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Nietzsche and Modern Times

A Study of Bacon, Descartes, and Nietzsche

Laurence Lampert


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This major work by Laurence Lampert provides a new interpretation of modern philosophy by developing Nietzsche's view that genuine philosophers set out to determine the direction of culture through their ideas and that they conceal the radical nature of their thought by their esoteric style. From this Nietzschean perspective, Francis Bacon and René Descartes can be considered the founders of modernity.

Lampert argues that Bacon's positive claims for science aimed to destroy the dominance of Christianity. Descartes continued Bacon's radical program while providing it with the mathematical physics required for its success. Far from being solely an epistemological and metaphysical thinker, says Lampert, Descartes was a master writer whose comic ridicule helped bring down the Church to which he paid lip service. Both Bacon and Descartes used the Platonic art of dissimulation to achieve their ends by making their revolutionary aims appear compatible with Christianity.

Once we recognize Bacon and Descartes as legislators of modern times in a specifically Nietzschean sense, we can also see Nietzsche in a new way—as the first thinker to have understood modern times and transcended it in a postmodern worldview. According to Lampert, Nietzsche provides a new foundation for culture, a joyous science that reveals the grandeur and purposeless play of the cosmic whole and yet avoids enervating despair or destructive, dogmatic belief.

Yale University Press, 9780300065107, 490pp.

Publication Date: August 30, 1995