Nietzsche on Nobility and the Affirmation of Life

Hamilton, Christopher
June 2000
Ethical Theory & Moral Practice;Jun2000, Vol. 3 Issue 2, p169
Academic Journal
In this paper I explore Nietzsche's thinking on the notions of nobility and the affirmation of life and I subject his reflections on these to criticism. I argue that we can find at least two understandings of these notions in Nietzsche's work which I call a 'worldly' and an 'inward' conception and I explain what I mean by each of these. Drawing on Homer and Dostoyevsky, the work of both of whom was crucial for Nietzsche in developing and exploring his notion of worldly nobility and affirmation, I then go on to argue that Nietzsche provides us with no concrete examples of worldly nobles and that, given his historicism, he cannot. Thus Nietzsche's thinking here is broken-backed. I turn, therefore, to explore the inward notions of nobility and affirmation. Discussing Montaigne and Napoleon in the context of Nietzsche's philosophy, I argue that we can make good sense in Nietzschean terms of someone's affirming his own life in an inward sense. This, however, opens up the difference between someone's affirming his own life and his affirming life überhaupt, and I argue that Nietzsche needs to be able to make sense not just of the former but also of the latter. Referring once again to Dostoyevsky, I suggest that Nietzsche can only do so by accepting the idea that all human beings possess dignity qua human beings. This thought is, however, one that he rejects. Thus Nietzsche's reflections in this area cannot be rendered finally plausible since they depend upon something which can find no room in his philosophy.


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