Hmm. Been out for a few days.
Okay. I’m trying to think of the best way to address this. So your contention is that I have to demonstrate Nietzsche’s influence on “our understanding of human nature?” Just what is that understanding? Often times when I participate in forums or discussion groups I pick up on this common, but seriously flawed heuristic of assuming that “science” or “our understanding” are discreet, measurable things. As if they are bodies of knowledge about which we have determined the truth, and against which all arguments should be measured. My contention is that that is dogma. Not science.
As I stated before, this scheme of dismissing philosophers is patently silly, because science is a philosophical method.
The human nature discussion is a little bit complex. Philosophers (the ones who aren’t necessarily analytical scientists) have relevance because they can ask a few important questions that fall outside of the realm of science, such as, “does this have meaning?” Science, as a method, is notably limited. At its edges, its empiricism breaks down and it becomes more a feature of mathematical theory, which sometimes has proven practical probable, and other times practically impossible. To categorically dismiss thinkers that work either on the edge of our understanding of the universe or in realms which fall outside of the methods of science is hubristic and intellectually dishonest.
If your contention against Nietzsche (or anyone else, for that matter) is simply that he was a philosopher and can therefore add nothing to a conversation of human nature, then you are guilty of a) ad hominem dismissal, b) the straw man fallacy (since you are attacking philosophy in general instead of actual arguments), c) ignorance. I cannot possibly take responsibility for making you aware of Nietzsche’s relevance to modern discussions of human nature, both scientific and non-; that burden falls upon you. My suggestion is to take a few classes in the philosophical discourse and in sociology that relate to human behavior and instinct. More immediately, read On the Genealogy of Morality and contend against it specifically. I would be surprised if you found that you disagree with it very much.
Again, the string of comments waving hands and dismissing philosophy smack of a total ignorance of even what philosophy is today. Most postmodern thinkers actively draw in both the methodology and the understanding of science in order to ask questions about the world. More importantly, there exist notable critiques of the flaws of scientific reasoning (I tend to disagree with these critiques, but understanding them can be a good intellectual exercise). You guys want science to be the be all and end all, but don’t seem to understand just how dynamic and imprecise science is. It is a method, and a naturalistic method. Excellent and practical, but flawed. I note this as a working scientist (bioanalysis and evolutionary ecology)...if anything my bias is to confirm that strict empiricism is the only practical method of yielding truth about the world…and honestly that is kind of how I am wired to believe: if it can’t be demonstrated mathematically, then it doesn’t mean anything.
However, I cannot, in good conscience, dismiss philosophy as a practice, or dismiss the importance of the questions being asked by philosophers (and even theologians) simply because they seem unscientific. To say that they have no platform is to deny that any questions about the universe exist outside of those that proceed from direct observation. Personally I do become curious about what was before the big bang, or why existence is instead of nonexistence…if my entity is discreet or if the lines between person and world, between species and species, between star and planet are as stark as I imagine them to be. I would not go so far as to assume that “god” is the answer to any of these curiousities or to speculate that their solutions are fundamentally irrational, but those questions exist, and therefore, are important. Human nature might be as deterministic as you imagine it (and I’m sure Nietzsche would agree), but there is some element to humanity that I do not understand…something almost spiritual (the way that Ken Wilber or Carl Sagan used that word, not in the sense of western religion) and there are non-empirical methods of investigation into that nature that are, no matter how hard you deny it, part of the conversation.