Saturday, 30 June 2018

Posts on this blog

Life is like a puzzle. Although one may think that the available pieces make sense, there may be other pieces which change all of that! This is the purpose of this blog: to provide information and interpretations on a wide range of issues, enabling readers to make sense of our world (and even their own lives) in an honest, coherent and sophisticated manner. "S/he who seeks will find!" The essays (some written in Afrikaans) were written by the scientist, philosopher and author Dr Willie Mc Loud (PhD in Physics, MA in Philosophy, MBL) [1] (and other authors) with the general reader in mind and engage with all sorts of interesting (and difficult) topics regarding science, philosophy, religion, the ancient Middle Eastern world, archaeology, eschatology, current events and other topics, bringing it all together in one coherent worldview. The essays argue for a balanced Christian worldview - between the extremes of secular Christianity and simplistic interpretations - providing a fresh and original perspective that is not a mere repetition or rehearsal of the usual views.

The blog is dedicated to all those people who are willing to read with an open mind and to carefully consider all the various nuanced aspects of the issues at hand. All those who identify themselves with the doubting Thomas may find in the pages of this blog the answers to the questions with which they are struggling. Many of the essays are written especially with you in mind. There is, however, one challenge: in our fast-moving world, one would have to make time to read the essays. And that may require some real effort and commitment - but is there anything of real value in life which is obtained without some effort? 

Image result for thinking painting
A Thinking Girl - Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot  (1796-1875)

When we really listen to each other, we may find true answers in real conversation. At the same time, the essays provide tools, knowledge, and information to engage with others in everyday conversations about their faith. Take time and work through the topics which interest you and you may find the journey truly rewarding.

To facilitate the reader's access to these essays, the most important ones (all with links to the essays) are listed below according to the topic they belong to. Essays which are "highly recommended" are marked with an asterisk. Readers are welcome to use the information, share or forward the essays and make use of them as they see fit [2]. 

1. Kant, Noumena and Quantum Physics

Kant, Noumena and Quantum Physics (Introduction)
Published in Contemporary Studies in Kantian Philosophy 3 (2018) (94 pages)
2. Science, Philosophy, and God

Part 3: Science and metaphysics: in search of Russell's teapot (*)
            Presenting a new argument for the existence of God
Part 5. In defence of the soul
Part 6: Science and Atheism (*)
Part 7: Science and spiritual intuition
Part 8: The Christian and Evolution (*)

A critique of archaeology as a science
An archaeological perspective on the Bible
Presenting a new ancient Middle Eastern chronology
A critique of Biblical Criticism as a scholarly discipline (*)
A hermeneutical perspective on the Bible
Is the spirit world more than an idea?

3. Can we still believe the Bible? (*)

Part 1. Can we still believe the Bible? A hermeneutical perspective (*)
Part 2. Can we still believe the Bible? An archaeological perspective (*)
Part 3. Can we still believe the Bible? A scientific perspective (*)
Part 4. Can we still believe the Bible? A prophetic perspective (*)

4. Origins in the Book of Genesis

5. Eschatology

7. Discovering the Keystone, Solving the Riddle of The Red Serpent after 40 years by Guillaume Brouillard (Griffel Media, Cape Town, 2009). 

8. Spiritual/geestelik

Meeting God
The Power of God
Wrong choices
Something or Someone is missing? (Dr. Francois Carr)
Revival is of the Lord (Arjan Baan)
A message for the church
God hoor
Die profeet
Om God te glo

9. Dialogistics/Apologetics

Towards a new dialogistic approach
Science and Atheism
Engaging with atheists and agnostics
Biblical inspiration: in a postmodern world
Faith and reason: finding the balance
The importance of the Septuagint in Biblical studies
On Christian morality
Nietzsche and the use and abuse of Darwin for life (Dr Louise Mabille)
Darwin's Doubt (book review)
The God Impulse (book review)

10. Current events

Brexit: What to expect
A New Iranian Empire is rising
The European Union: forever rising
The pursuit of geopolitical power in an emerging multi-polar world
Predicting a war against Iran? - an inquiry into war and peace cycles
Is a Third World War brewing?

[1] Books by Dr. Willie Mc Loud (PhD in Physics, MA in Philosophy, MBL):

Akteurs in die Laaste Drama, 'n studie van Openbaring 13 en 17 (1989)
Alles omtrent die "New Age" (1990)
Op pad na Armageddon, 31 bepeinsings oor Openbaring en ander Bybelprofesieë (1995)
Alles omtrent die opkomende Antichristelike orde (2000)
Discovering the Keystone, Solving the Riddle of The Red Serpent after 40 years (Griffel Media, 2009)
(with Guillaume Brouillard)
Die Arabiese Opstande (Griffel Media, 2011)
Op soek na Abraham en sy God (Griffel Media, 2012)

[2] Due recognition is required according to accepted copyright practice. Since all the essays include a reference to the author, they may be freely shared, distributed and circulated.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Kant, Noumena and Quantum Physics

I am truly grateful that my first major work in Philosophy had recently been published in Contemporary Studies in Kantian Philosophy 3 (2018). In this monograph, I present new interpretations of the philosopher Immanuel Kant's First and Third Critiques as well as a new Kantian interpretation of quantum physics in which the one-hundred-year-old problem of reconciling determinism and indeterminism in one conceptual framework is solved. The well-known measurement problem in quantum physics is also resolved. I post the introduction below. 


Willem McLoud
Independent scholar, South Africa

1. General Introduction
1.1 Introduction

Kant is one of the great modern philosophers of science. In his Critique of Pure Reason he developed a scientific epistemology that he used to produce a philosophy of science in his Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science (1786). In this he laid the philosophical foundations for Newtonian science. Through the years his approach has been reworked and adapted in such a manner that it could ground all classical mathematical science, including the theories of relativity (Friedman 2001:31, 47).

In the second part of the First Critique, Kant engaged with the problem of freedom. In the third antinomy (conflict of laws) he showed how the transcendental idea of freedom, that is, absolute spontaneity, can be introduced without contradiction as a different kind of causality (this is sometimes called “freedom” although it is not the same as practical freedom; it is merely a precondition for practical freedom). He conceptualized this as a different kind of effective causality in opposition to deterministic causality.

In the Critique of the Power of Judgment Kant developed this concept of causality further when he formulated another part of his philosophy of science. He now calls the spontaneous causality of the First Critique that is grounded in the transcendental idea of freedom, “causality of freedom” and the “concept of a causality through freedom” (KU 5:195-196). He develops the idea further in the context of non-extended parts and wholes as a “spontaneity of a cause” (KU 5:411), which is conceptualized in analogy with human ends. In this formulation, Kant allowed for the possibility that some products of nature are not produced in accordance with mechanistic (deterministic) laws. In this essay, I show how these concepts can be fruitfully introduced in that domain of physics where determinism has broken down, namely in quantum physics.

The question of non-determinism in quantum physics goes back to the early pioneers; it is central to the Copenhagen interpretation. Bohr understood quantum indeterminism as involving spontaneity. This was formally introduced in the context of Von Neumann’s formulation of quantum mechanics in terms of two conflicting maxims, namely the deterministic evolution of quantum states and the so-called reduction of the wave packet (called the “projection postulate”) that introduces an indeterministic (spontaneous, according to Bohr) aspect into physics.

The question became even more accentuated in the context of Bell’s inequality. Since the Aspect experiment confirmed the violation of Bell's inequality in quantum mechanics, the debate regarding non-determinism has intensified since determinism is assumed in this inequality as Redhead has demonstrated (Redhead 1987:102). The violation of Bell’s inequality is therefore also a violation of determinism. Redhead has furthermore shown that the Bell inequality can be reformulated to show that the violation thereof negates even what might be called “stochastic” determinism, that is, that there are not even stochastic causal links between the particles in the two arms of the Aspect experiment (Redhead 1987:102).

