Is Nietzsche a Determinist?

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Is Nietzsche a Determinist?

Postby Three Times Great » Thu Mar 12, 2009 12:30 am

Nietzsche's will to power seems to possess aspects of determinism as well as freedom-- we need to "overcome" ourselves and our limitations, yet we always "act according to our human nature"... our morality is determined by our status or stations in life, our "nobility"... and further, Nietzsche seems to consider willing a purely physical phenomenon (or "spiritual" in the sense of purely physical or real-world energies and forces), the "will of the will" or the underlying force behind all other forces/relations is seen as non-volitional-- that our freedom of choice is ultimately limited by our underlying causal necessities such as strength of charatcer, nobility, ability to overcome ourselves... and these characteristics seem inherent to Nietzsche, either a part of us or not.

so is Nietzsche a determinist or not? what room is there in his theory of the will for freedom, volition or personal choice? is all overcoming and becomming predestined and out of our hands, or can we truly choose our destiny and learn to actualize ourselves beyond the inherencies of our human natures?
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Re: Is Nietzsche a Determinist?

Postby Xunzian » Thu Mar 12, 2009 2:02 am

Depends where you are on the eternal recurrence.
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Re: Is Nietzsche a Determinist?

Postby Faust » Thu Mar 12, 2009 2:08 am

Bad question. Determinism is a religious term.

We are free within limits, just like we seem to be, according to N.
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Re: Is Nietzsche a Determinist?

Postby xzc » Thu Mar 12, 2009 2:10 am

I don't know whether he thinks people are determined, but I'm sure he doesn't think free will is real. He explicitly says so in a number of places. Personally, I doubt N thinks of man as a causeless causing agent.
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Re: Is Nietzsche a Determinist?

Postby Faust » Thu Mar 12, 2009 3:02 am

Free will is also a religious term. You're right, N doesn't believe it obtains. The free will/determinism nexus is a fiction.

Nietzsche thinks we do not have will, but that we are will, insofar as that term means anything.

That is, we do not control will, it controls us.

We are not determined by "the universe", but by our own biology. That biology was not necessarily determined at the inception of the Universe. He believes is causation, but not in an endless string of causation.

Shit - I don't have the energy right now.

We have obvious limits - biological limits, physical ones. Within those limits, "we" have freedom - but "we" are not our "minds". We are all of us. Our brains have a certain amount of control - but we have voluntary and involuntary physical responses - and good thing we do, or we might forget to breathe.

Nietzsche's Theory of Human Nature is a theory of the obvious, the mundane, and the commonsensical.

More or less.
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Re: Is Nietzsche a Determinist?

Postby omar » Thu Mar 12, 2009 5:04 am

Faust wrote:Free will is also a religious term. You're right, N doesn't believe it obtains. The free will/determinism nexus is a fiction.

Nietzsche thinks we do not have will, but that we are will, insofar as that term means anything.

That is, we do not control will, it controls us.

We are not determined by "the universe", but by our own biology. That biology was not necessarily determined at the inception of the Universe. He believes is causation, but not in an endless string of causation.

Shit - I don't have the energy right now.

We have obvious limits - biological limits, physical ones. Within those limits, "we" have freedom - but "we" are not our "minds". We are all of us. Our brains have a certain amount of control - but we have voluntary and involuntary physical responses - and good thing we do, or we might forget to breathe.

Nietzsche's Theory of Human Nature is a theory of the obvious, the mundane, and the commonsensical.

More or less.


You must be tired.
"Determinism" is a religious term? What is the religion? Materialism? Because that is where everyone got their ideas from, including non-theists such as Freud. Let's remember the times, the rise of materialist narratives, the belief in unbound progress...what came to replace the place of God.
However, as far as Nietzsche is concerned, his books seem to be a reflection of a continuous changing philosophy, or a basic concept being refined. And I do agree with you in how Nietzsche viewed the Will, as a force that controls us, thus determinism- i.e. we are determined by the strenght of our will. But he does vacillate and often makes exhortations to readers without the capacity to change. I think that he HOPED, that, for example, by thinking differently, we would eventually also come to feel differently. How often in his books I have seen the little interlude where he basically confronts himself? So let's not take his philosophy as free of internal contradictions that the author himself confronts.
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Re: Is Nietzsche a Determinist?

