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Research project: Nietzsche and Modern Moral Philosophy - Dormant - Dormant

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We recently completed a £300K Arts and Humanities Research Council project, titled Nietzsche and Modern Moral Philosophy, which brought together leading philosophers in the fields of Nietzsche scholarship and contemporary ethics with the aim of assessing, and finding responses to, the challenge that Nietzsche's critique continues to pose to modern moral philosophy.

About the Project

Interest in Nietzsche among philosophers working in the analytic tradition has gathered pace over the last fifteen years or so. In part this is due to renewed attention to Kant and to the analytic Hegel renaissance. Such work has helped to highlight issues of naturalism, normativity and agency in the context of our inheritance of the German Idealist tradition -themes that are central to Nietzsche's own appropriation and critique of that tradition in the development of his own thought. The recent interest in Nietzsche is also in part a product of more or less independent developments motivated by diverse reflections on ethical naturalism and neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics. Yet although there is now an emerging consensus that Nietzsche's critique of traditional morality and moral philosophy deserves to be taken seriously, it remains the case that, with the exceptions of Philippa Foot, Bemard Williams, and Martha Nussbaum, leading moral philosophers have not felt the need to engage with or respond to that critique. It is this situation that prompts the present project.

In line with the objectives set out above, this project consisted of three cumulative phases of research, each of which drew not only on the expertise immediately available in Southampton, but also on the expertise of internationally recognized Nietzsche scholars and moral philosophers who are based elsewhere. The primary method by which this expertise was pooled - and indeed by which we hope to stimulate the dialogue that we believe to be long overdue - was via a schedule of workshops (three per year) and conferences (one per year).

The first phase of the project (year 1) was devoted to clarifying the relation between the naturalism characteristic of Nietzsche's critique of traditional morality and moral philosophy, and the kinds of naturalism increasingly evident in contemporary philosophical understandings of morality. This phase laid the groundwork for the project as a whole.

The second phase (year 2) built on the findings of the first phase by bringing Nietzsche's critique into explicit contact with two of the more conspicuous varieties of contemporary naturalism in moral philosophy - neo-Kantianism and neo-Aristotelianism - in order to assess the relevance of Nietzsche's position to the understandings of autonomy and the virtues articulated by those positions.

The final phase (year 3) has taken up Nietzsche's claim that a 're-evaluation of values' is needed. It asked what, in the light of the first two phases, such a re-evaluation might consist in or amount to, and it drew contemporary moral philosophers - who have not on the whole been greatly moved by Nietzsche's claim - into the discussion. Consensus on such an issue is not to be expected, perhaps. But discussion certainly should be expected, and to date there has been next to none.


Applications and Benefits

The successful completion of this project has had two immediate benefits, echoing the 'over-arching goals' set out in the previous box. First, it has offered a better understanding of the nature and the force of the challenge that Nietzsche's critique poses to modem moral philosophy; and, second, it has offered a better understanding of the resources available to modem moral philosophy for responding to that challenge. These benefits are far from negligible. But, at least as importantly, delivering on them has been the result of having initiated a proper conversation between two areas of philosophy that should talk to each other much more intensively than they have done before. And if "that" can be brought off, the longer-term benefits will be still more significant: Nietzsche scholarship can only become richer for the contact; while moral philosophy should emerge from the encounter with a sharper sense of its own priorities, and -perhaps - with a rather different conception of its own most urgent problems.

Project Members

Professor Christopher Janaway

Professor Aaron Ridley


Conferences and events associated with this project:

Year One

Workshop: Nietzsche and Modern Moral Philosophy - December 2007

  • Simon Blackburn - Genealogy and Us (PT)

  • David Owen - Nietzsche & Modern Moral Philosophy

  • Simon Robertson - Nietzsche – the Moral, Ethical and Quasi-Aesthetic

  • John Richardson - Nietzsche’s Freedoms

  • Henry Staten - Will to Power, Ethology and Ethics

  • Ken Gemes - Nietzsche, Nihilism and the Paradox of Affirmation

Workshop: Nietzsche, Value and Biology - April 2008

  • John Richardson - Nietzsche and the Ends of Life (PT)

  • Peter Railton - Nietzsche and the Ethics of Value

  • Aaron Ridley - Nietzsche on Will and Action

  • Ken Gemes - Life’s Perspectives

  • Robin Small - Chance and accidentality in Nietzschean ethics

Workshop: Nietzsche and Hume - July 2008Peter Kail - Hume and Nietzsche: Naturalism and Destabilization

  • Christopher Williams - What Divides N and Hume as Genealogists of Morality?

