Examining Nietzsche's Genealogical Claims

I find Nietzsche’s assertion that there are no philosophies but only autobiographies to be nearly inescapable. It makes a great deal of sense that philosophers, as humans, represent a great deal of complexity both imaginatively and emotionally, and since I was first confronted with this form of skepticism toward the possibility of a foundationally pure system completely divorced from its originating mind, I find myself wanting to know what kind of human was each new philosopher I come across.

To argue that Plato was secretly frightened at the thought of his own eventual dissolution, perhaps so deeply that this irritant rested beneath what he would be willing to explicitly admit, is perfectly haunting in my opinion, for the progression and ultimate aim of his philosophy taken in light of this does not necessarily become less noble but somehow arouses great pathos. Genealogically it becomes, to me, the comforting patchwork quilt into whose highly occupying creation one has tried to pour out all their agitating mortal angst, or an effort of the same instinct that directed our primordial ancestors to find the shelter of a steady cave, only cast mentally now that man has become verbal and rational.

Of course, to overstate this aspect of philosophy, even if we do decide it is valid and present, would certainly be an error, for although it might be the case that unstated facets of the philosopher’s personality inform the aim and process of his work, it does not follow that subterranean quirks and psychological hang-ups are the sole source (nor indeed the final target) of philosophical inquiry. Nevertheless, the entire subject continues to bother me insofar as my initial introductions to philosophy presented it as an instrument that was perhaps magically privileged to the kind of ethereal and all-encompassing knowledge that inferior sciences were lucky to earn a shred of. How is philosophy to reward me with real, usable, and accurately world-representing understanding if it is merely a communal spittoon full of the Freudian backwash of the most imaginatively vocal of conventionally flawed humans?

If this is a bit extreme, it is knowingly so stated in order to convey my frustration, for it seems to me that the dream of philosophy as a divinely pure vehicle toward the true way of things is dead, or at least conventionally implausible for the time being. The picture we have of the mind from pop-psychology, combined with the absolutely incomprehensible deluge we experience as creatures unprecedentedly engaged to other diverse parts of the world through our various communications, can easily lead one to believe that the human brain is simply a chunk of wax that comes off the production line with reasonably generic physical specifications that will be stamped with the native seal of whichever of the zillion cultural milieus it eventually lands in. When I attempt to find some basis for knowledge in my own mind, I cannot determine anything that I would be willing to hold up as definitely foundational for myself let alone for mankind, as I discover nothing that is not linked in some way to something else, and this interconnectedness, along with my awareness that I have embodied experiences and schemas that are largely confined to the circumstantial accident of my times and places (and my own unique appropriation of these) which represent not even a sliver of the total of human experience, discourage me from even holding a notion of a definite mode of valid inquiry.

I feel that even if I were able to proceed from some reasonably stable set of assumptions or axioms, in the end I would simply have a representation of my experiences, projections, desires and their interactions with those of the world I lived in. I have certainly come across compelling attempts to synthesize knowledge into a demonstration of one way as more valid than others competing for the same status, but I have felt the inner workings of such attempts to be dominated by a will toward drawing globally available information together into a personally victorious arrangement. That such efforts smack of a brutish lust for the glory of some correctness lowers them in my eyes.

For these reasons I am intrigued by attempts to demonstrate a particular foundation as solid and any following attempts to progress from them. This interest is not so much anymore borne of emotional neediness, for while these anti-foundationalist revelations used to be more unsettling to me, and seemed to upset the possibility of meaningfulness and decency in human life, I have with time become more comfortable with alternative approaches that do not so stringently demand an unshakable first principle.