Honest Illusion: Valuing for Nietzsche's Free Spirits

In Brian Leiter & Neil Sinhababu (eds.), Nietzsche and Morality. Oxford University Press (2007)
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There is a widespread, popular view—and one I basically endorse—that Nietzsche is, in one sense of the word, a nihilist. As Arthur Danto put it some time ago, according to Nietzsche, “there is nothing in [the world] which might sensibly be supposed to have value.” As interpreters of Nietzsche, though, we cannot simply stop here. Nietzsche's higher men, Übermenschen, “genuine philosophers”, free spirits—the types Nietzsche wants to bring forth from the human, all-too-human herds he sees around him with the fish hooks, as he says, of his books—seem to engage in what looks like valuing. These free spirits are supposed to revalue the old values—revaluing, as is clear from the texts, is not simply to remove the old values from circulation (Nietzsche uses “umwerten” and not “entwerten”)—and they are supposed to create new values. And, of course, Nietzsche himself, free spirit that he is, takes on the task of revaluing all values and seems to assert many a strident evaluation. So we need to say more here. What are Nietzsche and his free spirits up to when they engage in what looks, for all the world, like a practice of valuing? What is the practice of valuing Nietzsche is recommending for his free spirits? I argue for two claims: (i) First, we end up facing an interpretive puzzle when we attempt to explain how Nietzsche's free spirits are supposed to engage in a practice of valuing. (ii) Second, we can solve the interpretive puzzle by taking Nietzsche's free spirits to be engaged in a fictionalist simulacrum of valuing.
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