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Ken Gemes and Simon May, eds., Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy

Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. v + 272 pp. ISBN 978-0-19-923156-0. $75 (cloth)

Reviewed by Mark Jenkins

Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy collects twelve papers by some of the heaviest hitters in Nietzsche studies today: Sebastian Gardner, Ken Gemes, Christopher Janaway, Robert Pippin, Simon May, Brian Leiter, John Richardson, Peter Poellner, Aaron Ridley, David Owen, Mathias Risse and, writing jointly, Maudmarie Clark and David Dudrick. A number of these papers began their lives at a 2006 Nietzsche on Self, Agency, and Autonomy conference at the University of London and there is sporadic, yet substantive engagement between them. About one paper, Leiter's previously e-published "Nietzsche's Theory of the Will,[1] we are told that "there is already a secondary literature" (125n22), and, as if on cue, Clark and Dudrick's "Nietzsche on the Will: An Analysis of BGE 19" adds to it. Simon May provides a serviceable introduction; the index is superb.

The difficulty of this book deserves emphasis at the outset. Although the secondary literature has lately been flooded with so-called guides and introductions intended to salve the wounds of Nietzsche novitiates fresh from their initial intellectual bludgeoning by, say (especially), GM, Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy is cover-to-cover professional-grade. Obvious reasons for the book's difficulty include the inherent difficulty of its subjects and the inherent difficulty of its source. Take the subject of freedom. As Pippin helpfully points out in the opening paragraph of "How to Overcome Oneself: Nietzsche on Freedom," the history of philosophy features numerous senses of what it means for an individual to be free: "self-knowledge, voluntarist 'spontaneity,' self-realization, autonomy, freedom from external constraint, morality, rational agency, authenticity, "non-alienated" identification with one's deeds, power to do what one desires" (69).[2] So just agreeing on how best to characterize the book's key subjects is hard enough, but now consider the source. Pippin further observes that "the problem of freedom, whether as a metaphysical issue or as a possible human aspiration in any of the above senses, does not seem to be one of Nietzsche?s central concerns? (68), and May echoes this observation, beginning his introduction as follows: "Why devote a volume to Nietzsche on freedom and autonomy? Nietzsche does not often speak of these topics" (xiii). What we have in this book, then, are a number of different interpretations of a number of different conceptions of freedom and autonomy attributed to Nietzsche on the basis of characteristically brief, dense and diffuse passages across both published and unpublished works, and this naturally makes for a difficult book.

Not making things any easier is a certain tension concerning the ambitions of these twelve papers, by which I mean a tension concerning their implicit relation to what I once called in this journal, in a review of a not dissimilar book,[3] "William's challenge," the gist of which I feel compelled to present once more. In his well-known "Nietzsche's Minimalist Moral Psychology," Bernard Williams claims that Nietzsche's writing

is booby-trapped not only against recovering theory from it, but, in many cases, against any systematic exegesis that assimilates it to theory. His writing achieves this partly by its choice of subject matter, partly by its manner and the attitude it expresses. These features stand against a mere exegesis of Nietzsche, or the incorporation of Nietzsche into the history of philosophy as a source of theories.[4]

Some contributors to Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy appear to take Williams' challenge seriously. Gemes, for example, devotes a lengthy footnote in "Nietzsche on Free Will, Autonomy, and the Sovereign Individual" to deflating expectations that one might, to use Williams' term, recover a theory of free will from Nietzsche's texts:

as for determinism, I do not think [Nietzsche] has any commitment there. More generally I think such metaphysical views were not within his philosophical provenanc—heoccasionally flirted and dabbled with such theses but did not give them sufficient reflection necessary for genuine commitment…Nietzsche is a Kulturkritiker and psychologist, perhaps even a moral philosopher, but a metaphysician he is not, nor did he care to be. (38n5)

