Original Articles

Nietzsche, science, and philosophical nihilism

Published in: South African Journal of Philosophy
Volume 24, issue 4, 2005 , pages: 241–259
DOI: 10.4314/sajpem.v24i4.31424
Author(s): Rebecca BamfordDepartment of Philosophy, South Africa


Nietzsche offers us a critique of modern culture as threatened by a nihilistic crisis in values. Philosophy is specifically incorporated into Nietzsche’s critique, resulting in the claim that modern philosophy, as well as modern culture, is nihilistic. But why should contemporary philosophers give this view credence? In this paper, I put forward some reasons to take Nietzsche’s view seriously, focusing on the relationship between science and philosophy. I suggest that modern philosophy still tends to idealise science as an exemplar of objectivity, particularly as this relates to judgement, even despite widespread acknowledgement that science is not value-free. I therefore argue that Nietzsche’s critique is valuable in two respects: first, it calls the notion of a scientific ideal grounding objective, cross-cultural, judgement into question, and second, it facilitates a distinction between this scientific ideal and science itself.

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