Deriving Ethics from Action: A Nietzschean Version of Constitutivism

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 83 (3):620-660 (2011)
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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.

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Paul Katsafanas
Boston University

Citations of this work

Constitutivism about Practical Reasons.Paul Katsafanas - 2018 - In Daniel Star (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Reasons and Normativity. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 367-394.
Moral Deference and Deference to an Epistemic Peer.Cory Davia & Michele Palmira - 2015 - Philosophical Quarterly 65 (261):605-625.
Nietzschean Constructivism: Ethics and Metaethics for All and None.Alex Silk - 2015 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 58 (3):244-280.
Nietzsche’s meta-axiology: against the skeptical readings.Andrew Huddleston - 2014 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 22 (2):322-342.

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References found in this work

What We Owe to Each Other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
The Metaphysics of Morals.Immanuel Kant - 1797/1996 - New York: Cambridge University Press.

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