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Nietzsche's Philosophical Psychology
 0198803281, 9780198803287

Table of contents :
Title Pages
1. Introduction
2. Drives
3. Affects
4. The Soul’s Order
5. The Surface Revealed
6. More (Kinds of ) Consciousness
7. Nietzsche’s Epiphenomenalism about RConsciousness
8. The Self
9. Self-Knowledge
10. The Will
11. The Ideal Type
12. Conclusions

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Nietzsche’s Philosophical Psychology

Nietzsche’s Philosophical Psychology MATTIA RICCARDI



Great Clarendon Street, Oxford, OX2 6DP, United Kingdom Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Oxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University Press in the UK and in certain other countries © Mattia Riccardi 2021 The moral rights of the author have been asserted First Edition published in 2021 Impression: 1 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law, by licence or under terms agreed with the appropriate reprographics rights organization. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above You must not circulate this work in any other form and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer Published in the United States of America by Oxford University Press 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, United States of America British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Data available Library of Congress Control Number: 2021930038 ISBN 978–0–19–880328–7 DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198803287.001.0001 Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY Links to third party websites are provided by Oxford in good faith and for information only. Oxford disclaims any responsibility for the materials contained in any third party website referenced in this work.

I dedicate this book to my wife Bárbara and to my children Vasco and Sara.

Acknowledgments This book was conceived and written between Porto—where I was (and still am) part of the Mind, Language, and Action Group (MLAG) lead by Sofia Miguens— and Bonn—where I was Mitarbeiter at Michael Forster’s Humboldt Chair. Many thanks to Sofia and Michael for being wonderful people to work with. Over the years, I have been able to learn a lot by discussing my views about Nietzsche with Jessica Berry, Maria João Branco, Marco Brusotti, Maudemarie Clark, João Constâncio, Manuel Dries, David Dudrick, Maria Cristina Fornari, Michael Forster, Chris Fowles, Ken Gemes, Pietro Gori, Andrew Huddleston, Chris Janaway, Peter Kail, Paul Katsafanas, Brian Leiter, Paul Loeb, Luca Lupo, Enrico Müller, Bernard Reginster, John Richardson, Paolo Stellino, and Benedetta Zavatta. (Apologies to anyone I am forgetting.) Parts of the book draw on work already published elsewhere. Chapter 4 is a revised version of ‘Virtuous Homunculi: Nietzsche on the Order of Drives’, published in Inquiry 61.1 (2018): 21–41; Chapters 1 and 9 incorporate materials from ‘Inner Opacity. Nietzsche on Introspection and Agency’, published in Inquiry 58.3 (2015): 221–243; Chapters 5 and 6 include portions of ‘Nietzsche’s Pluralism about Consciousness’, published in the British Journal for the History of Philosophy 24.1 (2016): 132–154; Chapter 8 incorporates materials from ‘A Tale of Two Selves. Nietzsche and the Contemporary Debates on the Self ’, which appeared in P. Katsafanas (ed.) Routledge Philosophy Minds: Nietzsche (London: Routledge (2018): 186–200); Chapter 11 incorporates materials from ‘Nietzsche on Free Will’, which appeared in M. Griffith, N. Levy & K. Timpe (eds.) Routledge Companion to Free Will (London: Routledge (2016): 364–373). In all cases, I thank the publisher for permission to reprint such materials. (Gratitude to friends, colleagues, and audiences expressed on occasion of the original publication of these pieces obviously extends to this book.) I am extremely grateful to two anonymous referees—one of whom was revealed to be Brian Leiter—for their detailed and insightful comments on the entire manuscript. Many thanks are also due to Chris Fowles for his comments on an earlier draft of Chapter 7 and to Luca Corti for his comments on the final chapter. I am very grateful to David Rosenthal for an extended and extraordinarily helpful email exchange on higher-order theories of consciousness. I am very grateful also to Peter Momtchiloff for his encouraging guidance through the different book stages and for his patience. A special thank is due to Brian Leiter, for his continuous support since we first met in Lisbon in 2012. Mattia Riccardi University of Porto / Institute of Philosophy


Contents List of Abbreviations


1. Introduction


2. Drives


3. Affects


4. The Soul’s Order


II. MAPPING THE SURFACE 5. The Surface Revealed


6. More (Kinds of ) Consciousness

99 R

7. Nietzsche’s Epiphenomenalism about Consciousness




9. Self-Knowledge


10. The Will


11. The Ideal Type


12. Conclusions


Bibliography Index

237 245


List of Abbreviations Nietzsche’s works are cited by using the conventional abbreviations listed below, followed by abbreviated title (if applicable) and section (Roman) and/or aphorism (Arabic) number (if applicable). Unpublished notes are quoted by indicating the note’s year, its conventional number as established by the German critical edition, as well as the critical edition volume and the page number. When available, I use Kate Sturge’s translation in Writings from the Late Notebooks (Cambridge University Press, 2003), ed. by R. Bittner, thus adding references to that edition and to the relevant page number. In all other cases, the translation of Nietzsche’s unpublished notes is mine. For complete information about the other English translations I use, see the Bibliography. Translation changes are signalled in the text. A BGE BT D EH GM GS HH KSA LN TI Z

The Anti-Christ Beyond Good and Evil Birth of Tragedy Daybreak Ecce Homo On the Genealogy of Morality The Gay Science Human, All Too Human Kritische Studienausgabe Writings from the Late Notebooks Twilight of the Idols Thus Spoke Zarathustra

1 Introduction In one of his notes, Georg Christoph Lichtenberg once wrote: ‘Newton was able to separate the colours. Which name will the psychologist have who tells us what the causes of our actions are composed of?’ (Lichtenberg 1867:51; see 1973 Heft C 303:213). We should not be surprised that Nietzsche felt drawn to these words, for the task of understanding how human agency works is a key part of his broader philosophical project centred on the critique of morality and on the ‘revaluation of values’. Among other things, Nietzsche surely saw himself as the philosopher saddled with the task of becoming the Newton of psychology envisaged by Lichtenberg. In particular, Nietzsche shares with Lichtenberg the idea that psychology affords essential insights both into the working of the human mind and into the mechanisms of agency. At the end of BGE 23, which closes the theoretically dense Part I of that book, he programmatically puts forward the demand that ‘psychology again be recognized as queen of the sciences, and that the rest of the sciences exist to serve and prepare for it’ (BGE 23). As the very last sentence of that aphorism has it, ‘from now on, psychology is again the path to the fundamental problems’. Another point that Nietzsche makes explicit in BGE 23 is the link between psychological inquiry and morality critique, as he affirms that making a certain psychological discovery—that ‘the affects of hatred, envy, greed, and power-lust’ are ‘elements that fundamentally and essentially need to be present in the total economy of life’—already means ‘sailing straight over and away from morality’. An even more straightforward link between psychology and morality is made in BGE 187, which concludes with Nietzsche’s famous claim to the effect that ‘morality is just a sign language of the affects’—which I shall call the Semiotic Claim.¹ At face value, at least, the view expressed by this claim amounts to a reduction of moral phenomena to psychological ones, for that of affect is a psychological notion. In fact, in another aphorism of the same work, Nietzsche explicitly—and somewhat surprisingly—makes a case in favour of rehabilitating the very notion of soul, which is of course what is traditionally conceived to be the proper object of psychology. There he writes:

¹ On this claim, see Leiter (2019:67–69).

Nietzsche’s Philosophical Psychology. Mattia Riccardi, Oxford University Press. © Mattia Riccardi 2021. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198803287.003.0001


 there is absolutely no need to give up ‘the soul’ itself, and relinquish one of the oldest and most venerable hypotheses—as often happens with naturalists: given their clumsiness, they barely need to touch ‘the soul’ to lose it. But the path lies open for new versions and sophistications of the soul hypothesis—and concepts like the ‘mortal soul’ and the ‘soul as subject-multiplicity’ and the ‘soul as a society constructed out of drives and affects’ want henceforth to have civil rights in the realm of science. (BGE 12)

Some points are worth stressing here. First, Nietzsche distinguishes his position from that of ‘naturalists’ who reject the notion of soul altogether. But who are the naturalists in question? Of course, all philosophers proposing views ranging from eliminativism to reductive materialism would qualify as such. In 19th-century Germany, that was the case of materialist philosophers such as Ludwig Büchner, Jacob Moleschott, and Carl Vogt. Note, however, that even a neo-Kantian such as Friedrich Albert Lange may well be among the targets of Nietzsche’s criticism here. For though he dismisses the kind of reductive materialism defended by the philosophers listed above, he nevertheless insists that psychology should give up the notion of soul altogether. In a phrase that became a slogan, he advocates a ‘psychology without a soul’ (Lange 1881 v.3:168; see also Gori 2015 on this). Thus, Lange’s position also seems to count as an instance of the naturalistic ‘clumsiness’ leading one to ‘lose’ the soul. Now, if Nietzsche’s target in BGE 12 is broad enough to include someone like Lange, the shortcoming of clumsy naturalism cannot be the endorsement of reductive materialism, for that position is something Lange himself rejects. A better option seems to be Lange’s blindness to the essential normative dimension of psychology—a dimension captured by the traditional conception of the soul and that Nietzsche, as we shall see, is eager to rehabilitate.² Second, though Nietzsche links his own project to such a ‘venerable’ tradition, it is equally clear that the view of the soul he advances departs from the received one. In particular, his proposal consists in conceiving of the soul as ‘a society constructed out of drives and affects’. Hence, drives and affects—of which, according to the Semiotic Claim, morality is but a sign language—are put forward as the basic constituents of the human soul. In fact, as we shall see in detail in the remainder of this book, they are the primary explanatory items of Nietzsche’s philosophical psychology. They are, as Lichtenberg would have put it, what ‘the causes of our actions are composed of ’. Given all this, it may seem surprising that Nietzsche’s philosophical psychology and, more generally, his philosophy of mind have traditionally received little attention. Fortunately, this has been changing over the last two decades or so, during which time important work has been produced on such topics. (As I shall

² Clark and Dudrick (2012) forcefully argue for this point.

    ’   


discuss these contributions in the next chapters, I postpone references to the relevant literature.) To help to position my own study within the landscape of recent Nietzsche scholarship, I shall start by making clear where its focus lies (Section 1.1) as well as the kind of methodological approach I adopt (Section 1.2). Finally, I close this introduction with a very brief overview of the book’s structure.

1.1 The Proper Domain of Nietzsche’s Philosophical Psychology Nietzsche believes that human psychology is shaped by the process of socialization. On the one hand, he takes socialization to produce a reconfiguration of drives and affects—the soul’s basic constituents, as we have seen—yielding in the members of a certain community the disposition to act in conformity to the customs accepted by that community. On the other hand, he argues that the capacity for conscious thought is a by-product of such a process of languagemediated socialization. As a result, socialization brings about a far-reaching psychological uniformity among the members of a certain community: they all tend to act and think of themselves in roughly the same way. This view is articulated, inter alia, in GS 354, which is arguably the most important published text when it comes to Nietzsche’s views about human consciousness. (That’s why I shall come back again and again to this crucial aphorism.) Equally important, however, is the context in which such views are presented. Briefly spelling out that context will also allow me to indicate more clearly what I am primarily interested in in this book. GS 354 describes the kind of psychological averaging brought about by socialization. As Nietzsche often likes to put it, this is the process by which human beings become a ‘herd’. Crucially, the two preceding aphorisms—GS 352 and GS 353—argue that both morality and religion presuppose this process. GS 353, which focuses on religion, is more explicit in that regard. At the end of the aphorism, Nietzsche writes that the ‘religion-founder must be psychologically infallible in his knowledge of a certain average breed of souls who have not yet recognized one another as allies’ (GS 353). Thus, the creator of a new religion is able to identify as such the ‘average breed of souls’ which is the typical product of socialization. Religion proper, then, consists in an interpretation of the kind of life conducted by those sharing that average kind of soul. In Nietzsche’s own words: the ‘significance, the originality of the religion-founder usually lies in his seeing and selecting this way of life, in his guessing for the first time what it can be used for and how it can be interpreted’. Such is an ‘interpretation that makes it [the relevant way of life] appear illuminated by the highest worth’. Crucially, Nietzsche claims that ‘the way of life’ is ‘usually already in place’. An analogous claim with regard to morality is put forward at the end of GS 352: (European) morality requires ‘the herd animal



with its deep mediocrity, fear, and boredom with itself ’ (GS 352). Hence, both religion and morality consist in the interpretation of a certain ‘way of life’ the establishment of which typically predates its being interpreted religiously or morally and which can be explained by appeal to the very processes through which socialization is realized. This is why, I submit, Nietzsche deals with such processes in GS 354: this aphorism is designed to show how the ‘average breed of souls’ that GS 352 and GS 353 mention as a presupposition of morality and religion is supposed to emerge. On the one hand, this suggests a way in which Nietzsche takes psychology to be the ‘path to the fundamental problems’, among which he surely counts morality and religion. For the emergence of these presupposes that certain psychological processes produce a certain kind of soul, i.e. a certain psychological make-up. On the other hand, it also shows that there is a dimension of human psychology that is prior to the appearance of morality (and religion).³ To put it differently, Nietzsche’s views about moral (and religious) psychology build on his views about more basic and more general psychological phenomena such as cognition, affectivity, consciousness, volition, and the self. Taken together, these latter views constitute (what I shall refer to as) Nietzsche’s philosophical psychology, which I take to be distinct from—though inextricably related to—his moral (and religious) psychology. This does not mean that moral (and religious) psychology is just philosophical psychology applied to moral (and religious) phenomena. Rather, it means that any theory about how human moral (and religious) psychology works involves commitments about how human psychology in general works. Thus, whereas some scholars have been primarily interested in Nietzsche’s specific claims about moral psychology (major and very recent examples are Alfano 2019 and Leiter 2019), I am here primarily interested in his philosophical psychology understood as a body of claims about more basic and more general psychological phenomena. Let me ward off two potential misunderstandings straight away. First, that Nietzsche’s moral psychology builds on his philosophical psychology does not imply that he always distinguishes between the two, nor that he sees any strict divide between them. Quite to the contrary, not only does Nietzsche often not make any such distinction, but he also clearly believes that the moral mind is continuous with the mind tout court, as nicely illustrated by his Semiotic Claim. Thus, and not surprisingly, the relation between his philosophical psychology and ³ Of course, Nietzsche’s claim allows that a moral or religious form of life be reinterpreted and thereby transformed into a new moral or religious form of life. As his examples show, however, these are not the cases he has in mind. His first example is Jesus, who ‘discovered the life of the small people in the Roman province’ and ‘put the highest meaning and value into it’ (GS 353). The second example is Buddha, who ‘discovered . . . that type of person who is good and gracious (above all, inoffensive) out of laziness and who, also from laziness, lives abstinently and with nearly no needs at all’, and similarly attributed a high value to that specific form of life. No religious value seems to attach to both forms of life before they are interpreted in the relevant way.

    


his moral psychology can be seen as that between a scientia generalis and a scientia specialis. Second, that this is the case does not mean that Nietzsche puts forward any systematic theory about human psychology or aspects thereof (see Stern 2015 on this point). Rather, his claims about such matters are scattered in different works and presented piecemeal. In many cases, they are not even stated explicitly, but simply put to work implicitly in his treatment of some concrete issue. (In fact, as many of these issues concern moral phenomena, we will sometimes have to deal with Nietzsche’s treatment of such phenomena to get to his views about human psychology in general.) Thus, to get an overall picture of Nietzsche’s philosophical psychology requires a good deal of reconstructive work. Nonetheless, I think such a task is worth pursuing, for that picture—as I hope this book will help to show—is both insightful and philosophically engaging.⁴

1.2 Methodological Issues and Book Plan Before we start to explore Nietzsche’s philosophical psychology, there are a couple of methodological issues I want to address briefly. My approach is not motivated by mere antiquarian interest. As I believe that Nietzsche’s work affords a range of valuable insights into the nature of mind and agency, I shall often refer to and make use of contemporary theories and concepts in order to better spell out their theoretical significance. Thus, and more so in light of the partially reconstructive character of the advertised project, one may worry that the result will amount to some anachronistic monstrosity. To avoid this kind of problem, I shall also give careful consideration to the historical context in which Nietzsche’s thoughts took shape. In particular, when it comes to some of the key notions and claims of his philosophical psychology—such as the notion of drive or the claim that consciousness is intimately linked to communication—I shall show how his adoption of such notions and his endorsement of such claims are the result of his direct engagement with the specific work of contemporary writers—sometimes philosophers, sometimes psychologists (in a broad understanding of the term). Given that my reconstructive account of Nietzsche’s views is backed up by such a scrupulous treatment of the intellectual context in which they emerged, I do not think it warrants complaints of anachronism.

⁴ In the next section I shall come back to some methodological issues raised by Nietzsche’s unsystematic treatment. What it shows, I think, is that Nietzsche’s interest in human psychology is guided by his overall project of providing a critique of Judaeo-Christian morality. It is, thus, fair to say that Nietzsche is interested in issues pertaining to the general domain of philosophical psychology primarily in virtue of their relevance to issues pertaining to the special domain of moral psychology. This, of course, does not undermine the point that the issues pertaining to the former domain are more basic than those pertaining to the latter one, nor does it undermine the point that his incursions into the former domain add up to a penetrating picture of how the human mind works (pace Stern 2015).



A result of this approach is a partially developmental account of Nietzsche’s views about mind and agency. Though some of the fundamental notions and claims constituting his philosophical psychology already appear in D—published in 1881—the picture is integrated and refined in the following years. However, all elements of Nietzsche’s mature philosophical psychology are finally displayed in BGE—published in 1886—and in his later works, which—as far as I can see—do not introduce any further significant change in how Nietzsche sees things with regard to those subjects. All this brings me to the vexed question of what one has to make of Nietzsche’s abundant unpublished materials, his so-called Nachlass. Some Nietzsche interpreters maintain that any serious scholar should avoid drawing conclusions based on such materials. After all, these are all materials Nietzsche—for some reason or other—did not publish. As we can never be sure whether he actually took the content of a certain note to express his considered view, and as he did publish several works he obviously took to express his considered views, a decent interpreter should rely on the latter kind of textual evidence, and not on the former one. Though I agree that when it comes to ascribing a certain claim to Nietzsche the published work should (obviously) be given priority, things are nevertheless more complicated. First, it is notoriously hard to pin down Nietzsche’s views. His treatment of a certain issue is often allusive, elliptic, or simply dispersed in different works pursuing quite different projects. In such cases, it can be helpful to see what he says about the relevant subject matter in his notes. To be clear: I do not want to suggest that to do so is always rewarding. Indeed, sometimes one just ends up with an even bigger mess. My point is simply that it does not make much sense to quarantine the Nachlass a priori. In fact, I want to make a stronger suggestion. When one is interested in investigating how Nietzsche came to adopt a certain concept or formulate a certain view—as I shall occasionally be in this book—unpublished materials are an essential tool. For instance, merely to mention an example we shall encounter later, it would have been impossible to draw the relevant connections between Nietzsche’s notion of drive and the seminal work of 19th-century psychologist Georg Schneider without considering his Nachlass notes. Moreover, as this does not mean pointing to certain materials as putative evidence for one’s pet reading of a certain claim, but rather using such materials to gain a better understanding of the context in which that claim was made, there is no reason not to take it to be methodologically kosher. In general, I do not think there is a general receipt for a sensible usage of Nietzsche’s Nachlass materials. Whether one’s appeal to a certain unpublished passage warrants the conclusion one argues it does is something to be judged contextually. The reader of this book will find a few instances of what I regard a sensible way of dealing with those materials. It is of course up to her or him to judge if that is the case.

    


To conclude, let me just provide a very brief overview of the contents of this book. (As each chapter starts with a short introductory section always including an overview of its contents, here I confine myself to a sketch of the book’s overall structure.) The book is divided into three parts. Part I deals with the basic items of Nietzsche’s philosophical psychology. Chapters 2 and 3 investigate his notions of drive and affect, respectively. Chapter 4 tries to make sense of Nietzsche’s picture of the soul as a ‘society constructed out’ of those items, as it is proposed in BGE 12. The claim I shall defend is that the soul’s order is best understood as a causal one. Part II is dedicated to the issue of consciousness. Chapter 5 argues that the notion of consciousness Nietzsche is usually concerned with is that of reflective consciousness and offers an account of his views about it. In Chapter 6, I maintain that Nietzsche is best read as endorsing pluralism about consciousness: the kind of reflective consciousness explored in Chapter 5 is not all there is to our conscious life. In other words, I shall argue that Nietzsche allows for mental states that are unconscious in the reflective sense to be conscious in some other sense. Chapter 7 articulates and defends a (qualified) epiphenomenalist reading of Nietzsche’s views about reflective consciousness. Part III explores the consequences Nietzsche draws from his basic picture of human psychology for a range of further issues directly related to it. Chapter 8 deals with the self and argues that Nietzsche takes one’s reflectively conscious self to be the upshot of one’s bodily self, which, in turn, he identifies with the hierarchical arrangement among one’s drives and affects. Chapter 9 is about Nietzsche’s radical scepticism about the epistemic credentials of introspective self-knowledge. Chapter 10 turns to Nietzsche’s model of the will by arguing that he takes volitional phenomenology to be the personal-level upshot of the subpersonal interactions among one’s drives. These, and not that, are what cause our actions. Chapter 11 tackles Nietzsche’s picture of the ideal human type. The thesis I shall defend is that it possesses three essential features: psychological stability (understood as strength of will), psychological unity (understood, roughly, as lack of self-alienation), and the capacity to create one’s own values. Finally, Chapter 12 offers a concluding perspective by considering how Nietzsche’s philosophical psychology compares to standard belief–desire psychology, on the one hand, and by contrasting (some of) its most distinctive claims with (some of) those put forward by Kant and Hegel, on the other hand. The aim, there, is to make both its philosophical significance as well as its peculiar contribution to the epic of post-Kantian thought more salient.




2 Drives The claim that one’s psychological constitution is essentially a matter of drives and affects will probably sound strange to contemporary ears. The notion of ‘drive’, in particular, does not seem to play any substantive role in contemporary psychology and cognitive neuroscience, not to mention contemporary philosophy of mind and philosophy of psychology. Indeed, if discussed at all, it is usually considered as a completely discredited notion, due primarily to its being a key concept of psychoanalytic theories. This is why it may seem attractive to try to reduce Nietzschean drives to less extravagant kinds of mental items. Sinhababu (2018), for instance, argues that they should be understood as ‘composed by Humean desires’ (153). However, and though I do not want to deny affinities between Nietzschean drives and Humean desires, I think that many distinctive features and important details of Nietzsche’s views of the human mind would be lost by adopting such a deflationary strategy. In general, I share Anderson’s impression that compared to the ‘ontologically stripped down, austere, well-nigh parched landscape of belief–desire psychology, Nietzsche’s own moral psychological apparatus gives off a positively steamy air of tropical luxuriance’ (Anderson 2012:210).¹ Note, moreover, that back in the late 19th century the notion of drive was far from marginal in discussions concerning human psychology. Wilhelm Wundt’s seminal outlines of psychology usually contain a chapter or section on drives and affects, in which he argues that they are the sources of virtually every human action.² In a letter to Graf Yorck from January 1890, Wilhelm Dilthey writes that the aim of his lecture on ethics is to give a ‘picture of the economy of psychic life (Seelenlebens) and of the role within it of the systems of drives and feelings (Gefühle)’ (Dilthey 1981:9). In that lecture, he will argue that ‘the human being is a bundle (Bündel) of drives; stimulus sensation and representation here, movement process there, are just the tentacles, as it were, through which their drive system sucks up impressions, to which it reacts snatching, assimilating or protecting itself from external things’ (50). Thus, the claim on which Nietzsche’s philosophical psychology is based looks less outlandish once we factor in its historical context. ¹ I shall come back to the relation between Nietzsche’s philosophical psychology and standard belief–desire psychology in Chapter 12. ² See for instance Wundt (1887 II:404–429). In later works, however, Wundt will abandon the notion of drive and retain only that of affect (see Wundt 1897:219–20). I shall come back to this point at the end of Chapter 3.

Nietzsche’s Philosophical Psychology. Mattia Riccardi, Oxford University Press. © Mattia Riccardi 2021. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198803287.003.0002



Of course, that the notion of drive looked appealing to Nietzsche’s contemporaries does not explain why he chose to employ it, nor does it tell us much about its meaning. This chapter aims at clarifying it. I shall start with some preliminary considerations on Nietzsche’s usage of the term (Section 2.1). To get a clearer picture of the background against which his late drive psychology emerged, I shall then consider the conception of drives held by Schopenhauer (Section 2.2) and by the German psychologist Georg Schneider (Section 2.3). Whereas Schopenhauer may look as an obvious choice, that of Schneider requires some justification. Roughly, the reason I consider his work in some detail is that it is demonstrably the most important scientific source Nietzsche relies on to elaborate his psychology of drives. I then move on to Nietzsche’s own views about drives. I start by investigating how such views emerge by the time he was working on D and how he later attempts to refine them by engaging—a second time and more thoroughly— with Schneider’s work in 1883 (Section 2.4). This refinement results in the notion of drive Nietzsche employs more or less consistently in his mature works—most notably in BGE—on which I focus in Section 2.5. Before concluding with a brief summary (Section 2.7), I address the relation Nietzsche sometimes attempts to draw between the notion of ‘drive’ and that of ‘will to power’ (Section 2.6).

2.1 Why Drives? Some Preliminary Remarks In order to work out how Nietzsche understood the notion of drive, it will be helpful to start with some preliminary considerations about his usage of the term. Though it is usually associated with his mature philosophical psychology, Nietzsche actually starts employing the notion of drive much earlier. The most relevant example is provided by BT, where the two productive forces responsible for all artistic creation are described as the Apollonian and Dionysian drives. Within Nietzsche’s opus we can thus distinguish a general notion of drive already employed in his earlier works and the specific notion of drive of his later philosophical psychology. Though I’m interested in the latter one, it is important to note that it did not emerge in a vacuum. When Nietzsche started to feel the need to get a clearer understanding of what drives might be, he already had some grasp on that notion. Therefore, an interesting question concerns how Nietzsche’s usage of the term changes over time. This is a question to which we shall return later in this chapter.³ D is the first book in which drives clearly appear as playing a crucial role in the kind of psychological explanations typically offered by Nietzsche. It is from this ³ In Nietzsche’s writings (published works and Nachlass), we find 209 occurrences of the term ‘Trieb’ between 1868 and 1879 and 440 occurrences between 1880 and 1888. More than a half of these last occurrences (236) concern the period between 1880 and 1883.

 ?   


work on that he starts to use what I called the specific notion of drive that will soon become the cornerstone of his philosophical psychology. It is not easy to understand why this happens. Of course, given that the major task of D is to offer an original picture of moral psychology, it is not surprising that psychological notions are ascribed a key role. But why the notion of drive then? It seems to me that this choice is partly due to the fact that the book project that eventually became D was conceived as a critical response to the moral psychology Nietzsche’s friend Paul Rée had proposed in a work titled The Origin of Moral Sentiments (Der Ursprung der moralischen Empfindungen), published in 1877. The book’s central claim—expounded right at the beginning—is that ‘Every person combines two drives within himself, namely, the egoistic drive and the non-egoistic drive’ (Rée 2003:89). Given this basic account of our psychological make-up, Rée goes on to argue that moral attitudes are evolutionarily rooted in the repertoire of prosocial behaviours prompted by the non-egoistic drive. Nietzsche’s dissatisfaction with his friend’s views is well known. Though D can be seen as Nietzsche’s attempt to provide his own picture of moral psychology, he seems to retain Rée’s idea that drives are the most basic items to which one should appeal when in the business of accounting for our moral attitudes as well as for human psychology in general.⁴ Of course, we haven’t made much progress by finding out that Nietzsche adheres to Rée’s own assumption, for we are now to ask why he does so. Important clues regarding how to answer this further question can be found, I submit, by looking in two different directions. First, the fact that Nietzsche had previously characterized the two major sources of artistic creation as drives suggests that he was already disposed to accept the idea that drives are among the primary sources of human action. Second, the very genesis of D proves here instructive. As Nietzsche’s project in this book was to dispute Rée’s picture of human morality, it seems natural to think that he tried to put forward a scientifically informed alternative. In fact, the Nachlass from 1880 and 1881 shows his engagement with both philosophical and empirical literature on moral psychology. Among the works he studied in that period we find Georg Heinrich Schneider’s book Der thierische Wille. Schneider’s work was a path-breaking contribution towards a systematic theory of animal and human psychology based on the notion of drive.⁵ Though, as we shall see, Nietzsche did not endorse some important features of Schneider’s own characterization of drives, his engagement with this book surely helped to strengthen the idea that they constitute the

⁴ In his previous work, Rée writes: ‘Seen from without, the actions and events of human life seem to be very diverse and different, but seen from within, they are almost all caused by a very small number of drives, namely, by the drive to survive and get one’s living, the sexual drive, and vanity’ (Rée 2003:27). ⁵ Schneider’s work is part of a long tradition going back at least to Reimarus’s Allgemeine Betrachtungen über die Triebe der Thiere (1760). At the same time, it is the first to attempt to sketch a systematic theory of drives within the Darwinian framework, as we shall see. For a quick overview of the history of the notion of drive in German science and philosophy, see Katsafanas (2016:88–90).



bedrock of human psychology. Indeed, we know that Nietzsche felt compelled to study Schneider’s work again—and, as philological evidence suggests, more carefully—in 1883. As this suggests that Nietzsche’s specific notion of drive was shaped, in part, through his interaction with Schneider’s work, it will be helpful to consider this in some detail. But what about the more general notion of drive Nietzsche had already employed in BT and which arguably predisposed him to later accept the idea that drives—now in the more technical sense of the term—are the basic posits of human psychology? Looking at Schopenhauer’s philosophy will provide an—at least partial—answer to this question, for two main reasons. First, Schopenhauer is notoriously an early and lasting influence on Nietzsche’s thought. Second, and less obviously, Schopenhauer’s most general characterization of drives as character traits nicely maps onto Nietzsche’s later understanding of them as behavioural dispositions. So let us start by turning to Schopenhauer’s conception of drives.

2.2 Schopenhauer on Drives (and Instincts) The notion of ‘drive’ isn’t as central to Schopenhauer’s thought as it will be to Nietzsche’s. Nonetheless, as Schopenhauer ends up identifying drives with character traits, what the term refers to is, indeed, crucial to his understanding of human agency. This identification is explicitly made in §27 from Volume II of The World as Will and Representation. There, Schopenhauer starts by drawing a general distinction between the two main sources of human and animal actions, namely motivation (Motivation) and instinct (Instinkt). While in the case of motivation the cause of one’s action is external, in that of instinct it comes from within. However, as soon as he draws this distinction, Schopenhauer starts questioning it. The reason is that, on closer scrutiny, no action is completely caused by either internal or external factors. Thus, the criterion on which the distinction between motivation and instinct has been made is, at best, only relative. On the one hand, in the putative case of determination from without the motive ‘acts only on the assumption of an inner drive (Trieb), that is to say, of a definite nature (Beschaffenheit) of the will, called its character’ (Schopenhauer 1819/1844 II §27:342, translation changed). This is so because the motive ‘in each case gives this only a decided direction’ in that it ‘individualizes it [the drive or character] for the concrete case’. On the other hand, in the putative case of determination from within the instinct, though it is a ‘decided drive (Trieb) of the will’, ‘it does not act entirely from within, like a spring, but it too waits for an external circumstance necessarily required for this action, and that circumstance determines the moment of the instinct’s manifestation’ (translation changed).

   ( )


Of course, the initial distinction between action caused by a motive and action caused by an instinct is completely blurred, as both cases seem to involve the same psychological ingredients: a drive understood as character or, better, as a certain character trait, and a suitable motive—arguably, an external stimulus triggering the relevant drive. So, given the collapse of the initial distinction, how are we to differentiate among the two cases? Schopenhauer’s answer is that instinct is a ‘character set in motion only by a quite specially determined motive’ (Schopenhauer 1819/1844 II §27:343). Hence, whereas a standard drive can be triggered by a variety of distinct motives, an instinct is tightly coupled to a particular kind of stimulus. Another feature of instinct is highlighted by Schopenhauer in the later §44, on ‘The Metaphysics of Sexual Love’. There, he describes instinct as ‘an action as if in accordance with the conception of a purpose (Zweckbegriff), and yet entirely without such a conception’ (Schopenhauer 1819/1844 II §44:540, translation changed). The way in which this is supposed to work varies depending on how cognitively sophisticated the relevant organism is. In the case of simple organisms, Schopenhauer seems to suggest that instinct is just the blind disposition to react in a fixed way to a certain class of stimuli. In the case of more complex organisms, nature operates ‘by implanting in the individual a certain delusion’, in a way such that ‘that which in truth is merely a good thing for the species seems to him to be a good thing for himself, so that he serves the species, whereas he is under the delusion that he is serving himself ’ (538). In the case of sexual love, one believes one is pursuing an individual goal —pleasure—whereas the actual purpose of one’s action is the purpose of the species—reproduction.⁶ So instinct makes a certain individual realize the purpose of its own species either in the absence of any representation of that purpose or by presenting it under the disguise of a completely different purpose. In both cases, the individual lacks awareness of the purpose which is, in fact, guiding its action. If there is a purpose the individual is aware of as being the purpose of its action, it is a mere illusion. A last point worth noting is that Schopenhauer takes the notion of instinct to be of limited import when it comes to the explanation of human agency. The reason is that ‘as a rule, instinct is given only to the animals . . . , but almost only in the case here considered [i.e. sexual love] is it given also to man’ ⁶ More precisely, Schopenhauer argues that the sexual instinct manifests itself psychologically as a ‘sense of beauty’. According to him, one selects the mating partner according to one’s representation of (corporeal) beauty. However, beauty is just the disguised form under which sexual love’s actual purpose, i.e. reproduction, is presented to one. As such, beauty is unnecessary to the attainment of pleasure as the (according to Schopenhauer!) only possible individual goal in sexual love. This means that one doesn’t tend to select a beautiful partner because one is after pleasure. Rather, one tends to select a beautiful partner because beauty (according to Schopenhauer!) tracks the reproductive fitness (relative to one) of potential partners. So pleasure is not the real motive here, nor is, in fact, beauty. Beauty is just the illusory guise under which the actual motive—reproduction—is cognitively presented to one. So much for Schopenhauer’s view of sexual love, which is more a display of misogyny than of philosophical insight.



(Schopenhauer 1819/1844 II §44:540). However powerful, this human instinct can thus explain only some of our actions.⁷ So what about everything else we do? Schopenhauer argues that it depends on—indeed, that it is fully determined by— one’s character traits, which, as we have seen, he also describes as drives. This means that, though Schopenhauer only seldom talks of drives, preferring instead to simply talk about character, he takes them to be the explanatorily most basic features of human psychology.

2.3 Drives and Valenced Representational States: Schneider’s View Though it is nowadays completely forgotten, Schneider’s work proved very influential in his own time. A review of his book—by James Sully, a leading British psychologist and philosopher—appeared in Mind (see Sully 1880). William James, who calls Schneider’s book a ‘delightfully fresh and interesting work’ (James 1990:701), draws extensively on it in his Principles of Psychology (see pp. 701–704). Finally, it is also a major source of Dilthey’s Lecture on Ethics, which—as we have seen—shares with Nietzsche’s project the assumption that drives are the basic elements of human psychology. As the subtitle of his work makes explicit, Schneider is primarily concerned with ‘animal drives (Triebe)’. In the ‘Introduction’, Schneider complains that the importance of drives for the explanation of animal and human behaviour has been largely overlooked and sets in to fill this scientific gap. Though Schneider works within the framework of Darwinian selection theory, he emphatically presents his investigation as one of ‘comparative psychology’ (Schneider 1880:5). Drives, which play the major explanatory role in his theories, are thus conceived as items at the psychological level. So what are drives according to Schneider? His basic definition of a drive is as an ‘impulse to movement (Drang nach Bewegung)’ (49; or ‘impulse to action’:142), that may or may not become conscious. To this, he adds the following features. First, the movement in question is always ‘purposive’ (zweckmäßig), i.e.—according to Schneider’s deflationary account of purposiveness—‘species-preserving’. Second, the purposive movements a drive causes the animal body to execute are ‘connected to a sensation, perception, imagination (Vorstellung) or thought’. This means that the drive is typically caused by one among these different mental states. Third, a drive corresponds to a ‘stimulation of the motor nervous system’.

⁷ To be fair, Schopenhauer mentions other human instincts, such as babies’ suckling instinct (Schopenhauer 1819/1844 II §44:538) and the ‘capricious appetite of pregnant women’ (541). As their scope is obviously quite reduced, the point about instincts’ limited explanatory power in the human case remains unaffected.

    


So, when a drive becomes conscious, one becomes conscious of such a stimulation of the motor system. To put it differently, when a drive becomes conscious, we feel that our body is about to move. Let us go back to the claim that drives are caused by sensations, perceptions, imaginations, or thoughts. According to Schneider, the movements brought about by drives are typically directed towards ‘things’ in one’s environment. For these movements to be purposive qua species-preserving, the organism needs to be in a position to distinguish those things that are beneficial from those that are harmful. This, in turn, requires two capacities. First, the organism needs to ‘discriminate’ among the things in its environment (Schneider 1880:50). This discriminatory task is what sensations, perceptions, imaginations, and thoughts are supposed to allow, arguably in virtue of their all being in some way representational. Second, once it has discriminated the different items in its surroundings, the organism needs to select those on which to orient its own behaviour—for instance, select the edible items in order to reach for them. This second task is made possible by the fact that the organism feels the things in its surroundings as either ‘attractive’ or ‘repulsive’ (Schneider 1880:50). Its behaviour is ‘regulated’ based on such valenced feelings: those drives are caused that make the organism move towards things felt as ‘attractive’. From this it follows that ‘desire’ (Begehren) and ‘aversion’ (Widerstreben) are the basic features of drives (143). In his first sketch of the view, Schneider distinguishes between the merely discriminatory function of representational states and the regulating function of valenced feelings. However, he immediately stresses that the valenced feeling is, in fact, embedded in the different kinds of representational state. This means that sensations, perceptions, imaginations, and thoughts always involve a feeling towards or away from the represented things. As Schneider writes, ‘the beginning of all cognition is a feeling, and the pleasant or unpleasant feeling remains connected to every form of higher cognition’ (50). The central claims emerging from Schneider’s treatment of drives can be summarized as follows: i. Valenced representational states allow the organism to select proper targets for action. ii. Valenced representational states cause impulses to action (drives). iii. Drives (qua motor stimuli) cause the appropriate bodily movements. For instance: i. The animal has the positively valenced perceptual experience of a certain object as edible. ii. That experience causes a corresponding impulse to action (drive). iii. The drive causes the reaching movement towards the object.



Having elucidated what a drive is, Schneider goes on to define ‘instinct’. Instinct, he tells us, is the ‘drive towards an action the purpose of which the individuum is unconscious of ’ (61). This means that Schneider, in a way analogous to that of Schopenhauer, takes an instinct to be a specific case of what a drive is. Drives, we saw, typically trigger purposive movements. In many cases, we can assume that the animal is conscious of the purpose of its movement. For instance, when it reaches for food—a purposive movement triggered by its hunger drive—it seems plausible to assume that the animal is conscious that it’s going to eat. However, behaviours such those displayed by the bird constructing its nest or by the spider spinning its web cannot be assumed to be equally accompanied by consciousness of the purpose. As in such cases animals are not aware of the purpose of what they are doing, their behaviour is taken to be instinctive. That instinct is conceived of as a special case of what a drive is has two consequences that bear mentioning. First, and somewhat unspectacularly, Schneider argues that a substantial amount of human behaviour is, too, instinctive in this specific, more restricted sense. Second, and much more relevantly, according to Schneider all human actions that are not instinctive are, too, brought about by a drive. The difference is that in those cases one is aware of the purpose of the movement triggered by the drive. Finally, there seems to be an important confusion, or at least ambiguity, in Schneider’s characterization of drives. On the one hand, his identification of a drive with the usually felt stimulation of the motor system leading to bodily movements suggests they are occurrent psychological states.⁸ On the other hand, virtually all the drives he describes in detail—such as the hunger drive and the reproductive drive—don’t seem to be just occasional episodes in the mind’s economy, but rather constant sources of animal behaviour. Rather than as mere ‘impulses’, it seems more adequate to conceive of them as stable psychological dispositions. This is precisely what Schopenhauer does as long as he identifies drives with fixed character traits. As we shall see, this point will prove crucial to Nietzsche’s own understanding of drives.

⁸ This is the reason, I think, why both Sully and James translate Schneider’s term ‘Trieb’ as ‘impulse’, a term suggesting a momentary source of behaviour. Later, this will earn James the criticism of the psychologist William McDougall: ‘James taught that every instinct is essentially transitory; that it endures but a little while, during which it may determine the formation of “habits” of action; that, as the instinct decays, these habits take its place; and that, if no such habits are formed, the instinct passes away, leaving no trace behind’ (McDougall 1928:111). McDougall argues that ‘James’s doctrine seems to involve a radical misconception of the nature and function of habit in human life’, for ‘There are many instincts which clearly do not conform to this law of transitoriness’ (112). This is the reason why McDougall adopts a dispositional account of instincts that bears substantial similarities to Nietzsche’s own picture of drives. Note, however, that the picture underlying the law of transitoriness criticized by McDougall is the one we found in Schneider. My impression, then, is that James simply adopts Schneider’s view of drives—and, consequently, instincts—as episodic impulses that may or not determine stable habits.

   ()


2.4 Nietzsche Reads Schneider (Twice) There is evidence that Nietzsche read Schneider’s book in 1880,⁹ while he was working on D, and then again in 1883. A first thing worth noting is that the first formulations of his Semiotic Claim occur in the same notebooks in which he registers his reaction to Schneider’s work. Often a drive is misunderstood, falsely interpreted, for instance, the sexual drive, hunger, thirst for glory. Maybe the entire morality is an interpretation of physical drives. (N1880 6[7] KSA 9:195) Animals follow their drives and affects: we are animals. Is there anything else we do? Is it perhaps only an appearance (Schein) when we follow morality? Do we actually follow our drives and is morality only a sign language (Zeichensprache) of our drives? (N1883 7[76] KSA 10:268)

Nietzsche’s obvious move here is to apply Schneider’s theory of drives as the psychological sources of human agency to the domain of morality. D 26, which bears the telling title ‘Animals and morality’, clearly articulates this view: The beginnings of justice, as of prudence, moderation, bravery—in short, of all we designate as the Socratic virtues, are animal: a consequence of that drive which teaches us to seek food and elude enemies. Now if we consider that even the highest human being has only become more elevated and subtle in the nature of his food and in his conception of what is inimical to him, it is not improper to describe the entire phenomenon of morality as animal. (D 26)

Unsurprisingly, both the drive towards food as well as the drive towards selfprotection are among the most basic animal drives discussed in detail by Schneider. Schneider himself suggests that many human actions, though usually taken to be caused by different kinds of mental state, ultimately depend on the working of such basic drives. The same kind of reductive strategy is here employed by Nietzsche: moral virtues can be ultimately explained by appeal to basic drives. Given this, it seems less surprising that we find among notes of this period a first articulation of the Semiotic Claim. It seems that engagement with Schneider’s work helped Nietzsche to reach the insight which lies at the heart of his mature moral psychology. Richer philological evidence concerning Nietzsche’s reading of and reaction to Schneider’s book is to be found in his Nachlass notes from 1883. Let us start with a somewhat obscure unpublished note, in which Nietzsche writes that drives are ⁹ See N1880 6[373],[374] KSA 9:293.



‘higher organs (höhere Organe)’ constituted by ‘actions, sensations and feelings’ that have ‘grown together (verwachsen)’ (N1883 7[198] KSA 10:304). Though this suggests that drives can be identified by reference to actions, sensations, and feelings, it’s hard to make sense of what Nietzsche has in mind here. Light is brought in only by realizing that he is here quoting from Schneider. More precisely, Nietzsche refers to a passage by the British psychologist Alexander Bain. Bain’s passage is quoted by Darwin in The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, which, in turn, is quoted by Schneider (see Schneider 1880:13; see Schmaus 2009:346). Let me briefly reconstruct this convoluted context. In the first chapter of his work, Darwin formulates three principles designed to explain involuntary gestures and expressions. The first principle—the only one relevant in the present context—concerns the genesis of habitual behaviour. Darwin claims: ‘Certain complex actions are of direct or indirect service under certain states of the mind, in order to relieve or gratify certain sensations, desires, &c.’, so that ‘whenever the same state of mind is induced, however feebly, there is a tendency through the force of habit and association for the same movements to be performed’ (Darwin 1890:29). In discussing this principle, Darwin quotes Bain’s remark to the effect that ‘actions, sensations and states of feeling, occurring together or in close succession, tend to grow together, or cohere, in such a way that when any one of them is afterwards presented to the mind, the others are apt to be brought up in idea’ (32). Darwin’s point here is thus that habitual actions are due to a steady association between certain mental states and certain bodily movements. The result is a ‘tendency to the performance of an action’ (31) that allows it to be executed ‘without the least effort or consciousness’ (30). His vivid example is that of wearing gloves—something we typically do ‘quite unconsciously’ (32), though it requires a sequence of complex movements of the hands. In the introduction to his book, Schneider declares Darwin’s work on emotions as the most important piece of comparative psychology—the same discipline to which his own theory of animal drives is presented as a further contribution. In particular, Schneider explicitly relates his theory of drives to Darwin’s treatment of habitual action. Indeed, Schneider’s definition of a drive as ‘impulse towards action’ seems obviously reminiscent of Darwin’s characterization of habitual behaviour as resulting from a ‘tendency to the performance of an action’. Schneider can thus be understood as suggesting that his theory of animal drives provides a more adequate framework for conceptualizing the phenomena perspicaciously observed by Darwin. This is, at least, what he cautiously concludes from his discussion (see Schneider 1880:14). It is not easy to reconstruct what Nietzsche makes of all this. In the note prompted by Schneider’s discussion of Darwin, he writes that the sensations, feelings, and actions originally referred to by Bain constitute ‘higher organs’. What does he mean by this term? And weren’t Bain and later Darwin just talking

   ()


about habitual actions? A note we find a couple of pages later in the same notebook throws some light on Nietzsche’s idiosyncratic formulation. There he writes: ‘The hand of the pianist, the wiring (Leitung) there and a region of the brain form together an organ [ . . . ]. Separate parts of the body telegraphically connected—i.e. a drive’ (N1883 7[211] KSA 10:308). First, Nietzsche uses the term ‘organ’ to refer to something he also describes as a drive. This suggests that the ‘higher organs’ mentioned in the previous note are just the drives. Second— assuming the first point is correct—this offers a concrete (and pretty rare!) example of what a drive actually is according to Nietzsche. In keeping with the original Bain–Darwin kind of case, that of the pianist is an example of habitual action. Like wearing gloves, playing an instrument is an action usually performed without the agent being aware of the relevant movements. Nietzsche seems to think that this is the case because such movements are directly caused by a certain drive. Third, Nietzsche speculates that the drive’s neuro-physiological counterpart is some sort of network connecting the brain to those parts of the human body poised to perform the relevant actions—in the pianist case, connecting brain and fingers. This seems also to be the reason behind Nietzsche’s otherwise unintelligible talk of ‘organs’, which appear in both notes. In the same 1883 notebook there is a last note directly prompted by Schneider’s book that is worth considering.¹⁰ The reason is that here Nietzsche explicitly articulates a major disagreement between his conception of drives and that put forward by Schneider. Nietzsche’s note refers directly to Schneider’s discussion of how his theory of drives applies to the cases of reflective deliberation. Such cases are typically characterized as a conflict among one’s motives. As Schneider puts it, ‘a battle among the imaginations (Vorstellungen) occurs to get the upper hand’ (Schneider 1880:75). In a later passage that Nietzsche writes down in his notebook, Schneider argues that this battle is won by the ‘imagination (Vorstellung)’ that manages to ‘excite the strongest drive’ in virtue of its being the ‘most pleasant’ (N1883 7[239] KSA 10:317; see Schneider 1880:75). After quoting Schneider’s passage, Nietzsche immediately comments: ‘But it was the drive itself that first elicited this imagination (Vorstellung)—I say’. What Nietzsche means here is that Schneider gets the causal link between drives and representational states such as imaginations the wrong way. To illustrate his point, consider the case of hunger. According to Schneider’s model, it is my imagining a piece of cake that causes a suitable drive, i.e. the urge to move towards a bakery shop. In Nietzsche’s picture, on the contrary, it is the hunger drive—understood as a behavioural disposition— that causes the mental image of a cake to pop up in my mind in the first place. The timeline of Nietzsche’s engagement with Schneider’s theory of animal drives suggests something like the following picture. At the very beginning of

¹⁰ Notes 7[237]–[239] also contain direct references to Schneider’s work.



the 1880s, Nietzsche starts planning to write a book—that will become D—in which he rejects the altruistic account of moral psychology proposed by Rée, while retaining—somewhat tacitly, I believe—Rée’s assumption that drives are the basic explanatory items in psychologicis. This explains why in 1880, while still working on D, he resorts to Schneider’s book on animal drives. Reading this book reinforces the main working hypothesis he had taken over from Rée: drives are the causal determinants of virtually every human action. In 1883, Nietzsche feels the need to go back again to Schneider’s theory of animal drives. Why? A plausible answer is suggested by BGE—his next purely theoretical work, which will appear in 1886. There, as we saw, Nietzsche declares that psychology affords one access to the deepest philosophical problems. Thus, one might reasonably speculate that such a programmatic insight had definitely dawned on Nietzsche as early as 1883. In other words, by this time Nietzsche realizes that in order to adequately address the philosophical issue he saw as the most relevant—the nature of valuing—one first needs to dig deeper into how the human mind works. As he believed that, at the bottom level, human psychology is constituted by multiple drives, engaging again with Schneider’s sustained and influential treatment of such items arguably seemed to him the obvious option to get clearer about his own views on such a subject matter. Nevertheless, as we have started to appreciate above, Nietzsche isn’t willing to defer to Schneider on some fundamental issues—such as the metaphysical nature of drives and how they interact with other mental states. But this shows that that was exactly what Nietzsche was doing in his notebooks: not just passively acquiring scientifically sound information from an influential writer, but rather refining his own views about human psychology in light of such information.

2.5 Nietzsche’s Mature Notion of Drive In the previous section I argued that Nietzsche disagrees with Schneider as to how to conceive of the causal relation between drives and (valenced) representational states. In fact, this disagreement results from a much deeper one concerning the metaphysical nature of drives. Schneider identifies drives with occurrent psychophysiological states—motor stimuli—acting as the proximal causes of bodily movements. On the contrary, Nietzsche usually describes drives not as occurrent states, but rather as behavioural dispositions. Already in D, he describes drives as what ‘constitutes’ one’s ‘being’, i.e. as stable elements of one’s psychological makeup. Indeed, there is an astounding convergence among Nietzsche scholars towards the claim that Nietzschean drives are some sort of behavioural dispositions (or inclinations) (see, for instance, Richardson 1996, 2004; Janaway 2007, 2012; Clark and Dudrick 2012; Welshon 2014; Katsafanas 2016; Leiter 2019; Alfano 2019). Indeed, there is a certain overlap among the most influential accounts of

’    


Nietzschean drives. That overlap also extends to the picture I shall propose in this section. My disagreement with the extant literature is rather local. In particular, as I move forward I shall register and motivate my disagreement with Richardson (2004) concerning the mental vs. biological nature of drives as well as with Katsafanas (2016) concerning the relation between drives and instincts. Again, one may ask why Nietzsche ends up disagreeing with Schneider on such a fundamental point. To answer this question, it’s helpful to resort to the distinction between the general notion of drive already at work in Nietzsche’s early writings and the specific notion of drive elaborated in the context of his mature philosophical psychology. The general notion of drive is clearly a dispositional one, as illustrated by how Nietzsche conceives of the Dionysian and Apollonian drives in BT. Roughly, these are constitutive proclivities towards certain forms of artistic expression, which can be ascribed both to an individual artist or to a culture as a whole. The relevant point for us is that Nietzsche conceives of them as stable determinants of artistic creation. Their nature is clearly dispositional. Therefore, it seems to me that Nietzsche’s specific notion of drive builds on the more general notion of drive he had been using at least since BT. He retains his original insight into the dispositional nature of drives. This was also the view already supported by Schopenhauer, who—as we have seen—identifies drives with character traits, and later defended by Freud, who claims that ‘the drive . . . never acts as a momentary pushing force (Stoßkraft), but rather as a constant one’ (Freud 1915a:82). Nietzschean drives possess more features worth spelling out. To start with, the Nachlass passages Nietzsche wrote down in reaction to Schneider’s book suggest— recall the pianist example—that drives are realized qua behavioural dispositions by some kind of network connecting different parts of the organism—in that example, certain parts of the brain and the hand. Though I am not sure how much weight we should put on these passages, the idea that drives have a neurophysiological counterpart does not seem surprising nor implausible. Accordingly, drives can be described both as subsystems of the organism—as ‘separate parts of the body telegraphically connected’ (N1883 7[211] KSA 10:308), as Nietzsche writes in one of those passages—as well as subsystems of the mind— as recurrent concatenations of ‘actions, sensations and feelings’ (N1883 7[198] KSA 10:304), to follow Bain’s original suggestion concerning how habitual action works. Two important points follow from this. First, drives have both a mental and a physical side to them. Interestingly, Freud will also point out their hybrid organic-cum-psychological nature: as the ‘psychic representative of the stimuli coming from the inner parts of the body and reaching into the soul’, the drive is a ‘border concept between the psychological (Seelischem) and the somatic’ (Freud 1915a:85). Second, the fact that Nietzsche usually talks of drives as psychological items reflects the primacy of their mental side. This primacy, however, is not metaphysical, but depends merely on the fact that psychological explanations are



much more powerful than physical ones when it comes to make sense of human behaviour. Therefore, a drive is a useful posit primarily qua psychological item and, as such, can be individuated by appeal to the specific types of action it inclines the organism to perform and to the sensations and feelings typically associated with it. To give some examples: the hunger drive is identified by food-searching actions and by unpleasant bodily sensations localized in the stomach; the drive towards cruelty is identified by pain-inflicting actions and, say, by a pleasant arousal and feeling of domination. One may worry that treating drives as mental items reintroduces a preDarwinian notion of teleology. As Richardson (2004) puts it, the problem is ‘to naturalize drives’ directedness’, i.e. to explain their being ‘ “toward” and “for” certain outcomes’ and, at the same time, avoid ‘illicitly anthropomorphizing an implausible mentality into them’ (Richardson 2004:13). Let us call this the problem of goal-directedness. Richardson’s way of solving it consists in arguing that one can ascribe to each drive a function resulting from its evolutionary history (see pp. 33–34). The obvious virtue of this reading is that it preserves the ‘genuinely teleological sense’ (33) that seems undetachable from Nietzsche’s notion of drive without committing him to a teleological picture incompatible with his naturalistic project. I fully agree with Richardson’s solution of the problem of goal-directedness. What I am not convinced about is the further conclusion he draws to the effect that Nietzschean drives should be understood as strictly non-mental. Richardson is surely right that we should reject any reading that construes drives not only as ‘conscious’, but even as ‘ “previewing” or “preconceiving” their outcomes unconsciously’, for simply displacing ‘beneath consciousness’ the ‘mental model’ we apply for personal-level explanations would commit Nietzsche to an utterly implausible version of homuncularism (Richardson 2004:36 and 23).¹¹ Nonetheless, this does not imply that drives are strictly non-mental. Quite to the contrary, there are strong reasons to believe that drives are, in some sense, genuinely mental. First, though Nietzsche believes drives are neuro-physiologically realized, he—later followed by Freud on this score—introduces and typically describes them as psychological items. Therefore, unless we are to treat him as some sort of ante-litteram logical behaviourist, there’s something distinctively mental to his drives. Second, as we shall start to appreciate in due course, Nietzsche’s description of drives in mentalistic and intentionalist talk seems too pervasive to be thoroughly eliminated. Third, and crucially, the naturalization strategy suggested by Richardson is fully compatible with still thinking of drives as, in some sense, mental. To illustrate this point, let us briefly consider a similar naturalization project from contemporary philosophy of mind. I am

¹¹ I shall deal extensively with the problem of homuncularism in Chapter 4.

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thinking of Fred Dretske’s seminal attempt to naturalize conscious experience by reducing it to a certain form of naturally selected non-conceptual representation. Appeal to the notion of function is also part of this project: ‘experiences have their representational content fixed by the biological functions of the sensory systems of which they are states’ (Dretske 1995:15). In turn, such evolutionarily acquired functions—their (naturalized) teleology—consist in their specific way of carrying information about the environment (see p. 4). Of course, though Dretske aims at explaining conscious experience by appeal to its evolutionary history, he does not want to deny that it is a genuinely mental phenomenon. Similarly, that Nietzschean drives are best understood along the lines proposed by Richardson does not mean they lack any form of mentality whatsoever. Though I have been arguing that drives have a mental side to them, we still do not know in what it consists. It is time to turn to this feature. In which sense are drives things that at all belong to the realm of psychology? To answer this question, one could point out that they are partially individuated by mental states such as feelings and sensations. However, this does not exhaust the mental properties of drives. Consider the following statements: It is our needs which interpret the world: our drives and their for and against. (N1886–1887 7[60] LN:139) each ‘drive’ is the drive towards ‘something good’, as seen from a certain standpoint; there’s evaluation [Werthschätzung] in it. (N1884 26[72] KSA 11:167)

What does it mean to say that drives ‘interpret’ the world or that they involve some kind of ‘evaluation’ of it? We do not experience the environment as an array of inert, purely physical objects. Rather, we typically perceive the things around us as calling for some kind of behavioural response—as ‘affordances’, to use the terminology famously introduced by the psychologist J. J. Gibson. Nietzsche, who clearly recognizes this feature of our experience of the external world, argues that drives are what makes us experience a certain thing as an affordance calling for a certain kind of behavioural response. For instance, the hunger drive makes Uwe experience the sausage as an edible object. In this sense, a drive is always directed at ‘something good’, i.e. at an object that can satisfy its goal. Consequently, that object is experienced as affording a pattern of behaviour the drive typically disposes one towards. The sausage is experienced as affording eating. Thus, we can talk here of drives’ object-directedness. (This means, as Katsafanas aptly notes (2016:101), that Nietzsche endorses the broadly Freudian distinction between the drive’s aim (or goal) and the drive’s object. This distinction also figures prominently in the characterization of instinct by early 20th-century psychologists. An example: ‘We must, therefore, define any instinct by the nature of the goal, the



type of situation, that it seeks or tends to bring about, as well as by the type of situation or object that brings it into activity’ (McDougall 1928:119)). That drives make us focus on objects suitable to satisfy their goal has been stressed by several Nietzsche scholars. As Clark and Dudrick put it, a drive ‘turns the spotlight of one’s cognitive capacities on those features of reality focus on which will increase the drive’s chances of attaining its end’ (2012:145–146). Such features, Katsafanas says, are made more ‘salient’ by the relevant drive (2016:94). The following note illustrates Nietzsche’s own take on this idea: We sense (empfinden) the external world always differently, for every time it sets itself against what in us is the preponderating drive: and since this too, as anything alive, grows and shrinks without persisting, so even for the shortest moment our sensation of the external world is always becoming and expiring, thus changing. (N1880 6[62] KSA 9:209)

Another crucial feature of drives is that they have a characteristic urging nature: when hungry, I do not merely wait for food to appear in front of me, but I feel a craving that makes me actively look for it. Again, this is a point later made by Freud, who affirms that the ‘urging character (Character des Drängenden) is a general property of drives, their essence indeed. Each drive is a piece of activity’ (Freud 1915a:85). This ‘urge’ corresponds to the drive ‘motor moment’, i.e. the ‘sum of force or work demand it represents’. Thus, according to Freud, the drive’s ‘urging character’ is determined by the amount of psychic energy the release of which is required for the drive’s own satisfaction. All these features of Freud’s conception are shared by Nietzsche’s picture of drives: suppose a drive finds itself at the point at which it desires gratification—or exercise of its strength, or discharge (Entladung) of its strength, or the saturation of an emptiness—these are all metaphors—: it then regards every event of the day as with a view to seeing how it can employ it for the attainment of its goal . . . (D 119)

There are several elements we can highlight here. First, according to the energetic conception shared by Nietzsche and Freud, every drive aims at ‘discharge’, to use one of the metaphors employed in D 119.¹² What is supposed to realize this discharge? The natural way of releasing the drive’s psychic energy is a corresponding action in the external world. When this outward-directed channel of

¹² See also: ‘Whether we are praised or blamed, what we usually constitute is opportunities, and arbitrarily seized opportunities, for our neighbours to discharge the drive to praise or blame which has become distended in them: in both cases we do them a favour for which we deserve no credit and they display no gratitude’ (D 140).

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discharge is prevented, the drive may unload inwardly. In D 119, Nietzsche— again, and obviously, followed by Freud—argues that dreams are often the result of such an inner discharge of drives: their ‘meaning and value’ is ‘to compensate to some extent for the chance absence of “nourishment” during the day’ (D 119). Second, the claim that our daily experiences are some kind of ‘nourishment’ that drives try ‘eagerly’ to seize should be read in light of Nietzsche’s thesis that our experience of the world is shaped by the perspective of our drives. Thus, our experience’s evaluative character—which objects and events are experienced as ‘good’ or ‘bad’—reflects which drives are currently aiming at discharge (in some way or another). Third, from the fact that all drives aim at discharge and that the number of suitable occasions is limited, a ‘struggle’ among the drives often ensues that reflects the ‘laws of their nutriment’. Those drives the unloading of which is clogged are bound to seek some alternative form of release, such as through dreams.¹³ As some scholars have pointed out, Nietzsche’s adoption of such a discharge model—as I shall call it—as well as its application to the realm of human motivation was influenced by the work of the physicist Julius Robert Mayer (see Mittasch 1952, ch. 11 and 12; Brusotti 1997:312–313). In a short opuscule titled ‘On Release (Über Auslösung)’, Mayer argues that animal as well as human behaviour is best understood as a pleasure-inducing ‘release process’ through which an organism consumes the energy it has accumulated (Mayer 1876:13). That Nietzsche adopted Mayer’s model is suggested not only by several unpublished passages,¹⁴ but also by the following aphorism from GS: I learned to distinguish the cause of acting from the cause of acting in a certain way, in a certain direction, with a certain goal. The first kind of cause is a quantum of dammed-up energy waiting to be used somehow, for something; the second kind, by contrast, is something quite insignificant, mostly a small accident in accordance with which this quantum ‘releases’ (auslöst) [Mayer’s term] itself in one particular way: the match versus the powder keg. (GS 360, translation changed)

In Nietzsche’s eyes, drives constitute the powder keg of our psychological economy: they are the motivational source urging us to act on the external world. It is important to stress that such an energetic conception of how drives work is no idiosyncrasy of Nietzsche and Freud. As Young (1961) claims, American psychologists of the first half of the 20th century typically used the term drive to refer to ‘the physical energy that makes the machine go’ (92). More precisely, they employed it to refer to a ‘persisting stimulus—a stimulus that releases stored-up ¹³ See also N1880 6[83] KSA 9:216–217. ¹⁴ For Nietzsche’s engagement with Mayer, see notes N1881 11[24],[25],[28],[31] KSA 9:451–453. See also Brusotti (1997:313) on this material.



energy and thus initiates behavior’ (92). This, of course, does not only remind us of Nietzsche’s and Freud’s characterization of the same concept, but also of Mayer’s discharge model. Indeed, Young still uses the very same metaphors: a drive, he writes, ‘is an energizer, not a guide; an engine, not a steering gear; a propeller, not a rudder’ (103). At the end of the chapter in which he offers an overview of different drive theories developed in the first half of the 20th century, he concludes that all those theories agree in ascribing to drives the three following features: a drive is ‘an organic motivation rather than something environmental’; ‘a persisting motivation rather than a brief stimulation’; and, finally, ‘an activating, energizing process’ (106). Again, Nietzsche and Freud would have agreed. I’d like to conclude this section with a point which is partly terminological and partly conceptual. As Katsafanas (2016) rightly stresses, Nietzsche often uses the terms ‘drive’, ‘will’, and ‘instinct’ somewhat interchangeably. This, however, should not lead one to conclude that Nietzschean drives are identical with instincts standardly conceived, as Katsafanas seems to conclude.¹⁵ As we have seen, Schopenhauer and Schneider agree not only in distinguishing drives from instincts, but also in holding that the latter are a particular form of the former. More specifically, and in tune with the standard conception of it, both argue that it is only in the case of instinct that the agent necessarily lacks awareness of the relevant goal. Though this might at first appear to be merely a minor terminological point, it carries substantial theoretical significance. First, Nietzsche—like Schopenhauer and Schneider—aims at explaining human actions as resulting from the working of drives. If drives were just instincts standardly conceived, such a project would look less promising from the outset, as it would entail that we are never conscious of our actions’ goal. Second, it is questionable whether every Nietzschean drive satisfies this condition, as Janaway nicely stresses by considering the example of the drive towards artistic selfexpression: Must it be the case that, in order for me to have this drive, I remain ignorant of its goal? Is it not probable that I will be able to figure out, by examination of my behaviour, that this goal permeates many of my actions? Nor does it seem necessary to think that, once I recognize this about myself (and perhaps start consciously pursuing an artistic career because I recognize my drive), the drive to artistic self-expression must cease to operate in me. (Janaway 2012:187)

¹⁵ Katsafanas ascribes to Nietzsche the claim that ‘drives [like instincts standardly conceived] involve no awareness of the ultimate goal of the action’ (Katsafanas 2016:92). As we shall see in a minute, this does not seem to be a necessary feature of Nietzschean drives. (Katsafanas also fails to appreciate the difference between drives and instincts in Schopenhauer. He takes Schopenhauer’s treatment of sexual love as paradigmatic for his view of drives (see pp. 92–93). But this is wrong, for—as we saw in Section 2.2 above—Schopenhauer explicitly claims that sexual love is an instinct, not just a drive. In fact, he says sexual love is basically the only human instinct.)

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My suggestion, thus, is that we do not build into Nietzsche’s notion of drive that the agent necessarily lacks awareness of the drive’s goal. This implies that, though Nietzsche—contrary to Schopenhauer and Schneider—does not carefully distinguish drives from instincts, we are not to assume that anytime he uses the first term one can always substitute it with the second one (standardly conceived) salva veritate.¹⁶ In fact, the only definition of ‘instinct’ to be found in his corpus suggests that the reverse may rather be the case: ‘I talk of instinct when some judgment (taste in its lowest degree) is incorporated (einverleibt), so that now it excites itself spontaneously, no longer needing to wait for stimuli’ (N1881 11[164] KSA 9:505).¹⁷ Putting aside for the moment what Nietzsche means when he talks about the incorporation of a judgment, the point which proves relevant to the present discussion is that his definition does not include as a necessary condition for a psychological mechanism to qualify as an instinct that the organism lacks any awareness of the goal pursued via the relevant behaviour. Rather, endogenous activation is the only condition mentioned here. This, however, is simply a key feature of all drives. As Freud will say, the ‘drive stimulus (Triebreiz) does not stem from the external world, but from within the organism itself ’ (Freud 1915a:82).

