Monday, June 2, 2014


148. Imperfection on the move

While I sympathise with Nietzsche’s thought on several points, I deviate from it in several ways, to develop my perspective of imperfection on the move.

Like Nietzsche, I reject absolutes but take values seriously. I add that most often values are adopted tacitly, without any question of validity arising at all. I will return to that in a later item in this blog. But where critical reflection is possible and relevant, one can legitimately accept values (and truths), as temporary, currently the best we have, given language and largely tacit established notions, while remaining open to possible failure of our cognitive make-up and to the need for revision in the face of new experience, meanings, or arguments.

Instead of Nietzsche’s Will to Power I posit a Will to Creation, including art as well as invention and innovation. That includes the need, and perhaps Nietzschean enjoyment, of overcoming resistance, but counter to Nietzsche, not as a fundamental value in itself, but as inevitable in creation. While for Nietzsche the will to power is primary, with creation as its highest manifestation, for me will to creation is primary.

Like Nietzsche I propose that one’s own prejudice also yields a resistance one needs to overcome. Will to power should apply also to the self. However, Nietzsche sought that in rivalry with opponents. In contrast with Nietzsche I propose that instead of vanquishing others, one needs to be receptive and empathetic to them, to be open to their opposition. This is needed to achieve the highest form of freedom: the freedom to change what one wants to want, and to overcome one’s prejudices. I argued this extensively in my book ‘Beyond humanism’, and in earlier items in this blog (49 and 60)

Here, I oppose enlightenment rhetoric of autonomous selves, in self-realization, and Nietzsche’s extension of it into self-affirmation. Even according to Nietzsche himself there is no originary, unitary, given self to affirm. The self is multiple and in flux, and develops in interaction with especially the social environment.

As indicated earlier in this blog, I endorse the fallibilist view of pragmatism, and the related notion of ‘truth’ as ‘warranted assertability’, but with some modifications.

How relativistic is the principle of warranted assertability? The answer to the absence of absolute, objective values should not be relativistic surrender to the incommensurability of values from different perspectives but, to the contrary, commitment to ongoing effort at debate between opposing views.

The criterion of warranted assertability is not only success in terms of utility, but also success more widely, in debate, with arguments that mobilize all relevant knowledge and experience, including facts.

While accepting the impossibility of achieving certain, objective truth, I re-institute facts and realism, in a non-absolute, contingent fashion.

Facts are indeed perspectival and theory-laden, but they are mostly less arbitrary and more reliable than theoretical speculation. In my practice as a scientist I have encountered situations where the perception of facts did vary with differences in theoretical perspective, but also cases where one could agree on them to settle differences in theory.

I do not believe in realism in the form of correspondence between ideas or perceptions with items in reality, but I do endorse realism in the sense that our ideas develop, mostly tacitly, without our being aware of it, in interaction with reality, as a function of experienced success, and in that sense somehow reflect them, though not as in a mirror. What, then, do we ‘have in mind’? I will discuss that in a later in this blog.

Finally, how could and why should one adopt the basic value of creation that I propose? I think we do have the drive and ability to creation as a result of evolution: it has given the human species an advantage in survival. I think it is advisable to adopt creation as a value for the flourishing of one’s own life and lives after that. Why? Does flourishing human life have absolute importance? I don’t know, but since we have life it seems best to make the best of it.

How all this works out in life and society has been the subject of a number of previous items in this blog.