Postby Three Times Great » Thu Mar 12, 2009 5:31 am

this is exactly why i posted this question-- it seems very relevant to a discussion of Nietzsche. i remember reading several places as well throughout his writing (I just passed a line again in ecce homo today) where he writes that 'free will' is 'ideal', an illusion, similar to 'God'. however, he doesnt speak as if we are causally determined, nor does one get the sense by reading him that Nietzsche had a determinist view of life; his writings are consistently open, focusing on overcoming, on possibilities, on change. it is hard to reconcile this change however with the fact that he did not believe in any freedom of the will.

i can see how Nietzsche thought that the will WAS us, and in that sense it controls "us" rather than the other way around. this is like the eternal recurrence, or a constant state of becoming, overcoming and then becoming again. but im more worried here that the sense that Nietzsche was NOT a 'determinist', and the fact that he nonetheless seemed to consider human nature "free" in at least some way, seems contradictory... ill admit that these two counter ideas, determinism and freedom, seem to be meshed together in Nietzsche and that he seems to have a perfect understanding of it all, but for myself, this perfect understanding would need more clarity of mind and idea in order for me to grasp just how this fusion of opposites is possible.

i do not consider determinism a religious term, merely because religions make use of the concept. on the surface, and even under closer and deeper examination freedom and free action seems impossible in a causal physical world. yet we FEEL like we are free, and this generates problems. we are inclined to believe we are free, and there can be evidence and examples all the time that humans act freely (because we act despite what is "best" from our point of view, or our actions seem unpredictable)-- of course much of this seeming-freedom just results from our lack of understanding about the numerous underlying biological/neurological and environmental causes for our actions, but nonetheless it does STILL seem that room is opened up for some sort of freedom; the question seems to be how do we define it, how is this freedom possible?

i personally believe that our ability to understand wide amount of information, to have a powerful and open awareness not just of our environment but also of ourselves and our thinking process, is what allows us to act 'freely' in the sense of seeing causal forces and therefore (as a corollary to seeing and understanding them prior to their action upon our decisions) being able to CHOOSE to overcome them... the more aware you are, particularly of yourself, your motives and thoughts and biases and predispositions, the more free you would therefore be, considering that you have a wider and more consistent and complete picture of your causal universe... but i am open to the possibility that this concept of freedom is illusory nonetheless, and that we could still be COMPLETELY determined by physical laws (determined in the sense that our actions and therefore thoughts are predestined before they occur; that is, prior to our doing an action, that action itself is INEVITABLE)...

perhaps this is where the room opens up for a concept of 'freedom': in the spaces between physical determinism and the lack of inevitability in human action and thought since, at any time, we may become aware of any causal force over us, and therefore choose to override it by virtue of that awareness... im not sure, its a tricky question. but regardless, Nietzsche seemed not to bother with this question othen, and it doesnt seem that he really considered it worth thinking about deeply. Nietzsche seems to believe that we both are what we are (human nature) and that we can "change" and overcome/become (will)-- if this will is "us" in the sense of the force behind the forces, the will of the will, and we are nothing more than a biological machine constructed to express and manifest this will to power, then "freedom" as we commonly understand it seems very hard to define properly...

perhaps this is what you mean Faust when you say that "The free will/determinism nexus is a fiction"; but if so, how can we even come to understand freedom at all? should we just do what Nietzsche appeared to do, accept both that we are not free, but that we can change, even though this change is out of our hands and determined by forces outside ourselves? should we just go on ACTING LIKE or BELIEVING that we are free, merely because we feel that we are, even though we cannot rationally or philosophycally or physically account for this freedom?
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Re: Is Nietzsche a Determinist?

Postby Impenitent » Thu Mar 12, 2009 11:32 am

nietzsche was as much a determinist as hume... and for the same reasons...

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sum ergo sum...

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Re: Is Nietzsche a Determinist?

