Nietzsche and the Paradox of Environmental Ethics: Nietzsche’s View of Nature and Morality

New Nietzsche Studies 5 (1/2):12-25 (2002)
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Abstract

In this paper, I offer a systematic inquiry into the significance of Nietzsche’s philosophy to environmental ethics. Nietzsche’s philosophy of nature is, I believe, relevant today because it makes explicit a fundamental ambiguity that is also characteristic for our current understanding of nature. I will show how the current debate between traditional environmental ethics and postmodern environmental philosophy can be interpreted as a symptom of this ambiguity. I argue that, in light of Nietzsche’s critique of morality, environmental ethics is a highly paradoxical project. According to Nietzsche, each moral interpretation of nature implies a conceptual seizure of power over nature. On the other hand, Nietzsche argues, the concept of nature is indispensable in ethics because we have to interpret nature in order to have a meaningful relation with reality. I argue that awareness of this paradox opens a way for a form of respect for nature as radical otherness.

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Martin Drenthen
Radboud University Nijmegen

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