2.6 Drives and Will to Power In BGE 23, the same aphorism in which Nietzsche declares that ‘psychology is again the path to the fundamental problems’, he ascribes to himself a conception of ‘psychology as morphology and the doctrine of the development of the will to power’ (BGE 23). Though on this occasion he does not explicitly mention drives, given that he takes them to be the basic items of human psychology, it seems natural to read this claim as entailing that there is some important relation between drives and the will to power. Nevertheless, Nietzsche seems somewhat reluctant to spell out what this relation might consist in. He does something of

¹⁶ Alfano (2019) argues that what distinguishes instincts from drives is that the former, but not the latter, are innate. Alfano discusses four passages in which, he claims, Nietzsche ‘explicitly describes instincts as innate’ (69). This doesn’t seem true, though. In fact, the first passage Alfano considers— from HL 3—seems to imply that instincts aren’t innate, for it talks of ‘a new instinct, a second nature’ (quoted on p. 69). The other three passages are BGE 3, 199, and 207. Whereas BGE 199 does characterize the ‘instinct of obedience’ as ‘inherited’, BGE 3 and BGE 207 are less clear. But even if it were true that the instincts Nietzsche mentions there are described as innate, it would not prove that he takes all instincts to be innate, nor that he takes no drive to be innate. ¹⁷ BGE 83 highlights a different aspect of instinct: ‘Instinct.—When your house is on fire, you even forget about lunch.—Yes, but you pick it out from the ashes.’ This aphorism stresses how deep-seated instinctive behaviour is. Even an extremely strong emotion—fear of the flames—can only momentarily divert one’s attention from an instinct’s goal—food as hunger’s goal. Two points here. First, and again, the aspect highlighted by Nietzsche arguably extends more generally to drives. Second, the characterizations provided in BGE 83 and in the Nachlass are compatible. Indeed, that instincts (and drives) reorient one’s attention again and again towards their goal is explained by the fact that they do not require an external stimulus to become activated.



that sort in a later aphorism of the same book, where he writes that we might try to conceive of the mechanistic world as belonging to the same plane of reality as our affects themselves—, as a primitive form of the world of affect, where everything is contained in a powerful unity before branching off and organizing itself in the organic process (and, of course, being softened and weakened—). We would be able to understand the mechanistic world as a kind of life of the drives, where all the organic functions (self-regulation, assimilation, nutrition, excretion, and metabolism) are still synthetically bound together—as a pre-form of life?— (BGE 36)

As the end of the aphorism makes clear, such a ‘pre-form of life’ to which ‘we could trace all organic functions back’ would be the ‘will to power’ (BGE 36). However, as many commentators—starting, in particular, with Clark (1990:212–217)—have pointed out, it is highly questionable whether Nietzsche actually subscribed to the ‘hypothesis’ he ‘venture[s]’ in this aphorism (BGE 36).¹⁸ Moreover, even if he does, it still remains opaque how drives (together with affects) are supposed to be ‘traced back’ to the will to power. In suggesting that psychology should be understood as the ‘morphology and the doctrine of the development of the will to power’, BGE 23 offers a first clue. On the one hand, the term ‘morphology’ seems to suggest that psychological items can be seen as different manifestations or variations of some fundamental Ur-type. On the other hand, the term ‘doctrine of development’ seems to suggest that the differentiation unfolds diachronically, presumably also on a phylogenetic scale. Accordingly, specific drives would result from the evolutionary differentiation of the will to power. Or, to put it in terms which are reminiscent of Nietzsche’s own formulations in BGE 36, the will to power would be the Ur-form to which all drives can be traced back. Of course, it is still not clear how we are to understand all this. A fruitful insight is due to John Richardson, who argues that it would be wrong to think of the relevant kind of power as some sort of ‘highest end’ ultimately shared by all drives (Richardson 1996:23). Consequently, the notion of will to power is not designed to explain ‘why’ a certain drive pursues a certain end, but rather ‘how’ it does so. This means that power is not a ‘first-order end’ such as those pursued by other drives, but a constitutive feature that ‘ “enter[s] (essentially) into” all of these’ (22).¹⁹ More ¹⁸ See Loeb (2015) for a detailed discussion of BGE 36. I say a bit more on that aphorism in Riccardi (2021). ¹⁹ Clark (1990:211) too recognizes that Nietzschean power cannot be a first-order end. She therefore suggests that the will to power is the second-order desire to satisfy one’s first-order desires. However, Richardson’s constitutive reading seems preferable to me, as it avoids the well-known problems of higher-order desire theories. See also Reginster (2006:128) on Clark’s proposal.

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concretely, Richardson argues that ‘a drive wills power by trying to develop its activity pattern’, because ‘this activity is just what the drive is’ (26). I think Richardson is basically right in this characterization. Given Nietzsche’s discharge model of drives, it seems to me that the fundamental ‘activity pattern’ they all share is simply the very release of psychic energy. Thus, my suggestion is that will to power qua structural feature of all drives consists in their tendency to ‘exercise’ or ‘discharge’ their ‘strength’, to employ again the metaphors to which Nietzsche resorts in D 119. This also explains the active and urging character that is again distinctive of drives; they are all a ‘quantum of power’, as Nietzsche writes in GM I 13, striving for release. (In GS 360, as we have seen, he talks of a ‘quantum of dammed-up energy’.) Moreover, this way of seeing things fits nicely with the morphological-cum-developmental claim put forward in BGE 23, for we could simply say that the Ur-type of psycho-physiological energy release mechanism gets differentiated via evolution by being coupled to specific goals and objects, thus yielding distinctive patterns of behavioural response to the environment. Accordingly, the will to power is the ‘pre-form’ of all drives for being a structural tendency towards discharge constitutively built into them—whatever their proprietary goals and objects. A different proposal has been made by Bernard Reginster. Following Richardson, he claims that ‘the will to power designates something about the manner in which it [a drive] pursues its specific ends’ (Reginster 2006:129). However, according to Reginster the constitutive feature common to all drives that the notion of will to power purports to refer to is their aiming at overcoming resistance (see Reginster 2006:127–131,136 for discussion; see also Katsafanas 2013:168–176, who further elaborates on this idea). However, the textual evidence in support of this view seems rather thin to me when compared to the one supporting my own suggestion.²⁰ Moreover, that a drive aims at overcoming resistance can be seen as a consequence of its striving at discharge. In fact, given that human psychology encompasses numerous competing drives and that Nietzsche’s discharge model presupposes a limited amount of psychic energy, one could argue that the latter feature is simply entailed by the former one: for a drive to strive for discharge means, at the same time, for it to aim at overcoming the resistance of the competing drives also striving for discharge. Thus, taking the

²⁰ Virtually all the quotes that explicitly link the will to power to the overcoming of resistance are taken from unpublished notes (see Reginster 2006:126–127,135,137). I have already surveyed published passages in which Nietzsche puts forward his discharge model of drives. The energetic vocabulary is still prominent in the characterization of Greek culture one finds in the last sections of TI, where he describes their ‘strongest instinct, the will to power’, as having such a ‘tremendous force’ that ‘all their [the ancient Greeks] institutions grow out of the preventive measures they took to protect each other against inner explosives’ (TI ‘Ancients’ 3).



will to power built into all drives to consist in their tendency towards release also explains why overcoming resistance is among its paramount manifestations.²¹ That the will to power names the structural tendency towards discharge constitutively built into all drives strikes me as a plausible way of making sense of the link Nietzsche draws between these two notions. As such a link proves unsteady and, more importantly, inessential to a proper understanding of his notion of drive, I shall not pursue the issue further.

2.7 A First Summary We can summarize the main points elaborated so far by saying that Nietzschean drives i. are neuro-physiologically realized dispositions towards patterns of goaldirected behaviour; ii. have an urging character and aim at discharge; iii. embody a certain evaluative perspective.

²¹ In fact, Reginster ends up favouring a stronger claim, namely that the constitutive feature common to all drives that the notion of will to power purports to refer to is not merely aiming at overcoming resistance, but rather ‘actually and deliberately seeking resistance to overcome’ (Reginster 2006:131; see also Katsafanas 2013, ch. 6). This claim, however, strikes me as psychologically implausible, for it does not seem to be the case that human behaviour—the explanans of Nietzsche’s psychology of drives—always involves an active looking for hindrances of some sort. Katsafanas’s (2013:176–81) attempt to defend this claim seems desperate to me. To rescue it somewhat, one could take up Reginster’s suggestion that it should not be understood as a purely descriptive claim about human psychology, but as partially reflecting Nietzsche’s own values (see Reginster 2006:31). More precisely, one could say that qua psychological theory the doctrine of the will to power is the conjunction of two distinct claims: the descriptive claim to the effect that will to power consists in the drives’ structural aiming at overcoming resistance; and the normative claim to the effect that the highest realization of such a constitutive feature consists in actively looking for resistance to overcome. Accordingly, just for its being an instance of drive-motivated behaviour, an action as trite as walking down the street to the supermarket would be a case of a certain drive’s aiming at overcoming resistance. (Even in cases in which—like in this one—we may assume the world does not interpose any external obstacle between us and our goal, the very fact that we harbour many diverging drives guarantees that the satisfaction of a drive will necessarily meet some sort of internal resistance.) However, running a marathon is different, for in that case the resistance one has to overcome in order to realize one’s goal is something one deliberately saddles oneself with. Typically, such are also the actions that count as individual achievements: not just successful dealings with whatever hindrances—internal as well as external—we happen to meet, but rather enterprises in which we willingly take on an extra burden in order to work through it. Thus, whereas the descriptive claim would capture the essential feature of all drive-motivated actions, the normative claim would identify the feature which is distinctive of valuable actions. It seems to me that this position retains the core view of Katsafanas’s Nietzschean Constitutivism without committing one to the implausible descriptive claim that anytime we act we are actively after some resistance to overcome. For present purposes, however, the problem with this move is that by accepting it one falls back on the weaker version of Reginster’s reading to the effect that—as far as descriptive psychology is concerned—the will to power consists in the drives’ structural aiming at overcoming resistance. This, however, is the claim already dealt with above.

  


Let me add two comments. First, it seems to me that the fundamental feature of drives is captured by (ii). The patterns of behaviour towards which a drive disposes the agent are just routes towards its discharge. Similarly, the evaluative perspective embodied by each drive depends on whether a given object offers an occasion for discharge: I experience food as appealing because it offers my hunger drive the opportunity to release. Second, to say that drives ‘embody’—or ‘involve’, as one could also say—an evaluative perspective is admittedly vague. As we have seen, Nietzsche seems to think that a functional description of a certain drive has to mention certain mental states—sensations and feelings—typically associated to the patterns of behaviour it disposes the agent towards. Given this, a natural suggestion would be that a drive’s evaluative perspective corresponds—in some sense still to be elucidated—to the valenced character of such mental states. In particular, given that valence is a distinctive dimension of affective states, the suggestion would be that a drive’s evaluative perspective depends on its interaction with states of that kind. Nietzsche’s view of affective states is thus the topic to which we now need to turn.

3 Affects In BGE 12, Nietzsche also mentions ‘affects’ as basic constituents of the human soul. The task of this chapter is to elucidate this additional notion. Unfortunately, in this case there is not much previous work to draw on.¹ On the other hand, the notion of ‘affect’ is surely more familiar than that of ‘drive’. Most of the time, Nietzsche employs it to pick out mental states one could also pick out by using the term ‘emotion’, such as fear, anger, or surprise.² However, though most of the examples of affects adduced by Nietzsche do in fact correspond to emotions, not all do. Consider, for instance, the following sample: ‘hatred’, ‘envy’, ‘greed’, ‘power-lust’ (BGE 23), ‘anger’, ‘fear’, ‘lust’, ‘revenge’, ‘hope’, ‘triumph’, ‘despair’, ‘cruelty’ (GM III 20). Thus, it seems fair to say that Nietzsche uses the term ‘affect’ somewhat loosely: though emotions are paradigmatic examples of what he takes affects to be, his usage of the term often extends so as to include contiguous mental phenomena such as feelings (lust), moods (despair), or passions (love and hate; see BGE 192).³ Sometimes he even couples drives together with ‘passions’ (Leidenschaften), rather than with ‘affects’ (see, for instance, N1881 11[130] KSA 9:487). Given Nietzsche’s examples, all forms of affect—all kinds of affective states, as I shall say—seem to share two basic features. First, they possess a distinct phenomenology: there is something it is like to feel fear or despair. In turn, the phenomenology of affective states results from two distinct, though intertwined, somatic dimensions. Affective states—at least in the paradigmatic case of emotions—have an immediate effect on the motor system, on the one hand, and are characterized by bodily arousal, on the other hand. To take fear as an example, it both causes our face muscles to contract into its typical expression and is accompanied by increased heartbeat. I consider this first feature of affective states in Section 3.1. Second, affective states are valenced, for they embed a certain evaluative stance. Feeling fear, for instance, involves evaluating a certain stimulus ¹ Major exceptions are Poellner (2007) and, in particular, Fowles (2020), which I shall discuss later in this chapter. See, however, also Leiter (2019, ch. 3) and Welshon (2014). ² Things are actually more complicated, as testified by the following terminological observations. Though the term ‘Emotion’ existed in 19th century German (Nietzsche uses it a couple of times), it wasn’t of common usage. The term ‘Gemütsbewegung’ was the usual translation of the English term ‘emotion’. ‘Gemütsbewegung’, in turn, was taken to include feelings (Gefühle), affects (Affekte) and passions (Leidenschaften). ³ Similarly Wundt (1906:449), who claims that we call ‘mood’ (Stimmung) a low level affect and ‘passion’ (Leidenschaft) a higher level one.

Nietzsche’s Philosophical Psychology. Mattia Riccardi, Oxford University Press. © Mattia Riccardi 2021. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198803287.003.0003

    


as dangerous and, typically, this way of evaluating is negatively valenced. In other words, affective states have an appraisal character. I focus on Nietzsche’s treatment of this second feature in Section 3.2. To appreciate the appraisal character of affective states is not yet to have explained why they manage to represent their relevant objects as possessing the relevant evaluative properties. Has Nietzsche some story to tell on this regard? This is an issue to which I turn in Section 3.3, which is largely devoted to a discussion of the account recently put forward by Fowles (2020). Here, up to a minor modification, I shall register my agreement with Fowles. In Section 3.4 I turn to the alternative account proposed by Poellner (2007) and argue that it fails to capture Nietzsche’s own position. Finally, in Section 3.5 I offer a first sketch of how, according to Nietzsche, drives and affects are supposed to work together. (A more detailed picture will emerge at the end of the next chapter.)

3.1 Affective Phenomenology and Somatic Dimension That affective states possess a distinctive phenomenology should be uncontroversial. All scholars who have worked on Nietzsche’s notion of affect also ascribe this feature to it (see Leiter 2019:70, Welshon 2014:127, Fowles 2020). This point is also implicit in the treatment of affects provided by Wilhelm Wundt, one of the founders of experimental psychology and arguably the most prominent German psychologist in the last decades of the 19th century. Wundt defines an affect as a ‘self-contained sequence of feelings (Gefühle)’ (Wundt 1897:199). This means that there is no essential difference between feelings and affective states, for ‘every more intense feeling turns into an affect’. As feelings are the quintessential example of a mental state possessing phenomenological character, affective states arguably belong to the same category. Wundt also recognizes that bodily arousal and motor effects are essential features of affective states. As we have seen, he claims that affect doesn’t differ essentially from feeling. What makes a certain feeling an affect is simply that it has an ‘enhanced effect’ on the state of the whole organism (Wundt 1897:199). But in what does such an effect consist? According to Wundt, it encompasses both internal bodily changes, which make up the arousal dimension of affective states, and activation of ‘external movement organs’ (202). This means that affects have an immediate behavioural effect. A crucial consequence of this view, which seems widespread among late 19th-century psychologists, is that feelings, in general, and affects, in particular, are taken to be the most important determinants of human action. As Wundt puts it, ‘there are no feelings and no affects that do not in some way prepare an act of the will, or that cannot at least participate in the preparation of it. All feelings, even the relatively indifferent ones, entail to some degree a striving for or against (ein Streben oder Widerstreben)’ (Wundt 1897:217). In a



similar vein, William James argues that ‘every pulse of feeling which we have is the correlate of some neural activity that is already on its way to instigate a movement’ (James 1990:793). In short, ‘movement is the natural immediate effect of feeling’. What about Nietzsche? As Fowles (2020) stresses, he links the two somatic dimensions of affective phenomenology to the discharge model already undergirding his conception of drives. Mayer himself, who is—as we have seen—a major source of that model, takes affects to offer a paradigmatic case of discharge: ‘anger’, for instance, is said to ‘enormously heighten the tendency towards release’ in order to ‘vent itself ’ through discharge (Mayer 1876:14). Nietzsche agrees: ‘passions’, he writes in a Nachlass note, correspond to a ‘state of our organs and their effect back on the brain—with a search for release’ (N1882–1883 4[219] KSA 10:173).⁴ See also: The act of violence as a consequence of passion, of anger for example, is to be understood physiologically as an attempt to prevent a threatening attack of suffocation. Countless acts of arrogance vented on other people have been diversions of a sudden rush of blood through a vigorous action of the muscles . . . (D 371)

Finally, as for drives, Nietzsche argues that competition due to their different demands also results among affective states: ‘an affect affirms itself always at the expense of other affects, from which it subtracts force’ (N1883 7[120] KSA 10:282). That affective states have a direct motor effect has an immediate bearing on how Nietzsche conceives of the aetiology of our actions. A general problem any theory of action faces is to explain how the content of mental states—most notably, intentions—gets translated into proper actions. However, this problem is bypassed by affective states, for they are partially constituted by a repertoire of behavioural responses. This means that positing affective states as the primary sources of human actions provides a straightforward explanation of how the mind manages to mediate our bodily interactions with the environment.

3.2 Appraisal: The Valenced Character of Affective Representation Most contemporary theories of emotions also agree in treating affective states as representational. For instance, fear represents a certain object—a lion, say—as dangerous. There is, however, something peculiar about the way in which affective

⁴ More textual evidence of Nietzsche’s application of the discharge model to affective states will be discussed in Section 3.5. In general, see Fowles (2020) on this point. Note, however, that some of Nietzsche’s claims to the effect that affective states require discharge predate his reading of Mayer. See, for instance, HH I 370, titled ‘Discharge of ill-humour’, quoted at length below.

     


states represent things. Consider the contrast between visually perceiving a lion and feeling fear before it. Both one’s visual experience and one’s fear experience represent the lion in a certain way—as hairy, say, and dangerous, respectively. Now, whereas the kind of representing involved in fear is valenced, the one involved in seeing is not. To put it differently, the way of representing which is proper of affective states is essentially evaluative. To use a piece of terminology already employed, we can say that affective states are valenced representational states. As such, they have an appraisal character.⁵ Though this thesis is not part of late 19th-century psychology theories of affective states—Wundt, for instance, does not mention it—Nietzsche seems to be aware of the appraisal character of affective states. ‘All kinds of passions (Passionen)’—he writes—should be investigated in order to reveal ‘all their evaluations (Werthschätzungen) and modes of illuminating things’ (GS 7). The same point is made in an unpublished note with regard to moods: ‘the real evaluation (Schätzung) of life depends on the most prevailing moods (Stimmungen)’ (N1883 7[210] KSA 10:307). So in what does such an evaluative mode common to affective states consist? The following note offers a good starting point in answering this question: With regard to a thing or a person, when a new affect occurs memory delivers us the representations that thing or person provoked (erregte) in us before, as another affect occurred: and then different properties show themselves. (N1880 6[234] KSA 9:259)

In this note, Nietzsche claims that different affects make different sets of properties of an experienced object become salient. A later note elaborates on the same point by stressing that our cognitive uptake of such properties involves some sort of valenced appraisal, typically associated with pleasant or unpleasant sensations. A property [of an experienced object] thus expresses always something ‘beneficial’ or ‘harmful’ for us. The colours, for example—each of them corresponds to a degree of unpleasantness or pleasure, which in turn results from valuations (Schätzungen) as ‘beneficial’ or ‘harmful’.—Disgust (Ekel). (N1885–1886 2[77] KSA 12:98)

Here, Nietzsche claims that even our experience of the most basic sensory properties such as colour is not neutral, but rather represents such properties as

⁵ Thus, I think Leiter is wrong in suggesting that ‘we should read Nietzsche as treating basic [i.e. first-order] affects as non-cognitive, that is, as identifiable solely by how they feel to the subject who experiences the affect’ (Leiter 2019:68). For affective states aren’t individuated only by appeal to their feeling component, but also by appeal to their representational and evaluative content.



having a certain value. Disgust—a paradigmatic affective state—is mentioned as an example of this phenomenon. Together with Stendhal—one of his favourite writers—Nietzsche saw in love an exemplary case of such a form of affective evaluation. Let us start with Stendhal, who affirms that if ‘you are sure that a woman loves you, it is a pleasure to endow her with a thousand perfections and to count your blessings with infinite satisfaction’ (Stendhal 1975 §2). Inspired by a geological phenomenon observable in salt mines, he dubs this psychological process ‘crystallization’: Leave a lover with his thoughts for twenty-four hours, and this is what will happen: At the salt mines of Salzburg, they throw a leafless wintry bough into one of the abandoned workings. Two or three months later they haul it out covered with a shining deposit of crystals. The smallest twig, no bigger than a tom-tit’s claw, is studded with a galaxy of scintillating diamonds. The original branch is no longer recognizable. What I have called crystallization is a mental process which draws from everything that happens new proofs of the perfection of the loved one. (Stendhal 1975 §2)

The same point is made by Nietzsche in various aphorisms written years apart from one another. In D he writes that ‘love contains a secret impulse to see as much beauty as possible in the other or to elevate him as high as possible: to deceive oneself here would be a joy and an advantage—and so one does so’ (D 309).⁶ Similarly, he later maintains that love ‘brings to light the high and the hidden qualities of the lover—what is rare and exceptional about him: to this extent, love easily misleads about his ordinary traits’ (BGE 163). We can thus conclude that affective states represent their objects by ascribing to them certain evaluative properties. How does this happen? This is the question to which I now turn.

3.3 Affects and Causal Inference: On Fowles’s Interpretive Account In what is to my knowledge the most thorough examination of Nietzsche’s notion of affect, Chris Fowles argues that—in Nietzsche’s eyes—affective states result from a specific kind of causal inference. Though Fowles finds this view expressed in several published passages, his starting point is a long unpublished note from 1883, titled ‘The belief in “affects” ’:

⁶ On the theme of self-deception in love, though on a different note, see also HH II ‘Opinions and Maxims’ 37.

   


Affects are a construction of the intellect, a fabrication of causes which do not exist. All bodily general feelings that we do not understand are interpreted intellectually, i.e., a reason is sought for feeling one way or another, in people, experiences etc., so something adverse, dangerous, alien, is set as the cause of our depressive mood: actually, it is added to the depressive state; sought after, for the sake of the conceivability (Denkbarkeit) of our state.—Frequent blood-flows to the brain, with the feeling of suffocation, are interpreted as anger: the persons and things that rouse us to anger are releases (Auslösungen) for the physiological state.—Subsequently, after a long habituation (Gewöhnung), certain occurrences and general feelings are themselves so regularly connected that the sight of certain occurrences produces the state of general feeling, specifically any congestion of the blood, or excitation of the semen, etc., it brings with it, through close association: we then say that ‘the affect is excited’. (N1883 24[20] KSA 10:657–658; I follow Fowles’s translation)

According to Fowles’s reading, Nietzsche’s story revolves around three main ingredients. A bodily state (i) is the source of an unpleasant (or pleasant) (general) feeling (ii). To ‘make sense’ of the experienced feeling, the external environment is parsed in order to identify its putative cause. Such a causal inference (iii), however, constitutes a wrong interpretation of what is actually going on.⁷ But why? Because the cause of our feeling is not the external object tracked by it, but rather the internal bodily state with which the story begins. Let’s call this story the Interpretive Account. A further claim Nietzsche makes in this note is that affects occur when—and only when—the (general) feelings are ‘interpreted’ in the way just described. Let’s call this further thesis the Interpretation-Dependence Claim. As Fowles rightly points out, one can consistently find the three main ingredients highlighted above in several descriptions of affective states provided by Nietzsche over many years. Consider, for instance, the following aphorism from HH: Discharge of ill-humour.—The man who experiences failure prefers to attribute this failure to the ill-will of another rather than to chance. His incensed feelings are relieved if he imagines a person, and not a thing, to be the cause of his failure; for one can revenge oneself on people, while the iniquities of chance must be

⁷ Two points are worth stressing here. First, that Nietzsche’s story begins with a bodily state does not mean he defends a purely somatic theory of affective states. Theories of this sort are usually taken to be implausible, because it seems impossible to identify affective states such as emotions only by appeal to bodily changes. As we have seen, Nietzsche takes the somatic dimension to be only one ingredient of affective states. They also possess further phenomenological and representational properties that contribute to their individuation. (For more on this point, see again Fowles (2020).) Second, the kind of causal inference Nietzsche refers to here goes on at the subpersonal level. Arguably, it is akin to the sort of unconscious inference (normally also involving causality) that Schopenhauer and Helmholtz postulated to explain how perceptual experience is generated. I shall come back to this conception of unconscious inference in Chapter 6.


 swallowed down. That is why, when a prince experiences a failure, his attendance is accustomed to point out one sole man as the supposed cause and to sacrifice him in the interest of the whole court; for, since he can take no revenge on the goddess of destiny herself, the prince’s displeasure would otherwise be visited on them all. (HH I 370)

Here we have both an unpleasant feeling—ill-humour—and the wrong causal inference as a way of ‘making sense’ of it: another person, on which the unpleasant feeling can be discharged through revenge, is deemed responsible for it. Though no bodily state is mentioned in this description, it seems obvious that Nietzsche tacitly presupposes it is the real cause of one’s ill-humour. Another description fitting this model is to be found in TI: Most of our general feelings—every type of inhibition, pressure, tension, explosion in the give and take of our organs, and particularly the state of the nervus sympathicus—excite our causal instinct: we want there to be a reason why we are in the particular state we are in,—why we are feeling good or bad. (TI ‘Errors’ 4)

Here all three ingredients are clearly present: the bodily modification, the resulting (general) feeling and the wrong causal inference.⁸ Though Fowles’s Interpretive Account captures important aspects of Nietzsche’s view of affective states, I think it puts too much weight on the Interpretation-Dependence Claim. To start with, this claim does not appear in the published passages in which the Interpretive Account is exposed or applied. Surely, in such passages Nietzsche argues that a given affect involves the search for a suitable cause in the external world. But as the example from HH suggests, the role of this search is merely to individuate a suitable target for affective discharge. It’s not that the affective state as such is, in some sense, ‘created’ by the causal interpretation. Moreover, note that the supposedly pre-affective ‘general feelings’ Nietzsche mentions both in the unpublished note and in TI seem already to qualify as affective states: the unpublished example is that of a ‘depressive state’; the example of HH, ‘ill-humour’, also seems to count as affective. Thus, I do not think we should attribute to Nietzsche the view that at the core of affective states lie pre-affective general feelings. Rather, such feelings are already affective in virtue of the valence and arousal elements they encompass. Why does Nietzsche then put forward the Interpretation-Dependence Claim in the unpublished note quoted above? I don’t have a clear answer. Maybe, there he is using the term ‘affect’ in a narrower sense only picking out emotions. If one holds that emotions (contrary to moods or other affectively loaded feelings) are

⁸ Fowles discusses more passages in which the Interpretive Account is applied, such as D 142.

   


necessarily object-directed, it seems natural to think that they require the individuation of a suitable target object. Perhaps more plausibly, what we find in that note is just a somewhat confused sketch of the Interpretive Account he will later formulate in TI. Support for this option comes from the fact that in TI Nietzsche claims that the wrong causal inference made in order to ‘make sense’ of an unpleasant (general) feeling is a presupposition of one’s becoming ‘conscious of it’ (TI ‘Errors’ 4), rather than of the feeling’s becoming genuinely affective. To conclude: though the Interpretive Account is consistently expounded and applied by Nietzsche on several occasions, the same does not occur with the additional Interpretation-Dependence Claim. That of the unpublished note seems an isolated, arguably tentative endorsement that doesn’t transition into his considered view. There is a final claim we should consider, on the contrary, part of Nietzsche’s Interpretive Account, for it appears both in the Nachlass note and in TI. Nietzsche claims that once the wrong interpretation of a given (general) affective feeling as being caused by a certain object has been established, viewing the object comes to elicit in us the corresponding feeling (via causing the underlying bodily modification). Given that Nietzsche calls this phenomenon ‘habituation’ in both the unpublished note and the published passage, we can call the corresponding view the Habituation Claim. A first thing to note here is that habituation seems to make the originally wrong causal interpretation right: for the object does now seem to cause the (general) affective feeling. Nietzsche, however, insists that no causal effect is going on: ‘The memory that unconsciously becomes activated in such cases is what leads back to earlier states of the same type and the associated causal interpretation,—not their causality’ (TI ‘Errors’ 4). To consider an example will help to get a better grip on Nietzsche’s position. Uwe usually experiences an unpleasant feeling while at work—he is tired and nervous, say. His ‘causal instinct’ (wrongly) individuates the voice of his colleague Jürgen, who is constantly speaking in his phone, as the causal source of that feeling. Thus, Uwe now (consciously) believes that he is experiencing ‘irritation’ caused by Jürgen’s voice. After habituation, hearing Jürgen’s voice automatically elicits the unpleasant feeling. Given this, how can Nietzsche deny that Jürgen’s voice has now become the real cause of Uwe’s unpleasant feeling? His point, I think, is that Jürgen’s voice is merely a more or less fortuitous occasion for one of Uwe’s drives to be activated. Recall the picture Nietzsche provides in D 119: every ‘moment of our lives sees some of the polyp-arms of our being [i.e. one or another of our drives] grow and others of them wither, all according to the nutriment which the moment does or does not bear with it’ (D 119). The wrong causal interpretation reflects the perspective of one of our drives. Habituation, in turn, results when the affective interpretation prompted by a certain drive is reinforced: each time the stimulus—Jürgen’s voice, in our example—is experienced, the drive activates one’s memory which, through some sort of associative mechanism,



brings about the unpleasant feeling. Jürgen’s voice, thus, is merely an occasion for the drive—the real cause of why I feel the way I feel—to manifest itself.⁹ Even if we agree with Nietzsche that Jürgen’s voice is merely an occasion for the relevant drive to kick in, it seems odd to say that it plays no causal role altogether, as he suggests. In my view, the best way to put his point is as follows: Jürgen’s voice does play a role by triggering the relevant drive (through mnemonic association, as Nietzsche suggests in TI); however, and contrary to how things look at face value, the voice’s contribution to the whole story is explanatorily insignificant when it comes to make sense of Uwe’s behaviour. What explains the latter’s irritation is not Jürgen’s voice—the external stimulus—but rather Uwe’s own drive—the internal disposition.¹⁰

3.4 Emotion and Its Object: More Than Causality? Or Maybe Even Less? Some may worry that the picture emerging so far fails to recognize a crucial aspect of affective—in particular, of emotional—phenomenology. Among Nietzsche scholars, Peter Poellner has forcefully argued that such a phenomenological datum is absolutely crucial to a proper understanding of emotional experience.¹¹ As a consequence of this, he came up with a reading of Nietzsche’s view about affective states that is quite different from the one I have been developing here. So let us start by taking a closer look at the phenomenon Poellner has in mind. As he puts it in a (deservedly) much quoted passage: We often experience an object, a person, or action that we value (or disvalue) as exerting a certain affective pull, an attraction (or repulsion) on us which seems non-contingently connected with the way the object (etc.) itself is. Our affective response in these cases is itself experienced as not merely contingently caused, but as merited by the object’s intrinsic character. (Poellner 2007:232; see also Poellner 2009:162)

⁹ In ‘On Release’, Mayer argued for a similar picture on neuro-physiological grounds. He claims that the ‘sensorium commune’, which was taken to be responsible for the kind of ‘general feelings’ also referred to by Nietzsche, is linked both to efferent motor nerves and afferent sensory nerves. As the information carried by these nerves is about the motor discharge (or lack thereof) of the organism’s energy, from this he concludes that ‘the state of the release mechanism (Auslösungsapparates) determines the general feeling’ (Mayer 1876:13). To put it differently: the core feeling component of affective states as well as their valence depend on affective motor discharge (or lack thereof). In a note from 1884, Nietzsche writes: ‘It’s common to all physiological processes that they are releases of force (Kraftauslösungen), which, when they reach the sensorium commune, carry a certain increase and intensification with them’ (N1884 27[3] KSA 11:275). ¹⁰ Thanks to an anonymous reviewer for pressing me on this point. ¹¹ For a general defence of the kind of view Poellner spells out by focusing on Nietzsche, see Johnston (2001).

   


It is important to note that the point made by Poellner is about how things look in emotional experience. That we experience emotions as appropriate responses to features of external objects does not mean that they are appropriate responses to features of external objects. What Poellner suggests, however, is that we should take this phenomenological datum at face value: in emotional experience we do respond to features of external objects. More important, for our present concern, is that he ascribes such a view to Nietzsche. To have a handy label, I shall call it the Phenomenal Objectivity Claim. I grant the philosophical pull of the position Poellner wants us to get at. However, I think there is no reason to think it is endorsed by Nietzsche. Of course, the deliverances of phenomenology can be seen as providing support to the Phenomenal Objectivity Claim. However, as one thing Nietzsche stands out for is his hard-line scepticism about introspective data, I doubt he would have been impressed by that sort of evidence. Poellner also makes a conceptual point: the very notion of ‘evaluative commitments’ implies that there are ‘criteria’ guiding our endorsement of them, which, in turn, implies that they involve ‘some kind of objectivity’ (Poellner 2007:231; Mitchell 2016 also defends a version of this view). In the case of emotional experience, what makes intelligible our commitment to the values it discloses is that they are (in some sense) objective features of the experienced items, and not merely a matter of one’s subjective reactions to such items. My answer to this conceptual point is twofold. First, it proves persuasive only if one presupposes that one is interested in showing that emotions can play a justificatory role within the broader enterprise of rational evaluation of human actions. But there are doubts that Nietzsche would be interested in such a project. Second, the very idea that emotions respond to objective features of the world is questionable. To be sure, Poellner carefully distinguishes the objectivity involved here from full-blooded, metaphysically demanding objectivity. While the latter amounts to strict mind-independence, the former is merely ‘phenomenal objectivity’, i.e. the kind of objectivity we ascribe to ‘what is standardly presented as pertaining to the (everyday, phenomenal) object, just as the visible, phenomenal colour of a table appears as a property of the table itself, and not, for example, as a property of an “inner sensation” ’ (Poellner 2007:233). Now, this gloss suggests that the evaluative features emotional experience is responsive to are objective in the sense in which colours are. (Phenomenal) colours—colours qua ways things look—are not independent from our mindedness, for strawberries look red only to beings equipped with a suitable visual system. Nonetheless—given a functioning human visual system—that strawberries look red is an intersubjectively robust phenomenon. The same, however, does not seem to apply to our emotional reactions to the objects around us. I find ketchup utterly disgusting and fried frogs delicious. I guess many people would have a switched affective response to such items. More relevantly, Nietzsche is never tired of stressing that moral evaluations—which, as shown by his Semiotic Claim, he takes to boil down to



certain sorts of affective responses—vary enormously according to culture, historical context, and individual constitution. Given that emotional experience fails to yield any intersubjectively robust appraisal of the things around us, I don’t see why we should accept the Phenomenal Objectivity Claim. Indeed, the several passages we have discussed in the previous section show that Nietzsche’s take on affective states—emotions included—points to a different direction than the one in which Poellner wants us to go. To start with, as Fowles’s Interpretive Account nicely articulates, Nietzsche believes that often there is not even a contingent, i.e. merely causal, connection between one’s affective states and the objects we experience them to be about. Take again Uwe’s example. His affective experience of Jürgen’s voice as irritating is not even caused by Jürgen’s voice. The cause of that experience is an inchoate unpleasant feeling he wrongly associates with his colleague’s voice.¹² Instead of Jürgen’s voice, it could have been a neutral remark by Dietmar or Ute’s smiling or whatever. Of course, once Jürgen’s voice is identified as the object of Uwe’s irritation, he (Uwe) will arguably experience his own irritation not only as caused, but also as merited by it, as Poellner rightly notes. In this case, as—according to Nietzsche—in many other cases of emotional experience, both phenomenological deliverances are illusory. Note, furthermore, that such an emotional experience may survive even once the subject has discovered that its putative object is neither the cause, nor (consequently) the appropriate addressee of his unpleasant feeling. Uwe may find out that he is just in a bad mood and still experience Jürgen’s voice as irritating. According to Nietzsche’s picture, such a case would be explained by the fact that the causal-tracking mechanism operating at the subpersonal level is impervious to epistemic update. This not only nicely captures the typical recalcitrant nature of affective experiences, but is also compatible with the fact that even in such cases the emotion’s motivational element remains: for even if I realize that Jürgen’s voice is not the real source of my irritation, as long as I experience it that way I will feel the urge to leave the room or put on earplugs.¹³ There is a last point in Poellner’s analysis that does not fit together with Nietzsche’s Interpretive Account. As a consequence of the claim that objective evaluative features are constitutive of emotional experiences, Poellner also argues that such experiences are ‘epistemically direct, non-inferential representations of their objects’ (Poellner 2007:236). However, according to the Interpretive Account, (at least) many affective states involve a causal-tracking mechanism. To be sure, the working of such a

¹² Of course, according to the Habituation Claim, if that response is reinforced and thus becomes habituated, the presence of the stimulus alone is sufficient to trigger it. But this is a specific aspect of affective reinforcement, and not of emotional phenomenology as such. Moreover, it only establishes that in these cases—and not always—the object of one’s emotion can directly trigger that emotion, and not the claim Poellner is interested in, namely that one’s emotional experience reveals (phenomenally) objective properties of its object. ¹³ To be fair, this last point is also recognized and explained by Poellner (2007:239–40).

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mechanism goes on at the subpersonal level. No conscious inference, thus, is required. This explains the phenomenology of immediacy Poellner rightly points out as characteristic of emotional experience. However, it also shows that we should not take that phenomenology at face value: though it may look to us that emotional experience is just a matter of one’s unmediated apprehending a certain feature of a certain object, it actually presupposes some inferential, albeit unconscious, work. For all these reasons, my conclusion is that Poellner’s arguments do not succeed in showing that Nietzsche actually accepted the view of emotional experience he favours. On the one hand, Nietzsche’s texts do not support that view, but rather the Interpretive Account firstly spelled out by Fowles. Second, the view favoured by Poellner is based on a range of phenomenological considerations we may doubt Nietzsche would have accepted as compelling, given his general scepticism about the evidential status of introspective deliverances.

3.5 The Relation between Drives and Affects: A First Sketch It will be helpful to summarize Nietzsche’s main claims concerning the nature of affective states. Accordingly, affective states i. possess a distinctive phenomenological character encompassing two distinct somatic dimensions, i.e. arousal and motor effects; ii. are valenced representational states. Something that immediately jumps out at one is the considerable overlap between the features Nietzsche ascribes to affective states and those he ascribes to drives. Both are conceptualized according to the discharge model, which means that they are both released through typical kinds of behaviour. Moreover, drives and affective states are treated as evaluative. What can we make of all this? One could conclude that drives and affective states are roughly the same thing. Wundt, for one, drew precisely this conclusion. After having argued in his early works that affects and drives are basically the same kind of mental items, he later came to reject the notion of drive. The reason is simple: if this notion doesn’t add anything substantial to that of affect, it turns out to be theoretically redundant. I don’t believe, however, that Nietzsche’s own understanding of drives and affects is such as to warrant reduction of one of these two notions to the other. Though tightly related, they remain quite distinct. A major difference is that Nietzsche—contrary to Wundt and Schneider—takes drives to be dispositional, while treating affective states as episodic.¹⁴ This not only ¹⁴ Some affective states, such as love and hate, are not episodic, but rather long-standing. These, however, as Deonna and Teroni argue, are better understood as ‘emotional dispositions’ constituted by



constitutes a fundamental metaphysical difference between these two kinds of mental items, but also suggests a general model of their interaction. As we have seen, a functional description of a drive not only has to mention its typical behavioural manifestation, but also feelings and sensations. In particular, I want to argue that affective states are the most relevant kind of states when it comes to individuate a certain drive. Why? Consider first the mental side of a drive, which consists primarily in its evaluative perspective. Such evaluative perspective becomes manifest in the way in which it modulates our experience of the world: objects and events in our surroundings are experienced as suitable occasions for the drive to realize its aim. Now, an affective state is precisely the kind of experience having this sort of evaluative or appraisal character in virtue of its being essentially valenced. This suggests that affective states are the psychological episodes through which the drive’s perspective becomes manifest. Moreover, a similar line can be pushed also with regard to its behavioural expression, for affective states are characterized by having an immediate effect on the motor system. Let me illustrate this idea by using as an example a drive mentioned by Nietzsche himself, namely what he calls the ‘drive to attachment and care for others (the “sympathetic affection”)’ (D 143). Take its most basic form: the parental instinct to care for one’s offspring. Of course, different situations will require different patterns of behaviour in order for this drive’s goal—say, nurturing and protecting one’s offspring—to be satisfied. If I see my four-year-old daughter walking towards a busy street, the appropriate action would be to shout at her to stop. If I see my nine-year-old son frustrated by some mathematical exercise, the appropriate action is to reassure him and try to understand where the problem lies—if he didn’t understand the relevant maths, or if he’s just too tired. In both scenarios, affective states will play a major role in motivating my action. In the first case, seeing my daughter walking towards the street will make me feel fear. This emotional experience will (i) represent the event of my daughter walking towards the busy street as dangerous and (ii) will elicit an appropriate response, such as my shouting at her. In the second case, awareness of my son’s frustration will make me feel concern. Probably, once he has overcome such an ordinary mathematical obstacle, I will feel proud—of him, who’s good at maths after all, as well as of myself, as I have so brilliantly complied with my parental duties. Again, the tokening of such emotions will make (i) my experience of things value-laden and (ii) prompt a range of actions. What this example suggests is that emotions such as fear or concern allow a context-sensitive satisfaction of the patterns of episodic affective states. Using hate as an example, they illustrate the idea as follows: ‘Hating someone does not consist in being disposed to feel any single emotion but, among other things, to feel glee at the other’s misfortune or indignation at the help he receives from third parties’ (Deonna and Teroni 2012:8). Deonna and Teroni call such emotional dispositions ‘sentiments’. Given their dispositional nature, Nietzsche would arguably treat some of them as drives, as he sometimes does with love.

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drive’s goal. In general, we can say that affective states mediate the discharge of the drive by adapting it to a given situation.¹⁵ Of course, this still remains a very sketchy picture of the way in which drives and affects are supposed to work together. Before we can fill in more details, however, we have to work out how Nietzsche conceives of their arrangement. As we have seen, in BGE 12 he describes it as a ‘social structure’. Thus, the next task is to try to make sense of this somewhat obscure notion. Once that task has been tackled, we shall be able to further flesh out the resulting picture of how drives and affective states interact.

¹⁵ This view is defended by Anderson (2012). I shall discuss the details of Anderson’s work in the next chapter.

4 The Soul’s Order Psychological explanations based on partitioning the mind into ‘parts’ or ‘elements’— subpersonal constituents, as they are called in contemporary philosophy—are likely to raise the worry of homuncularism. In philosophical jargon, homunculi are human-like psychological entities introduced in order to explain a certain cognitive function. Explanations that appeal to such entities are usually looked at with suspicion, as they easily commit the so-called homunculus fallacy. Some scholars have argued that Nietzsche’s treatment of drives and their mutual interactions suggests that he explicitly endorses a homuncular model of the mind. Peter Poellner, in particular, has been very clear on this point. He claims that Nietzsche ‘ultimately treats drives not as attributes of agents . . . , but as agents themselves’ (1995:174). This is shown by the fact, he argues, that ‘when it comes to specifying the actual mode of operation or agency of these drives, . . . Nietzsche invariably uses intentional-mentalistic terms’ (215). From this, Poellner infers that Nietzsche’s view of the drives amounts to a rather confused and misguided form of fallacious homuncularism. More recently, Sebastian Gardner has drawn the same conclusion (2015): as the ‘consequence of taking drive-identity as the principle of mental partition, and of attributing strategic rationality to the drives, Nietzsche’s psychology falls into homuncularism, with all its attendant paradoxes’ (2015:375). Of course, were Poellner and Gardner to turn out to be right, it would be an almost fatal blow to Nietzsche’s psychology of drives. The aim of this chapter is to assess whether that is actually the case. I shall start by specifying how exactly dividing the mind into several components raises the threat of homuncularism (Section 4.1). This first step will prove crucial, for it will provide a reliable criterion for deciding whether Nietzsche’s own way of so doing succumbs or not to that threat. I shall then consider two different accounts of how Nietzschean drives are supposed to interact. The first—discussed in Section 4.2—presupposes a rather extreme vitalistic conception of drives. The second—discussed in Section 4.3— construes the order obtaining among drives as irreducibly normative. As they commit Nietzsche to different versions of the homunculus fallacy, I reject both these readings. My own deflationary account is put forward in Section 4.4. As it frees Nietzsche’s psychology of drives from any charge of fallacious homuncularism, I argue that my account should be preferred to its competitors. Furthermore, filling in its details will help us to better understand how Nietzsche conceives of the interaction among drives and affective states. The final Section 4.5 wraps things up. Nietzsche’s Philosophical Psychology. Mattia Riccardi, Oxford University Press. © Mattia Riccardi 2021. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198803287.003.0004

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4.1 The Spectre of Homuncularism Before we go on to assess whether Nietzsche commits or not the homunculus fallacy, we need to have a clear picture of what such fallacy consists in. In fact, the relevant literature usually mentions two different versions of it.¹ The first version of the fallacy occurs when one ascribes to a subpersonal constituent properties or states that are necessarily personal. The mistake results in this case from a category mistake: properties or states belonging to the whole are ascribed to one of its parts. For this reason, this fallacy is sometimes called the mereological fallacy. Of course, its possible range will depend on which properties one takes to be necessarily personal-level. Uncontroversial candidates seem to be phenomenal properties and states, like pains. As Dennett stresses in his original discussion of the personal/subpersonal distinction, ‘when we abandon the personal level in a very real sense we abandon the subject matter of pains as well’ (Dennett 1986:93–94). The reason why talk in terms of pains and sensations proves inadequate when one moves to the subpersonal level is simple: properties and states of that kind can be meaningfully ascribed only to persons (or other sentient creatures), and not to subsystems of their cognitive architecture, nor to parts of their brains. Things are arguably more controversial when it comes to different kinds of mental property and state, like intentional ones. I now turn to the second version of the homunculus fallacy. It occurs when one explains a certain personal-level capacity by positing a subpersonal entity that already possesses the capacity to be explained. The problem here is that any account of this form is simply explanatorily idle, for it presupposes the very capacity it is supposed to elucidate. For this reason, I shall call this the explanatory fallacy. It is important to note that the personal/subpersonal distinction is not meant to rule out that mentalistic vocabulary be meaningfully used in subpersonal explanations. Quite to the contrary, it has been introduced precisely to allow for such a use (see Drayson 2012 on this point). Therefore, as long as one avoids committing both the mereological and explanatory fallacy, one is allowed to posit homuncular constituents of the mind and describe their behaviour with the same vocabulary we usually employ to describe that of whole persons. In Dennett’s seminal characterization, providing subpersonal explanations thus consists in ‘analysing a person into an organization of subsystems . . . and attempting to explain the behavior of the whole person as the outcome of the interaction of these subsystems’ (Dennett 1978:153). Indeed, as Dennett more recently claims, ‘when we aspire to a science of the mind, we must learn . . . breaking the single-minded agent down into miniagents and microagents’ of this sort (Dennett 1991:458, my italics). Even if one might disagree that virtuous homuncularism, as I shall call it, offers the

¹ The following discussion is greatly indebted to Drayson (2012 and 2014).


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only plausible heuristics to someone committed to a scientifically informed study of the mind, it seems to be at least a viable strategy. Let us now turn to Nietzsche. On the one hand, Nietzsche’s mentalistic description of drives does not—per se—license the conclusion that he commits the homunculus fallacy, for it is fully compatible with virtuous homuncularism. On the other hand, as we shall appreciate in detail in the next section, scholars such as Poellner and Gardner are right, indeed, to find it alarming. At least at face value, the homunculus fallacy (in both its varieties) remains a serious threat to Nietzsche’s conception of drives as entering a hierarchical order. It also poses a crucial challenge to interpreters, for any reading that construes this conception as perpetrating that fallacy would arguably condemn to failure his core view of the human mind. A suggestion that homuncular worries can be sidestepped comes from Katsafanas (2016), who argues that instead of thinking that ‘drives, considered in isolation, can reason, evaluate and interpret’, we should rather hold that they are able of so doing only as ‘embodied drives’, ‘as part of a whole organism’ (97).² Though Katsafanas is right that we should conceive of drives not as free-floating loci of mentality and agency, but as constitutively integrated within the organism, this is not sufficient to rule out fallacious forms of homuncularism. As Keil (2003) clearly demonstrates, views of the human mind so different as those of Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Freud are all plagued by the problem of homuncularism. The underlying reason is that as soon as one partitions the human mind into different parts—that may be called faculties, systems, capacities, departments, or, indeed, drives—one is irremediably confronted with it. From then on there’s no easy way out.³ To conclude, there seems to be no straightforward way to argue that Nietzsche’s psychology of drives is immune to the homunculus fallacy. The challenge this poses to any view that breaks the mind into several components is serious and requires a careful treatment. In the remainder of this chapter, I shall explore whether there is available an understanding of the order of drives that succeeds in eschewing both its versions.

4.2 The Vitalistic Temptation As we have seen, according to Nietzsche our psychological constitution—our ‘soul’—is to be understood as a ‘society constructed (Gesellschaftsbau) out of ² Janaway (2007) also mentions such a deflationary reading: ‘it would be sensible to think that the drives themselves do not literally ‘seek’, or ‘crave’, or ‘try’ this or that in the way agents do; rather, desires, tryings, actions, occur in the person because of the way the multiple, and changing, drives of his or her nature are disposed’ (158). Janaway, however, is less sure than Katsafanas that Nietzsche’s pervasive mentalistic talk can be safely quarantined in this way (see p. 160 and, later, p. 218). ³ Another way to block homuncular worries would be to deny we should take Nietzsche’s mentalistic talk at face value at all. As we saw in Chapter 2, however, this strategy—pursued by Richardson (2004)—goes too far, as it amounts to a denial of drives qua psychological entities.

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drives and affects’ (BGE 12). Nonetheless, concrete illustrations of what such a ‘society’ is supposed to look like are frustratingly rare in his published work. BGE 19, where Nietzsche sketches a view of human volition as resulting from the combination of different psychological ingredients, is often seen as a notable exception. However, this passage does not directly illuminate the characterization of the soul offered in BGE 12. Rather, it is the source of further puzzles. First, though in BGE 19 Nietzsche explains how volition works in term of command– obedience relations among different psychological ingredients, no mention of drives is made in this aphorism.⁴ Second, Nietzsche does not identify the resulting hierarchical order with the soul, as in BGE 12. Rather, and quite strikingly, he claims now that the ‘body’ is a ‘society constructed (Gesellschaftsbau) out of many souls’ (BGE 19). It is not at all clear how these strangely intertwined characterizations of soul and body are supposed to relate. The soul, which is the definiendum of BGE 12, is now mentioned in the definition of what a body is: a collection of souls. Moreover, Nietzsche uses the notion of ‘social structure’ or ‘order’ (Gesellschaftsbau) in both cases, but it is not obvious it is supposed to pick out the same phenomenon. Even more puzzling is perhaps the fact that he explicitly chose not to re-employ in BGE 19 the original characterization of the soul as consisting in the social structure of our drives and affects.⁵ Why provoke such a confusion in the first place? I shall come back later to this puzzle and to its significance for a philosophical interpretation of Nietzsche’s picture of the relation between body and soul. For now, let me start by focusing on a certain way to make sense of the specific idea that the body is a society constituted by many souls, as stated in BGE 19. As the published work does not offer any clear guidance on how to make sense of this claim, it is tempting to look at the Nachlass from 1884–1886 in the hope of gathering some helpful insight. A double-edged reward awaits those pursuing this strategy. On the one hand, one will indeed find many unpublished notes that describe the body as a multiplicity of souls. On the other hand, such notes display the kind of marked propensity to an alarming mentalistic talk stressed by Poellner. What follows is a representative sample of such passages. Nietzsche writes that the human body is ‘a prodigious alliance of living beings, each dependent and subservient and yet in a certain sense also commanding and acting out of its own will’ (N1885 37[4] LN:29–31; KSA 11:576–79). Later in the ⁴ I discuss the model of the will put forward in BGE 19 in Chapter 10. ⁵ The genesis of BGE 19 documents that not including that characterization in this aphorism was a matter of deliberate textual choice. Here is the evidence: a couple of lines later, Nietzsche restates that ‘willing is simply a matter of commanding and obeying, on the groundwork [, as I have said, of a society constructed out of many “souls”]’ (BGE 19). Importantly, in the print-manuscript the bracketed part read ‘of a society constructed out of the drives and affects’ (KSA 14:350). This means that the characterization originally offered in BGE 12 was initially supposed to appear also in BGE 19. It was only at the very last stage of book production that Nietzsche decided to alter the text and expunge its second occurrence altogether.


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same note, he claims that such a ‘prodigious synthesis of living beings and intellects’ as we are can work only ‘once that subtle system of connections and mediations, and thus lightning-fast communication between all these higher and lower beings, has been created’. Even more strikingly, he characterizes such ‘beings’ allegedly constituting ourselves as both ‘intelligences’ and ‘consciousnesses’. In another note, he exhorts to ‘understand the ruler and his subjects as being of the same kind, all feeling, thinking, willing—and that wherever we see or sense movement in the body, we learn to infer a kind of corresponding, subjective, invisible life’ (N1885 40[26] LN:44; KSA 11:639). ‘Fellow-feeling—we read in another note—exists only in social formations [socialen Bildungen]’, ‘one of which is the human body, whose individual living beings “feel with” one another’ (N1885 43[1] LN:50; KSA 11:639). How are we to react to such perplexing statements? Let me start by making two points. First, Nietzsche ascribes to the supposed constituents of our body a plethora of mental capacities, among which are consciousness, feeling, thinking, and willing. If this does not commit him to (some version of) the homunculus fallacy, then I don’t know what could possibly do it. Second, though Nietzsche does not describe such constituents as ‘souls’, there are relevant correspondences with the passage from BGE 19 we started with. For instance, the central idea that the body is some kind of social structure is clearly anticipated in the unpublished material. This puts the interpreter in an uncomfortable position. On the one hand, it might seem tempting to recruit such Nachlass passages to fill in the details left unspecified by the published one. On the other hand, by taking this option one is immediately led to ascribe to Nietzsche something like an incredible form of vitalism that inevitably commits him to the homunculus fallacy. Though I believe that this drawback makes any reading of this kind ultimately unacceptable, I want first to explore the issue in more detail. A recent example of what I would call the vitalistic reading of the order of drives is offered by Wotling (2011). Wotling takes unpublished notes like the ones quoted above to specify what Nietzsche means when he talks about the hierarchical arrangement of drives. In other words, he straightforwardly identifies the constituent ‘beings’ mentioned in the Nachlass with drives. Moreover, he argues that Nietzsche’s talk in BGE 19 of the body as being composed by many souls suggests that drives can be made sense of only by retaining a certain aspect of the traditional notion of the soul. This aspect, he suggests, is ‘the idea of a perceptive apparatus, but an elementary, infra-conscious apparatus’ (Wotling 2011:74). Accordingly, Wotling ascribes to drives the ‘capacity to perceive or to be affected by other drives’ (75). Such ‘perceptions’ underlie the kind of ‘communication’ occurring among the drives, which in turn enables them to enter commandobedience and agreement relations. Though he recognizes that ‘one cannot avoid reading these lines [those of the aforementioned unpublished passages]

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with astonishment’, Wotling takes them as expressing Nietzsche’s considered view. Consequently, he does not refrain from ascribing to the drives mental capacities like consciousness and perception. Some historical considerations may be adduced in support of the kind of vitalistic reading that emerges as soon as one straightforwardly embraces what we find in the Nachlass. The resulting picture somewhat resembles Leibniz’s view about the composition of the human body: ‘Each living body has a dominant entelechy, which in the animal is the soul; but the limbs of this living body are full of other living beings, plants, animals, each of which also has its entelechy, or its dominant soul’ (Leibniz 1989:222 (Monadology §70); see Look 2002). The picture here is that of an open-ended hierarchy of animated beings—from the macroscopic level of the whole organism down to its most microscopic parts. Despite the enormous success of mechanistic explanations in physics, a broadly Leibnizian view of (at least) the organic world was still alive in the second half of the 19th century—in Germany but also elsewhere. Nietzsche, who read and was at least partially influenced by the work of some neo-Leibnizian philosophers, was surely familiar with these ideas. In order to give a sense of this historical context, I shall briefly consider one such work that proves particularly pertinent. The author I am referring to is the French philosopher and sociologist Alfred Fouillée. In his book La science sociale contemporaine, which Nietzsche read, Fouillée puts forward a sociological theory based on the traditional analogy between organisms and states. He thus dwells on the functioning of organisms, including the human animal. By explicitly taking up the ideas of Leibniz and Diderot, he claims that ‘in every organised individual contemporary science . . . shows us a world of other organised beings’ (Fouillée 1880:84). Accordingly, organisms should be understood as ‘societies of tiny animals (societés d’animalcules)’ (91). The tendency to ascribe mental and other kinds of personal-level properties to such animalcules pervades Fouillée’s book. ‘Such small organisms’, he writes, ‘contained in a big organism have their own tendencies and appetites, their own voracity, health and diseases, their own options of fixity and mobility, their own migrations’ (85). In a way that resembles some of Nietzsche’s unpublished notes, Fouillée boldly asserts that ‘the possibility to feel and somehow to feel oneself feeling’ as well as ‘some more or less latent consciousness’ are also to be found ‘in all the elements of a living body’ (221). Of course, that we find the same kind of bizarre claims Nietzsche makes in the Nachlass in a book he read does not prove much. Note, however, that Fouillée puts to use this—admittedly wild—picture of the psycho-physiological function of the human organism in a way similar to that in which Nietzsche puts to use his own psychology of drives: ‘our desires and inclinations seem to result from the associations of multiple elementary consciousnesses which, by entering a society and combining their tendencies according to the law of the parallelogram of forces, produce a movement of the ensemble in a certain direction’ (216–217).


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As an illustration of his idea, Fouillée offers, among other examples, Schopenhauer’s doctrine of sexual love, which he renders as follows: ‘the “homunculi” in us aspiring to existence, then, unite their desires towards life into a collective desire that consciousness apprehends in itself and takes to be its own desire’ (217). Interestingly, we have evidence not only that Nietzsche attentively read this passage, but also that he probably liked it, for he translated and wrote it down in one of his notebooks (see N1887–1888 11[147] KSA 13:69). This seems thus to reinforce the impression that Nietzsche’s own understanding of human psychology was not immune to the allure of a Leibniz-inspired vitalism like the one pervading Fouillée’s book. Finally, it is important to stress that this kind of vitalistically flavoured talk—together with the panpsychism it seems to entail— was far from uncommon among Nietzsche’s contemporaries. For instance, in a lecture he gave in 1878, Ernst Haeckel maintained that ‘we can ascribe an autonomous soul even to every cell, a cell soul (Zellseele)’ (Haeckel 1909:15). Though considerations of this kind give the vitalistic reading a certain historical footing, I believe we should resist it. Of course, it is an utterly unattractive philosophical position. Thus, ascribing it to Nietzsche would imply that his philosophical psychology is deeply flawed. Moreover, further considerations speak against so doing. First, by comparing unpublished with published materials it becomes clear that Nietzsche shifts from an arguably confused biological view of the composite nature of the human self to a more plausible psychological one.⁶ Nachlass notes like those quoted above typically describe the human body as a hierarchically organized collection of some sort of tiny ‘living beings’ or even ‘cells’, whereas talk of drives as well as of other mental states and processes is remarkably absent. On the contrary, in his published works Nietzsche clearly refrains from spelling out the idea of the self ’s composite nature in terms that appear suspiciously vitalistic, but rather construes it as resulting from the hierarchical arrangement among psychological dispositions and states—drives and affects. Second, Nietzsche’s clear rejection of teleological explanations and, more generally, his project of a ‘dehumanization of nature’ is at odds with the kind of vitalism at the heart of Leibniz’s natural philosophy and of its 19th-century descendants (N1881 11[211] KSA 9:525; see also GS 109; see Loeb 2015 on this). That is the reason why in another Nachlass note he points out ‘a disguised polytheism in the monads’ (N1881 11[201] KSA 9:522). This again suggests that— though Nietzsche entertained a more or less vitalistic picture of the human organism, as documented by his notes from 1885—he soon realized its dim prospects. Of course, the problem remains of how to make sense of the puzzling phrasing we found in BGE 19. Why—instead of repeating the more kosher formulation ⁶ Sommer (2016:152), who carefully considers the textual genesis of BGE 12, comes to a similar conclusion.

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already provided in BGE 12—does Nietzsche opt for writing there that the ‘body’ is a ‘society constructed out of many souls’? Doesn’t this indicate that he is still sympathetic with the kind of vitalistic picture I am trying to quarantine him from? Not necessarily. As we have seen, drives are best understood as having both a physical and a mental side. In virtue of their being biologically realized, they can be seen as parts or subsystems of the human body. In virtue of their being psychological dispositions, they can be seen as parts or subsystems of the human soul. My suggestion is thus that the phrasing adopted in BGE 19 aims at stressing that the body can be divided into subsystems the identification of which is only possible at the psychological level. Conversely, the phrasing adopted in BGE 12 can be read as stressing that the human soul can be divided into subsystems that are essentially embodied, i.e. biologically realized. To put it differently, the two formulations are intended to convey the idea that drives are both physical and mental items. Far from proving a form of vitalism, the resulting picture of the human mind is thus best understood as a version of non-reductive physicalism according to which the basic psychological posita, though biologically realized, can only be properly described in mental terms. This means that, though I am body ‘through and through’ and ‘soul is merely a word for something belonging to the body (am Leib)’ (Z ‘Despisers’, translation changed), as Zarathustra has it, psychological explanations are autonomous and cannot be reduced to merely biological and physical ones. Though the puzzling phrasing from BGE 19 may tempt one to take the vitalistic-sounding unpublished materials from 1885 to express Nietzsche’s considered position, there are good reasons—both philosophical and textual—to resist this move. I thus conclude that the vitalistic reading should be rejected.

4.3 The Normative Reading Maudemarie Clark and David Dudrick have offered the most sustained exploration of Nietzsche’s conception of the order of drives. The proposal they put forward on this specific matter is part of the broader project of offering what they call a normative reading of Nietzsche’s philosophy as presented in BGE. A crucial point in their argument is the claim that Nietzsche’s appeal to the notion of soul indicates that his philosophical psychology cannot be understood in purely naturalistic terms. Given that Nietzsche identifies the soul with the social arrangement obtaining among one’s drives, Clark and Dudrick argue (contra Leiter 2002) that such arrangement cannot be a merely causal one. Rather, it should be understood as a genuinely normative one. It is important to stress the scope of Clark and Dudrick’s normative reading. Given that drives embody an evaluative perspective that becomes manifest in the appraisal character of the token affective states they elicit, there surely is a


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normative dimension to Nietzsche’s view of the soul. However, what the normative reading aims at establishing is not merely the—to my eyes, relatively uncontroversial—claim that there is a normative side to Nietzsche’s characterization of the soul and of the drives (and affects) constituting it. What is being defended is the stronger claim that the normative dimension which is part of that characterization is irreducibly so. The claim is thus that whatever normative properties are ascribed to the soul conceived as the social structure of our drives (and affects), they cannot be traced back to non-normative—in particular, causal—properties of that structure and of its constituents. More specifically, the irreducibility of the normative dimension implicit in Nietzsche’s philosophical psychology is framed by appeal to Sellars’s famous distinction between the ‘space of reasons’ and the ‘space of causes’.⁷ As Clark and Dudrick put it, the ‘object of psychological investigation, the human soul, is not a naturalistic entity . . . . It is a normative entity, which exists only in and through the space of reasons’ (2012:139). It is important to stress that this normative claim is not confined to the personal level of the soul, but extends to the subpersonal level of the drives and of their arrangement: ‘the drives are arranged not merely in a causal order but in a political one’ (175). So it is not just the soul that inhabits the ‘space of reasons’. Its subpersonal constituents too possess irreducibly normative properties. How does the Sellarsian framework apply to the specific case of Nietzsche’s conception of the order of drives? Or, more precisely, what does it mean to say that that order is normative in the substantive, irreducible sense advocated by Clark and Dudrick? A notion they appeal to in order to convey their basic idea is that of ‘recognition’. They write, for instance, that ‘one drive has a higher rank than another . . . not in virtue of its causal efficaciousness, its ability to win in case of conflicts, but in virtue of being recognized as having a right to win in such cases’ (150). Similarly, they claim that any episode of willing presupposes ‘that the commanded drives recognize the authority of the commanding drives’ (193). Recognition, in turn, should be understood in terms of rational appreciation: lower-ranked drives are not simply forced to subordination, but accept it as legitimate. This presupposes that the transaction between the drives are, in some sense, mediated by reasons.

⁷ For explicit reference to Sellars’s distinction, see Clark and Dudrick (2012:131). Sellars originally puts forward this distinction by discussing epistemic justification: ‘in characterizing an episode or a state as that of knowing, we are not giving an empirical description of that episode or state; we are placing it in the logical space of reasons, of justifying and being able to justify what one says’ (Sellars 1991:169). However, he takes this distinction to extend to other domains. More precisely, any description that appeals to ‘categories pertaining to man as a person who finds himself confronted by standards (ethical, logical, etc.)’ is placed in the ‘space of reasons’ conceived as logically irreducible to the logical space of causal explanations (38). As Clark and Dudrick (2012:24) paraphrase it: ‘to describe human beings using the language of agency (as acting, believing, knowing, etc.) is to see them in a network that is not merely causal but normative’.

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This line of reading obviously raises serious homuncular worries. In saying that the drives behave in a way that can only be captured in terms of rational justification, Clark and Dudrick seem to construe them as tiny little agents already equipped with the kind of personal-level capacities Nietzsche’s psychology of drives is supposed to explain. To block objections of this sort, Clark and Dudrick attempt to qualify their view. First, by appealing to Dennett’s defence of the homuncular strategy they contend that ‘the activities in which the drives engage are simpler than the activities of the person that they are “rung in to explain” ’ (198). Second, to further substantiate this point they propose to take the kind of hierarchical organization characteristic of primate societies as a suitable analogy to the order of drives. The rationale behind this suggestion is that, although the behaviour of primates depends (at least in part) on the rank position they occupy in their group, this does not license attribution to them of conscious motives and intentions about their social standing. Clark and Dudrick then argue that, though Nietzsche believes that drives build a political order, he does not need to take them ‘to be conscious of their political situation’, nor, indeed, ‘to be conscious at all’ (199). To summarize, by qualifying their account Clark and Dudrick aim to show that although the drives are simpler than the persons they constitute, their behaviour cannot be fully captured in merely causal terms. Like that of primates, it inescapably involves irreducibly normative phenomena. The appeal to primate societies strikes me as fascinating. It is also not impossible that reflection on such cases has actually contributed in some way to shaping Nietzsche’s conception of the order of drives. I am thinking, in particular, of the descriptions he found in the book Des sociétés animales by the French psychologist Alfred Espinas, which Nietzsche read in a German translation.⁸ In discussing the social structure of primate groups, Espinas writes for instance that it is based on a form of ‘subordination’ that ‘requires a leader (Führer) that both commands (befiehlt) and guides’ (485–486). So Nietzsche might have recognized certain analogies between the hierarchical arrangement of drives and that obtaining between the leader and the subordinated members in a group of apes. Nonetheless, it does not seem to me that pointing out analogies of this sort actually helps the kind of reading Clark and Dudrick are proposing. Let me explain why. First, though it is probably true that primates cannot entertain full-fledged reflective thoughts about their own social standing, there is a wide range of cognitive capacities we can attribute to them. To cite again Nietzsche’s own source on such matters, Espinas argues that the emergence of rank relations among apes presupposes ‘transmission of thoughts by means of signs’ (Espinas 1879:486). More trivially, we can safely assume that primates undergo conscious perceptions

⁸ In Chapter 5 we shall deal extensively with Nietzsche’s engagement with this work.