Postby Three Times Great » Thu Mar 12, 2009 11:43 am

Impenitent wrote:nietzsche was as much a determinist as hume... and for the same reasons...

-Imp


but hume rejected causality... he thought everything just "corresponded" somehow, and that it could all change in a heartbeat. Nietzsche didnt advocate this at all...
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Re: Is Nietzsche a Determinist?

Postby matty » Thu Mar 12, 2009 12:01 pm

"Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains." Rousseau, The Social Contract (1762)
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Re: Is Nietzsche a Determinist?

Postby Faust » Thu Mar 12, 2009 1:01 pm

Okay, here's the deal. They're not opposites. The last thing N would do is to conceive of them as opposites. He is constantly admonishing us for this. But it does depend on what you want out of the question.

Briefly, my answer, like N's is couched this way:

All epistemic questions boil down to moral ones.

This question is usually, eventually, a moral one.

It assumes that we are asking if we are free to make our own moral decisions, or if those decisions are not decisions at all, but determined.

We don't use our "minds", exclusively to make these decisions.

Okay - our minds are not as much in charge as the Bible tells us. Those decisions aren't as "mental" as we may think. Put in terms of "mind", we are actually more "determined" than freewillers say - but not by God or the Big Bang - but by our entire "organism". The paradox here is that we usually separate mind, body and soul. That's a mistake. That may be what Imp is on about - if it is, then I agree with him.

The pertinent nexus is not mind/soul - N is not reacting to the scientific zeitgeist, as omar claims, but more to Plato and Descartes. Descartes may have established subjectivism, but N established that the subject isn't what Descartes thought it was. "I think therefore I am" gives a lot more credit than is due to the thinking thing that Descartes "discovered". It elevates the mind/soul to the seat of our connection to God.

Think of N's position as entirely a reaction to this. The Cartesian model is entirely religious. Nietzsche's is entirely materialist. The Eternal Return itself is a reaction to Kant, however. Instead of a universal dictum - act as if every act is universal law - which is a concept frozen in time, act as if everything you do will be repeated - a dictum that puts us back into time, and refers to the self, and not to "everyone". It's not his most successful idea, but it does serve a purpose - it's about each of us, and not about all of us.
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Re: Is Nietzsche a Determinist?

Postby omar » Thu Mar 12, 2009 3:21 pm

3 Times:

I think that to understand Nietzsche and other philosophers one has to understand the influences that inform his ideas. "Will to power" is for example an evolution of Schopenhauer's "Will", another metaphysical construct, believe it or not. Schopenhauer, of course, was eventually "overcome" by Nietzsche, but like new temples which are built on top of older pagan shrines, he used the thought of Schopenhauer as a fundation for his philosophy.
Schopenhauer's idea of determinism was basically like Nietzsche's, an attempt to have his cake and eat it too. He says:
"Because everything in nature is at once appearance and thing in itself....it is consequently suceptible to a twofold explanation, a physical and a metaphysical. The physical explanation is always in termsa of cause and the metaphysical in terms of will."(Thing Itself and Appearance)

Schopenhauer wrote in the midst of materialism as a world view. Materialism was a treath not only to religion but also to philosophy as it used to be. Schopenhauer, I see, as adefender of the philosophical narrative, that is, Schopenhauer's insistence is that metaphysics is not obsolete and the physical not enough to explain the being of Nature. Nietzsche may attack this defense of metaphysics but has to engage metaphysics very often. A lot of times, like in Daybreak and Human All Too Human, he basically has to destroy the very possibility of being taken seriously, at the start of his books. The first few aphorism, if accepted, should lead to the reader closing the book. He is mining, going underground, just as Schopenhauer, going beyond the surface, appearance, the physical, to bring us the metaphysical. Nietzsche already admits that this must be a presupposition and he does not intend to prove the physical reality of his findings. You are free to accept the presupposition, the metaphysics, or reject it as beyond our reach to actually know.

Same essay from Schopenhauer:
"Strictly speaking, therefore, the degree and tendency of a man's intelligence and the constitution of his moral character could perhaps be traced back to purely physical causes,"
This is the view that Materialism has taken and which he believes is not enough. He doesn't deny determinism, but is trying to reconcille, or absorb this materialist determinism into his philosophy.

