- Nietzsche's Engagements with Kant and the Kantian Legacy, vol. 1: Nietzsche, Kant, and the Problem of Metaphysics ed. by Marco Brusotti and Herman Siemens
Nietzsche, Kant, and the Problem of Metaphysics is the first of three volumes meant to address Nietzsche's relation to Kant and Kantian philosophy. This volume addresses how Nietzsche rejects, adopts, and reformulates Kantian [End Page 177] epistemology and metaphysics. In what follows I go through the book chapter by chapter, providing a brief summary before a brief commentary.
In their helpful introduction, Brusotti and Siemens do an impressive job of elucidating the young Nietzsche's acquaintances with Kant. This section is a "must-read." They then lay the groundwork for Nietzsche's later criticisms of Kant and provide an instructive outline of the volume's contributions. There is one lacuna, however. The title of the volume includes "the problem of metaphysics." However, we are not told what that problem is, and the editors do not tie the title to the explanation of the contributions to the volume. The back of the book suggests that the problem of metaphysics is Kant's critique of metaphysics. But this critique is multifaceted, and there are important pieces missing from the volume's focus on the possibility of metaphysics. The most noticeable omission might be this: Kant's critique of metaphysics turns on an ingenious positive picture of how metaphysics is possible, but no contributor to the volume addresses what Nietzsche's positive view of the possibility of metaphysics might be (and I think there is ample room for one). It might have been best just to drop the specification from the title.
The book begins with John Richardson's illuminating piece on how Nietzsche naturalizes Kant's transcendental approach to the nature of the subject. For Richardson, Nietzsche reconceives Kant's logical understanding of the conditions of the possibility of experience with causal conditions behind different forms of biological existence. These causal conditions lead us to accept certain posits as true, such as the idea that thinking requires a unified subject, which Nietzsche takes to be strictly false. According to Richardson, Nietzsche thinks higher forms of life like the Übermensch are those that can "incorporate" the truth that certain life-enabling posits are strictly false. For example, those who are higher might embrace the difficult truth that thinking need not require a unified subject. Richardson's analysis leads to interesting questions beyond the scope of his chapter. For instance, how does incorporating more truth relate to creating new values when it comes to features of higher forms of life? Might one be prior to or more important than the other? Could they work in tandem, and if so how? In all, Richardson's chapter does a nice job bringing to light underappreciated and interesting post-Kantian themes in Nietzsche, especially how Nietzsche reworks Kant's transcendental methodology and offers an evolutionary epistemology that transforms how we should perceive subjecthood.
Benedetta Zavatta's essay suggests various ways in which Nietzsche challenges Kant's universal and ahistorical cognitive framework. She argues [End Page 178] that reason for Nietzsche is instinctual and developmental. She explains why Nietzsche's view of language is rooted in biology, and she examines Nietzsche's position on empirical concept acquisition and use. The essay is informative, though no specific thesis is defended. Zavatta instead presents a multilayered examination of how Nietzsche thinks reason and language change over time.
I found some of the claims that Zavatta makes, which are essential to her position, a bit strong. For instance, one section is titled "Reason is one and the same thing as language" (52). Unfortunately, the section contains little on Nietzsche's view of the nature of reason, and the main example Zavatta gives is worrisome. She rehearses the familiar idea that for Nietzsche the subject-predicate structure of our language leads us to believe that the world contains substances...