Nietzsche-Studien 50 (1):361-381 (2021)

Paul Katsafanas
Boston University
A review of the following for books, plus some reflections on Nietzsche's moral psychology and ethics: Alfano: Nietzsche’s Moral Psychology (Cambridge University Press 2019). Leiter: Moral Psychology with Nietzsche (Oxford University Press 2019) Ridley: The Deed is Everything: Nietzsche on Will and Action (Oxford University Press 2018) Stern: Nietzsche’s Ethics (Cambridge University Press 2020) These four books are broadly on Nietzsche’s moral psychology and ethics. The books differ widely in their aspirations: Ridley’s is focused solely on Nietzsche’s notion of action, whereas Leiter’s is more synoptic. And they also differ widely in their conclusions: Leiter presents Nietzsche as a nearly infallible figure who has not only solved longstanding philosophical problems but has even managed to anticipate recent results in empirical psychology. Stern, on the other hand, presents Nietzsche as a rather amateurish philosopher, who picks up dribs and drabs from his cultural context and amalgamates them into interesting and provocative, but indefensible, positions. Between these extremes, we have readers like Ridley and Alfano, who are not averse to pointing out lacunae in Nietzsche’s arguments but who nonetheless see him as deeply insightful. Although each of these books is worth reading, I will argue that they have various degrees of success. Alfano’s book is, to my mind, the most successful at achieving its stated aims; while I point out some potential oversights and some areas that could benefit from further development, Alfano’s book is both novel and important. Leiter’s book is clearly written and presents the arguments in an admirably forthright manner, but some of its conclusions are vitiated by lapses and mischaracterizations. Stern gets Nietzsche’s basic view right, but does not probe it very deeply and is too quick to present Nietzsche as confused; I see the confusions as emanating less from Nietzsche’s texts and more from Stern’s reading of them. Ridley’s book is original and provocative, but I find the central claim—that Nietzsche endorses an expressive account of action—ultimately unconvincing. Nonetheless, even the books I regard as flawed are valuable, for reasons I will point out along the way.
Keywords nietzsche  moral psychology  ethics
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DOI 10.1515/nietzstu-2021-0019
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A Darwinian Dilemma for Realist Theories of Value.Sharon Street - 2006 - Philosophical Studies 127 (1):109-166.
Nietzsche, Intention, Action.Alexander Nehamas - 2018 - European Journal of Philosophy 26 (2):685-701.

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