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JNS 44:2 Abstracts

Christa Davis Acampora, "Nietzsche, Agency, and Responsibility"

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 claim, quoting 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 to a revised conception of responsibility.

 

R. Lanier Anderson, "Love and the Moral Psychology of the Hegelian Nietzsche: Comments on Robert Pippin’s, 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 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,
and First Philosoph
y. 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 suggest a psychological model of motivated agency, consistent 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.

 

Anthony K. Jensen, “Meta-Historical Transitions from Philology to Genealogy”

Because Nietzsche rejects a temporally static ontology, his statements about values, customs, and beliefs typically involve an historical reconstruction of some kind. Given that his professional academic training was in philology, it is tempting to see a continuity between his early philological method and his later historiographical techniques, in particular, his genealogy. Two recent studies, by James I. Porter and Christian Benne respectively, have argued that philology and genealogy share a consistent historiographical framework in their attempt to expose and undermine various textual traditions. I argue here that, on the contrary, there is an important shift in Nietzsche’s meta-historical presuppositions between his earlier and later work. Whereas his early, published philology is best characterized as a representational realism, the presentation of the genealogy should be considered representational anti-realism.

 

Henrik Rydenfelt, “Valuation and the Will to Power: Nietzsche’s Ethics with Ontology”

There is a strong case for a reading of Nietzsche as a meta-ethical anti-realist (or nihilist) who nevertheless offers a “positive” (normative) ethical vision. But how can one incorporate these seemingly contradictory views in a coherent philosophical position? In this paper, I sketch and defend an interpretation of Nietzsche’s ethical views that aims to incorporate both sides of his ethical outlook. While the most plausible grounds for Nietzsche’s positive ethical stances are derived from his ontology of will to power, there are both textual and philosophical problems that result from such a view. In order to overcome such difficulties, according to the interpretation offered here, Nietzsche attributes no intrinsic value to (the achievement of) power, but claims instrumental value to what increases power.

 

Paul Franks, “Desdemona’s Life: Nihilism, Perfectionism, HIstoricism

Nietzsche’s conception of nihilism is more closely related to Jacobi’s than has been suspected.  Both concern the precondition of agency at which what Cavell calls perfectionism is directed: the formation of an individual subject capable of judgment and agency.  Nihilism is the annihilation of individuality, the undoing of its formation, hence the lapse of the human, not into the non-human, but into the inhuman. Jacobi thinks that the threat of nihilism arises from the modern realization of the ancient aspiration to a refutation of scepticism.  He finds this realization in mathematical natural science and in post-Kantian idealism, and he hopes that history will provide its antidote, an ambition articulated by Humboldt.  Nietzsche, however, educated in the classical philology that was Humboldt’s model, sees that historicism is also a source of nihilism.  Like Desdemona and Jacobi, his response is a mode of writing—genealogy—whose measure of success is not its truth but its capacity to provoke its intended reader into formation.

 

Stephen Mulhall, “Orchestral Metaphysics: The Birth of Tragedy Between Drama, Opera and Philosophy”

This paper argues that Nietzsche’s Birth Of Tragedy is an attempt to forge a mode of discourse that draws equally upon the resources of tragic drama, opera and philosophy, and thereby attempts to disclose their internal relatedness, in order both to exemplify and to enable the attainment of a non-elitist species of perfectionism – one which has both an individual and a cultural dimension (with the latter finding expression in a willingness to question and reconfigure existing boundaries between the moral, the political and the aesthetic domains, amongst others). The paper thereby contributes to an interpretative tradition initiated in recent work by James Conant and Stanley Cavell, by extending its range of textual application.

 

Richard Schacht, ‘Nietzsche and Lamarckism’

Nietzsche considered it to be important for philosophers to be scientifically informed in their philosophical thinking.I suggest that this conviction led him to embrace a biological idea that seemed at the time to be scientifically sound but subsequently turned out not to be. (He then compounded the problem by making much of what he took to be its social and political implications.) I refer to the now-discredited (Lamarckian) idea that it is possible for characteristics acquired by individual creatures of some type (though intensive application, however prompted) to be biologically transmitted in some degree to their progeny. I make my case for this reading of him by drawing attention to a variety of texts that would seem to commit him to this idea, and consider how we might best deal with and even benefit interpretively from recognizing this to have been an instance of his having gone astray.

