Nietzsche's new conception of truth. The second chapter is a detailed and convincing contextualization of Nietzsche's famous (and infamously abused) dichotomy between "facts" and "interpretations" (KSA 12:7). What is impressive in Gori's approach is the meticulousness of his methodology, which puts "the historico-philological analysis at the service of the philosophical interpretation." In Gori's view, only in this way is it possible to avoid "the superficiality of many bad interpretations of Nietzsche's thought, which tend to isolate some sentences from their context and use them in support of an ill-founded and often arbitrary reading" (60). Putting Nietzsche's notebook remark in its original anti-positivist context, Gori manages to show that Nietzsche's perspectivism, (1) far from being an anti-scientific position, is more precisely the expression of a "post-positivist" attitude towards scientific (and, more generally, human) knowledge (93...