Nietzsche on the necessity of repression

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 66 (1):1-30 (2023)
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It has become orthodox to read Nietzsche as proposing the ‘sublimation’ of troublesome behavioural impulses. On this interpretation, he is said to denigrate the elimination of our impulses, preferring that we master them by pressing them into the service of our higher goals. My thesis is that this reading of Nietzsche’s conception of self-cultivation does not bear scrutiny. Closer examination of his later thought reveals numerous texts that show him explicitly recommending an eliminatory approach to self-cultivation. I invoke his theory of the will to power in order to explain why he persistently valorises both elimination and sublimation as preconditions of healthy subjective unity. I conclude that which of these two approaches he recommends in a given situation depends on whether or not the impulse in question can be put to use within the overall economy of our drives.

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James S. Pearson
University of Amsterdam

References found in this work

Philosophy as a way of life: spiritual exercises from Socrates to Foucault.Pierre Hadot - 1997 - Malden, MA: Blackwell. Edited by Arnold I. Davidson.
Nietzsche on Morality.Brian Leiter - 2002/2014 - New York: Routledge.
Nietzsche.John Richardson & Brian Leiter (eds.) - 2001 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Nietzsche on Morality.Brian Leiter - 2005 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 71 (3):729-740.
Nietzsche: Life as Literature.Alexander Nehamas - 1985 - Philosophy and Rhetoric 21 (3):240-243.

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