Technische Universität Berlin, Alemania
Helmut Heit received his PhD in 2003 for a book on early Greek philosophy. After a visiting fellowships at the University of Melbourne and the University of California at San Diego, he worked on Paul Feyerabend’s philosophy of nature at the Humboldt-University of Berlin. Since 2007 he pursues a research project on Nietzsche’s philosophy of science at the Institut für Philosophie, Technische Universität Berlin.
Becoming Reasonable Bodies. Nietzsche’s Philosophy of Mind
When Nietzsche invites his reader to view science under the optics of an artist and art under the optics of life (BT An Attempt at Self-Criticism: 4), this idea has substantial consequences for the traditional understanding of the relation between mind and body. His notion of a «great reason» of the body (Z On the Despisers of the Body) transforms the established concept of art, science, and life and aspires at a new self-perception of mankind without reducing life to a mere system of biological functions. By means of a comparison between Nietzsche and contemporary philosophy of mind this paper aims to provide a better understanding of these ideas.
Eliminative materialism (E.M.), as a recent alternative to dualistic and monistic philosophies of
mind, holds that «our common-sense psychological framework is a false and radically misleading conception of the causes of human behavior and the nature of cognitive activity» (Churchland 1999: 43). Traditional terms of so-called folk-psychology could not be reduced to naturalistic terms but should be eliminated and replaced by more appropriate scientific ones. When one of the most prominent defenders of E.M., Paul Churchland, published his first book on the relation between human neural nature and mind, a referee made an astounding remark: «Churchland aims little less than a “transvaluation of values”» (Fraassen 1981: 555). Though van Fraassen made no further explicit references, the reminiscence of Nietzsche is not arbitrary. Not only Churchland’s ambition to overcome a traditional worldview and replace it by a new and better one resembles Nietzsche; their philosophies of mind have some features in common, too. Like Nietzsche, Churchland is a Kantian insofar both agree that our perceptual world is at least coconstituted by a man-made conceptual web. Moreover, both think that the conceptual web could significantly mislead our representations of the outer and inner world. While Churchland argues that «propositional attitudes […] form the systematic core of folk psychology» (Churchland 1989: 3), Nietzsche advises against the «seduction of language» (GM I,13) and the «grammatical custom» (BGE 17) to add an «I» to a «think». Churchland as well as Nietzsche take contemporary science serious, be it modern research in neural networks or 19th century findings in the physiology
of sense-experience (e.g. Hermann von Helmholtz, whom Nietzsche studied). Nietzsche is a philosophical naturalist as Churchland is, but both refuse to treat mental processes merely as reducible «epiphenomena».
However, in spite of these similarities, significant differences should not be neglected: as opposed to Churchland, Nietzsche does not invite us to replace folk-psychology by allegedly more appropriate scientific theories, because he rejects the realist framework of E.M. Whereas the idea of transvaluation of traditional philosophy of mind is combined with scientific realism in Churchland’s version, it goes with perspectivism in Nietzsche. He argues for a naturalistic concept of life, and he refers to scientific findings to establish his argument, but his ultimate reference is not the current state of affairs in science but the goal to become reasonable bodies.