Sunday, September 27, 2009

"Nietzsche on Mind and Nature" Conference Sept. 11-13

I wanted to write a few comments about the conference--or about the portion of it I managed to attend. For a variety of reasons, my stay in Oxford was a bit compressed, so I missed some of the keynotes that I would have liked to have heard (like Bernard Reginster's, Peter Poellner's and John Richardson's), and also some papers I would have liked to discuss, like Allison Merrick's on "historical sense" in Nietzsche, and Joao Constancio's on "Nietzsche on Freedom and the Unchangeability of Character." (Joao's paper is an interesting critique of my views in the "The Paradox of Fatalism and Self-Creation in Nietzsche" paper, and we had a useful discussion of it in the St. Peter's College bar; he's kindly sent it to me, and hopefully it will be generally available before long at which point we may discuss it here.)

It was very nice to meet in person a number of Nietzsche scholars, including some who regularly contribute comments here, like Charlie Huenemann and Timothy McWhirter. Because the quality of the papers was unusually high for an FNS event, there were, alas, a lot of conflicts. So while moderating a session which included Rex Welshon's illuminating discussion of Nietzsche and the neurosciences of consciousness and Peter Kail's (as always) masterful explication of Nietzsche's naturalism, I had to miss several papers I would have liked to hear in other sessions. So it goes. I did get to hear later Mario Brandhorst's paper on "Naturalism, Genealogy, and the Value of Morality," and due to some confusion about whether the other speakers for that session were there, we managed to have enough time to have a fruitful dialogue about it in Q&A. I caught some, but not all, of Gabriel Zamosc's very provocative argument about autonomy, sovereignty, and guilt. Galen Strawson gave a tour de force keynote on "Nietzsche's Metaphysics," though one that left a number of us wondering what this metaphysical Nietzsche has to do with Nietzsche the brilliant moral psychologist. My own plenary session led to a number of useful questions (and some naughty behavior by my dear friend Ken Gemes, with whom I've quarrelled about this topic for years now), though I am most indebted to Peter Kail for pointing out to me the need to tackle Spinoza--which led me, in turn, to this very good paper by Donald Rutherford, which I hope to discuss before long. (Rutherford, it seems to me, makes a stronger case for N's positive view of freedom, and its philosophical pedigree, than any of the recent contributors to the Gemes & May volume, so I hope he will publish it before too long. He did kindly give me permission to cite it in the final version of my own "sovereign individual" paper, which I'll have on-line before too long.)

Perhaps the philosophical highlight of the conference, though, wasn't on the official program: disputing at 4 in the morning in the St. Peter's College faculty lounge, with obligatory amounts of 'beverage,' whether or not David Wiggins had a good objection to projectivism with Peter Kail, Allison Merrick, and Christopher Sykes.

My congratulations to Peter Kail and Manuel Dries for organizing one of the best FNS events by everyone's appraisal. Others in attendance are welcome to add their comments on particularly notable papers, discussions, etc.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Myths about Nietzsche

I discuss them on Philosophy Bites. They are: the overman is a central idea in his philosophy; will to power is central to his philosophy; Nietzsche is a proto-postmodernist; and Nietzsche is an anti-semite.

I'm sure various Nietzsche scholars will disagree that these are all myths, but such is life in Nietzsche studies!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Who is the "Soverign Individual"? Nietzsche on Freedom

Sorry not to have gotten the draft of my paper for the FNS meeting at Oxford on-line before I left, but here it is. One serious lacuna in the current version (as Peter Kail rightly pointed out to me) is the failure to discuss Spinoza. But other comments are welcome, and soon, as I have to submit the final version by the end of the month for the Cambridge Critical Guide to the Genealogy.

In the discussion session, John Richardson (NYU) suggested that one familiar sense of freedom--not being subjected to the will of another--is in fact important for Nietzsche. I agreed that that sense of freedom is not a revisionary one, but I don't see the textual evidence that when Nietzsche writes about "freedom" it is this that he has in mind. Reader thoughts on this issue are also especially welcome.

I was sorry not to have been able to attend more of the FNS conference, which was an unusually good one, for which thanks and credit go to Peter Kail and Manuel Dries. I'll try to write a bit more about the conference by the weekend.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Abstracts for Papers at FNS Meeting at Oxford Next Week are Now Available

Here. I will post a draft of my own paper on SSRN before I depart for the conference. I also understand that the keynote sessions are likely to be filmed.