Nietzsche's Naturalism: Neither Liberal nor Illiberal

M. Del Caro & D. Macarthur (eds.), THE ROUTLEDGE HANDBOOK OF LIBERAL NATURALISM, Forthcoming

15 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2019

Date Written: August 26, 2019


It is no longer controversial that Nietzsche is some kind of philosophical naturalist, a view I argued for throughout the 1990s and then systematically in my 2002 book. As one scholar wrote subsequently: “Most commentators on Nietzsche would agree that he is in a broad sense a naturalist in his mature philosophy.” But Nietzsche is also not a “liberal naturalist”: while he rejects both the supernatural (as any naturalist must) and physicalism (in this regard he is not an “illiberal” naturalist), he countenances the reality only of that which is explicable by the various Wisssenschaften (sciences). And these sciences, on Nietzsche’s view, undermine the objectivity (or mind- or attitude-independence) of values, the first-personal point of view, and much of our common-sense or “folk” picture of the world. “Liberal naturalists” with their tolerance for objective values and reasons, and much of the “manifest image,” are from Nietzsche’s standpoint still in thrall to the same impulses that gave us belief in God: they want human beings to be “special,” while Nietzsche says the philosopher’s task is to repudiate the “dignified verbal pageantry” and “the false old finery, debris, and gold dust of unconscious human vanity.”

Keywords: Nietzsche, naturalism, anti-realism, liberal naturalism, physicalism, autonomy of psychology

Suggested Citation

Leiter, Brian, Nietzsche's Naturalism: Neither Liberal nor Illiberal (August 26, 2019). M. Del Caro & D. Macarthur (eds.), THE ROUTLEDGE HANDBOOK OF LIBERAL NATURALISM, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Brian Leiter (Contact Author)

University of Chicago ( email )

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Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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