There are various responses to the question of non-determinism in quantum physics. Some merely assert the fact of such non-determinism taken in the more positive sense as absolute spontaneity (Cartwright 1983); others have tried to adhere to a purely deterministic view (for example, Bohm’s theory). In this case, action-at-a-distance may be assumed (which contradicts special relativity) or even the idea of “many worlds”. In this essay, I develop a Kantian solution to this problem in which determinism and non-determinism are reconciled. In this regard, I understand non-determinism in quantum physics in terms of spontaneity (in accordance with the Kantian concept of spontaneous causality). I argue that we have good reasons to subscribe to a Kantian interpretation of quantum physics in which such spontaneity is conceivably part of our understanding of how the world is like.

In the same manner that Kant's philosophy answered the quest for the mathematical grounding of Newtonian physics, Bohr made use of it in his effort to formulate an adequate response to the new kind of observations found in quantum physics (Pringe 2007). Since that time various authors have developed Kantian approaches, epistemically grounding both quantum mechanics and quantum field theory (Bitbol 2007; Auyang 1995). Various methodological approaches have been developed, some of which focus on Kant’s Third Critique (Pringe 2007). In contrast, I follow an ontological approach, albeit not in a dogmatic (realist) sense but in accordance with Kant’s Critical metaphysics. As such, I am not primarily concerned with Kant’s epistemology insofar as this concerns objective knowledge, but rather with Kant’s idea of absolute spontaneity which he incorporates in his regulative conception of ‘final causality’ in the Third Critique, which in my view describes quantum collapse. (In this essay I am only concerned with Kant’s Critical philosophy, not his pre- or post-Critical philosophy. I also do not engage with his practical philosophy).
A young man in a white shirt and tie and an older man in suit and tie sit at a table, on which there is a tea pot, plates, cups and saucers and beer bottles.
Werner Heisenberg (left) with Bohr at the Copenhagen Conference in 1934
My view is a weak ontological reading—not in any constitutive sense but merely in a regulative or reflective sense—of Kant’s Critical metaphysics which is then applied to quantum physics. I take Kant as presenting us with a positive conception of the noumenal realm as being ontologically distinct from systemic nature—with these realms finding their application in the quantum and classical ‘worlds’ respectively—without a corresponding epistemic commitment in terms of objective knowledge since no sensible intuition of the noumenal realm is possible. As I am primarily concerned with the contradictory principles of determination and absolute spontaneity and not with experience as such, an ontological approach instead of a methodological one (in which the difference between nature and the noumenal realm would be a transcendental one) makes sense.

I argue that the classical and quantum realms belong to different ontological modes of existence (the first consisting of matter but not the second which nonetheless is a genuine feature of reality even though it is not directly cognizable (Auyang 1995:75; Cartwright 1999:232) and that the non-determinism in quantum mechanics involves not merely the logical possibility of spontaneity, but that such a spontaneous causality (in accordance with the Kantian conception in this regard) becomes conceivable in our hypothetical understanding of what the world is like (i.e., our metaphysical view of the world). To put it differently: Kant provides us with a conceptualization of what the world may hypothetically be like if such spontaneity really exists. I argue that in Kant’s metaphysical system this spontaneous causality governs a non-spatio-temporal potentiality (as is conceptualized in the context of Kant’s “final causality” in the Third Critique), similar to Bohm’s quantum potential. This potentiality allows non-extended “wholes-and-parts” in the noumenal/supersensible realm to produce “material parts and aggregated wholes” in nature. I apply this concept to quantum collapse which takes superpositions of states (wholes-and-parts) to reduced states.

In my approach the mere logical possibility of freedom is contrasted with the conceivability thereof – by which I mean the conditions under which freedom can be conceived of as a real possibility. As such, my view is not concerned with the mere conceivability of freedom but rather with its conceivability under certain conditions. These conditions are 1) a problematically assumed, ontologically distinct, supersensible mode of existence which is different in kind from the sensible word (A420/B448) (i.e., it is not the kind of existence associated with matter) through which such transcendental freedom becomes possible (as the ruling principle of this mode of existence) and 2) that this realm has the ability to (absolutely spontaneously) produce outcomes in nature. Both the supersensible realm and this spontaneous causality are understood as ideas of reason which belong to Kant’s regulative or reflective metaphysics (in the First and Third Critiques respectively). I argue that this is the Kantian position (see chapter 2), although he does not formally introduce such “conditions” in the context of his discussion of freedom in the First Critique. The conceivability of freedom also involves the construction of a conception of such spontaneous potentiality in the framework of an ontologically distinct supersensible realm in the Third Critique (see chapter 3).

Although my concept of “conceivability” belongs within the context of Kant’s Critical metaphysics which takes us beyond the possibility of experience, it nonetheless translates into the Kantian conception of “transcendental” insofar as this concept captures the possibility of and conditions for absolute spontaneity (freedom). It is true that Kant does not formally state this, but one may suggest that this underlies his conception of ‘transcendental freedom’ (i.e., that it is not merely a transcendental idea of reason). Even though these conditions cannot be satisfied in Kant’s way of thinking (since these are beyond sensible reach) and absolute spontaneity can therefore be no more than an idea of reason, the progress of science had made it possible to engage with these conditions in a way that Kant never thought possible.

The Kantian approach may therefore be fruitfully applied to contemporary science. Within this context, I introduce the questions that I engage with in this essay: How is absolute spontaneity possible and how can it be accommodated in physics as part of our overall conception of the world? I use the philosophy of science that Kant developed in the Third Critique, which involves exactly such spontaneity, to engage with the problem.

1.2 Outline

The problems with such an approach are two-fold. The first concerns Kant’s conception of this other kind of non-deterministic causality and the second his conception of the noumenal realm. These are in fact interwoven problems since such a causality can only be conceivably introduced as something that can in principle exist as a genuine feature of reality (albeit not as part of material reality) when the noumenal realm is taken as an ontologically distinct realm “outside” nature, that is, where the deterministic laws of systemic nature do not apply.

Although Kant speaks of noumena as “outside/beyond” nature in both the First and Third Critiques (see A279/B334, KU 5:360) this should not be understood in a physical sense (as implying substance-dualism) but rather as ‘not belonging to’ systemic nature, which refers to the totality of mechanistic causal relations. The noumenal realm does not belong to systemic nature where mechanism rules. (I use the expression “deterministic causality” as a general concept in contradistinction with “spontaneous causality”. “Mechanistic causality” (or: mechanism) is a more narrow idea of reason used in the context of the Kantian concept of systemic nature).

Even though the Kantian “worlds” of material and noumenal objects (noumena) can be clearly differentiated from each other, there is no reason why these cannot at the same time belong to one world of reality (which in part exists beyond our sensible reach). Although Kant calls noumena “objects” (B306), they are obviously not similar to classical objects. They should be regarded as “objects” in an abstract sense and I prefer to call them “entities”. As such, they can co-exist with material objects in one world. (This is similar to real and imaginary numbers belonging to one numerical system; see the discussion in chapter 4). Kant does, in fact, bring these two worlds together in one conceptual structure in the Third Critique. Accordingly, I distinguish between two ontologically distinct “modes of existence” belonging to one world insofar as this refers to the totality of the reality of our existence. One may call my view a “third alternative” insofar as it is not a two-aspect or two-object view, neither a one-world or two-world view but rather a two-aspect and two-object as well as one-world and two-world view.

