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Heinrich Rickert: The Autonomy of Agency and the Science of Life

Heinrich Rickert: The Autonomy of Agency and the Science of Life

Chapter:
(p.105) 4 Heinrich Rickert: The Autonomy of Agency and the Science of Life
Source:
The Moral Meaning of Nature
Author(s):
Peter J. Woodford
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226539928.003.0005

The final chapter turns to one of the most trenchant, sustained, and rigorous criticisms available of the entire trajectory of Nietzschean Life-philosophy and its turn to Darwinian ideas. This is to be found in the Neo-Kantian Heinrich Rickert’s 1920 monograph, The Philosophy of Life: A Presentation and Critique of the Philosophical Fashions of our Time. The chapter analyzes the radically different conception of the nature of science, of the role of values in science, of teleology in biology that Rickert outlined in this text. It also analyzes Rickert’s distinct understanding of the relationship between science and religion in terms of the paradoxical question of the meaning of nature. Despite Rickert’s critique, it shows that Rickert too was tempted to take a metaphysical turn at the end of his career in order to resolve a central problem prompted by Nietzschean Life-philosophy. This was the problem of whether or not Darwinian evolution as the sciences had helped us understand it presented a world in which human religious, ethical, and political ideals could genuinely be realized. In reflecting on this question, Rickert too came to a novel interpretation of the relationship between science and religion.

Keywords:   neo-Kantianism, science and religion, normativity, philosophy of biology, vitalism, autonomy, value

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