The wisdom of appearances : Nietzsche and the ancient skeptical tradition
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This dissertation is a systematic examination of Nietzsche’s relationship to the Greek skeptics, demonstrating the impact of skeptical ideas on (among other things) Nietzsche’s naturalism, ‘perspectivism’, and ethical thought. The early chapters investigate skeptical themes in the writings of the young Nietzsche, concentrating on his attitude toward truth in the early (unpublished) essay “On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense,” and the naturalism that first emerges in Human, All too Human, a work which bears the stamp of Michel de Montaigne’s deep engagement with Pyrrhonism. This same skeptical attitude, which motivates Nietzsche’s rejection of Schopenhauer’s metaphysics, is still to be found, I argue, in Nietzsche’s ‘mature’ works. In later chapters, I advance a reading of Nietzsche’s much-discussed ‘perspectivism’ along an argumentative path well-traveled by skeptics in antiquity, and I attempt to demonstrate what is distinctly ‘Greek’ about Nietzsche’s skepticism by exploring (via Nietzsche’s interest in Democritus) the connections between Nietzsche’s epistemology and his ethics, which I read as a variety of eudaimonism. I conclude with a look at Nietzsche’s rejection of the appearance/reality distinction in light of the Pyrrhonist’s own commitment to “live by the appearances.” In the end, I attempt to make clear why no coherent picture of Nietzsche’s thought as either skeptical or anti-skeptical has yet emerged: scholars interested in the issue have failed to understand ‘skepticism’ in the relevant sense for Nietzsche.