Nietzsche among the neo-Kantians
or, the relation between science and philosophy
Can one really speak of Nietzsche "among" the neo-Kantians? Even if we adopt the very inclusive narrative of neo-Kantianism developed in Köhnke's history of the movement, we find its adherents taking scant notice of Nietzsche during his productive years.1 In the 1870s, when neo-Kantianism was establishing itself as the leading current in academic philosophy, only one reference to Nietzsche's work by a neo-Kantian appears in the literature, a reference to Der Geburt der Tragödie in the second edition (1873) of F. A. Lange's Geschichte des Materialismus.2 In the 1880s there was hardly more discussion of Nietzsche among members of the diverse movement. In an 1880 letter to Tönnies, Paulsen noted that with Menschliches-Allzumenschliches Nietzsche had "gone from metaphysics right over into positivism,"3 but there are no published notices by neo-Kantian philosophers. Looking back at this period from the standpoint of his 1920 critique of Lebensphilosophie, Heinrich Rickert claimed to have read the first three parts of Zarathustra as a young student in the summer of 1886, when "Nietzsche was entirely unknown," and from then on "read every line of his that I could get my hands on."4 Also looking back from the perspective of the 1920s, Paul Natorp recalled that during the "Kaiserzeit" (Krummel suggests that this would be after his Habilitation in 1881) the threat lay not in "naturalism and empiricism," then already in principle overcome by the neo-Kantians, but in the 'self-deception, nourished above all by Nietzsche, of the individual's immediate grasp of self-lived life, aiming to transcend both reason and experience in the height of the moment"5 — but a genuine encounter with Nietzsche did not take place.
Crowell, S. (1999)., Nietzsche among the neo-Kantians: or, the relation between science and philosophy, in B. Babich (ed.), Nietzsche, theories of knowledge, and critical theory I, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 77-86.
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