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and feelings. The important point is that it is hard to see how a hierarchical structure could evolve at all in primate societies independently of these and, most probably, other social-cognitive capacities. But (some of) these are precisely the kind of necessary personal-level capacities we should not ascribe to drives if we want to avoid the mereological fallacy.⁹ Second, Clark and Dudrick’s appeal to primate societies seems in tension with the Sellarsian distinction between a ‘space of reasons’ and a ‘space of causes’ that frames their normative reading. Those endorsing this distinction typically assume that inhabitants of the ‘space of reasons’ are endowed with a robust form of rationality—roughly, with what McDowell calls ‘responsiveness to reasons as such’ (McDowell 1999:128). This kind of rationality is thought to constitutively depend on human linguistic capacities and thus to distinguish us from the rest of the animal realm. Apes, however clever, seem thus unsuitable candidates for normative transactions supposed to take place in the ‘space of reasons’. Consequently, if we assume that hierarchical relations among drives are mediated by this full-blown form of rationality, they cannot possibly be modelled on those obtaining among primates. In my view, these difficulties stem from a deeper problem at the heart of the normative reading and ultimately deriving from Clark and Dudrick’s oscillating between the naturalistic model of the human mind put forward by Dennett and the anti-naturalistic one underlying the Sellarsian framework. On the one hand, followers of Sellars who argue that psychological descriptions cannot be further analysed into causal ones typically deny that they can be applied at the subpersonal level. In other words, they propose that the normative/causal distinction be straightforwardly aligned with the personal/subpersonal distinction.¹⁰ This crucial feature of the standard Sellarsian story, however, is clearly rejected by Clark and Dudrick, for they want to ascribe normative features to the subpersonal drives. On the other hand—and precisely to find support for the idea that agent-like features can also be found at the subpersonal level—they fall back on Dennett’s understanding of the personal/subpersonal distinction. However, though Dennett does argue that personal-level predicates can also be meaningfully applied to a person’s parts, he allows descriptions so couched to be further analysed into causal ones. As he writes: Each homunculus in turn is analysed into smaller homunculi, but, more important, into less clever homunculi. When the level is reached where the homunculi are no more than adders and subtractors, by the time they need only the ⁹ The same line of criticism is pursued by Katsafanas (2016:82–83), who also discusses contemporary theories about the social relations among primates that take a more deflationary approach to their normative dimension. ¹⁰ See, for instance, Hornsby (2000). Though Hornsby appeals to Dennett’s original distinction (in Dennett 1969), she rejects the idea crucial to Dennett’s further development of it according to which mental terms can appear in subpersonal explanations. On this point, see Drayson (2014, sec. 3).

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intelligence to pick the larger of two numbers when directed to, they have been reduced to functionaries ‘who can be replaced by a machine’. The aid to comprehension of anthropomorphizing the elements just about lapses at this point, and a mechanistic view of the proceedings becomes workable and comprehensible. (Dennett 1978:80–81)

Thus, at list in principle, there is for Dennett no limit to the further decomposition of the mind’s functions all the way down to elementary processes manageable of causal description. There is no place for irreducible normativity in this picture, nor for any strict compartmentation between a ‘space of reasons’ and a ‘space of causes’. To sum up, there seems to be a clear conceptual tension at the heart of the very notion of psychological normativity Clark and Dudrick adopt. Commitment to Sellars’s distinction makes the idea that irreducibly normative (qua reason-giving) psychological descriptions can also be supplied for subpersonal states and processes completely inviable. Acceptance of Dennett’s more liberal understanding of the personal/subpersonal distinction, on the contrary, leaves no room for the idea that certain states and processes are irreducibly normative. To my eyes, Clark and Dudrick’s attempt to combine these two diverging conceptions of human psychology is what leads them to ascribe to Nietzsche a fallacious form of homuncularism. This result alone, however, suffices to make their interpretation of the order of drives unconvincing.

4.4 A Humean Account My aim in this section is to produce an alternative reading of the order of drives inspired by Hume’s deflationary account of relationships of authority. In a passage from the Treatise he writes: We may . . . remark, not only that two objects are connected by the relation of cause and effect, when the one produces a motion or any action in the other, but also when it has a power of producing it. And this we may observe to be the source of all the relations of interest and duty, by which men influence each other in society, and are plac’d in the ties of government and subordination. A master is such-a-one as by his situation, arising either from force or agreement, has a power of directing in certain particulars the actions of another, whom we call servant. (Hume 1739–1740 I.1.v:12)

What Hume suggests is that relations of authority among human beings should be understood in dispositional terms. That someone has authority over someone else means that the former individual has a power that she can put to use over the


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latter one in certain circumstances. The way this power is displayed can be made sense of in standard causal terms, though the account will arguably be much more complex than in textbook cases such as the collision of two billiard balls. Hume’s point seems thus to be that we should not underestimate the explanatory power of causal accounts even when applied to the extremely intricate cases of social interaction. The claim I want to defend is that Hume’s strategy is particularly apt for making sense of the interaction among drives, for it provides a deflationary strategy for dealing with the vocabulary of authority and hierarchy often employed by Nietzsche. This yields a clear advantage vis-à-vis the alternative vitalist and normative readings, which—as I have argued—cannot avoid committing the homunculus fallacy. For a dispositionalist construal of the order of drives does not need to ascribe to them necessarily personal-level properties in order to make sense of their mutual interaction.¹¹ Moreover, this kind of account is the most natural fit to Nietzsche’s conception of drives as dispositional. In other words, if a dispositional construal is true of drives taken in isolation, it seems plausible to think it is true also of the way in which they interact and are hierarchically arranged. (Note that my application of Hume’s deflationary view of authority relations in the social sphere to the hierarchical relations among drives may still hold even if Hume’s original claim turns out to be wrong. Indeed, if one accepts the Sellarsian line according to which personal explanations should be given in terms of reasons whereas subpersonal explanations should be given in terms of causes, one must deny Hume’s original claim but agree with my application of it at the subpersonal level of drives.) In the remaining part of the present chapter, I shall try to flesh out such a deflationary strategy. To prevent misunderstanding, I should add that I do not mean to suggest that Nietzsche is committed to—and even less that he intended to develop—any systematic theory of how drives interact with one another and with other elements of our mental economy. Rather, I have simply tried to read out some typical patterns of interaction among those mental items from his occasional descriptions of different kinds of psychological phenomena with an eye to arguing that such patterns are suitably understood in dispositional terms, thus favouring the Hume-inspired deflationary strategy advocated at the beginning of this section. To start with, I shall pick up an important suggestion made by Gemes (2009a), who argues that rather than supposing ‘recognitional capacities on the part of the drives’ one should think of the interaction underlying their hierarchical order in terms of ‘a drive commanding resources at the expense of other drives seeking to

¹¹ Welshon also suggests a ‘dispositional analysis’ as a way to avoid the homuncular fallacy. See Welshon (2014:109–110).

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command those same resources’ (50). To illustrate this idea, Gemes provides the following example: Thus consider an individual who sees a moderately large animal in his or her proximity. The drive to nourishment might prompt the individual to interact with that animal as if it were a potential source of food; so, for instance, under the influence of that drive perceptual capacities would be trained to help figure the quickest route toward that animal. On the other hand, if the drive for survival is stronger perhaps it will orient the perceptual capacities to help figure the quickest escape route from that animal’s vicinity. Here it is not a case of a drive recognizing another drive and deciding to not let it be expressed but, rather, simply a matter of the stronger drive grabbing resources and thus preventing a competing drive from grabbing those same resources and using them to achieve its aim. (Gemes 2009a:50)

Gemes’s suggestion not only has the clear advantage of construing the drives’ interaction in a way that avoids committing any version of the homunculus fallacy. The claim that cognitive resources can be recruited by drives is also well supported by Nietzsche’s texts. For instance, after listing five different methods to obtain mastery over a drive, D 109 concludes by stressing that the exercise of such methods is not something one is actually free to choose: ‘that one desires to combat the vehemence of a drive at all, however, does not stand within our power; nor does the choice of any particular method; nor does the success or failure of this method. What is clearly the case is that in this entire procedure our intellect is only the blind instrument of another drive which is a rival of the drive whose vehemence is tormenting us’ (D 109). Accordingly, the interaction among the drives is (at least in part) mediated by the capacity each drive has to activate other cognitive functions and processes.¹² So far I have been following Gemes’s suggestion and argued that the hierarchical arrangement among the drives will depend (at least in part) on each drive’s ability to compete with the other drives in mobilizing one’s cognitive resources. However, as I suggested at the end of the previous chapter, the most crucial point concerns the relation between drives and affective states. There, I argued that drive discharge is mediated by affective states, as these allow a context-sensitive satisfaction of the drive’s goal. Let me further elaborate on this claim. In particular, my aim will be to substitute the admittedly vague talk of ‘mediation’ with a more precise description of how drives are supposed to interact with affective states. The most straightforward relation would be direct causation: a drive discharges by causing affective states that have a direct motor effect suitable to satisfy the ¹² Compare also Nietzsche’s application of the Interpretive Account in TI, where he writes that memory is activated by a drive.


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drive’s goal. This idea, it seems to me, is implicit in Katsafanas’s claim that drives ‘induce affective orientations in the agent’ (2016:86). For what it is worth, this picture is also put forward by some of those early 20th-century psychologists who tried to further refine the late 19th-century notion of drive/instinct. For instance, in his seminal Outline of Psychology, William McDougall defines an instinct as ‘an innate disposition which determines the organism to perceive (to pay attention to) any object of a certain class, and to experience in its presence a certain emotional excitement and an impulse to action which find expression in a specific mode of behavior in relation to that object’ (McDougall 1928:110). Accordingly, drives seem to be coupled by default with corresponding affective experiences such that objects suitable to satisfy the drive’s goal pop up more saliently in one’s perception of the external world. For instance, it is part of what the sexual drive is to cause one to feel a sort of peculiar arousal when one encounters a mating partner. However, as the examples involving my kids discussed at the end of the last chapter suggest, which affect is caused by a certain drive is often more plastic and context-sensitive.¹³ In his seminal discussion of the relation between drives and affects, Anderson (2012) says that the former ‘recruit’ the latter. Though I think the notion of recruiting is one we can spell out in causal terms and thus fully compatible with the kind of dispositional line I am pushing, the emerging picture is somewhat different. As I understand it, to say that a drive ‘recruits’ an affect is not to say that the former causes the latter, but rather something along the following lines: a drive activates an affect by directing it to an object suitable to satisfy its goal. At least, this is how I—as well as Gemes, I think—used the notion by arguing that drives ‘recruit’ cognitive capacities such as memory or attention. Moreover, Anderson also argues that the inverse relation occurs as well: affective states can also recruit drives. Therefore, I take him to suggest that drives and affective states are types of mental items with an independent aetiology—no drive is the direct cause of an affective state, nor vice versa—but that can causally interact in that an item of one kind can ‘recruit’—i.e. activate or direct—an item of the other kind. Let me consider different points in turn. To start with, I think there are both textual evidence and philosophical reasons in favour of the claim that drives do directly cause affective states. First, in the Nachlass notes from 1883 registering his engagement with Schneider, this claim is clearly endorsed by Nietzsche against Schneider, who held the reverse causal order to obtain. Importantly, this not only suggests that Nietzsche accepts that drives directly cause affective states, but also that he rejects that affective states directly cause drives. In other words, the causal interaction among these two kinds of mental item is asymmetric. Second, if it is true that the evaluative perspective of a certain drive becomes manifest in specific

¹³ Given the discharge model Nietzsche adopts, one could say that drives cause affects in order to release psychic energy. For what it’s worth, this idea is surely entertained by Freud, who refers to the ‘conversion (Umsetzung) of the psychic forces of the drives in affects’ (Freud 1915b:114).

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patterns of affective states, it seems reasonable to think that the former directly contribute to the aetiology of the latter. Third, Nietzsche repeatedly stresses that the ‘real’ cause of our affective states is endogenous, as the (general) feeling constituting their core phenomenology depends on the internal state of our body.¹⁴,¹⁵ The internal state of our body, in turn, depends on the way in which our drives—qua neuro-physiological subsystems—are arranged.¹⁶ Whereas channelling the discharge of a drive constitutes the primary function of affective states, there is at least one other essential function they play in our basic psychological economy. This second function, in particular, will prove essential to making sense of Nietzsche’s idea that the causal interactions among drives yield a hierarchical structure. This function is inhibitory: an affective state can block the discharge of a drive.¹⁷ According to Nietzsche, the way in which society deals with criminals offers an illustration of this sort of drive inhibition: The criminal type, this is a strong type of person under unfavourable conditions, a strong person made ill. He needs a wilderness, a nature and form of existence that is somehow freer and more dangerous; this is where all the arms and armour of a strong person’s instincts rightfully belong. His virtues are ostracized by society; his liveliest drives quickly fuse with depressive affects, with suspicion, fear, dishonour [my italics]. But this is almost the recipe for physiological degeneration. When somebody is forced into secrecy and suspense, forced to be cautious and sly for a long time just to do what he does best and likes to do most, he will become anaemic; and because he only ever experiences danger, persecution, and disaster from his instincts, even his feeling turns against these instincts—he feels them fatalistically. (TI ‘Skirmishes’ 45)¹⁸

According to this picture, criminals are typically human beings equipped with a set of aggressive drives systematically curbed by society. At the psychological level, ¹⁴ Anderson fails to appreciate this last point. He writes that the ‘main object place of an affect is filled by its stimulus or cause’ (Anderson 2012:220). But as Fowles has shown, one of Nietzsche’s main points is precisely that typically the external stimulus is not the real cause of an affective state. Taking affective states to be caused by external stimuli is, I think, what leads Anderson to believe that drives— which are, of course, internal—do not contribute to the direct aetiology of affective states. ¹⁵ Welshon suggests that affective states are not caused by, but rather are constitutive of drives (see Welshon 2014:119). However, it seems to me that the causal construal better fits Nietzsche’s psychological descriptions. ¹⁶ That said, I think that Anderson is right that Nietzsche’s picture should allow that drives recruit affects. Some affective states—such as disgust—may just be the product of very basic organic functions, and not of any specific drive. Nevertheless, they could be recruited by a drive. For instance, I could feel disgust after eating three slices of chocolate cake. That affective state, in turn, could then be recruited by my drive towards health. (I thank Paul Katsafanas and Bernard Reginster for a helpful discussion of these issues.) ¹⁷ Clark and Dudrick recognize these two basic functions by noting that affective states can ‘encourage or inhibit the behaviour originally prompted by the drives’ (2012:168). ¹⁸ See also GM II 24, where Nietzsche argues that a major effect of socialization and acculturation consists in the tight psychological association of our natural inclinations with bad conscience.


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this practice of social repression is effected by associating the criminal’s aggressive drives with aversive affective states. Any time one of the aggressive drives urges the individual towards a socially sanctioned action, one of these degrading affects will be triggered. As they become a constant source of negatively valenced feelings, the result in the long run is complete alienation from this set of drives: they will be experienced as something extraneous to the self. Importantly, the demeaning affects the criminal experiences by any manifestation of the aggressive drives she or he harbours effectively block their discharge. I think we are now in a position to appreciate how the two basic functions of affective states can shed light on the nature of the order of drives. Conflicting drives dispose one towards different patterns of behaviour. Which drive will eventually succeed in orienting the whole agent towards its own goal is (at least in part) a matter of each drive’s impact on one’s affective life. To put it differently, in order to become and remain dominant, a drive needs to succeed in consistently causing affective states through which it can issue commands to the other drives.¹⁹ As we have seen, qua physical items the drives are best described as neurophysiological subsystems linking together different parts of the organism. In particular, the transmission of motor commands to the periphery of one’s body seems a crucial function of such subsystems: after all, if drives are to produce our actions, they must cause our body to move. But how can that work? Given that affective states are known to have an immediate impact on the motor system, they seem an obvious candidate for that role. Hence, drives typically cause affective states which, in turn, cause bodily movements constituting actions suitable to satisfy the dominant drive’s goal.²⁰ Thus, we can further qualify Anderson’s claim to the effect that affective states adapt the drive’s general tendency to a given situation. Causing an appropriate affective state is not only a way for the drive to get a proper object into focus, but also to directly initiate an action directed at it. To sum up: affective states not only channel the immediate discharge of a certain drive, but can also block that of another drive. The order among the drives will thus result from (i) the cognitive resources each drive manages to activate and (ii) the affective states each drive manages to cause. Let us now suppose that such a deflationary account is convincingly supported by the textual evidence and arguments provided so far. One could fear that a dispositional understanding of the order of drives does not dispel the worry that Nietzsche is committed to some form of vicious homuncularism. After all, if you read the last couple of pages carefully you surely noticed that sometimes I have also reverted to the kind of ¹⁹ A more detailed description of how the command-obedience model works in the case of volition is put forward in BGE 19. I shall comment extensively on this aphorism in Chapter 10. ²⁰ As we saw in the previous chapter, late 19th-century psychologists such as Wundt and James maintained that affective states have the tendency to issue motor commands immediately and thus initiate bodily movements. Deference to such views may help explain Nietzsche’s own conception of the interaction between drives and affects.

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vocabulary we usually employ to describe the behaviour of persons in order to describe that of drives. So how is it that, contrary to the vitalist and the normative reading, the dispositional one I am proposing avoids the homunculus fallacy? Recall that Dennett’s understanding of the personal/subpersonal distinction allows for the use of personal predicates to describe subpersonal states and processes. So just doing that does not count per se as committing the homunculus fallacy. Problems only arise if either one ascribes to the subpersonal processes and states properties that are necessarily personal-level (mereological fallacy) or if the proposed explanation proves to be circular (explanatory fallacy). As I have argued, a common drawback of both the vitalistic and the normative reading is that it commits Nietzsche to the first kind of fallacy: the former one straightforwardly so, as it ascribes to the drives properties like sensation and consciousness; the latter one due to the irreducible normative status it takes agential vocabulary to possess. None of this, however, applies to the dispositional construal on offer here. On the one hand, on my reading the drives do not need to be illegitimately equipped with personal-level capacities like sensation and consciousness. On the other hand, I do not assume that Nietzsche’s normative vocabulary—his talk of drives ‘dominating’, ‘commanding’, ‘obeying’, etc.—is irreducibly so. For my strategy consists precisely in showing that, for all Nietzsche says, the states and processes he describes by appeal to such normative terms can be further analysed into simpler states and processes describable in non-normative, dispositional terms. For instance, I suggested that a drive A’s ‘dominating’ another drive B is (in part) a matter of A’s being able to cause affective states that inhibit the discharge of B.²¹ On the contrary, on the normative reading defended by Clark and Dudrick, the relations among the drives Nietzsche describes in agential terms cannot be analysed into merely causal interactions. At this point, those sympathetic to the normative reading may legitimately ask why Nietzsche would use normative terms at all if they are simply dummies that lump together many simpler causal processes. My answer to this question simply appeals to the fact that this practice was, as it still is, extremely common not only among philosophers, but also among psychologists avowedly in the business of providing causal explanations and models. As an illustration, I shall supply two examples taken from contemporaries whose work was very influential and, at least in one case, familiar to Nietzsche. I start with Wilhelm Wundt. In the chapter of his Grundriss dedicated to the will, he writes that the different ‘incentives (Triebfeder)’ combine to form a unitary whole and ‘thereby subordinate themselves to an incentive as to the dominant element (sich dabei einer Triebfeder als dem herrschenden Element unterordnen)’

²¹ This model also extends to those cases in which a drive A dominates a drive B by redirecting B’s activity towards A’s own goal G. At least, it seems plausible to think that it is part of what it means for G to become B’s new goal that B now elicits positively valenced affective states directed at G.


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(Wundt 1897:218). A couple of pages later, Wundt then defines ‘decision (Entscheidung)’ as ‘the psychic process immediately preceding the action and consisting in the more or less abrupt becoming dominant (Herrschendwerden) of the decisive motive’ (222). My second example is Georg Schneider. In a book dedicated to the human will, which Nietzsche also read, he writes: in a case of choice (Wahl) the imagination (Vorstellung) that presently appears as the relatively most purposive always leads to the decision (Entschluss), precisely because the imagination of what is relatively most purposive also causes the strongest feeling and the strongest drive, and the strongest drive also gains dominance (Herrschaft) over the others and necessarily leads, and must lead, to action. (Schneider 1882:329)

There are two reasons this passage proves particularly relevant to my historically minded argument against a literal reading of Nietzsche’s normative talk. First, the same kind of vocabulary—domination—is applied to precisely the same kind of psychological phenomenon—the interaction among the drives. Second, Schneider is clearly using this vocabulary to describe a merely causal interaction: the drive that dominates is just the one that happens to be stronger. Any literal reading of Schneider’s apparently normative terms is thus ruled out. This historical excursus shows that late 19th-century psychologists standardly employed the normative vocabulary of obedience–dominance to describe psychological processes of causal nature. My suggestion is that Nietzsche conforms to this pervasive practice. Thus, his use of that vocabulary provides no evidence against the dispositional understanding of the order of drives I am proposing.

4.5 Drives and Affects: Wrapping Things Up Let us see where we have gone so far. Nietzsche takes drives and affective states to be the primary items when it comes to psychological explanations. Drives, in particular, constitute the bedrock of one’s mental life and agency. They dispose us towards specific patterns of behaviour by causing in us corresponding affective states. This means that drives function as ‘multi-track affective dispositions’, according to Deonna and Teroni’s terminology (see their 2012:8; see also Fowles (2020) on this).²² On the one hand, qua multi-track dispositions ‘they do not seem to focus on any particular object but rather generally on any object insofar as it is

²² Though Deonna and Teroni have primarily character traits in mind, their description smoothly applies to Nietzschean drives as well. Indeed, this should come as no big surprise, for—as you may recall—Schopenhauer had already identified drives with character traits.

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apprehended in some particular evaluative light’. On the other hand, they imply ‘tendencies to experience some particular family of emotions . . . or, alternatively, tendencies not to experience some array of emotions in some particular way’ (9). For instance, the drive towards excellence Nietzsche sometimes ascribes to ancient Greeks is not directed at any specific object or activity: poetry, athletics, or, indeed, dialectic may each offer a suitable arena for the pursuit of that drive’s goal. At the same time, it would also dispose the agent, say, to feel admiration for the greatest poets, athletes, and dialecticians as well as to feel frustration any time one fails to properly compete with one’s peers. This suggests that affective states mediate between one’s drives and the environment. The drives prime our very experience of the external world: they make us look for objects that can satisfy their goal. Such an experiential priming, however, is effected by inducing valenced affective states representing the relevant object as valuable (or disvaluable) from the drive’s viewpoint. Thus, the intentionality of drives is, too, mediated by that of affective states: an ancient Greek’s drive towards excellence takes Achilles as its object in virtue of eliciting feelings of admiration directed at him (Achilles). Moreover, as affective states have a direct impact on the motor system, causing one such state is a way to initiate the sequence of bodily movements required for the drive’s goal to be reached. Of course, each of us harbours numerous drives disposing us towards conflicting patterns of behaviour. According to Nietzsche, which drive manages to orient the entire individual is a matter of the hierarchical arrangement among them. A higher-ranked drive can activate the organism’s cognitive and affective resources more easily than a lower-ranked drive. As affective states can directly trigger the bodily movements constituting an action directed at the satisfaction of a certain drive’s goal, exerting control over the affective system seems especially important. At first sight, Nietzschean—and, of course, Freudian—drives are likely to appear as obsolete remnants of 19th-century theorizing. However, that they are structurally akin to the ‘multi-track affective dispositions’ described by Deonna and Teroni should make one beware of that first impression. Indeed, contemporary psychology and neuroscience provide other examples of theoretical posita resembling Nietzschean drives. In that regard, a particularly persuasive suggestion is made by Welshon (2014:120–121), who argues that Jaak Panksepp’s work in affective neuroscience vindicates some of the basic insights of Nietzsche’s psychology of drives. For instance, Panksepp has recently proposed that the way in which we navigate and engage with the environment largely depends on neurobiological affective systems. An example is what he calls the ‘SEEKING disposition’, i.e. one such system, ‘whose activation changes the individual’s attitude towards the environment, promoting an energized appetitive disposition, which unconditionally promotes exploration and foraging for resources, and creates expectancy states that allow animals to anticipate the presence of future rewards’


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(Alcaro and Panksepp 2011:1806). The neurobiological processes of this system not only drive the organism to interact ‘with specific environmental goal objects’, but also ‘are usually active before the organism has formed detailed cognitive and perceptual representations of those objects’ (1807). Moreover, Panksepp (and his co-author) claims that activation of the system ‘is experienced by [the] organism as rewarding per se’ because of its ‘intrinsic positive affective value’. The parallels between this picture and Nietzsche’s drives-cum-affects psychology are obvious enough.²³ When asked to explain why we act in a certain way, we typically answer by mentioning some of our conscious beliefs, intentions, and volitions. However, Nietzsche’s claim that drives—together with affective states—play the primary role in psychological explanations seems to suggest that those conscious states are less central to such explanations than we normally take them to be. That this is, in fact, Nietzsche’s view is something we shall start to appreciate in the next chapter. After exploring the mind’s (subpersonal) depths, it’s time to turn to its surface. (This will also help us to further appreciate the originality of Nietzsche’s philosophical psychology.)²⁴

²³ Indeed, Panksepp even resorts to formulations reminiscent of Nietzsche’s tortured attempts to sketch a will to power psychology. The affective upshot of the SEEKING disposition’s activation is ‘a generalized incentive “emotional” reward state, that does not reflect the pleasure of sensation, but rather the euphoria of appetitive eagerness’ (Alcaro and Panksepp 2011:1807). Of course, that what we—and our drives—are essentially after is not pleasure, but rather some sort of ‘appetitive eagerness’ is a distinctive Nietzschean thesis. ²⁴ Given that Hume provides the classic model of belief–desire psychology and that I just proposed a Humean reading of Nietzsche’s own picture of the soul’s order, one may legitimately ask whether there are substantial differences between Hume’s belief–desire psychology and the Nietzschean picture I have been working out so far. This is a question I address in Chapter 12.




5 The Surface Revealed Whereas Nietzsche believes that drives and affects are the most basic psychological items, he claims that consciousness is just a ‘surface’ (EH ‘Why I Am So Clever’ 9). In this chapter we shall start to investigate what this claim means and why Nietzsche holds it. Some preliminary remarks on the very issue of consciousness will help us to set the stage for this task. Talk of consciousness is notoriously ambiguous. There are two basic philosophical reactions to this fact. On the one hand, one could hold this ambiguity to be a superficial feature of our linguistic practice obscuring the deeper fact that all the phenomena we describe by appeal to ‘consciousness’ and its cognates involve a unique, fundamental kind of consciousness. This would be to accept monism about consciousness. On the other hand, one could choose to take our unstable way of talking as evidence that there is no unique, fundamental kind of consciousness. This would be pluralism about consciousness. One of the claims I want to defend in this book is that Nietzsche’s view of consciousness is best understood as a version of pluralism. Now, given that in our ordinary talk one important clue in favour of pluralism is the unstable pattern of use associated with ‘consciousness’ and its cognates, one could expect that my proposal is also prompted by similar ambiguities on Nietzsche’s part. However, and perhaps surprisingly, the occurrences of the term in his writings reveal a relatively stable usage. What motivates my proposal is something different. On the one hand, associated with Nietzsche’s standard use of the term there is—at least to contemporary eyes—a peculiar notion of consciousness that, given the prominent role it plays in his writings, we can provisionally call his main notion. On the other hand, he elsewhere offers a characterization of typically conscious states like perceptions and sensations such that they cannot qualify as conscious in the sense of his main notion. This seems to suggest that he takes different types of consciousness to be involved in those states—types that do not coincide with that picked out by the main notion. Most interpreters do not take any explicit stance on whether Nietzsche is best read as assuming that all conscious phenomena reduce to a single kind or as—at least implicitly—allowing for different consciousness types. Simon (1984), Schlimgen (1999), and Abel (2001)—the most relevant contributions on this topic within German Nietzsche scholarship—converge on what Abel calls the ‘continuum model’ (2001:8), according to which mental disparities—those in consciousness included—across the animal realm manifest the varying degrees Nietzsche’s Philosophical Psychology. Mattia Riccardi, Oxford University Press. © Mattia Riccardi 2021. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198803287.003.0005


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of complexity of a unique and universal kind of mindedness. Poellner (1995, ch. 5.2), Anderson (2002), Richardson (2004), and Doyle (2011) also seem to assume that for Nietzsche there is only one type of consciousness. To my knowledge, the only explicit articulation of a monist reading is provided by Katsafanas (see, in particular, his 2016). A group of scholars have suggested a dualist reading according to which Nietzsche acknowledges the existence of two different kinds of consciousness. This is the case of Lupo (2006:192–193), Constâncio (2012a), Reuter (2012), and, in particular, Welshon (2014:75, 137–138), who all note that, though Nietzsche’s interest is usually directed at the sophisticated kind of consciousness instantiated solely by human beings, he also recognizes a distinct, more basic and not exclusively human type of consciousness roughly corresponding to what philosophers nowadays call phenomenal consciousness.¹ The argument put forward in the next chapter aims at substantiating the kind of anti-monist approach favoured by this group of scholars. However, the reading proposed here will diverge considerably from theirs, as I shall argue that Nietzsche is best understood as distinguishing between three different types of consciousness. Before I go on to tackle this task, we first need to get a closer grip on the notion of consciousness Nietzsche is usually concerned with—the one I have called his main notion. This is what I set out to do in this chapter. Based on Nietzsche’s most detailed account of that kind of consciousness—in GS 354—, I shall start by working out some of its main features (Section 5.1). As a result, I shall argue that Nietzsche’s main notion should be identified with what is traditionally called reflective consciousness. In Section 5.2 I call attention to striking similarities and, at the same time, important differences between Nietzsche’s view of reflective consciousness and contemporary higher-order theories of consciousness. Hopefully, this will help us to better grasp the philosophical content of the former one. Section 5.3 introduces another piece of the puzzle, namely the claim—to be found in some aphorisms from D—that (reflectively) conscious states are language-mediated interpretations of (reflectively) unconscious states. But why does Nietzsche think that? By the time he writes D—1881—he still has no workedout answer to this question. The picture becomes complete only in GS 354, written in 1887. Here, the emergence of reflective consciousness is explained as a byproduct of linguistic communication. This, in turn, explains its dependence on language. In Section 5.4 I show that Nietzsche picks up the claim that consciousness depends on communication from the work of the French psychologist Alfred Espinas and analyse how he integrates such a claim into his own picture of reflective consciousness. Finally, Nietzsche does not only think that reflective consciousness co-evolved with communication, but also with mind-reading ¹ Lupo (2006) and Reuter (2012) do not use the notion of phenomenal consciousness, but rather speak of a ‘primary consciousness’ we share with animals.

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capacities. This further claim is addressed in Section 5.5, where I also compare Nietzsche’s view with that of some contemporary unorthodox accounts of mind-reading capacities and of their function. The chapter ends with a summary—Section 5.6—attempting to bring together the various ingredients of Nietzsche’s view into a coherent whole.

5.1 The Main Notion of Consciousness GS 354 provides Nietzsche’s most articulated treatment of the notion of consciousness he usually talks about. Any account of his views about that subject matter should start with a careful reading of this passage. This is what I attempt to do in the present section. The aphorism begins like this: The problem of consciousness (or rather, of one’s becoming conscious [des SichBewusst-Werdens]) first confronts us when we begin to realize how much we can do without it; and now we are brought to this initial realization by physiology and natural history (Thiergeschichte) (which have thus required two hundred years to catch up with Leibniz’s precocious suspicion). For we could think, feel, will, remember, and also ‘act’ in every sense of the term, and yet none of all this would have to ‘enter our consciousness’ (as one says figuratively). All of life would be possible without, as it were, seeing itself in the mirror; and still today, the predominant part of our lives actually unfolds without this mirroring—of course also our thinking, feeling, and willing lives, insulting as it may sound to an older philosopher. To what end does consciousness exist at all when it is basically superfluous? (GS 354, translation changed)

These first lines of the aphorism reveal some of the key features of the kind of consciousness Nietzsche is discussing. To start with, consciousness exhibits some sort of reflexivity [1]. This is suggested, first, by Nietzsche’s description of consciousness, at the very beginning of the aphorism, as ‘one’s becoming conscious’. (That some form of reflexivity is involved here appears even more explicit in the original German expression ‘Sich-Bewusst-Werden’.) Second, it is conveyed by Nietzsche’s metaphorically depicting consciousness as life’s ‘seeing itself in the mirror’. A further feature is that it is specifically human [2], as implied by Nietzsche’s reference to the—by his time—recent development of ‘physiology and natural history’. In particular, his point seems to be that discoveries made by these disciplines started to show that consciousness is such that animals² can do well without possessing it. Indeed, according to Nietzsche also most of our (human)

² Note that ‘natural history’ reads ‘Thiergeschichte’ in German.


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mental life and of our (human) behaviour does not depend on it, as ‘we could think, feel, will, remember and also “act” in every sense of the term, and yet none of all this would have to “enter our consciousness” ’. This gives us a third feature: D consciousness is superfluous [3]. It requires much more work to uncover the fourth feature of consciousness. The discoveries in ‘physiology and natural history’ referred to in GS 354 are supposed to have developed a ‘precocious suspicion’ that originally occurred to Leibniz. As Nietzsche’s concern is with the role consciousness plays in our mental life, most scholars interpret this as a reference to Leibniz’s famous notion of petites perceptions (Löwith 1967, Simon 1984, Anderson 2002). However natural this reading might look, I think it is, if not completely wrong, at least inaccurate and easily misleading. To see why, consider that the mental states Nietzsche is primarily concerned with in GS 354 are not perceptual ones, but rather what philosophers nowadays call propositional attitudes (thoughts, emotions, desires, and memories). Now, I think it is reasonable to doubt that the petites perceptions model, which is put forward specifically as an account of how perception works, can be usefully applied also to attitudinal states. Consider how Leibniz illustrates his notion: I would prefer to distinguish between perception and being aware. For instance, a perception of light or colour of which we are aware is made up of many minute perceptions of which we are unaware; and a noise which we perceive but do not attend to is brought within reach of our awareness by a tiny increase or addition. If the previous noise had no effect on the soul, this minute addition would have none either, nor would the total. (Leibniz 1765 IX §4)

Here, Leibniz claims that a given perception is composed of small perceptions of which we cannot per se become aware. What we can become aware of are rather bigger perceptions constituted by agglomerates of such small perceptions. Now, how are we to conceive of this model as applied to thoughts or desires? At least, it strikes me as somewhat strange to distinguish in an analogous fashion between, for instance, ‘small thoughts’ we cannot be aware of and ‘big thoughts’ of which alone we can become conscious. My suspicion regarding Leibniz’s own suspicion is confirmed by what Nietzsche writes in GS 357, just a few pages later. There, he again refers to Leibniz, namely to his ‘incomparable insight’ according to which ‘consciousness is merely an accidens of representation (Vorstellung) and not its necessary and essential attribute; so that what we call consciousness constitutes only one state of our mental (geistigen) and psychic world . . . and by no means the whole of it’ (GS 357, translation changed). Now, I think it is fair to assume that the ‘incomparable insight’ mentioned in GS 357 is the view that also substantiates the ‘precocious suspicious’ ascribed to Leibniz in GS 354.

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To better spell out this point, it is important to consider that the characterization of Leibniz’s claim we find in GS 357 is borrowed almost word-to-word from the early neo-Kantian Otto Liebmann’s work Analysis der Wirklichkeit, a book that Nietzsche read heavily (see Loukidelis 2013:18). The corresponding passage in Liebmann’s work appears as part of his discussion of Leibniz’s reply to Locke on the issue of innateness. In particular, Liebmann praises Leibniz’s ‘psychological discovery’ according to which ‘ “to have representations” and “to be oneself conscious of them” is by no means the same’, for ‘there are in us many latent and unconscious representations’ (Liebmann 1880:212). More specifically, the Leibnizian notion he explicitly refers to in this context is that of ‘connaissance virtuelle’ as opposed to ‘connaissance actuelle’, which roughly corresponds to the contemporary distinction between ‘non-occurrent belief ’ and ‘occurrent belief ’. Importantly, this distinction is also pertinent to what Nietzsche says in GS 354. As you might recall, there he argues that we could ‘think, feel, will, remember’ without there being any need for the relevant state to turn conscious (in the sense captured by Nietzsche’s main notion). Thus, states of this sort can either remain unconscious or become conscious. Being conscious consists in a certain way of being aware of one’s mental states which is not constitutive of such states [4]. I shall refer to this claim as the Leibniz Thesis. The next two features emerge thanks to what Nietzsche says about the relation between consciousness and language. First, he puts forward the ‘conjecture that consciousness in general has developed only under the pressure of the need to communicate’ (GS 354). As he goes on, consciousness ‘is really just a net connecting one person with another—only in this capacity did it have to develop; the solitary and predatory person would not have needed it’ (GS 354). Further in the same aphorism, he then argues that ‘man, like every living creature, is constantly thinking but does not know it’ and that conscious thinking not only is ‘the smallest part of it’, but also the only kind of thinking that ‘takes place in words, that is, in communication symbols’ (GS 354). This picture suggests, first, that consciousness is tied to the development of those specific communicative practices [5] that evolved in early human societies as a response to the threats and challenges posited by a hostile environment and, second, that conscious thinking is intrinsically linguistic in a way in which the cognitive processes and states that remain unconscious are not. Therefore, his claim seems to be that all and only conscious mental contents are verbally articulated [6].³

³ In previous work (see, in particular, Riccardi 2016 and 2018), I couched Nietzsche’s views in terms of ‘propositional content’ and ‘propositional articulation’ rather than ‘verbal content’ and ‘verbal articulation’, as I do in this book. There are two reasons I now prefer the latter option. First, though notions such as ‘propositional content’ and ‘propositional attitudes’ are often used in a loose way, they bear a tacit commitment to propositions conceived as abstract objects. There are reasons to doubt Nietzsche’s views share that commitment. Second, when Nietzsche talks about language he is clearly talking about natural language. This is what the qualifier ‘verbal’ is intended to capture.


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To sum up, if my argument so far is right, the kind of consciousness Nietzsche is concerned with in GS 354: [1] [2] [3] [4]

is, in some sense, reflexive; is human-specific; is superfluous; consists in a certain way of being aware of one’s mental states which is not constitutive of such states; [5] has evolved together with communicative and linguistic practices; [6] is such that all and only conscious states have verbally articulated content. Though most of these features demand to be spelled out and motivated in detail—a task I shall pursue in this and in the next two chapters—I believe they suffice to identify the notion of consciousness we are dealing with. Let us start by ruling out some possible candidates. First, consider so-called phenomenal consciousness: that peculiar qualitative character or what-it-is-likeness of pains or colour sensations which nowadays philosophers take to provide the most basic type of consciousness. Clearly, this cannot be the notion Nietzsche is concerned with, as it does not satisfy most of the features emerging from GS 354. It is usually believed that sentience is a sufficient condition for phenomenal consciousness. Therefore, it is taken to be widespread in the animal realm (against [2]) and, consequently, to not require any communicative nor linguistic ability (against [4] and [5]). Second, consider the kind of awareness which is typical of perceptual experience. Again, it seems obvious that many animals consciously see and smell things in their environment (against [2]) and that such perceptual encounters do not depend on the possession of linguistic capacities (against [4] and [5]). So to which kind of consciousness does Nietzsche’s main notion correspond? The proposal I want to make is that what Nietzsche is talking about is what has been traditionally called reflective consciousness—Rconsciousness, as I shall abbreviate it. (Similarly, I shall also use the abbreviations ‘Rconscious’ and ‘Runconscious’.) Roughly, Rconsciousness is a sort of higher-order awareness that presupposes metacognitive capacities as well as the capacity to self-ascribe mental states. It is often contrasted with pre-reflective consciousness, paradigm examples of which are bodily sensations. Though having such sensations consists both in undergoing conscious experiences and, arguably, in being conscious of oneself as an embodied organism, it requires neither meta-cognitive capacities nor that one be able to self-ascribe those states. It is, rather, a matter of first-order, immediate apprehension.⁴ ⁴ I follow here Welshon (2014, ch. 5) in adopting the term ‘reflective’. In previous work I have argued that the notion Nietzsche employs is (a version of) that of ‘self-consciousness’, as also Richardson (2004:77, 90, 93, 160) sometimes does. One disadvantage of this option is that Nietzsche often applies his notion of consciousness also to mental states, whereas self-consciousness is normally applied to creatures. Thus, opting for the latter results into seemingly ungrammatical expressions. That

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It seems clear that the kind of consciousness Nietzsche talks about in GS 354 (and elsewhere) is Rconsciousness. According to [3], the relevant notion corresponds to some sort of higher-order awareness, which is Rconsciousness’s essential trait. Reflexivity—feature [1]—also suits Rconsciousness: indeed, reflective consciousness is often seen as just a form of self-consciousness. Given this, R consciousness can be plausibly said to be in some sense linguistic and thus to satisfy [4] and [5]. Why? On the one hand, one may think that the meta-cognitive capacities it presupposes are, or depend on, linguistic-conceptual ones. On the other hand, one may think that the capacity to self-ascribe mental states requires some kind of self-referential capacity which, in turn, requires one to master the first-person pronoun. If all this is true, a fortiori Rconsciousness also satisfies [2]. Should we then conclude that animals lack Rconsciousness? Well, given the notion of Rconsciousness we are dealing with, I think we actually should. Note, however, that this does not imply that animals lack any form of consciousness altogether. For one can deny that animals possess Rconsciousness and, at the same time, allow that they enjoy some sort of non-linguistic, first-order awareness of their mental states and of themselves as embodied organisms. This would be the kind of pre-reflective consciousness already mentioned above.⁵

5.2 Leibniz’s Heirs I have argued that Nietzschean Rconsciousness consists in a certain way of being aware of one’s mental states which is not constitutive of such states— what I called the Leibniz Thesis. In this section I want to work out this claim in more detail. In current philosophy of mind, variations of the Leibniz Thesis are often associated with what has become known as the higher-order approach to consciousness. Higher-order theories of consciousness, on the other hand, are usually contrasted with first-order theories of consciousness. Whereas the latter theories assume that a mental state is conscious in virtue of some properties it instantiates, such as qualia or representational properties, the former ones argue instead that a mental state is conscious in virtue of its being related in a certain way to another mental state. More precisely, higher-order theories hold that a mental state M is conscious iff it is the target (or object) of another mental state M*. Thus, higher-order theories construe consciousness in meta-representational terms:

said, as I shall argue in a minute, I still believe that Nietzsche’s notion of reflective consciousness involves self-awareness. ⁵ Moreover, as we shall see later in this chapter as well as in the next one, Nietzsche allows for continuity between Rconsciousness and related forms of animal consciousness.


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M is conscious iff there is a suitable M* which is (in some sense to be specified) about M. Nietzsche entertains a view along the lines of the higher-order approach in the following Nachlass passage: NB ‘Consciousness’—to what extent the represented representation, the represented will, the represented feeling (which alone is known to us) is completely superficial! ‘Appearance’ (Erscheinung) also in our inner world! (N1884 26[49] KSA 11:161)

It is not easy to tell which kind of accompanying meta-representation Nietzsche has here in mind. In contemporary debates, several alternatives have been explored. Some argue that the relevant meta-representational state is some sort of inner perception or monitoring. Others argue that it is a thought (or belief). This second family of theories are therefore called higher-order thought (HOT) theories. Even if it is not entirely clear which one among these candidates is the most appropriate to grasp Nietzsche’s view, he seems to endorse something like a HOT version of the more general higher-order approach. This is suggested by his description of one’s being Rconscious in terms of the ability ‘to “know” what distressed him, to “know” how he felt, to “know” what he thought’ (GS 354). This characterization suggests that Rconsciousness is a sort of epistemic awareness, which in turn seems to indicate that it involves thought (or belief). In fact, I think there are striking similarities between Nietzsche’s views and contemporary HOT theories (see Doyle 2011; Welshon 2014, ch.5.1; Katsafanas 2016).⁶ I shall highlight them by considering David Rosenthal’s seminal version of such theories. First, Rosenthal’s theory is an articulation of the Leibniz Thesis Nietzsche thought so appealing, namely, that consciousness ‘is a feature of many mental states, but . . . it is not necessary or even central to a state’s being a mental state’ (Rosenthal 2005:21) Second, it follows from Rosenthal’s definition of a conscious mental state that it involves reference to the subject who is in it. Thus, reflexivity turns out to be an essential characteristic of conscious mental states. As Rosenthal puts it, the ‘content [of HOT thoughts] must be that one is, oneself, in that very mental state’ (Rosenthal 1997:714). Third, Rosenthal stresses that consciousness bears an intimate, albeit hardly extricable relation to language, manifested by the fact that one’s being able to verbally report on a certain mental state counts as the paramount criterion for that state being conscious. Fourth,

⁶ Standard HOT models are usually complemented by additional claims. For instance, whereas some HOT theorists maintain that a mental state is conscious only if it actually causes an accompanying HOT, other argue that consciousness only requires the disposition to cause a suitable HOT. As they won’t be relevant to my treatment of Nietzsche’s own view, I shall ignore such further qualifications and ramifications of the HOT approach.

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Rosenthal argues that the fact that mental states can occur both in conscious and unconscious form strongly indicates that consciousness is a more or less inert part of our cognitive life: ‘What, if any, function do conscious versions of these states have that nonconscious versions lack?’ (Rosenthal 2008:829). Despite such a substantial convergence between standard HOT theories and Nietzsche’s view of consciousness, closer reflection reveals equally important and, crucially, philosophically wide-ranging differences. First, according to standard HOT theories, what makes a mental state M conscious is the fact that it is targeted by a HOT. This is true independently of M’s specific kind of content. Nietzsche, however, claims that episodes of the kind of thinking that ‘takes place in words’, i.e. episodes of verbally articulated thought, are as such conscious. Therefore, contrary to standard HOT theories, Nietzsche seems to believe there is a specific kind of content, i.e. verbally articulated content, which suffices to make conscious the states having it. Second, whereas Nietzsche’s view is specifically about R consciousness, HOT theories are supposed to explain all kinds of conscious phenomena. Do these two departures make us recant the first impression that Nietzsche’s view counts as a version of the HOT theory? Let us start with the second point. That Nietzsche takes his view to explain only a certain kind of consciousness does not seem to undermine our initial assessment. As Ned Block observes, a higher order theory of consciousness can be held as an immodest (or ambitious) theory that purports to capture what-it-is-like-ness, or alternatively as a modest theory of one kind of consciousness, or of consciousness in one sense of the term, higher order consciousness. The modest version of the higher order approach recognizes another kind of consciousness (or consciousness in another sense of the term), what-it-is-like-ness or phenomenal consciousness. (Block 2011:421)

Thus, that Nietzsche’s theory purports to explain only Rconsciousness, and not consciousness tout court, simply means that it qualifies as a modest version of the HOT approach. Furthermore, this could even turn out to be a virtue, if Block is right that ambitious HOT theories face fatal objections, as he argues in the same paper (see also Welshon 2014:142 on this). On the contrary, Nietzsche’s claim that states with verbally articulated content are as such conscious constitutes a much more radical shift from standard HOT theories, for the core claim of such theories is precisely that consciousness does not depend on peculiar features of mental content. Rather, it necessarily requires a HOT to play a suitable meta-cognitive role. Therefore, to answer the question of whether Nietzsche’s view still qualifies as a version of the HOT theory we need to know more about how he conceives of the awareness relation which is constitutive of his notion of Rconsciousness.


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5.3 Nietzsche’s Hermeneutic View of R Consciousness in D 115 and D 119 Nietzsche believes that the content of Rconscious states is verbally articulated. The next task will be to spell out his motivation for this claim. My proposal will be that such a claim is part of what I shall call his Hermeneutic View of Rconsciousness. Accordingly, being Rconscious of a certain mental state does not consist in having some sort of direct awareness of it. Rather, the Rconscious access to one’s mental life is always interpretive. More specifically, it amounts to having an episode of verbally articulated thought about that state. This idea, I shall argue, is already present in D and will be further refined in just the same aphorism 354 from GS on which we have already been commenting extensively. Let us start with D. There, Nietzsche already stresses the intimate relation between language and consciousness. In D 115 he argues that we have mental terms for only a few psychological states. As examples, Nietzsche cites: ‘Anger, hatred, love, pity, desire, knowledge, joy, pain’. What about the rest of our mental life? According to Nietzsche, the fact that we do not possess corresponding terms means that we simply fail to become aware of them. Hence, there is a certain kind of consciousness that goes hand in hand with language: we become conscious—in the reflective sense—only of those states we are able to pick out with mental terms.⁷,⁸ The issue of consciousness surfaces again a few pages later, in D 119. As we already know, in this long aphorism Nietzsche sketches a picture of our psychological economy according to which one’s drives compete for ‘nutriment’, as he puts it. More precisely, he argues that different kinds of mental states such as dreams, perceptions, and moral judgments result from how the drives ‘interpret’ certain ‘nervous stimuli’, such as bodily sensations (D 119). In the case of dreams, as you may recall, Nietzsche argues that such stimuli are interpreted by those drives that were prevented from discharging during daytime. Perceptions, though less ‘inventive’ and ‘unbridled’ than dreams because directly constrained by incoming sensory input, are produced analogously: in this case, too, our drives interpret the stimuli in order to individuate a suitable cause. The same holds for

⁷ As I shall often talk of ‘mental (or psychological) terms’ and ‘mental (or psychological) vocabulary’, it might be helpful to clarify what I mean. Given Nietzsche’s view that Rconsciousness is tied up with language and communication, what I mean with ‘mental term’ is simply a natural language word purporting to refer to mental states and, more generally, psychological phenomena. The examples Nietzsche provides in D 115 offer an illustrative sample of mental terms: ‘Anger, hatred, love, pity, desire, knowledge, joy, pain’. As used here, this terminology does not imply anything like the Language of Thought hypothesis put forward by Jerry Fodor. In fact, as Nietzsche takes natural language to be the medium of conscious thought, his views are in tension with Fodor’s. (See also fn. 3 above (p. 75) for a related terminological issue.) ⁸ I shall comment more extensively on D 115 later, while discussing Nietzsche’s sceptical view of introspective self-knowledge in Chapter 9.

 ’      


the last case, for our ‘moral judgments and evaluations too are only images and fantasies based on a physiological process unknown to us, a kind of acquired language for designating certain nervous stimuli’. (This is, of course, Nietzsche’s first published version of the Semiotic Claim to the effect that morality is just a sign-language of the affects.) Finally, the model illustrated by appeal to these three cases is applied to conscious states: as Nietzsche claims, ‘all our so-called consciousness is a more or less fantastic commentary on an unknown, perhaps unknowable, but felt text’ (D 119). With regard to consciousness, the underlying idea can be put as follows: i. an unconscious state provides the ‘text’; ii. drives ‘interpret’ that text; iii. each interpretation results in a conscious state. Two points are worth emphasizing. First, as conscious states are supposed to be ‘comments’ on some kind of mental ‘text’, the processes or states that make up such a ‘text’ will arguably be unconscious. This reasoning motivates the ‘unconscious’ in (i). Second, and more generally, the text-comment metaphor immediately alludes to language. Both points fit nicely with the picture provided by D 115, for there Nietzsche argues that (a) one’s mental life is largely constituted by unconscious states and processes and that (b) one’s conscious awareness of one’s mental life results from the application of mental terms to them. Moreover, both passages suggest that the conscious ‘comments’ resulting from this kind of ‘interpretation’ are extremely arbitrary. According to D 115, this is so because our mental vocabulary is too coarse-grained to capture what is actually going on in our mental life. D 119 adds to the picture the claim that the ‘authors’ of such conscious ‘comments’ are, in fact, our drives. Drives, however, embody specific evaluative perspectives. Thus, if the conscious comments are the product of our drives, they will inevitably reflect those perspectives. Here is an illustration of the basic model Nietzsche provides in the aphorism: Suppose we were in the market place one day and we noticed someone laughing at us as we went by: this event will signify this or that to us according to whether this or that drive happens at that moment to be at its height in us—and it will be a quite different event according to the kind of person we are. One person will absorb it like a drop of rain, another will shake it from him like an insect, another will try to pick a quarrel, another will examine his clothing to see if there is anything about it that might give rise to laughter, another will be led to reflect on the nature of laughter as such, another will be glad to have involuntarily augmented the amount of cheerfulness and sunshine in the world—and in each case a drive has gratified itself, whether it be the drive to annoyance or to combativeness or to reflection or to benevolence. (D 119)


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Here, my seeing someone laughing is the ‘text’ that can be ‘interpreted’ in different ways—as an offending behaviour or as a felicitous coincidence, for instance— depending on which drive gets activated. Thus, the upshot of such interpretation counts as our conscious reaction to our seeing someone laughing. Given the example, a plausible form one’s conscious reaction could take is an episode of inner speech. For instance, consciously reacting to the laughing as offending and as offering a reason for quarrel might take the form of my saying to myself something like: ‘Why on earth is that man laughing at me? I’m not going to take it like that.’ Alternatively, consciously reacting to the laughing as a felicitous coincidence might take the form of my saying to myself something like: ‘Even that man smiles at me. How couldn’t I feel great?’ Moreover, construing Nietzsche’s example in this way makes clear why language is supposed to play such a crucial role in his view of consciousness.⁹ I propose that the main points emerging from Nietzsche’s treatment of consciousness in D can be put together in what I shall call the Hermeneutic View of R consciousness: Hermeneutic View: RConscious states are language-mediated interpretations of unconscious states and processes.


In light of this claim, we are now in a position to better make sense of Nietzsche’s first departure from HOT orthodoxy. As you will recall, standard HOT theories claim that consciousness is always relational: a mental state M is conscious iff it is targeted by a suitable HOT. The picture underlying the Hermeneutic View, however, is more complicated. It can be seen as the conjunction of two claims: 1. RUnconscious states and processes become Rconscious iff they are the target of a suitable language-mediated interpretation. 2. Such language-mediated interpretations are intrinsically Rconscious. Let me illustrate the view I am ascribing to Nietzsche with an example. Uwe sends a job application that is turned down. This triggers several affective reactions in him, of which he becomes Rconscious by interpreting his current feelings

⁹ A convincing argument to the effect that Nietzsche adopts an inner-speech model of Rconscious thought is provided by Fowles (2019). Two points on this. First, as Fowles notes, though most contemporary theorists ‘focus most commonly upon articulation in inner speech, . . . there’s no deep distinction between thinking to oneself and talking to oneself or others’ (18). This means that both episodes of inner and standard, outer-directed speech are Rconscious. Indeed, in light of Nietzsche’s claim that Rconsciousness is a by-product of linguistic communication it seems plausible to think that the former is derivative on the latter. Second, Fowles takes his inner speech model to be an alternative to HOT readings of Nietzsche. However, as I have tried to show in this section, taking episodes of inner (as well as outer-directed) speech as paradigm examples of Rconscious states nicely fits the unorthodox HOT view put forward by Nietzsche.

 ’      


as a mixture of sadness, disappointment, and discouragement. According to (1), in virtue of this interpretive exercise his Runconscious affective states become R conscious. According to (2), the episodes constituting that exercise are intrinsically Rconscious merely in virtue of their being verbally articulated. To put it differently, verbally articulated episodes of thought make Rconscious the states and processes they are about. They therefore play a role analogous to that of HOTs. However, they do not need to be themselves targeted by another higherorder state in order to become Rconscious. Rather, they are intrinsically R conscious merely in virtue of the verbally articulated content they happen to have. This means that Nietzsche’s view is what we may call a hybrid version of the HOT theory.¹⁰ At this point, one may wonder why one should accept such a shift from standard HOT theories. As the resulting account appears more convoluted, why not simply stick to the original, simpler version of the view? A reason for taking Nietzsche’s alternative seriously, I think, lies in the intimate connection between language and (reflective) consciousness (rightly) stressed by contemporary proponents of the HOT theory. In particular, Rosenthal recognizes that ‘if I express my thought by performing some speech act, the thought I thereby express is always a conscious thought’ (Rosenthal 2005:283). Thus, Rosenthal does agree with Nietzsche’s claim that verbally articulated thought is always (reflectively) conscious. Rosenthal, however, tries to explain this fact within the framework of standard HOT theory. He does so, first, by appealing to the fact that a conscious state is necessarily one the subject can report and, second, by noting that ‘the ability to . . . report a particular mental state is the same as the ability to express verbally one’s . . . thought that one is in that state’ (291). This means, he goes on, that ‘for creatures with the relevant linguistic ability, a state’s being conscious will coincide with one’s having the ability verbally to express a . . . HOT that one is in that state’. Of course, one may insist and ask why consciousness, on the one hand, and reportability/expressibility, on the other hand, are connected in that way. Rosenthal’s answer is that the relevant link is a matter of neither logical nor metaphysical necessity. That it holds is simply a contingent matter for linguistic beings such as us (see his further discussion on p. 295). I want to add some final remarks. On the one hand, Nietzsche and Rosenthal agree that the intimate connection between consciousness and language depends on brute facts concerning our nature as linguistic beings. On the other hand, Rosenthal sees that connection from the viewpoint of his ambitious HOT approach. In other words, he sees the language–consciousness link from a monist viewpoint: there is a single form of consciousness which, in human beings like us, happens to be intimately, though only contingently linked to our capacity to ¹⁰ Thanks to Chris Fowles for pressing me to clarify to what extent Nietzsche’s view can still be counted as a HOT one.


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verbally report and express our thoughts.¹¹ Nietzsche, on the contrary, sees the language–consciousness link from the viewpoint of a modest HOT approach: the intimate connection between consciousness and language only holds for a specific kind of consciousness, namely Rconsciousness. That connection, however, is not merely a contingent one: in his view, that it is language-dependent is an essential¹² property of Rconsciousness. Ultimately, this seems to suggest that the decisive disagreement is the one marked by Nietzsche’s first departure from standard HOT theories, i.e. the one regarding their very scope. A final point I would like to address concerns the process by which a mental state is made Rconscious in virtue of its being the target of a verbally articulated thought. As Freud nicely observes, there are two basic ways one could conceive of the process by which an unconscious state becomes conscious. On the one hand, we could think of it as carried out by a ‘new fixation, a second transcript (Niederschrift), as it were, of the relevant representation, that, hence, can also be contained in a new psychic location and besides which the original, unconscious transcript lingers on’ (Freud 1915c:132). On the other hand, we can think of that process as consisting in a ‘state modification (Zustandsänderung) occurring on the very same material and at the same location’. It is part of the reading I’m defending here that Nietzsche conceives of Rconsciousness as operating according to the first of the two models hypothesized by Freud. Consider, for instance, Tina’s becoming Rconscious of her being nervous. This happens when she has a verbally articulated thought to the effect that she is nervous. Though this makes her reflectively aware of her being in that state, her nervousness is not replaced by her Rconscious awareness of it. Or consider Tina’s becoming Rconscious of a pain in her leg. Again, this happens when she has a verbally articulated thought to the effect that her leg hurts. In this case, too, her having that thought does not erase the original pain and substitute it with a new kind of mental state. The pain persists along with Tina’s Rconscious awareness of it.

5.4 Espinas on Consciousness and Communication Nietzsche first puts forward the claim that Rconsciousness depends on language in D. GS 354, crucially complemented by BGE 268, will further elaborate on that ¹¹ Rosenthal argues for the contingency of the link between consciousness and verbal expression by trying to show that it does not hold across the board, as he takes the case of emotions to illustrate (see Rosenthal 2005:299–300; see also his reflections on Moore’s paradox in ch. 9). ¹² ‘Essential’ here is not meant as equivalent to metaphysically necessary. The point is just that Nietzsche sees Rconsciousness as the product of certain linguistic practices. Hence, the property in question is essential in virtue of resulting from that specific evolutionary history. This history—details of which will emerge in the next sections of this chapter—is, of course, a matter of contingencies. Thus, having that specific (contingent) evolutionary history is essential to Rconsciousness in the same way in which having a specific (contingent) evolutionary history is essential to pine trees or seagulls.

    


basic picture. The novelty of GS 354 is that it provides a story that—among other things—aims at explaining why Rconsciousness is so intimately related to language. More specifically, Nietzsche argues that Rconsciousness emerges as a consequence of communicative practices that play a role in shaping what we may call the social mind. In this section I shall start by working out how Nietzsche came to hold this view. My proposal, which is supported by robust philological evidence, is that Nietzsche borrowed its central idea from the book Des sociétés animales, written by the French psychologist Alfred Espinas, which Nietzsche read in a German translation.¹³ Though by integrating Espinas’s picture in his own philosophical project Nietzsche will partially depart from it, tracking the genesis of GS 354’s key claim will prove helpful for correctly interpreting it.¹⁴ Espinas’s work can be described as an exercise in comparative social psychology, for it aims at understanding the nature of social cognition by studying how it manifests itself in different kinds of animal societies, from those of ants and bees to those of primates. For present purposes, there are two claims defended by Espinas that prove crucial. He argues, on the one hand, that socialization results in some sort of ‘collective consciousness’ shared by all the individual animals living in the relevant society; on the other hand, that communication is the mechanism by which it is produced. I shall start by considering the role of communication in Espinas’s theory. One of the most rudimentary forms of animal communication portrayed by Espinas is that among ants: The only eloquence available to these animals [ants] is action; i.e. an individual wanting to prompt another to help with a certain task will nudge as many as possible in order to attract their attention and then simply start to execute its plan before their eyes. That famous antennae language, about which so many conjectures have been made, is thus restricted to the various ways in which two frail bodies equipped with several nerves can touch one another. Delicate touch is a caress or a request; a hit a message the more vivid the stronger it is, the more urgent the faster it is. (Espinas 1879:367–368; it will later become clear why I quote this passage at length.)

A much more complex communication system can be observed among great apes. As Espinas claims, no other species possesses the ‘capacity to express emotions (Gemüthsbewegungen) with the degree of perfection’ displayed by primates (481). In particular, there are different ways in which such an ‘exchange of ideas’ is realized among primates, such as ‘face expression’ (488) or the production of ‘sounds’ (481). Importantly, Espinas argues that this capacity explains the ¹³ I have already mentioned this book in passing in Chapter 4. ¹⁴ Espinas’s book is mentioned and briefly discussed by Schneider. That may be how Nietzsche became aware of it. On Nietzsche’s engagement with Espinas, see also Fornari (2006:190–194).


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‘evolution of their social features’ (482). These are, in turn, what Espinas calls ‘solidarity’, i.e. the disposition towards mutual help and collaboration, and ‘subordination’, i.e. the disposition to obey to the group leader. Importantly, these dispositions are grounded in three basic drives—‘sympathy’ (Sympathie), on the one hand, and the drives towards ‘domination’ (Herrschaft) and ‘subordination’ (Unterordnung), on the other hand—which are supposed to also determine the social cognition of lower species (see pp. 440–441; for the specific case of apes, see p. 488). Such forms of social interaction, Espinas notes, do not merely require the ‘imitation of movements’, but essentially depend on the ‘transmission of thoughts with the help of signs’ (485). Hence, robust forms of communication are the key to understand primate social cognition. Espinas’s next move consists in boldly concluding that the process of communication-based socialization produces some sort of ‘collective consciousness’. Here is how he motivates this step in the case of primate societies: This constant exchange of such expressions of sad or happy feelings among the individuals of a group (Völkerschaft) produces among its members such an inner emotive community (innere Gemeinschaft der Gemüthsbewegungen) that we can say that the social unity . . . is a unity of consciousness (Einheit des Bewusstseins) and the physiological relations only its condition: there is a real individuality. (Espinas 1879:488)

It is not clear what Espinas’s notion of social consciousness amounts to here. On a modest reading, it could be understood simply as the claim that communicationbased processes of socialization produce a certain psychological profile that comes to be shared by all members of a certain animal group. However, Espinas explicitly rejects such a deflationary understanding of his theory, for he holds that social consciousness is as real as a creature’s individual consciousness, though distinct from it. Hence, his theory seems to construe collective consciousness as some sort of mental state co-instantiated by the members of a certain animal society. ‘Societies’—he writes—‘are real not only as the sum of regular processes, but also as consciousnesses existing in and for themselves’ (Espinas 1879:519). Of course, Espinas is aware that claims of this sort, whatever they are exactly supposed to mean, are likely to be met with puzzlement. How are we, for instance, to conceive a form of consciousness distributed over several individuals? Instead of dwelling on Espinas’s partially epistemological and partially metaphysical attempts to defend his view from worries of this kind, I’d rather conclude this brief excursus by focusing on a different issue that will play a crucial role in Nietzsche’s own view. Anticipating a potential critique, Espinas asks: Does the consciousness of an animal then consist . . . in nothing more than such superficial modifications, which go so easily from a consciousness to another?