Note that Gemes is not simply concerned here with whether Nietzsche should be seen as adopting or rejecting this or that particular metaphysical commitment (is he or is he not a determinist?), but also with whether Nietzsche should be seen as seriously engaged in metaphysical speculation at all. Janaway and Pippin seem to share this latter concern. Regarding the debate over free will, Janaway, in his "Autonomy, Affect, and the Self in Nietzsche's Project of Genealogy," suggests that "Nietzsche's interest is genealogical: he is concerned less with resolving the traditional metaphysical debate over the question whether one's actions could have turned out otherwise under identical causal conditions, and more with diagnosing the affective origins of metaphysical beliefs at both extremes of the debate? (63). Along nearly identical lines, Pippin writes, "Perhaps it would be better to say that [Nietzsche's] only interest in such [metaphysical] questions is in dissolving the problems, not resolving them? (69), adding further that "what does interest Nietzsche about [the will] and all other traditional philosophical positions [is] an etiology and often genealogy of the psychological types to whom one or another of these positions would appeal" (70). For at least these contributors, then, as for Williams, Nietzsche is not a source of theories.

Leiter could not disagree more: "Nietzsche not only anticipates and lends argumentative support to the new wave of non-libertarian incompatibilism…but his theory of the will also wins some support from recent work on the will in empirical psychology" (107). Leiter not only incorporates Nietzsche into the history of philosophy as the source of a particular theory of the will, he incorporates Nietzsche into the history of philosophy as the source of the correct theory of the will, a move Clark and Dudrick strenuously challenge, offering their own "normative" replacement for Leiter's "naturalistic" theory, as will be seen below. Richardson is another contributor unafraid to link Nietzsche with theory building, claiming in "Nietzsche's Freedoms" that "generally, [Nietzsche's] critique is of past or existing notions and versions of freedom, and his positive views are about what it can be. The former is his theory of freedom, meant naturalistically; the latter is a projective valuing of what freedom should (and can) be" (129).[5] For at least these contributors, then, as against Williams, Nietzsche is a source of theories.

Gardner, in a passage worth quoting at length from his "Nietzsche, the Self, and the Disunity of Philosophical Reason," does a wonderful job of adducing aspects of Nietzsche's philosophy relevant to Williams's challenge:

Again and again we find what appear to be puzzling mismatches between different components of Nietzsche's outlook—between Nietzsche's apparent radical scepticism, and his apparent naturalism; between his scepticism, and the objectivity claims (in the psychological if not the normative sphere) that he appears to need for his project of a revaluation of values; between his anti-essentialism and apparent repudiation of all metaphysics, and his apparent metaphysics of will to power (and perhaps also of eternal recurrence); and so on. So there is a pattern, and even if through patient analysis, reconstruction of his claims, discrimination between stages of Nietzsche?s development, and so on, one can adjust the parts so that a maximally coherent picture emerges, it seems that the overall centrifugal character of Nietzsche's philosophy—the way the bits that compose it, though tethered together, seem to want to fly apart in opposite direction—and the consequent fact that the unity of Nietzsche's philosophy is something that we have to labor to establish, in a way that it is not the case with any other modern philosopher: this is surely something that calls for explanation. (14)

It is this issue of philosophical unity that seems particularly pertinent to Williams' challenge. Is there or is there not sufficient unity in Nietzsche's texts to warrant the extraction of theory?

For Gardner's own part, when it comes to discussing the manifest disunity he finds among naturalistic and transcendentalist commitments in Nietzsche's writing (specifically on views of the self, but his analysis applies, I think, more broadly), he sees five possibilities: (1) Nietzsche is basically a transcendentalist, occasionally inconsistent; (2) Nietzsche is basically a naturalist, occasionally inconsistent; (3) Nietzsche "is simply divided between the two camps"; (4) Nietzsche is attempting to create some new third position fusing and reconciling elements of transcendentalism and naturalism; or (5) Nietzsche is in no sense inconsistent, but rather bent upon "diagnosing the disunity of philosophical reason, identifying it as marking our philosophical horizon, and displaying it for the benefit of our self-understanding" (22). Among the book?s authors, Gardner is not alone in plumping for (5), although most appear to endorse (2). But what of (3)" Would it really be so wrong to ascribe to Nietzsche Emerson's sentiment that ?a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds"? Yes, Gardner insists, because to do so 'imputes to Nietzsche a jarring and improbable lack of metaphilosophical self-consciousness" (22). Suffice it to say that if there was ever a time when precisely just such a lack of metaphilosophical self-consciousness seemed about the most refreshing and attractive feature of Nietzsche's writing, Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy suggests that time is long past.

