Nietzsche and McDowell on The Second Nature of The Human Being


The concept of second nature has a long and complex history, having been widely employed by several philosophers and even scientists. In recent times, the most famous thinker who has employed the concept of second nature, and has actually grounded his philosophical program precisely on this notion, is probably John McDowell. However, it is also possible to find some occurrences of the concept of second nature, “zweite Natur”, in Nietzsche’s writings, both published and unpublished. In this contribution I will develop a discussion of this important topic, the (second) nature of the human being, in Nietzsche and McDowell, and attempt to establish a comparison between them on the basis of this concept. It is the guiding idea of this article that McDowell’s “Naturalism of Second Nature”, though representing one of the most original and indeed ambitious philosophical programs today, actually suffers from some problems in defining the peculiar nature of the human being, and that referring to some of Nietzsche’s ideas on this topic may be of help in order to broaden and strengthen McDowell’s own philosophical perspective. There is almost no reference to Nietzsche in McDowell’s several philosophical works, notwithstanding his great interest in, and his careful attention to, other authors belonging to the tradition of modern German philosophy (such as Kant and Hegel, in particular), and nobody has inquired yet into the potential Nietzsche/McDowell relationship. The paper will trace the development of certain philosophical-anthropological insights from 19th- and 20th-century German thought (Nietzsche, Scheler, Gehlen, Gadamer) up to the present age (McDowell), and provide an original and relevant contribution both to the specific field of Nietzsche studies and to the more general domain of inquiries into contemporary philosophical problems. Comparing the ideas of Nietzsche/ McDowell on the question concerning the (second) nature of the human being relationship is intriguing from a philosophical point of view and may lead to a better understanding of this subject and disclose new perspectives in this field. There is a lot of philosophical insight to be gained in comparing these two figures.

Keywords: Friedrich Nietzsche, John McDowell, Human nature, Mind, Language, Epistemology, Philosophical anthropology, Phenomenology, Hermeneutics

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