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Notebook 35, May - July 1885 35
I fight against all the hypocrisy of scientific attitude: 1. regarding exposition, if it doesn’t correspond to the genesis of thoughts, 2. in the claims to methods which at a particular moment in science may not yet even be possible, 3. in the claims to objectivity, to cold impersonality, where, as in all valuations, we tell something about ourselves and our inner experiences in a few words. There are ridiculous kinds of vanity, e.g., that of Saint-Beuve, who never overcame his vexation at having had, here and there, real warmth and passion in his For and Against, and would have liked to lie it out of his life.
There are few things more ridiculous today than Science — in particular, its claims to moral authority. Science as a culture is perfect in its production of studiously benign people, people who are close to mandarins as possible in today’s random, chaotic, and mean-tempered world. Yet at the same time, the list of horrors introduced into human life over the past hundred years almost all owe to ‘Science’: whether it is the atom bomb, Agent Orange, uranium-depleted shells, genetically-engineered crops, innovations in torture and surveillance — all of these owe to ‘benign’ scientists working in the service of the State. Nothing is more hilarious than this or that individual scientist taking a public stand on some issue on account of his own self-perceived even temperament (and self-love) when Science as a whole is as unable to prevent itself from even one immoral act as the public at large. Science has zero moral authority. Yet individual scientists in their quiet, deeply deluded vanity think themselves exemplars of moral perfection. Which is to say, never in their most chaotic moments do they doubt that they have more moral authority and credibility than members of the public, in any case. Nothing is worse as a human product than today’s scientist, who on the one hand is absolutely convinced of his own moral superiority over those who are non-scien-
tists, and yet also is so convinced of his own modesty that he could never give voice to it even to himself. (The modesty follows logically from the moral superiority — the scientists’ fait accompli.) Scientific culture is as little able to act collectively and to act with self-restraint as the public at large. Meaning that despite their fantasies, the aliens when they land are not going to contact the scientists for their eminent reasonableness and virtue. Scientists are above all convinced of their own virtue — and when they are not, and when they wring their hands over what is really their own basic human worthlessness as an Oppenheimer did, well, this only works to confirm their own virtue again, as in: look how much it pains these great and noble scientists, these worthy souls, look how they wrestle with such grave doubts! For all that wrestling, the earth is slowed not a jot in its dance, led by science, off a cliff. Nietzsche’s concerns in this note are somewhat different. First, when he speaks of the ‘genesis’ of scientific thoughts and the appearance of those thoughts in the form of exposition, he is pointing out that any thought takes place in a mental context. Since for the Nietzsche the whole subjective environment is what gives any statement or expression its precise meaning, scientific exposition with its purely ‘objective’ facts can only be the most profound denial of the complex inner world, the only world in which these statements or facts find any meaning. When it comes to ‘methods’ Science is always keen on over-anticipating the conclusiveness of this or that method whenever it suits it. There are countless cases in which some patent absurdity has been advanced by ‘science’ on account of the sureness of the method used to reach that conclusion. For example, for decades we have been hearing that we must drink four liters of water a day. Why? Well, the objective method used determined absolutely that the body was made up of so many liters of water. Therefore, we must drink that amount! No objection was raised that primitive tribesmen or goat herders in the mountains had been living fine without drinking four liters of water a day for thousands of years. No mention was made of the fact that for the better part of human history, bottled water from the grocery store was not available. But that didn’t matter. Objections were simply anecdotal, whereas the method was objective. That we get much of our water from food has only recently been realized, even though it was known in some sense the whole time. Nevertheless, Science managed to convinced the general public, just as it has
done with vitamins, just as it has done with the health effects of this or that pill whose workings are plainly unknown, but, well, a couple trials showed it wasn’t ‘harmful’. Science is manifest idiocy, quite often, as when it refused to believe in meteors because rocks could not ‘simply fall from the sky’. But all is forgotten and forgiven because this time we’ve got it right. This time we know how the world works. When it comes to ‘objectivity’ what Nietzsche faults here is the fact that scientific culture fools itself into thinking it has drained away all affect, when in fact it has merely selected a certain kind of affect as the way to promote itself. As Nietzsche correctly points out, all of these maneuvers amount to vanity. Scientific culture for all its intellection is wholly absent any ability to self-reflect.