A book on ethics and philosophy of values

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c) The creative subjectivism, as a symptom of absolute anthropocentrism

What is remarkable is that subjectivism (classical and creative) presents itself as a rejection of anthropocentrism. Thus Nietzsche claims to fight against human presumption.
For him, the supreme presumption of man precisely consists in the fact that he looks for the real and objective value of the world: The whole pose of “man against the world,” of man as a “world-negating” principle, of man as the measure of the value of things, as judge of the world who in the end places existence itself upon his scales and finds it wanting--the monstrous insipidity of this post has finally come home to us and we are sick of it. We laugh as soon as we encounter the juxtaposition of “man and world,” separated by the sublime presumption of the little world “and.” 1.

Likewise, he rejects morality, since to judge other men, as the moralist does, reveals an insane pride: Let us finally consider how naive it is altogether to say: "Man ought to be such and such!" Reality shows us an enchanting wealth of types, the abundance of a lavish play and change of forms--and some wretched loafer of a moralist comments: "No! Man ought to be different." He even knows what man should be like, this wretched bigot and prig: he paints himself on the wall and comments, "Ecce homo!" 2.
In short, for Nietzsche, judging (man or world), or proposing a model (though he seems to propose that of superman), is pretentious. We need to ask ourselves whether, by avoiding this kind of presumption, he does not fall into another one, much more important: anthropocentrism.

It is Freud who proposes, in a famous passage of Introduction to psychoanalysis, a theory as to anthropocentrism that I will take as a starting point.
He shows that man was humiliated by science, on three occasions. First, with Copernic, since heliocentrism teaches us that earth, and beyond that, human being, is not the center of the universe, around which all stars rotate. Secondly with Darwin, showing that man is nothing but the result of a long evolution, and not the perfect creation of a loving God. Finally, with the psychoanalysis (Freud not quoting his own name, out of modesty), revealing that man has not a rational intellect, but his unconscious self is affected by sexual impulses, and he cannot escape nor hide them: the ego of each one of us […] is not even master in his own house.

Freud bet that human presumption and anthropocentrism would decrease in the 20th century. He thought that there was a convergence between sciences, leading to such a result.

The Copernican theory only refuted the ‘spatial’ anthropocentrism, viz. the idea that man is at the center of the universe, as to his coordinates in space. When this idea was disproved, man believed he lost everything. But it quickly became clear to him that he could find new reasons to be proud of himself, and that, finally, he could be the center of the universe otherwise than spatially.

Indeed, in the doctrine of the creative subjectivism as described above, universe is deprived of value; man is the one who creates values and gives them, in his great goodness, to the universe; man is for the world a source of value. Human being is the axiological center – not the spatial one- of the universe. To use a metaphor, man is no longer at the center of the ‘painting’ (the main idea of the ancient anthropocentrism), but emerges from the painting, can contemplate it now, on the whole and in detail, notes its ‘ugliness’, and gives it beauty: this is the new anthropocentrism.


1. The Gay Science, V, §346
2. Twilight of the Idols, V, 6