Nietzsche and contemporary metaethics

In Paul Katsafanas (ed.), Routledge Philosophical Minds: The Nietzschean Mind. Routledge (2018)
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Recent decades have witnessed a flurry of interest in Nietzsche's metaethics — his views, if any, on metaphysical, epistemological, semantic, and psychological issues about normativity and normative language and judgment. Various authors have highlighted a tension between Nietzsche's metaethical views about value and his ardent endorsement of a particular evaluative perspective: Although Nietzsche makes apparently "antirealist" claims to the effect that there are no evaluative facts, he vehemently engages in evaluative discourse and enjoins the "free spirits" to create values. Nearly every major type of metaethical "-ism" has been ascribed to Nietzsche in response. This chapter provides a critical introduction to Nietzsche's metaethics, focusing on matters concerning the nature and grounds of normativity. I begin by examining and raising challenges for Nadeem Hussain's prominent interpretation of Nietzsche as a revolutionary fictionalist. I argue that a constructivist interpretation (developed elsewhere) provides an improved account of the connections, for Nietzsche, between evaluative attitudes and the nature of value, and among practical nihilism, art, and value creation. Values, on this view, are treated as grounded purely in facts about creatures’ evaluative attitudes. The chapter concludes by considering several alternative subjectivist, constitutivist, and non-cognitivist interpretations. A nuanced understanding of the space of metaethical theories brings into relief a plausible normative and metanormative view that we can attribute to Nietzsche.

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Alex Silk
University of Birmingham


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