Under the Banner of Doddering Apologetics

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DrStakhanovite
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Under the Banner of Doddering Apologetics

Post by DrStakhanovite »

I have to admit I wasn’t looking forward to the release of Under The Banner of Heaven on Hulu. I’m sure the series will be fantastic as far as entertainment is concerned, but I anticipated a glut of Mormon self obsession with all the usual pearl clutching and navel gazing that inevitably comes with every representation of Mormon culture in the media. While the geriatric complaints of the usual suspects are immediately tiresome, the more progressive Mormons are by far the worst offenders.

There is a certain sympathy I’m able to muster when confronted with the vapid hot takes. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, those thirsty Brighamites stationed in Salt Lake City, is perhaps one of the most boring and two dimensional churches I’ve ever studied. I can imagine that most people affiliated with the religion are simply content starved and hungrily consume any popular culture that makes mention of them out of necessity.

While I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a Sophie’s choice, the prospect of having to choose between John Gee’s Saving Faith or Adam Miller’s Letters to a Young Morman is more than enough to have anyone running to watch Andrew Garfield and Rory Culkin. That kind of spiritual poverty can be a real handicap and the soft glow of serialized drama streamed into your comfortable home provides people with so much more than a sacrament meeting conducted with the same decorum you’d get at a realtor's office.

Enter the venerable Daniel C. Peterson, the proprietor of the cyclic Sic et Non where the forest of neurons that is his mind is preserved by the judicious use of the same dozen or so threadbare tropes. The strategy, if I’m divining it correctly, is to consistently reuse argumentative tropes in lieu of original content to project the illusion that the task of contemplative thought is being done.

I’m not sure why Daniel shirks the epistemic duties of his academic calling, the man is more industrious than most. When given to flights of fancy I like to think of Daniel as General Ripper from Dr. Strangelove, taciturn and grim in explaining why he must guard his vital essence from a conspiracy of stalkers trying to bait him into embarrassing himself.

Regardless of his motive, here is the trope about to come under examination:
Daniel C. Peterson wrote:To take it back to Under the Banner of Heaven and the Lafferty murders, on what Nietzschean basis can you condemn the Laffertys? On what basis, even, can you, if you’re a follower of Nietzsche, condemn alleged Latter-day Saint misogyny, patriarchy, obscurantism, and fanaticism?
By my reckoning, Daniel posed the same line of questioning when Murder Among the Mormons debuted on Netflix:
Daniel C. Peterson wrote: Obviously, I’m not claiming — and would never claim — that all atheists are murderers or even that they condone murder. Such an accusation would not only be offensive and unjust to very many decent people but manifestly absurd and demonstrably false. I know and respect a number of agnostics and atheists, and I can’t imagine any of them committing homicide. But I can understand Hofmann’s reasoning, such as it is, and I find it very difficult to imagine on what basis a thorough-going atheistic naturalist could possibly argue that Hofmann was “wrong.” What would it even mean to claim that he was wrong?

One can even go back to 2005 and find Daniel whistling that tune :
Daniel C. Peterson wrote:On the basis of what moral principles do secularizing critics pronounce the church wanting? How were those principles chosen, and why should anybody else defer to them? Even if one were to grant the factual claims on which they stake their moral judgments, it is not at all clear that those moral judgments are capable of bearing any objectively real weight.
Of course answers to this query date back to antiquity and the sheer volume of material published by English speaking philosophers in the 20th century alone on this topic could keep one profitably reading for decades.

Daniel really isn’t concerned about intellectual history or even the contemporary scene regarding moral philosophy, so one shouldn’t expect him to actually engage with it. The questions are merely rhetorical devices, they don’t represent real curiosity and they are most certainly not an invitation for conversation.

This isn’t even the first time Daniel has used Nietzsche and his book The Antichrist to this effect. When 2020 was winding down we were treated to the usual meditations:
Daniel C. Peterson wrote:Many who deny an objective or divine foundation to morality nonetheless assume that evolutionary processes lead naturally, sociobiologically, to something broadly resembling a traditional Judeo-Christian ethic of mutual help, human rights, and cooperation. Thus, the religious underpinnings that some have thought necessary to morality can be safely dispensed with, as we climb inexorably onto the sunny uplands of naturalistic reason.