Since the diversity and complexity of the book?s twelve papers preclude blow-by-blow summaries within the confines of this review, my strategy will be to attempt to provide an overall impression by focusing on two presumed loci classici of Nietzsche's discussions of freedom and autonomy, GM II 2 and BGE 19, and describing some of the contributors' approaches to interpreting them.[6] GM II 2, of course, introduces the notorious figure of "the sovereign individual," while BGE 19 appears to provide Nietzsche's considered account of, at the very least, the phenomenology of willing.

That the sovereign individual might prove germane to detecting Nietzsche's views on freedom and autonomy should be readily apparent from the following:

By way of contrast, let us place ourselves at the other end of this enormous process, where the tree finally bears its fruit, where society and the morality of custom finally reveal the end to which they were merely a means: there we find as the ripest fruit on the tree the sovereign individual, the individual who resembles no one but himself, who has once again broken away from the morality of custom, the autonomous supramoral individual (since "autonomous" and "moral" are mutually exclusive—in short, the man with his own independent, enduring will, the man who is entitled to make promises. And in him we find […] a special consciousness or power and freedom, a feeling of the ultimate completion of man. This liberated man, who is really entitled to make promises, this master of free will, this sovereign—how should he not be aware of his superiority over everything which cannot promise and vouch for itself? (GM II:2)[7]

Certainly on a quick reading one might think the sovereign individual the very incarnation of freedom and autonomy, such that to demonstrate mastery over what makes this person tick would be to demonstrate mastery over nothing less than the key topics of the book. Unfortunately, such mastery proves elusive, or at least competing claims to mastery tend to throw doubt on them all, for when it comes to interpreting GM II:2 controversy stalks most every line.

Just to take one controversial set of issues, by no means settled here, as an example, where should we locate the sovereign individual on the dimensions of reality and time? Should Nietzsche be understood as describing an individual that has actually lived in the past, actually lives in the present, or actually will (or could) live in the future? In other words, is the sovereign individual an historical fact, whether laudable or regrettable, an ideal to strive for or something else entirely? Unfortunately, as Janaway notes, "The text leaves us uncertain as to who this sovereign individual is, was, or might be" (60). However, as Christa Davis Acampora has pointed out in a must-read examination of these issues, "There is nearly unanimous agreement…that the 'sovereign' is Nietzsche's ideal,"[8] and this near unanimity would appear to extend to Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy. Although Leiter has elsewhere claimed that the sovereign individual "represents not an ideal, but a parody of the contemporary bougeois who thinks he has achieved something ‘unique’—something individual—“just because he is steady enough to make a promise and honor it,”[9] in this volume Gemes, Janaway, Ridley, Owen and Richardson, all of whom offer at least some interpretation of GM II:2, take the sovereign individual to embody Nietzschean ideals of agency and selfhood.

Of these interpretations, Gemes' may well demonstrate the greatest ingenuity, at least when it comes to accounting for an obviously puzzling feature of the sovereign individual: his possession of "free will." For whether it is GM's own deluded lambs, wishfully believing that "the strong may freely choose to be weak" (GM I:13) or BGE's many cautions against "the hundred-times-refuted theory of a 'free will'" (BGE 18), Nietzsche regularly ridicules the very notion of free will he apparently ascribes to his sovereign individual. Gemes aims to solve (or perhaps, with Pippin, dissolve) this puzzle in fine philosophical fashion by making a distinction, in this case between two different approaches to free will, one of which he sees Nietzsche rejecting, the other he sees reflected in the sovereign individual. Gemes calls these two approaches "deserts free will" and "agency free will," respectively. Deserts free will is, unsurprisingly, "intrinsically tied to the question of desert; of who does and does not merit punishment and reward" (33). Classic questions of determinism and responsibility are closely tied to deserts free will, since "Where deserts free will is at issue the question of whether having done such and such one could have done otherwise is typically seen as being crucial" (33). Agency free will, by contrast, is all about "what constitutes an action as opposed to a mere doing" (33).

