The 'I's have it: Nietzsche on subjectivity

Inquiry 49 (3):218 – 241 (2006)
This paper identifies recent attributions to Nietzsche of skeptical arguments about the subject in its theoretical and practical capacities and argues that they are wrong. Although Nietzsche does criticize the picture of the subject as a unity that exerts influence in the world from outside it, he does so in order to replace it with a richer, more complex model of subjectivity. The skeptical arguments attributed to Nietzsche attempt to assimilate features of subjectivity to some alternative, purportedly more familiar explanatory account, and then move from this assimilation to the denial of subjectivity altogether. There are three main strategies for making this latter move, which are referred to in this paper as appeal to ontology, appeal to justification, and appeal to explanation. Each fails for different reasons, but all misconstrue Nietzsche's explanatory interests regarding subjectivity. Those interests, this paper argues, are what lead Nietzsche to argue that a single person comprises a multiplicity of subjectivities, and that all explanation is ultimately telic in form. This paper then discusses some of the appeals that Nietzsche makes to account for the possibility of single, unitary subjectivity within this framework, including: his account of the relationship between constituent and corporate units within fully self-relating subjectivity, his account of the relation between "inner" and "outer", his account of pluralist individualism, and his account of unconscious "depth". This paper concludes by arguing that Nietzsche's distinctive approach suggests a way to relate theoretical questions about the mental to practical questions about the self and ethical commitment.
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DOI 10.1080/00201740600725574
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