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Profile: Paul Katsafanas (Boston University)
  1. Paul Katsafanas (forthcoming). Constitutivism About Practical Reasons. In Daniel Star (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Reasons and Normativity. Oxford.
    This paper introduces constitutivism about practical reason, which is the view that we can justify certain normative claims by showing that agents become committed to these claims simply in virtue of acting. According to this view, action has a certain structural feature – a constitutive aim, principle, or standard – that both constitutes events as actions and generates a standard of assessment for action. We can use this standard of assessment to derive normative claims. In short, the authority of certain (...)
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  2. Paul Katsafanas (forthcoming). Ethical Thought in the Nineteenth Century. In Michael Forster & Kristin Gjesdal (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Nineteenth-Century German Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
    At the close of the eighteenth century, Kant attempts to anchor morality in freedom. A series of nineteenth-century thinkers, though impressed with the claim that there is an essential connection between morality and freedom, argue that Kant has misunderstood the nature of the self, agency, freedom, the individual, the social, the natural sciences, and philosophical psychology. I trace the way in which a series of central figures rethink the connection between morality and freedom by complicating the analyses of the aforementioned (...)
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  3. Paul Katsafanas (forthcoming). Kant and Nietzsche on Self-Knowledge. In João Constâncio (ed.), Nietzsche and the Problem of Subjectivity.
    Kant recognizes two distinct forms of self-knowledge: introspection, which gives us knowledge of our sensations, and apperception, which is knowledge of our own activities. Both modes of self-knowledge can go astray, and are particularly prone to being distorted be selfish motives; thus, neither is guaranteed to provide us with comprehensive self-knowledge. Nietzsche departs from Kant in arguing that these two modes of self-knowledge (1) are not distinct and (2) are far more limited than Kant acknowledges. In addition, Nietzsche departs from (...)
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  4. Paul Katsafanas (forthcoming). Nietzsche on the Nature of the Unconscious. Inquiry:1-26.
    This paper argues that Nietzsche develops a novel and compelling account of the distinction between conscious and unconscious mental states: he argues that conscious mental states are those with conceptual content, whereas unconscious mental states are those with nonconceptual content. I show that Nietzsche’s puzzling claim that consciousness is “superficial” and “falsifying” can be given a straightforward explanation if we accept this understanding of the conscious/unconscious distinction. I originally defended this view in “Nietzsche’s Theory of Mind” (European Journal of Philosophy, (...)
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  5. Paul Katsafanas (forthcoming). Philosophical Psychology as a Basis for Ethics. Journal of Nietzsche Studies 44 (2):297-314.
    Near the beginning of Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche writes that “psychology is once again the path to the fundamental problems” (BGE 23). This raises a number of questions. What are these “fundamental problems” that psychology helps us to answer? How exactly does psychology bear on philosophy? In this conference paper, I provide a partial answer to these questions by focusing upon the way in which psychology informs Nietzsche’s account of value. I argue that Nietzsche’s ethical theory is based upon (...)
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  6. Paul Katsafanas (forthcoming). Review of Maudemarie Clark and David Dudrick, The Soul of Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil. [REVIEW] Journal of Nietzsche Studies.
    This is a contribution to a symposium on Clark and Dudrick’s The Soul of Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil. I focus on three aspects of their book. First, I critique Clark and Dudrick’s claim that Nietzsche recognizes a discrete “will to value.” Second, I argue that Clark and Dudrick’s reading of Nietzschean drives (Triebe) as homunculi is indefensible. Third, I raise questions about their claim that Nietzsche understands the self as a “normative ordering” of drives, which they distinguish from a (...)
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  7. Paul Katsafanas (forthcoming). The Problem of Normative Authority in Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche. In Tom Bailey & João Constâncio (eds.), Nietzsche and Kantian Ethics.
    Kant and Hegel share a common foundational idea: they believe that the authority of normative claims can be justified only by showing that these norms are self-imposed or autonomous. Yet they develop this idea in strikingly different ways: Kant argues that we can derive specific normative claims from the formal idea of autonomy, whereas Hegel contends that we use the idea of freedom not to derive, but to assess, the specific normative claims ensconced in our social institutions and practices. Exploring (...)
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  8. Paul Katsafanas (forthcoming). Value, Affect, and Drive. In Peter Kail & Manuel Dries (eds.), Nietzsche on Mind and Nature. Oxford.
    Nietzsche associates values with affects and drives: he not only claims that values are explained by drives and affects, but sometimes appears to identify values with drives and affects. This is decidedly odd: the agent's reflectively endorsed ends, principles, commitments--what we would think of as the agent's values--seem not only distinct from, but often in conflict with, the agent's drives. Consequently, it is unclear how we should understand Nietzsche's concept of value. This essay attempts to dispel these puzzles by reconstructing (...)
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  9. Paul Katsafanas (2014). Nietzsche and Kant on the Will: Two Models of Reflective Agency. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 89 (1):185-216.
    Kant and Nietzsche are typically thought to have diametrically opposed accounts of willing: put simply, whereas Kant gives signal importance to reflective episodes of choice, Nietzsche seems to deny that reflective choices have any significant role in the etiology of human action. In this essay, I argue that the dispute between Kant and Nietzsche actually takes a far more interesting form. Nietzsche is not merely rejecting the Kantian picture of agency. Rather, Nietzsche is offering a subtle critique of the Kantian (...)
