Thursday, March 24, 2011

Nietzsche As Authentic Atheist

Coffee, in Nairobi
Adam Scarfe reviews Ian Markham's Against Atheism: Why Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris are Fundamentally Wrong in Ars Disputandi. I am especially interested in Markham's use of Nietzsche as exemplary of authentic atheism. I have long felt this. Here is Scarfe's explanation.
  • "Markham denigrates his New Atheist opponents as espousing a ‘cozy’ form of ‘middle-class university’ or ‘Oxbridge atheism’ (45; 27; 146), whereas he feels that the atheism of Nietzsche is far more authentic in that it truly recognizes the full ramifications of the death of God."
  • "Nietzsche was right to point out that language, knowledge, truth, rationality, morality, art, and religion must also be interpreted as chance inventions of nature, namely, as random outcomes of evolutionary processes." Knowledge, truth, and morality are thus useful "metaphysical fictions" in terms of the purpose of survival, but themselves are neither objective nor real.
  •  "For Nietzsche, knowledge, truth, and morality are manifestations of the will-to-power, the underlying drive of life to appropriate from other beings and to increase its power over its environment. Markham charges that if Nietzsche is correct, then rationality and the discourse of science, two things that the New Atheists’ emphasize so highly in distinguishing themselves from religious believers, are also reducible to the biological interpretation, and have no objective foundation." But new Atheists still believe in the possibility of the human mind to accurately describe the world, and that some worldviews are truer than others. "In short, for Markham, the New Atheists have forgotten the biological origin of rationality and science, thereby failing to consider both the full ramifications of their position as well as its logical self-reflexivity. In so doing, while proclaiming that humans have evolved through natural selection, the New Atheists na├»vely assume the God’s eye view, namely, an objective space outside of their biological makeup, thereby ‘advocate[ing] an atheism that doesn’t really challenge anything’ (146)." 
  • Our real choice is between "God and rationality," and the Nietzschean route "with a full realization of its colossal ramifications for human existence." And the latter is?: on atheism the belief that the human mind can accurately describe the world is itself a metaphysical fiction that is reducible to a biological explanation, which is about survival (and not "truth").