Sunday, August 24, 2008

Katsafanas Dissertation On-Line

Paul Katsafanas (New Mexico) has put his Harvard dissertation on-line here.  Quite apart from its general philosophical interest to those working in ethics and action theory, about half the dissertation will be of particular interest to Nietzsche scholars.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Shaw on Reading Nietzsche as a Fictionalist

Among the interesting discussions in Nietzsche's Political Skepticism by Tamsin Shaw (Princeton, Politics) is her critique of Nadeem Hussain's thesis that Nietzsche is a fictionalist about value, a subject we have discussed before.   She does not emphasize the anachronism problem, but instead calls attention, correctly I think, to the philosophical implausibility of the view of value at issue.  She proffers two pertinent critiques.   First, she notes that in many of the passages on which Hussain relies in which (as Shaw puts it) "art can be employed to generate knowingly an illusory view of the world" (p. 92), it seems clear that "norms for what would be valuable are already presupposed":  "Art can beautify the world.  But this project of beautification takes for granted existing norms for the way the world ought to be" (p. 93).  So, yes, artistic renderings of the 'terrible truth' about human existence involve a kind of fictionalism, but the fact that this fiction "justifies" existence (per the thesis, e.g., of The Birth of Tragedy, but not only there) presupposes a normative standard independent of the artistic fiction.

Second, Shaw raises doubts about the plausibility that a global fictionalism about value could really suffice for really valuing something.  Here she usefully invokes Frankfurt's idea that (as Shaw puts it) "although modern individuals value the freedom to choose their own ideals, the very espousal of ideals seems to involve a submission to necessity" (93-94).  To really care about what we take to be valuable we have to "believe [it] is worthy to be cared about," but how can we do that about values that we know to be fictions?

How can the fictionalist respond?