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  10. Paul Katsafanas (2014). On Homuncular Drives and the Structure of the Nietzschean Self. Journal of Nietzsche Studies 45 (1):1-11.
    If Clark and Dudrick have their way, gone will be the days of breezy writings on Nietzsche that recruit a phrase from here, a paragraph from there, and construct an interpretation from the resultant mélange. Clark and Dudrick advocate a meticulous, line-by-line study of Nietzsche’s text, with painstaking attention not only to the broader context of his claims, but even to the precise intent of the images and metaphors that he employs. Here, we find a level of textual scrutiny and (...)
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  11. Paul Katsafanas (2013). Agency and the Foundations of Ethics: Nietzschean Constitutivism. Oxford University Press.
    Constitutivism is the view that we can derive substantive normative conclusions from an account of the nature of action. Agency and the Foundations of Ethics explains the constitutivist strategy and argues that the attractions of this view are considerable: constitutivism promises to resolve longstanding philosophical puzzles about the metaphysics, epistemology, and practical grip of normative claims. Yet constitutivism faces a challenge: it must employ a conception of action that is minimal enough to be independently plausible, but substantial enough to yield (...)
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  12. Paul Katsafanas (2013). Beyond Selflessness: Reading Nietzsche's 'Genealogy', by Christopher Janaway. [REVIEW] Mind 122 (486):fzt069.
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  13. Paul Katsafanas (2013). Nietzsche, Naturalism, and Normativity, Edited by ChristopherJanaway and SimonRobertson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, Ix + 262 Pp. ISBN 978-0-19-958367-6 Hb $75.00. [REVIEW] European Journal of Philosophy 21:e9-e14.
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  14. Paul Katsafanas (2013). Nietzsche's Philosophical Psychology. In John Richardson & Ken Gemes (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Nietzsche. Oxford. 727-755.
    Freud claimed that the concept of drive is "at once the most important and the most obscure element of psychological research." It is hard to think of a better proof of Freud's claim than the work of Nietzsche, which provides ample support for the idea that the drive concept is both tremendously important and terribly obscure. Although Nietzsche's accounts of agency and value everywhere appeal to drives, the concept has not been adequately explicated. I remedy this situation by providing an (...)
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  15. Paul Katsafanas (2012). Nietzsche on Agency and Self-Ignorance. Journal of Nietzsche Studies 43 (1):5-17.
    Nietzsche frequently claims that agents are in some sense ignorant of their own actions. In this conference paper, I ask two questions: what exactly does Nietzsche mean by this claim, and how would the truth of this claim affect philosophical models of agency? I argue that Nietzsche's claim about self-ignorance is intended to draw attention to the fact that there are influences upon reflective episodes of choice that have three features. First, these influences are pervasive, occurring in every episode of (...)
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  16. Paul Katsafanas (2011). Activity and Passivity in Reflective Agency. In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics Volume 6. Oxford. 219.
    Lately, a number of philosophers have argued that agents can be more and less active in the production of their own actions. Some actions—principally reflective, deliberative ones—are said to involve agential activity; other actions—principally unreflective, non-deliberative ones—are said to be brought about in a more passive fashion. In this essay, I critique these claims. I show that philosophers employing the notion of agential activity have relied on one or more of the following claims, which have not been clearly distinguished in (...)
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  17. Paul Katsafanas (2011). Deriving Ethics From Action: A Nietzschean Version of Constitutivism. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 83 (3):620-660.
    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 (...)
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  18. Paul Katsafanas (2011). The Concept of Unified Agency in Nietzsche, Plato, and Schiller. Journal of the History of Philosophy 49 (1):87-113.
    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 (...)
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  19. Paul Katsafanas (2011). The Relevance of History for Moral Philosophy: A Study of Nietzsche's Genealogy. In Simon May (ed.), Nietzsche's 'On the Genealogy of Morality': A Critical Guide. Cambridge University Press.
    The Genealogy takes a historical form. But does the history play an essential role in Nietzsche's critique of modern morality? In this essay, I argue that the answer is yes. The Genealogy employs history in order to show that acceptance of modern morality was causally responsible for producing a dramatic change in our affects, drives, and perceptions. This change led agents to perceive actual increases in power as reductions in power, and actual decreases in power as increases in power. Moreover, (...)
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  20. Paul Katsafanas (2009). Review: Brian Leiter and Neil Sinhababu: Nietzsche and Morality. [REVIEW] Mind 118 (469):191-194.
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  21. Paul Katsafanas (2009). Review of Craig Dove, Nietzsche's Ethical Theory: Mind, Self and Responsibility. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2009 (5).
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  22. Paul Katsafanas (2005). Nietzsche's Theory of Mind: Consciousness and Conceptualization. European Journal of Philosophy 13 (1):1–31.
    I show that Nietzsche's puzzling and seemingly inconsistent claims about consciousness constitute a coherent and philosophically fruitful theory. Drawing on some ideas from Schopenhauer and F.A. Lange, Nietzsche argues that conscious mental states are mental states with conceptually articulated content, whereas unconscious mental states are mental states with non-conceptually articulated content. Nietzsche's views on concepts imply that conceptually articulated mental states will be superficial and in some cases distorting analogues of non-conceptually articulated mental states. Thus, the claim that conscious states (...)
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