At least since Bernard Williams’ classic essay on “Nietzsche’s Minimalist Moral Psychology,” it has been a widely held view that the mature Nietzsche is a naturalist about morality. The only trouble with this “happy and extensive consensus, and no doubt the condition of it, is that no-one knows what it involves” (Williams). In this talk, I will distinguish three varieties of naturalism that may appear to be present in Nietzsche’s writings: (I) a naturalistic account of morality that serves broadly reductive or deflationary purposes; (II) a form of ethical naturalism that aims to ground morality on given essential features of the human life form, and (III) a genealogical naturalism of second nature. Although one can find passages in Nietzsche that suggest that he endorses each of these types of naturalism, I shall argue that only the third option – a genealogical naturalism of second nature – can give us access to the “fantastic animal” we have become (GS, 1) and offer us a comprehensive account that makes Nietzsche’s endeavour intelligible and original.
Post-Kantian European Philosophy Seminar Convenors: Joseph Schear, Manuel Dries, and Mark Wrathall