Deriving Ethics from Action: A Nietzschean Version of Constitutivism

Abstract
This paper has two goals. First, I offer an interpretation of Nietzsche’s puzzling claims about will to power. I argue that the will to power thesis is a version of constitutivism. Constitutivism is the view that we can derive substantive normative conclusions from an account of the nature of agency; in particular, constitutivism rests on the idea that all actions are motivated by a common, higher-order aim, whose presence generates a standard of assessment for actions. Nietzsche’s version of constitutivism is based on a series of subtle claims about the psychology of willing and the nature of satisfaction, which imply that all actions aim at encountering and overcoming resistance (this is what Nietzsche means by “will to power”). Second, I argue that Nietzsche’s theory, thus interpreted, generates a new, a posteriori version of constitutivism that is not vulnerable to certain familiar objections. If this is right, then we can deploy Nietzschean ideas in order to make a substantive contribution to issues that are currently at the forefront of ethics and action theory.
Keywords constitutivism  constitutive aim  Nietzsche  practical reason  ethics  happiness  will to power  drive
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