Sunday, April 17, 2005

Accident

I recently finished reading Nietzsche's The Gay Science and he made an interesting statement I have been thinking about for a while. In the debate between Creationists and Evolutionists, one common statement comes up that humanity is "an accident of nature." However, this is not consistent with their philosophy. Accident is defined in distinction from purpose; if there is no purpose there is no accident.

Two observations: First, this does not necessarily grant humanity meaning, it is rather nihilistic. Man may not be an accident of nature, but he is not really anything else. Second, Christian apologetics must be ready to respond to this reasoning. While there is greater emotional punch in the term "accident," the same emotional appeal can be made by with this logic. If men and women are uncomfortable being an accident, how much more if they are nothing?

9 comments:

Justin Dombrowski said...

Two thoughts:

(1) Do all accidents require purpose?

(2) Is majoring on the definition of "accident" wordsmithing? Couldn't he have said nature's processes are without intention, and humanity as a result of nature is likewise unintentional and made the same point?

--Your Reader ;)

Justin Dombrowski said...

second thought: I wonder what the German word he's using is, and whether "accident" is the best translation.

Torn ACLU said...

Is the philosophy of Nietzsche bankrupt because he finds meaning in meaningless or is this logical fallacy just an easy out for those who want to reject these ideas?

Justin Dombrowski said...

Keith: I hereby authorize you to critique the KJV New Testament (let the reader understand).


The OT and Apocrypha are still off limits though :)

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Keith said...

Justin,
It seems to me that purpose and accident are defined in a dialectical manner. This does not posit an abosolute contrast, but they clearly stand at opposite ends of the spectrum. For that reason, I do not think this is wordsmithing. Other words could have been chosen, but the term accident and purpose were chosen because of their use in the passage by Nietzsche. I could not find the German text online to find the word actually used, but I tend to trust Kaufmann's judgement. Where there is ambiguity or a play on words, he will note it with a footnote, and there were none on this passage.

Concerning the comment from tornaclu, I am more than willing to discuss Nietzsche's philosophy here or over email (if you do not know my regular one, my profile lists one email account I have). However, I wonder, outside of knowing what my positions on Nietzshe are (and I am guessing that you do if you are who I think you are), what in the post motivated the comment. The post really had little to do with Nietzsche, and more to do with Christian apologetics. In many ways, the post was appreciative of Nietzsche's insight. I question the accuracy of the implication that Nietzsche's philosophy is really without meaning, or that he intended it as such. Because he criticised the meaning found in his day does not mean he embraced absolute nihilism. If you haven't already, consult Kaufmann's biography of Nietzsche on this point. My criticism of this characterization of Nietzsche's philosophy, first is its accuracy, but if it is accurate, if he, or any of his disciples, did or can conistently follow such a doctrine. I do not see a major fallacy which you allege. It is an appeal to the emotions in application, but this does not necessitate a logical fallacy. It is not more an emotional appeal then the point Nietzsche originally made.

torn_aclu said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
torn_aclu said...

It's me Jeremy from Cedarville Keith. I don't know much about Nietzsche as you can see, I was just throwing some comments out. But I am not sure that you understood my post. Many Christians are brought up along the line of thinking that rejects those who reject absolute truth absolutely because those who claim such a philosophy are commiting a logical fallacy. I was just relating that to Nietzsche. The appeal is made by Christians, but I think you thought I was referring to Nietzsche. So the point is this: does there have to be meaning in the world if by asking the question I am assuming already some form of meaning?

Keith said...

Jeremy,
Good to hear, from you. I thought you were someone else, which colored the way I read your comment. Two quick comments in reply. I think that the general observation concerning abolutes is sound, but must be used carefully. Of course, there are many nuances to such a position, and one should be prepared to deal with them should they arise. On the second comment, I think the greatest apologetic method tends to be existential. There are very few nihilist, and those who pretend to be demonstrate by the way they live that they are not nihilists to the core. This disjunction I think needs to be pressed. Fight Club is in many ways a powerful demonstration of what true nihilism is.