Hermeneutics vs. Genealogy: Brandom’s Cloak or Nietzsche’s Quilt?

The European Legacy 25 (6):635-652 (2020)
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This article examines genealogical investigations in an attempt to explain what they are, how they work, and what purpose they serve. It is a critique of Robert Brandom’s view of genealogists as naïve semanticists who believe that normative thinking, as it relates to all forms of epistemic inquiry and language use, is reducible to naturalistic causes. This reduction, Brandom claims, is hopelessly misguided and semantically incoherent since genealogies are not epistemically neutral in that “they count no more and no less,” as Habermas put it, than the traditional accounts of moral phenomena that they seek to replace. Nietzsche’s “story” of the origin of guilt in On the Genealogy of Morals is thus not even a useful fiction but merely meaningless. My analysis shows that Brandom’s understanding of genealogy is rather simplistic. While genealogists are naturalists insofar as they attempt to discover the specific historical causes that gave rise to current normative practices, they are neither reductive empiricists nor first-stage semanticists, as Brandom calls them, but multidimensional power-pragmatists.



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Brian Lightbody
Brock University

References found in this work

Nietzsche, Genealogy, History.Michel Foucault - 1978 - In John Richardson & Brian Leiter (eds.), Nietzsche. Oxford University Press. pp. (139-164).
Quantifiers and Propositional Attitudes.Willard van Orman Quine - 1956 - Journal of Philosophy 53 (5):177-187.
Language, Truth, and Logic.A. J. Ayer - 1936 - Philosophy 23 (85):173-176.
Articulating Reasons: An Introduction to Inferentialism.Robert Brandom - 2002 - Philosophical Quarterly 52 (206):123-125.

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