 

Maudemarie Clark, “Nietzsche Was No Lamarckian”

It is fast becoming the standard view that Nietzsche accepted Lamarck’s now-discredited account of the inheritance of acquired characteristics. In this essay, I examine passages that are cited by Richard Schacht as evidence of Nietzsche’s Lamarckianism, including GS 99, BGE 262, BGE 264, and TI ‘Improvers’ 2-5, and I argue that they do not provide such evidence. I am mainly concerned to show that these passages provide insufficient evidence that Nietzsche embraced “Lamarck’s idea,” but I also offer some support for a stronger view, a denial that he did so.

 

Paul Katsafanas, “Philosophical Psychology as a Basis for Ethics”

Nietzsche claims that “psychology is once again the path to the fundamental problems” (BGE 23). What are these “fundamental problems”? I provide a partial answer by focusing upon the way in which psychology informs Nietzsche’s account of value. I argue that Nietzsche’s ethical theory is based upon the idea that power has a privileged normative status: power is the one value in terms of which all others values are to be assessed. Yet how could power have this privileged status, given that Nietzsche denies that there are any objective facts about what is valuable? Nietzsche’s account of psychology provides the answer: he grounds power’s privileged status in facts about the nature of human motivation. In particular, Nietzsche’s account of drives entails that human beings are ineluctably committed to valuing power. So Nietzsche’s ethical theory follows from his philosophical psychology.

 

Mark Migotti, TBD

In this paper, I show how to integrate Nietzsche’s apparently conflicting views on the relationship of philosophers to the ascetic ideal of the ascetic priest. In sections 7 and 8 of GM III, Nietzsche makes philosophers seem fundamentally different from priests; but in sections 9 and 10, he argues that philosophers early on succumb to the ascetic ideal of the priest. The key to understanding how these two aspects of GM III fit together lies in Nietzsche’s ideas about the origins of contemplative life. Priests and their ascetic ideal come first; philosophers come later. Though the ambitions of philosophers are radically unlike those of priests, the two types of contemplative nature share a common predicament in their earliest days, against the background of which it becomes understandable how philosophers as a class could have become more mixed up in the ascetic ideal than is good for them.

 

Patrick Forber, “Biological Inheritance and Cultural Evolution in Nietzsche’s Genealogy”

Nietzsche’s investigation into the origins of morality bears some striking similarities to contemporary investigations into human evolution. Here I will investigate these similarities, using a comparison between Nietzsche’s GM and Gould and Lewontin’s influential “Spandrels” paper as a departure point. I argue that Nietzsche defends a proto-evolutionary psychology about morality, where the inheritance of enduring biological drives conflicts with our culturally evolved moral system. While Nietzsche’s claims about the evolution of morality fit well within a Darwinian framework of natural selection, his claims about our underlying biology do not. Those claims cohere better with the non-Darwinian views found in 19th century German biology and embryology.

 

Dirk R. Johnson, “One Hundred Twenty Two Years Later: Reassessing the Nietzsche-Darwin Relationship”

Nietzsche’s perspective on Darwin and Darwinism has received increased scrutiny in recent years, a reflection of the fact that scholars have sensed that the Nietzsche-Darwin connection has not been adequately assessed and that their relationship might be more significant than has been previously assumed. Renewed interest in Nietzsche’s alleged naturalism has also focused attention on that scientific paradigm, which best reflects the triumph of the naturalist perspective in the modern era, namely Darwinism. But while numerous studies have pointed to the overlap and shared concerns of both thinkers, no one has systematically interpreted Nietzsche’s reception of Darwin as a fundamental antagonism, one which had emerged from an initial sympathy to the Darwinian approach in the early years and ended in a foundational critique. By examining Nietzsche in this way, one can appreciate Nietzsche’s critique of Darwinism as one significant component of his larger assault on contemporary culture and decadence, which became his central concern in his final works.

 

Catherine Wilson, “Darwin and Nietzsche: Selection, Evolution, and Morality”

This paper discusses Nietzsche’s interpretation of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection and the basis for his rejection of the major elements of Darwin’s overall scheme on observational grounds. Nietzsche’s further opposition to the attempt of Darwin and many of his followers to reconcile the “struggle for existence” with Christian ethics is the subject of the second half of the essay.