Volume 1, 2018
Aesthetics and Philosophies of Art
Nietzsche’s Naturalized Aestheticism
In recent years, a divide has emerged in Anglo-American scholarship between Alexander Nehamas’ reading of Nietzsche as an aestheticist who eschews the dogmatism implicit in the scientific project and Brian Leiter’s reading of Nietzsche as a hardnosed naturalist whose project is continuous with work in the natural sciences. In this paper, I argue that this divide is a false one. This is because Nietzsche thinks that a certain worldview, which he associates with the philosophy of Heraclitus, is conducive to the flourishing of art, and rather than avoiding the dangers of dogmatism in presenting this view, he turns to the natural sciences to show why everyone should accept it. As a result, the crucial divide in Nietzsche’s thinking is not between naturalism and aestheticism and so science and art, but between the naturalism and aestheticism that flourished during what Nietzsche calls the tragic age of the Greeks and the metaphysics and morality characteristic of the Platonic-Christian tradition.