Emotion, Cognition, and the Value of Literature: The Case of Nietzsche's Genealogy

Journal of Nietzsche Studies 45 (2):182-195 (2014)
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ABSTRACT One striking feature of On the Genealogy of Morals is how it is written. Nietzsche employs a literary style that provokes his readers' emotions. In Beyond Selflessness, Christopher Janaway argues that such a literary approach is integral to Nietzsche's philosophical goals. Feeling the emotions Nietzsche's style arouses is necessary for understanding the views he defends. I argue that Janaway's position is mistaken. The evidence at our disposal fails to establish that emotion is ever necessary for cognition. However, I maintain that we do have good evidence for a slightly weaker claim. The emotionally sensitive person is epistemically better off than the cold and dispassionate person. There are some truths he or she will be more likely to believe and will have better reasons for believing. I conclude that Janaway is right to defend the philosophical importance of Nietzsche's literary writing style. His error is simply that he overstates the case.

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Antony Aumann
Northern Michigan University


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