Despite his position as one of the first philosophers to write in the ‘post-Darwinian’
world, the critique of Darwin by Friedrich Nietzsche is often ignored, for a host of unsatisfactory
reasons. I argue that Nietzsche’s critique of
Darwin is important to the study of both Nietzsche’s
and Darwin’s impact on philosophy. Further, I show that the central claims of Nietzsche’s
critique have been broadly misunderstood. I then present a new reading of Nietzsche’s core
criticism of Darwin.
An important part of Nietzsche’s response can best be understood
as an aesthetic critique of Darwin, reacting
to what he saw as Darwin’s having drained life of an
essential component of objective aesthetic value. For Nietzsche, Darwin’s theory is false because
it is too intellectual, because it searches for rules, regulations, and uniformity in a realm where
none of these are to be found – and, moreover, where they should not be found.
Such a reading goes farthest toward making Nietzsche’s criticism substantive and relevant.
Finally, I attempt to relate this novel explanation of Nietzsche’s critique to topics in contemporary philosophy of biology, particularly work on the evolutionary explanation of culture