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Against Nietzsche's ‘Theory’ of the Drives

  • TOM STERN (a1)
Abstract
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?

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

M. Clark , and D. Dudrick . (2009) ‘Nietzsche on the Will: An Analysis of BGE 19’. In K. Gemes and S. May (eds.), Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 247–68.

S. Gardner (2009) ‘Nietzsche, the Self and the Disunity of Philosophical Reason’. In K. Gemes and S. May (eds.), Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 131.

C. Janaway (2009) ‘Autonomy, Affect and the Self in Nietzsche's Project of Genealogy’. In K. Gemes and S. May (eds.), Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 5168.

B. Leiter (2009) ‘Nietzsche's Theory of the Will’. In K. Gemes and S. May (eds.), Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 107–26.

S. May (2009) ‘Nihilism and the Free Self’. In K. Gemes and S. May (eds.), Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 89106.

J. Richardson (2009) ‘Nietzsche's Freedoms’. In K. Gemes and S. May (eds.), Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 127–49.

B. Williams (1995) Making Sense of Humanity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

J. Young (2010) Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

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Journal of the American Philosophical Association
  • ISSN: 2053-4477
  • EISSN: 2053-4485
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-american-philosophical-association
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