Against Nietzsche’s '''Theory''' of the Drives

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ABSTRACT ABSTRACT: Nietzsche, we are often told, had an account of 'self' or 'mind' or a 'philosophical psychology', in which what he calls our 'drives' play a highly significant role. This underpins not merely his understanding of mind, in particular, of consciousness and action. but also his positive ethics, be they understood as authenticity, freedom, knowledge, autonomy, self-creation, or power. But Nietzsche did not have anything like a coherent account of 'the drives' according to which the self, the relationship between thought and action, or consciousness could be explained; consequently, he did not have a stable account of drives on which his positive ethics could rest. By this, I do not mean that his account is incomplete or that it is philosophically indefensible: both would leave open, misleadingly, the possibility of a rational reconstruction of Nietzsche’s views; both would already assume more unity and coherence than we find in his texts. Specifically, as I show through detailed analysis, Nietzsche provides varied and inconsistent accounts of what a 'drive' is, how much we can know about drives, and the relationship between drives and conscious deliberations about action. I conclude by questioning the hunt for a Nietzschean theory: is this the best way to be reading him?
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Archival date: 2016-08-08
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