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« Maybe I'm not wasting my life | Main | Projects and translations »

May 03, 2007


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Jim F.

Well Aaron, I must say that you took the words right out of my mouth. Last year in a discussion forum(, I wrote:

Concerning Nietzsche, it is interesting to note that while the logical positivist, Rudolf Carnap let loose on Heidegger in "The Elimination of Metaphysics Through Logical Analysis of Language," he had nothing but praise for Nietzsche. There, Carnap discerned similarities between Nietzsche's critique of metaphysics as found in say Human, All too Human and his own. He seems to have regarded Nietzsche as a "metaphyscian" who had the good sense to avoid the errors for which he reproached other metaphysicians. He admired the "empirical content" of Nietzsche's work, including especially its "historical analyses of specific artistic phenomena, or a historical-psychological analysis of morals." And he praised Nietzsche for having chosen the medium of poetry in such works as Thus Spake Zarathustra for presenting his ideas rather attempting to present them in a theoretical treatise. The fact that Carnap found much to praise in the work of Nietzsche is significant since in "The Elimination of Metaphysics Through Logical Analysis of Language," Carnap went on the attack against Heidegger, whose metaphysical statements, Carnap dismissed as meaningless. Apparently for Carnap, part of Nietzsche's greatness was the fact that he used poetic means for expressing himself. This fit in with Carnap's view that metaphysics fails because it makes meaningless statements. For Carnap, language had a variety of functions to perform. One of those is the making cognitively meaningful statements. Other functions include the making of what Carnap described as emotive statements. Such language can express Lebensgefühl. Metaphysics attempts to express Lebensgefühl too but fails because it can only issue meaningless statements. The appropriate means for expressing Lebensgefühl is art rather than metaphysics, and Nietzsche was praised by Carnap for realizing that. For Carnap, Nietzsche was the metaphysician who had the greatest artistic talent.

BTW I have recently been reading Arthur Danto's Nietzsche book. There Danto makes the point that Nietzsche in his work anticipated some of the central ideas of 20th century philosophical movements such as logical positivism and existentialism. Curiously, enough, I can find no reference in Danto's book to Carnap.

And as I am sure that Rosa can point out, Wittgenstein was a great admirer of Nietzsche too. In fact, Nietzsche in his anti-metaphysics seems to have anticipated many ideas that would later be developed at greater elaboration by Wittgenstein.

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