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Nietzsche and the denial of moral truth Michael Lacewing [email protected] Nietzsche’s non-cognitivism • False belief that value can’t have its origins in this ‘lowly, deceptive world’ of desire. • Consulting our ‘intuitions’ to justify moral principles: these justifications are expressions of our morality, which has a history. • ‘most of a philosopher’s conscious thinking is secretly guided and channelled into particular tracks by his instincts. Behind all logic, too, and its apparent tyranny of movement there are value judgements, or to speak more clearly, physiological demands for the preservation of a particular kind of life.’ (§3) Nietzsche’s non-cognitivism • ‘all animals, including la bête philosophe [the philosophical animal], strive instinctively for an optimum combination of favourable conditions which allow them to expend all their energy and achieve their maximum feeling of power’ (On the Genealogy of Morals, III §7) • There are different ‘types’ of people, who are drawn to the different types of life that suit them best, e.g. master/slave • Different values (and interpretations) support different ways of life. • Philosophical views reflect particular interpretations of values. Philosophers’ values • Philosophy requires contemplation and ‘ascetism’. Values of transcendental world of mind – knowledge of truth and goodness – are defended as superior to values of action. • This carves out social space and reinforces selfdiscipline. • The ‘will to truth’ is an expression of a ‘will to power’. • Nothing wrong with this – but we should be aware that we are seeking to impose values, not discover them. The ‘will to power’ • What is the will to power? Is Nietzsche right about it? • ‘Life is the will to power’ – But not all forms of life involve a will – Nietzsche is projecting psychology onto biology (which he criticizes in Schopenhauer) – Some living things (human beings under the ascetic ideal) lack the will to power! The ‘will to power’ • The will to power is a characteristic of the will – the basic form of our drives/instincts. – The nature of a drive is to assert itself. – For success, it must compete with other drives. To achieve expression is for the drive to have power. – Power is not a separate aim of the drives. • The will to power is present in all willing. But it can be strong or weak. It is weak in the ascetic ideal. Objection • What force can combat or reduce the will to power? What is the origin of despair, decadence, etc.? • Are all motives nothing more than the will to power, e.g. love? • Suggestion: Nietzsche approves of those understandings and expressions – of love, of thought – that fit with and express the will to power, but is not reductivist. Nietzsche on physiology • Nietzsche doesn’t understand evolution; and doesn’t distinguish biological from social inheritance • Genetics does not determine psychology, so the will to power is not ‘in one’s blood’. • Therefore, values are not physiological demands for a way of life. Will to power and values • Say ‘yes’ to will to power = saying ‘yes’ to life, and take joy in exercising power • Naturalistic fallacy? What is natural is not necessarily what is good. • Reply: – without life, valuing is not possible. – Therefore, any values that deny or impoverish our living undermine their own foundations. – Therefore, the affirmation of life (will to power) is the basis of all values. Objection • Equivocation on ‘life’: – ‘life’ as the strong expression of the will to power. – ‘life’ as a matter of being alive. • It is the latter, not the former, that makes valuing possible. So we can ask why we should value the higher form.