Which eventually leads Daniel to introducing Nietzsche:
Daniel C. Peterson wrote:Herewith, a sampler of quotations from Friedrich Nietzsche, The Antichrist: A Criticism of Christianity [1888], translated by Anthony M. Ludovici (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2006), italics and punctuation in the original:
Daniel even uses the same textual examples! Here is the 2020 citation (underline mine):
Nietzsche wrote: What is good? All that enhances the feeling of power, the Will to Power, and power itself in man. What is bad? — All that proceeds from weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power is increasing, — that resistance has been overcome.

Not contentment, but more power; not peace at any price, but war; not virtue but efficiency [German Tüchtigkeit, “capability,” “competence” – dcp] (virtue in the Renaissance sense, virtù, free from all moralic acid). The weak and the botched shall perish: first principle of our humanity. And they ought even to be helped to perish.

What is more harmful than any vice? — Practical sympathy with all the botched and weak — Christianity.
And here is Daniel’s citation in 2022 (underline mine):
Nietzsche wrote:What is good? All that enhances the feeling of power, the Will to Power, and power itself in man. What is bad? — All that proceeds from weakness. What is happiness? — The feeling that power is increasing — that resistance has been overcome.

Not contentment, but more power; not peace at any price, but war; not virtue, but efficiency [not quite the right translation, in my view, of Tüchtigkeit, but it will serve] (virtue in the Renaissance sense, virtù, free from all moralic acid). The weak and the botched shall perish: first principle of our humanity. And they ought even to be helped to perish.

What is more harmful than any vice? — Practical sympathy with all the botched and the weak — Christianity.
Daniel’s slight editorial changes to his formulaic content probably represents the culmination of his growth as a thinker and as a writer. To wit here is Daniel in 2020 (underline mine):
Daniel C. Peterson wrote:Nietzsche became very popular among certain thinkers of the German National Socialist movement, but pointing that out may be rather unfair to him. It’s not at all clear that he would have favored Nazism, which arose after his death. Still, it’s not difficult to see why they found him appealing.
Here is the same sentiment in 2022 (underline mine):
Daniel C. Peterson wrote:Although I think that Nietzsche would have found Nazism and the Nazis repulsive and contemptible, it’s not difficult to see why they were attracted to at least some of what he said.
In 2020 Daniel wasn’t sure if Nietzsche would have approved of Nazis, but when we get to 2022 he seems confident that Nietzsche would find them “repulsive” and “contemptible”. What changed? What new information was Daniel confronted with that prompted this shift in thinking? That would be an interesting blog post to read from Daniel.

We won’t get it though, because I doubt Daniel is even aware of these differences in his repetition. Daniel is very much a product of the Church he defends, the shallow and unimaginative nature of Mormon apologetics owes its existence to the carefully cultured environment fostered by the Salt Lake Brethren.

More thoughts to follow.

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Re: Under the Banner of Doddering Apologetics

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DrStakhanovite wrote:
Sat May 07, 2022 6:37 am
In 2020 Daniel wasn’t sure if Nietzsche would have approved of Nazis, but when we get to 2022 he seems confident that Nietzsche would find them “repulsive” and “contemptible”. What changed? What new information was Daniel confronted with that prompted this shift in thinking?
Most likely the realization that Trump had taken such a firm toehold in Utah. Dr. Peterson knows that Utah Nietzche fanciers will rethink their Trump loyalty. Because of Sic et Non donational considerations, he cannot come out and be more specific.
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Re: Under the Banner of Doddering Apologetics

Post by Philo Sofee »

I look very forward to your more thoughts coming on this Dr. Stak. Enjoyable reading is what keeps me coming back to this wonderful place of thinking, arguing, refuting, confirming, and overall cogitating... and with such a myriad of subjects and themes.
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Re: Under the Banner of Doddering Apologetics

