UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

In the belly of the (blond) beast : Nietzsche's dietetic critique of philosophy Hallet, Danielle Kara


Nietzsche’s account of “life” and his deployment of the language of digestion and diet tend to receive little attention from contemporary philosophical commentators. Yet, he invoked both “life” and dietary-digestive language explicitly and frequently. A particular understanding of life came to prominence in Nietzsche’s writings of the 1880s, which coincided with his intensive reading of physiology and honing of the critical project of revaluating values. This thesis will seek to demonstrate the relevance of the dietary and digestive language that Nietzsche used in his critique of truth for life, and situate it amongst his reading of physiological literature. Nietzsche drew from the work of nineteenth-century physiologists like Michael Foster, Wilhelm Roux, and William Rolph for his understanding of healthy life. These theories, particularly in their focus on the behavior of protoplasm, privileged the ideas of assimilation and digestion in their conceptions of life. Digestion and diet provide Nietzsche with a vocabulary with which to criticize philosophy and outline the possibility of a healthier form of philosophy that would better serve what he, along with many of his peers, saw as a degenerating modern humanity. His engagement with nineteenth-century physiology and concerns about degeneration place Nietzsche firmly in the intellectual context of his day, rendering his critique of truth an “untimely” project executed with the use of “timely” resources. The methodological framework informing the approach on offer here is indebted to Science Studies, and the meta-argument of this paper is that if we wish to understand Nietzsche’s critique of truth in his own terms, we cannot afford to ignore the language in which he articulated it.

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