Here, then, is Gemes' thesis:

[T]he two approaches need not merge. One might, for example, deny that there is free will in the sense traditionally seen as needed for grounding questions of deserts while at the same time claiming that there is free will in the sense traditionally seen as needed for grounding the notion [sic] of agency and autonomy. It is the principle burden of this essay to argue that this is exactly Nietzsche's position; Nietzsche rejects deserts free will and affirms agency free will. Nietzsche wants to reject the notion that in doing such and such one might have done otherwise, yet he wants to affirm that genuine agency is possible, if only for a select few. (33-34)

As Gemes sees it, "The type of freedom Nietzsche is invoking [in GM II:2] does not involve freedom from the causal order, nor is it bound to questions of deserts. Plainly it is tied to the question of what it means to have genuine agency? (37). So, what does it mean to have genuine agency" It means, Gemes thinks, being a genuine individual or, better, a genuine self; it means, in fact, being none other than a sovereign individual:

In place of empiricist or rationalist accounts of the self, Nietzsche offers, what might be called, a naturalist-aestheticist account: To have a genuine self is to have an enduring coordinated hierarchy of drives. Most humans fail to have such a hierarchy; hence they are not sovereign individuals. Rather they are a jumble of drives with no coherent order. Hence they are not genuine individuals or, we might say, selves. (46)

In sum, "an act is free when it is an expression of the character from which it originated," where character is "basically glossed in terms of a coherent, ordered, hierarchy of drives" (48-49). This distinction of Gemes between deserts and agency free is acknowledged in a half-dozen other papers, generally in approving tones (see, for example, Janaway at 60n21, Pippin at 76n21 and Owen at 205), tying it (for those who keep track of such things) with Leiter's Nietzsche on Morality [10] as the most frequently cited source in the collection.[11] It certainly merits a broader audience.

The editors have placed Ridley's "Nietzsche's Intentions: What the Sovereign Individual Promises? and Owen's "Autonomy, Self-Respect, and Self-Love: Nietzsche on Ethical Agency" back to back, and anyone reading consecutively may be forgiven for taking the two to merge into one largely consistent and consistently interesting discussion of the sovereign individual. Ridley keeps his eye firmly fixed on the following question: what's so great about being entitled to make promises" By contrast, Owen's attention wanders considerably, as he takes himself to show how Nietzsche's account of autonomy (as read off the sovereign individual) grounds an understanding of self-respect; how, for Nietzsche, self-love should be seen as a disposition to value self-respect; and, ultimately, how Nietzsche's conception of self-love dissolves the historical tension between the emphasis in Aristotle's ethics on (a form of) self-love and the emphasis in Kant's ethics on self-respect. What seems to me most valuable in both papers relates, in fact, to Kant: in Ridley's paper a compelling discussion of the claim that Nietzsche deliberately meant his description of the sovereign individual as simultaneously autonomous and supramoral to snub Kant's equation of autonomy with morality; in Owen's paper a provocative discussion of the claim that, notwithstanding Nietzsche's hostility to Kantian morality, he shares with "the great Chinese of Königsberg" the view that acting autonomously is inextricably linked with respect for self.

Richardson believes that "even the casual reader takes Nietzsche as promoting and exemplifying a striking new freedom, even though there are few explicit announcements, and no extended developments of the point" (128). And where does he find such promoting and exemplifying best displayed? In GM II:2, of course, where he takes the sovereign individual to model "a new conception of freedom, which values it as a privileged kind of power, achieving a new kind of self, and assuming a new kind of responsibility" (129). Richardson's paper—lengthy, challenging, nuanced and impressive—includes a reconstruction of Nietzsche's views into a historical progression of conceptions of freedom, culminating in a "distinctively Nietzschean freedom" in terms of "self-genealogy" that "allow[s] agency to at last understand itself—and to redesign itself accordingly—giv[ing] us a new way to become a self, a self that feels a new power, and assumes a new responsibility" (146).[12] Once more the sovereign individual constitutes an ideal.

