Nietzsche's reconception of science: overcoming nihilism

Abstract

I argue that Nietzsche embraces a conception of science that falls between the two dominant interpretations in the literature. Many thinkers in the continental tradition claim that Nietzsche believes science should be either reconceived or overcome altogether by another discourse, such as art, because it is nihilistic. They maintain that Nietzsche regards science as nihilistic because it either presumes that the world is some way it is not or functions on the erroneous assumption that truth rather than art is best for humanity. By contrast, most analytic commentators contend that Nietzsche has a positive rather than nihilistic conception of science, so he does not hold that the discipline should be either reinterpreted or superseded. They claim that for Nietzsche science represents the way the world is and uncovers truths that are important for humankind. I argue for the middle position that Nietzsche has a positive conception of science, scientific constructivism, which he develops in response to nihilistic conceptions of science, particularly scientific realism. Scientific constructivism helps overcome nihilism because it correctly captures the nature of scientific investigation. Affirming constructivism thus allows inquirers to commit to the scientific project without deceiving themselves about the nature of the objects of inquiry

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Justin Remhof
Old Dominion University

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