  • Maudemarie Clark - BGE 21 N and Hume on Causality and Free Will

Conference: Nietzsche, Naturalism and Normativity - July 2008 

  • Richard Schacht - Nietzsche's Kind of Naturalism and Normativity

  • Brian Leiter - Nietzsche’s Naturalism Reconsidered

  • Nadeem Hussain - Nietzsche and Non-Cognitivism

  • John Skorupski - Nietzsche's ‘realism’ about morality

  • Robert Guay - The Dream of Life: … Oneiric Naturalism

  • Christine Swanton - Reading Nietzsche as a Virtuous Egoist

  • Bernard Reginster - The Revaluation of Selflessness…

  • Chris Janaway - Nietzsche on Valuing Oneself

Year Two

Workshop: Nietzsche and Virtue - December 2008

  • Julia Annas - Nietzsche and the Ethics of Virtue (PT)
  • Sabina Lovibond - Selflessness and Other Moral Baggage
  • Simon May - Life-Affirmation and its Virtues
  • Michael Slote - Nietzsche and Sentimentalism
  • Edward Harcourt - Nietzsche and the ‘aesthetics’ of character

Workshop: Nietzsche and Kantian Ethics - April 2009

  • David Owen - Autonomy, Self-Respect and Self-Love…
  • Seiriol Morgan - Kantian Autonomy [??]
  • Thomas Hill - Nietzsche’s Critique of Kantian Morality
  • Paul Katsafanas - Problem of Normative Authority in Kant, Hegel & N
  • Lanier Anderson - What is a Nietzschean Self?

Conference: Nietzsche and Approaches to Ethics - July 2009

  • Alan Gibbard - Guilt and Resentment: One Faint Cheer
  • Robert Louden - Phantom Duty? Nietzsche versus K.C.
  • Jessica Berry - Nietzsche’s Retreat from Ethics:
  • Peter Poellner - Aestheticist Ethics
  • Alan Thomas - Nietzsche and Moral Fictionalism
  • Robert Pippin - Nietzsche and the Possibility of Self-Deception
  • Mark Migotti - Nietzsche’s Schopenhauer Crisis
  • Aaron Ridley - Nietzsche and Agency

Year Three

Workshop: Genealogy and Revaluation - December 2009

  • James Conant  (PT)
  • Bernard Reginster  - Will to Power as Will to Nothingness
  • Martin Saar - Understanding Genealogy: History, Power, and the Self
  • Simon Robertson - Nietzsche and Practical Reason

Workshop: Nietzsche Authenticity - April 2010

  • Maudemarie Clark - Violence in Nietzsche’s Critique of Morality
  • Keith Ansell-Pearson - Morality and Authenticity in Nietzsche’s Dawn
  • Stefan Sorgner Vattimo - Posthumanism, and N’s Concept of Auth.
  • Stephen Darwall - Ressentiment and Second-Personal Resentment
  • Mark Migotti - Priests, Philosophers and the AI …a Reading of GM III

Conference: Nietzsche's Postmoralism - July 2010

  • Ivan Soll -  Nietzsche’s Rejection of Morality: Is it Really a Rejection or Just a Revision?
  • Paul S. Loeb - Zarathustra’s Immoralism
  • Tamsin Shaw - Nietzsche’s Evaluative Perspectives
  • Alexander Nehamas - Nietzsche: Intention, Action, Freedom
  • Dan Conway - ‘The most terrible, most questionable, and perhaps also the most hopeful of all spectacles’: Reflections on Nietzsche’s Stagecraft
  • Christa Davis - Acampora Nietzsche’s Responsibility
  • Robert Pippin - Amor Fati

[Open Sessions]:

  • Tom Bailey - Equality and Autonomy: Nietzsche’s Engagements with Kantian Ethics
  • Dan Clifford - How Does the Sovereign Individual Relate to Nietzsche’s Postmoral Ideal?
  • Matthew Bennett - Unity and Self-Discipline in Wagner in Bayreuth
  • Melanie Coughlin - MacIntyre's N and the Language of Postmorality
  • Gudrun von Tevenar - Nietzsche and/on Nausea
  • Jim Urpeth - Tensions between Affectivity, Meaning and Value in "On the Genealogy of Morality" and its Implications for Nietzsche's 'Postmoralism'
  • Andrew Huddleston - Nietzsche’s Holistic Perfectionism
  • Justin Remhof - Nietzsche’s Perfectionism and the Ethics of Care
  • Joe Ward - Nietzsche’s Value Conflict
  • John Paul Foenander - Nietzsche’s Persistent Error Theoretic Metaethics: A Response to Clark and Dudrick’s Non-Cog. Reading
  • Neil Sinhababu - Zarathustra, Passion, and the Creation of Post-Moral Value
  • Uri Pasovsky - Nietzsche on Value and Strength


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