Patterns of sickness: Nietzsche’s physio-historical account of asceticism

British Journal for the History of Philosophy 30 (1):109-129 (2022)
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ABSTRACT Though the ideas of health and sickness are very much at the heart of Nietzsche’s mature thought, scholars have offered little on what exactly he means by sickness. This is particularly true when Nietzsche presents his conception of sickness in more narrowly physiological terms, as he does explicitly in the Third Essay of On the Genealogy of Morality. In this paper, I present an account of what Nietzsche means by physiological sickliness and sickness, and how these notions are related to asceticism. In particular, I argue that for Nietzsche human beings have been subject through all of history to epidemics of nervous inhibition and exhaustion. In explaining these physiological conditions, I detail the basic understanding of the nervous system in the nineteenth century and show how Nietzsche’s diagnosis of sickness in this system explains many of the mysterious elements of the Third Essay. In my final section, I sketch out the meaning of the ascetic ideal against the backdrop of this nervous sickness.



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Nietzsche on the health of the soul.Andrew Huddleston - 2017 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 60 (1-2):135-164.
Life’s Perspectives.Ken Gemes - 2013 - In Ken Gemes & John Richardson (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Nietzsche. New York: Oxford University Press.
On the Problem of Affective Nihilism.Kaitlyn Creasy - 2018 - Journal of Nietzsche Studies 49 (1):31-51.

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