We've gotten a remarkably strong (and quick) response to the invitations to participate in the inaugural workshop in Bonn of ISNS, and since we are trying to keep the event relatively small to facilitate serious discussion, we are capping acceptances at around 20 (though there will be a waitlist).
Anyone may submit to the Call for Papers; authors of accepted papers will be invited to present in Bonn and the papers will appear in Inquiry.
ADDENDUM: For those interested in Nietzsche, I discuss a recent paper by Andrew Huddleston (one of the three invited speakers for the inaugural ISNS workshop) here.
Nietzsche famously proclaimed the "death of God," but in so doing it was not God's death that was really notable--Nietzsche assumes that most reflective, modern readers realize that "the belief in the Christian god has become unbelievable” (GS 343)--but the implications of that belief becoming unbelievable, namely, "how much must collapse now that this faith has been undermined," in particular, "the whole of our European morality" (GS 343). What is the connection between the death of God and the death of morality?
I argue that Nietzsche thinks the death of God will undermine two central aspects of our morality: its moral egalitarianism, and its belief in moral responsibility and warranted guilt. I offer an account of how Nietzsche sees the connections, and conclude with some skeptical considerations about whether Nietzsche was right that atheism would, in fact, undermine morality.
UPDATE: A friend on FB, an historian at Harvard, posted the following excerpt from the preceding paper, which leads me to think it might be worth sharing:
Consider the Nietzschean Trolley Problem (apologies for anachronism): a runaway trolley is hurtling down the tracks towards Beethoven, before he has even written the Eroica symphony; by throwing a switch, you can divert the trolley so that it runs down five (or fifty) ordinary people, non-entities (say university professors of law or philosophy) of various stripes (“herd animals” in Nietzschean lingo), and Beethoven is saved. For the anti-egalitarian, this problem is not a problem: one should of course save a human genius at the expense of many mediocrities. To reason that way is, of course, to repudiate moral egalitarianism. Belief in an egalitarian God would thwart that line of reasoning; but absent that belief, what would?
From a piece on the making of jihad fanatics among French Muslims in prison:
The leading authority on jihadism in French prisons is an Iranian sociologist in Paris named Farhad Khosrokhavar. For his book “Radicalisation”...he spent three days a week in French prisons for three years, developing a theory of inmate conversion. It happens in stages. Most of the recruits grow up without fathers and without any religious knowledge—only anger and alienation in the banlieues. They fall into crime and end up in prison....One former prisoner I met...explained that Islamists target the fragiles, psychologically weak inmates who never receive visits. They are offered solace, a new identity, and a political vision inverting the social order that places them at the bottom.
This paper is forthcoming in an issue of the leading European journal devoted to the Frankfurt School, Analyse und Kritik, in a special issue on an important topic in Marxist theory, namely, "The Normative Turn Away from Marxism." The abstract:
Marx did not have a normative theory, that is, a theory that purported to justify, discursively and systematically, his normative opinions, to show them to be rationally obligatory or objectively valid. In this regard, Marx was obviously not alone: almost everyone, including those who lead what are widely regarded as exemplary “moral” lives, decide and act on the basis of normative intuitions and inclinations that fall far short of a theory. Yet self-proclaimed Marxists like G.A. Cohen and Jurgen Habermas have reintroduced a kind of normative theory into the Marxian tradition that Marx himself would have ridiculed. This essay defends Marx’s position and tries to explain the collapse of Western Marxism into bourgeois practical philosophy, i.e., philosophizing about what ought to be done that is unthreatening to capitalist relations of production (more precisely, practical philosophy that is addressed to individuals, that is primarily concerned with what to believe, and that is obsessed with moral trivialities).
Part I argues that the Marxian account of revolution under capitalism presupposes only that the agents are instrumentally rational (and thus Marx is, for all important purposes, a Humean). Part II offers a kind of intellectual genealogy of the rise of bourgeois practical philosophy in America, England, and Europe, focusing, in particular, on Cohen and Habermas, but also Peter Singer. Various forms of intuitionism (Moore, Rawls) are central to the story in the Anglophone world, while the crucial event in the European context was the merely philosophical challenge to instrumental rationality launched by Horkheimer and brought to Kantian fruition by Habermas.
