On the Self‐Undermining Functionality Critique of Morality

European Journal of Philosophy 31 (2):501-508 (2023)
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Nietzsche’s injunction to examine “the value of values” can be heard in a pragmatic key, as inviting us to consider not whether certain values are true, but what they do for us. This oddly neglected pragmatic approach to Nietzsche now receives authoritative support from Bernard Reginster’s new book, which offers a compelling and notably cohesive interpretation of Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morality. In this essay, I reconstruct Reginster's account of Nietzsche’s critique of morality as a “self-undermining functionality critique” and raise three problems for it: (i) Is there room within an etiological conception of function for the notion of self-undermining functionality? (ii) If Nietzsche’s critique is internal and based solely on the function it ascribes to morality, where does that critique derive its normative significance from? (iii) Does Reginster’s account not make out ascetic morality to be more universally dysfunctional than it in fact is, given that some priestly types have done remarkably well out of morality?

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Matthieu Queloz
University of Bern


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