Two aspects of Richardson's paper strike me as particularly worthy of note. The first involves a valuable reminder to track not only Nietzsche's views concerning freedom per se, but also his corresponding treatment of our self-conceptions (accurate or not) as free beings: "Nietzsche is as much interested in this idea—and aim and value—of freedom as he is in freedom itself" (130); that is, "Nietzsche tells an historical story about freedom and its concept" (130, emphasis added). The second noteworthy aspect involves the second of two principal objectives Richardson sees behind Nietzsche?s historical story of freedom, the first being "to 'naturalize' freedom—to show it as a feature of a certain kind of organism, one variety of 'life,'"[13]; the second being to "de-moralize" freedom, "tak[ing] it out of the service of moral ends, and adapt[ing] it to serve the new end—which he thinks is life's old end—of power" (131). Ascribing this second objective to Nietzsche allows Richardson to niftily explain why the sovereign individual may puzzlingly appear to readers to be both extant, the end of the line, and a possibility somewhere down the line:

[GM II:2] presents this 'supra-ethical' individual as the result of a long social process now complete, whereas I claim Nietzsche thinks he himself only now shows the way to this true independence. My suggestion for resolving this dilemma: that Nietzsche here depicts a moral form of agency, which takes its own allegiance to abstract moral principles as a freedom from 'the ethic of custom,' …But it is still not free from those principles. (143n34)

Certainly GM everywhere valorizes de-moralization and Richardson seems to me here to present a plausible way of reading the sovereign individual as simultaneously achievement and way station.

Why the editors have seen fit to insert five papers between Leiter's and Clark and Dudrick’s, when the latter’s mission is largely to demolish the former, is a mystery. Clark and Dudrick find warrant for such demolition in what they take to be Leiter’s misreading of BGE 19, which they call Nietzsche's “single most important passage on the will” (247), although, somewhat oddly, they concede that Leiter’s misreading, which they term the "naturalistic interpretation,” is understandable, inasmuch as “it is the way in which Nietzsche’s writing sets us up to read it” (248). They continue:

But we do not think [the naturalistic interpretation] makes the best sense of this passage. BGE 19 thus exemplifies a pattern we find throughout BGE: Nietzsche writes in a way that almost inevitably seduces readers into a naturalistic interpretation of his claims, but he also embeds certain features in the passage that cannot be made good sense of in naturalistic terms. The point, we claim, is to lead careful readers to a philosophically more sophisticated interpretation of Nietzsche’s claims in normative rather than purely naturalistic-strictly causal-terms. (248)

So Leiter simply has not read closely enough to see that "Nietzsche has greater sympathy with traditional metaphysical notions than has been recognized. In particular BGE 19 aims to rehabilitate the traditional notion of the will in the face of the tendency of naturalism to simply dismiss it" (248).

Leiter's paper certainly does aim at just such a dismissal on naturalistic grounds: "the experience of willing which precedes an action does not track an actual causal relationship: the experience of willing is epiphenomenal" (108). Indeed, polishing his x-phi cred, Leiter augments his philosophical analysis with Daniel Wegner's work,[14] concluding that, "about a century after Nietzsche, empirical psychologists have adduced evidence supporting his theory that the phenomenology of willing misleads us as to the actual causal genesis of action" (124). But then what is the actual causal genesis of action if not the will? Readers familiar with Nietzsche on Morality, arguably the most important book on Nietzsche's philosophy in the past twenty years, will not be surprised at Leiter's answer: "Type-facts—facts about the unconscious psychology and the psychology of agents—explain our actions (122). But this is to get well ahead of anyone's actual interpretation of BGE 19.

Here is Kaufmann's translation of certain key passages:

[J]ust as sensations […] are to be recognized as ingredients of the will, so, secondly, should thinking also: in every act of the will there is a ruling thought—let us not imagine it possible to sever this thought from the "willing," as if any will would then remain over!

Third, the will is not only a complex of sensation and thinking, but it is above all an affect, and specifically the affect of the command. That which is termed "freedom of the will" is essentially the act of superiority in relation to him who must obey: “I am free, 'he' must obey”—this consciousness is inherent in every will […] A man who wills commands something within himself that renders obedience, or that he believes renders obedience.

[…] Since in the great majority of cases there has been an exercise of the will only when the effect of the command—that is, obedience; that is, the action—was to be expected, the appearance has translated itself into the feeling, as if there was a necessity of effect. In short, he who wills believes with a fair amount of certainty that will and action are somehow one; he ascribes the success, the carrying out of the willing, to the will itself, and thereby enjoys an increase in the sensation of power which accompanies all success.

