The Problem of Normative Authority in Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche

In Tom Bailey & João Constâncio (eds.), Nietzsche’s Engagements with Kant, Volume I: Ethics. Bloomsbury (2017)
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 these claims, I argue that each approach encounters certain difficulties. I then argue that Nietzsche develops a theory of normative authority that avoids these potential difficulties. Nietzsche’s theory proceeds, in part, by reconciling the most compelling aspects of the Kantian and Hegelian accounts—aspects that have seemed, to many interpreters, to be incompatible. The resultant theory generates a unique and fruitful account of normative authority.
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