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Nietzsche and the Becoming of Life$
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Vanessa Lemm

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780823262861

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823262861.001.0001

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Nietzsche’s Concept of “Necessity” and Its Relation to “Laws of Nature”

Nietzsche’s Concept of “Necessity” and Its Relation to “Laws of Nature”

(p.82) 5 Nietzsche’s Concept of “Necessity” and Its Relation to “Laws of Nature”
Nietzsche and the Becoming of Life

Herman W. Siemens

Fordham University Press

This paper, based on the author’s work for the entry Gesetz in the Nietzsche-Wörterbuch, examines four key moments in the development of Nietzsche’s concept of necessity. The main thesis is that Nietzsche’s concept of necessity needs to be understood in terms of his (largely critical) engagement with the scientific (mechanistic) concept of laws of nature (Naturgesetze). According to one established meaning, «necessity» (1) expresses the so-sein-müssen (must-be-thus) or invariability of the processes described by laws of nature. This meaning is affirmed by the young Nietzsche. The middle Nietzsche, by contrast, criticises laws of nature for projecting moral categories onto nature (as if things or forces «followed» laws out of obedience). In this context, «necessity» (2) is sometimes detached from laws of nature and affirmed by Nietzsche, as that which remains after «subtracting» laws and other anthropomorphisms from nature: a non-anthropomorphic, extra-moral Müssen that expresses the regularity (Berechenbarkeit) of processes of nature, but is logically independent of laws of nature. At other times «necessity» (3) is used by Nietzsche for the false, moral constraint (Zwang), the so-sein-sollen (ought-tobe-thus) expressed by mechanistic laws of nature. «Necessity» in this sense is criticised by the later Nietzsche for moralising nature, but also for failing to explain the regularity of natural processes. Nietzsche’s criticisms of mechanistic laws of nature confront him with the task of rethinking «necessity» in non-anthropomorphic, extra-moral terms in a way that offers an alternative, non-legalistic explanation of the regularity of natural processes. These tasks are engaged through the concepts of will to power and fate. Thinking away «necessity» as false, moral constraint (meaning 3) leaves a minimal concept «necessity» (4) as: so-sein (being-thus), so-und-nicht-anders-sein (being-thus-and-not-otherwise), so-beschaffen-sein: that something is as it is, as strong or as weak, as a function of relations of power and the degrees of predominance and resistance. This concept of necessity is proposed by Nietzsche as an alternative (non-legalistic, non-mechanistic, non-causal) explanation of the regularity of natural processes. But «necessity», as being-thus (so-sein), also precludes the «could-have-been-otherwise» (hätte-anders-sein-können) and thereby serves to exclude the moral concept of necessity (3) expressed by mechanistic laws of nature (ought-to-be-thus: so-sein-sollen). Nietzsche’s efforts to rethink «necessity» beyond mechanistic causality are pursued in the concept of fate, especially in the domains of human morality and art.

Keywords:   Nietzsche, necessity, law, life, freedom

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