"Freedom of the will"—that is the expression for the complex state of delight of the person exercising volition, who commands and at the same time identifies himself with the executor of the order—who, as such, enjoys also the triumph over obstacles, but thinks within himself that it was really his will itself that overcame them. (BGE 19)[15]

Leiter takes these passages to present Nietzsche's phenomenology of willing, and he takes Nietzsche's phenomenology of willing to be both true to life (see 111n8) and to support Nietzsche's theory of the will, whose "crucial idea" is that "the phenomenology of willing, no matter how vivid, does not in fact mirror or reflect or…track an actual causal relationship…That is, the feeling of superiority that attaches to the 'commandeering thought' with which we identify is not, in fact, identical with anything that actually stands in a causal relationship with the resultant action" (111), hence Nietzsche's incompatibilism and epiphenomenalism.

Clark and Dudrick see Leiter making (at least) two significant errors of interpretation. The first error takes Nietzsche's phenomenological paradigm case as one of "deliberate decision." Leiter does, in fact, "flesh out" BGE 19 with a case of decision, namely, a case in which, sitting at his computer, he decides to go downstairs to check on his children. The problem with this example, say Clark and Dudrick, is that it fails to plausibly reflect the affect of command Nietzsche sees as essential to the phenomenology of willing; that is, it fails to produce what they call the "drama of willing," featuring the actors "I" and "he," as they appear in the production "I am free, 'he' must obey." Personally, I find Leiter's example fairly plausible. Sitting here now at my computer, I, too, decide to get up to check on something and, as I begin to rise, so too, it seems, does the curtain on the drama of willing, as I not only think the "ruling thought," but experience "the affect of the command." But Clark and Dudrick belittle such testimony, insisting that the phenomenology of willing on display in BGE 12 is much better seen as applying to "actions performed in opposition to temptation" (251):

[Nietzsche's] paradigm act of will takes place in a situation of psychic conflict and struggle in which a person is faced with a choice between alternatives, one of which she is drawn to and may prefer at the moment although it flies in the face of her values, the other of which is required by her values but is not what she wants to do. We propose that overcoming temptation to act in accord with one's values—the exercise of “willpower”—is the type of case for which Nietzsche offers a phenomenology in BGE 19. (251)

Again, not having found Leiter╒s reading of BGE 19 as an account of what one experiences in everyday decision making particularly implausible, and finding no textual imperative to read Nietzsche as exclusively concerned with willpower, I remain circumspect concerning Clark and Dudrick's account.

The second error attributed to Leiter is that of taking all of BGE 12 as phenomenology, whereas Clark and Dudrick take the section to switch from "the macro level, the level of the person and conscious experience, to the micro-level, the level of the real processes that constitute willing, the processes of which we are aware, whether we know it or not, when we experience willing" (253). This switch occurs, they think, when Nietzsche introduces talk of essence: "That which is termed "freedom of the will" is essentially the act of superiority in relation to him who must obey." Establishing a shift in Nietzsche's concerns from phenomenology to descriptive metaphysics allows Clark and Dudrick to accomplish two things. First, it allows them to claim that the general implausibility of the drama of willing that impugns Leiter╒s account does not touch theirs, for although a consciousness of "superiority in relation to him who must obey" must be "inherent in every will," it need not be actually experienced as such. Second, it allows them to introduce their own picture of micro-level doings in terms of the politics of drives as Nietzsche's true account of willing: "when a person wills, … at the drive-level one set of drives is presenting itself as superior to the drives whose activity constitutes, on the person-level, the temptation of the person away from her values or commitments" (253); thus 'I am free, "he" must obey,' is not a description of what is present in consciousness, but an interpretation of it—that is, an account of what is really going on when one experiences willing, an account of the reality that that experience reflects" (254). Leiter, then, in missing Nietzsche's shift from the person-level to the drive-level, from phenomenology to the reality underlying it, commits a second serious error, and one that, I must again confess, I seem to have fallen into myself. Clark and Dudrick have much else to say, of course, by way of justifying their claim that Nietzsche is ultimately concerned with rehabilitating willing, now seen as "commanding of the normatively high-ranked drives" (263); but I have hopefully said enough to indicate the terms of this most interesting debate between them and Leiter, as well as the centrality of BGE 19 to that debate.