Part III concludes with some speculative structural hypotheses about why Marxism should have collapsed into irrelevant normative theory over the last half-century, noting the political and legal purge of Marxists in both American and Germany, as well as the massive expansion of the university system and the premium placed on an appearance of a “method.”
Here. Selected papers will appear in Inquiry in late 2016. Anyone may submit papers, per the instructions on the site. We will be able to cover most travel and lodging costs for those without a tenure-stream position whose papers are accepted.
I'm very pleased to announce an exciting new scholarly initiative, the International Society for Nietzsche Studies. The inaugural conference will be at the University of Bonn in late June 2016, and a Call for Papers will be issued soon; Bonn will be able to offer financial support to grad students or non-tenure-stream faculty whose papers are accepted. All conference papers will appear in a special issue of Inquiry each year.
Nietzsche studies is at a particularly fertile moment, with an unusually strong cohort of talented younger philosophers around the world working on Nietzsche, in whole or in part. The existing Nietzsche societies are, in my personal opinion, somewhere on the spectrum from moribund to uneven. I am hopeful this new initiative will provide an attractive alternative.
Was ist vornehm? Was bedeutet uns heute noch das Wort "vornehm"? Woran verräth sich, woran erkennt man, unter diesem schweren verhängten Himmel der beginnenden Pöbelherrschaft, durch den Alles undurchsichtig und bleiern wird, den vornehmen Menschen? - Es sind nicht die Handlungen, die ihn beweisen, - Handlungen sind immer vieldeutig, immer unergründlich -; es sind auch die "Werke" nicht. Man findet heute unter Künstlern und Gelehrten genug von Solchen, welche durch ihre Werke verrathen, wie eine tiefe Begierde nach dem Vornehmen hin sie treibt: aber gerade dies Bedürfniss nach dem Vornehmen ist von Grund aus verschieden von den Bedürfnissen der vornehmen Seele selbst, und geradezu das beredte und gefährliche Merkmal ihres Mangels. Es sind nicht die Werke, es ist der Glaube, der hier entscheidet, der hier die Rangordnung feststellt, um eine alte religiöse Formel in einem neuen und tieferen Verstande wieder aufzunehmen: irgend eine Grundgewissheit, welche eine vornehme Seele über sich selbst hat, Etwas, das sich nicht suchen, nicht finden und vielleicht auch nicht verlieren lässt.- Die vornehme Seele hat Ehrfurcht vor sich.-
Forthcoming inThe Blackwell Companion to Experimental Philosophy, co-authored with Daniel Telech, a PhD student here who is very knowledgeable not only about Nietzsche, but about empirical and philosophical moral psychology (Dan is the lead author on this piece).
I was corresponding with a philosopher elsewhere about yet another cyber-example of the pathetic identity politics/language police, whom my correspondent described as an SJW, or "social justice warrior." I had not heard the term before, but my correspondent's explanation of it is worth sharing:
Functionally defined, "SJW" designates someone who monitors cyberspace for slights or miscues that reveal bias, and then exploits the various tools of social media to shame the offender, express outrage, and summon the digital mob, whilst achieving for themselves a righteous fame that ties their identities and their actions to the heroes and achievements of the civil rights movement, the landmark moments of which preceded their adulthood. SJWs divide the world, GWB-like, into the evildoers ("shitlords") and the oppressed, with the possible, but problematic remainder, being allies, whose status is ever tenuous and usually collapses into shitlord. SJWs do not distinguish between major and minor offenses -- unintentionally using "transgender-ed" instead of "transgender" is as unforgivable as any other act of oppression -- nor do they distinguish repeat and systematic from first-time offenders. They employ a principle of interpretation that is something like the opposite of charity. (If the utterance gives offense under one interpretation, that interpretation is correct.) It is a harsh "justice".