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DrStakhanovite wrote:
Sat May 07, 2022 6:37 am
Daniel C. Peterson wrote:Many who deny an objective or divine foundation to morality nonetheless assume that evolutionary processes lead naturally, sociobiologically, to something broadly resembling a traditional Judeo-Christian ethic of mutual help, human rights, and cooperation. Thus, the religious underpinnings that some have thought necessary to morality can be safely dispensed with, as we climb inexorably onto the sunny uplands of naturalistic reason.
Chicken and egg, Daniel. Get over your presumptions--but then, without them you have nothing to support any of your Mormon views.

by the way, great analysis, Stak, and terrific prose.
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Re: Under the Banner of Doddering Apologetics

Post by huckelberry »

stating the obvious, the photo is a completely different Peterson. Reason? similarities, differences?.
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Re: Under the Banner of Doddering Apologetics

Post by Philo Sofee »

huckelberry wrote:
Sat May 07, 2022 7:56 pm
stating the obvious, the photo is a completely different Peterson. Reason? similarities, differences?.
Oooooooo, could that be Mr. Stak?
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Re: Under the Banner of Doddering Apologetics

Post by Doctor CamNC4Me »

… the Latter-day Saint intellectual tradition has been far more intently focused upon historiography than upon what Professor Midgley calls “systematic theology” or “dogmatic theology,” or what I myself might be inclined to term “philosophical theology.”
*runs sentence through Cassius’ enigma machine*

*bee boop boop beep*

*BING!*

“Mormon scholars are far more focused on gossip and recycled trash than anything that requires thinking.”

Well. I’m positively gobsmacked, for one. I thought offhand blog references to Bernini, travel updates, and pithy throwaway non sequiturs made up for deep religious philosophical thinking. I’m literally shaking right now.

*sets snifter full of Diet Dr. Pepper down on West Elm Anton collection “coffee” table*

Did the Catholics have it right all along? Are people only in need of Mass conducted in Latin? Is all great philosophy reduced to a cosmological Sophie’s choice?

My god. This can’t be.

https://abn.churchofjesuschrist.org/stu ... 1652018185
A month ago in Brazil, I met Aroldo Cavalcante. He was baptized at age 21, the first member of the Church in his family. His faith burned brightly, and he immediately began preparing to serve a mission. Sadly, Aroldo’s mother was diagnosed with cancer. Three months later, only days before she died, she spoke to Aroldo of her greatest concern: There were no relatives to help. Aroldo would need to take full responsibility for his two younger sisters and his younger brother. He solemnly made this promise to his dying mother.

By day he worked in a bank, and at night he attended the university. He continued to keep his baptismal covenants, but his hopes for a full-time mission were gone. His mission would be caring for his family.

Months later while preparing a sacrament meeting talk, Aroldo studied the words that Samuel reprovingly spoke to King Saul: “To obey,” he read, “is better than [to] sacrifice.”10 Aroldo received the seemingly impossible impression that he needed to obey the prophet’s call to serve a mission. Undaunted by the obstacles before him, he moved forward with enormous faith.

By day he worked in a bank, and at night he attended the university. He continued to keep his baptismal covenants, but his hopes for a full-time mission were gone. His mission would be caring for his family.

Months later while preparing a sacrament meeting talk, Aroldo studied the words that Samuel reprovingly spoke to King Saul: “To obey,” he read, “is better than [to] sacrifice.”10 Aroldo received the seemingly impossible impression that he needed to obey the prophet’s call to serve a mission. Undaunted by the obstacles before him, he moved forward with enormous faith.
This is the LDS scholar’s intellectual limit.

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Re: Under the Banner of Doddering Apologetics

Post by Gadianton »

where the forest of neurons that is his mind
Well put. That is, the forest of neurons that is type-identical to his mind. I have never met a forest of neurons in such deep denial that it is a forest of neurons. crazy.
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Re: Under the Banner of Doddering Apologetics

Post by huckelberry »

Well Jordan Peterson cuts a more dashing figure than Daniel. Jordan has some interest in Nietzsche like Daniel. Jordan not being a professional philosopher can bounce his own thoughts off Nietzsche in his own way not always pleasing to professionals.Jordan may not be a theist in exactly the same sense Daniel is. They are both interested in the possibility that Nietzsche creates questions.
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Re: Under the Banner of Doddering Apologetics

Post by DrStakhanovite »

Stanley Rosen wrote:There is, I have been suggesting, a kind of Gödel’s Theorem in human affairs: Every attempt to systematize life or to govern it by a set of axioms rich enough to encompass the totality of experience leads to a contradiction. Because in the present case axioms are consequences of principles or paradigms, the same point holds at their level. It would be fatal to construct a paradigm of moderation that goes to extremes in its indefiniteness: “Nothing too much” is as vacuous as the injunction to “go to the roots.” One may arrive at the roots with a bulldozer or a spade; which instrument to use depends upon the circumstances.