    


What becomes of the idea of the individual? Isn’t it the case that according to this theory the egos as such somehow exchange themselves, that they transform into one another and mix together? Isn’t all this nonsense? As if an ego could remain the same and at the same time receive another ego? (Espinas 1879:515)

Espinas answers this worry by recognizing that there is indeed something genuinely individual about the (animal) self, something that goes beyond the communicable psychological states by which it partakes of the collective consciousness realized by the society in which it lives. This individual ‘substance’ consists in the ‘stock of ideas and unconscious inclinations that looks different in every individual’. ‘Such stable individual capacities’—Espinas goes on—‘are not transmitted as easily as the momentary modifications, which are the object of uninterrupted communication in a social group’ (515–516). There is to be found one’s genuine ‘ego’. We now have a sketch of Espinas’s theory of (animal) social consciousness. Why should we think it contributed to shaping Nietzsche’s own treatment of the evolutionary history and function of Rconsciousness? Partly, I submit, due to the striking similarity among the two views, and partly in light of philological evidence. Whereas the former one will hopefully emerge in the following sections, I shall conclude the present section by providing a brief overview of the latter one. Let’s start with this long unpublished note: A means to express oneself, to communicate—but originally there was no intention to communicate, but all communicating is actually a will-to-include, a grasping and will-to-assimilate (mechanical). To incorporate (sich einverleiben)—later to incorporate and assimilate the will of the other, it’s a conquest of the other. Hence to communicate is originally to extend one’s force (Gewalt) over the other: underlying this drive there is an old sign language (Zeichensprache)— the sign is the (often painful) imprint of a will on another will To make oneself understood through hits (ants) NB. The injuries of the other are too a sign language of the stronger Hence understanding is originally a pain sensation and the recognition of a foreign force. Fast, easy understanding becomes very advisable (to get as few blows as possible). (N1883 7[173] KSA 10:298)

This note documents Nietzsche’s reaction to Espinas’s views. He refers explicitly to the case of ant societies and to Espinas’s (wrong) claim that communication among ants occurs in a purely mechanical way. Of course, Nietzsche interprets the phenomena described by Espinas in a peculiar way: the case of ant language is read as suggesting that the primary function of communicative practices within an animal society is to structure power relations among its members. On the


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contrary, no mention is made of some form of social consciousness as emerging through such practices. Talk of consciousness appears in a later note, which already contains the basic ideas Nietzsche will fully articulate in GS 354 as well as in BGE 268: The need by great danger to make oneself understood in order either to help each other or to submit oneself enabled those primitive human beings who could express similar experiences (Erlebnisse) with similar signs to approach each other; if those experiences were too different, by their effort of mutual comprehension through signs they would understand each other falsely: hence the approximation, i.e. at the end the herd, wouldn’t succeed. From this it follows that the communicability (Mittheilbarkeit) of experiences (or needs or expectations) is, by and large, a selecting, breeding force: the human beings who most resemble each other are those left over. The need to think, the whole consciousness, came along only due to the need to mutual comprehension. First signs, then concepts, finally ‘reason’ in the usual sense. As such the richest organic life can play its game without consciousness: as soon as its existence is tied to the coexistence of other animals, the need for consciousness emerges. (N1884 30[10] KSA 11:356)

Two differences between this and the previous unpublished note should be noted. First, as anticipated, Nietzsche now explicitly picks up Espinas’s claim that consciousness—in particular, conscious thinking—is a by-product of communicative exchanges. Second, in the human case the emergence of communicative practices is no longer traced back to the establishment of hierarchical relations among the members of a social group,¹⁵ but is rather explained by ‘the great danger’ primitive human individuals were exposed to. To survive in a hostile environment, they needed to join and form small groups. This kind of social life, in turn, precipitated increasingly sophisticated forms of communication. It is interesting to note that the same picture of primitive human societies as both increasing the individual’s chance of survival and imposing on its members the need for mutual understanding is already present in D. There, however, Nietzsche highlights cognitive processes different from linguistic communication as the mechanisms by which such understanding typically occurs. In particular, he stresses the role of empathy and imitation, which he seems to conceive as related phenomena. He writes that ‘man, as the most timid of all creatures on account of his subtle and fragile nature, has in his timidity the instructor in that empathy

¹⁵ However, this point is still mentioned in GS 354, albeit only incidentally: the kind of communication requiring consciousness proved useful ‘particularly between those who commanded and those who obeyed’.

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(Mitempfindung), that quick understanding of the feelings of another (and of animals)’ (D 142). In order to produce such an empathic understanding, Nietzsche argues, we go on ‘to produce the feeling in ourselves after the effects it exerts and displays on the other person by imitating with our own body the expression of his eyes, his voice, his walks, his bearing’. Typically, ‘a similar feeling arises in us in consequence of an ancient association between movement and sensation, which has been trained to move backwards or forwards in either direction’. We have developed such a mind-reading capacity, Nietzsche maintains, ‘to a high state of perfection’: it is a ‘skill’ we practise ‘involuntarily’ all the time. There are some points worth stressing here. First, Nietzsche’s brief sketch of the psychological mechanism underpinning empathic understanding suggests some sort of simulation mechanism. In order to read the mind of others, we produce in ourselves mental states of the same kind as those they are in. Second, such a mechanism is dedicated to the attribution of affective states to others. This is not only indicated by the fact that Nietzsche repeatedly and exclusively mentions ‘feelings’ as the object of empathic understanding, but also by the way Nietzsche describes it. To cause in one’s mind the state someone else is in, he says, one simply has to imitate her or his behaviour. This, however, can work only in the case of affective states, for which alone bodily manifestation counts as a constitutive component. Third, such mechanism is not to be confused with an exercise of conscious reflection. Quite to the contrary, it is activated involuntarily and, arguably, unconsciously. (Indeed, as we shall see in a minute, in the same aphorism Nietzsche explicitly distinguishes it from reflection-based mindreading.) Another aphorism from D indicates that this psychological mechanism is involved in the acquisition of ‘moral feelings’, which, according to Nietzsche, are ‘transmitted in this way: children observe in adults inclinations for and aversions to certain actions and, as born apes, imitate these inclinations and aversions’ (D 34). In tune with D 142, a feeling is produced by imitation of the behaviour displayed by other people. At the beginning of D 142, Nietzsche briefly refers to another psychological route by which we understand others. In such cases, we ‘go back to the reason (Grund) for his feeling thus or thus and ask for example: why is he troubled?—so as then for the same reason to become troubled ourselves’ (D 142). The aim of this mind-reading strategy is supposed to be the same as for the simulation mechanism described above, namely to ‘imitate’ the ‘feelings’ of the other person in order to understand what is going on in her mind. This, however, seems odd: to ask myself for which reason Ute is troubled I already need to know, or at least believe, that she is troubled. Maybe, what Nietzsche has in mind is something different: finding out the reason why Ute is troubled is a way of improving my understanding of her mental situation by making it more determinate: after finding out that she is worried about her teenage son, I am now in a position to attribute to her a


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more fine-grained set of mental states and dispositions, and not merely a generic ‘troubledness’. Be it as it may, what is relevant for our discussion is that Nietzsche, even though only en passant, refers to a form of reflectively conscious mind-reading capacity. Though he writes that we ‘often’ resort to this capacity (D 142), the rest of the aphorism makes clear that, in fact, such exercises happen in the background to the virtually incessant working of the unconscious and involuntary activation of the simulation mechanism. Finally, the exercise of the reflective capacity arguably consists in drawing inferences concerning the mental states of other people based on some kind of folk-psychological conception of how their mind works. My proposal is that Nietzsche had no clear picture of the nature of such a mindreading capacity by the time he wrote D. His engagement with Espinas’s theory about the development of animal social cognition helped him to refine his view— the one mainly articulated in GS 354 and BGE 268. It is to this picture I now turn.

5.5 RConsciousness and Folk-Psychology: GS 354 and BGE 268 As we have seen in Section 5.3, in D Nietzsche puts forward the idea that R unconscious states are made Rconscious through the application of mental terms. To resort to the same example used there, the complex combination of affects Uwe is in after he has discovered that his job application has been turned down becomes Rconscious when, by reflecting on his situation, he makes use of terms such as ‘disappointment’, ‘sadness’, or ‘frustration’. That is a crucial part of how he tries to make sense of his emotional reaction to the failed application. At the same time, Nietzsche also refers to an Rconscious mind-reading capacity we sometimes resort to in order to make sense of what goes on in other people’s minds. These two strands of thought converge into a unified picture sketched in GS 354 and BGE 268: it is social intercourse that provides us with the folkpsychological framework—including a set of mental terms—governing the exercise of such an Rconscious mind-reading capacity. Crucially, Nietzsche also argues that this framework is not only applied to ascribe mental states to other people, but also to ascribe mental states to oneself. On this picture, thus, Rconsciousness turns out to be a by-product of the development of that framework and of the corresponding mind-reading capacity. In GS 354, Nietzsche elaborates on the same kind of evolutionary pressures already hinted to in D 142: ‘as the most endangered animal, he [man] needed help and protection, he needed his equals; he had to express his neediness and be able to make himself understood’ (GS 354). The same point is made in BGE 268: the ‘greater the danger, the greater the need to agree quickly and easily about necessities. Not to misunderstand each other when there is danger: people require this in order to interact with each other’ (BGE 268). Suppose we were living in a

  -


primitive society, exposed to threats of any sort and with but utterly sparse resources and fragile skills to face them. The advantages that in such a situation derive from one’s belonging to a social group are based on the capacity of mutual communication. In particular, this requires not only that one be able to tell others what the content of one’s mental states is, but also that others be able to understand what one is thereby saying. This last condition, however, as Nietzsche notices, is somewhat tricky, for ‘Using the same words is not enough to get people to understand each other: they have to use the same words for the same species of inner experiences (Erlebnisse) too; ultimately, people have to have the same experience base’ (BGE 268).¹⁶ Here, the problem addressed is similar to that usually discussed in contemporary philosophy under the label of ‘private language’. In order for communication to be possible, the language a speaker utilizes cannot be ‘private’. Rather, the meaning of the words the speaker utters has to be publicly graspable. But how is that possible in those cases where the word purports to refer to an inner state? According to Nietzsche, communication is successful because language-mediated social intercourse makes the members of a certain community psychologically congruent. Let us spell out this idea in more detail. First, the members of a certain community will share a certain folkpsychological framework, which will include a mental vocabulary as well as a set of beliefs about the way in which the mind works. Second, they will adopt that framework for making sense of the mental life of the other members of the group and, at the same time, for making sense of their own mental life. Mutual understanding increases in parallel with the strength of such processes: within a society whose members share a language broadly understood we can imagine (overlapping) social groups whose members share more specific ‘language games’. Teenage subcultures, which are notoriously impervious to unwelcome outsiders such as parents, offer illustrative examples. As Nietzsche notes, this is ‘why a people in a community will understand each other better than they understand people belonging to other groups, even when they all use the same language’ (BGE 268). Nietzsche concludes that ‘when individuals have lived together for a long time under similar conditions (of climate, soil, danger, necessities, work), there arises something that “ ‘understands itself” ’—a people’ (BGE 268). To his eyes, that the process leading to the emergence of such mutual understanding is essentially social and language-dependent implies that the way in which we Rconsciously

¹⁶ See also later in the same aphorism: ‘assuming that needs have only ever brought people together when they could somehow indicate similar requirements and similar experiences with similar signs, then it follows, on the whole, that the easy communicability of needs (which ultimately means having only average and base experiences) must have been the most forceful of the forces that have controlled people so far’ (BGE 268). Of course, these claims elaborate on the basic ideas already formulated in note 30[10], quoted in the previous section and reflecting Nietzsche’s engagement with Espinas.


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interpret others is primary with respect to the way in which we Rconsciously interpret ourselves. More precisely, it is constitutive of Rconscious selfunderstanding that we conceive of ourselves in the same way in which we conceive of others: as having the same sort of mind and as being the same sort of agents. This is the reason ‘each of us, even with the best will in the world to understand ourselves as individually as possible, “to know ourselves”, will always bring to consciousness precisely that in ourselves which is “non individual”, that which is average’ (GS 354). In other words, ‘our thoughts themselves are continually as it were outvoted and translated back into the herd perspective’. Though the notion of Rconsciousness does not appear in BGE 268, we already saw that it is the crucial one in GS 354. Indeed, the main claim of this aphorism is that Rconsciousness emerged from the communicative practices that enabled mutual understanding among primitive humans and, consequently, their survival within cohesive social groups. As he writes, since the ‘sign-inventing person is also the one who becomes ever more acutely conscious of himself ’, ‘consciousness actually belongs not to man’s existence as an individual but rather to the community- and herd-aspects of his nature’ (GS 354). At this point, it is instructive to compare Nietzsche’s view with that of Espinas, which—as we have seen—triggered Nietzsche’s own speculations on such subject matter. The first point worth noting is a significative difference among their views. Whereas Espinas rather implausibly thinks of it as some kind of mental state collectively instantiated by several animals, Nietzsche takes Rconsciousness to be a capacity possessed and exercised by individuals. Hence, for Nietzsche R consciousness is only genetically, but not metaphysically social. To put it differently, he takes individuals, and not a group thereof, to be the bearers of R consciousness. What makes it social is just its evolutionary history: it emerged as the by-product of communicative practices. The second point I want to stress is, to the contrary, one of continuity between Espinas and Nietzsche. As we have seen, Espinas reflects on the complex dialectic between the merely ‘superficial modifications’ that are ‘so easily’ transmitted ‘from a consciousness to another’, on the one hand, and those deeper aspects of one’s ‘ego’ that remain somewhat impervious to conscious articulation. As some of the aforementioned passages from BGE 268 and, in particular, GS 354 already show, a similar dialectic is also central to Nietzsche’s view. Indeed, this is another point already surfacing in D, but that receives a new inflection in light of Nietzsche’s mature picture of R consciousness: Whatever they may think and say about their ‘egoism’, the great majority nonetheless do nothing for their ego their whole life long: what they do is done for the phantom of their ego which has formed itself in the heads of those around them and has been communicated to them;—as a consequence they all of them dwell in a fog of impersonal, semi-personal opinions, and arbitrary, as it were

  -


poetical evaluations, the one for ever in the head of someone else, and the head of this someone else again in the heads of others; a strange world of phantasms . . . (D 105)

This (already) means that the way in which we become reflectively aware of ourselves is somewhat impersonal: we see ourselves in a mirror that tends to make us appear very much like everyone else in our vicinity. This is a crucial consequence of Nietzsche’s view of Rconsciousness’s evolution, as it directly informs his conception of the self and of self-knowledge. These are issues to which we shall come back later in the book.¹⁷ What I’d like to do now is to spell out in more detail the philosophical significance of Nietzsche’s claims about the co-evolution of Rconsciousness and mind-reading capacities. To that aim, it will be particularly useful to see his views in light of contemporary treatments of the same issues. I shall start by pointing out how Nietzsche’s view of mind-reading fits into the current debates concerning its emergence and function. According to the standard view, the function of the capacity to ascribe mental states to other people is to provide explanations—and, derivatively, predictions— of their behaviour. The main dispute has been about the underlying psychological mechanism. Some have argued that we ascribe mental states to others by applying something like a proto-scientific theory of mind (so called theory-theory). Others have argued that mental simulation—the capacity ‘to put ourselves in others’ shoes’—is the relevant mechanism (so called simulation theory). More recently, however, an increasing number of theorists have started to dispute the traditional assumption according to which the function of mind-reading is primarily explanatory. The alternative views they propose typically share the idea that mind-reading capacities emerge as part of wider social processes that determine a substantive psychological attunement among the members of a certain community or, more generally, culture. I shall briefly review some of this literature. Adam Morton (1996) argues that ‘folk psychology is part of collective rationality’, at the heart of which lie ‘norms of conceptualization’: The value of thinking of people in terms of beliefs, desires, and personality, or in terms of social position, need, and the dictates of the gods, is conditional on other people thinking of them in the same terms. . . . So the psychological concepts, metaphysical beliefs, and the moral norms that people acquire when they are being socialized into a culture must pull in the same general direction. They must add up to a coherent ethos, which permeates situations in which people find one

¹⁷ More precisely, these claims ground Nietzsche’s scepticism about conscious introspection, an issue I shall deal with in more detail in Chapter 9.


   another’s actions intelligible in a way that lets them know how to deal with one another. (Morton 1996:134)

In a similar fashion, Victoria McGeer argues that our folk-psychological competence consists in our aptitude for making ourselves understandable to one another, as much as on our aptitude for understanding one another. And we do this by making (self and other) regulative use of the norms that govern appropriate attributions of a range of psychological states. (McGeer 2007:148)

We can distinguish two claims here. First, folk-psychology is part of a larger and culturally acquired conceptual framework also encompassing social and moral norms. Second, that people belonging to a certain community share one such framework makes them psychologically similar and, consequently, mutually intelligible. Accordingly, the function of folk-psychology is that of ‘structuring human interaction’, as Morton (1996:133) puts it. Both claims are at the heart of Nietzsche’s own views about the emergence of mind-reading capacities and the nature of folk-psychology. As he states in BGE 268, in the long run the need of effective communication yields a ‘progessus in simile’ which has the members of a certain community adopt a shared set of social norms and behaviours and, consequently, makes them mutually intelligible. This process, Nietzsche says, is a ‘natural, all too natural’ one: it is the very product of human socialization. An important consequence of this view, at least to Nietzsche’s eyes, is that the folk-psychological framework adopted by a certain society may include—and, in fact, typically includes—a vast amount of wrong beliefs. For instance, many folkpsychological beliefs appeal to what Nietzsche calls ‘imaginary causalities’ (D 10). Nonetheless, despite the fact that folk-psychology incorporates many descriptively false beliefs of this sort, it can offer a certain kind of explanation and, consequently, be used predictively. This is so simply because it is part of the process that makes people ‘calculable’, as Nietzsche often puts it. Let me use an example to better illustrate this point. Suppose the members of a certain community believe that to be resolute while hunting one has to tinge one’s right hand with a purple pigment. It’s fair to say this would be a case of ‘imaginary’ causation, for there is no link between the purple pigment colouring the hunter’s right hand and his or her resoluteness during the hunt. This means that in that community the ascription of resoluteness—a psychological property—would be (at least partially) governed by a false belief. In general, no proper understanding of the psychology of resoluteness would be possible by considering it dependent on such imaginary causal patterns. Nonetheless, one could explain and, consequently, predict many of the hunters’ actions by citing the fact that they hold that belief. For instance, I could predict

  -


that all hunters would tinge their right hands before going out in the woods; that, if inquired by a confused foreigner about that action, a hunter would justify it by citing that belief; finally, that the community would probably sanction a hunter who fails to execute the prescribed ritual; et cetera.¹⁸ There are therefore two main claims Nietzsche shares with contemporary theorists like Morton and McGeer. On the one hand, the primary function of folk-psychology is to coordinate social interaction. As we have seen, this is not to say it lacks any explanatory and predictive power whatsoever. The point is, rather, that this power is derivative with respect to its essentially regulative function. On the other hand, and relatedly, folk-psychology is no free-standing piece of theoretical knowledge, but is always intertwined with social norms and practices, in particular moral ones. It is always normatively laden. To put it differently, it always appears as part of what Nietzsche—conforming to the terminology of 19th-century German philosophy—calls Sittlichkeit—which can be translated as ‘morality of custom’. A crucial aspect of Nietzsche’s views that is not shared by Morton and McGeer is the link between the emergence of folk-psychology and the emergence of R consciousness. Among contemporary theorists, however, the social origin of R consciousness has been argued for by the psychologist Philippe Rochat. In a way reminiscent of Nietzsche’s own claims, he argues that consciousness ‘is inseparable from the basic drive to affiliate and maintain proximity with others’ and, consequently, ‘stands for the representation we hold of ourselves through the eyes of others’ (Rochat 2009:2,3). In agreement with the regulative picture of folkpsychology advocated by Morton and McGeer, Rochat also argues that there is a primitive normative dimension to the socially shaped capacity to consciously reflect on one’s inner life. Indeed, this capacity boils down to the ‘propensity to experience ourselves as evaluated by others’ (15). Furthermore, Rochat’s understanding of reflective consciousness is strikingly reminiscent of Nietzsche’s own. On the one hand, he agrees with HOT theorists that consciousness is tied to the ‘ability to generate “metarepresentations” ’ (18). On the other hand, he maintains that what distinguishes the way in which this meta-representational ability manifests itself in human beings is the ‘intention to communicate with others about anything’ (Rochat 2009:19). All the contemporary theorists whose views I have briefly referred to agree that the emergence of what Morton calls ‘collective rationality’ has been a vastly positive result: as it is indispensable to human cooperation, the development of ¹⁸ Of course, that one holds a false belief about imaginary causes does not imply that that belief is causally inefficacious: it is perfectly reasonable to say that, in the example, the hunter’s belief is false and, at the same time, causes him or her to act in certain ways. However, Nietzsche believes that folkpsychology also includes many false beliefs about the very mechanisms causally responsible for our actions. His take on such issues, including that of mental causation, are discussed in particular in Chapter 7.


  

culture would have been otherwise impossible. Nietzsche’s assessment is here strikingly dissenting. As he likes to put it—for instance, and again, in GS 354— such forms of ‘rationality’ embody the perspective of the ‘herd’, by which he means, roughly, the goals of socially selected drives the prevalence of which prevents the flourishing of human greatness. (This is a point to which we shall come back later in the book.) At this point, the attentive reader may have already suspected an interpretive puzzle concerning Nietzsche’s conception of mind-reading. The last task I’d like to pursue in this section is to address that puzzle. To appreciate it, however, it will be useful to first recapitulate the trajectory of Nietzsche’s thoughts regarding mindreading from D to the fifth book of GS. In D, Nietzsche distinguishes between two different mind-reading strategies. First, and quite pervasively, in order to attribute mental states to other people we simply produce in ourselves the same kind of states by ‘imitating’ their bodily condition. For instance, by imitating the facial expression of someone experiencing fear we elicit that very state in ourselves and, on that basis, attribute it to him or her. Second, and only rarely, we go on reflecting about what reasons someone may have for being in this or that state. In this case, thus, the attribution is the result of a piece of overt reasoning. In D, Nietzsche does not say much about this second form of mind-reading, which is merely mentioned at the beginning of aphorism 142. A more thorough picture of the reflective strategy emerges only later, in GS 354 and BGE 268. There, we learn that the exercise of Rconscious mind-reading is constrained not only by the set of mental terms provided by one’s language, but also—and in a far deeper way—by one’s folk-psychological framework, which incorporates both beliefs about the metaphysics of the mind and moral norms, among other things. Both—mental vocabulary and folk-psychological framework—are, of course, absolutely contingent products of cultural history and acquired through linguistic intercourse with the members of one’s community. Remarkably, when discussing R conscious mind-reading in these later works, Nietzsche no longer refers to what—in D—he had depicted as the vastly more common form of imitationbased mind-reading. Should we then conclude that he has changed his mind about the supposed primacy of this strategy for the attribution of mental states? Or, if not, how are we to make sense of the relation between imitation-based mindreading, on the one hand, and reflective mind-reading, on the other hand, in light of the picture of Rconsciousness emerging from GS 354 and BGE 268? This is the puzzle I referred to previously and which I now wish to solve. My proposal is that Nietzsche did not change his mind at all about the primacy of imitation-based mind-reading. The attribution of mental states via Rconscious exercise remains, in his view, a far rarer and—in a sense still to be worked out—superficial phenomenon. Though it plays an important role within the communicative practices among the members of a given community, the mutual understanding among them typically occurs thanks to the

 


imitation-based strategy for the attribution of mental states. That Nietzsche saw things in this way becomes clear as soon as one appreciates that this latter form of mind-reading finds its paramount application in the case of affective states, which are partially constituted by bodily modifications. In turn, affective states—qua episodic manifestations of drives—continue to be considered by the late Nietzsche as the basic elements of our mental economy. Hence, the primacy accorded to imitation-based mind-reading in D still fits nicely into his mature philosophical psychology.¹⁹

5.6 RConsciousness: Taking Stock This chapter has covered a lot of ground. Hence, it will be helpful so sum up its main results. The first move consisted in identifying the notion of consciousness Nietzsche is mostly concerned with as that of reflective consciousness. In particular, this identification follows from the fact that Nietzsche links his main notion of consciousness to language. Accordingly, paramount cases of Rconsciousness are episodes of verbally articulated thought. When an episode of this sort is about an R unconscious mental state M, M is thereby made Rconscious. Thus, Nietzsche’s account of Rconsciousness overlaps significantly with contemporary HOT theories of consciousness. Nevertheless, there are two important differences between Nietzsche’s view and those theories. First, the scope of Nietzsche’s account is confined to Rconsciousness, whereas HOT theorists typically aim to explain consciousness in all its forms. Second, HOT theories assume that all kinds of mental states—including HOT themselves—become conscious only if they are the target of a suitable HOT. Though Nietzsche adopts a similar view of the way in which Runconscious states become conscious, he thinks that states with verbally articulated content do not need to be themselves targeted by a higher-order state in order to become Rconscious. Rather, they are intrinsically Rconscious merely in virtue of the content they happen to have. Let us consider a case in which a mental state is made Rconscious by its being targeted by an episode of verbally articulated thought. How is this supposed to happen? As we have seen, Nietzsche’s answer to this question emerges gradually. In D, he suggests that the relevant process is one of language-mediated interpretation. Such an interpretation consists primarily in the targeted state’s being conceptualized in a certain way. This conceptualization, in turn, depends on the psychological vocabulary one possesses. This picture is further elaborated in GS

¹⁹ Whether Nietzsche changes his mind with regard to the primacy of imitation-based mind-reading may well appear just a marginal interpretive issue. In fact, I think it is relevant to his overall picture of how the human mind works. Only after dealing with his claim that conscious reflection is superfluous (in Chapter 7) shall we be in a position to appreciate this point.


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354, which adds two main claims to it. On the one hand, and somewhat obviously, the mental vocabulary we employ to interpret our mental life is acquired through social interaction. On the other hand, different vocabularies of that sort have evolved in different cultures in order to facilitate the mutual understanding among the members of the relevant community. Therefore, it was the need to communicate the type and content of our mental states that ultimately drove the very emergence of Rconsciousness—a claim to which Nietzsche came only after engaging with the work of Espinas, who drew a similarly tight link between communication and consciousness. According to Nietzsche’s version of that idea, we become reflectively aware of our inner states in virtue of conceptualizing them according to the mental vocabulary we acquire through linguistic interaction with the other members of our community. Of course, conscious reflection on our mental life is not just a matter of subsuming inner states under psychological concepts. Those concepts are part of a larger folk-psychological framework which determines the way in which the members of a given community conceive of mental phenomena and of their relation to human behaviour. This is the reason why Nietzsche came to see R consciousness to co-evolve not just with the capacity to apply mental terms to one’s inner states, but with specific mind-reading capacities more generally. Anticipating certain contemporary views about mind-reading, he sees those capacities as, too, depending on communication and social coordination. This means, in turn, that the primary function of folk-psychology is not to provide reliable psychological explanations, but rather to facilitate the mutual attunement among the members of a given community. That attunement, in turn, has an essential normative dimension. It finds its overall manifestation in the community’s ‘coherent ethos’—as Morton puts it; that is, in what Nietzsche and all other 19th-century German philosophers used to call Sittlichkeit.

6 More (Kinds of) Consciousness Though I started the previous chapter by suggesting that Nietzsche is best understood as endorsing pluralism about consciousness, I have not further pursued that claim so far. The present chapter’s primary goal consists in substantiating such a pluralistic reading. My main argumentative strategy will be to mount a dilemma. Given the characterization Nietzsche offers of Rconsciousness, it seems plain that many paradigmatic conscious states such as perceptual experiences and pains cannot count as conscious in that sense. We are then confronted with the following choice: either we conclude that Nietzsche simply denies that perceptual experiences and pains are conscious, or we interpret him as allowing that there are other ways for a mental state to be conscious besides being Rconscious. Of course, embracing the second horn of the dilemma amounts to ascribing to Nietzsche pluralism about consciousness. That will be the option I shall take. I shall start by introducing and commenting on a further—and rather puzzling—claim Nietzsche puts forward concerning Rconsciousness, namely that it involves some sort of falsification—which I shall call the Falsification Claim (Section 6.1). This further feature of Rconsciousness will be relevant for identifying how many other forms of consciousness Nietzsche seems to allow for. In Section 6.2 I focus on the case of conscious perception. I shall argue that according to Nietzsche the content of perceptual experience is pictorial and, consequently, not language-dependent. On this basis, I shall conclude that he considers perceptual consciousness to be distinct from Rconsciousness. Nonetheless, as Nietzsche treats pictorial content as conceptual and falsification to be a matter of conceptual generalization, the Falsification Claim still holds for perceptual consciousness. Section 6.3 focuses on raw feelings and sensations such as pains. Though Nietzsche sometimes treats such states as, too, involving falsification, in his (very) late work he formulates the claim that immediate sensory deliverances are falsification-free—a claim I shall refer to as Sensualism. Given Nietzsche’s late Sensualism, we can say that if immediate sensory deliverances are conscious, they cannot be conscious in either the reflective or perceptual sense, for these kinds of consciousness both involve falsification. As I do not see any reason to assume that Nietzsche rejected the antecedent of that conditional, I conclude that he came to conceive of raw sensations as conscious in a purely qualitative sense. We have, therefore, a third kind of consciousness, namely qualitative consciousness. Finally, in Section 6.4, I try to sort out the possible relations among these three different Nietzsche’s Philosophical Psychology. Mattia Riccardi, Oxford University Press. © Mattia Riccardi 2021. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198803287.003.0006


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kinds of consciousness. Furthermore, having distinguished among them will also put us in the position to finally specify the ways in which drives and affects are, or can be, unconscious. More precisely, I shall argue that affects are always conscious at least in the qualitative and, arguably, also in the perceptual sense, while drives— qua dispositions—are typically strictly unconscious, i.e. unconscious according to all the three senses of ‘conscious’ identified before.

6.1 The Missing Feature: Falsification In the previous chapter I listed six basic features of Nietzsche’s main notion of consciousness, on the basis of which it was possible to identify it as that of R consciousness. According to that list, as you may recall, Nietzsche’s Rconsciousness: [1] is, in some sense, reflexive; [2] is human-specific; [3] is superfluous; [4] consists in a certain way of being aware of one’s mental states which is not constitutive of such states; [5] has evolved together with communicative and linguistic practices; [6] is such that all and only Rconscious states have verbally articulated content. There is, however, a fundamental feature Nietzsche ascribes to Rconsciousness which is still missing from this list. The aim of this section is to make sense of it. There are two reasons why I postponed its treatment. First, we already had enough elements to solve the most immediate puzzle of finding out what Nietzsche typically talks about when he talks about consciousness. Second, the feature we shall be concerned with now is especially obscure. Treating it separately should help us to gain a better understanding of what he has in mind, or so I hope. As with the other features, it is in GS 354 that Nietzsche offers the most conspicuous characterization of the basic feature of Rconsciousness we are after. There, he writes that ‘due to the nature of animal consciousness, the world of which we can become conscious is merely a surface- and sign-world, a world turned into generalities and thereby debased of its lowest common denominator’, so that ‘all becoming conscious involves a vast and thorough corruption, falsification, superficialization, and generalization’ (GS 354). Thus, to complete our list, we can say that, finally, Rconsciousness: [7] involves some kind of profound falsification. To have a handy label, I shall call this the Falsification Claim. It is not easy to spell out in what consists the ‘falsification’ referred to here. We can start by noticing

  : 


that Rconsciousness falsifies, Nietzsche claims, in virtue of its communicative and linguistic nature. As he has it, the ‘world’ of which we become Rconscious is a world of ‘generalities’ that, arguably, do not correspond, or at least not fully, to whatever particulars they are supposed to represent. But which are the particulars in question, and why is our reflective awareness of them irredeemably deficient? In a passage we have already come across to in the previous chapter, Nietzsche gives two main examples: our thoughts themselves are continually as it were outvoted and translated back into the herd perspective. At bottom, all our actions are incomparably and utterly personal, unique, and boundlessly individual, there is no doubt; but as soon as we translate them into consciousness, they no longer seem to be . . . (GS 354)

Let us start with the second example: actions. Nietzsche seems to defend an extremely radical version of particularism: every action is ‘utterly personal, unique, and boundlessly individual’—and quite boldly so, as the gloss ‘there is no doubt’ implies. At first sight, this claim may seem preposterous: should we really think that every time I open the door of my office by turning the knob I do something ‘utterly personal, unique, and boundlessly individual’? In fact, though hyperbolically formulated, I do not think this claim is false. For even in the case of very simple actions like opening a door, it is unlikely that, on different occasions, one performs them by repeating exactly the same sequence of bodily movements; nor would someone else open the door in exactly the same way I do on a certain occasion. More generally, Nietzsche can be understood here as pointing to a known relation between token actions and action descriptions. In virtue of their being particular events, token actions are, well, particular. Action descriptions, on the contrary, are necessarily general: ‘opening the door’ applies to an indeterminate number of opening procedures and of doors. Making the description more determinate also will not help, for ‘opening my office door by turning the knob with one’s right hand’ still allows for a variety of concrete executions. Of course, contrary to contemporary philosophers of action, Nietzsche wasn’t much interested in how we open doors and turn knobs. Moral actions—including the customary ones—are those to which he devotes much of his philosophical efforts. Actions of this sort are ‘unique’ in a more substantive sense than our dooropenings and knob-turnings. This, however, is something we can appreciate only after we have considered Nietzsche’s second example of particulars ‘falsified’ by the ‘generalities’ of Rconsciousness, namely thoughts. Thoughts, says Nietzsche, are ‘translated back into the herd perspective’. Given the context of GS 354—and, relatedly, of BGE 268—the herd perspective alluded to is condensed in the folk-psychological framework we use to interpret not only what other people think and do, but also what we ourselves think and do. As long


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as we conceptualize our own mental life by adopting that framework, Nietzsche suggests, we necessarily distort it. But why? A major motivation, though not the only one, behind Nietzsche’s Falsification Claim is best illustrated by using an example.¹ Uwe and Jürgen both study piano very hard. At face value, they do so because they share the same and equally ardent desire to become a concert pianist. Nonetheless, if we look closer, we discover that their stories are quite different. Uwe has always loved the sound coming out of his instrument and being able to produce it. He is never tired of the piano. Jürgen, though he sometimes feels pleasure while playing, is far less passionate. In fact, his resolve to pursue a career in music does not directly spring out of a genuine love as in Uwe’s case. Rather, it results from two contingent facts: his absolute willingness to oppose his father, who had already planned a quite different career for him, and the discovery that he possesses an unusual talent for piano. Thus, his desire to play the piano grew out of this, and never transformed into an unconditional passion. Of course, there are many actions Uwe and Jürgen both perform. These actions, moreover, seem motivated by the same sort of desire. But this is the case only at a quite superficial level. Uwe’s motivational attitude towards playing the piano is quite different from that of Jürgen, for it is constituted by a different (set of) affective appraisal(s). Though we may describe many of Uwe’s and Jürgen’s actions in the same way—such as ‘playing Mozart’ and ‘moving the fingers on the keys’—and also ascribe to both the same desire(s)—‘to become a concert pianist’—both their mental states and actions, Nietzsche would insist, are utterly individual. Subsuming them under the same ‘generalities’ would betray their particularity. Another way of looking at Nietzsche’s radical particularism is as follows: both mental states and actions are particulars because their nature depends on their history. Uwe’s desire is distinct from Jürgen’s desire because the causal paths that led to their formation are completely different. Crucially, such paths include interaction with other mental states. For instance, a certain mental picture of the desired object and a certain affective appraisal of it are typically part of a desire. These, in turn, arguably depend on one’s memories of the relevant kind of object. Thus, which picture and which affective appraisal constitutes one’s desire, say, of eating a hamburger, will depend on one’s previous encounters with hamburgers. For instance, though I sometimes desire to eat a hamburger, I am pretty sure that desire of mine is imaginatively and affectively impoverished compared to that of most Americans, for I do not have any salient memories of eating hamburgers as a child, for example. So even in such trivial cases, it is not implausible to say that one’s desires are much more complex mental particulars than our usual practice of ascribing mental states suggests. Given that desires are

¹ Further aspects of Nietzsche’s view about how Rconsciousness ‘falsifies’ are discussed in Chapter 9.

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among the springs of action, the arguments in favour of their irreducible particularity extend to these as well.² This sort of particularism may strike one as a rather trivial claim. For doesn’t it just articulate the platitude according to which general descriptions will necessarily leave out certain details? I do not think so. Usually, when we provide psychological descriptions in quite general terms—for instance, by ascribing to certain agents the generally described desire to play the piano—we take that we have provided an accurate enough characterization to prove satisfactory in explanatory terms. The common picture of beliefs and desires as propositional attitudes individuated merely in terms of their propositional content can be seen as an articulation of this view: the explanatorily relevant properties of those states depend on their general propositional content. This common assumption of standard versions of belief–desire psychology is what Nietzsche rejects. This also explains why he takes his own version of particularism about mental content to motivate the Falsification Claim: general descriptions of mental states do not merely leave out details, but miss explanatorily relevant aspects of such states entirely. Within Nietzsche’s picture of the mind, the Falsification Claim plays a crucial role in several respects, in particular with regard to his sceptical take on introspective self-knowledge, a topic addressed in Chapter 9.³ Though in a more indirect way, it also bears on the question of consciousness pluralism. This is the angle from which I shall further explore its relevance in this chapter.

6.2 Conscious Perception Perception is usually taken to constitute a paradigmatic kind of conscious state. Typically, this intuitive view is also reflected in the philosophical debates on the nature of consciousness. Indeed, contemporary philosophers generally consider the case of perceptual experience—in particular, of visual experience—to provide a privileged arena in which to test the merits and drawbacks of a certain theory of consciousness. However, it seems that conscious perceptual experience lacks some of the distinctive features that Nietzsche ascribes to Rconsciousness. It seems both widespread in the animal realm (against feature [2]) and independent from communication (against feature [5]) and language (against feature [6]). Thus, it seems that perceptual consciousness—Pconsciousness, from now on—and R consciousness aren’t the same thing. As you may recall, Nietzsche maintains ² Discussion with Brian Leiter helped me to get a better grip on Nietzsche’s particularism about actions and thoughts. ³ The Falsification Claim has also straightforward implications for most of the epistemological questions addressed by Nietzsche, such as the relation between our cognitive capacities and truth (see Clark 1990). These are problems that go beyond the scope of this book.


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that the life of a ‘solitary and predatory person’ would not require anything like R consciousness. However, a solitary and predatory person—or animal, for that matter—would surely need some form of sensory awareness of the environment in order to survive. Given this, we face a dilemma: either Nietzsche allows for a notion of Pconsciousness which is different from—though maybe partially overlapping with—that of Rconsciousness, or he must conclude that animals—and even persons segregated from linguistic and social interaction—simply lack consciousness whatsoever. Of course, one could immediately raise two related objections. First, as we have had occasion to appreciate in detail, Nietzsche also believes that rudimentary forms of Rconsciousness are already present in non-human social animals. Thus, it’s not strictly true that Rconsciousness is uniquely human. Second, one could point out that the reasoning employed to produce this dilemma simply assumes that human and animal perception is exactly analogous. This, however, is a point open to substantial philosophical debate. For instance, some conceptualists about perceptual experience (see, most notably, McDowell 1996) argue that in the human case it is shaped by our specific, language-dependent conceptual capacities and therefore differs essentially from that of other animals. Given this, it’s simply a non sequitur to conclude that absent those capacities no form of Rconsciousness is possible. Quite to the contrary, Nietzsche explicitly argues that non-human forms of linguistic communication are sufficient for the type of Rconsciousness we find in other species of social animals. My answer to these objections is twofold. On the one hand, even if we assume that both objections are true, it would still be a consequence of Nietzsche’s position that asocial (animal as well as human) individuals lack consciousness full stop, which seems an incredible claim. Consider, for instance, the contemporary notion of phenomenal consciousness. Sentience is usually considered sufficient for being conscious in this way. But even independently from any theoretical commitment about its nature, we would intuitively treat a new-born baby—or animal, for that matter—as a conscious creature in the phenomenal sense. This shows that the dilemma generates independently of the fact that Nietzsche’s notion of Rconsciousness extends to other social species. On the other hand, and more specifically, the second objection fails, for Nietzsche is not committed to a conceptualist view of perceptual experience akin to the one defended by McDowell. This means that Pconsciousness is independent from the communicative and linguistic capacities necessary for Rconsciousness also in the case of ordinary human individuals. This is a claim I shall substantiate in detail later in this chapter. Let us now go back to the dilemma. The horn I think more appealing is the one leading to the conclusion that Nietzsche allows for a form of Pconsciousness distinct from Rconsciousness. Paul Katsafanas is the only scholar to have explicitly embraced the other horn, thus accepting that according to Nietzsche non-

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linguistic animals lack any kind of consciousness whatsoever. Though I do think—in light of the aforementioned reasons—one should strenuously resist ascribing to Nietzsche such an implausible view, Katsafanas’s argument deserves close examination. The main motivation behind Katsafanas’s reading lies in two further claims he ascribes to Nietzsche, namely the Alignment Claim: a mental state is conscious iff it has conceptual content; and the Language Constraint: concepts are language-dependent. The Alignment Claim says that the conscious/unconscious distinction maps on the conceptual/non-conceptual distinction. Together with the Language Constraint, it entails that only creatures with linguistic capacities can be conscious. One way in which Katsafanas tries to support ascribing both views to Nietzsche is by arguing that they are already endorsed by Schopenhauer. As he claims, ‘Nietzsche follows Schopenhauer in thinking that while human animals have minds, only human beings are conscious’ (Katsafanas 2016:40). In general, Katsafanas is right in pointing out that Nietzsche’s conception of consciousness is indebted to that of Schopenhauer. For instance, Schopenhauer’s description of human consciousness as involving ‘reflection’ and as being a sort of ‘mirroring (Wiederschein)’ is strikingly similar to the one offered in GS 354 (Schopenhauer 1819/1844 I §8:36, translation changed). Moreover, it is true that Schopenhauer accepts the Language Constraint. Nevertheless, Katsafanas is wrong in maintaining that he subscribes to the view that only humans are conscious. In a passage Katsafanas himself quotes, Schopenhauer affirms that Rconsciousness is ‘an entirely new consciousness’ that has arisen ‘in man alone of all the inhabitants of the earth’. That the human one is an ‘entirely new’ kind of consciousness, however, seems to indicate that different forms of consciousness, presumably in the animal realm, already pre-existed its emergence. This is precisely what Schopenhauer explicitly affirms in several other passages. The ‘consciousness of animals’, he argues, can be figured out by ‘taking away certain properties of our own’ (II §5:59). More precisely, the main feature we should subtract from human consciousness is that it is based on language-dependent, ‘abstract representations’, i.e. ‘concepts’. What remains left, thus, are states of mind lacking conceptual content, which Schopenhauer identifies with feelings (Gefühle). As he stresses, it is hard to define what a feeling is, for ‘the immeasurably wide sphere of this concept includes the most heterogeneous things’ (I §11:51). The only common factor seems just to be their negative feature of lacking any conceptual content. However, and crucially for our discussion, a feeling is said to be a ‘modification of


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consciousness’ (52). Therefore, pace Katsafanas, Schopenhauer explicitly rejects the Alignment Claim and, consequently, allows for conscious states—feelings but also sensations—that, in virtue of their being non-conceptual, animals can also undergo (on this, see also Constâncio 2011:6; see also p. 8, fn. 9). Thus, if it is right to claim that Nietzsche here followed Schopenhauer, what we should conclude is that he allowed for a kind of consciousness different from Rconsciousness and widespread in the animal realm.⁴ Let us now turn to the Language Constraint. Katsafanas adduces only one piece of textual evidence that directly supports ascribing it to Nietzsche. The passage in question is an unpublished note from 1884, in which Nietzsche writes: First images (Bilder)—explain, how images arise in the mind. Then words applied to images. Finally concepts, only possible when there are words—they integrate (Zusammenfassen) many images under something non-sensory (NichtAnschauliches), but auditive (word). (N1884 25[168] KSA 11:58)

Here, Nietzsche clearly puts forward the view that concepts depend on words. However, as Fowles (2019:15–16) correctly points out, if one considers the trajectory of his reflection on this matter, it becomes clear that he gradually switches to the opposite view. This is reflected by the following notes, which I reproduce in chronological order: Concepts arise as acoustic images (Hörbilder) integrating a multiplicity of symbolic visual images (Seh-Bildern). (N1884 (Spring) 25[185] KSA 11:64) concepts (i.e. memory signs for whole groups of images with the help of sounds) (N1884 (Spring) 25[327] KSA 11:96) Words are acoustic signs (Tonzeichen) for concepts: concepts, however, are more or less stable groups of sensations recurring together. (N1885 (April–June) 34[86] KSA 11:448)

Crucially, the view Nietzsche arrives at in the last of these notes is also the one he formulates in his published work, namely at the beginning of BGE 268:⁵

⁴ Regarding the Alignment Claim, Katsafanas recognizes that ‘aligning these distinctions is bound to seem a bit odd to us’, for ‘contemporary discussions of nonconceptual content typically present nonconceptual states as conscious states’ (Katsafanas 2016:44). Oddly, he also appeals to the major argument contemporary philosophers use to establish that conscious perceptions do have nonconceptual content, i.e. the argument from fineness of grain (see p. 49). If this argument is sound, though, the Alignment Claim is wrong. ⁵ In fact, note 34[86] is a first draft of BGE 268.

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Words are acoustic signs for concepts; concepts, though, are more or less determinate pictorial signs for sensations that occur together and recur frequently, for groups of sensations. (BGE 268)

Far from supporting Katsafanas’s reading, this passage from BGE suggests that Nietzsche did not end up endorsing the Language Constraint. Words, as ‘signs for concepts’, come into the picture only after concepts are already there. These, in turn, are described as language-independent pictorial representations the function of which consists in categorizing sensory inputs. Another point made by Katsafanas is the following one: concepts enter into systematic relations with one another, and Nietzsche thinks that possessing a concept is, in part, understanding the concept’s place in this system of relations. For example, possessing the concept is, in part, understanding the relations between the concepts and . Since grasping these systematic relations requires the ability to express or refer to the concepts, and since words are that which expresses concepts, a being can be credited with conceptual capacities only if the being can use words. (Katsafanas 2016:25; see also p. 35 and p. 72)

What Katsafanas describes here is the view—widespread among contemporary philosophers—that (i) concepts essentially bear inferential relations to one another and (ii) this essential feature is best explained by their linguistic nature. As a consequence of this view, (language-independent) pictorial representations cannot count as conceptual, for they lack the required logical interconnectedness. Given that this theory of concepts is obviously not mandatory and that the aphorism from BGE quoted above seems to contradict it by identifying concepts with pictorial representations, Katsafanas would need some clear textual evidence to back up his ascription of that view to Nietzsche. The only published passage he refers to is BGE 20 (see Katsafanas 2016:35, fn. 30), where Nietzsche writes that ‘individual philosophical [my italics] concepts are not arbitrary and do not grow up on their own, but rather grow in reference and relation to each other’ (BGE 20). This is so, he continues, because these concepts derive directly from the very grammar of Indo-European languages: The strange family resemblance of all Indian, Greek, and German philosophizing speaks for itself clearly enough. Where there are linguistic affinities, then because of the common philosophy of grammar (I mean: due to the unconscious domination and direction through similar grammatical functions), it is obvious that everything lies ready from the very start for a similar development and sequence of philosophical systems . . . (BGE 20)


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There are no reasons to think this passage supports Katsafanas’s reading. For though he reads this aphorism as offering a general characterization of concepts, Nietzsche’s concern is exclusively with the extremely circumscribed and peculiar subset of philosophical concepts. This means that what he says in this aphorism allows no conclusion about his views on concepts tout court. Finally, note that holding concepts to be language-independent pictorial representations in no way commits one to denying that there are systematic, even constitutive links between them. We can think of structural relations different from inferential ones. At the very least, we can think of associations.⁶ The textual evidence surveyed so far indicates that Nietzsche tends to accept the idea that—contrary to the Language Constraint—at least some concepts are language-independent pictorial representations. The next step in my argument consists in showing that, according to him, these are the kind of conceptual representations involved in perceptual experience. To put it differently, my claim is that for Nietzsche the content of conscious perception is pictorial, and not of the propositional sort envisaged by contemporary conceptualists. As Katsafanas (2016) nicely puts it: ‘Perceptual content would be conceptual if the perceived object were represented as an instance of some concept, that is, as a token of some kind’ (32). Would then concepts construed as pictorial representations suffice to yield a content of this sort? The answer, it seems to me, is Yes. We can, for instance, conceive of perceptual concepts as ‘sensory templates’ along the lines suggested by David Papineau: These templates will be set up on initial encounters with the relevant referents. They will then be reactivated on later perceptual encounters, via matches between incoming stimuli and stored template—perhaps the incoming stimuli can be thought of as ‘resonating’ with the stored pattern and thereby being amplified. (Papineau 2007:114–115)

Accordingly, the perceptual concept would be a sensory—i.e. pictorial or imagistic—template that gets activated every time we receive an apple-ish stimulus and that allows us to visually recognize the perceived object as an instance of the concept . Moreover, as Papineau observes, when a certain sensory template is activated by an incoming stimulus, the sensory system may ascribe to the perceived object ‘features that were manifested in previous encounters, but may not be manifest in the re-encounter’ (Papineau 2007:115). As we shall see in a minute, Nietzsche is keen to stress precisely this aspect of how perception works.

⁶ For further discussion of the Language Constraint, see again Fowles’s (2019) fine paper, which comes to conclusions similar to those defended here.

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Papineau’s sensory template model of perceptual concepts nicely resonates with the characterization of perceptual experience Nietzsche offers in BGE 192— arguably the most detailed one to be found in his published corpus. Just as little as today’s reader takes in all the individual words (or especially syllables) on a page (he catches maybe five out of twenty words and ‘guesses’ what these five arbitrary words might possibly mean)—just as little do we see a tree precisely and completely, with respect to leaves, branches, colors and shape. We find it so much easier to imagine (phantasieren) an approximate tree instead. (BGE 192)

Let us focus on the tree perception example. Note, first, that Nietzsche’s description of this example does not make any explicit reference to language-dependent conceptual capacities. The only mental capacity Nietzsche refers to is visual imagery: instead of seeing ‘precisely and completely’ the particular tree before our eyes, he writes, we usually ‘imagine (phantasieren) an approximate tree’. The same idea recurs later in the aphorism: our senses learn late and never fully learn to be refined, trusty, careful organs of knowledge. Given some stimulus, our eyes find it more convenient to reproduce an image (Bild) that they have often produced before than to register what is different and new about an impression: the latter requires more strength, more ‘morality’. (BGE 192)

Again, Nietzsche claims that the sort of representations involved in perceiving are pictorial: mental images clearly resembling Papineau’s sensory templates. Seeing a tree, Nietzsche says, is not a matter of precisely attending to all of its visual properties. Rather, we tend to superimpose, as it were, an image based on the memory traces of trees we have encountered in the past. Again, this is exactly how Papineau describes things: we often ascribe to the object we now perceive features it doesn’t possess, but that were displayed by similar objects we encountered before and stored as parts of the relevant sensory template. Thus, what BGE 192 suggests is that the pictorial concept is a stored sensory template activated every time we receive a tree-ish stimulus. One may object that this reading projects too much contemporary philosophy of mind into Nietzsche’s text. This kind of anachronistic worry, however, is not warranted. Consider, for instance, how Otto Liebmann put things in a passage carefully read by Nietzsche:⁷ ⁷ As you might recall, Liebmann’s book is Nietzsche’s major source with regard to Leibniz’s ‘insight’. So it would not be surprising if he also drew directly on that book on different issues, such as the content of perceptual experience.


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the non-linguistic animal as well as the cognitively still incapable child, too, judge in concreto and draw wordless inferences. As many researchers (Schopenhauer, Helmholtz, Wundt, Sigwart) affirm or recognize, the activity of sensory intuition already involves a hidden logical activity of the intellect, a tacit but very fast occurring judgment and inference. (Liebmann 1880:498)

What Liebmann calls here the capacity to ‘judge in concreto’ is that of making singular judgments, i.e. to recognize a certain object O as being an instance of the type F. Not only does Liebmann agree with Nietzsche that this capacity is already in place at the level of perceptual experience and that, being independent from language, it is also displayed by animals;⁸ his position also seems to imply something like the sensory template model of perceptual concepts, for it presupposes that the singular judgments embedded in perceptual experience involve language-independent concepts. Sensory templates are just a suitable candidate for that role. The ground we have covered so far suffices, I think, to conclude that Nietzsche distinguishes at least two different kinds of consciousness, namely Rconsciousness and Pconsciousness. Whereas the content of the former depends on linguistic capacities, that of the latter is a kind of pictorial content we can ascribe to the perceptual experience of non-linguistic animal. Therefore, there is no reason to suppose that Nietzsche endorses a view akin to McDowell’s conceptualist position to the effect that the content of human perception is shaped by the linguistic capacities required for Rconsciousness. PConsciousness is a kind of consciousness in its own right. Though Pconsciousness doesn’t share many of the essential features of R consciousness, there is one they arguably share: falsification. For that perceptual experience falsifies seems implicit in how Nietzsche describes it in BGE 192. Again, Katsafanas aptly sums up things: Nietzsche’s idea is that our perceptions sometimes represent objects in a way that is not sensitive to all of the detail of the object, but is instead sensitive only to the general type to which the object belongs. That type of perception represents the tree as an instance of the concept , rather than representing it in its full detail; it does so by emphasizing certain general features of trees at the expense of the individual details of this particular tree. (Katsafanas 2016:32)

Hence, perceptual experience can be said to falsify because it represents things inaccurately. This is due to the virtually ubiquitous mismatch between the ⁸ For what is worth, Darwin concurred with Liebmann on this point: ‘when a dog sees another dog in the distance, it is often clear that he perceives that it is a dog in the abstract’ (Darwin 1871:105, quoted in Joyce 2006:81).

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particular object we encounter in experience and the stored sensory template it automatically activates. The pictorial concept is embedded in the perceptual content of any experience we have of tree-ish objects, but does not accurately represent any of them. There will always be some non-veridical add-on. The fact that falsification is a feature common to both Rconsciousness and Pconsciousness may motivate one to rescue the Alignment Claim in the following way: Revised Alignment Claim: a mental state is conscious iff it has conceptual content, i.e. either pictorial content—in which case it is Pconscious—or verbally articulated content—in which case it is Rconscious. The appeal of this reformulation is that it maintains the constitutive link between consciousness and conceptual content, at the same time avoiding the worries raised by the original version of the Alignment Claim by allowing conceptual content to come in two distinct forms. Unfortunately, there are problems with the revised version also. First, as far as I can see there is no clear evidence that Nietzsche rejects the notion of strictly unconscious states with conceptual content—where ‘strictly unconscious’ means unconscious with respect to any notion of consciousness whatsoever. There is, in fact, some—albeit indirect—evidence that he probably accepted that idea. Consider, for instance, the Interpretive Account of affective states discussed in Section 3.3. The basic idea of that account is that affective states representing a certain object as having a certain evaluative property are produced through the activation of some sort of causal reasoning. This cognitive process is strictly unconscious, for we lack any awareness whatsoever of its going on. What we experience in a conscious way is only the resulting affective state. Assuming that the unconscious causal reasoning in question involves concepts—arguably, language-independent and pictorial ones—we would have an instance of conceptual and (strictly) unconscious states. Again, this is the same picture Liebmann summarizes in the aforementioned passage: states like conscious perceptions already involve ‘a hidden logical activity of the intellect, a tacit but very fast occurring judgment and inference’ (Liebmann 1880:498). In putting forward this claim, Liebmann has in mind the theory—perfected by Helmholtz and standard among late 19th-century theorists—that the production of conscious perceptions presupposes ‘unconscious inferences’—a theory the very early Nietzsche was already familiar with.⁹ It is thus natural to think that the causal

⁹ See, for instance, Friedrich Albert Lange’s History of Materialism, the relevance of which for Nietzsche’s intellectual development is now accepted beyond dispute. Lange writes: ‘seeing is itself an inferring, and the inference perfects itself in the form of a visual idea’ (Lange 1881 v.3:221). On Nietzsche and Helmholtz, see Reuter (2008).


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reasoning he takes to be at work in the production of (some) affective states is akin to Helmholtzian ‘unconscious inferences’ and that such inferences involve conceptual representations of some sort. One may also think that there are non-conceptual states that are conscious. As we have seen, that was just Schopenhauer’s view, for he took sensations and feelings to be states of precisely that kind. In fact, in the following section I shall try to show that the late Nietzsche also seems to accept the idea that sensations qua immediate deliverances of the senses are non-conceptual. For that same reason, he also seems to think, those are the only conscious states still untouched by falsification. I want to conclude this section by addressing the worry that the main disagreement between the reading on offer here and that proposed by Katsafanas is merely terminological.¹⁰ I start with the conscious/unconscious distinction. As we have seen, a counterintuitive consequence of the position Katsafanas ascribes to Nietzsche is that animals and infants lack consciousness. In his most recent book, he tries to avoid this conclusion by appealing to the distinction between pre-reflective and reflective awareness, which he glosses as that between ‘having experiences of the world and reflecting on those experiences’ (Katsafanas 2016:45). Katsafanas argues that whereas Nietzsche takes reflective awareness to be conscious—that would be what I have called reflective consciousness—he takes pre-reflective awareness to be unconscious. He then argues that whereas animals and infants lack conscious (conceptual) reflective awareness, they do enjoy unconscious (non-conceptual) awareness. In this way, the view he ascribes to Nietzsche allows for animals and infants to have a rich mental life. Accordingly, one could conclude, the only difference with the reading I defend would be about the extension of the term ‘consciousness’. Contrary to this, I want to argue that Katsafanas’s way of putting things raises difficulties that show that the issue is not just a matter of terminology. Let’s start by considering Katsafanas’s notion of unconscious pre-reflective awareness. According to his own characterization of it, that a mental state is unconscious in the sense relevant here means that it is ‘inaccessible to introspective awareness’ (Katsafanas 2016:45). Accordingly, pre-reflective awareness is supposed to be a sort of awareness that is distinct from (and does not involve) introspective awareness. Given how Katsafanas characterizes pre-reflective and reflective awareness, this may work in cases such as perceptions. Suppose I just look at the tree in the garden. In that case, I am pre-reflectively aware of the tree, without reflecting on—i.e., without becoming introspectively aware of—my visual experience. In other words: in this case, I have first-order awareness of the tree without having second-order awareness of my being aware of the tree. So far so good. Consider

¹⁰ Thanks to an anonymous reviewer for urging me to clarify this point.

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now a different example: pain. How is unconscious pre-reflective awareness supposed to work here? Suppose I am pre-reflectively aware of a pain in my knee: I just feel the pain without reflecting on it. It seems obvious that feeling a pain in that way qualifies as a form of introspective access to it. Thus, pre-reflective awareness of pain cannot be unconscious by Katsafanas’s own lights. To better appreciate this point, consider an example that plays a crucial role in Katsafanas’s overall reading: the story Nietzsche provides in the Geneaology about how bad conscience becomes guilt.¹¹ According to Katsafanas’s interpretation of that passage, Nietzsche takes bad conscience to be an unconscious state that becomes conscious only when conceptualized as guilt. As he writes, this ‘happens when religions teach us that the bad conscience, the profoundly painful affect [my emphasis] resulting from the internalization of the aggressive drives, is actually the feeling of guilt’ (Katsafanas 2016:59). It is not clear how we are to make sense of the idea of an unconscious affect’s being ‘profoundly painful’. Nor does the notion of unconscious pre-reflective awareness prove helpful here. For having that kind of awareness would still mean lacking introspective access to the relevant affect. And lacking introspective access to it, how were the ancient addressees of the religious teaching supposed even to identify the inner state to be conceptualized as guilt? Rather, Nietzsche’s story seems to presuppose that they were in some way already conscious of and, therefore, had introspective access to the affect constituting bad conscience. This result should not be surprising. As Katsafanas himself notes, the notion of pre-reflective awareness he appeals to is standardly taken to be a form of consciousness (indeed, of self-consciousness) (see Katsafanas 2016:45).¹² If we consider the case of mental states, it amounts to the following: being pre-reflectively aware of a mental state M just means being pre-reflectively conscious of M. In turn, this means that we do have introspective access to M. Severing these conceptual connections, as Katsafanas does in order to rescue his own account from its unpalatable consequences, makes the very notion of pre-reflective awareness incoherent.¹³ The worry that my disagreement with Katsafanas is merely terminological can also be raised about whether Nietzsche allows, or not, for unconscious conceptual content. Katsafanas and I agree that he maintains that only (reflectively) conscious states have language-dependent content. Our main disagreement concerns whether Nietzsche allows for unconscious conceptual content. Here, I do think

¹¹ I shall come back again to Katsafanas’s reading in Chapter 7. ¹² This is the way in which I also introduced the notion in the previous chapter. ¹³ Note that whereas the distinction between pre-reflective and reflective consciousness is commonly associated with the phenomenological tradition (Katsafanas quotes an earlier version of Gallagher and Zahavi 2019), its origin lies in classic German philosophy (see Frank 1985 on this, Ch. 3). Arguably, it is also what underlies Schopenhauer’s (and, as I argue, Nietzsche’s) pluralism about consciousness.


 ( ) 

that part of the issue is terminological, for it concerns the way in which Nietzsche uses the term ‘concept’. Katsafanas argues that he identifies conceptual content with language-dependent content. I argue that he also considers pictorial content to be conceptual. Thus, to clarify were the philosophical issue lies, I shall rephrase and address the question to which Katsafanas and I provide diverging answers without using the conceptual/non-conceptual distinction. The question is the following one: what is the nature of (reflectively) unconscious cognition? Katsafanas claims it involves discriminatory capacities, i.e. capacities merely to distinguish things along a certain dimension—for instance, red things from yellow ones—but not classificatory capacities, i.e. capacities to recognize things as token of a certain kind.¹⁴ Capacities of the latter sort are only involved in (reflectively) conscious perceptions. Now, this is the picture I deny. As I argued before, Nietzsche takes (some) (reflectively) unconscious mental states to have the kind of general content that is only possible given classificatory capacities. Relatedly, whereas I allow for language-independent classificatory capacities, Katsafanas denies them: absent language, he claims we can only assume the existence of merely discriminatory capacities. There are two kinds of problem for Katsafanas’s view. First, it seems wrong that non-linguistic animals lack classificatory capacities. The literature on ‘perceptual categorization’ he mentions in his discussion proves that. According to a recent review study, ‘categorical perception is now understood to play a role in the processing of sensory input across a variety of animals and behavioral contexts’ (Green et al. 2020:3, Early View pagination). More specifically, the authors argue that since the ‘information animals need to act on . . . varies in a continuous fashion’, ‘categorical perception may provide an efficient way to recode that information into a set of functionally more useful categories’. Of course, this is basically the same picture of perception I sketched before by appealing to Papineau’s notion of a ‘sensory template’. Second, it seems wrong that Nietzsche believed that no robust categorization goes on at the (reflectively) unconscious level. Thus, the view articulated by Katsafanas cannot be Nietzsche’s one. In fact, Katsafanas himself recognizes that ‘insofar as we can unconsciously engage in certain forms of inference, reasoning, perception of threats, and so on’, we have to postulate ‘unconscious processes’ that ‘represent causal relations’ (Katsafanas 2016:67). As we saw in our discussion of affective states, Nietzsche does indeed postulate unconscious processes of this sort. Other passages also suggest that he ascribes robust representational capacities to unconscious cognition. As we have seen, in GS 354 he writes that ‘we could think, feel, will, remember, and also “act” in every sense of the term, and yet none of all this would have to “enter our ¹⁴ See Katsafanas (2016:34): ‘So for Nietzsche, there are two kinds of perceptions. Some perceptions— the unconscious ones—involve a mere discriminatory ability. Others—the conscious ones—involve a classifying awareness that presents the perceived object as a token of some type’ (34).

   ? 115 consciousness” ’. But how could that be at all possible, if unconscious cognition were to consist of merely discriminatory capacities? In the same aphorism, Nietzsche also distinguishes between ‘reason’ and ‘the way in which we become conscious of reason’. Again, this indicates that unconscious cognition is substantial enough to deserve to be treated as some sort of reason, even if only figuratively.¹⁵ Though one may insist that the cognitive representations involved in such processes do not deserve to be called conceptual—this is the terminological side of the issue—it is wrong to maintain that they can go on without any kind of categorization whatsoever. Thus, Nietzsche’s characterization of unconscious cognition presupposes some of the capacities that Katsafanas wants to reserve only for (reflectively) conscious thought. You should now be convinced that there is a philosophical disagreement between Katsafanas’s reading and mine. Still you may doubt it has any relevance when it comes to Nietzsche’s overall picture of human psychology. Again, I do not think that is true. To appreciate why, consider that Nietzsche takes (reflectively) unconscious factors to play a fundamental role in our mental life and agency. As Leiter (2019:136) points out, this view requires that the (reflectively) unconscious states that are supposed to figure prominently in psychological explanations possess robust representational content. Conversely, we could only make sense of an extremely reduced range of behaviours if all we could appeal to were mental states requiring merely discriminatory capacities. Therefore, the issue at stake turns out to be crucial to Nietzsche’s project of a philosophical psychology whose primary explanatory items are (reflectively) unconscious.

6.3 Consciousness without Falsification? In the preceding sections, I have argued that Nietzsche is best read as admitting two different kinds of consciousness: Rconsciousness and Pconsciousness. In this section I want to argue that he seems to assume that there is still a third kind of consciousness distinct from those. The starting point for my argument to that effect is a claim Nietzsche puts forward in the following passage from TI: With the greatest respect, I will make an exception for the name of Heraclitus. When all the other philosophical folk threw out the testimony of the senses because it showed multiplicity and change, Heraclitus threw it out because it made things look permanent and unified. Heraclitus did not do justice to the senses either. The senses do not lie the way the Eleatics thought they did, or the

¹⁵ See also the contrast between the ‘small reason’ of the conscious self and the ‘great reason’ of the bodily self in Zarathustra’s speech ‘On the Despisers of the Body’. I comment extensively on this passage in Chapter 8.


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way Heraclitus thought they did,—they do not lie at all. What we do with the testimony of the senses, that is where the lies begin, like the lie of unity, the lie of objectification, of substance, of permanence . . . ‘Reason’ makes us falsify the testimony of the senses. (TI ‘Reason in Philosophy’ 2)

In her seminal (1990) book, Maudemarie Clark drew the attention of Nietzsche’s scholars to this passage, the relevance of which consists in the fact that it brings some new elements to his epistemology. In particular, Clark convincingly shows that, whereas the earlier Nietzsche holds the senses to—in some sense—falsify reality, he now affirms that ‘they do not lie at all’. The conclusion she recommends is that we should read the very late Nietzsche as rejecting the core epistemological view he defended in his previous works and, at the same time, as embracing a version of empirical realism. On this occasion, I shall not attempt to discuss the epistemological consequences carried by the characterization of the senses he provided in TI—to have a handy label, I shall call this view Sensualism.¹⁶ Rather, I shall try to work out a point implicit in Nietzsche’s late Sensualism that is also germane to our present concern. Clark’s observation about the novelty brought in by Sensualism offers us an important lead. As we have seen, in BGE 192 Nietzsche says that ‘our senses learn late and never fully learn to be refined, trusty, careful organs of knowledge’. Prima facie, this description seems to be in tension with the later claim to the effect that the senses ‘do not lie at all’. One way of resolving the tension would be to hold that Nietzsche simply changed his mind. However, I do not think that such a move is needed. Rather, Sensualism’s crucial thesis can be read as expressing the Kantian view that ‘it is correctly said that the senses do not err; yet not because they always judge correctly, but because they do not judge at all’ (Kant 1781/1787:384, A293/B350). Here, what is meant is that the deliverances of the senses—impressions, sensations—cannot falsely represent because they do not represent at all: they do not bear any semantically loaded content. Alone full-fledged perceptual experience (pictorially) represents objects as instances of general kinds and, consequently, raises the question about its way of representing being true or false—or, at least, accurate or inaccurate. It seems therefore coherent to state (i) that the primitive deliverances of the senses—impressions, sensations—involve no kind of falsification and, at the same time, (ii) that some kind of falsification is involved in fullfledged perceptions. This reading is supported by Nietzsche’s claim that the ‘lies begin’ with what ‘we do with the testimony of the senses’, i.e. with ‘reason’. The idea here seems to be that falsification is due to whatever cognitive operations are brought to bear on

¹⁶ For a detailed discussion of Nietzsche’s Sensualism, see Riccardi (2013).

