Cultivating What Self? Philosophy as Therapy in the Genealogy of Morals and Hellenistic Ethics

Pli (Special Volume: Self-Cultivation):106-125 (2016)
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In this paper, I argue that the Genealogy of Morals is, in part, a work of philosophical therapy. First, I provide an account of philosophical therapy by turning to the Hellenistics, for whom philosophical therapy begins with the diagnosis of some widespread cultural problem. I then turn in more detail to Nietzsche, arguing that the Genealogy does therapeutic work similar to the work of the Hellenistics. In particular, I examine Nietzsche’s claim that modern thinking has fallen prey to what he calls the ‘ascetic ideal’; I interpret this claim as diagnosis, and I interpret the work of Essay Three as providing therapy for that diagnosis. The rest of the paper considers how this therapy unfolds for the three major ‘types’ that Nietzsche identifies in Essay Three: the artist, the philosopher, and the priest. Finally, I return to the Hellenistics to re-evaluate both their therapeutic projects and Nietzsche’s in light of the notion of self-cultivation.

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Lisa Hicks
Stanford Online High School


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