The Ancients and the Moderns: Rethinking Modernity, Yale University Press, pages 17-18.

I’ve been reading a lot of Stanley Rosen as of late. I’ve reached a stage in my own thinking where I’ve come to feel constrained by my training in analytic philosophy and Rosen’s meta-philosophical assessments of that tradition have been instrumental in helping me realize the limited nature of philosophical analysis and the management of my expectations. The above quote is just one example among many that prodded me into my current trajectory.

All philosophical questions are conditioned by the context from which they arose. Reflection upon that context is an indispensable practice that allows one to step outside of yourself for a fleeting moment to catch a glimpse of the limiting contours of your life. We belong to history just as much as history belongs to us, it is inescapable as it is humbling.

I’m of the opinion that the gallery of usual suspects: John Gee, Louis Midgley, Daniel Peterson, and the late William Hamblin, are/were constitutionally incapable of that type of reflection. I have no doubt it contributes to the poor quality and utter lack of substance in their collected works.

Speaking of…
Daniel C. Peterson wrote:To take it back to Under the Banner of Heaven and the Lafferty murders, on what Nietzschean basis can you condemn the Laffertys? On what basis, even, can you, if you’re a follower of Nietzsche, condemn alleged Latter-day Saint misogyny, patriarchy, obscurantism, and fanaticism?
Presumably, since Daniel has read The Antichrist, he’d be in a good position to answer this question. What would be a better display of a thoughtful and meaningful apologetic than Daniel diving into Nietzsche’s thought and fully engaging it and coming out on the other side with a unique LDS-themed critique of Nietzsche that could showcase the superiority of a Mormon moral philosophy.

Alas, the reality of Mormon Apologetics is that the practitioners don’t really read books. Sure they buy them and no doubt they physically look at individual pages, but they don’t take the time to sit down and actually read with total engagement. Daniel doesn’t use books for intellectual or spiritual purposes, but rather books serve as a means for harvesting blocks of text that can be repurposed for base rhetoric. Nietzsche is simply a tool Daniel uses to tee up a question about moral philosophy and atheism.

Daniel speaks of a “Nietzschean basis” as if the man set down a systematic programme spelled out in measured tones in total sobriety akin to a Thomas Aquinas or Immanuel Kant. Nietzsche did no such thing. The man’s writings are bombastic and there are instances where he can simply be absurd, such as advising men to carry a whip if they should ever venture in women’s quarters. Disorganization plagues his compositions and he even wrote entire books articulating positions that he had previously rejected and would reject again at a later date; when asked why he did this, Nietzsche’s reply amounted to “Sorry, just had to get it out of my system”.

In a letter to his friend Carl Fuchs (dated July 29th, 1888), Nietzsche offered some advice on how to approach his writing:
Nietzsche wrote:It is not at all necessary, not even desired, that one thereby take sides for me; on the contrary, a dose of inquisitiveness, as if before a strange plant, with an ironic resistance would seem to me to be an incomparably more intelligent stance toward me.
I really like the imagery of treating Nietzsche’s writings as a kind of strange plant to be investigated and studied. The truth is that you can’t really adopt Nietzsche’s views in the same manner one can become a Thomistic philosopher or a Neo-Kantian; it would turn you into an incoherent mess.

What attracts people from all walks of life to his books is that the experience of reading Nietzsche triggers inspiration and provides one with indirect insights. You learn from his reckless behavior by witnessing it first hand in his writing as it plays out to its untenable conclusions. Nietzsche is many things to many different people, most of them mutually exclusive.

