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Against Nietzsche's ‘Theory’ of the Drives

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 March 2015

TOM STERN*
Affiliation:
UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDONt.stern@ucl.ac.uk

Abstract:

Nietzsche, we are often told, had an account of ‘self’ or ‘mind’ or a ‘philosophical psychology’, in which what he calls our ‘drives’ play a highly significant role. This underpins not merely his understanding of mind—in particular, of consciousness and action—but also his positive ethics, be they understood as authenticity, freedom, (self-)knowledge, autonomy, self-creation, or power. But Nietzsche did not have anything like a coherent account of ‘the drives’ according to which the self, the relationship between thought and action, or consciousness could be explained; consequently, he did not have a stable account of drives on which his positive ethics could rest. By this, I do not mean that his account is incomplete or that it is philosophically indefensible: both would leave open, misleadingly, the possibility of a rational reconstruction of Nietzsche's views; both would already assume more unity and coherence than we find in his texts. Specifically, as I show through detailed analysis, Nietzsche provides varied and inconsistent accounts of (1) what a ‘drive’ is, (2) how much we can know about drives, and (3) the relationship between drives and conscious deliberations about action. I conclude by questioning the hunt for a Nietzschean theory: is this the best way to be reading him?

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © American Philosophical Association 2015 

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References

References

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Nietzsche, F.Beyond Good and Evil (BGE). In Kaufmann, W. (trans.), Basic Writings of Nietzsche (New York: The Modern Library, 2000).Google Scholar
Nietzsche, F.The Birth of Tragedy (BT). Translated by Speirs, Ronald. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.Google Scholar
Nietzsche, F.Daybreak (D). Translated by Hollingdale, R. J.. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997.Google Scholar
Nietzsche, F.Ecce Homo. Translated by Kaufmann, W. in Basic Writings of Nietzsche. New York: The Modern Library, 2000.Google Scholar
Nietzsche, F.The Gay Science (GS). Translated by Nauckhoff, Josef. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.Google Scholar
Nietzsche, F.Human, All Too Human (HH). Translated by Hollingdale, R. J.. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.Google Scholar
Nietzsche, F.On the Genealogy of Morality (GM). Translated by Diethe, Carol. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997.Google Scholar
Nietzsche, F.Twilight of the Idols (TI). In Hollingdale, R. J. (trans.), Twilight of the Idols and The Anti-Christ (London: Penguin, 1968).Google Scholar
Nietzsche, F.Untimely Meditations (UM). Translated by Hollingdale, R. J.. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997.Google Scholar
Nietzsche, F.Writings from the Late Notebooks (WLN). Edited by Bittner, R.. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.Google Scholar
Anderson, R. L. (2013) ‘Nietzsche on Autonomy’. In Gemes, K. and Richardson, J. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Nietzsche (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 432–60.Google Scholar
Clark, M., and Dudrick, D.. (2009) ‘Nietzsche on the Will: An Analysis of BGE 19’. In Gemes, K. and May, S. (eds.), Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 247–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Clark, M., and Dudrick, D.. (2012) The Soul of Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Gardner, S. (2009) ‘Nietzsche, the Self and the Disunity of Philosophical Reason’. In Gemes, K. and May, S. (eds.), Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 131.Google Scholar
Gardner, S. (Forthcoming) ‘Nietzsche and Freud: The “I” and Its Drives’. In Maria Branco and João constâncio (eds.), Nietzsche and the Contemporary Debate on the Self (The Hague: Walter de Gruyter, forthcoming 2015).Google Scholar
Gemes, K. (2013) ‘Life's Perspectives’. In Gemes, K. and Richardson, J. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Nietzsche (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 553–75.Google Scholar
Harte, V. (2005) ‘Conflicting Values in Plato's Crito. In Kamtekar, R. (ed.), Euthyphro, Apology, and Crito: Critical Essays (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield), 229–59.Google Scholar
Huenemann, C. (2013) ‘Nietzsche's Illness’. In Gemes, K. and Richardson, J. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Nietzsche (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 6380.Google Scholar
James, W. ([1894] 1920) ‘The Physical Basis of Emotion’. In R. B. Perry (ed.), Collected Essays and Reviews, (London: Longman, Green), 346–70.Google Scholar
Janaway, C. (2009) ‘Autonomy, Affect and the Self in Nietzsche's Project of Genealogy’. In Gemes, K. and May, S. (eds.), Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 5168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kant, I. (1996) The Metaphysics of Morals. In Gregor, M. (trans.), The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kant, I. (1997) Die Metaphysik der Sitten. Stuttgart: Reclam.Google Scholar
Katsafanas, P. (2013) ‘Nietzsche's Philosophical Psychology’. In Gemes, K. and Richardson, J. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Nietzsche (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 726–55.Google Scholar
Leiter, B. (2002) Nietzsche on Morality. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Leiter, B. (2009) ‘Nietzsche's Theory of the Will’. In Gemes, K. and May, S. (eds.), Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 107–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
May, S. (2009) ‘Nihilism and the Free Self’. In Gemes, K. and May, S. (eds.), Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 89106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Plato. (1997) Crito. Translated by Grube, G. M. A.. In Cooper, J. M. (ed.), Plato: Complete Works (Indianapolis: Hackett), 3748.Google Scholar
Plato. (1952) Phaedo. Translated by Hackforth, R.. New York: Liberal Arts Press.Google Scholar
Richardson, J. (2009) ‘Nietzsche's Freedoms’. In Gemes, K. and May, S. (eds.), Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 127–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Richardson, J. (2013) ‘Life's Ends’. In Gemes, K. and Richardson, J. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Nietzsche (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 756–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sloterdijk, P. (2013) Nietzsche Apostle. London: MIT Press.Google Scholar
Stern, T. (2009) ‘Nietzsche, Freedom and Writing Lives’. Arion, 17 (1), 85110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stern, T. (Forthcoming) ‘Nietzsche's Ethics of Affirmation and Negation’, working paper.Google Scholar
Strauss, D. (1895) Der alte und der neue Glaube: Ein Bekenntnis. Bonn: E Strauss.Google Scholar
Williams, B. (1995) Making Sense of Humanity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Young, J. (2010) Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar