Nietzsche on Morality, Drives, and Human Greatness

Christopher Janaway

in Nietzsche, Naturalism, and Normativity

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199583676
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745294 | DOI:
Nietzsche on Morality, Drives, and Human Greatness

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This chapter raises questions concerning Nietzsche's positive evaluative ideal of greatness for a human being. On the one hand he offers as a highest ideal the capacity to affirm one's life to the fullest extent possible, as tested by the thought experiment of the ‘eternal recurrence’. It is argued that while Nietzsche holds this degree of life-affirmation to have positive value, it could be a normative ideal only for rare individuals, in Nietzsche's eyes. On the other hand, Nietzsche sometimes talks of greatness in terms of properties of, and relations between a human being's drives or instincts: necessary conditions for greatness include the strength of drives, their multiplicity, and their being in conflict but held in a unity. The nature of drives and instincts is explored, and it is argued that some drives and instincts may be culturally acquired and lost. Morality is both a symptom of, and a danger to, healthy states of the drives: hence consciously held beliefs and other attitudes can impair or enhance greatness. The question is raised: how does the ideal attitude of self-affirmation relate to greatness conceived in terms of the drives? It is suggested that self-affirmation can both be symptomatic of greatness in that sense, and can be a facilitator of it.

Keywords: greatness; drives; instincts; morality; self-affirmation; eternal recurrence

Chapter.  10191 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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