Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Dr. G.B. Madison
The central purpose of this dissertation is to examine the function and role of the concepts "subject" and "object" in the respective epistemologies of Nietzsche and Kant. Initially, it is tentatively assumed that both Nietzsche and Kant admit the primitive irreducibility of a subject-object dichotomy and acknowledge that the "subject" is somehow involved in what it means to be an object. What subject is involved and how it is involved in constituting objectivity makes it necessary to distinguish between two kinds of idealism (Chapter I).
Constructive idealism, a position held by Nietzsche and several British commentators of Kant's first Critique, contends that human needs, shaped by our psycho-physiological constitution, ground a subjective imposition of certain categories upon an objectively given chaos of sensation. Insofar as the empirical or psychological subject imposes such categories as permanence and causality on chaotic sensation, it is claimed that we can never know what exists apart from any and all psychological states (empirical reality) but only how things must look or appear to us.
The second idealistic position is entitled "axiological ontology". It holds, essentially, that we cannot know X (epistemology) unless X is (ontology) a certain way. Permanence and causality are determined to be precisely the way things must be if we are to be able to value them (axiology) appropriately insofar as they promote and maintain human subjects. Throughout the dissertation a case is made for synthesizing elements of Kant's ontology, which guarantees the objective validity or truth of the categories of permanence and causality, and the inroads which Nietzsche has made in his understanding of how the empirical subject imposes values on such permanent and causally related objects.
Chapter II of the dissertation outlines Nietzsche's theoretical epistemology by conceptually translating the function and role of "Apollo" and "Dionysus" in The Birth of Tragedy. Nietzsche's epistemology attempts to explain in empirical terms, how and why permanence and causality are perceived, conceived, and valued by the human species. Through the prejudices of sense and reason or, what Nietzsche calls "sensual-spiritual appropriation", man alters his sensations so that they give the appearance or look of durability. Subsequently, permanence is conceived as a necessary and therefore valuable category. Values, for Nietzsche, reflect the affects of the psycho-physiological subject. The affects dictate the subject's needs and objects are therefore valued according to the degree to which they fulfill this need. The appropriateness of values rests squarely on our knowing the objective determinations of both the subject and the object insofar as values are simply relative facts with the subject and object as the correlatives. Nietzsche argues that it is neither necessary nor possible for us to know the objective determinations of either the subject or the object (i.e., to make the looks-is distinction) because "truth" is determined pragmatically, as are all values, by what in fact works towards human promotion.
Chapter III of the dissertation takes the transcendental route to establish the legitimacy of the empirical "looks-is" distinction. First, it reviews constructive idealism by examining its principles collected from individual British commentators of Kant. Constructive idealism fails as an interpretation of Kant and as an epistemological position in its own right (à la Nietzsche) because it fails to understand or to make the Kantian distinction between what is properly transcendental and what is properly empirical. Kant's transcendental apparatus, viz., transcendental subjectivity and the conditions which it imposes on our experience of empirical objects, is therefore outlined. Space and time as pure a priori forms of intuition and the categories as pure a priori concepts of the understanding establish empirical reality and thereby make it possible to distinguish (empirically) how the object appears from how the object is. This empirical distinction is contrasted with the transcendental distinctions which Kant makes between thing in itself and appearance and between transcendental and empirical subjectivity.
Kant's transcendental idealism establishes the truth or objective validity of permanence and causality and thereby allows the subjective imposition of value (axiological imposition) to proceed within more realistic parameters than afforded to it by Nietzsche. Our ability and our need to know the actual state of affairs of the empirical object, i.e., how the object is apart from any and all psychological states, makes it possible to value an object appropriately. It is only because we know the object as it is and not simply as it looks to me that it can have an appropriate value in the promotion of the human species.
Brown, Richard S.G., "Axiological Ontology: Nietzsche and Kant" (1982). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 1650.