Dissertation, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2012)

Aaron Harper
West Liberty State College
My dissertation examines the significance of value creation in the work of Friedrich Nietzsche. In working out Nietzsche’s view, my strategy is twofold. I begin by reconstructing Nietzsche’s metaethical commitments, offering an interpretation of Nietzsche’s conception of values that shows it to be consistent, and then I explore the nature and importance of value creation to Nietzsche’s project. I argue that value creation provides the core of Nietzsche’s response to his two most significant concerns: the failures of traditional morality and the loss of meaning in the modern world. In Chapter 1 I examine the current literature concerning Nietzsche’s metaethics. Recently, scholars have engaged in debates over whether Nietzsche offers a version of moral realism or anti-realism. I argue that neither side of this debate adequately captures Nietzsche’s understanding of value. Moreover, by starting from these contemporary categories we cannot make sense of the importance Nietzsche places on value creation. In Chapter 2 I defend my account of Nietzsche’s conception of value by examining two features of his view: the nature of valuing and the connection between values and reasons. I argue that Nietzsche presents standards of value that are internal to the activity of valuing, and I explore the standards of health and honesty. Nietzsche’s strategy becomes clearer when we examine the connection he makes between values and tastes, and my view has the added interpretive benefit of revealing a motivation for Nietzsche’s untraditional philosophical methodology. In Chapters 3-4 I examine the processes and functions of value creation. I begin with the historical examples of value creation Nietzsche presents, and from these I elucidate the task of value creation. I argue that Nietzsche’s aim through value creation is the development of richer, shared sensibilities or forms of concern, which provide the foundation for a new approach to ethical reasoning and justification. Furthermore, value creation comprises Nietzsche’s principal strategy to avert nihilism. My development of value creation as both a new ethical ideal and a source of meaning results in a surprising conclusion about Nietzsche’s view of social relations. Many read Nietzsche as a radical individualist, believing his ideal of value creation must require solitude or the life of a hermit. Yet, value creation is best understood as a social activity. Despite Nietzsche’s reliance on the solitary individual, I suggest that Nietzsche’s commitments to value creation are best captured by a model of competitive collaboration, which he calls friendship. The contribution of my project extends beyond mere Nietzsche interpretation. In Chapter 5 I argue that Nietzsche offers compelling arguments that address contemporary ethical debates. I offer a Nietzschean critique of a recent call for value creation by J. David Velleman. I conclude by suggesting that Nietzsche offers an intriguing twist on Bernard Williams’ conception of ethical confidence; creating values creates the normative concepts that provide the basis for meaningful action
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