Monday, June 29, 2009

Draft Program for "Nietzsche on Mind and Nature" at Oxford This September Now Available

Here. A lot of interesting stuff, though I regret I am probably going to miss the Friday sessions. Abstracts are not available yet; I'll post a link when they are.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Two New Books on Nietzsche: One Introductory, One for Scholars and Advanced Students

The introductory volume is Charlie Huenemann's Nietzsche: Genius of the Heart, which he kindly sent me. I've been dipping in and out of different parts of it, and it is written in an inviting way for the novice but at the same time is clearly better-informed about recent scholarly literature than most introductions to Nietzsche. Signed comments from readers who have read more of the book are welcome.

The other is the edited volume by Ken Gemes and Simon May on Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy. All the essays are, I believe, new, except my "Nietzsche's Theory of the Will," which has appeared elsewhere. My contribution is unique in another way too in this volume, since it is, I believe, the only one to defend the view that Nietzsche denies the causality of the will, thus denies the autonomy or freedom of the will, and thus denies that people are in any meaningful sense free or morally responsible. The other contributors are Sebastian Gardner, Ken Gemes, Christopher Janaway, Robert Pippin, Simon May, John Richardson, Peter Poellner, Aaron Ridley, David Owen, Mathias Risse, and Maudemarie Clark & David Dudrick. The "Birkbeck-Southampton" axis and its fascination with the "sovereign individual" looms large here; Gemes's paper is probably the best representative of this moralized reading of Nietzsche in the volume, and I will have more to say about it in papers I'm working on. But Clark & Dudrick offer a detailed response to my "Nietzsche's Theory of the Will" paper, Poellner's paper develops a very different (from the Birkbeck-Southampton axis) line about Nietzsche's idea of freedom, Gardner develops his "transcendental" reading of Nietzsche on the self (which is both hugely stimulating and suggestive and yet hugely implausible to my mind), while Risse examines the idea of eternal recurrence through a Freudian lens (Risse's paper is most removed from the main themes of the volume). I will probably write more about the Clark & Dudrick and Poellner papers later this summer as well. Only Katsafanas, of important writers on this topic, is absent from the volume, though his work is much discussed by contributors. In sum, I'm hopeful that this volume, together with the forthcoming Oxford FNS conference on related themes, will lead to some real philosophical progress on these issues in the next few years. (Of course, my hope is that the moralizing readings of Nietzsche will be decisively defeated, but we'll see!)

Again, signed reader comments on the essays in the Gemes & May volume are also welcome.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Riverside and 1st Annual Magnus Lecture by Maudemarie Clark

Last Saturday's event was quite instructive and rewarding, at least for me, though I think others too. Maudemarie Clark offered a new, close reading of section 21 of Beyond Good and Evil, rejecting her earlier claim from Nietzsche on Truth and Philosophy that the skepticism about causation in that passage manifests his continued acceptance of the NeoKantian view that "cause" is a concept we impose upon our experience, and so not a feature of the world as it is in-itself. Instead, Clark argued, the passage manifests an essentially Humean view of causation, which is central to making sense of the reasons he gives for rejecting the idea of "unfree will" in the second half of the passage.

The reading was quite ingenious and provocative, but both Lanier Anderson and I were not convinced (though Anderson agreed with Clark that Nietzsche is something like a compatibilist about free will). We argued, in slightly different ways, that Clark had it right in the 1990 book, that the inescapably Kantian language--"'cause' and 'effect' are pure concepts," "in the 'in-itself' there is nothing of 'causal connections'"--does indeed reflect a NeoKantian (Langean) skepticism about the status of claims about cause and effect. Against the Humean reading, Anderson made I thought the particularly telling point that even in BGE 21 Nietzsche identifies the concept of "sequence" as one we impose upon experience, rather than part of the noumenal world. But "sequence" of course is precisely what Humeans claim is delivered by experience, so allegedly the opposite of a conceptual imposition that structures experience!

At this point, Clark's paper is not slated for publication, though I expect some of these arguments will make their way into hers and David Dudrick's forthcoming book on Beyond Good and Evil. I will probably make use of some of the material from my comments on Clark, and my comments on Gemes and Poellner from last year's Pacific APA session on Nietzsche on freedom, in two essays I'm working on currently: the entry on Nietzsche for the forthcoming Blackwell Companion to Philosophy of Action and my essay for the September "Nietzsche and Mind" conference of the Friedrich Nietzsche Society at Oxford, which will be on the topic, "Who is Nietzsche's 'Sovereign Individual'? Nietzsche on Freedom and Agency," which will eventually end up in the CUP volume on the Genealogy that Simon May is preparing. One or both of these will make it on to SSRN in draft, at which point I'll solicit feedback here.

Bottom line, though, on Riverside was that it was a real treat to participate in such a serious and high-level discussion of Nietzsche. I learned a lot.