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JNS 44:1 Abstracts

Part I: Nietzsche and the Passions

Keith Ansell-Pearson and Michael Ure, Introduction


Aurelia Armstrong, “The Passions, Power, and Practical Philosophy: Spinoza and Nietzsche contra the Stoics”

This article reviews the influence of Stoic thought on the development of Spinoza’s and Nietzsche’s ethics and suggests that, although both philosophers follow the Stoics in conceiving of ethics as a therapeutic enterprise which aims at human freedom and flourishing, they part company with Stoicism in refusing to identify flourishing with freedom from the passions. In making this claim, I take issue with the standard view of Spinoza’s ethics, according to which the passions figure exclusively as a source of unhappiness and bondage from which we must be liberated. I argue that, in fact, Spinoza anticipates Nietzsche, and breaks with the Stoics, in offering a more positive assessment of the role of passion in a flourishing life. The reading pursued here takes Spinoza’s divergence from the Stoic account of the passions as a consequence of his insistence on the immanence of human being in nature. I outline Spinoza’s and Nietzsche’s conception of immanence and suggest that it entails a common understanding of our nature as dynamic power or desire, which is simultaneously expressed as a capacity to act and be acted upon, to affect and to be affected. The recognition of the complex relationship between passive and active power requires a revaluation of our vulnerability and openness to what can affect us, and leads each philosopher to a consideration of the ways in which the passions might be made to support our striving to increase our power and to realize an essentially limited freedom and precarious flourishing.


Michael Ure, “Nietzsche’s Schadenfreude

Recent scholarship shows that in the late 1870s and early 1880s Nietzsche attempted to make contemporary naturalism, especially various strands of evolutionary biology, the basis of a new method of historical inquiry and a new style of moral criticism and experimentation. This scholarship demonstrates that nineteenth century evolutionary thought was crucial to Nietzsche’s formulation of his moral and political project. In this paper I claim that Nietzsche did not simply draw on and apply contemporary naturalistic theories. Rather I argue that he attempted to refract the ancient model of philosophy and its spiritual exercises through the new evolutionary paradigm. In particular, this paper argues that Nietzsche tried to hinge one particular ancient spiritual exercise—the "view from above"—to the new evolutionary naturalisms. Nietzsche, I suggest, recast this spiritual exercise in terms of Darwinian evolution. Nietzsche’s anchoring of the classical model of philosophy in contemporary naturalisms underpins and explains his claims that joy is the key philosophical emotion. By ascending to the Darwinian view from above, as we might call it, Nietzsche suggests that the ‘joyful’ scientist experiences Schadenfreude—he can delight in rather than laments human misfortune and suffering. Nietzsche’s fröhliche Wissenschaft derives from and expresses Schadenfreude. I argue that despite his attempt to found his philosophy on the new strands of Darwinian naturalism Nietzsche’s own ethical orientation fatally compromises his naturalism.


Joanne Faulkner, “Disgust, Purity, and a Longing for Companionship: Dialectics of affect in Nietzsche’s imagined community”

Nietzsche’s relationship to his contemporaries, as expressed in his writings, was often figured by corporeal imagery evocative of disgust. For instance, in On the Genealogy of Morality Nietzsche declared himself (and a hypothetical “we”) to suffer from mankind—which he then proceeds to describe as “maggot”—or worm-like. Nietzsche’s philosophical project can be interpreted as a visceral protest against, and attempt to overcome ("digest"), humanity. This paper argues that Nietzsche attempted through his writings to create a future community of like-constituted companions in his readers through a transmission of affect and education in taste. This would-be "community" is premised on a curious affective dialectic that seeks to transform disgust for humanity into a pure movement of self-creation. The socio-political effects of this dialectic of disgust will be examined alongside Nietzsche's co-option of images of purity, in order to evaluate his response to modern nihilism.


Joseph D. Kuzma, “Nietzsche, Tristan, and the Rehabilitation of Erotic Distance”

Though Nietzsche’s lifelong fascination with Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde is well-documented, its impact upon the developmental trajectory of his philosophy, and in particular, his thinking on the nature of eroticism, remains far from obvious. This article examines the previously unheralded influence of Wagner’s opera upon Nietzsche’s various attempts, throughout the 1880s, at coming to forge an alternative conception of erotic desire; a conception no longer subordinated unto the pursuit for fusional reconciliation; but rather, linked to the eternal return and the unconditional affirmation of distance itself.


Part II: Proceedings from the North American Nietzsche Society

Christa Davis Acampora, "Nietzsche, Agency, and Responsibility: 'Das Thun ist Alles'”

This article examines Robert Pippin’s most recent contributions to debates about Nietzsche’s views about agency and freedom in his Nietzsche, Psychology, and First Philosophy. In particular, I focus on his elaboration of Nietzsche’s citation of Goethe in On the Genealogy of Morality that “das Thun ist Alles”—the deed is everything. I highlight what I consider to be particularly promising features of Pippin’s expressivist reading of Nietzsche, suggest ways it might be developed even further, and indicate how such views about agency are relevant to Nietzsche’s anticipation of overcoming morality—particularly the sort that links value with intention—and a revised conception of responsibility.


Lanier Anderson, "Love and the Moral Psychology of the Hegelian Nietzsche: Comments on Robert Pippin, Nietzsche, Psychology, and First Philosophy"

Pippin treats Nietzsche’s moral psychology as the key to his philosophy. Three aspects of the psychology are  meant to bear this weight: (1) a critical and deflationary, but irreducibly hermeneutic, conception of the nature of moral psychology itself; (2) a thesis that eros is central to Nietzsche’s theory of valuing; and (3) an expressivist theory of action, which replaces the causal role of intention with an interpretive notion of expression in explaining action.  Pippin’s handling of all three, but especially the third, place Nietzsche’s philosophy in a Hegelian light, as does his view that genuine action arises from a deep-going self-dissatisfaction. I raise doubts about whether the expressivist theory of action can be adequate to all actions (either for Nietzsche, or in philosophical truth) and suggest that the centrality of self-dissatisfaction for Pippin stands in tension with Nietzsche’s own construal of the demand for affirmation of life.


Robert Pippin, "Doer and Deed: Responses to Acampora and Anderson"

Under the press of questions and comments by Christa Davis Acampora and R. Lanier Anderson, I attempt here to clarify the understanding of human agency that I attribute to Nietzsche in my book, Nietzsche, Psychology, First Philosophy. A central issue concerns what Nietzsche means in Genealogy I:13, in his famous “lightning-flash” metaphor. I argue that the task posed to us by this passage is to understand it in way that is consistent with Nietzsche’s genealogies and critiques, all of which involve psychological explanations, and so a psychological model of motivated agency, with what appears to be GM I:13’s denial of the basic presupposition of the notion of agency: a distinction between the doer, as instigator of the bodily movement, and the deed. Against objections, I defend the claim that Nietzsche proposes an “expressivist” account that preserves the notion of agency.