Indeed, it's unclear whether SJWs do not fully grasp the cruelty and inhumanity of their cybermob shame tactics, the anguish it causes, typically to the socially clueless and ASD spectrum types (itself a form of ableism), or just people with older, less plastic, brains, who are unable to keep pace with the rapidly shifting pronoun and non-slur requirements, or whether this is fully grasped, and indeed the retributive point of the exercise. In any case, the SJW hallmark is cruelty in the name of compassion. (And creating incredibly dangerous environments in the name of "safe space".)
Well, as a Nietzsche scholar, I can hardly tell you anything you don't already see better here. The difference between the Christian slave revolt and this one is that with Christianity at least, there is forgiveness.
The irony, of course, is that the SJW squanders his or her efforts on matters that rarely have anything to do with justice.
ADDENDUM: A reader in the UK writes:
I wanted to send you a quick note with regard to your most recent post on "social justice warriors". Whilst I am entirely sympathetic to your criticisms of the online mobs, vague identity politics, etc. I thought that seeing as you hadn't heard the term before you might want to be made aware that it originated and still continues to be used almost exclusively (to the best of my knowledge) as a pejorative by so-called 'Men's Rights Activists' (read: genuinely horrible and regressive misogynists) to describe anyone with a liberal or progressive disposition. Without impugning your correspondent, I am immediately suspicious when the term is used as it suggests (and originated from) an entirely different and also toxic version of identity politics. I think the most mainstream use of the term so far has been in the 'Gamergate' movement, which many (myself included) think was a thinly veiled attempt by the same misogynists to create an aura of legitimacy around their sending of rape and death threats to relatively benign (if sometimes mistaken) critics of video game tropes/culture.
Anyway, given the amount of baggage the term carries, I worry that you might (unintentionally) be, or be seen to be, lumping yourself in with a line of thought that is altogether more horrible than your actual political and moral beliefs. A google search of social justice warrior, or especially SJW, will demonstrate that its still very much the preserve of a nasty sort.
Though of course you could still agree with the definition given by your correspondent without necessarily endorsing all the horribleness associated with the term, I think there are some worrying signs in the definition itself (like the move towards claiming victimhood on neurosciencey terms) which are suggestive of additional beliefs on your correspondent's side, and of course the term itself is still used exclusively as a slur by a particular sort.
All news to me (I had never even heard of "Gamergate," though have now looked it up)! I'm quite sure my correspondent had nothing to do with any of this, far far from it in fact. It still seems to me an apt term for describing a kind of facile and superficial cyber-posturing.
ANOTHER: Some readers disputed the genealogy of the SJW term, though I don't think its etiology matters. See also this comment just submitted to the open thread.
This is a lightly revised version of a paper I gave last week at a very enjoyable conference on "Philosophy in the Public Sphere" at the Jindal Global University in Sonipat, India, near Delhi; the abstract:
The idea of “public philosophy”—that is, philosophy as contributing to questions of moral and political urgency in the community in which it is located—is paradoxical for two reasons. The first is that normative philosophy has no well-established substantive conclusions about the right and the good. Thus, philosophers enter into moral and political debate purporting to offer some kind of expertise, but the expertise they offer can not consist in any credible claim to know what is good, right, valuable, or any other substantive normative proposition that might be decisive in practical affairs. But philosophers—at least those in the broadly Socratic traditions--do bring to debate a method or way of thinking about contested normative questions: they are good at parsing arguments, clarifying the concepts at play in a debate, teasing out the dialectical entailments of suppositions and claims, and so on: Socratic philosophers are, in short, purveyors of what I call “discursive hygiene.” This brings us to the second paradox: although philosophers can contribute no substantive knowledge about the good and the right, they can contribute discursive hygiene. But discursive hygiene plays almost no role in public life, and an only erratic, and highly contingent, role in how people form beliefs about matters of moral and political urgency. I call attention to the role of two factors in moral judgment: non-rational emotional responses and “Tribalism,” the tendency to favor members of one “tribe” at the expense of others. The prevalence of emotional responses, especially tribalist ones, undermines the efficacy of discursive hygiene in public life.