In the Third Critique, the noumenal realm is taken as the substratum of systemic nature and plays a very important role in the philosophy of science that Kant developed in that Critique. My interpretation allows for a remarkable and rather straightforward correspondence with contemporary theories in physics. As such, the Kantian concept of systemic nature refers to the “classical world” (where the theories of relativity apply; it is exactly this Kantian conception of nature which makes this application possible), his concept of the noumenal realm as the substratum of systemic nature finds confirmation in the pre-measurement “quantum world” (noumena are identified with quantum entities) and his concept of spontaneous potentiality as a causality finds its application in the reduction of the wave packet. (One should be careful not to confuse this Kantian conception of “nature” with our contemporary concept, which includes both the classical and quantum worlds.) As such, his philosophy of science in the Third Critique becomes applicable to the study of the above-mentioned problems in quantum physics. I argue that Kant's metaphysical position as described above can be formulated as a working hypothesis which prescribes the characteristics that the quantum realm should have for it to be taken as conforming to this interpretation.

My application of Kant's philosophy of science requires that the Kantian concepts be understood in a specific manner, especially that the noumenal realm refers to an ontological distinct realm outside (henceforth: systemic) nature, problematically assumed. In this regard, my interpretation stands in contrast with current interpretations (in both the two-object and two-aspect views—see chapter 2) which assume that the noumenal realm, especially in the First Critique, does not refer to an ontologically distinct realm outside nature. In my view the First Critique lays the foundations for both parts of Kant's philosophy of science as presented in the Metaphysical Foundations as well as the Third Critique, and it would be very strange indeed if his view of the noumenal realm in the First Critique differs substantially from that in the Third Critique (as is often asserted) where it is presented as the substratum of nature (and human nature) (KU 5:196, 409, 429).

To arrive at an interpretation of Kant’s First Critique as well as that of his philosophy of science in the Third Critique which allows for a sensible application to the problem of spontaneity in quantum physics, I present my view in three parts which also constitutes the three main chapters.

1.  I argue that the most viable interpretation of the noumenal realm in the First Critique (and therefore also in his Critical philosophy in general) is to understand it as a realm outside Kant's conception of systemic nature (governed by mechanism), regulated by the transcendental principle of freedom (as an absolute spontaneous, albeit, effective causality). In this manner this principle of freedom does not merely become logically possible; it becomes conceivable as something that could really exist if the world is conceived in accordance with Kantian philosophy. I present this reading as an alternative in Kantian interpretation in contrast with the two-object and two-aspect views (which include about all streams of Kantian interpretation; I also discuss or mention views that are an exception to this general description (Langton 1998; Hanna 2006). I show that Kant’s two-aspect and two-object views are reconciled in this manner.

2.   I present a new reading of Kant's philosophy of science in the Third Critique that is in agreement with my new reading of the First Critique (with the focus on the noumenal realm and other relevant concepts). I show that the conception of such a realm, now called the supersensible realm, is essential to the concepts that Kant develops in this part of his philosophy of science. I also show that Kant now argues for the conceivability of both such a realm and a different kind of causality, namely of “final” causes, which is named in analogy to the achievement of human ends. I argue that this causality involves a certain potentiality according to which non-extended wholes-and-parts (in the supersensible realm) can produce material parts and aggregated wholes in nature and builds upon the transcendental idea of freedom introduced in the First Critique. This aspect of Kant’s philosophy of science stands apart from that presented in the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science which is directed to the study of matter (grounded on the epistemology developed in the Analytic part of the First Critique).

3.   I show that, although Kant himself did not foresee this possibility, his philosophy allows us to engage with the noumenal realm empirically (albeit indirectly). This is possible when we rework it in such a manner that time is combined not with space, but with mathematical space (Kant calls such space-forms that are constructed through reason and applied to noumena, “ideal” space—see below), as is done in quantum mechanics. (This effectively unites Kant’s two “worlds” into one “world”). I argue that the pre-measurement quantum realm adheres to the three basic requirements/conditions that Kant has for the supersensible realm, namely that it is supersensible, that it is beyond space/time and that it is outside nature (where all interactions are governed by mechanistic causality). As such the quantum realm can be conceived of as an ontologically distinct realm. The concept of absolute spontaneous causality can, therefore, be ascribed to that realm without contradiction and I argue that Kant's approach enables us to positively conceive how this is possible.

I take the reduction of the wave packet as adhering to this kind of causality, namely as a physical event that happens in various contexts, also outside measurement, for example during atomic decay which is the paradigmatic indeterminate process. In my Kantian interpretation of quantum physics, I develop a unified conceptual framework in which spontaneous and deterministic causality are reconciled. When these two kinds of effective causality are regarded as heterogeneous laws that govern two ontologically distinct modes of existence, namely the quantum and classical modes, the well-known measurement problem in quantum physics (that involves the above-mentioned conflict in laws) is resolved. New light is also thrown on some interesting features in quantum mechanics, for example, non-separability and non-locality.

In this manner three interpretations are developed, namely 1) a new interpretation of the First Critique, 2) an interpretation of Kant's philosophy of science in the Third Critique that is consistent with 1), and 3) a new Kantian interpretation of quantum physics. These interpretations are not independent of each other—together they constitute a consistent interpretation of the First and Third Critiques (and the Critique of Practical Reason, although that is not included in the discussion) that is also consistent with contemporary science. In general, my interpretation of Kantian metaphysics is consistent with special and general relativity as well as quantum physics (quantum field theory and quantum mechanics) (see chapter 4, Appendix 3 & 4).

In contrast with reconciling theories such as natural theology and final causes in nature which assume the reconciliation of determinism and indeterminism (either for reasons such as divine premotion or merely through the underdetermination of empirical facts), my interpretation of Kantian metaphysics also explains how that could conceivably be achieved within our world in posing a concrete hypothesis in this regard with application to quantum physics. The great challenge for all such theories is to show how the real possibility of absolute spontaneity could be established—for which any Kantian calls upon practical reason (even though Kant says that his philosophy could provide no such “proof”). What I discover in Kant’s Critical philosophy, is that he provides another strategy in this regard which does not proceed through practical reason (even though practical reason first suggests it—in the same way that the possibility of experience is first suggested by experience itself).

In the First and Third Critiques, Kant provides the necessary (and I think, sufficient) conditions (albeit not the proof) for the real possibility of absolute spontaneity (which I call the “conceivability” thesis) – which I show in this essay to be satisfied in quantum physics (see chapter 4). This means that we have good reason to think (since the conditions are satisfied) that absolute spontaneity is real (for us) (see section 4.7) and that it co-exists with mechanism as the guiding principles of the quantum and classical modes of existence respectively (which are unified through quantum mechanics into one world).

This does not mean that the existence of absolute spontaneity (or the supersensible realm) is asserted in a dogmatic realist sense but merely that the conditions for its real possibility had been satisfied. It also does not constitute an epistemic claim in accordance with Kant’s conception of “objective” knowledge since the corresponding epistemic conditions in this regard are not satisfied. (In contrast with mere indeterminism, spontaneity cannot be demonstrated through direct empirical means since it belongs to the supersensible realm.) It may, however, be taken as a certain kind of epistemic claim (in satisfying the necessary conditions) which belongs to Kant’s philosophy albeit not the objective Kantian kind. In this my approach goes far beyond that which other reconciling theories can do. In general, my approach also has greater explanatory power.

1.3 Methodology

In deciding on a methodology for my interpretation of Kantian philosophy, I considered what may be called the hermeneutical problem. This problem is that the overall interpretation of a text and the particular arguments are interwoven. In all interpretation, the particular arguments are important whereas for all arguments the overall interpretation is important. The reason for this is that our understanding of philosophical works always involves certain assumptions underlying our premises that are not made explicit. There are so many strings of thought in the overall work (the horizon behind the work) that we can think of it as a thing in itself beyond the possibility of ever bringing those ideas in any objective sense into our premises and arguments. Kant explicitly acknowledged this problem when he argued that reason always has certain limits insofar as we as humans are sensibly and conceptually constrained. In Kant’s formulation of the antinomies, he shows that conflicting paradigms (even mechanism and freedom) that cannot be shown to be true in any final sense, may even under certain conditions both be true.

