Volume 13, Issue 2, Fall/Automne 2009
Nietzsche as a Reader of Wilhelm Roux, or the Physiology of History
This paper explores one of the main sources of Nietzsche’s knowledge of physiology and considers its relevance for the philosophical study of history. Beginning in 1881, Nietzsche read Der Kampf der Theile im Organismus by Wilhelm Roux, which exposed him to a dysteleological account of organic development emphasising the excitative, assimilative and auto-regulative processes of the body. These processes mediate the effects of natural selection. His reading contributed to a physiological understanding of history that borrowed Roux’s description of physiological processes. This physiological description of history proceeded from the similarity between the body’s mediation of its milieu and history’s mediation of the past.