   ? 117 the primitive deliverances of the senses. Unpublished notes from the period in which Nietzsche was working on TI suggest that he conceived of such primitive deliverances as forming a ‘chaos’ of sensations or impressions.¹⁷ As he writes, such a ‘chaos’ is promptly ‘logified (logisirt)’ (N1887 9[106] KSA 12:395), by which Nietzsche means—I submit—the kind of processing issuing in perceptual states having pictorial content. Hence, the idea is that raw sensations or impressions are falsification-free for lacking conceptual content. The section of TI which immediately follows the one quoted at the beginning of the present section goes on as follows: —And what excellent tools for observation we have in our senses! Take the nose, for instance—no philosopher has ever mentioned the nose with admiration and gratitude, even though it is the most delicate instrument we have at our disposal: noses can detect tiny differences in motion that even spectroscopes do not notice. (TI ‘Reason in Philosophy’ 3)

This passage should be read as an illustration of the level at which the senses operate in a falsification-free way. As the analogy with the working of instruments of measurement indicates, they do so in virtue of their capacity to finely and reliably detect changes in the environment.¹⁸ Therefore, the object of praise seems to be their most basic discriminatory function, the products of which are raw sensations. However, as soon as such sensations are bound together into a representation of persisting objects, sensory innocence is gone: here the ‘lies’ of ‘unity’, ‘objectification’, ‘substance’, and ‘permanence’ are already at work. It is thus not fortuitous that Nietzsche chooses the nose as a notably laudable organ of sense. For olfactory experience is arguably much less penetrated by the concepts listed above than the visual one. As the nose’s primitive deliverances are only subject to a minor cognitive distortion, they offer a more vivid illustration of the way in which the senses ‘do not lie’. What does all this bear on the question about the different notions of consciousness one can track in Nietzsche’s writing? Recall that, though the content of P conscious states differs from that of Rconscious states—the content is pictorial in the former case and verbally articulated in the latter one—they both falsify. In TI,

¹⁷ See Nietzsche’s Nachlass from Fall 1887, where he talks of ‘Vielerlei der Sensationen’ (9[89] KSA 12:382), ‘Sensationen-Wirrwarr’ (9[91] KSA 12:383), ‘Chaos des Sinneneindrucks’ and ‘SensationenChaos’ (both 9[106] KSA 12:397 and 398). ¹⁸ This is a point Nietzsche might have taken up from the empiricist epistemology defended by the physicist Otto Schmitz-Dumont, for which Nietzsche once uses the label ‘sensualism’. SchmitzDumont argues that every sensation’s core is a ‘sensory sign (Sinneszeichen)’ that ‘registers an external process, like the photographic plate does with the optical component and scale, and like the thermometer and electrometer or so do with the other components of a thing or process’ (Schmitz-Dumont 1878:41). Schmitz-Dumont also argues that a sensation is not exhausted by this discriminatory core, as ‘sensory signs are accompanied by what we call feeling’. For more on this, see again Riccardi (2013).


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however, Nietzsche claims that certain deliverances of the senses ‘do not lie at all’, i.e. involve no falsification whatsoever. As we have seen, the kind of deliverances he seems to have in mind is the primitive ‘chaos’ of raw sensations or impressions. Therefore, if we were to think that such sensations or impressions are in some sense conscious, we should conclude that the relevant kind of consciousness, as it does not involve any falsification whatsoever, differs from Pconsciousness and R consciousness. Of course, this conditional holds only if its premise is granted. Typically, sensations and impressions are construed as conscious—indeed, they constitute the class of paradigmatic cases philosophers usually appeal to in order to illustrate what their idiom of phenomenal, or qualitative, consciousness is supposed to mean. According to a widespread view, it is entailed by the very notion of a sensation of colour that it be felt or sensed. That is, it is taken that sensations are necessarily conscious, i.e. phenomenally or qualitatively conscious. Thus, if we accept the conditional, we should conclude that qualitative consciousness—Qconsciousness, for short—is a third, distinct kind of consciousness. Several worries might be voiced against this reading. First, one might object that the premise of the conditional I endorse should be rejected as it anachronistically foists on Nietzsche a notion—that of phenomenal consciousness—which was unavailable to him.¹⁹ I am willing to recognize that the contemporary notion of phenomenal consciousness owes some of its traits to the debates on the nature of consciousness we have been witnessing over the past few decades. Nonetheless, I would like to argue that the idea of consciousness as fundamentally qualitative which constitutes the very core of that notion was already familiar to philosophers in the second half of the 19th century. Moreover, the same kinds of states we nowadays classify under the rubric ‘phenomenal’, i.e. sensations and raw feelings, were taken to constitute the most paradigmatic illustration of this specifically qualitative kind of consciousness. To substantiate this claim, I shall briefly comment on Schopenhauer’s position and then consider two particularly representative historical examples from Nietzsche’s own time. As we have already seen, Schopenhauer considers feelings and sensations to constitute a class of strikingly heterogeneous conscious states marked by their lack of conceptual content. This picture seems to indicate that feelings and sensations can be typed only by appeal to their sensuous, essentially qualitative character. This suggests that Nietzsche should have been familiar with the idea that such states are conscious in a fundamentally qualitative way.

¹⁹ The anachronism problem does not arise with regard to the notions of Pconsciousness and consciousness considered in the previous sections. In general, they are hardly in vogue in contemporary philosophy of mind. More importantly, Rconsciousness corresponds to a notion traditionally associated with classical German (Kantian and post-Kantian) philosophy, whereas Pconsciousness is tailored to Nietzsche’s sui generis treatment of perception. R

   ? 119 A brief look at two illustrative cases from the second half of the 19th century will lend further support to this picture. The first one is Emile du Bois-Reymond’s characterization of consciousness in his famous and, at the time, widely discussed essay entitled ‘On the Limits of our Knowledge of Nature (Über die Grenzen des Naturerkennens)’. One of the epistemic limits the essay aims to vividly expose concerns our knowledge of the nature of consciousness. To this aim, du BoisReymond puts forward an a priori argument designed to establish that consciousness cannot be reduced to physical events and properties and which anticipates Frank Jackson’s more recent ‘knowledge argument’ (see Jackson 1982). As in the case of contemporary anti-reductionist arguments, du Bois-Reymond assumes that the relevant ‘explanatory gap’ is opened up by the ‘sensation of the senses (Sinnesempfindung)’, which he characterizes as ‘consciousness at its first level’ (1882:27). As he argues: ‘With the first impulse to contentment and pain the simplest being felt at the beginning of animal life on earth, or with the first perception of a quality, that unsurmountable gap is set up’ (27–28). The second example is provided by Hermann von Helmholtz’s theory of perception. This case is especially pertinent, not only because Helmholtz’s view was extremely influential at the time, but also because of the structural similarity between it and Nietzsche’s Interpretive Account of affective states.²⁰ As we have seen in the previous section, according to Helmholtz perceptions result from inferential processes. Such processes, in turn, operate on ‘phenomenally characterized sensations’, as Gary Hatfield puts it (2002:132). Therefore, the basic posita of his theory are conceived of as essentially qualitative. A second source of worry for the interpretation defended here stems from passages where Nietzsche seems to treat phenomenal states as involving cognitive capacities that go quite beyond mere sentience. Such passages not only threaten my characterization of such states as, in some sense, primitive deliverances, but also seems to undermine the need for a specific notion of Qconsciousness. So let us take a look at those passages. The first one is particularly pressing, as it is part of the same aphorism 354 from GS where, I argued, Nietzsche puts forward his notion of Rconsciousness. There we read that ‘our becoming conscious of our sense impressions (Sinneseindrücke), our power to fix them and as it were to place them outside of ourselves, has increased in proportion to the need to convey them to others by means of signs’ (GS 354). The difficulty raised by this passage consists in that Nietzsche is talking of ‘sense impressions’ as Rconscious. Why should we then appeal to a further notion of consciousness in order to make sense of states of that kind? Nietzsche claims that ‘sense impressions’ turn conscious under the pressure of communication. There should be therefore no doubt that the notion of

²⁰ See again Reuter (2008) on Nietzsche and Helmholtz.


 ( ) 

consciousness he is referring to is that of Rconsciousness. What does it mean, however, that the becoming Rconscious of sense impressions enables one to ‘fix them and as it were to place them outside of oneself ’? Arguably, the ability Nietzsche has in mind depends on the essentially linguistic and communicative nature of Rconsciousness. More precisely, the perceptual vocabulary one acquires through social intercourse allows one, first, to ‘fix’ one’s fleeting sense impressions and, second, to report and hence communicate the content of such states. These capacities, however, are not incompatible with those states being Qconscious. Quite to the contrary, one’s capacity to refer to and report one’s sensations seems to require that they are already conscious in the phenomenal sense. A different kind of challenge is raised by a claim made at the end of GS 127, according to which ‘that a violent stimulus is felt (empfunden) as pleasure or pain is a matter of the interpreting intellect, which, to be sure, generally works without our being conscious of it; and one and the same stimulus can be interpreted as pleasure or pain’ (GS 127, translation changed). Here, Nietzsche affirms that feeling pain presupposes the interpretive work of the intellect and, consequently, is not a matter of immediate deliverance. Since pain counts as a paradigmatic example of Qconscious states, it seems plausible to extend the claim to all states of that kind. We therefore end up with a view that clearly contradicts the thesis I have previously associated with Nietzsche’s late Sensualism to the effect that Q conscious states like sensations and impressions are such primitive deliverances of the senses. Maybe one could resist this conclusion by reading GS 127 in analogy with the Interpretive Account Nietzsche puts forward with regard to affects: the immediate deliverance of the senses is a pure sensation the proper function of which is merely discriminatory, as suggested by the analogy between sense organs and instruments of measurement we find in TI. As such, it would still be untouched by the interpreting intellect. What this adds, the reading would go, is just the affective dimension—pain or pleasure being attached to the sensation provoked by the violent stimulus.²¹ However, that this move ultimately does not work is clearly shown by GS 110. There, Nietzsche writes that through ‘immense periods of time, the intellect produced nothing but errors’ (GS 110), notable exemplars of which are beliefs such ‘that there are enduring things; that there are identical things; that there are things, kinds of material, bodies; that a thing is what it appears to be; that our will is free’ (GS 110). Importantly, Nietzsche argues that many of those ‘erroneous articles of faith’ turned out to enhance our ancestors’ fitness and, consequently, became integrated into the most basic workings of our organism: ‘all its higher ²¹ This would also be in tune with Schmitz-Dumont’s account of immediate sensations, according to which—see fn. 18 above—they encompass two elements: a purely discriminatory core—the ‘sensory sign’—and a feeling.

   ? 121 functions, the perceptions of sense and generally every kind of sensation (jede Art von Empfindung überhaupt), worked with those basic errors that had been incorporated since time immemorial’ (GS 110, my emphasis). The relevant point for our discussion is that not only perceptions, but also sensations of any kind are considered to depend on the intellect’s errors. This means, to put it in different terms, that no possible deliverance of the senses can be said to be free from falsification. This view, however, is precisely the one Nietzsche denies in TI, where he argues (i) that, at least at some basic level, the senses ‘do not lie at all’ and (ii) that falsification starts where reason’s false assumptions—like those of ‘unity’, ‘objectification’, ‘substance’, or ‘permanence’—intervene on ‘the testimony of the senses’. Remarkably, reason’s sins quite accurately mirror those attributed to the intellect in GS 110. What Nietzsche changed his mind about is, rather, the reach of such cognitive operations. Whereas he previously held that they also penetrate the most basic sensory states, in TI he comes to endorse the view that such states—sensations and impressions—are immune to reason’s ‘lies’. One last concern may be raised against the conjunction of claims I am here ascribing to Nietzsche: on the one hand, that the immediate deliverances of the senses are conscious states and, on the other hand, that such states do not involve any falsification whatsoever. Taken together, these two claims imply that we are conscious of immediate, unfalsified sensory states. But this last claim, one may argue, is just wrong, for Nietzsche seems to think that what we are consciously aware of are already conceptualized—and thus falsified—states. Take the case of visual perception: we aren’t usually aware of a mosaic of pure colour sensations, but rather of discrete objects. But if we always enjoy sensory qualities only as part of the pictorial content of full-fledged perceptual experience, it seems that purely qualitative conscious states do not exist after all. This tension is vividly captured by Nadeem Hussain. As he writes: we do have, in one sense, an unmediated awareness of sensory qualities—the qualia do directly arrive in consciousness without being changed first into some other form. I say ‘in one sense’ because the minute I use my representational capacities to state something about the world of sensory elements, falsification enters the picture. Given this falsification, there is thus another sense in which there is no unmediated access. Any attempt to have a thought [or a mental image with pictorial content: MR] that represents something about the world of sensory elements uses concepts that falsify—they are the falsifying medium, so to speak, that shape all attempts to represent something about the sensory elements. (Hussain 2004:351)

Though Hussain is right that—to Nietzsche’s eyes—conceptualization of sensory qualities brings in falsification and that perceptual experience typically involves conceptualization, we can still make sense of the idea that we can—at least


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sometimes—attend to sensory qualities as such. For instance, in the visual case this happens when we see some abstract painting that fails to activate any recognitional sensory template. And though it is usually effortful and unnatural, even in other cases we can surely direct our attention to the purely qualitative aspects of sensory experience—we can visually focus, for instance, on the redness of the apple or the blueness of the sky. Finally, recall Nietzsche’s eulogy to the nose. An arguable rationale for it is, as we have seen, to point out that experiences in modalities other than vision are likely to involve far less conceptual paraphernalia. This means that in undergoing such experiences we are more likely to enjoy sensory qualities in a conceptually unmediated way. To conclude, I think there is no reason to believe that Nietzsche departs from tradition in conceiving of sensations and impressions as conscious states. If this is true, it follows that he takes such states to be conscious in a way which differs from that in which perceptions and episodes of verbal thought are conscious, as it does not involve any falsification whatsoever. This third kind of consciousness which is proprietary of sensations and impressions is qualitative consciousness—Qconsciousness.

6.4 Putting Things Together One might ask whether the fact that we can track different notions of consciousness in Nietzsche’s work suffices to substantiate attribution of pluralism. Perhaps, there are reasons to think that Nietzsche held that some notion is more fundamental than the others and, consequently, that some reductive strategy might be possible. For a range of reasons, this point is very hard to address. First, and though commitment to the notions of Pconsciousness and Qconsciousness seems entailed by his treatment of perceptions and sensations, he does not explicitly theorize about such notions. It is therefore very difficult to find substantive clues on this specific issue. Second, it seems fair to say that, in general, Nietzsche was not at all interested in the metaphysical and epistemological questions usually associated with the problem of consciousness. Nonetheless, it is surely interesting, given the characterizations he offers of Qconscious, Pconscious, and Rconscious states, to speculate about the relation between these three distinct notions. Given the picture emerging from Nietzsche’s writings, it seems to me that Q consciousness and Rconsciousness should be taken to be essentially different phenomena. On the one hand, Rconsciousness amounts to a cluster of merely cognitive capacities that are intimately related to communicative, linguistic, and social practices. Thus, it seems plausible to think that a Chalmersian zombie—a physical and functional duplicate of yourself, but lacking Qconsciousness altogether—might nonetheless be Rconscious in Nietzsche’s sense. On the other hand, Qconsciousness is a basic phenomenon appearing together with sentience. As Nietzsche writes in an unpublished note:

  


Qualities are our unclimbable barriers; we cannot help sense mere quantitative differences as something fundamentally different from quantity, namely as qualities that cannot be further reduced one to another. . . . It is evident that every being different from us senses other qualities and, consequently, lives in another world than the one in which we live. (N1886 6[14] KSA 12:238)

This suggests that Qconsciousness constitutes the most fundamental way in which living beings react to the world external to them. The status of Pconsciousness is more controversial. Perceptual states are in some sense hybrid: in virtue of their involving sensory qualities as well as pictorial content, they are both phenomenal and representational. Accordingly, one could argue that perceptual states can be explained as a mixture of: (phenomenal) Q consciousness and (representational) Rconsciousness. Were we to ascribe this view to Nietzsche, he would then count as a consciousness dualist.²² However, I am not sure about this solution, as he seems to see a clear difference between the kind of representational content of Pconscious states, which is pictorial, and that of Rconscious states, which is verbal. Thus, I think he holds Pconsciousness to be different in nature from Rconsciousness. More plausibly, one could vindicate dualism by arguing that a Pconscious state is just a Qconscious state that also happens to have a certain kind of (pictorial) representational content.²³ Again, I am not convinced by this proposal. Nietzsche’s holding that perceptual states are necessarily falsifying in virtue of their being in some sense representational seems to suggest that they differ in nature from the primitive, falsification-free ‘chaos’ of Qconscious sensations and impressions. Thus, pluralism is still the horse I would bet on. That said, for the purpose of making sense of Nietzsche’s general picture of how the mind works I do not think any substantial difference will arise from whether one reads him as a pluralist or as a dualist about consciousness. The reason is that even if I am right that he takes the immediate deliverances of the senses to be nonconceptualized Qconscious sensory states, it is still the case—as Hussain rightly noted—that typically such states are processed so as to yield conceptual representations of the world around us. This means that pure Qconscious sensory states are not likely to play any substantial role in the kind of psychological explanations Nietzsche is interested in. As we have seen, the main items figuring in such explanations are drives and affective states. What can we say about them in light of the different notions of consciousness we have worked out? Are drives and affective states strictly

²² A dualism of this sort seems to be the one suggested by Constâncio (2012a). ²³ This appears to be Welshon’s reading, according to which Nietzsche conceives of ‘basic’ conscious states as both qualitative and representational (see Welshon 2014:75; accessibility is a third feature Welshon attributes to states of this kind).


 ( ) 

unconscious—unconscious with regard to any kind of consciousness? Or are they conscious in one (or more) sense(s) and unconscious in another (or more) sense(s)? Let us consider affective states first. As we saw in Chapter 3, such states are characterized by a specific phenomenological character. This suffices to make them Qconscious. Though some affective states may be something like raw feelings possessing no conceptual content whatsoever—as Schopenhauer held—many affective states are clearly representational. Take a basic emotion such as fear. Experiencing fear for a particular object is not just a matter of raw bodily feelings. Rather, the relevant object is represented as having the evaluative property of being dangerous. What can we say about the kind of representational content embedded in emotional experience? My proposal is that Nietzsche takes it to be the same kind of content already displayed by perceptual experience. This claim is supported by several considerations. First, as Nietzsche obviously recognized, affective states are as much as perceptions independent from linguistic capacities and, relatedly, something we share with other animal species. Second, Nietzsche sees perceptual experience itself as constantly penetrated by affective appraisal. Thus, he does not see any clear divide between the two. Third, and independently from Nietzsche’s own views, many contemporary theorists agree that affective representational states such as emotions are perceptual or quasi-perceptual in nature. To conclude, Nietzsche sees affective states as being either Qconscious— the case of affective raw feelings—or Pconscious—the case of representational affective states. Thus, if affective states are unconscious, they are unconscious only in the reflective sense. At first sight, this may seem a surprising result. Note, however, that even Freud would agree with this way of seeing things. As he writes, ‘strictly speaking . . . there is no unconscious affect in the sense in which there are unconscious representations (Vorstellungen)’ (Freud 1915c:137). What Freud means here, I submit, is that whereas representations may be strictly unconscious, affects can’t, for they always feel some way or another. Thus, they are at least conscious in the qualitative sense.²⁴ Independently from Freud’s psychoanalytical theory, the same point has been recently made by Deonna and Teroni (2012). Usually,²⁵ what we mean when we say that a certain affective state is unconscious—they argue—is that ‘the subject has never viewed it as falling under a certain concept’ (17). In their example, when ‘we attribute to Charles an unconscious guilt, . . . we may mean that he has never conceived of some of the various feelings the death of his daughter arouses in him ²⁴ See Billon (2011)’s helpful discussion of the senses in which Freud takes affects to be conscious and unconscious. ²⁵ I say ‘usually’ because Deonna and Teroni distinguish a second sense in which one may say of an affective state such as an emotion that it is ‘unconscious’. In this case, however, what we are talking about is ‘not an emotion at all’ (Deonna and Teroni 2012:17), but rather an affective disposition—i.e. something very close to a Nietzschean drive. (See also the following footnote.)

  


as episodes of guilt’. As Deonna and Teroni stress, we can imagine different explanations of why Charles failed to conceptualize his feelings as guilt. However—and that’s the crucial point—‘none of these explanations presuppose or motivate the idea that he did not feel guilt’. What about drives? Again, I think that Nietzsche would have agreed with Freud’s basic insight. Freud argues that ‘the opposition of conscious and unconscious has no application to the drive’ (Freud 1915c:136). The reason, he argues, is that a drive can never become the ‘object of consciousness’. What he has in mind, I think, can be illustrated by an example. Take the hunger drive: becoming aware that I am hungry means becoming aware of certain bodily feelings—growling stomach—or of certain representations—the mental image of a hamburger. This seems to suggest that I can become aware of a drive only indirectly—i.e. in virtue of becoming directly aware either of a representation or of an affect it causes. In fact—and this is, I think, just another way of appreciating Freud’s point—saying of a drive that it is unconscious is a bit like committing a category mistake: strictly speaking, one could say, the conscious/unconscious distinction applies meaningfully only to mental states, and not to behavioural dispositions. Speaking more loosely, however, one can say that, typically, drives—contrary to their affective manifestation—are indeed strictly unconscious—unconscious with respect to any form of consciousness.²⁶ What is the relation between drives and affects, on the one hand, and R consciousness, on the other hand? In my view, when Nietzsche says that drives and affective states are unconscious, what he usually has in mind is that they are R unconscious: they do their working without one having any verbally articulated thought about them. Of course, we do sometimes think in an Rconscious way about our affective states and even about our drives. In those cases, we pick them out by using the mental vocabulary our language provides us with and interpret— or rather, misinterpret—them in light of whatever folk-psychological beliefs we possess. When our drives and affective states are targeted by a verbally articulated thought, they become Rconscious. Normally, however, this simply does not happen. Importantly, however, whereas the operations of drives remain absolutely silent, affective states are conscious all along in the Qconscious or Pconscious way.

²⁶ Again, this fits nicely with Deonna and Teroni’s conclusion to the effect that multi-track affective dispositions—which, as we have seen, come very close to Nietzschean drives—are strictly unconscious, i.e. lack any qualitative ‘what-it-is-likeness’. (Contrary, of course, to the token affective states produced by a multi-track affective disposition, for ‘there is always something it is like to undergo’ such states (Deonna and Teroni 2012:17). See also the previous footnote.)

7 Nietzsche’s Epiphenomenalism about R Consciousness One of the features Nietzsche ascribes to Rconsciousness in GS 354 is its ‘superfluousness’. This—together with things he says elsewhere—have led some scholars to argue that he defends (a version of) epiphenomenalism. As Brian Leiter puts it, according to Nietzsche ‘consciousness is not causally efficacious in its own right’ (Leiter 2019:73; see, similarly, his earlier 2002:92; see also Welshon 2014, ch. 5.3). That Nietzsche is best read as an epiphenomenalist about R consciousness is also what I shall argue in this chapter. As there are different ways of understanding what epiphenomenalism amounts to, I shall start by introducing some conceptual distinctions (Section 7.1). This will allow me to specify exactly which epiphenomenalist claim I take Nietzsche to be defending. More precisely, I shall argue that Nietzschean epiphenomenalism consists in the view that Rconscious states are not among the causally efficacious antecedents of token actions. Importantly, this view does not entail that such states do not play any causal role at all in our mental economy. It only denies that they play that specific causal role. In Section 7.2 I present what I take to be decisive textual evidence that the mature Nietzsche does in fact endorse the epiphenomenalist claim formulated above. Commenting on the relevant passages will also help to spell out some further aspects of his epiphenomenalist picture. I also consider how plausible that picture is in light of contemporary empirically informed debates concerning the role of conscious states in our mental life. In previous work (Riccardi 2018; see also Leiter 2015 and 2019), I argued that Nietzsche’s HOT view of Rconsciousness provides a straightforward model for the kind of epiphenomenalism I ascribe to him. In Section 7.3 I review and finally reject my previous claim, for it failed to consider an important difference between standard HOT theories and Nietzsche’s hybrid one. In Section 7.4 I illustrate how Nietzschean epiphenomenalism about Rconsciousness works given his hybrid version of the HOT approach. As pointed out above, the epiphenomenalist claim I want to ascribe to Nietzsche does not entail that Rconsciousness does not play any causal role at all in our mental life. In Section 7.5 I argue that its function is facilitating social coordination. More precisely, Rconscious states play a crucial role in the acquisition of social norms. That role, however, is not sufficient for the relevant norm to become behaviourally efficacious and, thus, cause our actions. For only Nietzsche’s Philosophical Psychology. Mattia Riccardi, Oxford University Press. © Mattia Riccardi 2021. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198803287.003.0007

 (  )  


internalized—in a sense still to be specified—norms are behaviourally efficacious in that sense. In turn, though Rconscious states are often the channel through which we are presented with social norms, it depends on the arrangement of our drives and affects whether we internalize them or not. Once all the ingredients of my account are in place, I go on to consider a range of objections usually levelled against epiphenomenalist readings of Nietzsche in Section 7.6. There, I argue that such objections fail—at least when directed at the specific epiphenomenalist picture worked out in the previous sections.

7.1 Epiphenomenalism(s) about Consciousness Epiphenomenalism about consciousness is the view that consciousness does not possess any causal power. Consciousness, that is, would make no difference when it comes to explaining the mental life and behaviour of a certain creature. This basic epiphenomenalist position can be qualified in various ways. As we have seen, there are several forms of consciousness one should be careful to keep conceptually distinct. Given this, epiphenomenalism can be presented not only as a view about consciousness tout court—i.e. to the effect that every kind of consciousness lacks causal powers—but also as a narrower claim circumscribed to just one of its specific forms. We can thus distinguish between Global Epiphenomenalism and Local Epiphenomenalism. In contemporary debates about the nature of consciousness, what is being discussed is usually some version or other of Local Epiphenomenalism. Let us review some examples. First, epiphenomenalism has been formulated with regard to phenomenal consciousness. Here, Jackson (1982) provides the classic argument: as (i) facts about phenomenal conscious states are distinct from physical facts and as (ii) the only facts appealed to by causal explanations of mental phenomena are of the physical sort, (iii) there is no explanatory role left for phenomenal consciousness. Hence, it does not possess any causal power whatsoever. Second, epiphenomenalism has been proposed about perceptual consciousness. This version of the position is best illustrated with an example. Lina opens the fridge, sees that the cheese is on the second shelf from the top and reaches out to take it. Intuitively, we would say that her conscious visual experience of the cheese plays an essential causal role in this story: it is Lina’s consciously seeing where the cheese is that guides her reaching out for it. However obviously true this story may sound, recent neuroscientific findings concerning two functionally separate visual systems have prompted some philosophers to question that perceptual consciousness plays the role it intuitively seems to play. More specifically, the case has been made for so-called zombie agency (see, for instance, Wu 2013): though we take conscious experience to guide our bodily interaction with the external world, what plays that causal role is, in fact, perceptually registered unconscious information. So it turns out it is not


   

Lina’s visual experience that guides her reaching out for the cheese, but rather visual information she lacks any awareness of. Her consciously seeing the cheese does not make any causal contribution to how her action is performed. The kind of epiphenomenalism I believe Nietzsche endorsed is also of the local variety, for it is a claim he puts forward explicitly about Rconsciousness. When he formulates it in GS 354 by stating that ‘consciousness’ is ‘basically superfluous’, it is that specific form of consciousness he is concerned with, and not consciousness tout court. There are also philosophical reasons for assuming that Nietzsche’s epiphenomenalism is restricted to Rconsciousness. As we have seen, he suggests that affective states are among the primary explanatory items we should appeal to in psychological explanation. Affective states, however, are conscious in the qualitative and also in the perceptual sense. This means that extending his epiphenomenalist claim to states of that kind would put considerable pressure on his general views about how the human mind works. Therefore, it is better if that claim only concerns the mind’s Rconscious surface, and not also some of its basic constituents. After one has specified a version of Local Epiphenomenalism by fixing which notion of consciousness it targets, one can still be willing to further qualify one’s position. On the one hand, one could argue that the kind of consciousness in question lacks any kind of causal efficacy whatsoever. The result would be a position we can call Strong (Local) Epiphenomenalism. On the other hand, one could argue that the kind of consciousness in question plays no causal contribution to a certain aspect of our mental life to which, quite to the contrary, we intuitively thought it would. This would be Weak (Local) Epiphenomenalism. Let me illustrate the difference between these two positions by considering again the case of (alleged) zombie agency. Interpreted as a strong version of epiphenomenalism, the zombie agency view would amount to the claim that perceptual consciousness does not possess any causal power at all. However, the way in which the proposal is usually presented and discussed suggests it has a narrower scope: the idea is that perceptual consciousness does not causally contribute to the production of our actions. This leaves the question open whether it may or not play some other role in our mental economy. For instance, accepting the weak zombie agency view is compatible with allowing that perceptual consciousness causally contributes to the formation of our conscious beliefs. Defending a position of this kind would be to accept Weak Local Epiphenomenalism about perceptual consciousness. As you may already have come to suspect, my proposal will be that Nietzsche defends a version of Weak Local Epiphenomenalism—(WLE), from now on— about Rconsciousness. Before I go on to substantiate this reading, there are two preliminary worries I’d like to address. First, any form of (WLE) is motivated only if one does have some positive reason to think that the targeted kind of consciousness plays some determinate role in our mental life. Otherwise, a strong

 (  )  


version of the same epiphenomenalist claim would be philosophically preferable. Thus, it makes sense to ascribe (WLE) to Nietzsche only if there are good reasons to think that he does take Rconsciousness to causally contribute to our mental life in some other way. But what can that contribution be? The answer to this question is again suggested by GS 354. There, Nietzsche poses the question: why are we at all conscious (in the reflective sense) given that consciousness (again in the reflective sense) is superfluous? His answer is that R consciousness emerges as a by-product of socialization. More precisely, as we saw in Chapter 5, he argues that Rconsciousness is part of the process leading to the psychological uniformity of the members of a given community. Though it is not easy to spell out precisely which role Rconsciousness plays in such a ‘progressus in simile’ (BGE 268), it is (only) there that we should look to find out what its causal contribution to our mental life consists in. (This is a task I shall take on later in this chapter.) The second point I want to address is a conceptual one. If Nietzsche’s position allows for Rconsciousness to play a role in our mental life, why insist in calling it (a version of) epiphenomenalism? Why not just take this to indicate, rather, that his position is not epiphenomenalist after all? Posing this question amounts to expressing doubts about the conceptual soundness of the very notion of (WLE) I have been working out in this section. The worry is that views falling under that description are so watered-down that they no longer deserve the bold label of epiphenomenalism. Of course, one could simply try to underplay this objection by treating it as a mere terminological quarrel. In my view, however, it also points to a substantive philosophical question.¹ It seems to me that the core idea of many epiphenomenalist views about mental states is that states of the relevant kind are not causally linked to the production of actions. For instance, Mele (2009) dubs ‘philosophical epiphenomenalism’ the thesis that ‘although all proximal intentions are caused by physical events, no proximal intentions cause any physical events’ (146). This epiphenomenalist claim is both restricted to a specific kind of mental states—and thus local in the sense specified above—and to a specific kind of causal impact—and thus weak in the sense specified above.² Accordingly, I think that incorporating a claim to the effect that mental states of a certain type are not causally linked to the production of actions is sufficient for the resulting view to count as epiphenomenalist, if only in a minimal sense. Crucially, this link to agency is explicitly drawn by Nietzsche

¹ Several people have confronted me with versions of this concern. I thank, in particular, João Constâncio, Manuel Dries, Paul Katsafanas, and an anonymous reviewer for pressing me on this issue. ² Three things to note here. First, though Mele speaks here of ‘physical events’ in general, his discussion makes clear that the relevant events are those involved in the production of actions. Second, I chose Mele in part because he is a strenuous opponent of epiphenomenalism about intentional causation. (I shall come back later to some of his arguments.) Third, I shall provide other examples of epiphenomenalist claims of this sort—i.e. both weak and local—in due course.


   

when he formulates the problem of superfluousness in GS 354. For there he argues that ‘we could think, feel, will, remember, and also “act” in every sense of the term, and yet none of all this would have to “enter our consciousness” ’ (GS 354). That consciousness is superfluous means that the kind of mental life we would have without it would still sustain our agency. This, in fact, is what happens even though we do have that capacity, for ‘the predominant part of our lives actually unfolds without this mirroring’. In other words, the kind of thinking, feeling, willing, and remembering which determines our actions is typically Runconscious and, on the rare occasions in which it does become Rconscious, this extra bit of our mental life does not play any role with regard to what we do.³ I now turn to the objection that (WLE) is too feeble a position to qualify as epiphenomenalism. In part, this objection has already been responded to, for if (WLE) is the claim that Rconsciousness is not causally linked to the production of actions and if claims of this sort count as epiphenomenalist claims, then (WLE) counts as an epiphenomenalist claim too. To further support this point, however, it’s helpful to note that standard formulations of the zombie agency view also fit that description. The idea of that view is that perceptual consciousness does not contribute to the aetiology of action: Lina’s reaching out for the cheese is not caused, nor guided by her conscious experience, but rather by unconscious visual information. Thus, this position—like the one described by Mele—is both local— because it targets only a specific notion of consciousness, i.e. perceptual consciousness—and weak—because it targets perceptual consciousness’s putative contribution to our actions. Accepting the zombie agency view is compatible with admitting that perceptual consciousness causally contributes to other aspects of one’s mental life, such as, for instance, to the formation of one’s conscious beliefs or memories. Still, the view articulates a pretty substantial philosophical position—one that clearly deserves to be called epiphenomenalist. (See, for instance, Wu (2013:219), who writes that the zombie agency thesis ‘affirms some form of epiphenomenalism regarding consciousness’). The same holds, I submit, for Nietzsche’s (WLE) about Rconsciousness.

³ One could argue here that what Nietzsche says in GS 354 does not entail that Rconsciousness is epiphenomenal. The objection is as follows. Suppose I have the Rconscious intention to walk up and take a beer out of the fridge and that I act accordingly. Saying that I could have acted the same way without having the relevant Rconscious intention is compatible with that intention’s playing a causal role in the actual situation. Three points in answer. First, though it is true that Nietzsche’s counterfactual does not logically entail that Rconsciousness does not contribute to action production, further considerations still support this conclusion as the most natural. Accepting the counterfactual means accepting that, in the kind of situation at hand, Rconsciousness is a difference that makes no difference, for absent it the same events would have occurred. Given the general explanatory principle ‘same causes, same effects’, it seems thus natural to conclude that Rconsciousness does not causally contribute to the production of action. Second, concerning textual evidence, this is what Nietzsche himself concludes in GS 354 by claiming that Rconsciousness is ‘superfluous’, as we have seen. Third, and again concerning textual evidence, there are other passages where Nietzsche explicitly says that R conscious mental states lack the relevant causal powers.

 ’    


7.2 Nietzsche’s Weak Local Epiphenomenalism After this preliminary discussion, we are now in a position to formulate more precisely the epiphenomenalist view I shall ascribe to Nietzsche: Nietzschean (WLE): RConscious states are never causally efficacious antecedents of token actions. Some comments are in place. First, (WLE) is about the causal production of particular actions, such as the following ones: Uwe enters the shop and buys a new pair of shoes; Ute drinks a glass of milk; Lina helps Mark to lift the heavy box. The folk picture of such daily actions is that they are often caused by Rconscious states such as intentions or volitions. For instance, Lina grasps the glass of milk and drink it because she has the Rconscious intention or volition to drink. What Nietzsche denies is precisely this model: Rconscious states such as intentions and volitions are not what cause our actions.⁴ Nietzsche’s (WLE) can be seen as a version of what Nahmias (2014) calls modular epiphenomenalism: Using the shorthand of ‘modules’ (i.e., somewhat encapsulated cognitive systems or processes), modular epiphenomenalism claims that those modules involved in conscious decisions or intention formation do not produce our behaviour; rather other modules or processes that involve no conscious states produce our behaviour. (Nahmias 2014:12)

Given Nietzsche’s view of human psychology, the Runconscious processes from which our actions result are those involving one’s drives and affective states. Of course, epiphenomenalist claims—even if modest in their scope as in the case of (WLE)—are usually taken to be hard to swallow, for they put in jeopardy some of the most entrenched and cherished beliefs about our nature as minded agents. This is why some scholars try to resist attributing epiphenomenalist claims to Nietzsche. To support my (WLE) reading, I shall start by reviewing textual evidence in which Nietzsche clearly puts forward epiphenomenalism about R consciousness.⁵

⁴ Of course, saying that Rconscious intentions and volitions are never causally efficacious antecedents of our actions is different from saying that no Rconscious states contribute to action production. Here, I do not mean to further restrict the scope of Nietzschean (WLE), but simply to illustrate it by reference to types of mental state—intentions and volitions—that are most obviously taken to directly yield actions. Indeed, this is the reason, I think, why Nietzsche usually focuses on such cases as well. As we shall see, however, he also puts forward claims to the effect that Rconscious mental states in general lack the relevant causal powers. ⁵ I postpone the discussion of passages allegedly pointing in the opposite direction.


   

Of course, we are already acquainted with a major piece of textual evidence supporting the epiphenomenalist reading, namely GS 354. As this is the only published passage explicitly devoted to articulating Nietzsche’s mature view about R consciousness, the fact that there he highlights its superfluousness can hardly be overestimated. However, distinctive epiphenomenalist claims are also put forward elsewhere in his mature works. Consider the following passage: As far as animals are concerned, it was Descartes who, with admirable boldness, first ventured the idea that they could be seen as machina: the whole of physiology has been working to prove this claim. We are even logically consistent enough not to exclude humans, as Descartes did: to the extent that human beings are understood at all these days, they are understood as machines. (A 14)

To be sure, Nietzsche here does not explicitly mention consciousness. Nevertheless, it should be obvious that he is putting forward an epiphenomenalist position. To start with, it is important to note that Descartes’s original view of animals as machines amounts not to a version of epiphenomenalism about consciousness, but to a straightforward eliminativism about it. As Gary Hatfield puts it, Descartes took animals to be ‘devoid of mind and consciousness, and hence lacking in sentience’ (Hatfield 2014). Are we then to think that Nietzsche is endorsing this sort of radical eliminativism when he suggests that we extend Descartes’s view to humans as well? No, for Nietzsche’s point is simply that we can understand human psychology only insofar as we can provide purely mechanical psychological explanations, i.e. explanations that do not appeal to conscious phenomena. This does not mean that conscious phenomena do not exist—as according to the eliminativist view Descartes held about animals—but only that they are explanatorily idle. This claim, in turn, entails epiphenomenalism about the conscious phenomena in question.⁶,⁷ ⁶ The rest of A 14 makes clear that Nietzsche does not endorse eliminativism, for he writes that ‘we see the development of consciousness, “mind” (Geist), as a symptom of precisely the relative imperfection of the organism’ (translation changed). Note that also with regard to animals Nietzsche claims that Descartes’s valuable insight consists just in that they ‘can be seen’, and not that they in fact are, mindless machines. Thus, even with regard to animals, Nietzsche does not seem to endorse the metaphysical claim that they are mindless machines, but only the methodological suggestion to treat them as such in order to explain their behaviour. Roughly, this is also the conclusion of Huxley’s famous treatment of Descartes’s view. Huxley claims that though Descartes is right in regarding ‘brutes’ as ‘automata’ (or ‘machines’), he is wrong in concluding that they are ‘unconscious’ (Huxley 1874:238). The right conclusion is that they are ‘conscious, sensitive, automata’ (or ‘machines’). Thus, in a way analogous to Nietzsche (according to the proposed reading of A 14), Huxley both rejects eliminativism and accepts epiphenomenalism about consciousness. (For the latter point, see the following, famous passage: ‘The consciousness of brutes would appear related to the mechanism of their body simply as a collateral product of its working, and to be as completely without any power of modifying that working as the steam-whistle which accompanies the work of a locomotive engine is without influence upon its machinery’ (240).) ⁷ Of course, the passage from A 14 quoted above seems to endorse an unqualified form of epiphenomenalism that is much stronger than the (WLE) I want to ascribe to Nietzsche. My

 ’    


Epiphenomenalism about Rconscious mental states is explicitly formulated elsewhere in his late works. States of consciousness, any sort of belief, such as taking something to be true, are (as every psychologist knows) trivial matters of fifth-rate importance compared to the value of the instincts: to put it more rigorously, the whole idea of mental (geistige) causation is false. (A 39, translation changed)

The same view is further articulated in TI: We believed that our acts of will were causally efficacious; we thought that here, at least, we had caught causality in the act. Nobody doubted that consciousness was the place to look for all the antecedentia of an act, its causes, and that you would be able to find these causes there as well—under the rubric of ‘motives’: otherwise the action could hardly be considered free, and nobody could really be held responsible for it. Finally, who could deny that thoughts have causes? that the ‘I’ is what causes thoughts? . . . Of all these three ‘inner facts’ that together seem to guarantee causation, the first and most convincing is that of will as causal agent; the conception of a consciousness (‘mind (Geist)’) as cause, and then that of the I (the ‘subject’) as cause are just latecomers that appeared once causality of the will was established as given, as empirical . . . (TI ‘Errors’ 3)

Inter alia, Nietzsche here explicitly rejects the view that Rconscious states are among the causally efficacious antecedents of actions. Of course, rejecting this claim is tantamount to embracing (WLE). Indeed, later in the same passage from TI he plainly states that ‘There are no mental (geistige) causes whatsoever’.⁸ This passage is also important because it blocks an argument that opponents of epiphenomenalist interpretations of Nietzsche’s views about consciousness could avail themselves of. That argument consists in saying that the target of Nietzsche’s attacks is not consciousness überhaupt, but rather something like a Cartesian misconstrual of it. More precisely, Nietzsche could be said to be targeting the agent-causation model, according to which the source of our actions is a conscious impression is that there Nietzsche simply overstates his considered position due to the polemical, antiChristian goal of that work. As we shall see in a minute, other passages from his later works are more careful in that they restrict epiphenomenalist claims to paramount Rconscious states such as volitions and intentions. ⁸ Two things to note here. First, the claim (in A 39) that conscious states are ‘trivial matters of fifthrate importance’ seems to allow that they do play a causal role. Note, however, what Nietzsche immediately adds: ‘more rigorously’ formulated, his position is just that there is no ‘mental causation’, i.e. epiphenomenalism. Second, talk of ‘mental causation’ (in A) and ‘mental causes’ (in TI) seems to suggest epiphenomenalism about mental states in general, not only about Rconscious ones. However, when Nietzsche uses ‘Geist’ and ‘geistig’ in the context of philosophy of mind problems, he usually means ‘conscious mind’ and ‘mental qua conscious’. In the passage from TI just quoted, for instance, he explicitly equates ‘Bewusststein’ with ‘Geist’.


   

subject of more or less Cartesian sort, by simply denying the existence of any such thing. However, so the argument continues, rejection of the agent-causation model does not entail epiphenomenalism about consciousness, for there are models of mental causation that do not appeal to a Cartesian res cogitans, nor to any other metaphysically inflated notion of a conscious subject. It is true that Nietzsche sometimes targets a specifically Cartesian agent-causal conception.⁹ Nevertheless, the TI passage quoted above demonstrates that he clearly distinguishes eliminativism about Cartesian subjects from epiphenomenalism about Rconsciousness. Indeed, he treats both the belief in the causal efficacy of a Cartesian subject and the belief in the causal efficacy of Rconsciousness as ‘latecomers’ dependent on the more basic assumption of the causal efficacy of the will. Therefore, it is simply not true that Nietzsche’s arguments are exclusively directed at the agent-causation model. None of the three claims mentioned in TI survives critique. (We shall come back in later chapters to Nietzsche’s views about conscious self and will.) Finally, Nietzsche’s passage continues by explicitly denying that Rconscious motives are among the causal antecedents of one’s actions: ‘The so-called “motive”: another error. Just a surface phenomenon of consciousness, an “after-the-fact” that hides the antecedentia of an act more than it reveals them’ (TI ‘Errors’ 3). Here, Nietzsche argues that motives are superficial qua Rconscious phenomena. The following unpublished note helps us unpack what he has in mind here: Every thought, every feeling, every will is not born of one particular drive but is a total state, a whole surface of the whole consciousness, and results from how the power of all the drives that constitute us is fixed at that moment—thus, the power of the drive that dominates just now as well as of the drives obeying or resisting it. (1885 1[61] LN:60; KSA 12:26; see also 1885 38[1] LN:34–35; KSA 11:594–595)

We can distinguish two major points here. First, Nietzsche maintains that R conscious states result from the overall configuration of one’s drives. Second, he describes such states as Rconsciousness’s ‘surface’. It seems thus clear that R conscious states are superficial because they are the personal-level upshot of the subpersonal arrangement of our drives. As he writes in GS with regard to ‘logical thoughts and inferences’, their course ‘in our brains’ corresponds to ‘a process and battle of drives’, of which ‘we usually experience only the outcome’ (GS 111). (In Chapter 10, we shall consider in detail how Rconscious volitions are similarly produced by the command-obedience relations obtaining among the drives.) This is also the sense in which Nietzsche means that Rconscious motives are superficial in the aforementioned passage from TI: not only do they depend on ⁹ BGE 17 may be read in this way (see Leiter 2019:129–130). I shall comment on this aphorism in Chapter 10.

 ’    


psychologically deeper processes involving our drives, but they also do not positively contribute to the aetiology of our actions. Indeed—as Nietzsche again states in the TI passage quoted above—motives are post-hoc rationalizations of what we do. Hence, they do not figure among the causal antecedents of our actions, which in turn explains why Nietzsche contends that, far from revealing which causal processes actually lead to our actions, conscious motives tend to obscure them.¹⁰ It is interesting to compare this passage from TI with a previous treatment of the ‘conflict of motives’ Nietzsche provides in D 129: One speaks of a ‘conflict of motives’, but designates with this phrase a conflict which is not one of motives. That is to say: before an act there step into our reflective consciousness one after another the consequences of various acts all of which we believe we can perform, and we compare these consequences. We believe we have resolved upon an act when we have decided that its consequences will be more favourable than those of any other; before reaching this conclusion we often honestly torment ourselves on account of the great difficulty of divining what the consequences will be, of seeing all their implications, and of being certain we have included them all without omission: so that the result obtained still has to be divided by chance. Indeed, to come to the worst difficulty: all these consequences, so hard to determine individually, now have to be weighed against one another on the same scales; but usually it happens that, on account of the differences in the quality of all these possible consequences, we lack the scales and the weights for this casuistry of advantage. Supposing, however, we got through that too, and chance had placed on our scales consequences that admit of being weighed against one another: we would then in fact possess in our picture of the consequences of a certain action a motive for performing this action—yes! one motive! But at the moment when we finally do act, our action is often enough determined by a different species of motives than the species here under discussion, those involved in our ‘picture of the consequences’. (D 129)

The main idea put forward in this first part of the aphorism is that what we usually describe as a ‘conflict of motives’ is not really a process involving motives at all. Rather, a certain motive is the upshot of that process. The case Nietzsche considers is that of rational deliberation about which course of action we should take. Typically, such cases are described as a weighing of one’s motives or reasons pro and against alternative possible actions. Nietzsche, however, questions the correctness of such a characterization. Instead, he proposes that what we weigh ¹⁰ Similarly, in BGE 32 Nietzsche writes about action that ‘all its intentionality, everything about it that can be seen, known, or raised to “conscious awareness”, only belongs to its surface and skin— which, like every skin, reveals something but conceals even more’.


   

against one another are the consequences that—as far as we can see—any such possible action may have. The result of this mental calculation is, then, one motive for performing a certain action. It’s not entirely clear why Nietzsche takes the standard characterization to be incorrect. It seems to me that he assumes that for a mental state to be a motive it is required that it can directly cause an action. Whereas this is true of the mental state that is the output of a rational deliberation, it is not true of motives in the standard sense, i.e. of the reasons—spelled out here in consequentialist terms—that are fed into the process of deliberation itself. To put it differently, Nietzsche seems to be saying that the standard characterization of deliberation fails to clearly distinguish what counts as its input from what counts as its output. It is also important to note that he describes rational deliberation as an idealization of real psychological processes. Full-blown rational deliberation would imply that one’s reasons are all weighed and compared on a common evaluative scale. This, however, never happens. Let us nevertheless take the idealized case for granted, as Nietzsche does. In that case, rational deliberation would provide us with an Rconscious mental state able to cause an action. However, it would also be just one among many other mental states or processes—motives in Nietzsche’s non-standard sense—that could do that. Some examples he gives are: ‘the way we habitually expend our energy’, ‘some slight instigation from a person whom we fear or honour or love’, ‘our indolence’, ‘an excitation of our imagination brought about at the decisive moment by some immediate, very trivial event’, ‘quite incalculable physical influences’, ‘caprice and waywardness’, and, finally, ‘some emotion or other’ (D 129). It is among these—including the output of rational deliberation—that the real ‘conflict of motives’ occurs: Probably a struggle takes place between these as well, a battling to and fro, a rising and falling of the scales—and this would be the actual ‘conflict of motives’:— something quite invisible to us of which we would be quite unconscious. I have calculated the consequences and the outcomes and in doing so have set one very essential motive in the battle-line—but I have not set up this battle-line itself, nor can I even see it: the struggle itself is hidden from me, and likewise the victory as victory; for, though I certainly learn what I finally do, I do not learn which motive has therewith actually proved victorious. But we are accustomed to exclude all these unconscious processes from the accounting and to reflect on the preparation for an act only to the extent that it is conscious: and we thus confuse conflict of motives with comparison of the possible consequences of different actions—a confusion itself very rich in consequences and one highly fateful for the evolution of morality! (D 129)

The Rconscious motive that results from a process of rational deliberation is just one among many possible causal determinants of one’s action. An unconscious

 ’    


‘struggle’ among such determinants usually ensues. This means one lacks awareness of the psychological process—the real ‘conflict of motives’—yielding one’s action. Though one knows what one is doing, one doesn’t exactly know why: the motive actually causing one’s action remains opaque. Moreover, given that we are only aware of the conscious motive that results from rational deliberation, we never consider the alternative motives that could cause us to act. This is why such motives do not figure in the processes of deliberation themselves: we only weigh pros and cons of possible courses of action without considering, at least not explicitly, factors such as one’s laziness or the influence that others can have on us. This means that, first, the self-transparency we seem to experience while deliberating is merely apparent and, second, that the very calculations we go through are inaccurate, for we fail to consider several possible determinants of our actions. As we ‘reflect on the preparation for an act only to the extent that it is conscious’, as Nietzsche puts it, we remain blind to all the unconscious factors involved in its production. Though the picture emerging from D 129 surely minimizes the role played by conscious reflection in the production of our actions, it nonetheless allows that R conscious motives are among their causal antecedents. Thus, at least on the face of it, there is a clash between this picture and the epiphenomenalist claims put forward in Nietzsche’s later works. So what can we say about this tension? My answer to this question is twofold. First, we can see this tension as—at least in part—depending on the evolution of Nietzsche’s thought. As we have seen, though several aspects of his philosophical psychology are already present in D, it is only in later works that Nietzsche arrives at his mature conception of consciousness. This is true, in particular, of Nietzsche’s views about the evolutionary link between consciousness and communication, only in light of which he came to see that consciousness’s role does not consist in the production of actions, but rather in social coordination. In fact, it is only when the full picture is in place that we can appreciate Nietzsche’s philosophical motivation for (WLE). That said—and this is the second part of my answer—I think that the tension between the picture one finds in D 129 and Nietzsche’s later treatment of R conscious motives is much thinner than it might appear at first sight. To see why, we should first remind ourselves of Nietzsche’s initial scepticism about the actual occurrence of full-blown rational deliberation. At the beginning of the aphorism, he stresses that no purely rational assessment of which course of action one should take is in fact possible, for there is no ‘scale’ to compare all the available options. This means that our weighing ultimately depends on something like one’s brute preferences. Given that Nietzsche takes drives and affects to be the basic items in psychological explanations, such brute preferences would simply depend on which drives and affects we have at a certain moment. We are thus very much in the vicinity of the position considered early: the motive which counts as the output of Rconscious deliberation is a surface phenomenon depending on the present configuration of one’s drives and affects.


   

This view bears some plausibility. Consider again the problem of weighing one faces while deliberating. Whereas Nietzsche seems right that it is virtually impossible to find a purely rational ‘scale’ by which to compare all different action scenarios, our affective response to such scenarios seems to provide a much more promising ‘common factor’. As philosopher Peter Carruthers aptly argues: It is widely believed by affective scientists that valence is intrinsically motivating, and plays a fundamental role in affectively based decision making. When we engage in prospection, imagining the alternatives open to us, it is valence-signals that ultimately determine choice, generated by our evaluative systems responding to representations of those alternatives. The common currency provided by these signals enables us to compare across otherwise incommensurable alternatives and combine together the values of the different attributes involved. Indeed, there is some reason to think that valence might provide the motivational component underlying all intentional action. (Carruthers 2018:660, references eliminated)

An obvious consequence of the claim that Rconscious motives do not figure among the causal antecedents of our actions is that Rconscious practical reasoning too lacks the same kind of causal power. This claim surfaces often in Nietzsche’s Nachlass. Two examples are the following notes, from 1885 and 1887 respectively: Everything which enters consciousness is the last link in a chain, a closure. It is just an illusion that one thought is the immediate cause of another thought. The events which are actually connected are played out below our consciousness: the series and sequences of feelings, thoughts, etc., that appear are symptoms of what actually happens! (N1885 1[61] LN:60; KSA 12:26) In sum: what becomes conscious is subject to causal relations entirely concealed from us—the succession of thoughts, feelings, ideas in consciousness tells us nothing about whether this succession is a causal one: but it gives the illusion of being so, in the highest degree. (N1887 11[145] LN:228; KSA 13:68)

A sequence of Rconscious states may appear to be causal. During an exercise of practical reasoning, for instance, an Rconscious thought may appear to cause the next one; the conclusion one arrives at—in a case of deliberation—may appear to cause a certain action. This appearance, however, is illusory. For the sequence of our mental states actually depends on ‘causal relations’ we remain unaware of. Arguably, it is the working of one’s drives which is responsible for such relations.¹¹ ¹¹ This further supports the claim that Nietzsche’s critique is directed not just at Rconsciousness qua property supposedly instantiated by something like a Cartesian ego, but also—and primarily, for

 ’    


In TI, Nietzsche offers an account of how such an illusion of causality is produced that appeals to the Interpretive Account we have already encountered in Chapter 3 while discussing his view of affective states. As you may recall, he argues that ‘general feelings . . . excite our causal instinct: we want there to be a reason why we are in the particular state we are in,—why we are feeling good or bad’ (TI ‘Errors’ 4). This cognitive process is not only the one by which the feeling is made Rconscious. It also produces the illusion of Rconscious causation. Here is how Nietzsche characterizes this last point. The memory that unconsciously becomes activated in such cases is what leads back to earlier states of the same type and the associated causal interpretation,—not their causality. Of course, memory also interjects the belief that the representations (Vorstellungen), the accompanying train of consciousness, had been the cause. (TI ‘Errors’ 4, translation changed)

The affective activation of the ‘causal instinct’ results in the identification of a precedent Rconscious state as the cause of our current feeling. However, such identification is wrong, for it doesn’t track any actual causal process: Rconscious states are inert, merely accompanying mental representations.¹² The case of Rconscious reasoning can be explained in analogous terms: we have a succession of verbally articulated thoughts. As we are not aware of their R unconscious underpinnings, we illusorily experience them as constituting a causal chain, whereas we remain introspectively unaware of the causal processes actually going on in our mind. David Rosenthal, I submit, offers a general diagnosis which nicely captures the kernel of Nietzsche’s own story: Because our mental states are not all conscious, we are seldom if ever conscious of the mental antecedents of our conscious states. And conscious desires and intentions whose mental antecedents we are not conscious of seem to us to be spontaneous and uncaused. The sense we have of free agency results from our failure to be conscious of all our mental states. (Rosenthal 2005:361)¹³

obviously no Cartesian ego exists to his eyes—qua property more mundanely instantiated by mental states. ¹² Katsafanas reads this passage as stating that ‘whereas unconscious processes represent causal relations, conscious processes represent only familiar or intelligible causal [this last italics is mine] relations, where these may differ from unconsciously represented relations’ (Katsafanas 2016:67). However, Nietzsche’s point is clearly not that the causal relations we take to obtain among conscious states are of some specific sort—intelligible or familiar—different from that of those obtaining among unconscious states, but rather that causal relations among conscious states are imaginary, as, indeed, the very title of the section already anticipates. ¹³ Nietzsche also fully agrees with Rosenthal that our experience of Rconscious thought as not causally dependent on more basic, unconscious mental processes is among the major sources of the conception we have of ourselves as free agents. This is an issue we shall briefly touch upon in Chapter 10.


   

Now, denying the causal efficacy of conscious mental states—even if we restrict the claim to Rconscious, i.e. verbally articulated thoughts—clashes squarely against the intuitive conception we have of human agency. In such cases, the burden of proof usually lies on the radical revisionist of common sense. In fact, empirical evidence allegedly favouring the kind of epiphenomenalism advocated by Nietzsche started to be presented and discussed by some of his contemporaries. After more than a century, the issue remains as controversial as it was back then. Nonetheless, to give a sense of how plausible Nietzschean (WLE) might be, it will be useful to briefly overview some of the current empirically informed literature favouring positions akin to it. (To further give a sense of the empirical support Nietzsche could find in his own time for the kind of position I am ascribing to him, I shall also mention some 19th-century psychologists who anticipated some of the epiphenomenalist conclusions of contemporary researchers.) To be clear: I do not mean to suggest that the experimental results discussed in the literature I shall survey—not even jointly—can be taken to have established Nietzschean (WLE), nor, for that matter, any other version of epiphenomenalism. In all cases it remains open how those results are best interpreted and how exactly they bear on issues such as that of the efficacy of consciousness. Moreover, even assuming that some piece of research does show that conscious states of a certain sort lack the relevant causal powers given a certain experimental setting, it would not be enough to conclude that they always do. Different kinds of empirical evidence have been taken to suggest that much, and possibly all, human behaviour is not caused by conscious intentions and, more generally, thoughts (for an overview, see Hassin 2013; I shall discuss some concrete cases below). In general, the kinds of finding typically welcomed by epiphenomenalism’s advocates purportedly show that ‘conscious processes occur too late, or in the wrong place, to cause our actions’, as Nahmias helpfully puts it (Nahmias 2014:12). Let us start with evidence that purportedly shows that conscious intention kicks in too late in the process of action formation. A famous— and famously controversial—piece of evidence of this sort is due to Benjamin Libet’s seminal research, which demonstrated that action readiness potential occurs in the brain before one becomes aware of any intention or decision to act. Libet’s work has inspired a large body of neuroscientific research about how actions are generated. The most striking result is due to work by John-Dylan Haynes’s lab, which shows that data about activity in certain regions of the brain can be used to predict the conscious formation of a motor intention occurring seven to ten seconds later (see Haynes 2013 for an overview of that research). However, the interpretation of Libet’s original findings as well as of more recent experiments like those conducted in Haynes’s lab has proved extremely contentious. In general, it seems fair to say that none of the empirical data about the timing of action preparation proves that conscious intentions do not causally contribute to action formation. As Adina Roskies puts it in a recent survey, such

 ’    


studies do not warrant the ‘conclusion that conscious intentions are inefficacious, that our choices are determined or predetermined, or that consciousness is epiphenomenal’ (Roskies 2013:41). Let us turn to work addressing the second factor pointed out by Nahmias. As Daniel Wegner claims, empirical evidence suggests the interesting possibility that conscious will is an add-on, an experience that has its own origins and consequences. The experience of will may not be very firmly connected to the processes that produce action, in that whatever creates the experience of will may function in a way that is only loosely coupled with the mechanisms that yield action itself. (Wegner 2002:47)

Wegner’s defence of this hypothesis has proved unconvincing to many psychologists and philosophers, who argue that the empirical evidence he adduces does not warrant his conclusions. However, more recent findings by Patrick Haggard’s lab have again been presented as vindicating Wegner’s claim. The authors of that study ‘tentatively conclude that subjective voluntariness dissociates from the brain systems that are objectively involved in internal generation of action’ (Filevich et al. 2013:1281). If the brain processes responsible for initiating one’s actions are distinct and independent from those responsible for the formation of one’s conscious intentions and volitions, it seems natural to conclude that these do not contribute to the aetiology of our behaviour.¹⁴ Older versions of this view were already becoming popular by Nietzsche’s time. In particular, it was clearly endorsed by psychologists such as Charles Féré and Théodule Ribot, whose work partially informed Nietzsche’s later views about the mind’s working. For instance, Ribot affirms that ‘if one insists upon making consciousness a cause, all remains obscure’ (Ribot 1915:4). (In Chapter 10 we shall appreciate how deeply ¹⁴ Mele (2009) offers the most sustained critique of both Wegner’s illusionist view about the power of conscious intentions as well as of similar conclusions often drawn from Libet’s experiments (including by Haggard). Mele raises many sensible objections. Note, however, that most of them would not be directly damaging to the kind of position I am ascribing to Nietzsche. First, Mele is primarily interested in defending the view that intentions are effective, not that conscious intentions are effective (though sometimes he does argue for this latter claim too, as I shall discuss in a minute). (This is claim H, formulated on p. 11). Thus, Mele (rightly) stresses that Wegner concludes that intentions cannot be efficacious simply because he implausibly assumes that intentions are necessarily conscious (see pp. 93–94). Of course, Nietzsche would have no problem in accepting that unconscious (in the reflective sense) intentions can cause our actions. With regard to Libet, Mele concedes that it may be the case that ‘the only interesting effect of a subject’s being conscious of the intention is his consciousness report; the intention may issue in action independently of his consciousness of it’ (109). Second, the only clear evidence Mele provides of conscious intentions contributing to the aetiology of action does not concern the kind of proximal intentions studied and discussed by Libet, Wegner, and Haggard, but rather distal intentions (see ch. 7). In my view, Nietzsche would treat the formation of R conscious distal intentions—such as forming in the morning the Rconscious intention to go to the supermarket in the afternoon—as supervening on the arrangement among one’s drives and the proximal production of actions aiming at realizing those intentions as produced by Runconscious processes.


   

Féré’s and, in particular, Ribot’s views contributed to shape Nietzsche’s model of the will.) Situationism in social psychology is another major research programme in which several pieces of evidence have been collected that are taken to speak against conscious intentions’ playing a role in the production of actions. The main claim here is that ‘most of a person’s everyday life is determined not by their conscious intentions and deliberate choices but by mental processes that are put into motion by features of the environment and that operate outside of conscious awareness and guidance’ (Bargh & Chatrand 1999:462). As we have seen, some environmental determinants of this sort are explicitly mentioned by Nietzsche in D 129, among them the ‘slight instigation from a person whom we fear or honour or love’, the ‘excitation of our imagination brought about at the decisive moment by some immediate, trivial event’ as well as, more generically, ‘quite incalculable physical influences’ (D 129). According to the situationist picture, in such cases one’s behaviour is directly elicited and guided by the relevant environmental factor. Sometimes not even the formation of an unconscious motivational state is required, for the behaviour results from the automatic activation of a goal triggered by a suitable environmental feature. The point is that in both cases no role is left for consciousness. (As one would expect, it has been contested too that the situationist literature could prove this claim.) Again, it is worth noting that Nietzsche was already acquainted with some of the ideas and even evidence appealed to by contemporary situationists. Among the results supporting that position is the experimental observation that ‘perceptions of the behaviour of one’s interaction partner leads directly to tendencies to behave that way oneself ’ (Bargh & Chatrand 1999:467). In other words, in many social contexts what we do is the result of a direct perception-behaviour link that bypasses conscious reasoning, as shown for instance by research on social mimicry. This phenomenon was well known by late 19th-century psychologists. Among Nietzsche’s empirical sources, we find for instance in Charles Féré a description of it under the label ‘psycho-motor induction’: ‘The sight of a movement invites . . . the reproduction of it; or the expressions of physiognomy manifesting the emotions are capable to reproduce in the same way, outside any state of consciousness’ (Féré 1887:15). This phenomenon was explained by appeal to the theory of so-called ‘motor-ideas’, the upshot of which for the cases at hand is aptly summarized by William James: ‘every representation of a movement awakens in some degree the actual movement which is its object; and awakens it in a maximum degree whenever it is not kept from so doing by an antagonistic representation present simultaneously to the mind’ (James 1990:192). As we have noted, many contemporary psychologists and philosophers deny that the evidence gathered in the last decades is sufficient to establish epiphenomenalism about consciousness. Note, however, that what is thereby usually meant is less specific than the kind of (WLE) I am here ascribing to Nietzsche. In

 ’    


particular, (WLE) is only committed to the claim that Rconscious states are not among the causal antecedents of our actions, thus allowing them to play a—still in need of further qualification—role in social coordination. With this in mind, it is worth considering the following point made by Roskies, who—as we saw above— is among those carefully objecting to overhasty epiphenomenalist conclusions: The studies described here suggest that in normal circumstances we do not experience our intentions as urges or feelings, but rather are made aware of our intentions when our actions and intentions fail to match. While some might take this to indicate that normally our intentions are not conscious, we could rather modify our views of conscious intention. For example, perhaps conscious intentions are not intentions that we are occurrently conscious of, but rather, they are intentions whose goals or aims we are conscious of, or that we consciously adopt or endorse, and that play a particular role in action. (Roskies 2013:51)

Thus, Roskies is well prepared to admit that our ordinary picture of conscious mental causation is in need of substantial revision. In particular, she seems to concede that conscious intentions aren’t quite—with respect to our actions—the causally antecedent states we always thought they were. In fact, she even seems prepared to accept that consciousness of one’s intentions is not occurrent, which I take to mean that—while and, presumably, immediately before acting—either we are not conscious of our intentions or not directly—as she writes, we may just be conscious of our goals. Moreover, among the possible revisionary strategies she briefly entertains is the claim that an intention is conscious in virtue of one’s consciously adopting or endorsing its goal. All this, it seems to me, is perfectly compatible with (WLE), for that position neither entails eliminativism about R conscious thought, nor amounts to the outright denial that it lacks any function whatsoever in our mental life. As, according to Nietzsche, the role of R consciousness is to be found in the context of social coordination, it may well be that Rconscious intentions are formed when the subject Rconsciously adopts or endorses a certain goal, as Roskies suggests. Conversely, given that we are not R conscious of them by the time we act, as Roskies concedes, it seems natural to think that Rconscious intentions do not contribute to the production of our behaviour. To conclude, Nietzsche’s (WLE)—while a substantial claim about the key problem of mental causation—is a less implausible position than it may first appear. There is a large body of empirical evidence one could appeal to in order to substantiate it. Though these results remain controversial, it is important to note that Nietzsche’s (WLE) does not amount to the kind of unqualified epiphenomenalism sometimes implied in contemporary debates. In fact, even someone like Roskies, who questions the arguments supporting that kind of


   

epiphenomenalism, ends up suggesting—or at least conceding—a revision of our ordinary conception of conscious mental causation substantial enough to accommodate (WLE)’s central claim that Rconscious intentions are not among the causal antecedents of our actions.