In this context, I believe that a typical Kantian approach should not be to even try to establish final conclusions in this regard. It should rather acknowledge that the above-mentioned problem makes it impossible to arrive at final conclusions when trying to understand the works of philosophers. As such it is better to speak of interpretations: that we develop certain interpretations that are not truth statements. We can never do better than presenting various interpretations. This is especially relevant in the interpretation and understanding of Kant’s philosophy.

In my reading, I observed two strategies in dealing with the hermeneutical problem in the work of historical philosophers and especially Kant. The first strategy is to try and reconstruct the author's arguments and in that manner to arrive at some conclusion that we may attribute to the author. In this case, the project is often implicitly guided by a preconceived paradigmatic commitment to an overall interpretation of the work (say the two-object view) which is never made explicit. Although some seemingly final conclusions are sometimes arrived at, there cannot be any metaphysical commitment to truth because of the implicit assumptions. The other approach is to start with a broad interpretation (a contextualization) and to proceed within this context with particular reconstructed arguments. In this case, the paradigmatic commitments are made explicit from the start. As such there are also no truth claims to be made. We can call this the analytic and continental approaches and in Kantian studies both are well presented in the literature (for the first, see Guyer 1987, Langton 1998, etc.; for the second, see Allison 2004, Allais 2004, etc.).

The hermeneutical problem is especially relevant to my own approach since I am not committed to any of the current paradigms in Kantian interpretation (namely the two-object and two-aspect views). I can therefore neither start with particular arguments (which always depend on some overall interpretation) nor work from within any accepted paradigm. The result is that readers who have different paradigmatic commitments (standing outside my newly introduced paradigm) might read the work in their own terms, understanding the terminology in their own way and not as I do.

The problem is alleviated by the fact that my interpretation accepts the two-aspect view insofar as Kant’s epistemology is concerned (i.e., in the Analytic part of the First Critique), but not insofar as Kant's views regarding freedom and the noumenal realm are concerned (i.e., in the Dialectic part; for which I hold a two-object view). These two-aspect and two-object views can be reconciled in my ontological approach (which involves a regulative/reflective metaphysics) since no constitutive claims are made regarding freedom or the noumenal realm. The acceptance of the two-aspect view allows me to use a continental approach according to which I first provide a contextualization of Kant's overall program (i.e., give my own take on it) before proceeding with arguments regarding the details of Kant's concepts and their relation to each other.

We find the same problem in mathematical texts where mathematical formulations are sometimes thought of as giving precise descriptions of what happen in the same manner that precise formulations of arguments are often conceived of. This is an extensive problem and I am not going to discuss it in any detail. What is of importance, however, for my own approach, is that there are always various ways to understand the physics behind the equations (and even the equations themselves). This is why various interpretations of quantum physics have been developed.

In the chapter where I give my Kantian interpretation of quantum physics—I develop my ideas in a formal manner but have on purpose not included any equations—I have tried to present my understanding of the mathematics and the physics involved without taking the short route through mathematics where presenting equations is regarded as stating “obvious” truths or interpretations. Although mathematical expressions can provide logical (methodological) possibilities, the understanding of how this relates to what the world is like goes beyond that. In not including equations I try to facilitate the reader's engagement with my own paradigm of understanding quantum physics. Even in this case I, again, give a contextualization of my Kantian approach before commencing with the detailed discussion.

I follow the continental approach throughout (in all the main chapters), starting with contextualization before engaging with the details of Kant’s position. I develop an interpretation of Kant’s philosophy in the First Critique, of his philosophy of science in the Third Critique, and eventually produce a new Kantian interpretation of quantum physics in which I use these interpretations. In the final, instance I produce arguments for my position but I do not try to establish any final conclusions. I nevertheless hope that my arguments will be convincing and my interpretations sophisticated enough to accommodate the many strings of Kantian thought into a unified perspective.

1.4 Conclusion

Kant’s philosophy is not easy to engage with. The historical context in which he presented his major work played an important role in the formulation of the traditional two-object view in which Kant is read primarily as an idealist. This has changed over the last fifty years or so with the wide acceptance of the two-aspect view (see Gardner 1999). I believe that this has brought more balance to Kantian interpretation. The problem, however, is that Kant's conception of freedom is still understood for the most part in moral terms.

In this essay I try to change that view and show that freedom (understood as absolute spontaneity) constituted an essential part of Kant’s scientific thought—both in the groundwork that he laid in the First Critique as well as in the Third Critique. Once this is recognized, the way is prepared for the application of these Kantian concepts to contemporary scientific debate. There is no short route—the work presented here involves many detailed discussions of seemingly forgotten concepts. But I hope that in the end, it will be worth the effort for the reader.

To read the rest of the monograph, click on:

Published in Contemporary Studies in Kantian Philosophy 3 (2018)


Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Om God te glo

Daar is sekere dinge wat net daardie Christene verstaan wat in ‘n ware verhouding met God leef. Een hiervan is die stem van God. Skielik, onverwags, ervaar sulke persone in hul diepste menswees ‘n onverklaarbare wete dat God praat. Soms is dit wanneer hulle stiltetyd hou. Terwyl hulle deur die teks van die Bybel lees gebeur dit soms – en gewoonlik heeltemal onverwags – dat ‘n teks of ‘n gedeelte van ‘n teks skielik op ‘n baie persoonlike wyse lewend word en daar ‘n bewustheid kom dat God praat. Alhoewel dit ook gebeur dat Christene hulle eie begeertes in die teks inlees doen dit geen afbreek aan die feit dat God inderdaad met sy kinders praat nie.

God praat nie net met sy kinders nie. Somtyds sê God aan hulle wat in die toekoms sal gebeur. Dit gebeur gewoonlik in die vorm van beloftes wat God gee. Wanneer Christene die stem van God hoor – soos die skape die stem van hul herder hoor soos Jesus noem – dan gebeur dit dat hulle besef dat daardie belofte baie direk op dinge in hul eie lewe van toepassing is. Tussen al die baie beloftes in die Bybel, is daar dan daardie enkeles wat God baie direk aan sy kinders binne hul bepaalde omstandighede gee. Daardie beloftes is God se woorde wat direk op hulle van toepassing is. Sulke beloftes is soms baie spesifiek. En dan weet sy kinders dat dit wat God gesê het ook sal gebeur.

Soms lyk dit of omstandighede baie direk teen God se gegewe beloftes ingaan. Dinge gebeur wat lyk of dit God se beloftes totaal weerspreek. Dan kom die versoeking om te dink dat ons ons maar misgis het. Maar diegene wat sy stem ken weet dit is nie die regte antwoord nie. Vir hulle kan dit ‘n sielewroeging raak omdat dit lyk of God se woord nie uitkom nie. Of God nie sy woord volbring het nie. Dan lyk dit of als verlore is en of dit wat God gesê het onder geen omstandighede kan gebeur nie. Dit lyk of God ons versaak het.

