A Few Thoughts On The Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy Entry: Nietzsche’s Moral And Political Philosophy

Full entry here.

Nietzsche’s critique of morality (referred to here as MPS) is as follows:

“…Nietzsche also does not confine his criticisms of morality to some one religiously, philosophically, socially or historically circumscribed example. Thus, it will not suffice to say that he simply attacks Christian or Kantian or European or utilitarian morality — though he certainly at times attacks all of these.”

This is one of the best attempts I’ve seen at systematizing the thinking of a man who willfully refused systems.

Christian morality is defunct because God is dead, and any attempt to ground morality in the thinking and doctrines of the church (herd morality, full of re-sentiment) won’t suffice.  Kantian and utilitarian morality have sprung out of the attempt to make the moral law sufficiently abstract (largely from Kant’s elaborate metaphysical framework designed to put metaphysics on the same footing as the mathematical sciences, or at least the sciences of his day, expanding and providing limits for knowledge and what we can know).

So, for many, many young people and those in Nietzsche’s wake (many thinkers since Nietzsche have taken his project quite seriously and been influenced by him from Heidegger to Strauss, to the existentialists to much of 20th century art)…it’s assumed  that morality is very much in doubt.

Yet, has Nietzsche addressed the problems at the heart of moral philosophy? Is he an extreme thinker/artist marking the culmination and end of romanticism?  which itself is a product and reaction to the Enlightenment?

You certainly take a lot on board when you take Nietzsche on board.

And what about politics?

“Nietzsche, then, has no political philosophy. He occasionally expresses views about political matters, but, read in context, they do not add up to a theoretical account of any of the questions of political philosophy. He is more accurately read, in the end, as a kind of esoteric moralist, i.e., someone who has views about human flourishing, views he wants to communicate at least to a select few.

He’s certainly had an effect on a lot of people who think and act in politics.


It’s also worth nothing that Joshua Knobe and Jesse Prinz of the new experimental philosophy movement have a strong Nietzschean influence…(for Prinz moral progress is possible but not a moral law, he defends moral relativism…while for experimental philosophy the penchant Nietzsche had for psychologizing has created a lasting influence).

Again, these are obviously just a few thoughts.  Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Here’s Nietzsche scholar J.P. Stern on Nietzsche’s anti-Christian, anti-secular morality (Kant, utilitarians), anti-democratic, and anti-Greek (except the “heroic” Greek) biases…

Related On This Site:  A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche ConnectionDinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy

Was Nietzsche most interested in  freeing art from a few thousand years of Christianity, monarchy and aristocracy…something deeper?, at least with regard to Camille Paglia.  See the comments:  Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was Successful

From Wikipedia’s Page On Leo Strauss: A Few QuotesFrom Wikipedia’s Page On Leo Strauss: A Few Quotes

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Christopher Shea In The Chronicle Of Higher Ed On Experimental Philosophy

Full article here.

Of Joshua Knobe:

From the beginning,” he says, “Nietzsche was inspirational to me. I was interested in working on the kinds of questions he was interested in: how people make moral judgments, how moral judgments affect the way we understand our world.” But while most Nietzsche scholars wrote essays on the philosopher’s work, Knobe continues, “I was interested in doing experiments to answer the questions that he asked.”

And what is one potential consequence of this approach?:

While much of the proposal authors’ work was “perfectly philosophically respectable,” the reviewer said, “a great deal of their interest lies in what I can only describe as the desire to eliminate morality (or at least the study of morality) from the discipline of philosophy itself.”

Much like Nietzsche, if you don’t find the problems of other philosophers to be important (or perhaps understand the depths of the problems they’re trying to address), make due with what you have.   However, you leave a lot of problems unaddressed:

How do you reconcile the possibility of mathematical truth, or truth in the reasoning of great scientific thinkers?  How do you explain the debt of both psychology and neuroscience to the hard sciences, yet ignore such a debt while using psychology and neuroscience to provide empirical evidence for your philosophical claims?

This is not to mention the radical consequences of applying Nietzsche to the intellectual and cultural traditions that we rely upon that sustain the law, for example…

“This is one of the best parts of experimental philosophy,” says John Mikhail, who teaches at the Georgetown University Law Center, and whose work translates people’s complex responses to moral thought experiments into algorithms. “Younger people are not taking ‘no’ for an answer.”

I’m concerned about what they leave out.

More on Experimental Philosophy here.  Here’s Nietzsche scholar J.P. Stern on Nietzsche’s anti-Christian, anti-secular morality (Kant, utilitarians), anti-democratic, and anti-Greek (except the “heroic” Greek) biases…

Related On This Site:  Another Note On Jesse Prinz’s “Constructive Sentimentalism” More On Jesse Prinz. A Review Of “The Emotional Construction Of Morals” At Notre DameJesse Prinz Discusses “The Emotional Construction Of Morals” On Bloggingheads.A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche Connection

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