7.3 The Easy Route and Why It Doesn’t Work As we have seen, an important convergence between Rosenthal’s HOT theory and Nietzsche’s view of Rconsciousness concerns the claim that consciousness is superfluous, i.e. that it is not causally efficacious. In previous work (see, in particular, Riccardi 2018), I have supported my (WLE) reading of Nietzsche’s view about Rconsciousness by appealing to Rosenthal’s own argument in favour of epiphenomenalism. Let me here review that move. Rosenthal argues that the becoming conscious of a certain mental state—i.e. its being targeted by a suitable HOT—does not add any new causal power to a mental state. Its causal efficacy depends on its first-order content. By focusing on the case of intentional states, he writes: The role that thoughts and desires can play in our lives is a function of their causal relations to one another and to behavior. And presumably those causal relations are due solely, or at least in great measure, to the intentional contents and mental attitudes that characterize the states. (Rosenthal 2005:362)

Of course, the qualification ‘or at least in great measure’ means that Rosenthal does not want to commit himself to a strong version of epiphenomenalism. The important point, however, is that Rosenthal’s way of putting things provides a tempting template for making sense of Nietzsche’s own position. According to the Hermeneutic View, Rconscious states are language-mediated interpretations of R unconscious states and processes. Accordingly, the (WLE) reading could be glossed as the claim that the way in which we reflectively interpret our unconscious states and processes does not add any new causal power to them. On that view, mental states such as intentions and volitions do not cause our actions in virtue of their being conscious. Brian Leiter has also been a major proponent of this kind of reading. As he puts it, Nietzsche takes consciousness to be ‘kindepiphenomenal’, which means, in turn, holding that ‘conscious states are causally effective but in virtue of nonconscious properties of type-facts [i.e. facts concerning one’s psycho-physiological constitution] not simply in virtue of their being conscious states’ (Leiter 2015:73). A similar view is also defended by Rex Welshon, who argues that ‘psychological states that happen to instantiate reflective properties certainly may cause other psychological states in virtue of their being also, and at the same time, drives or instincts’ (Welshon 2014:163).

       ’  


As I mentioned before, this is the picture I have myself recommended in previous work. Unfortunately, I now think it is only partially correct. The problem is that although it works fine for all the Runconscious states and processes targeted by episodes of verbally articulated thought, it cannot work for these episodes themselves. Let me explain why. Rosenthal’s argument turns on the possibility of isolating a state’s content from its being conscious, for only then can one argue that the state’s causal role depends solely (or at least in great measure) on its content. However, given Nietzsche’s characterization of episodes of verbally articulated thought as intrinsically Rconscious, it does not seem possible to isolate their content from their being Rconscious, for such episodes are Rconscious precisely in virtue of their content. This seems to suggest that if such episodes have any causal power, that power will depend (at least in part) on their being R conscious. Thus, to defend the (WLE) reading it is required that one shows that episodes of this kind lack the relevant sort of causal power. To put it differently, when it comes to episodes of Rconscious thought, the position Nietzsche seems to endorse is not the claim that those states are kind-epiphenomenal in Leiter’s sense, but rather—to keep on using Leiter’s terminology—the stronger claim that those states are token-epiphenomenal. What this means is that episodes of Rconscious thought are ‘simply effects of underlying type facts about the person, and play no causal role whatsoever’ (Leiter 2015:73). This stronger claim, I propose, is the one Nietzsche defends in the case of—and only in the case of—episodes of R conscious thought as such. On the contrary, all other mental states that are made Rconscious in virtue of being targeted by an episode of verbally articulated thought are only kind-epiphenomenal: they preserve whatever causal properties they already have qua Runconscious states without their becoming Rconscious adding any further one.¹⁵ One could argue that episodes of verbally articulated thoughts are causally efficacious not in virtue of their semantic content, but in virtue of the affective properties of its sensory components. As Welshon puts it, ‘all reflective properties are accidental properties of basic conscious states that also happen to have certain qualitative character or affective valence properties that are causally potent’ (Welshon 2014:162, my italics). Accordingly, saying to myself ‘I’d really like to have an ice-cream now’ would indeed cause me to move towards an ice-cream shop, but only because of the affective impact of the acoustic properties, say, of the word ‘ice-cream’. However, this proposal strikes me as implausible. The problem here is, again, that in the case of verbally articulated episodes Rconsciousness is not ‘accidental’, but follows directly from the specific kind of content they have. Thus,

¹⁵ Leiter recognizes that sometimes Nietzsche seems to endorse the claim that conscious states are token-epiphenomenal. Arguably, the passage from TI we commented on in the previous section is a suitable example. My reading explains this fact: in such cases, Nietzsche is talking specifically about episodes of Rconscious thoughts, and not about mental states in general.


   

the case of Rconscious episodes cannot be straightforwardly accommodated in the terms of the standard HOT approach. Once we accept that episodes of verbally articulated thought are intrinsically Rconscious, it seems ad hoc to maintain that they have causal powers not in virtue of their content, but only of their sensory components. Thus, it seems preferable just to maintain that, in the example case, what causes me to move towards the ice-shop is an affectively loaded desire to have an ice-cream, that, at the same time, also prompts my episode of Rconscious inner speech expressing it. I will now provide next further illustrations of how I take Nietzsche’s picture to work.

7.4 (WLE) in Action According to the (WLE) reading I am defending, Rconscious states do not cause token actions. So how are our actions produced? The kind of basic model which I think is endorsed by Nietzsche is nicely summarized by Wegner: ‘unconscious mental processes give rise to conscious thought about the action (e.g. intention, belief), and other unconscious mental processes give rise to the voluntary action’ (Wegner 2002:67). To Nietzsche’s eyes, the Runconscious mental states causing one’s actions are one’s affective states, in turn typically caused by (the interaction among) one’s drives. RConscious thoughts are, too, caused by our drives (and, possibly, affects), but do not play any causal role in the production of our actions. To better illustrate how mental causation is supposed to work according to this view, let me introduce a basic model and apply it to some examples. (Of course, Nietzsche never explicitly formulates any such model. My aim here is just to articulate more clearly how some of the different claims I have been ascribing to him fit together and to illustrate with a few examples how the resulting picture of the human mind is supposed to work.) The basic model is visualized in Figure 7.1: Drive




Here, a drive causes both an episode of Rconscious thought and an affective state. While the latter causes our action, the former doesn’t. The most basic case is that in which the conscious thought is an intention. Figure 7.2 provides a concrete illustration:

(  )

 


Survival drive



Running away

Here, the survival drive causes both the emotion of fear and the Rconscious intention to run. What causes the running behaviour, however, is just the fear, and not the Rconscious intention to run, which we can suppose to be an episode of inner speech with the content ‘Run!’. Indeed, these are cases in which one’s actions are typically triggered by some feature of the environment—the bear coming into view. A more interesting case is that in which the relevant episode of Rconscious thought targets the relevant affective state. This means that (part of) the verbally articulated content of the Rconscious thought purports to refer to the affective state. In virtue of being conceptualized in a certain way, the affective state becomes R conscious. (I shall offer illustrative examples in due course.) This more complex case is visualized in Figure 7.3: Drive




What this means is that: 1. a drive causes (grey arrows) both an affective state and an Rconscious thought; 2. by being the target of the Rconscious thought (dotted line), the affective state becomes Rconscious; 3. only the affect, and not the Rconscious thought, counts as causally efficacious antecedent (grey arrow) of the subsequent action; 4. the causal powers of the affect are independent from its being targeted by the Rconscious thought. Let us now see how this model can be applied to concrete cases. Consider, first, the case of an action motivated by compassion, as illustrated in Figure 7.4:


    Social drive


feel pity]


Helping behaviour

Here, a socially selected drive causes (grey arrows) a certain unpleasant affect and an Rconscious thought. The affect is targeted by the Rconscious thought (dotted line) that interprets it as a case of pity. The affect is what causes (grey arrow) one’s helping behaviour. That the affect is conceptualized as pity does not add new causal powers to it. Nor does the episode of Rconscious thought causally contribute to producing of the action. Let us now consider a more complicated case again involving pity. According to Nietzsche, what we usually interpret as pity is a varying mix of affective and cognitive elements. In fact, conceptualizing it as pity obscures the very nature of this psychological phenomenon: ‘it is misleading to call the Leid (suffering) we may experience at such a sight [of someone else suffering], and which can be of very varying kinds, Mit-Leid (pity)’ (D 133, translation changed). More relevantly for present purpose, he argues that pity is an affective reaction that should not be praised or promoted, as it was not for instance among ancient Greeks, who— having grasped its harmfulness—treated it as ‘a morbid recurring affect the perilousness of which can be removed by periodical deliberate discharge’ (D 134). Figure 7.5 helps us to describe how ancient Greek psychology would work. Sympathetic drive



Thymotic drive


pity I feel is contemptible]

Non-pitiful action

In this more complex situation, we have two competing drives. The first one is the sympathetic drive causing (grey arrow) the affect standardly picked out by the term ‘pity’. The second—let us call it the thymotic drive—causes (grey arrow) a meta-affect directed (bold arrow) at the first-order affect—the one conceptualized

    


as pity. The meta-affect is negatively valenced: it roughly corresponds, say, to the affect we standardly pick out with the term ‘contempt’. The meta-affect also causes (grey arrow) a conscious evaluative thought that (i) conceptualizes the affective state (dotted line) as pity and (ii) predicates contemptibility of it. Accordingly, the ancient Greek Rconsciously interprets her overall affective situation as that of someone who feels pity and, at the same time, feels contempt towards her feeling that way. In this picture, what determines the action is the meta-affect of contempt which trumps the first-order affect of pity. Again, the Rconscious thought does not add any causal power to the meta-affect of contempt, nor does it have any causal power in its own right when it comes to the production of the subsequent action. It simply expresses the evaluative stance originated in the meta-affect of selfcontempt. Needless to say, even this last example operates a wild simplification of human psychology. The intent, however, was not to provide any fine-grained description of how our mind works in specific situations, but simply to illustrate how the basic model of Nietzschean psychological explanation looks like. As any other model operating at the same level of generality, it obviously works with highly idealized cases.¹⁶

7.5 The Role of RConsciousness Nietzsche’s (WLE) says that Rconscious states are not among the causally efficacious antecedents of token actions, but allows that they play some other causal role. The aim of this section is to spell out what that role might be. Of course, the key to solving this task lies in the insight Nietzsche articulates in GS 354 to the effect that Rconsciousness is a by-product of socialization and, in particular, of linguistic communication. As it is only as social animals that we happen to be Rconscious beings, it is in our social life that we have to look for R consciousness’s function. But what can such a function be? Many of the social interactions we engage in require us to be capable of verbally articulated thought. From the viewpoint of Nietzsche’s diagnosis of socialization as the ‘natural, all too natural progressus in simile’ by which humans become

¹⁶ Let me just mention, however, how a certain kind of complication is to be handled by the model sketched here. By elaborating on the last example, suppose that—in addition to the mental states already described above—the agent also starts to feel ashamed for her feeling of pity and to R consciously think that she should overcome her pity. What the model would say here is that (i) the felt shame is a new meta-affect (or a transformation of the initial meta-affect of contempt) targeting the original pitiful feeling and that (ii) the Rconscious thought is the product of the underlying drives-cumaffects arrangement. (Nietzsche seems to think that the exact composition of one’s drives-cum-affects arrangement at time t might be impossible to determine. This, in turn, seems to me to depend on his radical particularism according to which the real aetiology of a certain action is fundamentally inscrutable.)


   

‘increasingly similar’, ‘ordinary’, ‘average’, and ‘herd-like’, I think that R consciousness’s essential contribution to that process occurs along two dimensions. On the one hand, Rconsciousness facilitates the dissemination of social norms within a given community. On the other hand, it enables the members of that community to socially justify their actions. I shall address the two points in turn. It is obviously part of the process of socialization that the members of a certain community tend to accept and act in accordance to a set of norms, most notably of social norms. Linguistic communication is the major channel through which such norms circulate within that community. Thus, as long as individuals participate in that circulation qua beings capable of verbally articulated thought, Rconsciousness contributes to it. Now, there are two basic roles in which someone can engage in the linguistic transmission of social norms: as an emitter and as a recipient. The interaction between an educator and a pupil is a good example to highlight their difference. Consider an educator imparting a moral lesson to a pupil by expressing a certain moral judgment. Here, Nietzsche would say that the moral judgment expressed by the educator (i) depends on the configuration of her drives and (ii) doesn’t play any role in causing her actions. Anytime the educator acts in accordance with the judgment she is now conveying to her pupil, what causes her action is an affect equally depending on the configuration of her drives. But let’s now switch our attention to the pupil. Suppose, to make the case more vivid, that it is the first time she hears someone expressing a judgment with that moral content. This specific linguistic interaction between educator and pupil is the first occasion in which the latter becomes acquainted with the relevant moral norm. Two points need here to be stressed. First, this example illustrates how Rconsciousness contributes to the dissemination of social norms: the pupil gets in contact with the content of a moral norm by interacting linguistically with her educator. Second, suppose that from now on the pupil will act in conformity with the moral norm the educator taught her. Doesn’t this show that Rconscious thoughts can cause one’s token actions after all and that (WLE) is incorrect? To resist this conclusion, we need to distinguish between (i) grasping the content of a moral norm and (ii) internalizing it. The capacity for verbally articulated thought is required for the pupil to grasp (and later rehearse) the content of the moral norm. But merely grasping the content of a moral norm does not mean that one will act accordingly. For a norm to become behaviourally efficacious, it needs to be internalized. Psychological internalization, however, is no longer a matter of one’s capacity for Rconscious thought. Rather, deeper facts concerning the configuration of our drives are what explain why we act according to moral (and other kinds of ) social norms. As I shall argue in the following paragraphs, this is at least Nietzsche’s story.

    


In a crucial passage at the beginning of GM II, Nietzsche writes that whatever we experience, learn, or take into ourselves enters just as little into our consciousness during the condition of digestion (one might call it ‘inanimation’ (Einverseelung)) as does the entire thousand-fold process through which the nourishing of our body, so-called ‘incorporation’ (Einverleibung), runs its course. (GM II 1)

What Nietzsche describes here is the process I have called ‘internalization’: it is some sort of mental ‘filtering’ and ‘absorption’ of what we may call the experiential contents we get from our interaction with the external environment—including of course the social environment. The main cognitive function on which Nietzsche focuses is forgetfulness, which he characterizes as an ‘active’ psychological mechanism the function of which consists in the ‘suppression’ of all the contents that end up being discarded: To temporarily close the doors and windows of consciousness; to remain undisturbed by the noise and struggle with which our underworld of subservient organs works for and against each other; a little stillness, a little tabula rasa of consciousness so that there is again space for new things, above all for the nobler functions and functionaries, for ruling, foreseeing, predetermining (for our organism is set up oligarchically)—that is the use of this active forgetfulness, a doorkeeper as it were, an upholder of psychic order, of rest, of etiquette: from which one can immediately anticipate the degree to which there could be no happiness, no cheerfulness, no hope, no pride, no present without forgetfulness. (GM II 1; see also BGE 230, on which see fn. 17 of this chapter)

Of course, the ‘struggle’ going on in the ‘underworld of subservient organs’ working ‘for and against each other’ is the one resulting from the hierarchically structured interaction among the drives. As the substances we ingest are either incorporated or ejected out through digestion, the experiential contents we receive from our interaction with the social environment are either internalized or discarded through cognitive processes. The parallel with digestion is also meant to underscore that we typically remain completely unaware of such processes. This sort of (strictly) unconscious cognitive processing reflecting the momentary arrangement among one’s drives is responsible for the internalization of experiential contents such as social norms. Crucially, only those contents that are taken up by the drive-directed cognitive system are internalized and, consequently, become behaviourally efficacious. Though internalized contents can sometimes become the object of Rconscious thoughts, this doesn’t have any impact on their causal powers within one’s psychological economy. ‘Learning transforms us’— Nietzsche writes—‘it acts like all other forms of nourishment that do not just


   

“preserve”—: as physiologists know’ (BGE 231).¹⁷ As the bodily transformations brought about by a new diet, the psychological transformations brought about by the internalization of new contents is realized at a very deep, almost organic level: that of our drives. By reshaping their hierarchical arrangement, learning also alters one’s affective responses towards the external world as well as towards oneself. As Nietzsche had already written a couple of years before, ‘we have to relearn (umzulernen)—in order at last, perhaps very late on, to attain even more: to feel differently (umzufühlen)’ (D 103, translation changed). The upshot of this discussion is that Rconsciousness contributes to making us acquainted with a range of experiential contents. Most notably, this is the case with regard to social norms, the content of which we typically learn—here used in the standard sense—via Rconscious linguistic intercourse. However, one’s acting in conformity to a social norm requires that one has already internalized it. Internalization—learning in Nietzsche’s strong sense—however, no longer depends on Rconscious thinking. Rather, it is a matter of one’s drives whether one accepts the relevant norm. To put it differently: it is a matter of one’s drives whether that norm becomes behaviourally efficacious. To my mind, here lies Nietzsche’s—admittedly quite different—explanation of the ‘blindness’ characteristic of one’s acting in conformity to a norm famously elaborated on by Wittgenstein.¹⁸ Such ‘blindness’ results from the fact that we always learn a certain norm as part of complex patterns of social interactions. To resume our previous example of an educator teaching a norm to her pupil, consider how Wittgenstein describes how the former usually proceeds: ‘I do it, he does it after me; and I influence him by expressions of agreement, rejection, expectation, encouragement. I let him go his way, or hold him back; and so on’ (Wittgenstein 1986 §208). Accordingly, the teacher guides the learning process by adopting a range of affect-loaded attitudes—‘agreement, rejection, expectation, ¹⁷ Two points concerning BGE 231 are worth stressing. First, in the aphorism immediately preceding it Nietzsche describes the two processes involved in the internalization of experiential contents also described in GM II 1: on the one hand, the spirit’s tendency to ‘incorporate new “experiences” ’ and the ‘apparently opposite drive of spirit, a suddenly emerging resolution in favor of ignorance and arbitrary termination, a closing of its windows, an inner nay-saying to something or other, a come-no-closer, a type of defensive state against many knowable things, a contentment with darkness, with closing horizons, a yea-saying and approval of ignorance: all of which are necessary in proportion to the degree of its appropriating force, its “digestive force”, to speak metaphorically—and really, “spirit” resembles a stomach more than anything’ (BGE 230). This indicates that Nietzsche takes the characterization of learning he offers at the beginning of BGE 231 to follow directly from what he says in BGE 230 (and restates in GM II 1). Second, BGE 231 goes on arguing that there is a limit to what can be internalized— or ‘learned’ in the strong, transformative sense at stake here: ‘at our foundation, “at the very bottom”, there is clearly something that will not learn, a brick wall of spiritual fatum, of predetermined decisions and answers to selected, predetermined questions. In any cardinal problem, an immutable “that is me” speaks up’ (BGE 231). ¹⁸ See Wittgenstein (1986 §219). The fundamental difference is that whereas Wittgenstein takes the question ‘How am I able to obey a rule?’ to be ‘about the justification for my following the rule in the way I do’, and not about ‘causes’ (§217), Nietzsche wants to uncover the psychological causes of our norm-conform actions.

    


encouragement’—which are designed to trigger corresponding emotional responses in the pupil. (Given that Wittgenstein does not seem at all interested in the affective dimension of the teacher’s attitudes, it is even more remarkable that he highlights them!) Similarly, Wittgenstein writes in another section: ‘When someone whom I am afraid of orders me to continue the series [Wittgenstein’s famous mathematical example of the series +2], I act quickly, with perfect certainty, and the lack of reasons does not trouble me’ (§212). Mutatis mutandis, fear of the authority imparting me a lesson typically makes me swiftly internalize the relevant norm and blindly act on it. In such a case, that no reason is provided in support of that norm ‘does not trouble me’, as Wittgenstein notes. Hence, the affective dimension of the context in which norms are presented to us plays a key role in social learning. This is, of course, a point Nietzsche tirelessly stresses. Indeed, GM II goes on to offer a vivid sample of the kind of ‘mnemonics’ humankind employed over millennia to ‘make a memory for himself ’—something that ‘was never done without blood, torment, sacrifice’ (GM II 3). Pain, in short, has been the main lever by which society has achieved the internalization of social norms. There is a second crucial function the capacity for Rconscious reflection plays in regulating social life. Appreciating this function also helps us see why Rconscious reflection developed together with mind-reading capacities, as Nietzsche thought. The key point is nicely captured by Wegner: The co-occurrence of thought and action may happen because thoughts are normally thrust into mind as previews of what will be done. The ability to know what one will do, and particularly to communicate this to others verbally, would seem to be an important human asset, something that promotes far more effective social interaction than might be the case if we all had no idea of what to expect of ourselves or of anyone around us. (Wegner 2002:97)

Interacting with other people demands that one be able to justify what one does. But in order to be able to do that, one needs to ‘know’ what one is doing. In other words, one needs Rconscious reflective access to one’s mental states, in particular to one’s intentions. Thus, even though forming a Rconscious intention to act in a certain way does not causally contribute to the relevant action being produced, it turns out to be useful every time we are asked about the reasons for which we acted. For rehearsing the content of the Rconscious intention formed before acting puts us in a position to answer inquiries of this sort.¹⁹ ¹⁹ Others have put forward similar considerations. Take, for instance, Richard Joyce’s work on moral judgment: moral judgment (of the reflective sort) doesn’t give us ‘an extra little private mental nudge in favor of certain courses of action’, but provides a ‘deliberative consideration’ that can play a ‘justificatory role on a social stage’ (Joyce 2006:117). (Joyce distinguishes moral judgments which are the output of conscious reflection from those embedded in affective states. Nietzsche would of course


   

This is, in fact, the same kind of story Nietzsche himself tells us: Moral feelings and moral concepts.—It is clear that moral feelings are transmitted in this way: children observe in adults inclinations for and aversions to certain actions and, as born apes, imitate these inclinations and aversions; in later life they find themselves full of these acquired and well-exercised affects and consider it only decent to try to account for and justify them. This ‘accounting’, however, has nothing to do with either the origin or the degree of intensity of the feeling: all one is doing is complying with the rule that, as a rational being, one has to have reasons for one’s For and Against, and that they have to be adducible and acceptable reasons. To this extent the history of moral feelings is quite different from the history of moral concepts. The former are powerful before the action, the latter especially after the action in face of the need to pronounce upon it. (D 34, italics corrected according to KSA 3:43)

Whereas one invariably acts on a certain affect, moral concepts—and, more generally, psychological concepts—are employed to articulate the reasons for which one acts. As Nietzsche’s German text makes clear, what one thereby does is simply to offer a post-hoc rationalization—‘ein nachträgliches Warum’ (D 34; KSA 3:43)—suitable for social approval.²⁰ Though this ‘accounting’ plays an important role in the context of social coordination, it does not track the actual aetiology of one’s behaviour. Nietzsche’s view about the role of Rconsciousness resonates well with what the psychologist Chris Frith has recently argued. In a paper devoted to the question of the function of consciousness,²¹ Frith confronts the challenge of its superfluousness already raised by Nietzsche in GS 354: ‘If we do make so many complex things without needing awareness, what is the advantage of consciousness?’ (Frith 2010:504). His answer to this Nietzschean question comes surprisingly close to its Nietzschean answer. On the one hand, Frith maintains that consciousness is required neither for action production, nor for action control. On the other hand, he sees consciousness’s only function in its contribution to social coordination. As he writes, ‘consciousness is a critical component of our ability to share experiences with each other and create a cooperative, communicative society’ allow this latter kind of judgment to play a causal role in the production of our actions. More on the notion of embedded evaluative judgments in the next section.) ²⁰ See also Janaway (2007:46), who claims that according to Nietzsche ‘current moral concepts are ex post facto rationalizations of our relatively more basic inherited feelings’. ²¹ As testified by the perplexity sometimes manifested in the discussion session also reported in print at the end of his paper (see, in particular, Frith 2010:526 and Frith’s exchange with Gallagher at pp. 544–545), Frith isn’t careful about the way in which he uses the term consciousness. However, though he presents his claims as applying to all kinds of conscious phenomena—including, for instance, perceptual experience—his characterization of consciousness as intimately connected to language and to the ability to report one’s mental states situates his views in the very vicinity of Nietzsche’s own notion of Rconsciousness.

 


(524). Of course, a major divergence concerns the evaluative stance infusing Frith’s analysis: for whereas he takes consciousness to be extremely valuable thanks to its contribution to ‘the mechanisms that generate cooperation and altruism’ (521), Nietzsche’s judgment about those mechanisms is—as we have seen—pretty harsh.²²

7.6 Meeting Objections Some Nietzsche scholars, most notably Paul Katsafanas (2016; but see also his earlier 2005; see, moreover, Constâncio 2011 and Doyle 2011) have resisted epiphenomenalist readings of Nietzsche, for both textual and conceptual reasons. In this section I shall survey these objections and rebut them. Before I do that, let me clearly state what the intended dialectic is. All but one of the passages I shall consider do not explicitly theorize about consciousness and its role at all. Rather, they are relevant only insofar as they can be read as presupposing the falsity of (WLE). Here, my only aim is to show that—contrary to such a reading—they do not conflict with my ascription of that position to the (late) Nietzsche. In particular, I do not mean to suggest they count as pieces of textual evidence directly supporting my own reading, for I take the latter to be sufficiently supported by the passages already surveyed in Section 7.2. (Recall that those passages include the explicit and direct statement—both to be found in TI and A—that there is no geistig, i.e. Rconscious mental causation. Deniers of epiphenomenalist readings are of course required to offer an alternative interpretation of such statement.) Let me start with the only passage that directly addresses the issue of consciousness, namely GS 11. The characterization of consciousness offered there seems in tension with the superfluousness claim put forward in GS 354: Consciousness is the latest development of the organic, and hence also its most unfinished and unrobust feature. Consciousness gives rise to countless mistakes that lead an animal or human being to perish sooner than necessary, ‘beyond destiny’, as Homer puts it. If the preserving alliance of the instincts were not so much more powerful, if it did not serve on the whole as a regulator, humanity would have to perish with open eyes of its misjudging and fantasizing, of its lack of thoroughness and its incredulity—in short, of its consciousness; or rather,

²² I described what Rconsciousness does in terms of its ‘function’ or ‘role’. Unfortunately, I can’t provide any finer-grained characterization. The crucial point, however, is that its ‘contribution’ to and, indeed, ‘facilitation’ of socialization (to use again some other terms I have resorted to in this section) is—in some way or other—causal. To appreciate this, consider the following counterfactual claim: absent Rconsciousness, socialization wouldn’t occur in the way it does. Thus, it is not superfluous in that respect. (Compare GS 354: absent Rconsciousness, our mental life and agency would occur the way they do. Thus, it is superfluous in that respect.)


   

without the instincts, humanity would long have ceased to exist! Before a function is fully developed and mature, it constitutes a danger to the organism; it is a good thing for it to be properly tyrannized in the meantime. (GS 11)

Here, Nietzsche seems to think that Rconsciousness is somewhat independent from the drives, for to keep our organism working properly they need to ‘regulate’ or even ‘tyrannize’ it. This suggests that Rconsciousness could operate in dissociation from the drives—a scenario Nietzsche describes as extremely dangerous, as it would probably lead humanity to perish. The challenge to epiphenomenalist readings raised by this passage is nicely articulated by John Richardson, who argues that the fact that, rather than being ‘neutral servants of the drives, consciousness and language compete with them on behalf of . . . social interests’, seems to militate heavily ‘against the idea of consciousness as a mere epiphenomenon’ (Richardson 2009:139). I agree that GS 11 is at odds with Nietzsche’s later epiphenomenalist picture. As we have seen, that picture emerged gradually. In particular, a fundamental piece of the puzzle which was still missing at the time he wrote GS 11 is the claim that R consciousness is the result of language-mediated socialization (in parallel with the evolution of mind-reading capacities). Socialization, in turn, is a process by which a new drive configuration is selected: very roughly, aggressive drives become subordinated to social drives. It is only this insight that leads Nietzsche to maintain his mature (WLE), which includes the claim that Rconscious states ultimately result from the configuration of one’s drives. Thus, as Nietzsche came to see Rconsciousness as resulting from socialization and socialization as resulting from the dominance of a specific subset of drives, he concluded that its proper and only function consists in how it contributes to the process of socialization itself. That contribution, in turn, concerns the coordination of social interaction. Crucially, this means that the late Nietzsche no longer sees Rconsciousness as— at least potentially—independent from our drives. Hence, though Richardson’s reading is in tune with the picture we find in GS 11, that picture is superseded by Nietzsche’s later (WLE). As Nietzsche writes in BGE 191, ‘reason’—i.e. the capacity for reflective thought—is merely a ‘tool’ of the drives. But doesn’t the very idea of Rconsciousness being a tool imply that it is in some sense causally efficacious? First, the (WLE) reading I am defending says that R consciousness lacks causal efficacy with regard to the production of token actions, not that it lacks causal efficacy altogether. In fact, as I have argued in the previous section, Rconsciousness does play a causal role in the dissemination of social representations, in particular of social norms. Accordingly, we can say that Rconsciousness is the ‘tool’ of certain drives insofar as it plays a causal role in disseminating the values that correspond to those drives’ perspectives. Second, note that the tool image suggests that Rconsciousness is, as such, inert. A hammer plays its causal role only when guided by a human hand. Similarly, Rconsciousness

 


plays its causal role only when activated by a drive. This, however, doesn’t fit well with Richardson’s reading according to which Rconsciousness is a psychic force that can act on its own, so to speak.²³ Katsafanas levels another serious objection to epiphenomenalist readings based on passages in which Nietzsche putatively assumes that one’s conscious (in what I call the reflective sense) interpretation of a certain affective state can change the causal powers—in particular, the ‘motivational propensities’—and even the very psychological nature of that state (see Sections 6.4.2 and 6.4.3 in Katsafanas 2016:150ff; see also Doyle 2011:26, who argues that for Nietzsche consciousness is ‘an acquired power’ the role of which ‘is not restricted to passive monitoring but rather can causally influence or direct the manner in which our first order mental states manifest themselves’). If that were the case, episodes of conscious thought could modulate the motivational strength of affective states and, consequently, have a causal impact on the production of our actions. So let’s review the textual evidence supporting this reading.²⁴ A first passage is D 38, titled ‘Drives transformed by moral judgments’: The same drive evolves into the painful feeling of cowardice under the impress of the reproach custom has imposed upon this drive: or into the pleasant feeling of humility if it happens that a custom such as the Christian has taken it to its heart and called it good. That is to say, it is attended by either a good or a bad conscience! In itself it has, like every drive, neither this moral character nor any moral character at all, nor even a definite attendant sensation of pleasure or displeasure: it acquires all this, as its second nature, only when it enters into relations with drives already baptised good or evil or is noted as a quality of beings the people has already evaluated and determined in a moral sense. (D 38)

The behavioural patterns towards which the drives dispose us may be sanctioned by some culture and highly valued by some other. Greek culture, which— according to Nietzsche, at least—was the paramount embodiment of human striving towards excellence, disvalued (the drive towards) modesty. Christianity, on the contrary, praised it as one of the highest virtues. Such diverging evaluative judgments, however, were embedded in meta-affective responses: whereas modesty elicited the ‘painful feeling of cowardice’ among ancient Greeks, it elicited the ‘pleasant feeling of humility’ among Christians. As Nietzsche clearly states, the evaluative attitude we bear towards our drives is a matter of how it ‘enters into relations with drives already baptised good or evil’. The (hierarchical) relations in

²³ I shall come back to Richardson’s reading in the next chapter. ²⁴ Most of the passages Katsafanas considers were written before Nietzsche’s mature (WLE) was in place. On this basis alone, one could argue they cannot count as textual evidence against ascribing that view to the late Nietzsche.


   

which a certain drive stands with respect to the other drives will be reflected by the valence of meta-affective states targeting that drive. The judgments Nietzsche is here concerned with are those embedded in such meta-affective states. This is confirmed by the further examples he offers in the same aphorism: Thus the older Greeks felt [my italics] differently about envy from the way we do; Hesiod counted it among the effects of the good, beneficent Eris, and there was nothing offensive in attributing to the gods something of envy: which is comprehensible under a condition of things the soul of which was contest; contest, however, was evaluated and determined as good. The Greeks likewise differed from us in their evaluation of hope: they felt [my italics] it to be blind and deceitful; Hesiod gave the strongest expression to this attitude in a fable whose sense is so strange no more recent commentator has understood it—for it runs counter to the modern spirit, which has learned from Christianity to believe in hope as a virtue. . . . The Jews felt [my italics] differently about anger from the way we do, and called it holy: thus they saw the gloomy majesty of the man with whom it showed itself associated at an elevation which a European is incapable of imagining . . . (D 38)

In all the three cases Nietzsche uses to illustrate his point, the judgment in question is not an episode of Rconscious thought, but corresponds to the valenced representational content of a sentiment—‘empfinden’ is the German verb— directed at a certain emotion. To use the terminology Peter Carruthers suggests for the perceptual case, these judgments are ‘embedded’ within our experiential states and differ from the judgments that happen ‘downstream’ of those states, ‘generally as a result of further inference or reflection’ (Carruthers 2011:75). The judgments Nietzsche is concerned with in D 38 are of the former sort, for they are embedded in one’s affective appraisals. The same phenomenon is also at stake in GS 58 as well as in GM III, the other two main textual sources Katsafanas takes to support the claim that conscious (in what I call the reflective sense) interpretations of affective states can alter their motivational strength. These are the passages I now turn to, starting with GS 58. There Nietzsche writes that ‘what things are called is unspeakably more important than what they are’ (GS 58). Rather than its intrinsic nature, what really matters is the ‘reputation, name, and appearance, the worth, the usual measure and weight of a thing’. For even though these are merely illusory, they end up acting as the intrinsic nature of that thing. From this, Nietzsche concludes that, in order to dismantle this sort of second nature, it does not suffice to show it to be illusory. Rather, one should simply replace that second nature with a new one by creating ‘new names and valuations and appearances of truth’. The basic point of this aphorism is that things matter to us as long as they are valuable to us; given that we ourselves confer value to things, independently of our evaluations of them such

 


things are devoid of any value and, therefore, don’t matter to us. This is why laying bare a thing’s intrinsic nature by showing that it does not warrant our evaluative attitudes towards it does not succeed in changing those attitudes. Rather, one needs to produce a counter-valuation. Though this will indeed involve creating ‘new names’, as Nietzsche puts it, nothing in this aphorism suggests that just doing that will have any impact on the drive configuration in which one’s evaluative attitudes are rooted. (Nietzsche’s initial claim that ‘what things are called is unspeakably more important than what they are’ may be true simply in virtue of the fact that one’s Rconscious evaluative judgments are reliable symptoms of one’s Runconscious evaluative attitudes, as the Semiotic Claim has it.) That this is Nietzsche’s position is confirmed by another aphorism from GS. There, Nietzsche speaks of the ‘strongest and most evil spirits’, among whom he counts the founders of ‘new religions and moralities’ (GS 4)—obviously those he is really interested in. Such a ‘teacher and preacher of what is new’ is arguably an example of someone who creates ‘new names and valuations’ and, at the same time, manages to have people adopt them. In that respect, Nietzsche compares religious leaders and moralists to ‘conquerors’, for their most immediate effect is that of destroying what exists. Remarkably, Nietzsche stresses that when it comes to values, the way in which such an overthrow finds ‘expression’ is ‘subtler’ and ‘does not instantly set the muscles in motion’. Before it can ‘set the muscles in motion’, i.e. before it can have a real impact on the behaviour of certain individuals, the new set of values needs to be internalized by them. This happens—as we saw in the previous section and as Nietzsche again maintains here—when (and only when) the new evaluations succeed in igniting ‘the dozing passions (Leidenschaften)’—such as the ‘sense of comparison, of contradiction, of delight in what is new, daring, unattempted’—and, in this way, force people ‘to pit opinion against opinion, ideal model against ideal model’. Thus, as he concludes at the end of the aphorism, ‘the evil drives’ are what we should thank for such an Umwertung. Let us now turn to the story Nietzsche tells in GM III about the evolution leading from ‘bad conscience’ to the experience of guilt. According to Katsafanas, this is the transition from an ‘unconscious state of suffering’ to a ‘conscious emotion’ (Katsafanas 2016:59). The conscious emotion results from the fact that the original unconscious state is conceptualized in a certain way, i.e. as guilt. This, Katsafanas argues, shows the power conscious interpretations have of changing our unconscious states. There are problems with this reading. To start with, as we have already discussed in Chapter 6, Katsafanas’s characterization of bad conscience as a (strictly) unconscious state is incoherent. It is, rather, a Qconscious affective state characterized by a complex phenomenology. As Nietzsche famously argues, bad conscience is produced when the aggressive instincts are denied their natural discharge on external objects and, consequently, are redirected on one’s own inner


   

life. The individual is at the same time the cruel perpetrator feeling pleasure at the sufferer’s view and the very sufferer on whom the pain is inflicted. It is the ‘uncanny and horrifying-pleasurable work of a soul compliant-conflicted with itself ’ (GM II 18). Thus, bad conscience consists in a highly disturbing Qconscious affective experience resulting from the new configuration of the drives, namely from the fact that the aggressive drives have to be redirected towards oneself. A first step towards the moralization of that affective experience comes from its being associated with the idea of a debt towards one’s ancestors. The driving force behind one’s such ‘consciousness of debts’ is the ‘fear of the progenitor and his power’ (GM II 19)—again an affective state.²⁵ The taming of the aggressive drives required for one to act in accordance with the ‘customs’ is reinforced by the fear of one’s ancestors. For such ‘customs’ are the ‘works of the ancestors’ and, as such, still ‘their statutes and commands’ (GM II 19). Hence, breaking a customary norm constitutes a major offence against one’s ancestors, for which a terrible revenge is to be expected. Bearing the feeling of fear and indebtedness towards one’s ancestors is thus a psychological mechanism that makes the members of a certain community more compliant. A further development occurs, Nietzsche goes on, when the ancestors towards whom such feelings are directed start being venerated as some sort of divine figures: If one imagines this crude (rohe) kind of logic carried through to its end: finally, through the imagination (Phantasie) of growing fear the progenitors of the most powerful clans must have grown into enormous proportions and have been pushed back into the darkness of a divine uncanniness and unimaginability:— in the end the progenitor is necessarily transfigured into a god. This may even be the origin of the gods, an origin, that is, out of fear! (GM II 19, translation changed)

Again, the driving force is fear that, arguably acting together with something like the feeling of power experienced by the members of the strongest clans, excites their ‘imagination’ so as to project into ‘their originators . . . all of the qualities that had in the meantime become apparent in them, the noble qualities’ (GM II 19). Thus, the ‘crude’ logic Nietzsche describes here seems to be that of an affectively loaded, imagistic, and associative mode of thinking. The next development of this process is due to the way in which the ‘feeling of indebtedness (Schuldgefühl) toward the deity’ is transformed by Christianity: the ‘rise of the Christian god as the maximum god that has been attained thus far therefore also brought a

²⁵ On fear as the affective backdrop of many of our evaluative attitudes, see also the following passage: ‘All actions may be tracked back to evaluations, all evaluations are either original or adopted— the latter being by far the most common. Why do we adopt them? From fear’ (D 104).

 


maximum of feelings of indebtedness into appearance on earth’ (GM II 20, translation changed). The proper moralization of such a ‘feeling of indebtedness’ and its transformation into guilty conscience occurs when it gets entangled with ‘bad conscience’: that will to self-torment, that suppressed cruelty of the animal-human who had been made inward, scared back into himself, of the one locked up in the ‘state’ for the purpose of taming, who invented the bad conscience in order to cause himself pain after the more natural outlet for this desire to cause pain was blocked,—this man of bad conscience has taken over the religious presupposition in order to drive his self-torture to its most gruesome severity and sharpness. (GM II 22)

This is so, Nietzsche argues, in particular because the Christian believer ‘reinterprets these animal instincts themselves as guilt before God’ (GM II 22). Roughly, guilty conscience results when the self-divided individual of bad conscience experiences her own very nature as the origin of an infinite indebtedness towards God one will never be able to repay. Among other psychological manifestations, this ‘kind of madness of the will in psychic cruelty’ branches out into the ‘will of man to find himself guilty and reprehensible to the point that it cannot be atoned for’ and into the ‘will to think (denken) of himself as punished without the possibility of the punishment ever becoming equivalent to the guilt’ (GM II 22, translation changed). We can abstract away from many of the details Nietzsche adds to this story. The point is that, contra Katsafanas, one’s becoming Rconscious of bad conscience as guilt doesn’t seem to play any role in it. The mental state Christians refer to when they use the word ‘guilt’ occurs when one experiences the drives constituting oneself as an irremediable and unredeemable offence towards God. The causally relevant psychological factors are those leading to this quasi-pathological condition. Here, the main movens remains throughout the inward-turned drive towards cruelty, which—to reach satisfaction—controls one’s cognitive and affective resources.²⁶ The fact that Christians Rconsciously conceptualize that condition as guilt seems, to the contrary, a merely superficial phenomenon, itself a result of the deeper psychological factors that bring about the transformation of ‘bad conscience’ into ‘guilt’.²⁷ ²⁶ As an example of this, consider how Nietzsche describes ‘the Christian [who] accustoms himself to associating the proximity and mockery of the Devil with sexual enjoyment or everlasting punishment in Hell with a murder for revenge’ (D 109). Mechanisms of psychological association help the Christian to keep one’s natural drives in check: sexual pleasure is associated with the image of the devil; the pleasure produced by anticipating revenge is associated with images of eternal punishment. Arguably, this yields a stable, negatively valenced meta-affective response towards the drives in question. Compare also Nietzsche’s treatment of the psychology of criminals already discussed in Chapter 4. ²⁷ One could object that the narrative of GM II, though it highlights drives and affects as the primary actors in the transformation of bad conscience into guilt, does not suffice to warrant the claim that conscious reflection—more specifically, someone’s Rconsciously judging oneself as guilty—is a merely


   

The Christian concept of ‘guilt’ can be seen as an example of the ‘new names’ Nietzsche mentions in GS 58—i.e. as a word the primary function of which is to convey a novel set of values. An evaluative dimension is thus part of the meaning of words of this sort. A clear example of how Nietzsche thinks such an evaluative dimension works is to be found in GS 14: Greed and love: such different feelings these terms evoke! And yet it could be the same instinct, named twice: once disparaged by those who already have, in whom the instinct has somewhat calmed down and who now fear for what they ‘have’; the other time seen from the standpoint of the unsatisfied, the thirsty, and therefore glorified as ‘good’. (GS 14)

Nietzsche suggests that ‘greed’ and ‘love’ refer to the same drive, roughly, the drive to possess something. Sharing the same reference, they differ in terms of what we may call their affective mode of presentation. ‘Greed’ expresses the affective stance of someone whose drive to possess is already satisfied, whereas ‘love’ expresses the affective stance of someone whose drive to possess still longs for satisfaction. Analogously, I submit, the term ‘guilt’—when used by a Christian—expresses ‘all the “no” that he says to himself, to nature, naturalness, the facticity of his being’ (GM II 22). To conclude, on closer scrutiny none of the passages that putatively disconfirm epiphenomenalist readings of Nietzsche does in fact do so. What they show is, rather, that Nietzsche consistently points at one’s affective evaluations as the ultimate sources of one’s actions. Moreover, far from altering the nature of such evaluations, Rconscious thought is described as merely expressing them. Given the multiple passages in which the late Nietzsche unequivocally puts forward his (WLE), this shouldn’t be surprising.

7.7 Depth and Surface In the last three chapters we covered a lot of terrain. It will be helpful to sum up the main views I have been attributing to Nietzsche. The main claim of his philosophical psychology can be viewed as an answer to the following question: what does constitute us mentally at the most basic level? As it should be obvious by now, his answer reads: our drives and affects in their hierarchical order. On the contrary, Nietzsche takes the discursive capacity of superficial phenomenon lacking causal efficacy. True. But all I need to show here is simply that this claim is compatible with that story, for we have already surveyed decisive evidence of Nietzsche’s general endorsement of (WLE). Note, moreover, that the claim that a Rconscious judgment of that sort is just the personal-level upshot of the subpersonal arrangement among one’s drives and affects is straightforwardly suggested by Nietzsche’s Semiotic Claim.

  


conscious self-reflection—what I have called Rconsciousness—to be a mere surface phenomenon. More specifically, Nietzsche defends a version of (WLE) to the effect that Rconscious states do not figure among the causally efficacious antecedents of our actions. Thus, though one’s actions are often accompanied by episodes of Rconscious verbally articulated thought—for instance, when one says to oneself in inner speech that one is going to do such-and-such—the latter ones do not contribute to bringing about the former ones. Rather, one’s actions are produced by our drives and affects and thus result from the way in which these happen to be arranged. So why do we have the discursive capacity of conscious reflection at all, given that our mental life and agency could go on without it, asks Nietzsche in GS 354? His basic answer to this question is that Rconsciousness is a by-product of socialization. This answer, however, ramifies in several directions. On the one hand, as suggested by its linguistic nature itself, the evolution of Rconsciousness is intimately related to communication: in order to say to other members of my community what I believe or feel, I need to be in a position to verbally articulate those states. But the capacity of verbally articulating one’s mental life is precisely what Rconsciousness qua discursive capacity of self-reflection amounts to, according to Nietzsche. On the other hand, R consciousness plays a role in the psychological standardization of the members of a certain community, which is a major result of socialization. This is so because the kind of linguistic interaction through which we acquire the relevant social norms presupposes Rconsciousness. For the kind of thinking that ‘happens in words’ is the R conscious one, as Nietzsche puts it in GS 354. Doesn’t this story clash with Nietzsche’s (WLE)? No, because it only entails that R consciousness contributes to the dissemination of social norms, and not that it also contributes to the direct aetiology of token actions. For to become behaviourally efficacious—i.e. to issue in particular actions—a norm needs first to be internalized. This process of internalization, however, no longer depends on R conscious reflection, but is rather a matter of the hierarchical order obtaining among one’s drives and affects. Does this mean that no aspect of our conscious life is relevant to what we do? No, because there is more to our conscious life than just Rconscious reflection. As they are among the primarily determinants of our actions, affective states are especially important here. For even though we do not become reflectively aware of the vast majority of our affective states, as Nietzsche believes, there is still something it is like to undergo them. Moreover, affective states aren’t usually just raw feelings, but possess rich representational content akin to that of perceptual experience. Therefore, even though they remain unconscious in the reflective sense, affective states can be said to be conscious both in the qualitative and perceptual sense. As Nietzsche’s (WLE) is restricted to Rconsciousness, it allows Q consciousness and Pconsciousness to play a causal role in producing our actions.




8 The Self As we have seen, Rconsciousness is reflexive, for it involves the self-ascription of the mental states we become Rconscious of. Thus, one’s becoming Rconscious of one’s desire to eat an ice-cream involves ascribing that desire to oneself. But how are we to conceive of the self to which one’s Rconscious states are ascribed in this way? Nietzsche agrees with many philosophers that qua bearer of Rconscious states ‘one is not presented to oneself as a flesh and body person’, as Sidney Shoemaker (1984:102) puts it. Now, given that our fleshy and bodily person is a certain drives-cum-affects structure, this means that we conceive of ourselves— qua Rconscious selves—as essentially distinct from the drives and affects that constitute us. The main goal of this chapter is to show that Nietzsche takes such a conception we have of ourselves to be deeply mistaken. For he argues that no R conscious self exists over and above the drive-constituted bodily self. Quite to the contrary, he simply takes the former to depend—in a way still to be clarified—on the latter—a thesis I shall refer to as the Dependence Claim.¹ Some scholars have raised substantive worries about this claim. Sebastian Gardner, in particular, sees two main problems (see Gardner 2009). On the one hand, he argues that any attempt to make sense of the first-person Rconscious perspective in terms of subpersonal interactions such as those among the drives is doomed to failure. On the other hand, he contends that ‘there is a striking lack of fit between the . . . conception of the self that emerges from Nietzsche’s theoretical discussion of the self, and the . . . conception of the self that is presupposed by his practical philosophy’ (Gardner 2009:1). More precisely, he argues that Nietzsche’s picture of the ideal human being as value-creator is incompatible with a subpersonal reduction of the self: ‘Nietzschean man must set value on himself, not on some psychological structure’ (9).² These two points are supposed to show that Nietzsche cannot ultimately subscribe to the Dependence Claim. Thus, in order to make sense of his thought—in particular, of his own normative project—we would have to allow for a conception according to which the ‘self has some emergent

¹ This claim should not be surprising given Nietzsche’s (WLE). Leiter (2002) defends a similar view. (I shall come back at the end of the chapter to Leiter’s way of putting things.) See also Welshon (2014:175), who argues that ‘Nietzsche recognizes the self ’s supervenience on drives’. ² Janaway (2007) makes a similar point: ‘Nietzsche’s eliminativist picture of the self may be out of step not only with his re-evaluative project, but also with his diagnosis of the origins of metaphysical errors’, since his ‘philosophy as a whole demands that we do not regard ourselves only as complex hierarchies of drives and affects’ (221).

Nietzsche’s Philosophical Psychology. Mattia Riccardi, Oxford University Press. © Mattia Riccardi 2021. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198803287.003.0008


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reality over and above its constituent drives and affects’, as Anderson (2012:216) puts it. In this chapter I shall address and rebut the first concern formulated by Gardner. The second one proves more complex. In short, my answer to it is that Nietzsche’s picture of the ideal human being as value-creator is not, in fact, incompatible with the Dependence Claim and, more generally, with his reductive story about the first-person perspective of the Rconscious self. Though this is a claim I shall come back to at the end of this chapter, its vindication will be provided only in Chapter 11. The Dependence Claim appeals to two distinct notions of self: the Rconscious self and the bodily self. These notions correspond to what Nietzsche calls Ich and Selbst, respectively, in Zarathustra’s famous speech ‘On the Despisers of the Body’ (from which all quotes in the rest of this section are taken). The Selbst—that ‘lives in your body, . . . is your body’—is described as ‘a great reason, a multiplicity with one sense, a war and a peace, one herd and one shepherd’. Arguably, this description alludes to one’s many drives—the ‘multiplicity’—ordered according to some sort of hierarchical arrangement—the ‘one sense’. Accordingly, the Selbst is identical with the structure of one’s drives understood as physio-psychologically realized behavioural dispositions. The fact that Nietzsche calls that structure our ‘great reason’ highlights the fact that—as we already know from GS 354—most of our cognitive life is pre-reflective and embodied as well as that our agency is sustained precisely by this sort of pre-reflective and embodied cognition.³ The Ich, on the contrary, is described as follows: ‘Your small reason, what you call “spirit” (Geist) is also a tool of your body, my brother, a small work- and plaything of your great reason’. As we have seen, Nietzsche often uses the term Geist to refer to the Rconscious mind. Spirit is not only ‘small’ when compared to the ‘great reason’ of the bodily, drive-constituted self, but also subordinated to it. Thus, when Nietzsche says that ‘spirit’ is just a ‘tool’ of the ‘body’ he is saying that R consciousness is just a ‘tool’ of the drives. This not only confirms the conclusions we have already reached in the previous chapter, but also seems to lend straightforward support to the Dependence Claim I wish to defend in this chapter. As Nietzsche also writes in the same passage, the body ‘does not say I (Ich), but does I (Ich)’. The Rconscious Ich is the direct product of the bodily Selbst. Of course, it still remains unclear what the Rconscious self exactly amounts to and in which sense the bodily self ‘does’ it. This is what I shall try to spell out in the remainder of this chapter. I shall start by focusing on a philosophically pedigreed conception of the Rconscious self that entails a straightforward rejection of the Dependence Claim (Section 8.1). Nietzsche, I shall argue, not only dismisses that conception, but also explains its enduring allure by appeal to structural features of ³ Of course, this pre-reflective and embodied cognition encompasses many states that are conscious or Qconscious, such as pains, perceptual experiences, and affective states.


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consciousness itself. (Here is where I address Gardner’s first concern.) Section 8.2 works out Nietzsche’s own picture of the Rconscious self—a picture vindicating the Dependence Claim.


8.1 What the RConscious Self Is Not In describing the Ich, Nietzsche explicitly refers to our usage of the first-person pronoun: ‘ “I” you say and are proud of this word’ (Z ‘Despisers’). Though this may appear as a merely incidental characterization, the idea that our conception of conscious selfhood is intimately related to the self-referential role of the word ‘I’ is crucial to Nietzsche’s treatment of this subject matter. Indeed, that reflection on how the first-person pronoun works supplies a decisive insight into the nature of subjectivity is still a widely held view among contemporary philosophers. More precisely, appreciation of the peculiar role of the indexical ‘I’ is supposed to reveal why subjectivity appears both elusive and irreducible. This contemporary strand of thought can be seen as the heir of a venerable tradition that has its most distinguished advocates in Descartes and Kant. For this reason, I shall call this the Descartes-Kant-Picture. The distinctive mark of this philosophical lineage is the view that the conscious self cannot be identified with, nor seen as depending on, the bodily self. In other words, this way of thinking is committed to rejecting the Dependence Claim. On Descartes’s version of this claim, conscious self and material body are substances of different nature. Though Kant famously rejects Descartes’s substance dualism, he still distinguishes between the transcendental, conscious self and the empirical, bodily self. In the 20th century, Wittgenstein argued that the intuitive appeal of the Descartes-Kant-Picture is, in fact, due to the peculiar use we make of the first-person pronoun: We feel then that in the cases in which ‘I’ is used as subject, we don’t use it because we recognize a particular person by his bodily characteristics; and this creates the illusion that we use this word to refer to something bodiless, which, however, has its seat in our body. In fact, this seems to be the real ego, the one of which it was said ‘Cogito, ergo sum’. (Wittgenstein 1965:69)

Let us now turn to Nietzsche’s position. My view is that he agrees with Wittgenstein on two important points. First, Nietzsche thinks that the conception of a disembodied conscious self which lies at the heart of the Descartes-KantPicture is illusory. Second, he believes that the sui generis usage of the first-person pronoun is among the illusion’s sources.⁴ ⁴ Of course, many philosophers agree with the first claim as well as with some version or other of the second one. Besides Wittgenstein, Anscombe (1981) has proved particularly influential.


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Descartes famously holds that the proposition that one exists is entailed by the proposition that one thinks and hence qualifies as an indubitable piece of knowledge. Regarding the alleged ‘“immediate certainty”’ of Descartes’s reasoning, Nietzsche asks: ‘“Where do I get the concept of thinking from? Why do I believe in causes and effects? What gives me the right to speak about an I, and, for that matter, about an I as cause, and, finally, about an I as the cause of thoughts?”’ (BGE 16). Regarding this last question, many passages in his writings suggest that Nietzsche thinks we have indeed no right at all to hold similar assumptions. It is ‘the soul-superstition that still causes trouble as the superstition of the subject or I’ (BGE ‘Preface’). The ‘I’, he writes elsewhere, ‘has become a fairy tale, a fiction, a play on words: it has stopped thinking, feeling, and willing altogether’ (TI ‘Errors’ 3). An unpublished note reads: What separates me most deeply from the metaphysicians is: I don’t concede that the ‘I’ is what thinks. Instead, I take the I itself to be a construction of thinking, of the same rank as ‘matter’, ‘thing’, ‘substance’, ‘individual’, ‘purpose’, ‘number’; in other words to be only a regulative fiction with the help of which a kind of constancy and thus ‘knowability’ is inserted into, invented into, a world of becoming. Up to now belief in grammar, in the linguistic subject, object, in verbs has subjugated the metaphysicians: I teach the renunciation of this belief. (N1885 35[35] LN 20–21; KSA 11:526)

So the Descartes-Kant-Picture according to which we are some kind of disembodied conscious selves is but a case of cognitive delusion we fall prey to by taking grammar at face value. This claim raises the legitimate question of how we could possibly come to concoct such an erroneous picture of ourselves. According to Nietzsche, this depends mainly on two basic features of Rconsciousness itself. The first feature is something we have already noted above, namely that being R conscious of one’s mental states involves ascribing those states to oneself. But given the linguistic nature of Rconscious reflection, this kind of mental state selfascription will typically involve the employment of the first-person pronoun. Here is another way to make the same point: the word ‘I’ together with its cognates is the linguistic device one employs to express one’s subjective point of view. Thus, if we accept that Rconsciousness is linguistic, it becomes natural to suppose that a tight link exists between how we use the first-person pronoun and how we conceive of ourselves. As neurobiologist António Damasio aptly puts it: ‘Language may not be the source of the self, but it certainly is the source of the “I” ’ (Damasio 2005:243). In a similar vein, Nietzsche argues: People used to believe in ‘the soul’ as they believed in grammar and the grammatical subject: people said that ‘I’ was a condition and ‘think’ was a predicate and conditioned—thinking is an activity, and a subject must be thought of as its cause. (BGE 54)

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This claim very much resembles the passage by Wittgenstein quoted above. Both philosophers claim that the peculiar role the first-person pronoun plays in our linguistic practice tacitly spawns the belief in a disembodied self. Nietzsche is also aware that philosophers have moved away from Descartes’s original, substancedualist version of this view: Now, with admirable tenacity and cunning, people are wondering whether they can get out of this net—wondering whether the reverse might be true: that ‘think’ is the condition and ‘I’ is conditioned, in which case ‘I’ would be a synthesis that only gets produced through thought itself. (BGE 54)⁵

It is not clear who are the ‘people’ Nietzsche has in mind here. However, a certain sympathy seems to transpire for the project of explaining the (conscious) self not as the disembodied bearer of (conscious) thoughts—as Descartes did—nor as part of the transcendental machinery presupposed by the synthetic mental activity required for (conscious) thought—as Kant did—but rather as itself a ‘synthesis’ produced by the very occurrence of (conscious) thoughts. As he writes in the Nachlass passage quoted above, the ‘I’ is best seen as itself ‘a construction of thinking’. As we have seen, Gardner wonders whether a project of this kind is at all coherent: ‘How’—he asks—‘except in the perspective of an I, of something that takes itself to have unity of the self ’s sort, can a conception of unity sufficient to account for the fiction of the I be formed?’ (Gardner 2009:6). The thought here seems to be: any conception of the unity of the conscious self already presupposes the point of view of a unified self-consciousness. Absent this, we would be dealing with a disconnected manifold of mental states that could not even be ascribed to the same stream of consciousness. Subsystems of the mind linking together different such psychological states and dispositions ‘may explain the generation of many kinds of mutual representation among psychological items, but not the specific and distinctive mode of representation which is the “I” ’ (7). In my view, however, the challenge raised by Gardner can be met by considering a second structural feature Nietzsche believes Rconsciousness to possess. This is the issue I now turn to. As we have seen, there is a substantial overlap between Nietzsche’s view of R consciousness and contemporary HOT theories of consciousness. As you may recall, accounts in this family hold that one’s mental state M is conscious iff it is targeted by a HOT to the effect that one is in M. Accordingly, the content of

⁵ Somewhat unexpectedly, Nietzsche credits here Kant for taking an important step in the right direction away from the ‘soul-superstition’—as he calls it in the ‘Preface’ to BGE—at the heart of the Christian doctrine and even ventures that the ‘possibility that the subject (and therefore “the soul”) has a merely apparent existence might not always have been foreign to him [Kant]’ (BGE 54).


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conscious states can be expressed as follows: {I am in [M]}, where {I am in [ . . . ]} is the HOT and M is the targeted mental state that turns conscious. As this way of expressing the content of HOTs makes explicit, a HOT is always a first-person thought—a feature explicitly stressed by David Rosenthal. Appreciating this point, I want to suggest, helps to answer the concern raised by Gardner. Given a HOT construal of consciousness, all conscious states are unavoidably ascribed to a self. This explains why no subjectless, free-floating conscious states occur. What this still does not explain, however, is the—at least apparent—unity of the self to which any token conscious state is ascribed. This problem is clearly formulated by Rosenthal: By itself . . . such a reference to a bearer [the first-personal reference which is part of the HOT content] will not give rise to a sense of unity, since each HOT might, for all we know so far, refer to a distinct self. A sense of unity will result only if it seems, subjectively, that all our HOTs refer to one and the same self. (Rosenthal 2005:342)

So how can such an experience of unity emerge? Of course, an option here would be to explain it by appeal to some kind of Kantian transcendental notion. Rosenthal, however, offers an alternative solution based on the immediate, noninferential way HOTs make us conscious of their targeted states: So each HOT makes us conscious of its target as belonging to a self. Our HOTs do not involve any particular conception of the self to which they assign their targets. Indeed, the self that one is noninferentially conscious of mental states as belonging to is no more than a raw bearer of such states; one is not conscious of that self in any other way. And because one is not conscious of that bearer in respect of any other properties, one has a sense that all mental states of which one is noninferentially conscious belong to the same bearer. Since there is nothing that distinguishes the bearer to which one HOT assigns its target from the bearers to which others assign theirs, the HOTs seem to assign their targets all to the same self. (Rosenthal 2005:129–130)

The self to which mental states are ascribed is analogous to the self we pick out when we use the first-person pronoun ‘as subject’, as Wittgenstein puts it. In both cases, it is a ‘raw bearer’ devoid of any physical feature. As we have seen, both Nietzsche and Wittgenstein think that this leads to the conception of a disembodied self as the seat of our mental life. Importantly, for Nietzsche this grammatical structure runs very deep, as it governs the way in which we become R conscious of ourselves. As Rconsciousness is a linguistic phenomenon, the working of language shapes the Rconscious image we have of ourselves. That’s why we come to conceive of ourselves as selves essentially different from our bodily constitution.

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Rosenthal’s purpose is not to ‘sustain the idea that a single, unified self actually exists, but to explain our compelling intuition that it does’ (Rosenthal 2005:348). For, as he stresses, it may well be that ‘the self we become conscious of our mental states as belonging to is merely notional’ (Rosenthal 2005:130). This is precisely Nietzsche’s position. The sense of unity associated with Rconsciousness is a byproduct of the cognitive architecture underlying Rconsciousness itself. Therefore, appreciation of the fundamental features of such architecture—its linguistic nature and its involving HOTs—allows us to address the challenge raised by Gardner. We can offer an account that not only dispenses with assuming the existence of a disembodied self and with any kind of transcendental posit, but that also explains how a first-person point of view can emerge without presupposing an already unified self. In this way, we can explain not only why the DescartesKant-Picture is wrong, but also why it has proved so alluring.

8.2 The RConscious Self and Its Dependence on the Bodily Self So far, I have argued that Nietzsche dismisses the conception of a disembodied conscious self as illusory. Of course, that the conscious self is ‘not a simple, essentially unified and conscious, transcendental ego, which is fundamentally different in kind from the attitudes that compose it’, does not mean that it cannot be ‘something over and above the constituent drives and affects’ (Anderson 2012:225). The aim of this section is to enquire whether the Rconscious self is indeed such an emergent thing. There is a trivial sense in which both kinds of selves Nietzsche appeals to—the bodily one as well as the Rconscious one—cannot be identified merely with a bundle of drives. The same set of drives could take on a different configuration according, for instance, to external feedback. Whereas a social context may favour the drive towards creativity, another context may subdue its flourishing. Thus, depending on historical circumstances, two individuals equipped with exactly the same set of drives may evolve into two substantially different selves. Continuous interaction with the social milieu arguably counts as the most powerful exogenous process through which one’s personality is shaped. Whatever behavioural tendencies we may display, social practices such as education, religion, law, punishment procedures, etc., will promote some—say, acquiescence—and oppose others—say, (uninhibited) aggressiveness. Hence, the specific hierarchy that sets in among one’s drives does not only depend on which drives we are furnished with and on their natural strength, but also, and crucially, on whether their behavioural manifestation is or not socially permitted. By choking the natural channel through which a drive is discharged, society can weaken its original strength and thus help determine how the rank obtaining among one’s drives will eventually appear. This means that the drives alone


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cannot explain who we are either at the level of the bodily self, or at the level of the R conscious self. Rather, the decisive factor is the specific way they happen to be hierarchically ordered. This, in turn, results from the way in which ‘the brick wall of spiritual fatum’ one happens to be interacts with the historical environment one is embedded in (BGE 231). Crucially, this is also the reason why Nietzsche identifies the ‘soul’ with the ‘social structure’ (BGE 12), i.e. the hierarchical order of, one’s drives (and affects), as we know from Chapter 4. Anderson’s notion of a self that is distinct from the drives it is constituted by— what he calls a ‘minimal’ self—is motivated, at least in part, by considerations of this sort. As he writes, ‘the drives and affects could not be what they are without the whole Nietzschean self either, in that, for example, the typical complements and contents, and hence the functional capacities, of a given attitude will depend on which other drives and affects are available for it to recruit’ (Anderson 2012:224). The idea seems to be that the role a drive is supposed to have in Nietzsche’s psychological explanations can be made sense of only if we consider its relation to the other drives. This amounts to the claim that one’s self should be identified not with one’s drives alone, but rather with the specific hierarchical order they build. As Anderson puts it, ‘the minimal self is a diachronic, structured whole within which enduring drives and affects stand in causal and functional relations with identifiable patterns’. So far, it seems to me that Anderson’s minimal self is distinct from the drives only in the trivial sense that drives alone—independently from their mutual relations of rank—underdetermine the self. However, once the primary relevance of the rank order they stand in has been properly appreciated, one may wonder whether the Nietzschean self isn’t just that—one’s drives in their structured arrangement. At this stage, it is important to stress that Anderson’s picture of the minimal self is not intended as a model of what I have been calling Nietzsche’s Rconscious self. Rather, it clearly aims at providing a model for the ‘multiplicity with one sense’ our bodily self consists in. Anderson, however, argues that such a minimal self also possesses ‘evaluative attitudes about its drives and affects, and perhaps even a selfconception’ (229). Moreover, as also ‘consciously reflexive or even deliberative attitudes’ count among the higher-order attitudes the minimal self is supposed to be able to take with regard to its drives (and affects), this seems the place where the R conscious self appears on stage. Hence, a suggestion one might extract from Anderson’s discussion is that, whereas the bodily self is in no non-trivial sense distinct from the drives, the Rconscious self does constitute some kind of higherorder point of view that cannot be captured only by appeal to one’s first-order drives. However, this suggestion fails, for Nietzsche explicitly says that one’s firstperson perspective on one’s mental life is always just the perspective of a certain drive. For instance, in D 109—an aphorism we have already discussed at length— he writes that whereas ‘ “we” believe we are complaining about the vehemence of a

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drive, at bottom it is one drive which is complaining about another’ (D 109). Similarly, a short aphorism from BGE reads: ‘The will to overcome an affect is, in the end, itself only the will of another, or several other, affects’ (BGE 117). These passages rule out any view according to which the Rconscious self is some sort of higher-order power capable of selecting among the conflicting patterns of behaviour the different drives dispose us to perform. Thus, they offer a straightforward support to the Dependence Claim. Another strategy one could pursue to rebut this claim consists in arguing that, though the Rconscious self cannot be reduced to the interaction among one’s drives and affects, it shouldn’t be conceived as some sort of higher-order power either. Richardson makes a proposal along these lines. As we saw in the previous chapter, he claims that Rconsciousness—despite being a ‘new capacity’ that plays a role different from that of the drives, for ‘it represents a kind of alien interest against them’, i.e. the interest of the society that aims at blocking their discharge— should be conceived as working ‘at the same level as the drives’ (Richardson 2009:140). Accordingly, though Rconsciousness doesn’t constitute any higherorder power over and above the drives—for the interests it embodies are in the same league as those of the drives—it has a proprietary function distinct from and irreducible to that of any of them. If we accept this picture of Rconsciousness, we can say that the first-person perspective of the Rconscious self does not depend (solely) on the arrangement of one’s drives and affects. Hence, the Rconscious self would count as a minimal self in Anderson’s sense, for it would be capable of taking a stance towards its drives that is distinct from and irreducible to the stance of any of them. However, there are problems with this reading too. First, passages such as D 109 and BGE 117 do claim that the first-person perspective is, in fact, just the perspective of a certain drive (or affect). Second, and relatedly, Richardson’s proposal misconstrues the relation Nietzsche sees as obtaining between drives and Rconsciousness. As I take the discussion of Nietzschean (WLE) to have shown, Rconscious states are ‘surface’ mental episodes resulting from what goes on at the Runconscious level of one’s drives and affects. Whatever stance an evaluative Rconscious attitude may express, it’s going to be the evaluative attitude resulting from the current arrangement among one’s drives and affects. Of course, this view is also what undergirds the claims we find in D 109 and BGE 117. But consider also the following passage: What group of sentiments (Empfindungen) in a soul will be the first to wake up, start speaking, and making demands is decisive for the whole rank order of its values, and will ultimately determine its table of goods. A person’s valuations reveal something about the structure (Aufbau) of his soul and what the soul sees as its conditions of life, its genuine needs. (BGE 268, translation changed)


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One’s evaluative attitudes show ‘something’ about the ‘structure’ of the soul because they result from that very ‘structure’, i.e. from the order of one’s drives and affects. Thus, the rank among one’s ‘values’ is determined by one’s affective responses: which ‘sentiments’ we experience when confronted with a certain thing or event as well as the judgments—the sentiments’ ‘speakings’—and actions—the sentiments’ ‘demandings’—such affective responses incline us towards. Thus, one’s Rconscious evaluative stance is just the personal-level upshot of what goes on at the subpersonal level of the drives.⁶ This means that Rconsciousness cannot be a psychological function acting at the same level of the drives. This is also the reason why Nietzsche says that the bodily Selbst ‘does’ the Rconscious Ich and that the latter’s ‘small reason’ is only a ‘tool’ of the former’s ‘great reason’. This is still the case—Nietzsche argues—even for philosophical theorizing, which is not only the most sophisticated employment of the capacity for reflective thought, but also the paramount case in which its exercise is taken to remain unadulterated by one’s affects and drives. According to Nietzsche, the opposite is true: Actually, to explain how the strangest metaphysical claims of a philosopher really come about, it is always good (and wise) to begin by asking: what morality is it (is he—) getting at? Consequently, I do not believe that a ‘drive for knowledge’ is the father of philosophy, but rather that another drive, here as elsewhere, used knowledge (and mis-knowledge!) merely as a tool. But anyone who looks at people’s basic drives, to see how far they may have played their little game right here as inspiring geniuses (or daemons or sprites—), will find that they all practised philosophy at some point,—and that every single one of them would be only too pleased to present itself as the ultimate purpose of existence and as rightful master of all the other drives. Because every drive craves mastery, and this leads it to try philosophizing. (BGE 6)

Thus, even—or, rather, even more—philosophical theories are the product of a specific drive configuration. As any other Rconscious stance, they reveal the makeup of the philosopher’s ‘soul’ qua drives-cum-affects structure. Far from being arrived at ‘through the self-development of a cold, pure, divinely insouciant dialectic’, they articulate a ‘conjecture’, a ‘whim’, an ‘ “inspiration” ’, or, ‘more typically’, a ‘fervent wish’ (BGE 5). Thus, like most of our prosaic Rconscious reason-giving,⁷ they are mainly ‘rationalizations after the fact’.⁸

⁶ In Chapter 10 we shall see how, according to Nietzsche, the first-person perspective emerges from the subpersonal interaction among the drives in the case of volitions. ⁷ See Section 7.5 on this point. ⁸ Remarkably, though less surprisingly at this point, this is another of the claims made famous by BGE but already surfacing in the Nachlass from 1880, such as the Semiotic Claim. See: ‘Our drives run riot in the tricks and artifices of the metaphysicians’ (N1880 6[31] KSA 9:200).

