A Schooling in Contempt: Emotions and the pathos of distance

In Paul Katsafanas (ed.), Routledge Philosophy Minds: Nietzsche. Routledge (2018)
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Nietzsche scholars have developed an interest in his use of “thick” moral psychological concepts such as virtues and emotions. This development coincides with a renewed interest among both philosophers and social scientists in virtues, the emotions, and moral psychology more generally. Contemporary work in empirical moral psychology posits contempt and disgust as both basic emotions and moral foundations of normative codes. While virtues can be individuated in various ways, one attractive principle of individuation is to index them to characteristic emotions and the patterns of behavior those emotions motivate. Despite the surge in attention to Nietzsche’s use of emotions, the literature has tended to lump all emotional states together. In this paper, I argue that what Nietzsche calls the pathos of distance is best understood as the virtue associated with both contempt and disgust. I conclude with a discussion of the bleak prospects for a Nietzschean democratic ethos.



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Mark Alfano
Macquarie University

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