I conclude that the role for public philosophy is quite circumscribed, though public philosophers should learn from their cousins, the lawyers, who appreciate the role that rhetoric, beyond discursive hygiene, plays in changing moral attitudes and affecting action. Along the way, I discuss Stevenson’s emotivism, what we can learn from Peter Singer’s schizophrenic role as a public philosopher (lauded for his defense of animal rights, pilloried for his defense of killing defective humans), evolutionary explanations of tribalism, the lessons of American Legal Realism for the possible relevance of discursive hygiene, and Marx and Nietzsche as "public" philosophers.
...by voting to ban a student group devoted to discussing Nietzsche. (Thanks to the many readers who sent this piece in the last few hours.) If the students are too stupid to undo the damage themselves, hopefully the Administration will step in. The idea that at a major English university one can't have a student group for the discussion of one of the two most important philosophers of the 19th-century is quite remarkable. The opponents are quite correct that Nietzsche is a real anti-egalitarian, but quite silly in thinking that means he is a "fascist."
UPDATE: The full motion suggests that they think the "Nietzsche Club" is really just a front group for some fascist/reactionary group. If so, it's a shame this has been presented by the media (perhaps aided and abetted by the students) as a smear of Nietzsche as a fascist.
A review of a quite good collection of new essays and a very interesting interview with my friend Ken Gemes (Birkbeck), mostly about Nietzsche (he says a couple of dubious things in this regard, though also some intriguing ones). I was particularly amused by his off-hand comment that, "I don’t doubt that Nietzsche was in some sense a naturalist," a claim that, when I first defended it systematically a dozen years ago, had lots of doubters and was a decidedly minority view. If I may (inaptly) borrow the famous line attributed to Gandhi (regarding a rather more serious matter), "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win."
D.A.S. stands for “ding an sich,” Immanuel Kant’s concept of the “thing in itself,” the object of philosophical consideration separate from human perceptions of it. The name and the restaurant concepts conjure a beer-hall-meets-lecture-hall philosophy—a Weltanschauung of Gemütlichkeit, with emphasis on Nietzsche’s concept of the Überschnitzel.
For the record the Überschnitzel is an even less important concept in Nietzsche's philosophy than the Übermensch!
I have posted it here. This will be part of a wonderfully clever series that Topoi has run for a number of years, and which is explained here:
We take a classic of philosophy and ask an outstanding scholar in the same field to review it as if it had just been published. This implies that the classical work must be contrasted with both past and current literature and must be framed in the wider cultural context of the present day. The result is a litmus test for the work itself: Failure in accounting for relevant issues raised by contemporary literature reveals that, in those respects, our classic has indeed been outpaced by later works. On the other hand, any success in capturing core topics of current discussion, or even anticipating and clarifying issues not yet well brought into focus by contemporary scholars, is the strongest proof of the liveliness of the work, no matter how long ago it was written.
I have enjoyed reading some of the previous "Untimely Reviews," including for example Brandom on Hegel's Phenomenology (2008) and Leitgeb on Carnap's Aufbau (2009). Readers not familiar with the series should check it out.
(I should note that my "untimely review" will not include that many new ideas for those who have been reading some of my other Nietzsche essays of late--I've been working on, and writing about Twilight quite a bit over the last two years.)