Onder sulke omstandighede is daar ‘n paar opsies. Die een is om God te verwyt en kwaad te wees vir Hom. Om sy karakter as die God van sy woord te bevraagtaken. Die ander is om als waarin jy glo te hersien – miskien ken jy nie regtig die stem van die Here nie? Dalk was dit maar net ‘n vergissing? Maar as God baie duidelik gepraat het is dit nie so maklik om dit eenkant toe te stoot nie. Dan is die vraag: gaan ons bly glo of gaan ons maar moed opgee? Gaan ons soos Abraham “teen hoop op hoop” bly glo of gaan ons maar tou opgooi en aanvaar dat dinge nie uitgewerk het soos ons geglo het nie? Die Christen kan egter ook volhard in die geloof en gewoon die hele situasie aan die Here oorgee met ‘n innerlike vrede wat berus dat Hy wel weet wat Hy doen.
Image result for abraham God painting
Die engel keer dat Abraham vir Isak aan God offer - Rembrandt van Rijn

Ek glo dat God ons geloof eer. Wanneer ons Hom vertrou teen alle omstandighede en “bewyse” in. Ek was al by geleentheid in omstandighede waar my geloof tot die uiterste getoets is. Waar dit vir my gelyk het daar is geen manier waarop God se woord kan uitkom nie. Maar dan dink ek terug aan tye waartydens ek voor die versoeking was om op te gee en ek besluit het om God op sy woord te neem. En waar ek gesien het dat God inderdaad die God is wat sy woord hou. Ja, dat Hy die God van wonders is.

Ek onthou ‘n paar sulke geleenthede. Ek was nog ‘n student op Stellenbosch Universiteit toe die Here die belofte aan my gegee het: “die wat in Hom glo sal nooit beskaamd staan nie” (1 Pet. 2:6). So gebeur dit in my tweede studiejaar dat ek tydens ‘n predikaattoets ‘n totale “blank” slaan (ek onthou die vak was Optika). Alhoewel ek die vorige dag al die werk deurgegaan het, was dit als skielik weg. En indien ek die toets sou dop moes ek die vak herhaal. Ek onthou hoe ek daar gesit en gedink het: Here, ek dien u. Alhoewel my geestelike werk baie tyd in beslag neem, het ek wel als deurgegaan. U het belowe en ek gaan nie maar tou opgooi en uitloop nie! Ek gaan in geloof bly sit!

So sit ek maar daar en bekyk die vraestel. Als lyk soos Grieks! Na meer as ‘n uur (van die twee-uur vraestel) het ek nog niks geskryf nie. En toe: terwyl ek so kyk, sien ek die getal langs een van die vrae wat soos ‘n puntetoekenning lyk maar wat ek skielik in my hart weet is die antwoord wat om een of ander wyse deurgeglip het op die vraestel. Ek gebruik toe die getal (ek dink dit was 2) en stel dit terug in die formule. Vandaar doen ek die hele vraag terugwerkend. Ek was skaars klaar toe is die tyd verby. En so kry ek toe 40 % (volpunte vir die vraag!) - my laagste punt ooit maar genoeg om eksamen te gaan skryf.

Ek onthou nog ‘n geval. In later jare toe ek reeds getroud was het die Here vir my ‘n belofte gegee dat Marthé weer sou swanger word. Sy het verskeie miskrame gehad en toe sê die Here: “Daar sal geen misdragtige of onvrugbare in jou land wees nie” (Ex. 23:26). Sy raak toe weer swanger. Terwyl ek met ‘n uitreik in ‘n ander dorp besig was, bel sy en laat weet dat sy weer bloei. Dit was hoe al die vorige miskrame aangekondig is! Als het geblyk verlore te wees. Ek het in die kamer gegaan en die Here ernstig aan sy belofte herinner. Ek het Hom daarop gewys dat Hy die God van sy woord is. Toe ek weer met Marthé praat hoor ek sy is in die hospital opgeneem en dat die hartjie wonder bo wonder teen alle verwagtinge in steeds klop! En so het my jongste vasgebyt en is sy later gebore.

Ek kan nog verskeie sulke gevalle onthou. Ek kan ‘n meer onlangse een vertel. ‘n Paar jaar gelede het ek vir my meestersgraad in filosofie by UCT ingeskryf. Die graad het uit ‘n deel kursuswerk bestaan wat ek in die eerste jaar moes voltooi asook ‘n kort tesis wat ek daarna moes skryf. Ek het die tesis – wat op die filosofie van Immanuel Kant en kwantum fisika gefokus het – in die volgende jaar voltooi (met dubbel die toegelate hoeveelheid woorde!). Die finale uitslag sloer toe vir omtrent 6 maande. Uiteindelik hoor ek van die universiteit en maak ‘n afspraak om die prof te gaan sien. Daardie oggende sê die Here: “die steen wat die bouers verwerp het, het die hoeksteen geword” (Matt. 21:42). Ek besef toe daar is moeilikheid.

Uiteindelik vind ek dat die twee eksterne eksaminatore (van die VSA en Spanje onderskeidelik) dramaties van mekaar verskil het. Die een het in sy verslag geskryf: “the thesis is a remarkable achievement and truly outstanding” asook “This MA thesis is better than most PhD theses I have read” terwyl die ander een ‘n baie meer negatiewe opinie gehad het. Uiteindelik het die tweede eksaminator se punt gegeld. Alhoewel dit ‘n heel gemiddelde punt was, was ek baie teleurgesteld omdat ek ‘n baie beter punt verwag het (ek het my honneurs in filosofie met lof geslaag).

Op grond van die belofte het ek besluit om die essay aan uitgewers te stuur. Ongelukkig was daar maar min wat bereid was om so ‘n lang essay vir publikasie te oorweeg. Ek het dus meestal maar die eerste hoofstuk gestuur. Ek is drie maal weggewys.  Soms was ek maar baie moedeloos en het gewonder of die woord van die Here ooit sou uitkom. Tog is die Here getrou. Uiteindelik is die essay (wat intussen tot ‘n monograaf gegroei het soos ek die terugvoer bygewerk het!) deur ‘n internasionale aanlyntydskrif aanvaar wat spesialiseer in die werk van Immanuel Kant - met vyf keurders wat dit moes oorweeg. Dit is onlangs gepubliseer (ek sal die inleiding en skakel volgende op hierdie blog pos). Ek het net weereens besef dat die Here altyd getrou is.

Ek hoop my getuienis sal vir andere tot bemoediging dien. Deur al die baie jare wat ek die Here ken, het ek gevind dat ons Hom absoluut kan vertrou. Al maak dinge glad nie sin nie. Al lyk dit of die feite die geloof heeltemal weerspreek. Al lyk dit totaal onmoontlik. Die Here is die God van sy woord soos ons lees: “God is geen man dat Hy sou lieg nie; of ‘n mensekind dat dit Hom sou berou nie. Sou Hy iets sê en dit nie doen nie, of spreek en dit nie waar maak nie?” (Num. 23:19). Ons kan Hom vertrou. Soos Abraham moet ons die toets van geloof deurstaan – al neem dit baie jare voor die woord van die Here uitkom.

Na so baie jare kan ek maar net sê dat dit vir my so ‘n wonderlike voorreg is om die Here God te ken. Om Hom te dien. Om te weet: Hy is die Almagtige God wat als in sy hand hou. Ons kan God en sy weë nie verstaan nie. Ons moet ook nie probeer nie. Maar as God werklik iets gesê het dan sal Hy dit ook doen as ons Hom op sy woord neem. Hy is die Here. Hy is die God van sy woord!

Dr Willie Mc Loud (Ref.

Friday, 1 June 2018

Nietzsche and the use and abuse of Darwin for life

It is possible to interpret Nietzsche as a naturalist. ‘Returning man to Nature’ forms an important aspect of his ideas. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to place Nietzsche in the same category as Darwin, and much of his criticism against Darwin may in fact resonate with Christians, to such an extent that, of carefully considered, Nietzsche’s ideas may even be considered as a source for apologetics. An essay by Louise Mabille.

