Monday, April 19, 2010

Help Sought: Looking for a Nietzsche Quote

Nietzsche holds the typical naturalist's view that the correct explanation of the purportedly binding force of norms--epistemic, ethical, even logical--is to be given in entirely psychological terms: it is just that creatures like us "feel" that it would be wrong to believe what is unwarranted, or violate a logical canon. He has a particularly striking comment in this vein psychologizing logic. Might anyone have an idea where? I had thought in Nachlass material, but haven't found it, so perhaps elsewhere.

Many thanks.


blake johnson said...

To the Realists - You sober beings, who feel yourselves armed against passion and fantasy, and would gladly make a pride and an ornament out of your emptiness, you call yourselves realists, and give to understand that the world is actually constituted as it appears to you ; before you alone reality stands unveiled, and you yourselves would perhaps be the best part of it, oh, you dear images of Sais! But are not you also in your unveiled condition still extremely passionate and dusky beings compared with the fish, and still all too like an enamoured artist? And what is " reality " to an enamoured artist! you still carry about with you the valuations of things which had their origin in the passions and infatuations of earlier centuries! There is still a secret and ineffaceable drunkenness embodied in your sobriety! Your love of "reality," for example oh, that is an old, primitive " love "! In every feeling, in every sense impression, there is a portion of this old love: and similarly also some kind of fantasy, prejudice, irrationality, ignorance, fear, and whatever else has become mingled and woven into it. There is that mountain! There is that cloud! What is "real" in them? Remove the phantasm and the whole human element from it, you sober ones! Yes, if you could do that! If you could forget your origin, your past, your preparatory schooling, your whole history as man and beast! There is no "reality" for us nor for you either, you sober ones, we are far from being so alien to one another as you suppose ; and perhaps our good will to get beyond drunkenness is just as respectable as your belief that you are altogether incapable of drunkenness. -- GS,#57

isobel said...

I'm not quite sure what exactly you're looking for, as, I'm sure you know, there are many passages wherein Nietzsche naturalizes and/or psychologoizes logic. Anyway, 516 from Will to Power (below) was the first thing that popped into my head, though reading it over now, I'm even less sure that it's what you're after. After finding it, I found other passages in that same book that may fit the bill. I had to edit a lot out to fit the character limit.


We are unable to affirm and to deny one and the same thing: this is a subjective empirical law, not the expression of any "necessity" but only of an inability.
Supposing there were no self-identical "A", such as is presupposed by every proposition of logic (and of mathematics), and the "A" were already mere appearance, then logic would have a merely apparent world as its condition. In fact, we believe in this proposition under the influence of ceaseless experience which seems continually to confirm it.
The very first acts of thought, affirmation and denial, holding true and holding not true, are, in as much as they presuppose, not only the habit of holding things true and holding them not true, but a right to do this, already dominated by the belief that we can gain possession of knowledge, that judgments really can hit upon the truth;--in short, logic does not doubt its ability to assert something about the true-in-itself (namely, that it cannot have opposite attributes).

Here reigns the coarse sensualistic prejudice that sensations teach us truths about things--that I cannot say at the same time of one and the same thing that it is hard and that it is soft. (The instinctive proof "I cannot have two opposite sensations at the same time"--quite coarse and false.)

Also, from 521 of WP
Our subjective compulsion to believe in logic only reveals that, long before logic itself entered our consciousness, we did nothing but introduce its postulates into events: now we discover them in events--we can no longer do otherwise--and imagine that this compulsion guarantees something connected with "truth." It is we who created the "thing," the "identical thing," subject, attribute, activity, object, substance, form, after we had long pursued the process of making identical, coarse and simple. The world seems logical to us because we have made it logical.

Also, 515--
The subjective compulsion not to contradict here is a biological compulsion: the instinct for the utility of inferring as we do infer is part of us, we almost are this instinct--But what naivete to extract from this a proof that we are therewith in possession of a "truth in itself"!--Not being able to contradict is proof of an incapacity, not of "truth."

Jordan said...

No doubt you're aware of this, but Nietzsche says some things rather like what you're talking about early on in GS book III (secs. 110-11). In particular, this little nugget:

"The course of logical ideas and inferences in our brain today corresponds to a process and a struggle among impulses that are, taken singly, very illogical and unjust. We generally experience only the result of this struggle because this primeval mechanism now runs its course so quickly and is so well conceived." (GS 111)

Chris said...

You don't mean this one:

Behind all logic and its seeming sovereignty of movement, too, there stand valuations or, more clearly, physiological demands for the preservation of a certain type of life.

mattia said...