I offer an interpretation of Nietzsche’s striking idea of “the innocence of becoming” (die Unschuld des Werdens), and offer a partial defense of its import, namely, that no one is ever morally responsible or guilty for what they do and that the so-called “reactive attitudes” are always misplaced. I focus primarily, though not exclusively, on the arguments as set out in Twilight of the Idols. First, there is Nietzsche’s hypothesis, partly psychological and partly historical or anthropological, that the ideas of “free” action or free will, and of responsibility for actions freely chosen or willed, were introduced primarily in order to justify punishment (“[m]en were considered ‘free’ so that they might be judged and punished”). Call this the Genetic Thesis about Free Will. Second, there is Nietzsche’s claim that the moral psychology, or “psychology of the will” as he calls it, that underlies this picture is, in fact, false—that, in fact, it is not true that every action is willed or that it reflects a purpose or that it originates in consciousness. Call these, in aggregate, the Descriptive Thesis about the Will. (Here I draw on earlier work.) Finally, there is articulation of a programmatic agenda, namely, to restore the “innocence of becoming” by getting rid of guilt and punishment based on guilt—not primarily because ascriptions of guilt and responsibility are false (though they are), but because a world understood as “innocent,” one understood in terms of “natural” cause and effect, is a better world in which to live. I thus try to explain and defend Zarathustra’s recommendation: “’Enemy’ you shall say, but not ‘villain’; ‘sick’ you shall say, but not ‘scoundrel’; ‘fool’ you shall say, but not ‘sinner.’” Nietzsche’s views are contrasted with those of important modern writers on these topics, including P.F. Strawson and Gary Watson.
Here, a bit past 30 seconds in. The paraphrase is fair, though the context is not one Nietzsche was thinking about! But for any Republican to be talking about telling the truth...well, another Nietzsche quote might be apt in this context as well, from The Antichrist, section 38:
Where has the last feeling of decency and self-respect gone when even our statesmen, an otherwise quite unembarrassed type of man, anti-Christians through and through in their deeds, still call themselves Christians today and attend communion?
A journal recently sent me an automated request to referee a manuscript, which, unfortunately, I could not do within the parameters offered. From the salutation, I learned how the editors keep track of me:
MOVING TO FRONT FROM YESTERDAY--SSRN SITE WAS DOWN FOR AWHILE, BUT IS NOW WORKING AGAIN
This is the revised (and penultimate, subject to copyediting) version of an essay which attempts in 11,000 words to give an overview of the main themes of Nietzsche's philosophical corpus. For those who have read my other work on Nietzsche (including what's on SSRN), there won't be much new here, but hopefully philosophers with a side-interest in Nietzsche will find this a useful resource, with a lot of pointers to other philosophically-minded secondary literature.
For those who might be interested, the submission deadline is May 31, 2013. All papers will be sent out for blind review, and they must also be submitted via the electronic submission process specified at the Inquiry homepage. (Lots of other special issues of Inquiry coming up too, though submission deadlines vary.)
This is a revised version of the keynote address I gave at the Danish Philosophical Association last month; the abstract:
Nietzsche views the Western philosophical tradition as organized around a conception of philosophy deriving from Socrates. According to this (loosely) Socratic philosophical canon: (1) Philosophy, as the “love of wisdom,” aims for knowledge of timeless and non-empirical truths, including truths about the good and the right; (2) Knowledge of the truth is the overriding value in philosophy and is also essential for living well; and (3) Philosophical knowledge is acquired through the exercise of reason, understood as a faculty that can operate independently, in whole or in part, of a posteriori evidence. This paper explores Nietzsche's reasons for rejecting this conception of philosophy on each count, especially as developed in his book, Twilight of the Idols. Nietzsche's replacement of metaphysical speculation with psychological diagnosis is compared to Carnap's own critique of metaphysics, and helps explain Carnap's high appraisal of Nietzsche compared to other major figures in post-Kantian German philosophy. Nietzsche's rejection of the traditional philosophical canon is contrasted with that of other critics of the tradition, including Marx, Quine, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein. The reaction against naturalism in recent Anglophone philosophy is offered, finally, as a case study in support of Nietzsche's skepticism about the philosophical canon.
"What is the task of all higher schooling?--To turn people into machines.--"What method is used?"--The student must learn to be bored.--"How is this done?"--Through the concept of duty."Who is the model for this?"--the philologist: he teaches how to grind away at work.--"Who is the perfect human?"--The civil servant.--"What philosophy gives the highest formula for the civil servant?"--Kant's: the civil servant as thing-in-itself set to judge over the civil servant as phenomenon. (Twilight of the Idols, "Skirmises," sec. 29)
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)