As much as Nietzsche drew upon Darwin, the natural historian was for him not much more than a footnote to Hegel. He is the biological symptom of an age sick with its own history. Indeed, he goes as far as to say that ‘without Hegel, there would have been no Darwin’ (Gay Science 357). Both Hegel and Darwin are ‘deifiers of success’ who see human history in terms of a single narrative, driven by a single mechanism, lending a stifling inevitability to
it. Before anything else, Darwin added to the contemporary problem of seeing history as a process. One of the most dangerous responses to nihilism – which without a doubt exacerbated it – is the insistence upon rational explanations that master the vagaries of human existence in its totality. Science appears to offer a respite from the shakiness of worldly existence by including all events and actions under abstract laws of development. In this way a false sense of optimism is created: transitory existence is redeemed by participating in the progressive unfolding of higher aims of history. But why stop at the human species? This narrative could include the totality of biological life!
Besides Darwin’s failure to deliver on creative potential, Nietzsche found it very disappointing that the eschatology implied by his discoveries did not materialize. It was not the fact that Darwin killed God that raised the Nietzschean ire, but the fact that God was still very much alive after the reception of The Origin of the Species. All that Darwin in truth provided was a succinct history of the species. And Nietzsche makes clear in the second Untimely Meditation that the deification of history, particularly in the form of a Hegelian-styled Reason that pervades history and suggests that there is a progressive, rational movement immanent to history is especially problematic. This historical ‘illness’ leads to debilitation, whether in the form of idealism, or more commonly the case in England, materialism.
Nietzsche is often grouped together with a number of ‘hermeneuticians of suspicion’, thinkers who undermined the easy and certain subjectivity that flowed from Descartes. This conception of subjectivity, which as we have seen in our Locke chapter, takes an established subject sub specie aeternitates for granted. That is to say, philosophy departs from an immutable subject beyond time that serves as the foundation for the entire philosophical edifice that developed during the Enlightenment. The hermeneuticians of suspicion in question usually refer to Nietzsche, Marx and Freud, but Darwin is often included, too. Nietzsche, being Nietzsche, takes suspicion one step further, and subjected Darwin (or Darwinism, to be precise) to a perspectivist critique. One can be suspicious even of the hermeneutician of suspicion that failed to take his own prejudices into account. Nietzsche returned Darwin to the nineteenth century, in other words, he examined the prejudices upon which his assumptions rested, such as the ability of the rational mind to render the world fully transparent.
Many of Nietzsche’s insights can be traced to scientific materialist origins and much of his vocabulary is derived from biological origins. This does not mean, however, that they can after all be fit into the uncomfortable metanarratives of biological perfection. It would be more correct to say that scientific materialism served as a fount of inspiration, much as he drew upon literary muses like Goethe and Shakespeare; he did not simply follow in the wake of science’s success. His true critique concerns the residues of theologically derived moralism still present in natural science, not the ‘petty details’. As we have seen in our Bacon chapter, Nietzsche did not automatically regard the triumph of a scientific theory to be valuable in itself. ‘Correctness’ is not a criterion for strength. As a matter of fact, the success of natural science far too easily makes it a seat of power that lays down rigid new rules that breed a new kind of conformity. Because its ‘truths’ are easily ‘proven’, they are less easily challenged. To challenge arbitrary power is hard enough, but to go against the obviously ‘legitimate’ power of the scientist is simply beyond the energy of most people. Biological ‘truth’ gives slaves a reason to conform. And they hardly need any encouragement. Consider Nietzsche’s words from Schopenhauer As Educator:

A traveller who had seen many countries, peoples and several of the earth's continents was asked what attribute he had found in men everywhere. He said: ‘They have a propensity for laziness.’ To others, it seems that he should have said: ‘They are all fearful. They hide themselves behind customs and opinions.’ In his heart every man knows quite well that, being unique, he will be in the world only once and that there will be no second chance for his oneness to coalesce from the strangely variegated assortment that he is: he knows it but hides it like a bad conscience—why? SE, opening lines).
The mere fact that a debate over the alleged ‘independence’ of the theory of evolution continues to crop up in Darwinist circles proves the need for a Nietzschean reminder of the importance of non-biological criteria for strength. In ‘Independence, history and natural selection’ Gregory Radick reminds his readers that ‘Darwin’s theory of natural selection was no gift of sheer, solitary genius, but in several key aspects a product of Victorian culture’.[1] This can be seen as an example of the inseparability thesis. This conclusion may be obvious to readers used to the death of the author, but even today Darwin is seen as a kind of deus ex machine (sic) that spontaneously brought enlightenment upon those still captured in the dark ages of religious belief. This is known as the independence thesis. According to this thesis, particular Victorian elements aided Darwin to identify a timeless truth about Nature. The identification of this thesis, however, was inevitable, if Darwin did not do so, someone else would have come along.
Thinkers like these fail to understand what the term inevitable really means in the context of human life: no discovery of anything in the world of contingency is ever inevitable. It is just as easy to conceive of a world where the theory of natural selection – despite its correctness or use value – were simply never discovered. There are thousands of paths that history could have taken. Furthermore, there are thousands of scientific facts that will simply never be discovered, and more still whose true significance and value will never be appreciated. Yet the human race will continue as it always has: with the ability to create either a rich, strong life, or a poor, mediocre one, out of the material available to it at a particular point in time. As can be seen in the work of John Stuart Mill, Victorian England, with its Empire to run, strongly emphasized use. It was a world with a strong contempt for the ‘superfluous’ (think eugenics and the disregard for the lives of the natives colonized during Empire-building) with a strong pragmatic touch, all sprinkled liberally with the economics of Adam Smith. Darwinism was, if not exactly inevitable, at least a typical product of Victorian England. According to the historian Robert Young, the creation myth as seen in the book of genesis was a myth that suited the agrarian, pastoral world ruled by aristocrats before the Industrial Revolution. Similarly, the theory of natural selection with its Malthusian undertones, obviously ‘reflects a competitive, urban, industrial world’. This means that Darwinism basically consists of a reactive vocabulary, shot through with herd sentiments. None other than Karl Marx, in a letter to his collaborator Friedrich Engels, wrote: ‘It is remarkable how Darwin recognizes among beasts and plants his English society with its division of labour, competition, opening up of new markets, “inventions”, and the Malthusian struggle for existence. It is Hobbes’ bellum ominum contra omnes’ [war of all against all]. (Marx quoted in Schmidt 1971: 46). This is already a case of one hermeneutician of suspicion suspecting another. It was of course Engels who famously put Darwin’s Malthusianism in its classic political context:

The whole Darwinist teaching of the struggle for existence is simply a transference from society to living nature of Hobbes’ bellum ominum contra omnes, and of the bourgeois-economic doctrine of competition together with Malthus’ theory of population. When this conjuror’s trick has been performed, the same theories are transferred back again from organic nature into history, and it is now claimed that their validity as eternal laws of human society has been proved.[2]
It is not clear how much Nietzsche derived directly from Darwin; most of his sources are second-hand, from sources like the Darwinians Ernst Haeckel, and Walter Bagehot, quoted twice in UM III, Schopenhauer as Educator. It is clear, however, that Nietzsche was familiar with Herbert Spencer’s Data of Ethics, translated into German in 1879. Whereas Darwin occupied himself more or less with pure science – inasmuch as science can be pure – Spencer developed a social theory around the theory of natural selection which is every bit as teleological as Hegel. Spencer upholds a model of human development that sees egoism and altruism eventually reconciled. Hegel’s influence is obvious in Spenserian remarks like ‘Truth generally lies in the co-ordination of antagonistic opinions’. This is mainly why Nietzsche regards him as a decadent.

