The Most Agreeable of All Vices: Nietzsche as Virtue Epistemologist

British Journal for the History of Philosophy 21 (4):767-790 (2013)
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Abstract

It’s been argued with some justice by commentators from Walter Kaufmann to Thomas Hurka that Nietzsche’s positive ethical position is best understood as a variety of virtue theory – in particular, as a brand of perfectionism. For Nietzsche, value flows from character. Less attention has been paid, however, to the details of the virtues he identifies for himself and his type. This neglect, along with Nietzsche’s frequent irony and non-standard usage, has obscured the fact that almost all the virtues he praises are intellectual rather than moral. The vices he most despises include dogmatism, intellectual partisanship, faith, boredom, the need for certainty, and pity. The virtues he most appreciates include curiosity, honesty, skepticism, creativity, the historical sense, intellectual courage, and intellectual fastidiousness. These tables of values place Nietzsche squarely among so-called responsibilist virtue epistemologists, such as Lorraine Code and Linda Zagzebski, who emphasize that knowledge is infused with desire and affect. I argue that curiosity construed as the specification of the will to power in the domain of epistemology is a cardinal Nietzschean virtue, and that the others – especially intellectual courage and honesty – are presupposed by curiosity. Thus, Nietzsche turns out to accept his own peculiar brand of the thesis of the unity of virtue.

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Mark Alfano
Macquarie University

Citations of this work

Virtue Epistemology.John Turri, Mark Alfano & John Greco - 1999 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:1-51.
Deep Epistemic Vices.Ian James Kidd - 2018 - Journal of Philosophical Research 43:43-67..
Epistemic Situationism.Mark Alfano & Abrol Fairweather (eds.) - 2017 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Virtue epistemology.John Greco & John Turri - 2017 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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References found in this work

Confessions.R. S. Augustine & Pine-Coffin - 2019 - Hackett Publishing Company.
After Virtue.A. MacIntyre - 1981 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 46 (1):169-171.
The Will to Believe: And Other Essays in Popular Philosophy.William James - 1979 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt, Fredson Bowers & Ignas K. Skrupskelis.

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