Naturalism, Minimalism, and the Scope of Nietzsche's Philosophical Psychology

In Kristin Gjesdal (ed.), Debates in Nineteenth Century Philosophy: Essential Readings and Contemporary Responses. Routledge. pp. 326-338 (2016)
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Bernard Williams’ “Nietzsche’s Minimalist Moral Psychology”, replete with provocative and insightful claims, has been extremely influential in Nietzsche scholarship. In the two decades since its publication, much of the most interesting and philosophically sophisticated work on Nietzsche has focused on exactly the topics that Williams addresses: Nietzsche’s moral psychology, his account of action, his naturalistic commitments, and the way in which these topics interact with his critique of traditional morality. While Williams’ pronouncements on these topics are brief and at times oracular, and although many important details are not addressed, he manages to identify some of the richest veins in Nietzsche’s texts. In this response, I focus on the four central claims in Williams’ article. Sections One and Two address the claim that Nietzsche is a naturalist and an advocate of “minimalist moral psychology,” respectively. Sections Three and Four examine Williams’ interpretations of Nietzsche on the will and agency. Finally, Section Five critiques Williams’ claim that Nietzsche cannot be a source of philosophical theories.
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