Maria Cristina Fornari’s chapter, ‘Social Ties and the Emergence of the Individual: Nietzsche and the English Perspective’, explores the way in which Nietzsche’s engagement with the problem of subjectivity was influenced by another kind of source: the ‘Englishmen’. For Nietzsche, this term has a much wider meaning than in common usage. The ‘Englishmen’ refers to all European Darwinists, evolutionists, and utilitarians, in fact to the perspective all of them seem to have in common (the ‘English perspective’, as Fornari terms it). Among the ‘Englishmen’ who have influenced Nietzsche the most there is his friend Paul Rée, a young Prussian. Nietzsche’s main source of inspiration (both positive and critical) is perhaps Herbert Spencer. Although Fornari’s approach is mostly genetic, she is able to show not only that there is one theme that dominates Nietzsche’s engagement with the Darwinists, evolutionists, and utilitarians, but also that for Nietzsche that theme has a crucially practical-existential dimension, or is not a merely theoretical problem. As Fornari’s title suggests, this theme is the individual and its ‘social ties’ — or individuality and the relationship between individual and community. Nietzsche’s treatment of this theme from Human, All Too Human onwards (and especially after meeting Rée) shows that his diatribes against Darwinists and evolutionists in general are merely a surface of ‘intense confrontation and fruitful dialogue’, as Fornari puts it. Nietzsche is undoubtedly an evolutionist and a Darwinist of some sort, for he clearly believes not only in evolution, but also in the kind of blind mechanism ‘natural selection’ is all about. But his attitude towards utilitarianism is something else. What Fornari’s article clearly shows, we believe, is that Nietzsche’s critique of the ‘English perspective’ is in fact a critique of the moral or normative presuppositions of this perspective, such that what he rejects in Darwinism and evolutionism is not so much their main theoretical hypotheses as rather the utilitarian valuations that embed those hypotheses within the ‘English perspective’. Nietzsche’s views on ‘adaptation’ are a good example of all of this. He rejects ‘adaptation’ for presupposing that the altruism of merely passive, reactive individuals is good because it is useful for the whole, the community. The ‘English’ conception of adaption is fundamentally normative, and Nietzsche’s concern focuses precisely on its normative implications. In their light, the non-utilitarian nature of the values and achievements of higher individuals’ becomes morally suspect, while the utilitarian values of the ‘herd’ pass for the only possible values — for morality itself. Or, in other words, the ‘English perspective’ transforms Darwinian evolutionism into an ideological weapon that thwarts the individual’s possibilities of self-creation and spiritual self-enhancement. Against this, and from a practical-existential perspective, indeed from a normative one, Nietzsche develops (in slightly different ways across time) an alternative evolutionary notion of individuality and the relationship between individual and community which is highly relevant for the study of his views on the problem of subjectivity. Fornari underlines, in particular, how the theme of subjective multiplicity dovetails with this evolutionary perspective. The ‘individual’ is in fact shown to be a ‘dividuum’ (HH I 57) composed of a multiplicity of ‘drives’ that evolve and have evolved across time; the gregarious individual whose subjective multiplicity organises itself as a social self that conforms to the community and becomes a mere ‘function of the herd’ (GS 116) is the rule; but this does not in any way exclude the possibility of ‘higher types’, ‘free-spirits’, ‘overmen’, ‘sovereign individuals’ that become exceptionally individual by taking upon themselves, synthesising, and combining in a unique way a great multiplicity of perspectives made possible by the multiplicity of their drives.
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