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.


Neil Sinhababu said...

Sounds like it was a great conference! I wish I could've attended.

Rob said...

A new recording of Nietzsche's complete solo piano works by the performer at the conference is now available. (And, by the way, a cd will apparently accompany Julian Young's forthcoming biography.)