The concept of unified agency in Nietzsche, Plato, and Schiller

This paper examines Nietzsche’s concept of unified agency. A widespread consensus has emerged in the secondary literature on three points: (1) Nietzsche’s notion of unity is meant to be an analysis of freedom; (2) unity refers to a relation between the agent’s drives or motivational states; and (3) unity obtains when one drive predominates and imposes order on the other drives. I argue that these claims are philosophically and textually indefensible. In contrast, I argue that (1′) Nietzschean unity is an account of the distinction between genuine actions and mere behaviors, rather than between free and unfree actions; (2′) unity refers to a relation between drives and conscious thought; and (3′) unity obtains when the agent’s attitude toward her own action is stable under the revelation of further information about the action’s etiology. I show that Nietzsche develops this notion of unity by drawing on Plato’s and Schiller’s accounts of unified agency.
Keywords Nietzsche  agency  unity  Schiller  activity  passivity  genuine action  mere behavior
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Neil Sinhababu (2015). Zarathustra’s Metaethics. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 45 (3):278-299.

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