Elements of Noncognitivism in Nietzsche's Metaethics and Epistemology

Dissertation, Yale University (1990)
Abstract
The dissertation is an account of Nietzsche's denial of cognitive objectivity, that is, his denial that there can be such a thing as a true judgment. I claim that plausible arguments for denying cognitive objectivity can be found in Nietzsche, but only after some strong analogies between this denial and traditional arguments against evaluative objectivity are made apparent. Judgments of value are not considered objective because they are motivational, that is, because making an evaluative judgment is necessarily connected with having motivating reasons for action. I examine two forms such a denial can take, the error theory in which judgments of value are considered cognitive but false, and noncognitivism, in which they are not considered cognitive at all, and so neither true nor false. Both the error theory and non-cognitivism occur in Nietzsche's own denials of evaluative objectivity. ;I claim that Nietzsche argued against cognitive objectivity because he considered all judgments to be motivational. Nietzsche is only able to do so, however, on the basis of a radical critique of the possibility of normativity or normative constraint. This critique plays a crucial role in Nietzsche's philosophy of mind. Such a critique puts into doubt the traditional picture of intentional action, in which a sharp distinction is drawn between cognitive and affective contributions to such action. ;Because Nietzsche argues all judgments are motivational, his epistemology bears a strong resemblance to both the error theory and non-cognitivism. But because Nietzsche's critique of normative constraint amounts to a denial of the existence of cognition, the elements of non-cognitivism in Nietzsche's epistemology are more fundamental than those of the error theory. I explain how Nietzsche's ontology of the will to power can be seen as following from his non-cognitivism, but suggest that Nietzsche's epistemology bears the greatest affinity to naturalism
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