Gardner's paper, the book's first, begins with an epigraph from Baudelaire: "Nous avons psychologisé comme les fous, qui augmentent leur folie en s'efforìant de la comprendre," or "We have psychologized like the insane, who increase their madness in striving to understand it." The question is, who is this "we"? Certainly it seems to apply figuratively to Nietzsche himself, whose decade of psychosis might be seen as the price paid for three decades of philosophical neurosis, his obsessive picking at conceptual scabs. But might this "we" apply more generally, to the authors assembled here, for example, or to the wider group of contemporary Nietzsche scholars, or even to all who strive to understand the insanity that is la condition humaine? Taking only this first group, is there any chance that the papers in this collection, especially those that so easily assimilate Nietzsche's analyses to contemporary philosophical debates, succeed only in exacerbating the very madness responsible for their genesis? As one reads Nietzsche on Autonomy and Free Will, this possibility is worth considering.


University of Washington, Tacoma


  1. Philosophers' Imprint 7 (2007), pp. 1-15.
  2. Confirming this fractured nature, May's introduction provides brief synopses of the papers under the following headings: self-overcoming (Pippin, Ridley), hierarchies of drives (Clark and Dudrick), responsibility (Gemes, Poellner, Leiter), affirming the past (Richardson, May, Risse), self-love (Owen) and the Nietzschean "self" (Janaway, Gardner).
  3. "Review of Brian Leiter and Neil Sinhababu, eds., Nietzsche and Morality," Journal of Nietzsche Studies 35-36 (2008), pp. 155-60.
  4. Bernard Williams, "Nietzsche's Minimalist Moral Psychology," in Making Sense of Humanity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), p. 66.
  5. Confirming the ease with which certain interpreters today take Nietzsche to be engaged in seamless conversation with contemporary philosophy is this, to me, truly remarkable footnote from Richardson: "Here Nietzsche takes Dennett's view (e.g. 1992) of the self as fictional" (142n32). Cf. note 13 below.
  6. That I end up saying nothing about May's "Nihilism and the Free Self," Poellner's "Nietzschean Freedom" and Risse's "The Eternal Recurrence: A Freudian Look at What Nietzsche Took to Be His Greatest Insight" reflects this strategy, not their worth.
  7. This is Douglas Smith's translation from On the Genealogy of Morals (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996).
  8. Christa Davis Acampora, "On Sovereignty and Overhumanity: Why It Matters How We Read Nietzsche's Genealogy II:2," in Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morals: Critical Essays, ed. Christa Davis Acampora (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2006), p. 147. It is just this "near unanimity" that Acampora aims to undermine.
  9. Brian Leiter, "Review of Christopher Janaway's Beyond Selflessness: Reading Nietzsche's Genealogy," Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (6/3/08), .
  10. Brian Leiter, Nietzsche on Morality (London: Routledge, 2002).
  11. Leiter, it is true, dismisses out of hand Gemes's claim that Nietzsche largely ignores questions of moral responsibility, and the more or less direct exchange between he (119n16) and Gemes (39n8) repays study.
  12. I mentioned at the outset that the contributors to Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy reflect the existing firmament of Nietzsche scholars. Judging from footnotes, however, there may be at least one new star on the horizon, as both Richardson and Leiter acknowledge what appears to be the significant influence of Paul Katsafanas' work (in Practical Reason and the Structure of Reflective Agency, Harvard Ph.D. dissertation (2008) and "Nietzsche's Theory of Mind: Consciousness and Conceptualization," European Journal of Philosophy 13 (2005): 1-31, respectively) on their papers. Relevant here is Richardson's reference to Katsafanas' resistance to assimilating freedom to selfhood (129n6).
  13. Here is another point at which Richardson appends a footnote that, to this reader, smacks of anachronism: "In this, his account is comparable to Dennett's well-known one in Freedom Evolves" (129n8). Cf. note 5 above.
  14. See his The Illusion of Conscious Will (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002).
  15. Beyond Good and Evil, in Basic Writings of Nietzsche, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Modern Library, 1967).