It is known that Nietzsche rejected the clause of the "natural selection" and "survival of the fittest" in the theory of evolution as not as much was confirmed about the theory during his time and it conflicted with his views of social Darwinism. Nietzsche's views were more closer to "survival of the most creative."

Do any of you Nietzsche scholars or evolution scholars know of

  1. any papers that compare Nietzsche view of evolution and the will to power with what we now know to be true of evolution? It would be interesting to see how Nietzsche might have interpreted the Will To Power having known what we know today of the laws of evolution. In other words, how would today's knowledge of evolution affect Nietzsche's naturalistic philosophy?

  2. Are there any good texts on an introductory level you guys can recommend that look at evolution as we know it in terms of other naturalistic philosophies? And are there any good introductory "philosophy of evolution" texts out there?

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    From Hollingdale's celebrated biography:"Darwin had shown that the higher animals and man could have evolved in just the way they did entirely by fortuitous variations in individuals. Natural selection was for Nietzsche essentially evolution freed from every metaphysical implication", see What Did Friedrich Nietzsche Take from Charles Darwin?
    – Conifold
    Feb 23, 2017 at 0:35

2 Answers 2


Darwin published On the Origin of Species in late 1859. In it, he provided a remarkably compelling case for the evolution of species through natural selection. Debates ensued on a number of fronts, of course, but the dust had settled by the time Nietzsche published Human, All Too Human in 1878.

"By the mid-1870s, evolutionism was triumphant."

-- P. J. Bowler, Evolution: The History of an Idea, as cited in Wikipedia

My point is that evolution by natural selection was largely settled science when Nietzsche began his "positivistic" period.

Two books related to Nietzsche and evolution:

Nietzsche's New Darwinism, by John Richardson, Oxford, 2004

Nietzsche, Biology and Metaphor, by Gregory Moore, Cambridge, 2002

Richardson's Nietzsche's System (Oxford, 1996) is also pertinent.

I've read many books on evolution, but I can't think of one off hand that focuses on the "philosophy of evolution" per se.

  • Thank you for the informative answer. Out of these books you've read can you recommend any that are introductory to the mechanisms present evolution? Any books that discuss the nature of how the system develops?
    – Bunny
    Sep 4, 2016 at 6:08
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    @BarinderSingh If you're looking for classics and great reads, I suggest The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker, both by Richard Dawkins. I would start with the former. Sep 4, 2016 at 6:17
  • Thanks for answer! Sorry it took so long for me to get back.
    – Bunny
    Sep 21, 2016 at 20:57
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    @BarinderSingh No worries. I'm sure you'll find The Selfish Gene well worth the read.. It's a classic. And they just came out with the 40-year anniversary edition. Sep 22, 2016 at 2:50
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    @Barinder Singh Or, why not read an actual scientists discussion of evolution, like the excellent goodreads.com/book/show/503051.The_Diversity_of_Life Dawkins is a very narrow thinker, and his views on evolution are far from definitive.
    – CriglCragl
    Feb 9, 2018 at 14:20

For your second question ("... introductory "philosophy of evolution" texts...) I would recommend John Dupré's Darwin's Legacy: What Evolution Means Today. It was a while since I read it, but it is a really informative and entertaining book that bridges philosophy, culture and evolution.

Publisher's abstract:

Charles Darwin transformed our understanding of the universe and our place in it with his development of the theory of evolution. One hundred and fifty years later, we are still puzzling over the implications. This book presents an introduction to evolution and what it means for our view of humanity, the natural world, and religion. The author explains the right and the wrong ways to understand evolution: in the latter category fall most of the claims of evolutionary psychology, of which the author gives a withering critique. He shows why the theory of evolution is one of the most important scientific ideas of all time, but makes clear that it cannot explain everything — contrary to widespread popular belief, it has very little to tell us about the details of human nature and human behaviour, such as language, culture, and sexuality.

Evolution: The First Four Billion Years by Ruse and Travis could also be a nice start, but I haven't read it myself (I've read a couple of other text by Ruse though).

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