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Nietzsches Lektüre von Alfred Espinas’ Die thierischen Gesellschaften

From the book Nietzsche als Leser

  • David Simonin


Nietzsche’s reading of Alfred Espinas’ Die thierischen Gesellschaften. Alfred Espinas, follower of Spencer, is one among those who enabled Nietzsche at the turn of 1880 to link psychology, sociology and biology, and to shape his physiology of morality. Espinas’ book on the animal societies, which Nietzsche bought in its German translation in 1882, exerted a continuing influence on his philosophy, especially in regard to the concept of herd and its relations to individual beings. Owing many analyses to Espinas, such as the hierarchical domination- subordination polarity in all organic and social organisms, Nietzsche nevertheless inverted the chronological and axiological order that built the argumentation of the French author.Whereas Espinas asserted that individuals cooperate in the society (understood as a higher type of individuality), Nietzsche claimed on the contrary that they must try to constitute themselves against the group from which they stem; this raises the question of their mutual relationships on a new basis.

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