Even the ideals of science can be deeply, even unconsciously, influenced by decadence: our entire sociology is proof of that. The objection to it is that from experience it knows only the form of decay of society, and inevitably it takes its own instincts of decay for the norms of sociological judgement.
In these norms, the life that is declining in present-day Europe formulates its social ideals: one cannot tell them from the ideals of out races that have outlived themselves –
The herd instinct – a power that has now become sovereign – is something totally different from the instinct of an aristocratic society: and the value of the units determines the significance of the sum. Our entire sociology simply does not know any other instinct than that of the herd, i.e, that of the sum of zeroes – where every zero has equal rights; where it is virtuous to be zero. –
The valuation that is today applied to the different forms of society is entirely identical with that which assigns a higher value to peace than to war: but this judgement is antibiological, itself a fruit of the decadence of life. – Life is a consequence of war, society itself a means to war. – As a biologist, Mr. Herbert Spencer is a decadent; as a moralist too (he considers the triumph of altruism a desideratum!!! (WP 53).
Darwin may have been a genius, but he was a timely one. That is, unlike Nietzsche himself, he fitted the values of his age, even if, superficially, he appeared to be in conflict with its key institutions. As we will see in our Mill chapter, his was an age that lacked ambition – mere survival and the search for pleasure was considered sufficient to serve as a sign of strength. However, survival is no measure for the value of life: it generates the same paradox as seeing the avoidance of pain and the hunt for pleasure as goals for existence. Natural selection gives us an account of how life came to be in its present form – not why the human phenomenon is worth having in the first place. Nietzsche gives us an answer to that question early in his oeuvre: it is only as an aesthetic phenomenon that life is ultimately justified. That is, life becomes meaningful only through human evaluation. Although Nietzsche persistently asks that man be ‘translated back into nature’, he has something very different from Darwin in mind. Darwin certainly translates man back into nature. After The Origin of the Species there could no longer be a question of man as directly formed by a divine hand. However, there are better and worse translations. Edward Fitzgerald’s translation The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam is a work of art in itself. Reading crude determinism into Nature is not.Before the publication of The Origin of the Species, the young German philologist took it for granted that the most important part of man’s history was a natural history. As early as Homer’s Contest, Nietzsche describes man as a creature immersed in nature:

When we speak of humanity, the idea is fundamental that this is something that separates and distinguishes man from nature. In reality, there is no such separation: ‘natural’ qualities and those we call truly ‘human’ are inseparably grown together. Man in his highest and noblest capacities, is wholly nature and embodies its uncanny dual nature (Homer’s Contest).
 What Nietzsche objected to, is that modernity failed to seize upon the advantages that the new Darwinian theory offered. Rather than to recognize Nature as ‘red in tooth and claw’, nineteenth century moralists like sought to place Christian morality on an even more secure basis than narrative ever did. At least the latter had a Machiavelli to show for it. Instead of freeing up space for mastership, the ‘rules’ that the likes of Spencer read into ‘Nature’ threatened to secure man more tightly than ever before in a position of slavery. Where the priest in the black cassock was, there the one in the white coat shall be. Call an ascetic by any other name…
For Nietzsche, as was the case for Marx and Engels, the theory of natural selection only succeeds in lending support to the worst aspects of the reigning ideology. Nietzsche sees these as the reactive forces that triumphs in the form of modern culture. Giles Deleuze names these forces explicitly as ‘adaptation, evolution, progress, happiness for all, and the good of the community’[3] Although Nietzsche obviously accepts the thesis that existence is struggle, he is far less optimistic that natural selection truly favours the strongest and the best. If anything, natural selection has only the welfare of the species in mind, not the quality of the individual. It appears to destroy the ill-adapted in a purely indifferent fashion, and forces species and individual alike to aim for a position of equilibrium and stability. Darwin himself made it clear in the third edition of The Origin of the Species that natural selection should not be understood as automatically bringing about variability; it is concerned only with the bringing about and preservation of variations that prove beneficial to a particular species and the environment in which it finds itself. As Ansell-Pearson points out, natural selection, with its emphasis on the preservation of the species, is actually a highly conservative strategy.[4] (Ansell-Pearson 2000: 89). Perhaps Marx and Engels were right: natural selection does appear to favour, if not the bourgeois in person, then at least their values. It should come as no surprise that John Stuart Mill, as hesitant as he was to grant natural selection the status of a fully-fledged scientific hypothesis, he was willing to acknowledge it as a real, and not fictional causal process, a vera causa.
At the beginning of ‘history’, it is of course an entirely different story. There the strong warrior class conquers openly. Gradually, however, the bad consciousness pushed man into decadent over-refinement, not a goal for which Nietzsche considers worth striving. Writing about Paul Rée in the Preface to The Genealogy of Morals

But he had read Darwin, so that to some extent in his hypotheses the Darwinian beast and the most modern modest and tender moral sensibility, which ‘no longer bites’, politely extend their hands to each other in a way that is at least entertaining—with the latter bearing a facial expression revealing a certain good-natured and refined indolence, in which is mixed a grain of pessimism and exhaustion, as if it is really not worth taking all these things, the problems of morality, so seriously (GM, Preface).
It is perhaps for this reason that Nietzsche avoids a Darwinian vocabulary in The Genealogy of Morals, and his Will to Power thesis. ‘Adaptation’ belongs to slaves; it is the yielding to external circumstances. It is an influence that shows itself only after the active, shaping powers have had their day on the worldly playing field. It is these forces that are of true importance in the world. The ‘English psychologist’ and scientist display their slavishness by depicting life in terms that bespeak poverty rather than richness. This is a sign of a fundamental mistrust in life, or the ‘musty air of English overpopulation’ (GS 349) and the ‘Salvation Army’ (Beyond Good and Evil  252). Like all the Englishmen hitherto discussed, Darwin, for all his interest in it, is secretly anti-life: for him, the will to self-preservation operates as an excuse for the struggles that accompany life in all its forms. It is thus, just like human laws formed under the delusion that it promotes ‘justice’ as a ‘means against fighting in general’ (Genealogy of Morals II, 12). This attitude is in fact an assassination of the future of man, ‘a secret path to nothingness’ (GM II, 12) of an unambitious thinker.

Anti-Darwin. — As for the famous ‘struggle for existence’, so far it seems to me to be asserted rather than proved. It occurs, but as an exception; the total appearance of life is not the extremity, not starvation, but rather riches, profusion, even absurd squandering — and where there is struggle, it is a struggle for power. One should not mistake Malthus for nature.
Assuming, however, that there is such a struggle for existence — and, indeed, it occurs — its result is unfortunately the opposite of what Darwin's school desires, and of what one might perhaps desire with them — namely, in favor of the strong, the privileged, the fortunate exceptions. The species do not grow in perfection: the weak prevail over the strong again and again, for they are the great majority — and they are also more intelligent. Darwin forgot the spirit (that is English!); the weak have more spirit. One must need spirit to acquire spirit; one loses it when one no longer needs it. Whoever has strength dispenses with the spirit (‘Let it go!’ they think in Germany today; ‘the Reich must still remain to us’). It will be noted that by ‘spirit’ I mean care, patience, cunning, simulation, great self-control, and everything that is mimicry (the latter includes a great deal of so-called virtue). (TwiIight of the Idols, Skirmishes Of An Untimely Man 14).
Nietzsche prefers the less scientifically sound Lamarck, because he identified a truly active, plastic force prior in relation to adaptation – a force of metamorphosis. Strictly speaking, a revaluation of values would imply an overhaul of Darwinian values as well. This is perhaps why he distances himself from Darwin with such fierceness in Ecce Homo III I, where he expresses surprise at the naïve misunderstandings with which his Zarathustra was received ‘Other scholarly oxen have suspected me of Darwinism’.
A richer approach than the narrow notion of the ‘survival instinct’ is the idea of the Will to Power.