"Metaphysically, on the other hand, the same man would have to be explained as the apparitional form of his own, utterly free and primal will, which has created for itself the intellect appropiate to it; so that all his actions, however necessarly they may be the result of his character in conflict with the motivations acting on him at any given time, and however necessarly these again may arise as a consequence of his corporeity, are nonetheless to be attributed wholly to him."

Though we are determined, the determinism is not from outside of us, but within. We do as we do because of causes, yes, but these causes are not impersonal. At one point the trace for causes reaches the will and this will, though a determinant, is wholly ourselves. At that point, it is no longer who your parents were, what was the air temperature that day, or what you had to eat, but simply what is the character of your will, or your individual presentation of the will, the thing in itself. We are all affected by physical causes, our biology for example, but as twin studies have shown the materialist cannot have the last word because a person can be biologically the same and still retain the possibility or "freedom" to be her own woman. She is not determined completely by her genes, nor by her enviroment. Education is another determinant but again one which cannot tell us the entire story, because we cannot produce doctors at will...a problem that even the greeks experienced.
And so, Schopenhauer proposes that like a finger-print, each person is unique. That we are determined, but determined by our individuality, which is an expression of the Thing in itself. Sounds too much like the ol' "soul"? True. And this might have been one of the reasons why Nietzsche eventually disavowed him. In the final analysis Schopenhauer was not denying determinism, but that there is a physical and a metaphysical determinism, and that you could not predict, for example, the future actions of an individual without full knowledge of the physical causes and the metaphysical will.
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Re: Is Nietzsche a Determinist?

Postby amor fati » Thu Mar 12, 2009 3:33 pm

here i think it would be appropriate to invoke perspectivism here, as i'm sure most of us would agree there is a degree to which any man is free, but within the limits of his body, which in many ways represents his prison

thought itself is a prison - thus nietzsche urged us to rise above ourselves and our thoughts, else one further imprisons himself and his will

there are perspectives from which we are more or less free, and others from which we find ourselves almost entirely at the mercy of nature's whims and circumstance

nietzsche emphasized his notion of will (to power), which in his case encompasses a whole lot more than simple choice- indeed his aim is to reduce everything to this will- but he's surely no 'determinist' in the matter, nor do i think he is properly labeled a materialist either

compatibilist in its most liberal and broad interpretation may be the best we can do to pin a label on nietzsche - labels in general don't easily stick to a thinker like him

labels have a tendency to oversimplify things
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Re: Is Nietzsche a Determinist?

Postby gib » Thu Mar 12, 2009 4:57 pm

I quote Nietzsche in my website:

Nietzsche wrote:Freedom of the will"-that is the expression for the complex state of delight of the person exercising volition, who commands and at the same time identifies himself with the executor of the order-who, as such, enjoys also the triumph over obstacles, but thinks within himself that it was really his will itself that overcame them. In this way the person exercising volition adds the feelings of delight of his successful executive instruments, the useful "under-wills" or under-souls-indeed, our body is but a social structure composed of many souls-to his feelings of delight as commander. L'effect c'est moi: what happens here is what happens in every well-constructed and happy commonwealth; namely, the governing class identifies itself with the successes of the commonwealth. In all willing it is absolutely a question of commanding and obeying, on the basis, as already said, of a social structure composed of many "souls".


The misconception that many carry is that you are either a passive observer of your actions and the forces determining them (however much an illusion of control is upheld) or you control your own actions and override those forces which would otherwise determine them.

This is a false dichotomy. 'Will', as I interpret Nietzsche, is simply what becomes of a causal force when one is that causal force (l'effect c'est moi).

Imagine it this way: there are a myriad of things that determine our behavior. There's the environment, our genes, what we ate for breakfast, our upbringing, our current mood and psychological states, etc. When listing these factors, we ought to include our own will. Indeed, it is a determining factor. What the will is, ultimately, may be a number of things - material processes in the brain, the power of the soul, whatever - but it is 'will' in virtue of our being whatever it is, that factor among the list of factors that go towards determining our behavior.

