How one becomes what one is: The case for a Nietzschean conception of character development

In Iskra Fileva (ed.), Perspectives on Character. Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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Gone are the heady days when Bernard Williams (1993) could get away with saying that “Nietzsche is not a source of philosophical theories” (p. 4). The last two decades have witnessed a flowering of research that aims to interpret, elucidate, and defend Nietzsche’s theories about science, the mind, and morality. This paper is one more blossom in that efflorescence. What I want to argue is that Nietzsche theorized three important and surprising moral psychological insights that have been born out by contemporary empirical psychology. The first Nietzschean insight is the disunity of the self. The second, connected, Nietzschean insight is the primacy of affect. This primacy is expressed by what I have called elsewhere (Alfano 2010, 2013a) the tenacity of the intentional, and what Nietzsche calls the Socratic equation (TI Socrates 4, 10; WP 2:432-3). The third major Nietzschean insight is the social construction of character, which presupposes a wild diversity within the extensions of trait-terms and the dual direction of fit of character trait attributions. This last point is somewhat in tension with the only other published defense of the empirical credentials of Nietzsche’s moral psychology (Knobe & Leiter 2007), so I will make a few remarks about the contrast between my view and theirs.
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