The wish to preserve oneself is the symptom of a condition of distress, of a limitation of the really fundamental instinct of life which aims at the expansion of power and wishing for that, frequently risks and even sacrifices self-preservation.
… that our modern natural sciences have become so thoroughly entangled in this Spinozaist dogma, most recently and worst of all, Darwinism with its incomprehensibly one-sided doctrine of the struggle for existence, is probably due to the origins of most natural scientists: In this respect they belong to the ‘common people’; their ancestors were poor and undistinguished people who knew the difficulties of survival only too well at first hand. The whole of English Darwinism breathes something like the musty air of English overpopulation, like the smell of the distress of and overcrowding of small people (GS 349).
Rather than to simply react to external forces, the Will to Power is part and parcel of them, creating forms from within; utilizing and exploiting external circumstances as the arena of its own agonal actions. To be true to Nietzsche though, the Will to Power is arena and actor all in one. With the will to Power, Nietzsche rehabilitates the active dimension to life, as well as the playful side to evolution. The development of an organism is no single story, there is no genuine link between origin and telos. Instead of speaking of evolution at all, one should rather speak of a series of successive life-forms subject to an immanent, open-ended dynamics. Understood in this way, every life-form is fluid and never final, nor are the aims or directions open to it. The world is indeed the Will to Power –
and nothing else besides. Darwinian evolution is but a moment in the operation of the Will to Power – its bourgeois face. As an approach to life, the Will to Power has much more to offer, it applies to all life forms, not merely the biological. It also includes the physiological, psychological, technological and cultural domains.

[T]he ‘development’ of a thing, a practice, or an organ has nothing to do with its progress towards a single goal, even less is it the logical and shortest progress reached with the least expenditure of power and resources, but rather the sequence of more or less profound, more or less mutually independent processes of overpowering which take place on that thing, together with the resistance which arises against that overpowering each time, the transformations of form which have been attempted for the purpose of defence and reaction, the results of successful countermeasures. Form is fluid—the ‘meaning’, however, is even more so . . . Even within each individual organism things are no different: with every essential growth in the totality, the ‘meaning’ of an individual organ also shifts—in certain circumstances its partial destruction, a reduction of its numbers (for example, through the destruction of intermediate structures) can be a sign of growing power and perfection (GM II, 12).
Importantly, as both Paul Patton and Keith Ansell-Pearson have pointed out, what matters for Nietzsche is the experience of power, not its actual exercise. That is to say, power is evaluated in terms of its intensity, not its extensity. It is the battle itself, and one’s display of power in it, that matters, not some abstract teleological goal. Nietzsche was fast to distance himself from the utilitarian vocabulary of Charles Darwin:

‘Useful’ in the sense of Darwinian biology means: proved advantageous in the struggle with others. But it seems to me that the feeling of increase, the feeling of becoming stronger, is itself, quite apart from any usefulness in the struggle, the real progress: only from this feeling arises the will to struggle – (WP 648).

Feeling powerful does not depend upon one’s comparative power over someone else, as is the case with undiluted Darwinism. This puts the value of self-preservation into an entirely new perspective. Nietzsche warns that we should not automatically assume that the mere continuance of life is life’s supreme goal:
Physiologists should think again before positing the ‘instinct of preservation’ as the cardinal drive in an organic creature. A living thing wants above all to discharge its force: ‘preservation’ is only a consequence of this. Beware of superfluous teleological principles! The entire concept ‘instinct of preservation’ is one of them (WP 650).
As much as Nietzsche argued for a return to Nature, he did not want to have man dictated to by her. If, as we have seen in our Hume chapter, man was ultimately determined by the operations of nature, there was no need to emphasize this fact. Instead, man’s freedom as a creator had to be celebrated. Because Nietzsche frequently emphasizes Becoming over Being, it does not follow automatically that he is positing becoming as the essence of existence. What this means is that the nature of power precludes thinking of it as in terms of the termination of a process, a mere end. Instead, it is always transitive or intentional, it is potential. That is, power never simply brings about a sense of completeness and finality, rather, where there is life, there is struggle. Martin Heidegger has of course, famously declared Nietzsche to be the culmination of the metaphysical tradition, reading both the Eternal Recurrence and the Will to Power as reversed expressions of a traditional ontology. Johan Figl, too, also describes Nietzsche’s use of becoming as a process of substitution (Figl 1982: 73). Read this way, however, change becomes a new, stable ‘permanent’. If anything, the world is simply too mysterious, too feminine (that is, it always dons a mask) to allow for narrow metaphysical categories.
As German as it is to find rules in Reason (e.g. the Categorical Imperative), as English is it to find rules in Nature. If there is a moral to be derived from Nature, it is one that celebrates generosity. Only an Englishman, or to be fair, a nineteenth century Englishman, would argue that it is scarcity and lack that propels man forward.

But a natural scientist should come out of his human nook; and in nature it is not conditions of distress that are dominant, but overflow and squandering, even to the point of absurdity. The struggle for existence is only an exception, a temporary restriction of the will to life. The great and small struggle always revolves around superiority, around growth and expansion, around power – in accordance with the will to power which is the will to life (GS 349).
This is a key difference between Nietzsche and Darwin. Nietzsche, for all his sharp words, do not evaluate Nature in harsh terms. Nature is more generous than harsh in the Nietzschean book. Furthermore, Nietzsche – who, after all, grew up in nineteenth century Germany, where history dominated everything – simply did not see evolution as such an earth-shattering fact, but simply one more episode in the history of metaphysics.

There are truths which are recognized best by mediocre minds because they are most suited to them, there are truths which possess charm and seductive powers only for mediocre spirits one is brought up against this perhaps disagreeable proposition just at the moment because the spirit of respectable but mediocre Englishmen ‑ I name Darwin, John Stuart Mill and Herbert ‑is starting to gain ascendancy in the midregion of European taste. BGE 257).
Nature is as rich, generous and self-contradictory as Nietzsche’s texts, and therefore renders ethical naturalism a virtual impossibility. After all, an ethical naturalist needs an end or some standard in terms of which value can be measured. Lest any residual utilitarianism raises its ugly head, Nietzsche assures us that ‘well-being as you understand it – that seems to us no goal, that is an end, a state which soon makes man ridiculous and contemptible – which makes it desirable that he should perish (BGE 225). Endless becoming means that value is immeasurable, and that nature gives us no ethics. Instead, ‘becoming should be explained without recourse to final intention, becoming must appear justified at every moment or incapable of being evaluated; which amounts to the same thing (WP 708). This makes ethical naturalism, particularly the Darwinian version espoused by Richard Dawkins, difficult to maintain. Even if altruism should be proven to have Darwinian origins, as Dawkins holds, there is no reason why we should follow the ‘rule of nature’. In addition, Nietzsche speculates upon the ‘order of rank’ (BGE 228) among human values, holding that legislation values is what ultimately makes us human.


Keith Ansell-Pearson, Viroid Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Giles Deleuze, Nietzsche’s Philosophy. London: Routledge, 2006.
Johann Figl, Interpretation Als Philosopisches Begriff. Berlin: W. De Gruyter, 1982.
Jonathan Hodge and Geoffery Radick (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Darwin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark, Capitalism’s War on the Earth. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2010.
Robert Young, Darwin’s Metaphor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985.
Albrecht Schmidt, The Concept of Nature in Marx. London: Allen and Unwin, 1971.

[1] Gregory Radick in The Cambridge Companion to Darwin, ed. By Hodge and Radick (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), p.144.
[3] Giles Deleuze , Nietzsche and Philosophy (London: Routledge, 2006), p.151.
[4]  Keith Ansell-Pearson, Viroid Life (London: Routledge 2000), p. 

Author: Dr Louise Mabille

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Louise Mabille taught philosophy at the University of Pretoria, first as a tutor, then as a lecturer, between 2001 and 2013. After pursuing a Ph.D. in Philosophy at the University of Pretoria on Nietzsche’s concept of justice, she followed it up with a second one on Milton’s concept of parrhêsia, completed at the University of Hull in Yorkshire. She is currently attached to the Theology Faculty at the Northwestern University (NWU).