It is free, not in the sense that it is uncaused, that it's influence comes from a void, but in that it has the power to exact its influence on our behavior. It still has to share this influence with all other factors, for it is not a trumping power that silences these other factors, but insofar as it can exert its influence, it is free, and the greater its influence, the more free.

So it is 'will' because it is us, and it is free because we act as cause over our behavior.
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Re: Is Nietzsche a Determinist?

Postby xzc » Thu Mar 12, 2009 5:09 pm

I have a problem with people saying that factors determine our behavior. It's misleading. It sounds as if these factors are overpowering us from doing what we really want. It assumes an underlying 'us' with a will which sustains a degree of freedom even though it is overpowered or limited by the external forces of nature. It creates a ditchotomy between 'us' and nature working against 'us'. This is just not what determinism says. It says these natural external factors determine (or produce) 'us' first of all, and our behavior indirectly through 'us'. 'Us' is not affected by nature. It is an effect of nature. There is no dichotomy between nature and us. Nature does not work against us. Rather, nature works through us.
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Re: Is Nietzsche a Determinist?

Postby gib » Thu Mar 12, 2009 5:19 pm

So if I wanted to fly and gravity keeps me down, is that not nature working against me?
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Re: Is Nietzsche a Determinist?

Postby xzc » Thu Mar 12, 2009 5:22 pm

You wanting to fly is nature working through you. You are not separate from nature.

I can accept the phrase 'nature works against me' as being meaningful when it's a figure of speech, but I think taken literally it implies a dichotomy between 'me' and nature and this I do not think is right. To be literally true, it necessarily requires that 'me' be something participating in nature, but not be an effect of nature...not be created by nature...not to have come about through the workings of nature.
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Re: Is Nietzsche a Determinist?

Postby gib » Thu Mar 12, 2009 5:29 pm

xzc wrote:You wanting to fly is nature working through you. You are not separate from nature.

I can accept the phrase 'nature works against me' as being meaningful when it's a figure of speech, but I think taken literally it implies a dichotomy between 'me' and nature and this I do not think is right. To be literally true, it necessarily requires that 'me' be something that comes participating in nature, but not be an effect of nature.


There has to be some distinction. Otherwise, I am everything. The Moon, the Sun, the closest galaxy, you, are all me.

I agree that my wanting to fly is nature working through me, but the fact that any attempt to do so (short of hopping on a plane) will fail indicates that nature (a part of it) works against me.
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Re: Is Nietzsche a Determinist?

Postby xzc » Thu Mar 12, 2009 5:40 pm

There has to be some distinction. Otherwise, I am everything. The Moon, the Sun, the closest galaxy, you, are all me.

I don't think this follows. It seems as if it should follow, but only because there is an equivocation with the word 'nature.' By nature I mean the stuff that everything is made up of. Sure, there are manifestations of energy in the form of a moon, or a sun, but all these things are interconnected, and fundamentally one thing. I am not the moon and the sun, but I, like the moon and the sun, am a manifestation (for lack of a better word) of this one principle stuff in time in space, speed, and all that. The distinction is not something substantially fundamental, and when I say that I am nature, and nature is me, or that nature works through me, I don't mean that I am all of nature in all of it's manifestations; just one manifestation of this stuff that makes up everything.

I think of nature like a mold of play dough that goes about changes. The shapes at the surface differ from other shapes on the surface, but it wouldn't be meaningful to say that the play dough is affecting these shapes at the surface.

This isn't very clear, I understand. It's because it's not very clear in mind. I have an intuition about this matter, and my words are failing at precisely translating the intuitions.
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Re: Is Nietzsche a Determinist?

Postby gib » Thu Mar 12, 2009 5:46 pm

xzc wrote:The distinction is not something substantially fundamental, and when I say that I am nature, and nature is me, or that nature works through me, I don't mean that I am all of nature in all of it's manifestations; just one manifestation of this stuff that makes up everything.


Then there must be other manifestations. Those other manifestations can work against the one which is me.
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Re: Is Nietzsche a Determinist?