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At this point, the following concern may be raised. If one’s Rconscious stance simply reflects the arrangement among one’s drives, why does Nietzsche insist that ‘consciousness actually belongs not to man’s existence as an individual but rather to the community- and herd-aspects of his nature’ (GS 354)? If the drive order is what constitutes us at the most basic psychological level and if our R conscious self is but the personal-level upshot of that order, how can R consciousness not belong to our existence as individuals? The answer to this concern lies in Nietzsche’s evolutionary claim about Rconsciousness. As R consciousness is a by-product of socialization, the kind of drive order it typically reflects is that promoted by socialization itself. Roughly, it is an order in which the social drives are ranked higher than the aggressive drives the indiscriminate discharge of which would undermine communal life as such. This means that, on Nietzsche’s picture, Rconsciousness is designed to embody the point of view of a specific subset of the drives—those drives promoted by society. Which drives a certain society promotes is something one can read out from its value system, in particular, from its morality—understood here in the broad sense of Sittlichkeit. Thus, society selects among our drives by reinforcing those that dispose us to act in conformity with its moral norms and values and by hindering those that dispose us to act against them.⁹ This selection produces an average ‘soul’: when members of a given community are confronted with a certain thing or event, the same kinds of ‘sentiment’ and, consequently, behavioural response tend to ensue, as Nietzsche argues in BGE 268. When this happens, the relevant norm has been effectively internalized. To wrap things up, let us go back to the same Zarathustra’s speech from which we started: Work- and plaything are sense and spirit (Geist), behind them still lies the self. The self also seeks with the eyes of the senses, it listens also with the ears of the spirit. Always the self listens and seeks: it compares, compels, conquers, destroys. It rules and is also the ruler of the ego. Behind your thoughts and feelings, my brother, stands a powerful commander, an unknown wise man—he is called self. He lives in your body, he is your body. (Z ‘Despisers’)

Both basic forms of awareness—sensory awareness and reflective awareness—are tools of the bodily self ultimately constituted by the arrangement among our drives. This is the true ‘ruler’ of the Rconscious self. This is still the case even for those ascetic moral attitudes that Nietzsche sees at the core of Judaeo-Christian morality: ‘Even in your folly and your contempt, you despisers of the body, you serve your self. I say to you: your self itself wants to die and turns away from life’ ⁹ See, for instance: ‘moralities are the expression of locally confined orders of rank in this multiple world of the drives’ (N1884 27[59] KSA 11:289).


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(Z ‘Despisers’).¹⁰ This means that morality—even in its most ascetic varieties— does not nest as a force opposing our drives in their entirety. Rather, it fosters the flourishing of certain drives to the expense of others and, in this way, brings about a new psychological outlook. So what’s the relation between bodily self and Rconsciousness? ‘The creative body created spirit (Geist) for itself as the hand of its will’. Spirit—Rconsciousness—is but a tool of the will. However—as we shall see in detail in Chapter 10—Nietzsche takes willing to result from the ‘commanding and obeying’ going on among one’s hierarchically ordered ‘souls’, i.e. our drives (BGE 19). Later in the book, Zarathustra says: ‘Thus the body goes through history, becoming and fighting. And the spirit (Geist)—what is it to the body? The herald of its fights and victories, companion and echo’ (Z ‘Bestowing Virtue’ 1). When we listen to the Rconscious self, it is the voice of the bodily self we hear. At this point, there should be no doubt that Nietzsche holds the Dependence Claim. However, I think it is somewhat misleading to characterize it as the view that a ‘ “person” is an arena in which the struggle of drives . . . is played out’, as Leiter (2002:100) writes. Nor it is accurate to say that the Rconscious self is a ‘spectator’ of that struggle, as he also suggests. A better gloss on the Dependence Claim is as follows. On the one hand, each person is a certain drives-cum-affects structure. That structure is the Selbst—one’s bodily self. On the other hand, the Ich—one’s Rconscious self—is just the personal-level upshot of the bodily, driveconstituted self. To say that one’s Rconscious self is a mere ‘spectator’ of the drives’ struggle still suggests that its first-person perspective is distinct from and, as it were, neutral with respect to their perspectives. On the contrary, Nietzsche holds that the first-person perspective is just the perspective of a certain drive (or of a set thereof), namely of the dominating one(s). (Thus, the ‘arena’ metaphor is misleading because it fails to capture the hierarchical nature of the soul’s order and, consequently, invites the equally misleading ‘spectator’ metaphor.)¹¹ Of course, one can still worry that such a view of the self is far too thin to sustain Nietzsche’s own normative project—in particular, his picture of ideal human beings capable of bringing about an Umwertung of Judaeo-Christian morality—as Gardner does. I do not believe that’s the case. For, as I shall show in Chapter 11, that view provides to that picture a suitable notion of unified self.

¹⁰ See also: ‘It was the sick and the dying-out who despised the body and the earth and invented the heavenly and its redeeming drops of blood. But even these sweet and shadowy poisons they took from the body and the earth!’ (Z ‘Hinterworldly’). ¹¹ To be fair, Leiter takes up the ‘arena’ metaphor from Velleman (1992:461), who uses it with polemic intent. Nevertheless, Leiter embraces it.

9 Self-Knowledge One’s bodily self—the ‘powerful commander’ behind one’s ‘thoughts and feelings’—is an ‘unknown wise man’, Zarathustra says. What this suggests is that we lack an easy epistemic access to what constitutes us at the most basic psychological level. The same idea is already expressed in D 109: ‘However far a man may go in self-knowledge, nothing however can be more incomplete than his image of the totality of drives which constitutes its being’. Nietzsche’s general scepticism about self-knowledge—more precisely, about introspective self-knowledge—is the issue explored in this chapter. Before we start addressing this point, it will be useful to introduce certain claims about introspective¹ self-knowledge that are not only intuitively plausible, but also part of a certain traditional picture of it. Let us start with the following claim.² Privileged Access: introspective access to one’s mental states confers special epistemic warrant to first-person beliefs about them. This claim means both that nobody can be in a better position than me to know what’s going on in my mind and that I cannot be in an equally favourable position to know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. That is, it entails that there is an epistemic asymmetry between knowledge of one’s own mind and knowledge of other minds. This view seems obviously true. Indeed, it is hard to find philosophers who do not subscribe to some version of it (see Schwitzgebel 2008). The one defended by early modern philosophers such as Descartes and Locke was particularly strong, as they argued that self-knowledge is infallible and self-intimating. Though many contemporary philosophers no longer believe that self-knowledge possesses features of this sort, they still think it is epistemically special. One may ask why introspective access is epistemically special. Given the epistemic asymmetry between self-knowledge and other-knowledge built into ¹ In this chapter, ‘self-knowledge’ without further qualifications should be read as ‘introspective selfknowledge’. For ‘introspective self-knowledge’ I mean the kind of first-person self-knowledge—‘from the inside’, so to speak—one has of one’s mental states. It contrasts with observation-based selfknowledge such as my knowledge that I have (just a few!) white hairs, which of course also counts as knowledge about myself. ² The following discussion is indebted to Gertler (2015). In particular, the claims I shall call Privileged Access and Direct Access are variations on claims (1) and (2) in Section 1 of Gertler’s article.

Nietzsche’s Philosophical Psychology. Mattia Riccardi, Oxford University Press. © Mattia Riccardi 2021. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198803287.003.0009



Privileged Access, a natural answer consists in holding that introspection consists in a sui generis cognitive capacity or mechanism distinct from whatever cognitive capacity or mechanism we employ to gain knowledge of other minds. More precisely, the idea is then that whereas the capacity or mechanism responsible for other-knowledge involves inferential reasoning or perspective taking, through introspection we have some sort of direct access to the contents of our own mind. The main idea can be put as follows. Direct Access: introspective access to one’s mental states is direct. Again, this claim can be spelled out in different ways. One may think that introspection yields some sort of inner awareness akin to that perception affords of the external world, as Locke did. On this model, introspection of mental states is direct in the same way in which perception of external objects is usually taken to be. One may reject the perceptual model of introspection and still accept that it is direct. For instance, one may think that one’s being in a mental state M noninferentially causes the first-person belief that one is in M.³ On this picture, introspection consists in the cognitive mechanism non-inferentially causing the relevant belief. Of course, Privileged Access does not entail Direct Access, nor in fact the more general view that self-knowledge and other-knowledge result from the exercise of different cognitive capacities or mechanisms.⁴ In fact, even those who deny the latter claim typically do accept (some version of) the former one.⁵ What is distinctive of Nietzsche’s position is that he rejects both claims. At least, this is what I shall try to show in this chapter. I shall start by considering Nietzsche’s rejection of Direct Access (in Section 9.1). Section 9.2 deals with his rejection of Privileged Access. Finally, in Section 9.3

³ Shoemaker (1996:222) seems to defend a similar view: ‘Our minds are so constituted, or our brains are so wired, that for a wide range of mental states, one’s being in a certain mental state produces in one, under certain conditions, the belief that one is in that mental state’. (Just before this quote he stresses that beliefs of this kind are made ‘noninferentially’.) Of course, as in Shoemaker’s case, the claim can be restricted to a certain ‘range’ of mental states and to ‘certain conditions’. I shall ignore such complications. ⁴ As such, Direct Access is silent about how knowledge of other minds works and thus compatible (against the epistemic asymmetry claim) with taking both self-knowledge and other-knowledge to be direct. This is an option I shall leave aside. Thus, I only consider Direct Access as a way of spelling out the epistemic asymmetry claim entailed by Privileged Access. ⁵ As we shall see, an example of this kind is the position defended by Peter Carruthers. As Carruthers agrees with Nietzsche about many features of self-knowledge, his case proves particularly interesting to our discussion. However, one finds many other options in the literature denying Direct Access, but accepting (usually some weak version of) Privileged Access. The general pattern is as follows: even if self-knowledge consists in the inferential or otherwise non-direct self-attribution of mental states, such self-attributions still prove more reliable than other-attributions. Gertler (2015) offers a valuable overview of self-attribution theories fitting this pattern, such as those defended by Chris Peacocke, Alex Byrne, and Richard Moran, among others.

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I explore whether his scepticism about introspective self-knowledge means that self-knowledge is altogether unattainable.

9.1 Against Direct Access Scepticism about self-knowledge is variously expressed by Nietzsche. Here is a first example: Even the most cautious among them [the men of knowledge] assume that the familiar can at least be more easily known than the strange; that for example sound method demands that we start from the ‘inner world’, from the ‘facts of consciousness’, because this world is more familiar to us. Error of errors! (GS 355)

Here, Nietzsche mocks the philosophers’ general acceptance of the picture we have been focusing on in the previous section, i.e. the idea that we possess some sort of direct and therefore privileged access to our own mental states. Elsewhere he articulates his own sceptic view of self-knowledge as a form of ‘inner phenomenalism’, as in the following unpublished note: ‘We don’t have to look for phenomenalism in the wrong place. Nothing is more phenomenal, (or more clearly) nothing is more of an illusion than this inner world we observe with the famous “inner sense” ’ (N1888 14[152] KSA 13:334–335). Now, phenomenalism is usually understood as a theory about the external world. It says that epistemic warrant is confined to what philosophers sometimes call seemings. For instance, according to this position I can be certain that it seems to me that there is an apple there on the table, not however that such a fact actually obtains out in the world. Standard phenomenalism, however, grants—in fact, presupposes—that we are, in some way or another, directly aware of (at least some of) our mental states. This, however, is the very assumption Nietzsche rejects in the quoted note. There is a direct link between Nietzsche’s picture of Rconsciousness and his ‘inner phenomenalism’. More precisely, the latter is put forward as the most relevant consequence of the Falsification Claim. Here is, again, the relevant passage from GS 354: At bottom, all our actions are incomparably and utterly personal, unique, and boundlessly individual, there is no doubt; but as soon as we translate them into consciousness, they no longer seem to be . . . This is what I consider to be true phenomenalism and perspectivism: that due to the nature of animal consciousness, the world of which we can become conscious is merely a surface- and signworld, a world turned into generalities and thereby debased to its lowest common denominator, . . . that all becoming conscious involves a vast and thorough corruption, falsification, superficialization and generalization. (GS 354)



What Nietzsche refers to here with the term ‘true phenomenalism’ is arguably the phenomenalism about the ‘inner world’ formulated in the unpublished note quoted above.⁶ This means that in GS 354 Nietzsche is primarily concerned with spelling out the consequences the Falsification Claim has for the specific case of self-knowledge. Indeed, as his explicit focus on actions further reveals, his ultimate interest lies in practical self-knowledge. As we shall see, however, the points he makes also extend to introspective self-knowledge more generally. As these passages suffice to show, Nietzsche’s ‘inner phenomenalism’ consists in the rejection not only of Direct Access, but also of Privileged Access: if introspection is a matter of conscious reflection on one’s own mental life and if conscious reflection necessarily involves falsification, we have reasons to mistrust introspection’s deliverances. Of course, giving up the idea that introspective selfknowledge is direct as well as privileged means abandoning a picture of the mind’s self-transparency altogether. For this reason, Inner Opacity seems a suitable label for the position Nietzsche defends. Why should we believe that the Inner Opacity view is true? To start to answer this question, let us spell out Nietzsche’s motivation for rejecting Direct Access— the less controversial among his two key moves. As we saw in the previous section, a major motivation behind this claim is the basic assumption that the way in which we know our own mind is different from the way in which we know the minds of others. Accordingly, the kind of direct access introspection is supposed to afford to our own mind is contrasted with the indirect access we have to the minds of other people—for instance, as resulting from an inference to the best explanation on the basis of other people’s observable behaviour. Now, Nietzsche rejects precisely this assumption, for he argues that both self-knowledge and other-knowledge are indirect and result from the exercise of the same mindreading capacities. Indeed, Nietzsche even argues that outward-directed mindreading predates inward-directed mind-reading. To put it differently, we first learn to read the minds of other people and only later turn those mind-reading capacities towards ourselves. The Nietzschean picture already starts to emerge in D. Aphorism 26, for instance, starts by noting that the ‘practices demanded in polite society: careful avoidance of the ridiculous, the offensive, the presumptuous, the suppression of one’s virtues as well as of one’s strongest inclinations, self-adaptation, selfdeprecation, submission to orders of rank—all this is to be found as social morality’ (D 26). For instance, ‘the animals learn to master themselves and alter their form, so that many, for example, adapt their colouring to the colouring of ⁶ This is also supported by the following note, which appears in a plan for Book V of GS: ‘Critique of modern philosophy: erroneous starting point, as if there were “facts of consciousness” (Thatsachen des Bewusstseins)—and no phenomenalism in self-observation’ (N1885–1886 2[204] KSA 12:167). This nicely maps onto the issues addressed in the final, printed work: phenomenalism in GS 354 and scepticism about ‘facts of consciousness’ in GS 355.

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their surroundings . . . , pretend to be dead or assume the forms and colours of another animal or of sand, leaves, lichen, fungus (what English researchers designate “mimicry”)’. The point of comparing phenomena of chromatic mimicry with the social practices described at the very beginning of the aphorism is that of highlighting how both constitute cases of adaptation to the environment. However, this way of putting things may easily obscure one of Nietzsche’s central claims. What I have in mind is the thesis—partially revealed by his mentioning the animals’ need to ‘master themselves’—that some of those cognitive abilities which co-evolved together with culture are already prefigured in the animal realm. In particular, and crucially, Nietzsche refers to the capacity of self-knowledge. As he writes, the animal ‘assesses the effect it produces upon the perceptions of other animals and from this learns to look back upon itself, to take itself “objectively”, it too has its degree of self-knowledge’. At the same time, the animal confronting other animals displays some rudimentary form of mind-reading. For it not only ‘assesses the movements of its friends and foes’ and ‘learns their peculiarities by heart’, but ‘can likewise divine from the way they approach that certain kinds of animals have peaceful and conciliatory intentions’. To start with, note that this helps us resolve a puzzle raised by GS 354. As we saw in detail in the previous chapters, in that aphorism Nietzsche claims that R consciousness bears an intimate relation to language. At the same time, however, he characterizes the very same kind of consciousness as ‘animal’ (GS 354). Given that language is a human-specific capacity, such a qualification is perplexing: why call Rconsciousness ‘animal’ if it depends on a cognitive skill only displayed by human beings? The picture sketched in D 26 suggests that elementary forms of self-knowledge are already present in the animal realm in consequence of a certain animal’s being confronted with other animals—either conspecific or not. Arguably, such effects not only are stronger in species whose individual members live in groups, but also grow together with the increasing complexity of the social interactions within such groups. Now, in GS 354 Nietzsche seems to argue that this last process depends on, or at least is immensely facilitated by, practices of non-verbal communication. As he notes, ‘not only language serves as a bridge between persons, but also look, touch and gesture’ (GS 354). Thus, he seems to suggest that the development of proprietary human, language-dependent forms of R consciousness builds on communication skills already to be observed among animals.⁷ This, at least, is what is suggested by his claim that ‘only as a social animal did man learn to become conscious of himself ’. Therefore, in qualifying our Rconsciousness as animal Nietzsche highlights its ancestral provenance. Of course, this is not to deny that the emergence of human language determines a quite astounding qualitative gap between the way in which we are conscious of

⁷ Of course, this is just the main conclusion of Espinas’s essay in comparative psychology.



ourselves and the way in which animals are. Indeed, Nietzsche holds that the distinctive mark of Rconsciousness is precisely its linguistic nature. More relevant for our present discussion is the picture Nietzsche proposes in D 26 of the way in which mind-reading and self-knowledge relate. There, he argues that the individual animal first learns to attribute mental states— perceptions, in the example—to other individuals and then ‘from this learns to look back upon itself ’. Thus, self-knowledge is not prior to other-knowledge. Rather, it is arrived at only after one has learned to turn on oneself whatever mind-reading abilities one usually employs to interpret the behaviour of other individuals.⁸ But how does this happen? Once again, recall that according to Nietzsche the process by which R consciousness evolved is tied to the ‘need to communicate’. This suggests that more primitive forms of Rconsciousness correlate with more primitive forms of communication. As we have just seen, gestures—as well as facial expressions— may well play the relevant role here. However, to be effective, communication also presupposes the possibility of mutual understanding, which in turn requires one to be in the position to correctly ‘read’ the behaviour of other individuals. Nietzsche’s view bears many similarities to the account of self-knowledge recently put forward by Peter Carruthers. As he contends, ‘the simplest hypothesis . . . is that self-knowledge is achieved by turning one’s mindreading capacities on oneself. All the conceptual resources necessary for this to happen would already be present in the mindreading faculty, designed for attributing mental states to other agents’ (Carruthers 2011:65). This has two consequences. First, one’s access to one’s mental states is ‘interpretive rather than transparent’ (2):⁹ we do not directly apprehend what is going on in our mind, but rather self-ascribe mental states in conformity with the folk-psychological framework we have

⁸ André Itaparica (personal communication) has questioned my reading of this passage from D 26. As he rightly stresses, the aphorism is not primarily concerned with self-knowledge, but rather with other-knowledge. Given this broad context, Nietzsche’s remark on self-knowledge could be interpreted as the claim that only a certain kind of self-knowledge depends on outer-directed mind-reading capacities. In particular, according to this alternative proposal Nietzsche would simply be arguing that an animal learns to behave prudentially by taking into account how other animals reacted to its own previous behaviour and that this capacity enables it to adopt an ‘objective stance’ towards itself. This, however, is fully compatible with the existence of other forms of immediate or, at least, more basic self-knowledge that do not depend on such a capacity. It seems to me, however, that Nietzsche’s text favours my reading, as he writes that the animal in question has ‘its degree of self-knowledge’ (D 26) in that it displays precisely the mind-reading skills just described. Thus, he seems to be saying that this, and only this, is the kind of self-knowledge available to it. To this, one could reply that it seems highly implausible that an animal could know that its leg hurts only once it has developed some—however minimal—mind-reading ability. There is something true to this objection, but I think that the issue turns on the notion of ‘self-knowledge’ we are concerned with. As we have seen, one can surely allow that an animal has some kind of pre-reflective self-awareness of bodily states like pain which is independent of outer-directed mind-reading, but insists, as Nietzsche does, that genuine selfknowledge is reflective and thus requires one to engage in communicative practices and social interactions. ⁹ Rosenthal (2005, ch. 4) also defends an interpretive theory of introspection.

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socially acquired in order—primarily—to ascribe mental states to others. Second, Carruthers claims that his theory can also explain why the contrary claim to the effect that we have transparent access to our mind proves extremely intuitive: ‘since these interpretative processes [those underlying self-attribution of mental states] would generally be unconscious, and since the mind-reading system would implicitly model its own access to these states as transparent . . . , it would of course seem to subjects that they have transparent access to their own mind’ (65). Let’s grant that introspective self-knowledge is interpretive in the way Nietzsche, like Carruthers, thinks it is. Why should we conclude from that that it is also unreliable? More specifically, why should we conclude from that that it falsifies what is actually going on in our mind? This is the question I turn to next.

9.2 Against Privileged Access Nietzsche’s denial of Privileged Access is the most distinctive feature of his Inner Opacity view of self-knowledge. Even someone like Carruthers—who defends that self-knowledge recruits the same cognitive machinery used for other-knowledge and is therefore interpretive—still maintains that introspection provides higher epistemic warrant (see Carruthers 2011:2–3). Thus, it is crucial to understand Nietzsche’s motivation for abandoning such a widespread claim. A first idea is, roughly, that language—more precisely, the mental vocabulary we acquire through linguistic interaction and use to Rconsciously conceptualize our mental life—is a major source of introspective ‘falsification’. So let us start to elaborate on this point. (This discussion takes up many issues already touched upon in Chapter 5.) Nietzsche originally tackles the problem in D: ‘We always express our thoughts with the words that lie to hand. Or, to express my whole suspicion: we have at any moment only the thought for which we have to hands the words’ (D 257). The point is elaborated in more detail in another aphorism from the same book: ‘Language and the prejudices upon which language is based are a manifold hindrance to us when we want to explain inner processes and drives: because of the fact, for example, that words really exist only for superlative degrees of these processes and drives’ (D 115). As we have seen, among the instances of such ‘extreme states’ Nietzsche names: ‘Anger, hatred, love, pity, desire, knowledge, joy, pain’; actually, he goes on, ‘even the most moderate conscious pleasure or displeasure, while eating food or hearing a note, is perhaps, rightly understood, an extreme outburst’. From this, he concludes that ‘We are none of us that which we appear to be in accordance with the states for which alone we have consciousness and words, and consequently praise and blame’. Three points are worth noting. First, we already find here the ‘inner phenomenalism’ claim to the effect that one is not the way one ‘appears’ to oneself in introspection. Second, this fact is said to depend directly on the linguistic nature of



the conscious access we have to our own mind. As Nietzsche has it, we become aware of those states ‘for which alone we have consciousness and words’. Third, he argues that the states picked out by the mental vocabulary at our disposal are ‘extreme states’ or ‘superlative degrees’ of processes which—as implicitly assumed in the quoted passage—remain for the most part unconscious. Clearly—and as already mentioned in Chapter 5—Nietzsche takes this fact to show that our mental vocabulary is, in some deep sense, inadequate. However, though one might well agree with him on this point, the reasoning offered so far falls short of substantiating any thorough denial of Privileged Access. More needs to be said here. First, some support for Nietzsche’s claim comes from reflection on the richness of our mental life. This point is nicely captured by James Sully, an English psychologist who lived in the second half of the 19th century and with whose work Nietzsche was acquainted. In particular, in a passage Nietzsche seems to have read,¹⁰ Sully notes that ‘a state of consciousness at any moment is an exceedingly complex thing. It is made up of a mass of feelings and active impulses which often combine and blend in a most inextricable way’ (Sully 1882:196). Moreover, ‘many of these ingredients are exceedingly shadowy, belonging to that obscure region of sub-consciousness which it is so hard to penetrate with the light of discriminative attention’ (197). Sully’s picture seems quite right. Now, according to Nietzsche the way in which one’s folk-psychological vocabulary constrains one’s introspective exercises is, at least in part, responsible for our failing to attend to the richness and complexity of our mental life. As he argues, ‘where words are lacking, we are accustomed to abandon exact observation because exact thinking there becomes painful’ (D 115). Once one has conceptualized the mental state one is in as an episode of ‘anger’, ‘joy’, or whatever, the task of self-knowledge is usually taken to have been accomplished successfully. Furthermore, as argued by Eric Schwitzgebel, we have a quite unsecure grip on the psychological notions we employ from day to day as well as on the kind of phenomenology associated with the relevant states. About the first aspect, he notes: I don’t know what emotion is, exactly. Neither do you, I’d guess. Is surprise an emotion? Comfort? Irritability? Is it more of a gut thing, or a cognitive thing? Assuming cognition isn’t totally irrelevant, how is it involved? Does cognition relate to emotion merely as cause and effect, or is it somehow, partly, constitutive? I’m not sure there’s a single right answer to these questions. (Schwitzgebel 2008:249)

¹⁰ A copy of the French translation of Sully’s Illusions is to be found in Nietzsche’s library (see Sully 1883). In particular, it seems that he read the chapter entitled ‘Illusions of Introspection’, from which the following quotes are taken. See Campioni et al. (2003:582). Interestingly, Sully’s book was anonymously translated by Henri Bergson.

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Things are hardly better with regard to phenomenology: You’ve had emotional experiences, and you’ve thought about them, reflected on how they feel as they’ve been ongoing or in the cooling moments as they fade. If such experiences are introspectible, and if introspection is the diamond clockwork often supposed, then you have some insight. So tell me: Are emotional states like joy, anger, and fear always felt phenomenally—that is, as part of one’s stream of conscious experience—or only sometimes? Is their phenomenology, their experiential character, always more or less the same, or does it differ widely from case to case? For example, is joy sometimes in the head, sometimes more visceral, sometimes a thrill, sometimes an expansiveness—or, instead, does joy have a single, consistent core, a distinctive, identifiable, unique experiential character? (Schwitzgebel 2008:249)¹¹

Nonetheless, we do not typically feel the urge to pursue laborious phenomenological investigations about our own inner states, nor to critically assess the serviceability of the mental categories we make use of. We just swiftly apply them to whatever state we introspectively attend to. Though considerable practical advantages arguably derive from this, we now start to appreciate why Nietzsche thinks that the peculiar linguistic form under which mental content becomes introspectively accessible belongs to ‘merely a surface- and sign-world’.¹² However, to fully appreciate the reasons why he denies Privileged Access we need to factor in Nietzsche’s view about the specific nature and function of the very language-dependent folk-psychological framework one applies to self-ascribe mental states. For he takes the introspective ‘falsification’ it produces to go well beyond the mere poverty of its psychological vocabulary. To start with, such a framework will arguably involve a set of false beliefs about how our mind works; for instance, about how mental states are produced, how they relate to actions, and so on. To use the kind of terminology adopted by Carruthers, we can say that the mind-reading system includes a model of the human mind that does not correspond to how it actually works. Some of these ‘falsifications’ are due to features of language itself, while others are due to the fact that the folk-psychological framework adopted within a certain culture is systematically permeated by normative evaluations and therefore unlikely to provide the basis for a true description and explanation of mental phenomena. A major example of this is, for Nietzsche, the ¹¹ Schwitzgebel’s list of complex questions about emotional phenomenology goes on, but his point should be clear by now. ¹² Schwitzgebel claims that the questions he raises ‘challenge us not simply because we struggle for the words that best attach to a patently obvious phenomenology’ (2008:250). The point is, rather, that ‘in the case of emotion the very phenomenology itself . . . is not entirely evident’. Therefore, it is ‘not just language that fails us . . . , but introspection itself ’. Though Nietzsche seems to see a closer relation between the poverty of our psychological vocabulary and phenomenological inaccuracy, he too thinks—as we shall see—that there is more to introspection’s failure than just this.



folk-psychology of Judaeo-Christian morality, which includes concepts such as ‘guilt’ or ‘sin’ that are obviously evaluatively charged and of dubious descriptive and explanatory import as well as a range of false beliefs about human psychology (see A 15). Indeed, as shown by phenomena such as the ‘Knobe effect’, even the usage of apparently value-neutral psychological terms such as ‘intention’ and its cognates are sensitive to moral appraisal (see Knobe 2003).¹³ To better illustrate Nietzsche’s point, I shall consider both an example of linguistic and folk-psychological ‘falsification’. The first one is provided by BGE 16—an aphorism we have already come across in the previous chapter. This aphorism starts with Nietzsche’s chastising ‘still harmless self-observers who believe in the existence of “immediate certainties”, such as “I think”, or the “I will” that was Schopenhauer’s superstition’ (BGE 16). This reiterates his dismissal of the idea that self-knowledge results from some sort of direct apprehension of what is going on in our mind. Moreover, dismissing this means rejecting the idea that a proprietary form of epistemic certainty attaches to at least some instances of self-knowledge. Descartes thought that I cannot reasonably doubt that I think or feel or remember, because I am immediately aware of those mental states. Similarly, Schopenhauer thought that I am immediately aware, at least, of my volitions. As long as they assume ‘immediate certainties’ of this sort, Nietzsche contends, both thinkers are still prey to the ‘seduction of words’: they take language at face value. To the contrary, a proper philosophical analysis of the content of the proposition ‘I think’ should go as follows: When I dissect the process expressed in the proposition ‘I think’, I get a whole set of bold claims that are difficult, perhaps impossible, to establish,—for instance, that I am the one who is thinking, that there must be something that is thinking in the first place, that thinking is an activity and the effect of a being who is considered the cause, that there is an ‘I’, and finally, that it has already been determined what is meant by thinking,—that I know what thinking is. Because if I had not already made up my mind what thinking is, how could I tell whether what had just happened was not perhaps ‘willing’ or ‘feeling’? Enough: this ‘I think’ presupposes that I compare my present state with other states that I have seen in myself, in order to determine what it is: and because of this retrospective comparison with other types of ‘knowing’, this present state has absolutely no ‘immediate certainty’ for me. (BGE 16)

Part of the presuppositions Nietzsche thinks to be tacitly at work in the proposition ‘I think’ are due (at least in part) to the way in which the first-person ¹³ The normative nature of folk-psychology as well as its unreliability have been discussed already in Section 5.6. The (imaginary) hunter belief described there is an example of the sort of false beliefs that are part of folk-psychological frameworks.

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pronoun is used—a problem we have dealt with in the previous chapter. As we have seen, that usage suggests that the referent of ‘I’ is something different from one’s bodily self. In addition, thoughts come to be conceived as actions caused by such a disembodied conscious self. To put it differently: on close scrutiny, it turns out that a metaphysically burdensome agent-causal model is enclosed in the apparently uncontroversial proposition ‘I think’. Though we may be tempted to take that proposition simply to register a ‘fact of consciousness’ introspection affords us immediate awareness of, it presupposes instead a certain folkpsychological picture of how the mind works. As that picture is embedded in the very mental talk we employ every day, we simply fail to see it. As Nietzsche warns his readers in GS 355—one of the places in which he puts forward his phenomenalism about the inner world—‘what we are used to is the most difficult to “know” ’ (GS 355). It is extremely hard to step back from the way in which we are used to conceive of ourselves and of our mental life. BGE 16 offers an illustration of the claim that the mind model embedded in the very language we use to interpret ourselves is wrong and, consequently, falsifies what actually goes on in our inner life. By focusing on self-knowledge in the moral realm, GS 335 illustrates Nietzsche’s further claim that the way in which we reflectively make sense of ourselves is evaluatively charged: So, how many people know how to observe? And of these few, how many to observe themselves? ‘Everyone is farthest from himself ’—every person who is expert at scrutinizing the inner life of others knows this to his own chagrin; and the saying, ‘Know thyself ’, addressed to human beings by a god, is near to malicious. That self-observation is in such a bad state, however, is most clearly confirmed by the way in which nearly everyone speaks of the nature of a moral act—that quick, willing, convinced, talkative manner, with its look, its smile, its obliging eagerness! (GS 335)

To substantiate this claim, Nietzsche targets the folk-psychological interpretation of actions as moral, which he characterizes as follows: ‘when man judges “that is right” and infers “hence it must come about!” and then does what he thus has recognized to be right and described as necessary—then the nature of his act is moral’ (GS 335). More specifically, Nietzsche focuses on the first of these ‘three acts’—‘instead of one’, as the callow self-observer would count them—i.e. the moral judgment to the effect that something is right. On the one hand, you take your moral judgments to be ‘true and infallible’ because, as Nietzsche puts it, they are what your ‘conscience’ tells you. But that your ‘conscience’ tells you ‘to do that’ does not provide any justification for believing that your judgment is universally valid, for it is the outcome of facts about you and your past that are utterly personal and ultimately inscrutable. Again, you are under the spell of an illusory certainty: you take the ‘absoluteness of the feeling, “here everyone must judge as



I do” ’ to mark the ‘ “firmness” of your so-called moral judgment’, whereas rather the contrary is true: ‘No one who judges, “in this case everyone would have to act like this” has yet taken five steps towards self-knowledge’. The reason for this is that ‘there neither are nor can be actions that are all the same’, since ‘every act ever performed was done in an altogether unique and unrepeatable way’—another expression of Nietzsche’s particularism about actions.¹⁴ This, in turn, means that ‘all prescriptions of action (even the most inward and subtle rules of all moralities so far) relate only to their rough exterior’. As Nietzsche will later¹⁵ spell out in more detail in GS 354, the ‘rough exterior’ consists in the morally inflated interpretation of actions shared by the members of a certain community. This will produce ‘an appearance of sameness, but only just an appearance’. Hence, as long as we look at what we do through that lens, we get a distorted and, consequently, largely illusory picture of our agency.

9.3 Is Self-Knowledge at All Possible? Nietzsche mounts a powerful attack against introspective self-knowledge based on R conscious reflection. Does this mean that he denies the very possibility of selfknowledge altogether—for instance, that we cannot even say that one knows that one’s leg hurts? To answer this question, we first need to make some distinctions. First, we may distinguish between trivial and substantial self-knowledge (see Cassam 2014 for this distinction). An example of the former is, precisely, one’s knowledge that one leg hurts. Another is one’s knowing that one is having a visual experience of something red. Roughly, these are cases of knowledge directed at qualitatively salient aspects of one’s occurrent experience. An example of the latter one is one’s knowledge of one’s desires, character traits, or drives. Now, as it should be obvious at this point, Nietzsche’s interest lies squarely with substantial self-knowledge. Nonetheless, the Inner Opacity view he defends has consequences also for most cases of trivial self-knowledge. First, as I argued in Chapter 5, Nietzsche has no reason to deny that we are pre-reflectively aware of the Q conscious properties of mental states such as pains or visual experiences. However, as his case against introspective self-knowledge is based, at least in part, on the inadequacy of our mental vocabulary, it arguably extends also to our R conscious awareness of such states. This seems to apply, in particular, to affective states, as the bad conscience/guilt case nicely illustrates. Here, one can grant that one’s pre-reflective awareness of the relevant affective state discloses its distressing phenomenological nature—its distressing ‘what-it-is-likeness’. However, as soon ¹⁴ See Section 6.1. ¹⁵ GS 335 still belongs to GS’s Book IV, already included in its first 1882 edition, whereas GS 354 belongs to Book V, added to the second 1887 edition.

 -   ?


as one conceptualizes it as guilt, one is Rconsciously applying a mental term that necessarily falsifies the state it purports to refer to. Something similar arguably goes on also when we apply mental terms such as ‘pain’ and ‘red’. The only difference, I submit, is that cases of the last sort are far less interesting given Nietzsche’s primary focus in those cases of self-interpretation that are relevant for issues in moral psychology. Moreover, mental terms such as ‘pain’ and ‘red’ are not as evaluatively charged as ‘guilt’. Therefore, they seem to falsify only because of their inability to capture the details of one’s inner life. The problem, in other words, is just that they lack the required fineness-of-grain. This brief discussion makes our initial concern even more pressing, for it seems to question even the most paradigmatic cases of alleged introspective certainty, such as one’s knowledge of one’s being in pain. Even in such cases—Nietzsche’s argument seems to imply—the conceptual resources activated to articulate selfknowledge turn out to be inadequate. Does this mean that there is no genuine selfknowledge at all? So far, we have been focusing on first-person self-knowledge based on Rconscious introspection. This, however, is not the only way we can gain knowledge about ourselves. We can come to know things about ourselves also in a third-person way. According to Nietzsche, that is indeed the most promising route towards substantial self-knowledge. The idea that third-person inquiry is a better route to self-knowledge than R conscious introspection may seem implausible and is surely regarded as counterintuitive. Nonetheless, many everyday situations lend support to that idea. A nice example is due to Schwitzgebel: My wife mentions that I seem to be angry about being stuck with the dishes again (despite the fact that doing the dishes makes me happy?). I deny it. I reflect; I sincerely attempt to discover whether I’m angry—I don’t just reflexively defend myself but try to be the good self-psychologist my wife would like me to be—and still I don’t see it. I don’t think I’m angry. But I’m wrong, of course, as I usually am in such situations: My wife reads my face better than I introspect. (Schwitzgebel 2008:252)

This case illustrates that the traditional picture of how both self-knowledge and knowledge of other minds work rests on a false presupposition, namely that the former—for its being direct—is essentially superior to the latter—for its being indirect.¹⁶ Besides such rather mundane cases, Nietzsche argues that certain sorts of thirdperson inquiry provide reliable knowledge about ourselves. This point is again put

¹⁶ Of course, what is being rejected here is the claim—entailed by Privileged Access—that there is an epistemic asymmetry between self-knowledge and other-knowledge. As Nietzsche rejects Privileged Access, it should be no surprise he also rejects this further claim.



forward in GS 335, which concludes by encouraging the readers to ‘become the best students and discoverers of everything lawful and necessary in the world’ (GS 335). Though Nietzsche refers here to ‘physics’—‘Long live physics!’ reads the aphorism’s title—it seems obvious that what he has primarily in mind is the kind of psychological as well as genealogical explanations of moral phenomena he himself provides in much of his work. Indeed, earlier in the aphorism he argues that in order to undermine our self-confidence qua moral judgers one needs to gain ‘insight into how such things as moral judgments could ever have come into existence’ (GS 335). This becomes, in fact, the programmatic intent explicitly pursued in GM. In the ‘Preface’ to that work Nietzsche declares that ‘we need a critique of moral values’, which in turn requires ‘a knowledge of the conditions and circumstances out of which they have grown, under which they have developed and shifted’ (GM ‘Preface’ 6). This is ‘a knowledge of a kind that has neither existed up until now nor even been desired’. To provide it is what Nietzsche takes to be his own major philosophical task. Of course, what his ‘genealogical method’ amounts to has been a much-discussed issue. Given our present purpose, it suffices to register that it is essentially different from any introspection-based attempt to gain self-knowledge (see also Stellino 2015 on this). Despite Nietzsche’s scepticism concerning introspective self-knowledge and, consequently, his insistence on the epistemic superiority of third-person routes towards substantial self-knowledge, he does seem to think that certain firstperson experiences may contribute to self-discovery. A case of this sort is illness. Notoriously, Nietzsche suffered from bad health throughout his adult life, ranging from poor sight and migraine to depression. His illness figures prominently in the autobiographical narratives he offers on different occasions, for instance in the new ‘Prefaces’ he added in 1886 to the second edition of all the works he had published so far. This becomes particularly salient in the ‘Preface’ to GS. Nietzsche approaches the issue of illness from the angle of its relation to philosophy. The very practice of philosophy is tied up with the experience of pain: ‘Only great pain is the liberator of the spirit, as the teacher of the great suspicion that turns every U into an X, a real, proper X, that is, the penultimate one before the final one’ (GS ‘Preface’ 3). This is the reason why he confesses not to be willing to ‘take my leave ungratefully from that time of severe illness whose profits I have not yet exhausted even today’. The experience of pain shakes one’s naïve confidence in life: ‘life itself has become a problem’. This, Nietzsche seems to suggest, is what moves certain individuals towards practising philosophy in the first place. Of course, this does not in any way clash with Nietzsche’s dismissal of introspective self-knowledge. What pain does is simply to inflame in certain individuals—in Nietzsche himself, at least—the ‘attraction of everything problematic’, the ‘delight in an X’ (GS ‘Preface’ 3). In other words, it triggers an affective

 -   ?


disposition towards a philosophical inquiry that arguably also involves the task of substantial self-knowledge.¹⁷ To realize this task, however, one has to become wary of taking introspective deliverances at face value and learn, rather, to rely on third-person ways of knowing oneself.

¹⁷ As we shall see in Chapter 11, Nietzsche sees an important connection between reaching substantial self-knowledge, on the one hand, and creating values, on the other hand. In many cases, realizing the latter goal requires realizing the former one.

10 The Will How are our actions brought about? A traditional way to answer this question is to say that they are caused by our will. This answer also allows to intuitively demarcate what is to count as an action from what is to count as a mere ‘doing’. I sometimes scratch my head, but that’s not an action of mine, unless it has been caused by my will. All my unwilled scratchings are merely doings, things I do without genuinely acting. Similarly, what one does under addiction does not count as an action, for it is not something one wills, but simply something one cannot avoid doing. What this shows is that the notion of will plays a crucial role in our common-sense picture of human agency. Traditionally, it also plays a major role in philosophical accounts of it. Thus, the question I shall tackle in this chapter is: how are we to conceive of the will according to Nietzsche’s psychology of drives and his endorsement of (WLE)? In his most recent book, Katsafanas starts his treatment of Nietzsche’s views about such matters by proposing the following definition of what the will is: ‘an agent engages in an act of willing X’—or, alternatively, ‘an agent wills X’—‘when the agent self-consciously decides to X, and then attempts to carry out the decision’ (Katsafanas 2016:137). Thus, he goes on, ‘we can say that an agent has a will if the agent has the capacity to engage in this series of [self-conscious] thoughts’. Katsafanas thinks this claim offers ‘minimal characterizations’ of what willing consists in. However, and though Katsafanas himself recognizes that we should ‘remain open to the possibility that Nietzsche is rethinking the notion of willing’ and, thus, ‘that he transforms certain standard assumptions about its nature’ (138), I believe that the characterization on offer is far from being sufficiently neutral for it to be assumed as a starting point. In fact, as I shall argue in this chapter, Nietzsche’s picture of the will is much more revisionary than Katsafanas is prepared to admit. In particular, as it follows indeed from Nietzsche’s endorsement of (WLE), he takes ‘self-conscious thoughts’ to play no causal role in the production of our actions. Far from being indispensable ingredients of the psychological mechanism constituting willing, they are just its (epiphenomenal) personal-level upshot. My discussion does not start with Nietzsche’s own model of the will, but rather with that proposed by the French psychologist Théodule Ribot, whom we have already occasionally met in previous chapters (Section 10.1). As I shall demonstrate, Nietzsche’s own views about the will converge on a general model that is very similar to Ribot’s. Indeed, there is robust philological evidence that Nietzsche’s Philosophical Psychology. Mattia Riccardi, Oxford University Press. © Mattia Riccardi 2021. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198803287.003.0010

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the late Nietzsche picks up aspects of his general view about the will from empirical literature, including Ribot’s work, as I show in Section 10.3. (Further evidence of the impact of Ribot’s views on those of Nietzsche will also emerge in the next chapter.) That section, however, is preceded by a detailed reading of BGE 19 (Section 10.2), the passage in which Nietzsche offers the most articulated treatment of the will. The resulting model should be seen, I suggest, as his own version of the broadly Ribotian picture sketched in Section 10.1.

10.1 Ribot’s Model of the Will The late Nietzsche’s fascination for French culture is well known. ‘France’—he writes—‘is still the seat of the most spiritual and sophisticated culture in Europe today’ (BGE 254). An important presupposition of the ‘France of taste’ Nietzsche is praising is the outstanding keenness displayed by French writers in their psychological observations: ‘even among little romanciers of newspapers and chance boulevardiers de Paris you will find, on average, a psychological sensitivity and curiosity that people in Germany, for instance, have no concept of (much less the thing itself!)’. Stendhal, who was capable of running ‘through several centuries of the European soul, as a pathfinder and discoverer of this soul’, is for him the quintessential embodiment of this ability. Now, though in the same aphorism Nietzsche declares Stendhal to be ‘France’s last great psychologist’, we know that he avidly engaged also with the work of French psychologists stricto sensu. Even though he sometimes refers to them scornfully, some of the views he defended were undoubtedly shaped by theirs. This is true, in particular, of the hierarchical model of the will he puts forward in his later writings, which—as I shall argue—is largely indebted to the views of Théodule Ribot.¹ Ribot starts by affirming that the ‘will . . . resolves itself into volitions, each one of which is an element, an unstable form of activity, a resultant varying according to the causes that produce it’ (Ribot 1915:1). A psychologically sound model cannot simply take the will to be some kind of faculty causing our actions, for such a picture would be explanatorily idle. Rather, one has to take token volitions as the proper object of analysis and individuate the different elements contributing to their complex aetiology as well as determining their capacity to issue in actions. Ribot almost immediately adds that in every volition ‘there are two entirely distinct elements: the state of consciousness, the “I will”, which indicates a

¹ See Lampl (1989) for philological evidence that Nietzsche read the original French edition of Ribot’s book (Les maladies de la volonté, 1883). For instance, GM III 17 is in large part a synopsis of a chapter from that book. Ribot’s work proved very influential. For instance, William James relies on it in his discussion of the different types of will. See, in particular, James (1990:801).


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situation, but which has itself no efficacy; and a very complex psychophysiological mechanism, in which alone resides the power to act’ (2). Unsurprisingly, Ribot’s interest is in the latter one. In fact, though Ribot argues that the specific aetiology of voluntary activity differs according to the level of behavioural complexity, he nonetheless maintains that all actions depend on the same fundamental psychological phenomenon: ‘every state of consciousness always has a tendency to express itself, to manifest itself by a movement, an act’ (Ribot 1915:3). The most basic case is that of ‘desire’, which according to Ribot refers to ‘the most elementary forms of the affective life’. As he writes, the tendency of desires to ‘express themselves in acts is immediate and irresistible’ (4). A more complex case is that of actions directly caused by ‘ideas’, which Ribot dubs ‘ideo-motor’ (5). He employs the term ‘idea’ in a very loose way to refer to every kind of mental representation. All such representations, he argues, have a motor ingredient that makes them capable of causing one’s behaviour. Based on how strong their capacity is to directly produce movements, he distinguishes among three main kinds of ideas: the first group includes ‘extremely intense intellectual states’ such as ‘fixed ideas’ of the pathological sort and ‘passions’ (6–7); the second group is that of what Ribot calls ‘rational activity’, i.e. the ideas involved and resulting from processes of ‘deliberation’ (7); the third is that of ‘abstract ideas’ (8), which, as I understand them, roughly correspond to beliefs. Crucially, the idea’s motor tendency as well as its affective dimension decrease as we move from ideas of the first kind towards ideas of the third kind. The reason is simple: as Ribot puts it, we are ‘led by . . . feelings alone’ (9). Thus, the power a mental state has to immediately trigger a certain behaviour is proportionate to its arousal component. At this point, one may think that Ribot admits conscious causation after all, for many of the ‘ideas’ he lists are obviously conscious states—at least, in some sense of the term ‘conscious’. This, however, is not the case. As he writes, ‘an idea does not produce a movement’ (Ribot 1915:6). Thus, ‘it is not the state of consciousness as such, but rather the corresponding physiological state which transforms itself into an act. In short, the relation is not between a psychical event and a movement, but between two states of the same kind’. Now, given that Ribot uses the word ‘idea’ as a dummy for whatever kind of representational state, his view seems to amount to a version of Global Epiphenomenalism: consciousness of every sort lacks causal efficacy. This is obviously a much stronger claim that the (WLE) put forward by Nietzsche, which—as we have seen—only concerns Rconsciousness. Nietzsche, for instance, is not committed to the claim that affective states are efficacious only in virtue of their strictly unconscious, purely physical properties, and not also of their valenced and P conscious representational content. This is probably the major disagreement between Ribot and Nietzsche.

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Let’s go back to the different kinds of idea distinguished by Ribot. The second group—that of ‘rational activity’—is obviously the most interesting one. This is so not only because—as Ribot himself rightly notes—‘the greater part of our actions fall under this type’ (Ribot 1915:7), but also due to the complexity of the psychological mechanism at play in cases of deliberation. Whereas that mechanism has traditionally been modelled adopting a conception of the will as a ‘fiat which the muscles obey’ (10), Ribot argues that it can only be understood by focusing on inhibitory processes. In fact, if one assumes that ideas possess an intrinsic motor tendency, the problem of how actions are produced, in a certain sense, disappears. The problem one is confronted with is, rather, how one can prevent a certain idea from immediately causing a certain action. Consequently, how one exercises such a capacity to refrain from acting on a certain idea is the key issue a psychological theory of ‘rational activity’ needs to explain. So how is it supposed to work? Ribot uses a simple example to illustrate his view: ‘a fit of anger stopped by the will’ (13). If one manages to exert selfcontrol in such a case, this means that the ‘original state of consciousness (anger) has awakened antagonistic states, varying necessarily from one man to another: the idea of duty, or the fear of God, of opinion, of the laws, of disastrous consequences, etc.’ (15). This means that ‘a second centre of action’ contrasting one’s anger now enters the picture. Hence, inhibition occurs when an idea is produced—‘by means of an association’, according to Ribot—the motor tendency of which opposes that of the initial state and suffices to prevent its standard manifestation. For inhibition is usually only ‘relative’ and, typically, ‘its only result is to lead to a diminished action’. Instead of causing one to smash a fine china vase, anger discharges in more innocuous ways, such as ‘half-restrained gestures’ or ‘visceral agitations’. More importantly, Ribot argues that though the ‘co-existence of these two contrary states of consciousness’ is ‘sufficient to produce indecision, uncertainty, and inaction’, it is not enough ‘to cause a voluntary arrestation, in the real sense of the word, an “I will not”’ (16). A further ‘necessary’ condition is the presence of ‘an affective element’, in this case, of a feeling having what Ribot calls a ‘depressive character’, of which fear in all its degrees offers an illustrative example. Ribot concludes: ‘Considered as a state of consciousness, volition is . . . nothing more than an affirmation (or negation)’ (Ribot 1915:22). That is, the way in which we become aware of our making a choice is under the guise of a (conscious) judgment. That’s how deliberating looks from the ‘psychological and interior side’ (20), as he has it. However, what in fact goes on—i.e. what we see when we abandon the first-person perspective in favour of the third-person one—is something incommensurably more intricate. Indeed, a choice can be ultimately explained only by considering one’s psychological entirety: two or more states of consciousness arise as possible ends of action; after some oscillations, one is preferred, chosen. Why, if not because between that state and


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the sum of conscious, sub-conscious, and unconscious (purely physical) states which at the moment constitute the person, the ego, there is conformity, analogy of nature, affinity? (Ribot 1915:21)

This means, as Ribot again puts it, that ‘in all cases choice expresses the nature of the individual, at a given minute, under given circumstances, and in a given degree’ (Ribot 1915:21). Of course, there is a striking resemblance between Ribot’s view and Nietzsche’s claim to the effect that a mental state such as a conscious volition is a ‘total state’ resulting ‘from how the power of all the drives that constitute us is fixed at that moment—thus, the power of the drive that dominates just now as well as of the drives obeying or resisting it’ (1885 1[61] LN:60; KSA 12:26). How much Ribot and Nietzsche converge towards the same kind of picture can be appreciated along three dimensions. First—and unsurprisingly in light of the strong epiphenomenalist claims he has formulated earlier in his book—Ribot maintains that ‘volition by itself, as a state of consciousness, has no more efficacy to produce an act than a judgment to produce truth. The efficacy comes from elsewhere’ (1915:22). As we have seen, Nietzsche similarly denies that R conscious states such as intentions are among the causally efficacious antecedents of our actions. Second, a substantial agreement also emerges when we consider what does determine one’s choices and actions. Starting with Ribot, he argues that the ‘ultimate reason of the choice is . . . in the character’ (22). But what is character? His answer reads as follows: ‘what constitutes it [character] are much rather affective states, a peculiar manner of feeling, than an intellectual activity. It is this general manner of feeling, this permanent tone of the organism, which is the first and true motor’ (23). As we already know, Nietzsche too takes affective states to be among the most basic psychological items. To them he also adds the drives. Now, though Ribot does not employ the notion of drives, he refers to ‘that group of tendencies which spring from the character’ (24). These are arguably stable behavioural dispositions akin to Nietzschean drives. (Recall that Schopenhauer had already identified drives with character traits.) Conversely, it seems plausible to hold that his drives-cum-affects psychology commits Nietzsche to a notion of character close to that appealed to by Ribot. Third, Ribot concurs with Nietzsche that human psychology displays a hierarchical structure. As he writes, the will has ‘as its fundamental condition a hierarchical co-ordination’ (113). More precisely, what volition presupposes is ‘a co-ordination with subordination, such that all converges towards a single point: the end to be attained’ (114). As we shall see in the next section, this is precisely the idea underlying Nietzsche’s own model of the will, which is but an elaboration on his conception of the drives-cum-affects order also undergirding his picture of the Selbst.

   :  


10.2 Nietzsche on the Will: BGE 19 The place to start to work out Nietzsche’s conception of the will is BGE 19.² The aphorism starts with a critical note on how the philosophical tradition, in general, and Schopenhauer, in particular, have approached that issue: Philosophers tend to talk about the will as if it were the most familiar thing in the world. In fact, Schopenhauer would have us believe that the will is the only thing that is really familiar, familiar through and through, familiar without pluses or minuses. But I have always thought that, here too, Schopenhauer was only doing what philosophers always tend to do: adopting and exaggerating a popular prejudice. Willing strikes me as, above all, something complicated, something unified only in a word—and this single word contains the popular prejudice that has overruled whatever minimal precautions philosophers might take. So let us be more cautious, for once—let us be ‘unphilosophical’. (BGE 19)

Nietzsche’s main point is clear: philosophers follow common sense in assuming we have some sort of intuitive grasp of the nature of volitional processes. According to such a view, willing is some sort of simple act of the mind. This, however, is mistaken: willing isn’t at all simple. So what is Nietzsche’s own analysis of the phenomenon of volition? A first claim he defends is that three different sorts of mental ingredient are constitutive of volition. The first ingredient is ‘feeling’, in fact, several different feelings: Let us say: in every act of willing there is, to begin with, a plurality of feelings, namely: the feeling of the state away from which, the feeling of the state towards which, and the feeling of this ‘away from’ and ‘towards’ themselves. But this is accompanied by a feeling of the muscles that comes into play through a sort of habit as soon as we ‘will’, even without our putting ‘arms and legs’ into motion. (BGE 19)

First, muscular sensations are part of volition. This claim may seem puzzling, for one may think that such sensations are produced only when an action is performed, and not merely in virtue of one’s willing to perform it. Nietzsche, however, was clearly aware of a phenomenon already known by 19th-century psychologists, namely that imagining a movement is enough to produce kinaesthetic feedback. The other feelings Nietzsche describes are less transparent. They seem to be a feeling of anticipation of the state I am supposed to reach in case my volition is traduced into a successful action, together with the feeling that I shall ² The two most sustained readings of this aphorism are put forward by Clark and Dudrick (2012, ch. 7) and by Leiter (2019, ch. 5). I learned a lot from both. I shall register my main points of agreement and disagreement with each of them as I proceed.


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cease to be in the state I am in now—plus something like a (temporal?) feeling of that very transition. To use Husserl’s famous terminology, Nietzsche seems to point out that willing always involves a forward-looking protension towards the goal to be reached as well as a backward-looking retention of the present state from which one’s volition springs. For instance, if I am hungry and willing to eat a snack, this will involve feelings directed forward at the snack as well as feelings directed backward at my current state of hunger. The other two mental ingredients of willing are, according to Nietzsche, a ‘thought’ and an ‘affect’, more specifically: In every act of will there is a commandeering thought,—and we really should not believe this thought can be divorced from the ‘willing’, as if some will would then be left over! Third, the will is not just a complex of feeling and thinking; rather, it is fundamentally an affect: and specifically the affect of command. What is called ‘freedom of the will’ is essentially the affect of superiority with respect to something that must obey: ‘I am free, “it” must obey’—this consciousness lies in every will . . . (BGE 19, translation changed)

Here, things get more complicated. An example will help to illustrate Nietzsche’s point. Consider this simple case: I make up my mind and go jogging. This action is preceded by a volition: I go jogging because that’s what I want to do right now. Anticipatory and muscular feelings are, as we have seen, part of the mental process of volition. What about the ‘commandeering thought’? The most natural candidate is an episode of Rconscious thought such as ‘I will go jogging!’. What about the ‘affect of command’? According to Nietzsche, this is supposed to be the ‘fundamental’ element in an episode of willing. But fundamental in which sense? Part of the answer is surely that it constitutes, as Nietzsche argues, the phenomenological core of the experience we have of ourselves as free agents. For the sense of free agency, properly analysed, consists in the ‘affect of superiority’ intrinsic in the very act of commanding someone to do something. (We shall see in a minute who that ‘someone’ is in the present case.) All this seems to offer a descriptive analysis of volitional phenomenology.³ What about the subpersonal processes underlying one’s conscious experience of willing? ‘All willing’—as Nietzsche writes towards the end of the aphorism—‘is simply a matter of commanding and obeying, on the groundwork . . . of a society constructed out of many “souls” ’ (BGE 19). As we saw in Chapter 3, these many

³ On this point, I agree with Leiter (2019:127). Clark and Dudrick (2012:183), on the contrary, deny that the ‘affect of superiority’ is part of what goes on at the phenomenological level. As I shall argue later, I do not think this is true.

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‘souls’ are just the drives. Thus, the command–obedience relation which is at stake in BGE 19 obtains among the drives. This, however, poses a puzzle. For Nietzsche seems to provide two contrasting stories. At the personal level, in an episode of willing it looks as if ‘I’ am commanding to ‘myself ’ to do something. At the subpersonal level, however, what we have is a drive commanding another drive. How can these two stories be reconciled? Roughly, the answer to this question goes as follows: whereas the subpersonal story describes what is actually going on in us—what volition actually amounts too—the personal-level story simply captures the experience and conception we have of ourselves as agents. These, however, are in important respects illusory. Such are the points Nietzsche elaborates in the central part of BGE 19. On the one hand, we are, under the circumstances, both the one who commands and the one who obeys, and as the obedient one we are familiar with the feelings of compulsion, force, pressure, resistance, and motion that generally start right after the act of willing. On the other hand, however, we are in the habit of ignoring and deceiving ourselves about this duality by means of the synthetic concept of the ‘I’. (BGE 19)

In this dense passage Nietzsche makes two main claims. First, in any episode of willing one figures in two distinct roles: as the emitter of the command as well as the recipient of it. Second, Nietzsche argues, the very phenomenology of agency obscures this fact. This is a first mistake induced by ‘the synthetic concept of the “I” ’. The first claim refers to the subpersonal story: I harbour conflicting drives, so that acting in one way rather than another implies that one drive has managed to orient my behaviour towards its goal. This drive is the part of myself issuing the relevant command. The other drive(s) are the part of myself that receives and (typically) obeys that command. To use again the previous example, willing to go jogging means that a certain drive—say, my drive towards excellence or, more probably, vanity—commands a course of action suitable to the satisfaction of its own goal. The second claim concerns the way in which this process is experienced at the personal level. As Clark and Dudrick (2012:186) correctly argue, ‘the viewpoint of the person who experiences willing is constituted by, in the sense that it simply is, the viewpoint of the [dominating] drives’. As we have seen, the two key ingredients through which that viewpoint becomes manifest at the personal level are the ‘commandeering thought’ and the ‘affect of command’. Let’s start by considering the first one. The relevant ‘commandeering thought’ is, typically, a first-person Rconscious thought such as ‘I will go jogging!’—as Nietzsche puts it, the ‘synthetic concept of the “I” ’ is part of its content. Now, in which sense does the usage of the first-person pronoun falsify what’s going on at the subpersonal level? A first error is that the real source of the command is misidentified: instead of the dominant drive, one takes the ‘I’—the personal-level


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conscious self—to be the source of that thought. Here, as Leiter (see his 2019:130) rightly stresses, BGE 19 relates to the claim Nietzsche has already put forward in BGE 17 to the effect that, since ‘a thought comes when “it” wants, and not when “I” want’, it is ‘a falsification of the facts to say that the subject “I” is the condition of the predicate “think” ’ (BGE 17).⁴ This applies also to the ‘commandeering thought’: though I ascribe it to my Rconscious self, it is, in fact, issued by the dominant drive. Other misconceptions, however, follow suit. As a result, a whole chain of erroneous conclusions, and, consequently, false evaluations have become attached to the will,—to such an extent that the one who wills believes, in good faith, that willing suffices for action. Since it is almost always the case that there is will only where the effect of command, and therefore obedience, and therefore action, may be expected, the appearance translates into the feeling, as if there were a necessity of effect. In short, the one who wills believes with a reasonable degree of certainty that will and action are somehow one; he attributes the success, the performance of the willing to the will itself, and consequently enjoys an increase in the feeling of power that accompanies all success. (BGE 19)

A second mistake induced by the conscious experience of volition, thus, is the belief that willing is enough for acting. But why does this belief emerge? As

⁴ I am less convinced, however, by Leiter’s overall interpretation of BGE 17. Leiter projects back on this aphorism what Nietzsche says in BGE 19 about the will: given that ‘a “thought” that appears in consciousness is not preceded by the phenomenology of willing that Nietzsche has described [in BGE 19]’, it follows that ‘we do not experience our thoughts as willed in the way we experience some actions as willed’ (Leiter 2019:130). Hence, Leiter concludes that this argument is intended to support Nietzsche’s epiphenomenalism. I think there are some problems with this interpretation. First, Leiter stresses that this argument is ‘clever’ in virtue of ‘being internal to the perspective of the agent’. In other words, it shows that thoughts do not satisfy the common-sense criterion—being willed—by which we identify the mental states that are causally efficacious. However, given that—as Leiter himself vigorously highlights—Nietzsche takes that criterion to be absolutely unreliable, I do not see why he (Nietzsche) should take one of its applications (to conscious thoughts) to have any bearing on how our actions are, in fact, produced. At best, the argument can be seen as a further demonstration that the common-sense criterion by which we identify causally efficacious mental states is confused, since when applied to conscious thoughts it produces a self-undermining response. Second, Nietzsche does take the claim that ‘thinking is an activity and the effect of a being who is considered the cause’—as he writes in the previous aphorism, BGE 16—to be something I am implicitly assuming anytime I claim that I am immediately aware that ‘I think’. Given that this is supposed to capture how we experience and conceive of ourselves, it follows that according to Nietzsche the ‘perspective of the agent’ does indeed construe it as efficacious in the production of thoughts. Of course, I agree with Leiter that Nietzsche takes conscious thought to be causally inefficacious; simply, that is a conclusion he does not arrive at by spelling out the common-sense perspective ‘from the inside’, but rather by showing it to be untenable on independent grounds. Third, and finally, read as offering an argument for epiphenomenalism, BGE 17 would be making a relatively weak point, for it would only target the agent-causal model of conscious causation, and not the idea of conscious causation as such. Why? Because the only causal claim Nietzsche rejects in BGE 17 (and BGE 16) is that thoughts are caused by a conscious I and rejecting this claim is compatible with believing that conscious thoughts are causally efficacious. (On BGE 16, see also Section 8.1 and Section 9.2.)

