NIETZSCHE, NATURALISM, AND MORAL PSYCHOLOGY
3.119D Townes Hall
Class Time: M,
Enrollment is limited to Philosophy Ph.D. students or J.D. candidates with an undergraduate major or graduate degree (M.A., Ph.D., B.Phil., M.Phil, or D.Phil.) in philosophy. J.D. candidates without a graduate degree in philosophy who want to be considered for enrollment must submit an undergraduate transcript, a law school transcript, and a philosophical writing sample, not later than the first week of class. Ph.D. students from other departments should submit the same materials to the instructor.
The course has two interlocking aims: (1) to introduce students to Nietzsche’s philosophical naturalism and its role in his moral philosophy; and (2) to critically evaluate some of the philosophical issues about moral psychology that Nietzsche raises—about, e.g., moral motivation, the will, the role of conscious and unconscious mental states in agency, our self-understanding qua agents, the nature and causal import of “character”—in light of recent work in both philosophy and empirical psychology. We shall spend the first few weeks on a careful study of On the Genealogy of Morality (read in conjunction with my Nietzsche on Morality), before turning, first, to critiques of my naturalist reading of Nietzsche and then, second, to a topical study of the issues in moral psychology just noted. Each session will be based on readings from elsewhere in Nietzsche’s corpus and/or work by contemporary philosophers and empirical psychologists.
The grade will be based primarily on a term paper, which involves either philosophical exegesis of Nietzsche, or exploration of a problem in moral psychology raised by the readings. Excellent class participation (quantity and quality) will raise the grade one notch (e.g., B+ to A-; A- to A, etc.).
Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality (Hackett, ed. & trans. Clark & Swensen) (cited as GM).
Brian Leiter, Nietzsche on Morality (
Course reader (CR), including texts by Nietzche, Haidt, Greene, Wilson, Janaway, Wegner, Prinz, Doris, Gemes, Rosenthal, Holton, Katsafanas, Knobe, Nichols, Leiter.
1. January 14: Introduction to Nietzsche’s Critique of Morality. Chapters 1-4 of NOM.
2. January 28: GM, Preface and Essay I; Chapters 5-6 of NOM.
3. February 4: GM, Essay II; Chapter 7 of NOM.
4. February 11: GM, Essay III; Chapter 8 of NOM.
5. February 18: Nietzsche’s Naturalism. Janaway, “Naturalism and Genealogy” in CR; Gemes & Janaway, “Naturalism and Value in Nietzsche,” in CR.
6. February 25: Nietzschean Moral Psychology and the Question of Heritability. Knobe & Leiter, “The Case for Nietzschean Moral Psychology” in CR; perhaps one other reading TBA. [Joshua Knobe (
7. March 3: Character, Types, and Fatalism. Excerpts from
8. March 17: The Will. Leiter, “Nietzsche’s Theory of the Will,” Philosophers’ Imprint (2007), downloadable for free here: http://www.philosophersimprint.org/007007/; excerpts from Wegner, The Illusion of Conscious Will, pp. 3-11, 49-78, 317-342, in CR; Holton’s review of Wegner from Mind, in CR; Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, section 19 and Twilight of the Idols, “The Four Great Errors,” sections 1-8, in CR.
9. March 24: Compatibilism, Incompatibilism, and Moral Responsibility. Gemes, “Nietzsche on Free Will, Autonomy, and the Sovereign Individual,” in CR; G. Strawson, “The Impossibility of Moral Responsibility,” in CR; Nichols & Knobe, “Moral Responsibility and Determinism: The Cognitive Science of Folk Intuitions.” [Ken Gemes (Birkbeck & Southampton) will participate in this class.]
10. March 31: The Illusion of Practical Reason? Haidt, “The Emotional Dog and Its Rational Tail,” in CR; Greene & Haidt, “How (and where) does moral judgment work?” in CR; Greene, “The Secret Joke of Kant’s Soul,” in CR; Nietzsche, The Gay Science, sections 39, 359-360; Beyond Good and Evil, sections 3-6, 187, in CR.
11. April 7: The Unconscious and Self-Knowledge about Agency. Excerpts from T. Wilson, Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious, Chapters 2, 3 and 5, in CR; Nietzsche, Daybreak, sections 115-116, 119, 129-130; The Gay Science, sections 333, 335 (and review 359-360 from last week as well); Ecce Homo, “Why I Am So Clever,” section 9, in CR.
12. April 14: Consciousness and Its Nature. Katsafanas, “Nietzsche’s Theory of Mind,” in CR; Rosenthal, “Consciousness and Its Function,” in CR; Nietzsche, The Gay Science, sections 11, 354; The Antichrist, section 14, in CR.
13. April 21: open for now (in case we fall behind from earlier weeks).
14. April 28: Updating the Nietzschean Project. Excerpt from Prinz, The Emotional Construction of Morals, Chs. 6 & 7 (“The Genealogy of Morals” and “The Limits of Evolutionary Ethics”). [Jesse Prinz (
Recommended Secondary Literature
M. Clark, Nietzsche on Truth and Philosophy (
B. Leiter & N. Sinhababu (eds.), Nietzsche and Morality (
P. Poellner, Nietzsche and Metaphysics (
B. Reginster, The Affirmation of Life: Nietzsche on Overcoming Nihilism (Harvard, 2007). An intriguing systematic account of Nietzsche’s philosophy as a whole, linking two “global” themes, the problem of nihilism and the doctrine of will to power. Elegant and esp. illuminating on Nietzsche’s debt to Schopenhauer; not as sensitive, though, as one might like to the philosophical or psychological plausibility of the theses ascribed to Nietzsche.
J. Richardson, Nietzsche’s System (
J. Richardson & B. Leiter (eds.), Nietzsche (
R. Schacht, Nietzsche (Routledge, 1983). Comprehensive and attentive to the texts, but does not tell as tightly constructed a systematic narrative about Nietzsche’s philosophy as a whole as Reginster or Richardson--also not as philosophically sophisticated or dialectically probing. Still, Schacht’s book is a valuable check on any interpretive hypothesis given Schacht’s scrupulous attention to all parts of the corpus.