Postby xzc » Thu Mar 12, 2009 5:59 pm

My problem with saying 'these other things work against me' is what the phrase possibly connotes. It could be taken as saying that these other things limit a capacity that doesn't exist...doesn't exist precisely because I, the whole of me (meaning my desires, my mind, what my mind thinks) is a shape at the surface of the play dough. It could also mean that these other things limit the desires of something else, and with this i have no problem, but this line of thought is often times lead to the conclusion that there's a degree of free will despite external forces working against one's capacity to will freely.
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Re: Is Nietzsche a Determinist?

Postby gib » Thu Mar 12, 2009 6:13 pm

xzc wrote:It could be taken as saying that these other things limit a capacity that doesn't exist...


Limiting a capacity might just mean it doesn't exist. For example, I want to move forward but there is a wall in my way. One could say the wall limits my capacity to move forward - because without it I would certain have the capacity to move forward - but one could also say that I don't have the capacity to move forward - because the wall prevents me.

When we talk about some part of nature working against our will (say to fly), it could certainly be interpreted as "I don't have the capacity to fly" (which is probably a more intuitive way of putting it), but it doesn't preclude my ability to at least attempt it, which is equivalent to exerting the power of my will towards it. To talk about gravity working against my will is just one way to describe the reasons for which my will failed to be put into action. To describe it as the lack of a capacity to fly is another.
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Re: Is Nietzsche a Determinist?

Postby xzc » Thu Mar 12, 2009 7:54 pm

There's a difference between free will, which stipulates that we have the capacity to cause things while in nature all the while without being caused, and what I call 'unhindered will' which refers to the capacity to satisfy some desire. The latter works within a deterministic paradigm, while the former doesn't.

When I said "...a capacity that doesn't exist," I was speaking of free will. I think, when speaking of nature limiting us, we can only meaningfully speak of our capacity to carry out some desire we have, i.e., unhindered will. It doesn't make sense to say that nature limits our free will, granting the fact that we're a part of nature precludes free will in the first place.
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Re: Is Nietzsche a Determinist?

Postby gib » Thu Mar 12, 2009 8:33 pm

xzc wrote:There's a difference between free will, which stipulates that we have the capacity to cause things while in nature all the while without being caused, and what I call 'unhindered will' which refers to the capacity to satisfy some desire. The latter works within a deterministic paradigm, while the former doesn't.

When I said "...a capacity that doesn't exist," I was speaking of free will. I think, when speaking of nature limiting us, we can only meaningfully speak of our capacity to carry out some desire we have, i.e., unhindered will. It doesn't make sense to say that nature limits our free will, granting the fact that we're a part of nature precludes free will in the first place.


I'm in full agreement with this. The 'freedom' of the will should not connote the idea that the will is uncaused, but that the will has a certain power to affect the world, and that this power is its own.
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"When people attempt to stop the ups and downs of the free market they also put restrictions on the solutions to problems."
- Eric_The_Pipe

"I think politics often gets in the way of politics."
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"Why, are you an illegal alien? If so, I apologize for my blunt and rude phrasing. But still, can you get the fuck out of my country now?"
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"Whenever we depart from voluntary cooperation, and try to do good by using force, the bad moral value of force triumphs over good intentions."
- Milton Friedman

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Re: Is Nietzsche a Determinist?

Postby Jakob » Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:37 pm

The most basic negation of free will is the observation that we are not free to will what we choose to will.
Our will is what determines us. It is the aspect in which we are the least free.
"But where does the call of distress for the superman come from? Why does prevailing man no longer suffice? Because Nietzsche recognizes the historical moment in which man prepares to assume dominion over the whole earth. Nietzsche is the first thinker who, in view of a world-history emerging for the first time, asks the decisive question and thinks through its metaphysical implications. The question is: is man, as man in his nature till now, prepared to assume dominion over the whole earth? If not, what must happen to man as he is, so that he may be able to "subject" the earth and thereby fulfill the word of an old testament? Must man as he is then not be brought beyond himself if he is to fulfill this task?" [Heidegger, "Who is Nietzsche's Zarathustra?"]
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