Matthieu Queloz
Oxford University
If ethical reflection on which concepts to use has an avatar, it must be Nietzsche, who took more seriously than most the question of what concepts one should live by, and regarded many of our inherited concepts as deeply problematic. Moreover, his eschewal of traditional attempts to derive the one right set of concepts from timeless rational foundations renders his conceptual ethics strikingly modern, raising the prospect of a Nietzschean alternative to Wittgensteinian non-foundationalism. Yet Nietzsche appears to engage in two seemingly contrary modes of concept evaluation: one looks to concepts’ effects, the other to what concepts express. I offer an account of the expressive character of concepts which unifies these two modes and accounts for Nietzsche’s seemingly bifurcating interests. His fundamental concern is with the effects concepts are likely to have going forward, and it is precisely this concern that motivates his preoccupation with what concepts express. He evaluates concepts by asking for whom they have a point, working back from a concept via the need it fills to the conditions that engender that need and thereby render the concept pointful. For a concept to be pointful is for it to serve the concerns of its users through its effects. But even when it is not pointful, a concept expresses the presuppositions of its pointfulness, which we can work back to by asking who would have need of such a concept. What emerges is a powerful approach to conceptual ethics that looks beyond the formal virtues and vices of concepts at the presuppositions we buy into by using them.
Keywords Nietzsche  Conceptual Ethics  Concepts  Concept Choice  Concept Evaluation  Expression  Expressive Character of Concepts  Conceptual Engineering  Authority  Critique
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