Surely though, we can spend some profitable time in The Antichrist and get some much needed perspective on what Daniel thinks is being said. I’ll be quoting from Cambridge’s Texts in the History of Philosophy series as opposed to Daniel’s Barnes and Noble edition because I’m an unrelenting snob.
Nietzsche wrote:Let us look ourselves in the face. We are Hyperboreans…
That is how Nietzsche begins section 1 of The Antichrist, by calling himself a Hyperborean. If you are not familiar with the term, it is a people from Greek mythology that lived in a paradise hinterland. Strange plant indeed.

Just as a heads up, Nietzsche uses ellipses differently than we do today; they don’t indicate missing text, but a kind of pause, somewhere between a comma and a period in length. Continuing in section 1:
Nietzsche wrote:We are Hyperboreans, - we are well aware how far off the beaten track we live. 'Neither by land nor by sea will you find the way to the Hyperboreans': Pindar had already known this about us. Beyond the North, beyond ice, beyond death - our lives, our happiness...We have discovered happiness, we know the way, we have found the way out of the labyrinth of whole millennia. Who else has found this? -Maybe the modern man? 'I don't know where I am; I am everything that doesn't know where it is' - sighs the modern man ... This modernity made us ill - this indolent peace, this cowardly compromise, the whole virtuous filth of the modern yes and no.
I have a hard time telling how tethered to reality Nietzsche is when he writes about himself like this. Sometimes I think he is just being playfully dramatic and ostentatious and other times I think he truly thought of himself as a Hyperborean. What is palpable though was his disdain for modernity, especially the European kind. Mentally stable or not, Nietzsche considered himself a man out of time, wandering among strangers in a strange land.

His ways are not our ways.
Nietzsche wrote:Better to live on the ice than among modern virtues and other south winds!
This remark sets the reader up for section 2 where we learn what Nietzsche thinks we ought to abandon modern virtues for. Daniel cites section 2 in full, but I’ll reproduce it here (underline mine):
Nietzsche wrote:What is good? - Everything that enhances people's feeling of power, will to power, power itself. What is bad? - Everything stemming from weakness. What is happiness? - The feeling that power is growing, that some resistance has been overcome. Not contentedness, but more power; not peace, but war; not virtue, but prowess (virtue in the style of the Renaissance, virtu, moraline-free virtue). The weak and the failures should perish: first principle of our love of humanity. And they should be helped to do this. What is more harmful than any vice? - Active pity for all failures and weakness - Christianity ...
The above reads fairly ruthlessly at first pass, but I want to draw your attention to the parenthetical remark about “virtue in the style of the Renaissance”. Nietzsche was not a philosopher by training, but a classical philologist. Ancient Greek and Latin were his first real intellectual passions and he had an intimate knowledge of classical literature.

Nietzsche isn’t rejecting the idea of virtue, rather what passes for virtue in the modern era and instead trying to harken back to the virtues of the ancient civilizations that modern Europeans considered themselves the heirs to.

Moving on to section 3 (underline is mine):
Nietzsche wrote:The problem I am posing is not what should replace humanity in the order of being (- the human is an endpoint -): but instead what type of human should be bred, should be willed as having greater value, as being more deserving of life, as being more certain of a future.

This more valuable type has appeared often enough already: but only as a stroke of luck, as an exception, never as willed. In fact he was precisely what people feared most; so far, he has been practically the paradigm of the terrible; - and out of terror, the opposite type was willed, bred, achieved: the domestic animal, the herd animal, the sick animal: man, -the Christian ...
Nietzsche isn’t trying to create something new, rather he is trying to restore what was lost. There isn’t some grand teleology behind humanity, nor is there something greater than humanity that we ought to be striving for.

What Nietzsche wrote extensively about prior that is lurking in the background here is that he believes that at some point in history that there was an inversion of virtue, where the “hyperborean” (as described by Nietzsche above) virtues became unvirtuous and what was once unvirtuous became virtuous.

