Nietzsche’s Normative Theory? The Art and Skill of Living Well

Peter Railton

in Nietzsche, Naturalism, and Normativity

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199583676
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745294 | DOI:
Nietzsche’s Normative Theory? The Art and Skill of Living Well

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A satisfactory interpretation of Nietzsche's complex writings should help us see whether a coherent and distinctive normative theory is to be found there. At least four serious problems confront the interpreter: Does Nietzsche's perspectivism about truth result in a kind of relativism, precluding the seemingly absolute claims about the superiority of certain beings, values, or ways of life for which he is famous? Nietzsche's writings are full of imperatives, but can an action-guiding normative theory be formulated without incorporating the deontic concepts and associated idea of a free or autonomous will that Nietzsche dismissed? Does Nietzsche's naturalism preclude the idea of finding genuine values in the world? And, if his theory is founded upon value — say, nobility, health, strength, knowledge, and aesthetic excellence — how could it also be the case that, as Nietzsche says, we invent or create our values? Using examples and arguments, and drawing upon an idea of attunement toappreciative realization through life of — value as the basis for action-guidance, it is possible to see how these four problems can be overcome in a coherent, perhaps even plausible, way. However, no deep expertise on Nietzsche underwrites this paper, so the interpretation is offered on a speculative basis. It would make sense of some of Nietzsche's most prominent claims, and also of his distinctive style of philosophy, and his notion that ‘eternal recurrence’ is an appropriate test of a life.

Keywords: morality; value; perspectivism; naturalism; attunement; appreciation; evaluative concepts; normative concepts; skill; living well; aesthetic

Chapter.  16214 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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