Hallo. I remember Nietzsche talking about the "subjektive Nötigung [...] nicht widersprechen zu können" (see Nachlass in Schlechta, p. 729). In another passage he writes similarly about the "psychologische Nötigung" regarding causality (it should be easy to find the corresponding passages by searching in NietzscheSoruce). I'm not sure, though, that's what you are looking for. For here Nietzsche accounts for such phenomena not in psychological terms (I "feel" that it's better to believe so-and-so), but rather-even more naturalistically!-in biological terms (given my "Lebensbedingungen", I have to think so-and-so).

Anonymous said...

From the late notebooks there is this that corresponds to what mattia pointed to:

34 [124]:
"The logic of our conscious thinking is only a crude and facilitated form of the thinking needed by our organism, indeed by the particular organs of our organism."

I also wonder if the logicians Nietzsche is thinking about were influenced by Hegel - maybe his objection is against a science of logic, a metaphysically robust logic - when he makes these kinds of remarks: from 38 [4]: "An assumption may be irrefutable - why should that make it true? This proposition may outrage logicians, who posit their limits as the limits of things; but I have long since declared war on this optimism of logicians." or at 5 [16] "Logic and mechanics never touch on causality - -" and in relation to the project of understanding the roots of nihilism, [11] 99, section 2 "Result: belief in categories of reason is the cause of nihilism - we have measured the value of the world against categories that refer to a purely invented world." I can't see logic in general as a target. Logic remains rigid; there is no undermining of logical necessity. It just has to not be confused with metaphysical necessity.

Brian Leiter said...

Thanks very much for these suggestions. isobel's from WP come closest. I have this sense that there is some passage in Nietzsche where he says, in effect, that it's merely a psychological fact about creatures like us that we abide by the rules of logic, not some transcendental truth about the nature of logical norms. But I may be misremembering. More references welcome!

John Ayala said...

But this is what the will to truth should mean to you: that everything be changed into what is thinkable for man,visible for man, feelable by man. You should think through your own senses to their consequences. (...) And how would you bear life without this hope, you lovers of knowledge? You could not have been born either into the incomprehensible or into the irrational. (Z:II.2)

jsnow said...

i remember reading something very similar about this point of Nietzsche's in one of the sections in Hales and Welshon's 'Nietzsche's Perspectivism', probably the chapter on Perspectival Logic, so it's likely any relevant quote will be in there. sorry i don't have it to hand, but distinctly remember it. good luck

Sid said...


Brian: the only example I can think of at the moment is when he connects psychological behaviours to the beginnings of justice...and then extends it (I think) to morality (in the Genealogy of Morals, essay #2)

"Sale and purchase, together with their psychological concomitants, are older than the origins of any form of social organization and union: it is rather from the most rudimentary form of individual right that the budding consciousness of exchange, commerce, debt, right, obligation, compensation was first transferred to the rudest and most elementary of the social complexes (in their relation to similar complexes), the habit of comparing force with force, together with that of measuring, of calculating."

(GM, Essay 2, chapter 8)...

Anonymous said...



Die Kategorien sind „Wahrheiten“ nur in dem Sinne, als sie lebenbedingend für uns sind: wie der Euklidische Raum eine solche bedingte „Wahrheit“ ist. (An sich geredet, da Niemand die Nothwendigkeit, daß es gerade Menschen giebt, aufrecht erhalten wird, ist die Vernunft, so wie der Euklidische Raum eine bloße Idiosynkrasie bestimmter Thierarten und eine neben vielen anderen…)

Die subjektive Nöthigung, hier nicht widersprechen zu können, ist eine biologische Nöthigung: der Instinkt der Nützlichkeit, so zu schließen wie wir schließen, steckt uns im Leibe, wir sind beinahe dieser Instinkt… Welche Naivetät aber, daraus einen Beweis zu ziehen, daß wir damit eine „Wahrheit an sich“ besäßen…

Das Nicht-Widersprechen-können beweist ein Unvermögen, nicht eine „Wahrheit“.

Shane Wahl said...

Related more to "truth" than to "logic" there is:

"The valuation 'I believe that this and that is so' is the essence of truth. In valuations are expressed conditions of preservation and growth. All our organs of knowledge and our senses are developed only with regard to conditions of preservations and growth. Trust in reason and its categories, and dialectic, therefore the valuation of logic, proves only their usefulness for life, proved by experience -- not that something is true."
--WP, 507 (i believe . . . whoa double check that!)

Anonymous said...

Check KSA 11, 40 [13]

(“[…] die Logik stammt nicht aus dem Willen zur Wahrheit” ,

and also

KSA 12, 10 [19]

“Der Substanzbegriff eine Folge des Subjektbegriffs: nicht umgekehrt !”