Paper $30.00 ISBN: 9780226539898 Will Publish March 2018
Cloth $90.00 ISBN: 9780226539751 Will Publish March 2018
An e-book edition will be published.

The Moral Meaning of Nature

Nietzsche’s Darwinian Religion and Its Critics

Peter J. Woodford

The Moral Meaning of Nature

Peter J. Woodford

208 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2018
Paper $30.00 ISBN: 9780226539898 Will Publish March 2018
Cloth $90.00 ISBN: 9780226539751 Will Publish March 2018
E-book $30.00 ISBN: 9780226539928 Will Publish March 2018
What, if anything, does biological evolution tell us about the nature of religion, ethical values, or even the meaning and purpose of life? The Moral Meaning of Nature sheds new light on these enduring questions by examining the significance of an earlier—and unjustly neglected—discussion of Darwin in late nineteenth-century Germany.
 
We start with Friedrich Nietzsche, whose writings staged one of the first, and still most influential, confrontations with the Christian tradition using the resources of Darwinian thought. The Lebensphilosophie, or “life-philosophy” that arose from his engagement with evolutionary ideas drew responses from other influential thinkers, including historian of Christian origins Franz Overbeck, sociologist Georg Simmel, and Neo-Kantian philosopher Heinrich Rickert. These critics all offered cogent challenges to Nietzsche’s appropriation of the newly transforming biological sciences, his negotiation between science and religion, and his interpretation of the implications of Darwinian thought. They also each proposed alternative ways of making sense of Nietzsche’s unique question concerning the meaning of biological evolution “for life.” At the heart of the discussion were debates about the relation of facts and values, the place of divine purpose in the understanding of non-human and human agency, the concept of life, and the question of whether the sciences could offer resources to satisfy the human urge to discover sources of value in biological processes. Rather than attempting to offer final answers to the ultimate questions that these thinkers were addressing at the time, The Moral Meaning of Nature focuses on their historical background and systematic connections, exposing the complex ways in which these questions even now recur in contemporary philosophical debate.
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