Now Nietzsche wouldn’t frame the issue in the exact same way I just did because it is an oversimplification, but it captures enough to provide sufficient context. Now section 4 is important, especially the first paragraph:
Nietzsche wrote:Humanity does not represent a development for the better, does not represent something stronger or higher the way people these days think it does. 'Progress' is just a modern idea, which is to say a false idea. Today's European is still worth considerably less than the Renaissance European; development is not linked to elevation, increase, or strengthening in any necessary way.
The Hyperborean isn’t a product of a gradual attainment, this isn’t a “survival of the fittest” notion that is commonly associated with Darwin. Nietzsche has to make this clear, because this is when the concept of “Social Darwinism” is really taking off, especially in the English speaking world. Herbert Spencer, the English philosopher credited with articulating the first real iteration of Social Darwinism, died only three years after Nietzsche did.

The next paragraph contains another important detail (underline mine):
Nietzsche wrote:In another sense, there is a continuous series of individual successes in the most varied places on earth and from the most varied cultures; here, a higher type does in fact present itself, a type of overman in relation to humanity in general. Successes like this, real strokes of luck, were always possible and perhaps will always be possible. And whole generations, families, or peoples can sometimes constitute this sort of bull's eye, right on the mark.
The virtues of the Hyperborean are not unique to the Hyperboreans, but in fact can (and do!) arise in other cultures. Unlike so many European scholars of the 18th century, Nietzsche didn’t think of his own culture as being the pinnacle of human achievement.

Section 5 has a good example of the kind of rhetoric Nietzsche likes to use against Christinaity:
Nietzsche wrote:Christianity has taken the side of everything weak, base, failed, it has made an ideal out of whatever contradicts the preservation instincts of a strong life; it has corrupted the reason of even the most spiritual natures by teaching people to see the highest spiritual values as sinful, as deceptive, as temptations.


Christianity is a corrupting influence that is in total opposition to the kind of “instincts” the Hyperborean seeks to embrace. When we move to section 6 this gets reiterated again, but with more interesting language:
Nietzsche wrote:I call an animal, a species, an individual corrupt when it loses its instincts, when it chooses, when it prefers things that will harm it. A history of the 'higher feelings', the 'ideals of humanity' - and I might have to tell this history - would amount to an explanation of why human beings are so corrupt.
This time Nietzsche talks about the loss of instinct being relevant to animals, species, and individuals. This leads me to bring up Daniel’s blogpost About Those ‘Dangerous’ Mormons, where he quotes only section 2 and section 7. Before quoting section 7, Daniel makes this remark:
Daniel C. Peterson wrote:Plainly, too, he had come heavily under the influence of Darwinism
I think this portion of section 7 is probably what gave Daniel that idea (underline mine):
Nietzsche wrote:The mortal dangers of pity will be much more apparent if you measure pity according to the value of the reactions it tends to produce. By and large, pity runs counter to the law of development, which is the law of selection.
What is ironic though, is that section 7 contains comments like this:
Nietzsche wrote:Schopenhauer was right here: pity negates life, it makes life worthy of negation, - pity is the practice of nihilism.
Nietzsche wrote:Aristotle famously saw pity as a dangerous pathology that should be purged from the system every once in a while: he thought of tragedy as a purgative.
I think that reading the six previous sections make it clear that Nietzsche’s “ law of selection” isn’t really Darwinian; more to the point, section 7 is concerned with pity and Nietzsche makes it very clear as to where his understanding of pity as a virtue comes from.

Imagine! A classical philologist appealing to Aristotle on the topic of virtues, what a flashing red sign that all but screams the “heavy” and “plain” influence of Darwin. A person so taken with Greek mythology that he actually identifies himself as a Hyperborean is clearly channeling Origin of Species.

This isn’t to say Darwin didn’t influence Nietzsche, but not in the way Dan thinks it does. Here is a book review of John Richardson’s book Nietzsche's New Darwinism from Notre Dame’s Philosophy Review that makes a very relevant observation:
Jessica N. Berry wrote:As even casual readers of Nietzsche will observe, the bulk of what Nietzsche has to say about Darwin and Darwinism is hostile. Richardson rightly points out that Nietzsche has a perhaps regrettable but nonetheless reliable tendency to bite off the hand that feeds him; the thinkers of whom he is most critical are often those from whom he takes the most inspiration. But his intellectual relationship to Darwin is more complicated still. As Richardson's examination of Nietzsche's position shows, Nietzsche's attacks appear to get wrong both Darwin's position and the biological facts of the matter.
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