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I understand Nietzsche’s reasoning here, he traces it back to another mistaken belief, namely to the agent’s belief that ‘will and action are somehow one’. The reason this latter belief is wrong is that it falsifies agency’s fundamental ‘duality’— as Nietzsche puts it earlier in the aphorism. For we can distinguish two different events at the subpersonal level. First, the dominating drive issues a command. Call this the volition event. Second, the subordinated drives execute the command. As executing the command means performing the relevant action, we can call it the action event. These two events are obviously related, for, as Nietzsche puts it, ‘it is almost always the case that there is will only where the effect of command, and therefore obedience, and therefore action, may be expected’. Given that a drive typically issues a command when it occupies a dominant position in one’s psychological make-up, its command ends up being realized by the subordinated drives. Nonetheless—and that’s Nietzsche’s Humean point here (see Leiter 2019:129)—however stable that correlation may be, it is not a necessary one. For it is possible for the volitional event to happen without being followed by the action event. In spite of this, Nietzsche argues, from the personal-level viewpoint it looks as if the process would involve a ‘necessity of effect’. But believing that the action event necessarily follows the volition event means believing that the former is sufficient for the latter to happen. That’s how the second mistake is generated. Nietzsche affirms that this phenomenological ‘appearance’ ‘translates into the feeling’. To which feeling is he here referring? As the rest of the aphorism makes clear, it is the feeling the sense of free agency consists in. As we have seen, Nietzsche argues that what is called ‘ “freedom of the will” is essentially the affect of superiority with respect to something that must obey’. As Clark and Dudrick (2012:183) point out, here Nietzsche uses the term ‘essentially’ to stress that what we interpret as the sensory marker of free agency is, in fact, the sensory marker of something different—namely, of one’s drive being in the dominant position. (As we shall see in a minute, though, Clark and Dudrick are wrong to conclude from this that the affect of superiority is subpersonal.) Again, to understand Nietzsche’s story we need to distinguish what goes on at the subpersonal and at the personal level. As we have explored in detail in Chapter 4, Nietzsche takes drives to cause affects. Applied to the volition case, this general idea suggests that the ‘affect of command/superiority’—together with the ‘commandeering thought’—is caused by the dominant drive. However, though the aetiology of that affective state depends on the hierarchical relation obtaining at the subpersonal level among one’s drives, qua affective state we do experience it at the personal level. For raw affective states, as the ‘feeling’ in question arguably is, are Qconscious states. Thus—and this is my major interpretive claim with respect to what Nietzsche says about the sense of free agency in BGE 19—the third mistake he points out is that the Qconscious ‘affect of command/superiority’ is Rconsciously interpreted as being the sensory marker of ‘freedom of the will’. A major source of this error is


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precisely the belief that action necessarily follows volition. Thus, when Nietzsche says that the ‘appearance’ of necessity ‘translates into the feeling’, I take him to mean that it misleads us into believing that the feeling in question—i.e. the ‘affect of command/superiority’—is the sensory marker of ‘freedom of the will’. ‘Freedom of the will’—that is the word for the multi-faceted state of pleasure of one who commands and, at the same time, identifies himself with the accomplished act of willing. As such, he enjoys the triumph over resistances, but thinks to himself that it was his will alone that truly overcame the resistance. Accordingly, the one who wills takes his feeling of pleasure as the commander, and adds to it the feelings of pleasure from the successful instruments that carry out the task, from the useful ‘under-wills’ or under-souls . . . (BGE 19, translation changed)

The viewpoint of the person who wills is just the viewpoint of the dominant drive issuing the command. In assuming the drive’s perspective, we identify ourselves only with that part of ourselves—the one issuing the command—and not with the other part of ourselves—the one executing it. To put it differently, we identify only with the part of ourselves which is responsible for the volition event, and not with the part of ourselves which is responsible for the action event. As we have seen, a mistake Nietzsche points out is the belief that willing alone suffices for acting. A further manifestation of it is here described by Nietzsche as the belief that willing alone suffices to ‘overcome the resistance’ involved in acting. To go back again to my example: assuming my episode of willing is successful and I go jogging, doing that involves overcoming resistance, such as an initial temptation to take a nap instead or the fatigue that soon starts to set in. Overcoming such resistances, however, is no longer part of the volition event, it is already part of the action event. Thus, the success in prevailing over them as well as the pleasurable feeling associated with that victory, are due to the working of the ‘under-wills’ to which the execution of the dominant drive’s command is left. But as all this is absent from how things look at the personal level—for at that level we just take up the viewpoint of the dominant drive—the pleasures associated with successful execution fuse together with those associated with commanding. The result is twofold: on the one hand, though the pleasurable feelings produced while the action is performed are due to the docile working of the subordinated drives, no credit is given to these for their occurrence; on the other hand, as such feelings are added to the ‘affect of command/superiority’, this undergoes some sort of unwarranted phenomenological amplification. As Nietzsche puts it: ‘L’effet c’est moi: what happens here is what happens in every well-constructed and happy community: the ruling class identifies itself with the successes of the community’ (BGE

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19). This is a fourth mistake Nietzsche detects in volitional experience.⁵ In turn, as the ‘affect of command/superiority’ constitutes the core of what we erroneously interpret as ‘freedom of the will’, its amplification produces an additional boosting of the illusory feeling of free agency.⁶

10.3 Nietzsche on the Will: Beyond BGE 19 What can we conclude from the complex picture sketched in BGE 19? To start with, it is clear that Nietzsche distinguishes what willing is from our experience of it. On the one hand, the proper description of willing qua psychological process initiating one’s actions is given at the subpersonal level of the drives. As such, an episode of willing consists in the issuing of a command by a dominant drive. If things go well, the command is then executed by the subordinated drives, which consists in the relevant action being performed. On the other hand, the personallevel upshot of this process is in important ways detached from the causally relevant subpersonal processes leading from volition to action and, consequently, an unreliable guide as to what really goes on during episodes of willing. In particular—as we should have expected given the (WLE) model worked out in Chapter 7—the Rconscious, personal-level ‘commandeering thought’—in our example, my saying to myself ‘I will go jogging!’—not only does not contribute to initiating the relevant action, but also distorts the psychological process volition consists in. As Wegner puts it, ‘the experience of consciously willing an action is not a direct indication that the conscious thought has caused the action’ (2002:2; see also Leiter (2019:129,141–142) for a reading along these lines). These points are confirmed by what Nietzsche says about the will in later works, such as TI and A. In TI, Nietzsche writes that ‘the “inner world” is full of illusions and phantasms: will is one of them. The will does not do anything any more, and so it does not explain anything any more either—it just accompanies processes, but it can be absent as well’ (TI ‘Four Errors’ 3). At first sight, one may believe that here Nietzsche goes much further than he has gone in BGE 19, for there he allowed that willing—as ‘a matter of commanding and obeying, on the groundwork . . . of a society constructed out of many “souls” ’—is indeed causally ⁵ Interestingly, William James embraces a very similar claim (due to Theodor Lipps): ‘Really both effort and resistance [in willing] are ours, and the identification of our self with one of these factors is an illusion and a trick of speech’ (James 1990:824). ⁶ Clark and Dudrick (2012:188) rightly see that not only ‘the viewpoint and therefore the affect of superiority of the commanding drives’, but also ‘the pleasure of the commanded drives insofar as they overcome obstacles in executing the order’ are constituents of our experience of free agency. They are wrong, however, in treating both elements as ‘components of the will’. For as we have seen, whereas the former is indeed part of volition, the second is already part of action. Though this may look like a minor detail, it is not, for Nietzsche argues that the failure to keep volition event and action event separated is the key factor in explaining the illusory character of agential phenomenology.


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efficacious. This tension, however, is only apparent, for in TI he is obviously not talking about the will in that sense. The phenomenon that is explanatorily idle— because it merely ‘accompanies processes’ and ‘can be absent as well’—is volitional experience. On the contrary, the ‘processes’ to which such experience is appended and constituting the mechanism of willing are causally efficacious. A similar story applies to what Nietzsche says about the will in A. People were once endowed with ‘free will’ as their dowry from a higher order of things: today we have taken even their will away, in the sense that we do not see it as a faculty any more. The old word ‘will’ only serves to describe a resultant (Resultante), a type of individual reaction that necessarily follows from a quantity of partly contradictory, partly harmonious stimuli:—the will does not ‘effect’ (wirkt) anything, does not ‘move’ anything any more. (A 14, translation changed)

Again, at first sight Nietzsche seems here to express a pretty extreme eliminativist position. On a more careful reading, however, it becomes clear that the target of his criticism is the conception of will as a ‘faculty’—in particular, as a faculty allowing us to act freely. As no such faculty exists, it can’t have any effect. The only acceptable usage left for the term ‘will’, thus, is to refer to a certain event: a ‘resultant’ consisting in ‘a type of individual reaction that necessarily follows from a quantity of partly contradictory, partly harmonious stimuli’. As Brusotti (2012) has demonstrated, this definition of the will is an almost word-for-word translation of that provided by the French psychologist Charles Féré,⁷ whose work Nietzsche studied carefully in 1888. A very similar characterization of the will, however, is also endorsed by Ribot, for—as we have seen—he claims that the will ‘resolves itself into volitions, each one of which is an element, an unstable form of activity, a resultant varying according to the causes that produce it’ (Ribot 1915:2). This shows that Nietzsche’s late picture of the will is heavily informed by empirical work by French psychologists such as Ribot and Féré. We constantly receive stimuli from the environment and respond to them by acting in certain ways. The term ‘will’—Nietzsche maintains in agreement with the French psychologists he has studied—refers to a set of processes mediating our interaction with the environment. Since he believes that we are constituted by drives ordered in a certain hierarchical arrangement, the processes picked out by the term ‘will’ obtain at their subpersonal level. More specifically, an episode of willing occurs when the dominant drive sends a command to the subordinated

⁷ Here is Féré’s original French phrase: ‘la volonté n’est en somme qu’une résultante, une réaction individuelle, conséquence nécessaire d’excitations multiples, contradictoires ou concordantes’ (Féré 1888:98–9; see Brusotti 2012:110–111). See also Féré (1887). Féré’s work was far from unimportant to his contemporaries. For instance, his findings are reported by William James (1990:791).

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ones. The Rconscious thought and the Qconscious affect making up the essential ingredients⁸ of volitional phenomenology are the personal-level upshot of the subpersonal command–obedience relation currently obtaining among one’s drives.⁹ Because this personal-level upshot does not track the subpersonal processes actually constituting the episode of willing and—if things go well—yielding the corresponding action, volitional phenomenology is largely illusory.

⁸ The other corollary ingredients of volitional phenomenology are a mix of bodily feelings and its peculiar temporality, as we have seen. ⁹ Of course, this conception of the will nicely fits together with Nietzsche’s general view of the relation between Rconscious self and drive-constituted bodily self as worked out in the previous chapter.

11 The Ideal Type Nietzsche’s work not only contains descriptive claims about human psychology, but also characterizations of what he takes to be an ideal human being. The goal of this chapter is to work out what such a Nietzschean ‘ideal type’—as I shall call it— consists in. Though this issue lies beyond the domain of philosophical psychology proper, Nietzsche’s treatment of it is tightly linked to his overall picture of the human mind. Moreover, pursuing it will allow us to better clarify some of the connections between the views of self, self-knowledge, and will elaborated in the previous three chapters. The same kind of step from a description of human psychology to a characterization of its ideal case that Nietzsche takes is also taken by Ribot towards the end of his book on the ‘diseases’ of the will. As we have seen, Ribot conceives of the will as a matter of ‘hierarchic co-ordination’ among different psychological dispositions (Ribot 1915:120). On this basis, he contends that the ‘most perfect co-ordination is that of the highest wills, of the great men of action, whatever be the order of the activity: Caesar, Michael Angelo, or St. Vincent de Paul. It may be summed up in a few words: unity, stability, power’ (128). The figures Ribot mentions here are realizations of what he sees as the ideal psychological make-up—one displaying ‘unity’, ‘stability’, and ‘power’. Perhaps unsurprisingly—given the similarities between Ribot’s and Nietzsche’s own conception of human psychology—appeal to notions of this sort can prove helpful also when it comes to reconstructing the latter’s picture of the ideal type.¹ In Section 11.1, I shall start by sketching Ribot’s and Nietzsche’s largely consonant conception of strength and weakness of will. Whereas there is no doubt that the former constitutes the core feature of Ribot’s ‘highest wills’—a feature I shall call ‘stability’, following his own terminology—things are more complicated when we turn to Nietzsche. More precisely, I shall conclude this section by showing that displaying strength of will, though arguably a necessary ¹ Three things to note here. First, the notion of ‘unity’ has been often appealed to by Nietzsche scholars in this context (see Gemes 2009b and Katsafanas 2011, 2016). Ribot’s notions of ‘stability’ and ‘power’ map onto will strength and self-control, which have also been considered key features of Nietzsche’s ideal type (see Anderson 2013 and Leiter 2002, respectively). Second, whereas Ribot uses these three notions appositively, I shall use ‘stability’ and ‘unity’ to name distinct features of Nietzsche’s ideal type. Third, and despite the many points on which they agree, there is an important disagreement as well between Ribot and Nietzsche on this specific issue. A clue here is that whereas Nietzsche would agree with Ribot in classifying Caesar and Michelangelo as instances of the ideal type, he would not agree in the case of St. Vincent de Paul.

Nietzsche’s Philosophical Psychology. Mattia Riccardi, Oxford University Press. © Mattia Riccardi 2021. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198803287.003.0011



condition for one to count as an instance of Nietzsche’s ideal type, does not suffice for it. In Section 11.2, I introduce the distinction between divided and undivided self. This distinction will be put to work to test another hypothesis about Nietzsche’s ideal type, namely that—besides stability—it also requires what I shall call ‘unity’, to use again one of the terms already employed by Ribot. Again, the hypothesis is rejected, for it seems that someone can be stable and unified and still fail to count as an instance of Nietzsche’s ideal type. A further ingredient is introduced in Section 11.3, namely the claim sometimes advanced by Nietzsche that for one to count as an instance of the ideal type one has to be able to set one’s own values—a feature I shall call ‘value creation’. This capacity, I shall argue, seems to track a character trait the late Nietzsche sometimes—though not always—refers to as ‘nobility’. It is hard to spell out what this capacity consists in, but Nietzsche often links it to the discovery of one’s own nature. In other words, it seems to presuppose a certain sort of (substantial) self-knowledge. Finally, I shall argue that the capacity for value creation is indeed the further key ingredient that—together with psychological stability and unity—Nietzsche often ascribes to his ideal type. At the same time, however, I shall also contend that he builds value creation into his picture of it because of the particular condition of his latemodern European readers. Since they (we) are still in the grip of the values of Judaeo-Christian morality, their (our) self is divided. Hence, the only way for latemodern Europeans to regain the kind of unity required for them to approximate, if not fully embody, Nietzsche’s ideal type consists in rejecting those self-alienating values. Doing this, however, means creating new values.

11.1 Stability What Ribot has in mind when he attributes psychological stability to the ‘highest wills’ is what we usually call strength of will. Thus, psychological instability amounts to what we usually call weakness of will. As Anderson (2013:454) rightly notes, the ‘moral psychology of strength and weakness’ is an important key to a proper understanding of Nietzsche’s picture of the ideal type.² In BGE 21, for instance, Nietzsche affirms that ‘in real life it is only a matter of strong and weak wills’. This pair of notions is contrasted with that of ‘free will’ and ‘un-free will’. Whereas the latter is just a piece of ‘mythology’ to be abandoned, the former captures a real as well as relevant psychological distinction. In fact, as we shall see, many passages in his late works appeal to it. Before we start looking at the largely overlapping descriptions of strength and weakness of will provided by Ribot and Nietzsche, some preliminary points about

² Anderson (2013:454) speaks of ‘ethical ideal’ instead.


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such phenomena will prove helpful. Let us start with weakness of the will—the akratic case. That a given episode of willing fails to be realized does not suffice to render one’s will, on that occasion, weak. If I want to take a ride with my bicycle and find that it has been stolen, my desire will of course remain unsatisfied. Nonetheless, it would make no sense to characterize my situation as a case of will weakness. For the will to prove weak, the agential failure must depend on the subject herself, and not just on some external factor—as if I were to renounce the ride for not being able to overcome my usual laziness. In short, weakness of the will presupposes that something goes wrong within the agent. Let us now consider the case of strength of will—the enkratic case. In a way analogous to what happens in the akratic case, volitional success doesn’t entail that one possesses a strong will. For one thing, the fact that my will gets realized may just be a matter of luck. More commonly, satisfaction of one’s volitions may be a trivial achievement: if I want to drink another cup of coffee, I just have to pour it in. On the contrary, for an action to display strength of will some measurable degree of effort is required on the agent’s part. Climbing a mountain or writing a dissertation are suitable examples. The effortful action, however, cannot be something the agent performs under coercion: to manifest a strong will, she has to assume that burden herself. Some sort of psychological tension is common to both kinds of cases. In the akratic example, my desire to ride the bicycle clashes with my laziness. In the enkratic case, the effortfulness of the action is something the agent endures in face of other available options potentially providing a temptation to do otherwise. In both cases, the psychological conflict is traditionally construed as one between a desire and one’s best judgment. On the one hand, weakness of the will is explained as one’s failure to act according to one’s best judgment: though I believe the best thing for me now would be to grab my bicycle, that belief can’t trump my desire to keep on relaxing on the sofa. On the other hand, strength of will is explained as one’s success in acting according to one’s best judgment in spite of a desire to act otherwise: though I could go to the movies, I comply with my best judgment to the effect that I should stay home working on my dissertation. The converging explanations that Ribot and Nietzsche offer of strength and weakness of will diverge from the standard one. I shall sketch both in turn. As we have seen, Ribot and Nietzsche concur that an episode of willing results from the order obtaining among one’s different behavioural dispositions. Based on this model of the will, Ribot attempts to explain a range of pathological conditions as resulting from specific ‘diseases of the will’. As he puts it, the proper functioning of the psychological mechanisms involved in willing presupposes a ‘hierarchical co-ordination’ among the relevant dispositions. If that coordination is disrupted, one ceases to be able to will or to act in accordance with one’s volitions. Among the several conditions he examines, the ‘hysterical character’ is described as a particularly severe one (Ribot 1915:86). For it is a case in which ‘the



will does not constitute itself at all or does so only in a wavering, unsteady and inefficacious form’. As one of Ribot’s sources puts it, the main trait of hysterical individuals is ‘extreme mobility in their state of mind and their affective dispositions’, which reveals a corresponding ‘instability of character’ (88). (Ribot himself describes that condition in terms of psychological ‘anarchy’—an expression that, as we shall see in a minute, Nietzsche also adopts.) The following passage offers a more precise picture: The tendency of the feelings and passions to show themselves in acts is doubly strong, both in itself and because there is nothing above it which checks and counterbalances it; and as it is a characteristic of the feelings to go straight to the goal . . . , the desires, born quickly and immediately satisfied, leave free room for others, analogous or opposed, according to the perpetual variations of the individual. (Ribot 1915:90)

Failure in establishing a stable order among one’s behavioural dispositions is taken by Ribot to determine weakness of the will. Why? Many of the things we do—in particular, many of those we most care about, as writing a dissertation or climbing a mountain—require that we keep on wanting the relevant thing. Writing a dissertation may take a couple of years. To climb a mountain, I have to persist and go on until I have reached its peak. As the necessary motivation and strength are often hard to preserve, such are the cases in which our will is most likely to fail. According to Ribot, this happens because one’s psychological make-up isn’t stable enough to guarantee the achievement of such long-term and effort-demanding goals. On the contrary, if ‘the same end continues to be chosen, approved, it is because . . . at bottom the individual remains the same’ (91). In that case, we call the will ‘strong’. As anticipated, Nietzsche’s position is strikingly similar to Ribot’s. Indeed, the similarities run so deep that it seems fair to conclude that it was largely shaped by the former’s engagement with the latter’s work. For Nietzsche too characterizes the extreme cases of weakness of the will as those in which ‘anarchy threatens inside the instincts and . . . the basic structure (Grundbau) of the affects, which we call “life”, has been shaken’ (BGE 258; translation changed). In such a condition, the agent’s drives simply cease to stay in any clear arrangement whatsoever. The result is the incapacity to pursue any long-term goal whatsoever, for one constantly succumbs to distractions of any sort. ‘Every characteristic absence of spirituality, every piece of common vulgarity’—Nietzsche writes—‘is due to an inability to resist a stimulus— you have to react, you follow every impulse’ (TI ‘Germans’ 6). According to Nietzsche, this kind of condition is typical of historical periods characterized by profound cultural change, like pre-revolutionary France or Greece during the twilight of the tragic age. Europe in the late 19th century is another such case: ‘In times like these, giving in to your instincts is just one more disaster. The instincts


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contradict, disturb, destroy each other; I even define modernity as physiological selfcontradiction’ (TI ‘Skirmishes’ 41; see also BGE 200, 208). Nietzsche also follows Ribot in identifying strength of will with possession of a stable hierarchy among one’s behavioural dispositions. Genuine action requires that we do not give in to the urges of the many diverging drives: ‘the first preliminary schooling for spirituality’ consists in ‘not to react immediately to a stimulus, but instead to take control of the inhibiting, shutting (abschliessenden) instincts’ (TI ‘Germans’ 6; translation changed). Similarly, someone who ‘has turned out well’—which arguably includes possessing strength of will—‘reacts slowly to all types of stimuli, with that slowness that has been bred in him by a long caution and a wilful pride’ (EH ‘Wise’ 2). This amounts to the capacity we ordinarily refer to as self-control.³ One may question whether we can meaningfully speak of self-control in light of Nietzsche’s resolutely bottom-up drives psychology. As we have seen, willed actions result from the underlying arrangement among one’s drives. As we have also seen, the Rconscious self should not be conceived as a higher-order power mediating the transactions among such drives, for its point of view is itself nothing but the personal-level upshot of those transactions. Given this, how can we make sense of the very idea of self-control, if there is no self that could possibly exert it? The answer to this question is that the capacity to exert self-control should not be ascribed to a self that exists over and above the drives, for no such self exists, but rather conceived as embedded in the very structure obtaining among them. Let me elaborate on this idea by focusing on an example.⁴ Take Toad and Frog, who both want to stay healthy, but at the same time both have an unredeemable sweet tooth, and imagine them confronted with a basket full of cookies (see Kennett and Smith 1996). How comes it that, at some point, they stop grabbing still another cookie? As the authors suggest, Toad’s and Frog’s ability to exercise self-control in such a situation may depend on their being ‘disposed to have certain sorts of thoughts’ (69). ‘When they look at the cookies’— Kennett and Smith go on—‘imagine that they find themselves thinking of them ³ One may object that on this view one would wrongly count as enkratic all those cases where an agent constantly pursues a certain course of action simply because her desires do not vary over time, something we could also say for instance of the mouse that won’t waver in its attempts to get the cheese. But this objection seems irrelevant to me, for Ribot and Nietzsche are concerned with agents equipped ex hypothesis with numerous and contrasting motivational tendencies. Thus, it is ex hypothesis true of them that their desires vary over time. Their thesis, then, is that—given such a starting condition—one is capable of enkratic action only if such motivational tendencies are hierarchically ordered in a stable way. This does not mean that an enkratic agent’s low-ranked motivational tendencies never prompt occurrent desires, but rather that she is able not to act on them. Thus, the enkratic climber may very well experience the occurrent desire to quit, but she will be able not to act on it and, consequently, to reach the peak. ⁴ Though Anderson (2013) offers an analysis of weakness and strength of will which is very similar to the one on offer here, I disagree that Nietzsche’s treatment of such notions presupposes that of a self that is capable of exerting self-control by detaching itself from the drives and affects. The reasons for this disagreement have been already expounded in Section 8.2.



not as causes of pleasure, but rather as lumps of fat, and that when they think about eating them, they imagine the fat curling in their stomachs.’ From the viewpoint of Nietzsche’s psychology of drives, being disposed to have thoughts of this kind would be a matter of a certain drive—the drive towards health—ruling over another one—the drive towards sweet food. More precisely, what goes on in this case is that the way in which we experience and think about the cookies is affectively coloured by the former drive, and not by the latter one: we see, imagine, and judge the cookies to be lumps of fat, instead of delicious sweets. There are two further points stressed by Kennett and Smith that are worth mentioning. First, though ‘we are perhaps initially inclined to think of the exercise of self-control as an action’, what they suggest instead is ‘precisely that, in this case, the exercise of self-control is not an action’, but rather a matter of Toad’s and Frog’s being disposed to have thoughts of the sort just described. But if exerting self-control is not itself performing an action, the pressure initially put on Nietzsche’s psychology of drives seems to vanish, for his view can easily accommodate a dispositional account of self-control by saying that it results from hierarchical stability. Second, Kennett and Smith do not mean to suggest that ‘the same thoughts would have the same effect on every single person who overindulges in cookies’ (70). ‘Feelings of shame, the thought that one is stupid, a certain inward focus of attention’—they go on—‘any of these may have the requisite effect.’ Again, I think Nietzsche would readily agree. Crucially, all the cognitive strategies described by Kennett and Smith involve a switch in affective valence: what is needed is that we stop experiencing (and thinking of) the cookies as delicious sweets, and that we start experiencing (and thinking of) them as lumps of fat, occasions for shame, etc.⁵ To put it briefly, self-control consists in being disposed towards a negatively valenced appraisal of those things and activities that tend to divert us from pursuing our higher-ranked goals. To conclude, strength of will consists in the capacity to master the diverging inclinations deriving from one’s multiple drives so as to be able to pursue and realize one’s goals. This capacity, in turn, requires that the order among one’s drives be stable. Conversely, lack of any clear arrangement among them is what makes a will weak. Let us turn back to our main issue. At this point, we are in a position to formulate a first hypothesis concerning the nature of Nietzsche’s ideal type. Stability Claim: stable.⁶

S is an instance of Nietzsche’s ideal type iff S is (psychologically)

⁵ This is still the case even when an ‘inward focus of attention’ is the cognitive strategy used to realize self-control, for shifting our attention is just another way to stop feeling the affective pull of something. ⁶ Compare Richardson (2009:135): ‘At least in the best case of unity, that synthesis of a stable powersystem of drives is accomplished by a single drive taking control, and imposing its single command’.


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This claim bears some prima facie plausibility, for someone satisfying it possesses the strength of will required to pursue demanding projects—the kind of thing we can suppose the incarnation of an ideal type to pursue. However, it cannot be Nietzsche’s view, for GS 347 offers a straightforward counterexample to it. In the last part of that aphorism, Nietzsche considers the kind of ‘fanaticism’ of which— he says—both Buddhism and Christianity have been the teachers (see Reginster 2003 on the issue of fanaticism). He characterizes fanaticism as ‘a type of hypnosis of the entire sensual-intellectual system to the benefit of the excessive nourishment (hypertrophy) of a single point of view and feeling which is now dominant’ (GS 347). Hence, the psychological make-up of the fanatic is extremely stable: all cognitive resources are recruited to serve the goal of a dominant drive. Nonetheless, according to Nietzsche this psychological condition betrays a ‘tremendous sickening of the will’. As he also says, ‘fanaticism is the only “strength of the will” that even the weak and insecure can be brought to attain’. Fanaticism formally looks like a case of strength, for the kind of pertinacious pursuit it consists in requires the perfect subordination of all other drives to the one goal set by the dominant drive. It is, however, a case of weakness. But why? Nietzsche argues that being a fanatic means being ‘a believer’, i.e. someone who has arrived ‘at the basic conviction that he must be commanded’ (GS 347). This attitude is explicitly contrasted with that of the ‘free spirit par excellence’—a figure Nietzsche obviously regards as an ideal type—characterized by ‘a delight and power of self-determination, a freedom of the will, in which the spirit takes leave of all faith and every wish for certainty, practised as it is in maintaining itself on light ropes and possibilities and dancing even besides abysses’. The lesson we can draw from this contrast between believer and free spirit is, I think, twofold. First, possessing a stable order among one’s drives is not enough for one to be a free spirit. It is, arguably, a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for reaching that. Second, besides psychological anarchy there is another, less obvious form of weakness of the will. This is the weakness exhibited by the fanatic. This form of weakness also amounts to the incapacity to command oneself, though in a subtler way than in the case of psychological anarchy. In the latter case, the failure consists in that whatever one commands to oneself it simply fails to be executed. In the former case, on the contrary, the commands one issues are typically executed even when they require an enormous effort. The problem here is that they aren’t quite my commands. In fact, the real issuer is someone else, such as ‘a god, prince, the social order, doctor, father confessor, dogma, or party conscience’ (GS 347). This is a point we shall come back to later. Let’s go back to the fanatic character. According to Nietzsche, what makes one a fanatic is the ‘excessive nourishment’ or ‘hypertrophy’ of her ‘dominant drive’. But what does this exactly mean? A passage from TI, I submit, helps us make sense of that idea. There, Nietzsche again employs the notion of weakness of the will as ‘the inability not to react to a stimulus’ (TI ‘Morality’ 2). Now suppose that someone



who is weak in this sense finds herself in need to counter a certain passion. How could she manage to do that, given her lack of self-control? Nietzsche’s answer is that she would need to resort to radical means such as ‘castration’ or ‘eradication’ of the relevant passion. Such methods, he argues, are ‘instinctively chosen by people whose wills are too weak and degenerate to exercise any restraint in a struggle against a desire’. The same kind of story, however, seems also to apply to paradigmatic cases of fanaticism. First, as we have seen, however stable the order of drives of the fanatic may turn out to be, we know it is nonetheless a case of weak will. Second, an obvious consequence of her dominant drive’s ‘excessive nourishment’ seems to be that the affective-loaded discharge of all other drives is largely blocked. This, however, comes close to the picture offered in TI: as a weak-willed person can’t resist a passion, it ‘instinctively’ opts to block its very occurrence. The iteration of such a procedure arguably produces a psychological profile gradually moving towards that of the fanatic: a pretty stable psychological make-up—for most of one’s drives are denied discharge in order to favour the ‘point of view’ of the dominant one—albeit a monodimensional and, thus, utterly imbalanced one. Unsurprisingly, this is another feature of the weak-willed person that Nietzsche contrasts with his picture of the ideal type.

11.2 Unity Our Rconscious perspective reflects the arrangement among one’s drives: as Nietzsche writes in BGE 19 by discussing the case of willing, we typically identify with the viewpoint of the drive that is currently dominant. This means that our R conscious perspective typically embodies the interests of some drives—the dominant ones—to the expense of the interests of some other drives—the subordinated ones. According to Nietzsche, this inner tension becomes particularly acute through the internalization of morality, which realizes a severe ‘self-division of man’ (HH I 57: see also HH I 137), as he puts it in the late 1870s. He makes this point with regard to supposedly altruistic attitudes, for instance love. Though at first sight it appears as if one’s love is directed at ‘something else of himself’, what actually goes on is that one loves ‘something of himself’, as ‘an idea, a desire, an offspring’. By loving, one therefore ‘divides his nature and sacrifices one part of it to the other’. Love and all other instances of apparently altruistic behaviour are due to the presence in us of a certain ‘inclination for something’—a ‘wish’, an ‘impulse’, a ‘desire’—we give in to instead of alternative inclinations and motives. In moral actions, Nietzsche concludes, one ‘treats himself not as individuum but as dividuum’. As several Nietzsche scholars have emphasized, his picture of the ideal type is that, on the contrary, of an undivided, unified self (Gemes 2009a, 2009b; Katsafanas 2011, 2016). According to his mature philosophical psychology, the


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story is roughly as follows: the way in which the agent’s ‘nature’ ends up divided is a matter of which sort of psychological make-up is produced by the internalization of a certain morality. The inclinations that, if followed, lead the agent to immoral actions, end up subordinated to those typically resulting in morality-compliant behaviour. Consequently, the Rconscious moral agent identifies with the point of view of the former kind of drive and not with the point of view of the latter kind of drive. The Rconscious moral agent, however, is not distinct from the bodily self. What happens, thus, is that the bodily self ends up identifying only with a part of itself. The relation it bears with its other parts is, at best, some form of alienation or, at worst, overt rejection. As Nietzsche puts it in HH, the moral agent considers herself as a dividuum. The ideal type, however, is for Nietzsche an individuum: an undivided, unified self. But what does distinguish the ideal unified self from the divided self usually produced by morality? Gemes (2009b) argues that the key distinction lies in the way in which the higher-ranked drives rule over the lower-ranked ones. The distinction he proposes is broadly Freudian: on the one hand, the dominant drive can simply repress (or, maybe, even eliminate) a subordinated one;⁷ on the other hand, the dominant drive can sublimate a subordinate one. The crucial difference is that, whereas repression simply consists in blocking whatever discharge of the low-ranked drive, sublimation allows it to be activated. What happens in this case is that the original goal (and suitable objects) of the subordinated drive is substituted by the goal (and suitable objects) of the dominant drive. Relevantly, whereas repression leads to a divided self in the sense explored above, sublimation does not: as the subordinated drives now share the goal of the dominant one, they are not experienced as alien forces one fails to identify with. Quite to the contrary, sublimation allows one to experience a range of different and originally conflicting drives as contributing— each in its own way—to one’s overall project. I fully agree with Gemes that the contrast between repression (including elimination) and sublimation captures an essential point of Nietzsche’s view. The aforementioned passage from TI in which Nietzsche describes ‘castration’ and ‘eradication’ as the preferred methods adopted by weak-willed persons to deal with their passions offers an obvious illustration of repression in its most radical form. Furthermore, Nietzsche explicitly contrasts such methods with an example of sublimation in Gemes’s sense: the ‘church combats the passions by cutting them off in every sense: its technique, its “cure”, is castration. It never asks: “how can a desire be spiritualized, beautified, deified?”’ (TI ‘Morality’ 1) Thus, to ‘destroy the passions and desires’ is a crude as much as cruel recipe compared to the effort of ‘spiritualizing’ them. Whereas Christian morality is presented as the major illustration of the former strategy, ancient paganism can be seen as an attempt to realize the latter, as it aimed at ⁷ It is controversial whether Nietzsche allows for drives to be completely eliminated. On this issue, see Elliott (2020), who defends that drive excision is possible.



sublimation, rather than at repression of human aggressive drives. This, at least, is the picture suggested by this earlier aphorism: Perhaps nothing astonishes the observer of the Greek world more than when he discovers that from time to time the Greeks made as it were a festival of all their passions and evil natural inclinations and even instituted a kind of official order of proceedings in the celebration of what was all-too-human in them . . . . They took this all-too-human to be inescapable and, instead of reviling it, preferred to accord it a kind of right of the second rank through regulating it within the usages of society and religion: indeed, everything in man possessing power they called divine and inscribed it on the walls of their Heaven. They do not repudiate the natural drive that finds expression in the evil qualities but regulate it and, as soon as they have discovered sufficient prescriptive measures to provide these wild waters with the least harmful means of channelling and outflow, confine them to definite cults and days. (HH II ‘Opinions and Maxims’ 220)

The contrast between Christian and pagan morality suggests two alternative models of self-regulation. On the one hand, the ruling drives can inhibit the other drives altogether. On the other hand, they can allow the subordinated drives some kind of regimented discharge. As Gemes rightly stresses, Nietzsche clearly holds this latter option to be much more beneficial than the former one. Goethe, as many scholars have again emphasized (Gemes 2009b:45; Richardson 2009:145, among others), is described in a famous passage from TI as someone who managed to achieve the kind of harmonious unity made impossible by the repression-based psychological make-up: He [Goethe] made use of history, science, antiquity, and Spinoza too, but above all he made use of practical activity; he adapted himself to resolutely closed horizons; he did not remove himself from life, he put himself squarely in the middle of it; he did not despair, and he took as much as he could on himself, to himself, in himself. What he wanted was totality; he fought against the separation of reason, sensibility, feeling, will . . . he disciplined himself to wholeness, he created himself . . . Goethe conceived of a strong, highly educated, self-respecting human being, skilled in all things physical and able to keep himself in check, who could dare to allow himself the entire expanse and wealth of naturalness, who is strong enough for this freedom; a person who is tolerant out of strength and not weakness because he knows how to take advantage of things that would destroy an average nature; a person lacking all prohibitions except for weakness, whether it is called a vice or a virtue . . . (TI ‘Skirmishes’ 49)

Goethean ‘wholeness’ immediately strikes one as an exemplary foil to the weakness of the will Nietzsche describes elsewhere in the same book. Indeed, not only is


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Goethe ‘strong’ enough to ‘keep himself in check’ despite embracing the ‘entire expanse and wealth of naturalness’: the very possibility of weakness simply seems extraneous to its nature. It is his only ‘prohibition’, as Nietzsche puts it. On the other hand, by accepting his entire nature, Goethe ‘did not remove himself from life’, as Christians typically do—at least to Nietzsche’s eyes—nor did he ‘despair’— the Schopenhauerian way to reject life and human nature. All this does not mean that Goethe didn’t have a stable psychological make-up. Quite to the contrary: his absolute extraneousness to any form of weakness implies a clear distinction between higher-ranked and lower-ranked drives. The point is, rather, that the subordinated drives are harmoniously integrated so as to foster, instead of hindering, the pursuit of those goals set by the dominating ones. An analogous picture of harmonious psychological unity also emerges from the following passage: Ultimately all your passions became virtues and all your devils became angels. Once you had wild dogs in your cellar, but ultimately they transformed into birds and lovely singers. Out of your poisons you brewed your balsam; your cow, melancholy, you milked—now you drink the sweet milk of its udder. (Z ‘Passions of Pleasure and Pain’)

Passions—in particular the aggressive ones⁸—aren’t to be ‘locked up’. Rather, their expression should be channelled towards the realization of one’s higher goals.⁹ As we have seen, the kind of strength of will resulting from psychological stability is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for someone to count as an instance of Nietzsche’s ideal type. An obvious candidate for the ingredient the fanatic lacks, on the one hand, and a felicitous nature like that of Goethe displays, on the other hand, is unity. Whereas the fanatic is self-divided because she bears a repressive attitude towards the majority of her inclinations, the Goethean type is a genuine indivuum able to integrate all her different drives into the pursuit of some overarching goal. Given this, we may formulate the following hypothesis:

⁸ The ‘biting’ metaphor is often associated with the image of the ‘dog’ in Z. ⁹ Katsafanas offers a different account of harmonious unity. Accordingly, the self ‘is unified when the reflective and unreflective parts of the agent are harmonious’ in such a way that ‘the agent A’s, affirms his A-ing, and further knowledge of the drives and affects that figure in A’s aetiology would not undermine this affirmation of A-ing’ (Katsafanas 2016:193). My worry with this view is that it does not capture the real source of unity. Here, I agree with Gemes that whether or not an agent is harmoniously unified ultimately depends on how her drives are arranged. That is, that the agent fails to satisfy the constraint identified by Katsafanas should be seen as a symptom of disunity at the drives level, and not as itself the real source of disunity. The reason is that one’s Rconscious perspective on what one does is always the perspective of one drive or other. Therefore, if one Rconsciously disapproves of one’s action because it has been brought about by a certain drive, that disapproval is but the expression of another drive’s perspective. This means that the kind of disunity Katsafanas points out is, at best, a superficial manifestation of some deeper misalignment.

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Strength-cum-Unity: S is an instance of Nietzsche’s ideal type iff S is (psychologically) stable and unified.¹⁰ I think this claim captures most of what Nietzsche says about the ideal type. Still, it seems to leave out something he often presents as a further essential ingredient of what constitutes it. Or so I shall argue in the next section.

11.3 Value Creation The ingredient that the Strength-cum-Unity claim still fails to capture is mentioned in GS 347. As you might recall, in that aphorism Nietzsche directly contrasts the fundamental weakness the fanatic reveals in spite of her extremely stable psychological order not with unity of the Goethean fashion, but rather with what we may call epistemic independence. The condition in which a ‘single point of view and feeling’ dries up all the cognitive resources is what ‘the Christian calls his faith’ (GS 347). The kind of ‘freedom of the will’ Nietzsche contrasts to it is, thus, one ‘in which the spirit takes leave of all faith and every wish for certainty’. The same kind of connection appears later in A. There we read that ‘the freedom that comes from the strength and super-strength of spirit proves itself through scepticism. . . . A spirit who wills greatness and also wills the means to it is necessarily a sceptic. The freedom from every sort of conviction, being able to see freely, is part of strength’ (A 54). The opposite of this is, of course, the faith of the fanatic already chastised in GS 347.¹¹ What Nietzsche goes on to say in A helps us to sharpen the contrast between fanatical faith and free-spiritedness: His whole intellect [of the free, great spirit] is devoted to the great passion, the foundation and the power of its being, more enlightened, more despotic than he is himself; it gives him assurance; it gives him the courage even for unholy means; it allows him convictions under certain circumstances. Convictions as a means: there are many things that can be achieved only by means of a conviction. Great passion uses convictions and uses them up, it does not subordinate itself to them,—it knows its own sovereignty. (A 54)

At first sight, this passage looks puzzling. In GS 347, Nietzsche says that what characterizes the fanatic is that her ‘entire sensual-intellectual system’ is put into service of her dominant drive. But now he says that also the free-spirit’s ‘whole

¹⁰ Compare Gemes (2009b:38): ‘To have a character is to have a stable, unified, and integrated, hierarchy of drives’. ¹¹ Later in A 54 we read: ‘the need for faith, for some unconditional yes or no, . . . is a need of the weak’.


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intellect’ is devoted to her ‘great passion’.¹² So, again, it may seem that no clear boundary remains between the weak-willed individual in need of some item of faith and the strong-willed one who, on the contrary, can live through scepticism. The crucial distinction, however, is made clear by Nietzsche’s characterization of their different attitudes towards their ‘conviction’. What he means, I think, is that the kind of scepticism he wishes to ascribe to the free spirit is not supposed to rule out wholehearted assent to what one believes. In other words, it is not a kind of scepticism that makes one unable to form any belief whatsoever and to firmly act on it. Quite to the contrary, that one has a ‘great passion’ implies that one acts resolutely—after all, having such a ‘great passion’ means that one’s psychological make-up is stable. Thus, the Rconscious epistemic upshot of the free spirit’s ‘great passion’ is a wholeheartedly assented belief. But in what does the free-spirit’s scepticism consist then? The free-spirit, I want to suggest, is open to question her beliefs. The fact that it is embedded in such a broader epistemic attitude is what distinguishes the free-spirit’s wholehearted assent from the believer’s faith. Other passages suggest that what Nietzsche has in mind in contrasting fanatic weakness with the kind of strength required by his ideal type is not only, and not primarily, a difference in epistemic attitude. Rather, the most fundamental issue seems to concern one’s evaluative attitudes.¹³ Variations of this idea often appear linked to the notion of nobility, here understood primarily as referring to a psychological trait rather than a sociological category: ‘The noble person wants to create new things and a new virtue’ (Z ‘Tree on the Mountain’). Similarly, in BGE we read that a ‘faith that establishes rank order’ is a prerequisite of ‘nobility’ (BGE 287) and that the ‘noble type of person feels that he determines value’ and is thus one who ‘creates values’ (BGE 260). Similarly, though with no direct reference to the notion of nobility, Nietzsche states that a ‘well-turned-out person’ stands out for having only ‘a taste for what agrees with him’ (EH ‘Wise’ 2). Finally, Nietzsche also writes that ‘true philosophers are commanders and legislators’, i.e. those ‘who first determine the “where to?” and “what for?” of people’ (BGE 211).¹⁴ ¹² The notion of a ‘great passion’ is again something we find in Ribot, who takes it to be the mark of the ‘highest wills’: ‘Their fundamental element is a mighty, inextinguishable passion which enlists their ideas in its service. This passion is themselves; it is the psychic expression of their constitution as nature has made it’ (Ribot 1915:128). ¹³ See again GS 347, where Nietzsche contends that ‘Faith is always most desired and most urgently needed where will is lacking; for will, as the affect of command, is the decisive mark of self-mastery and strength’ (translation changed). ¹⁴ Sometimes Nietzsche connects this feature to the notion of freedom. ‘Freedom of thought’ means “to estimate oneself according to one’s own measure and weight’ (GS 117). See also: ‘That you command to yourself, that means “freedom of the will” ’ (N1885–1886 1[44] KSA 12:20). Moreover, as we have seen, the notion of ‘freedom (of the will)’ also pops up in his discussion of the epistemic independence characteristic of the free spirit (see the quotations above from GS 347 and A 54). Thus, the notion of ‘freedom (of the will)’—as well as cognate notions such as ‘autonomy’—could also be taken to correspond to a key feature of Nietzsche’s ideal type. This is, indeed, what many commentators have done (see, for instance, Janaway (2007), Gemes (2009b), Richardson (2009), Rutherford (2011), Constâncio (2012b), Anderson (2013), and Katsafanas (2016), among others). This, however,

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The feature Nietzsche keeps highlighting in these passages is the same one: the capacity to give oneself one’s own values, to create one’s own values. Arguably, the kind of epistemic independence Nietzsche contrasts to fanatical faith and explicitly links to free-spiritedness is but a manifestation of such a broader evaluative independence. Thus, the question we now have to ask is the following one: can such an evaluative independence—i.e. the capacity to create one’s own values—be reduced to psychological stability and unity? If that’s the case, we can conclude that the Strength-cum-Unity claim stands as it is. Otherwise, we’ll have to modify it in order to factor in that further feature of Nietzsche’s ideal type. Unfortunately, Nietzsche’s texts do not offer any clear answer to this question, as far as I can see. Nonetheless, we can easily imagine cases in which the Strengthcum-Unity condition is met, but no genuine value creation occurs. Take the case of an Ancient enkratic pagan. As Nietzsche thinks that Ancient paganism—contrary to Christianity—did not produce any repression-based self-division and as, by hypothesis, the individual we are imagining is equipped with a strong will, the Strength-cum-Unity condition would be satisfied. However, the individual we are imagining must not be a value creator: in fact, most Ancient pagans were simply endorsing the set of values and practices of their culture, as happens with the vast majority of members of any human community. This seems to suggest that the kind of value creation Nietzsche often associates with nobility requires more than just the satisfaction of the Strength-Cum-Unity claim. Perhaps more surprisingly, Nietzsche seems to allow that one can be the creator of new values without meeting the Strength-cum-Unity condition. A famous case of that sort is that of the priests from GM I. On the one hand, according to Nietzsche’s story the priests promoted the reversal of noble values in favour of what he calls the ‘ascetic ideal’. As this event produced an unparalleled Umwertung in European history, it seems fair to consider its promoters as genuine value creators. On the other hand, the priests were self-divided individuals. This seems to follow from two facts. First, ‘the slave revolt in morality’ initiated by the priests ‘begins when ressentiment itself becomes creative and gives birth to values’ (GM I 10). Thus, ressentiment is the affective attitude behind the ascetic ideal. Second, that ressentiment constitutes the priests’ essential affective orientation means that they are profoundly self-divided:

introduces a complication, for there are many passages where Nietzsche squarely rejects the notion of ‘freedom (of the will)’. Thus, whereas the aforementioned scholars argue that Nietzsche is best understood as putting forward a compatibilist conception of human agency, others—most notably, Leiter (2002, 2019)—contend that he is a hard determinist rejecting free will altogether. Here, I shall simply bypass this entire discussion. (In Riccardi (2017) I offer an overview of that debate and suggest it is based on a failure to appreciate that Nietzsche uses ‘freedom’ and its cognates in a contextual and typically non-descriptive, but rather normatively loaded way. This is, however, a claim I merely gesture towards at the end of that paper and that I plan to further develop in future work.)


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For an ascetic life is a self-contradiction: here a ressentiment without equal rules, that of an unsatiated instinct and power-will that would like to become lord not over something living but rather over life itself, over its deepest, strongest, most fundamental preconditions; an attempt is made here to use energy to stop up the source of the energy; here the gaze is directed greenly and maliciously against physiological flourishing itself, in particular against its expression, beauty, joy . . . (GM III 11)

Though Nietzsche does not explicitly mention them here, the ‘most fundamental preconditions of life’ include the aggressive drives the ‘energy’ of which the ascetic ideal is designed to block. Thus, the priests who invented the ascetic ideal seem to be value creators and, at the same time, self-divided. (Recall that Nietzsche often associates the ability to create values with nobility. Now, according to Nietzsche’s story in GM I, the priests who realized the Umwertung of noble values were themselves nobles (see Anderson 2011). The case of the Ancient enkratic pagan and that of the priests described in GM I suggest that the capacity to create new values Nietzsche typically associates with his picture of the ideal type is independent from psychological stability and, in particular, unity. What conclusions can we draw from this? First, the case of the priests suggests that the ability to create new values is, at most, just a part of Nietzsche’s picture of the ideal type. Unity, in particular, is the other key ingredient. Lacking that, as in the case of the priests, one can still count as a value creator, but certainly not as an instance of that type. Second, and at this point obviously, our working hypothesis must be rejected in favour of the following claim: Tripartite Claim: S is an instance of Nietzsche’s ideal type iff S is (psychologically) stable and unified as well as capable of value creation.¹⁵ Some comments are in place. Let us take another look at the enkratic and unified, but not value-creating pagan. Why think such an individual isn’t already an instance of the ideal type? After all, both traditions of German classicism and German romanticism agreed in seeing the harmonious unity of the Greek soul and polis as a perfect, virtually unsurpassable embodiment of the ideal human individual and community. So why think that to be an instance of the ideal type also requires one to be a value creator? Isn’t Nietzsche too demanding here?

¹⁵ The Tripartite Claim aims at capturing the essential features of Nietzsche’s ideal type. There are further features Nietzsche often ascribes to it which derive from those. See, for instance, the Nietzschean ‘virtues’ (such as ‘curiosity’, ‘solitude’, and the ‘pathos of distance’) highlighted by Alfano (2019). See also Leiter (2002:115–125).

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To properly answer this question, we need to appreciate who are the addressees of Nietzsche’s writings. They certainly aren’t ancient Greeks. Rather, they are latemodern Europeans like the writer of this book, who—as GM, for instance, is designed to argue—are the product of the Umwertung brought about by JudaeoChristian morality. We late-modern Europeans are still in the grip of that value system and thus in need of being liberated—at least some of us. For that to occur, however, a new Umwertung is required. That’s why the instances of the ideal type Nietzsche has in mind are primarily the ‘philosophers of the future’ envisaged in BGE whose task consists in realizing such an ambitious project.¹⁶ This is the reason why—unlike, say, the Greeks of the tragic period—they also need to be value creators and self-legislators. For overcoming the self-division imposed by the ascetic ideal at the heart of Judaeo-Christian morality requires that a new ideal be created. Hence, late-modern Europeans can regain unity only by creating new values. Another question then is: how can one of we late-modern Europeans achieve that? For Nietzsche, I think, there is no straightforward answer to this question. Sometimes he describes the process of becoming an instance of the ideal type as that of ‘becoming oneself ’. GS 335 is a famous example of this: We, however, want to become who we are—human beings who are new, unique, incomparable, who give themselves laws, who create themselves! To that end we must become the best students and discoverers of everything lawful and necessary in the world: we must become physicists in order to be creators in this sense—while hitherto all valuations and ideals have been built on ignorance of physics or in contradiction to it. (GS 335)

Importantly, here we encounter the notions of value creation and self-legislation that Nietzsche elsewhere links to nobility. Becoming someone possessing those capacities means becoming oneself. As we have already seen in Chapter 9, what Nietzsche has in mind here when he refers to ‘physics’ is an investigation of the world and, of course, of the place we occupy in it from a third-person perspective. Indeed, as the rest of the aphorism makes clear, Nietzsche’s real concern is thirdpersonally acquired self-knowledge regarding human moral psychology. The selfknowledge gained in this way is contrasted with the erroneous self-conception we ¹⁶ See, for instance, BGE 43, where Nietzsche sketches such philosophers of the future by bringing together some of the features we encountered in the attempt to get his notion of ideal type into focus: ‘Are they new friends of “truth”, these upcoming philosophers? Probably, since all philosophers so far have loved their truths. But they certainly will not be dogmatists. It would offend their pride, as well as their taste, if their truth were a truth for everyone (which has been the secret wish and hidden meaning of all dogmatic aspirations so far). “My judgment is my judgment: other people don’t have an obvious right to it too”—perhaps this is what such a philosopher of the future will say. We must do away with the bad taste of wanting to be in agreement with the majority. “Good” is no longer good when it comes from your neighbor’s mouth’ (BGE 43).


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have of ourselves as moral agents. That conception comes with the conviction that moral norms possess a universal bearing. However, Nietzsche contends, ‘No one who judges, “in this case everyone would have to act like this” has yet taken five steps towards self-knowledge’ (GS 335). More relevantly for present purposes, maintaining that confidence in the universality of moral norms simply shows that ‘you haven’t yet discovered yourself or created for yourself an ideal of your very own’. This suggests that substantial self-knowledge is indeed a prerequisite of selflegislation.¹⁷ This also seems to be what Nietzsche has in mind when he qualifies the ‘power’ and ‘new virtue’ of creating ‘a new good and evil’ as ‘a ruling thought and around it a wise soul: a golden sun and around it the snake of knowledge’ (Z ‘Bestowing Virtue’ 1). How can one manage to discover oneself and create one’s own values? Nietzsche is keen to tell the reader how that worked in his own case. In 1886, as we have already seen, he writes a series of new prefaces to his previous works. The many autobiographical details they contain are meant to sketch his own trajectory towards self-knowledge. This is also, and explicitly, the main task of EH—one of Nietzsche’s last works, carrying the subtitle ‘How to Become What You Are’. As he says in a crucial section, becoming who you are ‘presupposes that you do not have the slightest idea what you are’ (EH ‘Clever’ 9). This is so because the path to self-discovery is something that goes on mostly at the Runconscious level: the ‘whole surface of consciousness . . . has to be kept free from all of the great imperatives’ in order for the ‘governing “idea” ’ to keep ‘growing deep inside’. In Nietzsche’s own case, discovering oneself meant discovering his real task, i.e. that of ‘revaluing values’. This isn’t a goal he sets himself by an act of Rconscious deliberation, Nietzsche tells us: ‘I had absolutely no idea what was growing inside me,—and then one day all my capabilities suddenly leapt out, ripened to ultimate perfection’. We can try to fix some points. Again, Nietzsche contrasts the kind of substantial self-knowledge required for one to become oneself and create one’s own values with the standard conception of introspective self-knowledge. To achieve the former, one needs to suspend the latter. For instance, as Nietzsche argues in GS 335, to get a clear view about the working of moral psychology, one needs to stop taking the deliverances of introspection at face value. Moreover, Nietzsche’s path towards substantial self-knowledge is utterly personal. He does not mean to suggest that the values he creates for himself are universally valid. For this would just mean to repeat one of the most basic mistakes of morality teachers. It is not by accident, thus, that at the beginning of EH Nietzsche writes: ‘The last thing I would promise would be to “improve” humanity. I won’t be setting up any new idols’ (EH ‘Preface’ 2). ¹⁷ There seem to be only rare exceptions to that rule. This is a point I shall come back to later in this section.

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Nietzsche’s insistence that the kind of substantial self-knowledge one needs to acquire in order to become a value creator is something one has oneself to achieve suggests that there is no unique way to get there. EH recounts Nietzsche’s itinerary—and he is keen to stress that what he describes is simply his own way towards that sort of self-knowledge. At the same time, as Janaway (2007) rightly stresses, Nietzsche’s works—in particular the later ones—are designed to trigger this sort of self-discovery in (some of) his readers by provoking a range of different affective responses in them. The reason of this strategy is that—as Janaway puts it—‘arousing feelings helps our capacity to identify the true subject matter of the self-scrutinizing genealogical investigation’ (2007:49). Nietzsche seems to allow that—in exceptional cases—one can create one’s own values without having to go through a laborious and painstaking process of selfdiscovery such as the one he recounts in EH. There are, in other words, what we may call natural-born value creators. A case in point, to Nietzsche eyes, seems to be the Goethe of TI. Another example is Napoleon, in whom he identifies ‘the incarnate problem of the noble ideal itself’ (GM I 16). Napoleon is typically depicted by Nietzsche as the quintessential example of a strong-willed soul dominated by a ‘great passion’. It should be no surprise, thus, that Nietzsche takes him to also exemplify the noble form of self-legislation. To underscore this fundamental trait of Napoleon, Nietzsche quotes what Madame de Rémusat reports him saying to his wife in response to her charges of infidelity: ‘I have the right to answer all charges against me with an eternal “That is me”. I am apart from all the world and accept conditions from no one. I want people to submit even to my fantasies and to find it natural when I yield to this or that distraction’ (GS 23). To Nietzsche’s eyes, however, Napoleon is a matchless, even enigmatic figure in recent modern history.¹⁸ In fact, as ‘the personification of a single drive worked through to the end with perfect consistency, Napoleon belongs to the mankind of antiquity’ (D 245; see also GS 362). Hence, Napoleon was much more akin to an ancient Greek of the tragic age than to 19th-century Europeans. At least, that’s how Nietzsche idealizes him into the paradigmatic manifestation of the ideal type. Of course, Napoleon and Goethe are rare exceptions. In fact, according to Nietzsche’s own cultural diagnosis of late modernity, the chances of naturalborn value creators appearing among his contemporaries were extremely poor: In an age of disintegration where the races are mixed together, a person will have the legacy of multiple lineages in his body, which means conflicting (and often not merely conflicting) drives and value standards that fight with each other and rarely leave each other alone. A man like this, of late cultures and refracted lights, ¹⁸ Of course, Napoleon’s alleged ‘world-historic’ significance is a topos common to many 19thcentury intellectuals that looks less appealing from our 21st-century vantage point.


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will typically be a weaker person: his most basic desire is for an end to the war that he is. (BGE 200)

The kind of cultural and historical circumstances alluded to by Nietzsche are those in which psychological anarchy is likely to ensue, for it is difficult to bind together the many conflicting drives. This is a feat only exceptional individuals are able to accomplish. But if conflict and war affect such a nature as one more stimulus and goad to life—, and if genuine proficiency and finesse in waging war with himself (which is to say: the ability to control and outwit himself) are inherited and cultivated along with his most powerful and irreconcilable drives, then what emerge are those amazing, incomprehensible, and unthinkable ones, those human riddles destined for victory and for seduction; Alcibiades and Caesar are the most exquisite expressions of this type (—and I will gladly set by their side that first European after my taste, the Hohenstaufen Frederick II), and among artists perhaps Leonardo da Vinci. They appear in exactly those ages when that weaker type, with his longing for peace, comes to the fore. These types belong together and derive from the same set of causes. (BGE 200)

Though in this aphorism Nietzsche only—and somewhat loosely—refers to past eras such as 5th-century Athens and late antiquity as instances of the phenomenon he is describing, it is obvious that he also takes late modernity to fit that description. Arguably, Goethe and Napoleon are the 19th-century Leonardo da Vinci and Caesar. Clearly, EH testifies that Nietzsche himself was no Goethe. He wasn’t a naturalborn value creator. To become one, he had to pull through a long and painful process of self-discovery encompassing the overcoming—inter alia—of Schopenhauerian pessimism, Wagnerian décadence, and, finally, JudaeoChristian morality. As I have already remarked above, his vitriolic critique of morality was supposed to help those among his readers who proved responsive to his affectively charged provocations to take the first steps in the same direction.

11.4 A Last Overview In the last part of the book I have explored how Nietzsche’s philosophical psychology informs his views of self, self-knowledge, and will. In this last chapter we have seen how these themes coalesce into his picture of the ideal type. It will be helpful to survey the main points. Nietzsche’s views of self, self-knowledge, and will directly reflect his belief that the hierarchical order among drives and affects is what constitutes us at the most

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basic psychological level, on the one hand, and that conscious self-reflection is a mere surface phenomenon, on the other hand. The conception of self, selfknowledge, and will Nietzsche derives from this basic view of the human mind can be summarized as follows: Self: No Rconscious self exists over and above the drive-constituted bodily self. Rather, the Rconscious self is the personal-level upshot of what goes on at the subpersonal level of the bodily self. This means that the first-person perspective of the Rconscious self is always the perspective of a certain drive. Self-Knowledge: RConscious introspection fails to afford direct and privileged access to our own mind, for it consists in the self-ascription of mental states based on a normatively distorted and thus unreliable folk-psychological framework. Will: An episode of willing occurs when the dominant drive sends a command to the subordinated ones. Though volitional phenomenology is the personal-level upshot of such a command–obedience relation obtaining at the subpersonal level of the drives, it does not reliably track the processes actually going on at that level and is therefore largely illusory. The idea of an order of drives on which Nietzsche’s conception of both self and will is directly based undergirds two important distinctions. Depending on whether the hierarchical arrangement among one’s drives is based on eradication and repression, on the one hand, or sublimation, on the other hand, one’s bodily self can be either divided or unified. Depending on how stable the hierarchical arrangement among one’s drives is, one’s will can be either weak or strong. As we have seen in this chapter, these distinctions prove important because they allow the working out of two key features of Nietzsche’s ideal type. More precisely, for someone to count as an instance of that type, one needs to be both psychologically stable and unified. A third feature Nietzsche often ascribes to his ideal type is the capacity to create values. This capacity, which he typically associates with psychological ‘nobility’, is mandatory for late-modern Europeans if they are to become ideal human beings. The reason is that the internalization of Judaeo-Christian morality makes latemodern Europeans self-divided. Thus, overcoming that condition in order to become psychologically unified—as we have just seen, a necessary condition for one to be an ideal human being—requires an Umwertung of Judaeo-Christian morality, i.e. the capacity to create values opposed to those embodied by its ascetic ideal. Relevantly, Nietzsche argues that this task (typically) presupposes that one comes to know oneself. Of course, given his scepticism about the epistemic credentials of introspective self-knowledge, what he has in mind here is substantial self-knowledge achieved by inquiring about oneself from a third-person viewpoint.


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Though Nietzsche’s philosophical psychology constitutes a set of claims that can be considered independently from his normative project, as I have done throughout all the previous chapters, the terrain covered in this chapter shows that the two are in fact continuous. More precisely, in sketching his picture of the ideal human being Nietzsche (unsurprisingly) draws on his views about human psychology in general.¹⁹

¹⁹ Of course, this connects with the issue of the relation between philosophical psychology and moral psychology already discussed in Chapter 1. More importantly, it shows that in spite of offering subpersonal explanations for a range of mental phenomena, Nietzsche’s philosophical psychology provides his normative project with sufficient resources (pace Gardner 2009).

12 Conclusions What is the theoretical significance of Nietzsche’s philosophical psychology? This is the question I shall address by way of a conclusion. I shall start by spelling out the philosophical relevance of Nietzsche’s views about human psychology by comparing them to so-called belief–desire psychology, i.e. the model of the mind most widely adopted among contemporary philosophers (Section 12.1). I shall then contrast them with those of Kant (in Section 12.2) and Hegel (Section 12.3). Here, I shall focus in particular on the different claims these three thinkers put forward concerning the social dimension of the human mind. The reason for this choice is that I take the recognition of that dimension to be among the most original and substantial achievements of post-Kantian philosophy. To look—however briefly—at Nietzsche’s philosophical psychology from that angle should help us to better appreciate its distinctive contribution to that tradition.

12.1 Just Another Version of Belief–Desire Psychology? Today the most widespread model of philosophical psychology is so-called belief– desire psychology. Does Nietzsche’s own philosophical psychology add anything original to the mainstream picture of how the human mind works? Or is it rather a minor variation on the received paradigm? To properly address these questions, we need to say a bit more about belief– desire psychology. In general, what that label refers to is often a pretty vague view. As Stephen Stich once put it, it is the ‘venerable view, still very much alive, [that] holds that human action is to be explained at least in part in terms of beliefs and desires’ (Stich 2011:53). As such, it is a claim that ‘would be endorsed by an exceptionally heterogeneous collection of psychologists and philosophers’. Among them, Stich mentions Hume and Freud. Should we add Nietzsche? Well, it depends on what we mean by ‘desire’ and ‘belief ’. Let’s consider ‘desire’ first. Does it refer to the same kind of mental items Nietzsche describes as ‘drives’ and ‘affects’? On a narrow conception of what a desire is, the answer is obviously ‘No’. For instance, if one takes desires to be occurrent mental states, drives—which are dispositions—would not count as desires. Moreover, someone may want to keep desires conceptually separated from affective states. In such cases, a belief–desire psychology would fail to include Nietzsche’s Philosophical Psychology. Mattia Riccardi, Oxford University Press. © Mattia Riccardi 2021. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198803287.003.0012



psychological posita akin to drives or affects. (Smith (2017), for instance, assumes such a picture of belief–desire psychology, for he accuses it precisely of ignoring the role of emotions and other affective states in our mental life.) On a broad conception of what a desire is, on the contrary, the term may well extend so as to include Nietzschean drives and affects—for instance, if we follow Davidson (1997:27) and define desire as ‘some sort of pro attitude towards actions of a certain kind’. More interestingly, Sinhababu (2018) argues that there is no substantial difference between Nietzsche’s notion of drive and Hume’s notion of desire. Though there might be some room for discussion here, in general it seems to me true that claims about the human mind couched in terms of Nietzschean drives (and affects) could be translated into claims couched in terms of Humean desires. Note, however, that Hume’s conception of desire is itself a specific way to flesh out one of the two key explanatory items of belief– desire psychology.¹ What about ‘beliefs’? Here things are more complicated. In fact, I am not sure how the notion of belief could be made to fit into Nietzsche’s philosophical psychology. If we allow, however, that beliefs are representational states with mind-to-world direction of fit and that can be either conscious or unconscious, one way of doing it would be as follows.² We could identify conscious beliefs with R conscious episodes of verbally articulated thought, on the one hand, and unconscious beliefs with Runconscious states with pictorial content, on the other hand. (These would then be the sort of beliefs we could also ascribe to non-linguistic animals.) Given these definitions—and given (WLE)—we could therefore say that conscious beliefs never figure among the causally efficacious antecedents of token actions. Now, even if we accept that there are no essential differences between Hume’s ‘desires’ and Nietzsche’s ‘drives’ (arguably, plus ‘affects’)—as conceded above—this is enough to distinguish the latter’s view from the former’s theory of motivation. First, the Humean theory of motivation does not distinguish between conscious and unconscious beliefs. Second, the claim entailed by (WLE) that no conscious belief is among the causal antecedents of token actions is stronger than the claim entailed by Hume’s famous statement that ‘Reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions’ (Hume 1739–40 II.3.iii:415).³ ¹ Note, moreover, that the notion of desire many philosophers associate with the so-called Humean theory of motivation is much thinner and, consequently, explanatorily weaker than the one worked out by Sinhababu. In fact, elsewhere Sinhababu argues (convincingly) that common criticism of that theory is misguided due to a general failure to appreciate how complex Hume’s notion of desire in fact is (see Sinhababu 2009). ² Sometimes Nietzsche uses ‘thought’ in this sense, as in GS 354. Two things to note. First, the direction-of-fit condition is to make sure only cognitive states are included. Second, this picture of beliefs is not uncontroversial. Crane (2001), for instance, argues that beliefs are dispositional and, therefore, that there are no conscious beliefs (105–107). ³ This issue, I think, relates to a deep-running difference in how Nietzsche and Hume conceive of affective states. Whereas the former takes them to be representational, the latter argues that they lack ‘any representative quality’ (Hume 1739–40 II.3.iii:415).

  ‘  ’


Of course, all this can be taken to show that it is possible to define ‘desire’ and ‘belief ’ in such a way as to allow a translation of all the basic claims of Nietzsche’s philosophical psychology into the more familiar vocabulary of belief–desire psychology. I leave it to the reader to decide whether that’s a worthy enterprise.⁴ All I wanted to stress here is that the resulting picture of the human mind would still be peculiar and philosophically relevant.

12.2 Communication and Gemeinheit: Kant vs. Nietzsche Kant had already appreciated that certain aspects of human cognition have a social dimension—a point which becomes salient in his third Critique. In particular, he stresses that mental content needs to be something we can communicate to others. One reason for this is that if mental content were something that cannot be communicated, no claim to the effect that it has a genuinely objective import could be raised: Cognitions and judgments must, together with the conviction that accompanies them, be able to be universally communicated, for otherwise they would have no correspondence with the object: they would all be a merely subjective play of the powers of representation, just as skepticism insists. (Kant 1790 §21:122)

As long as we are concerned solely with what we would nowadays call propositional content, Kant maintains that concepts must be able to make mental content transmissible.⁵ But what about subjective states such as sensations and feelings? Are they at all communicable? This issue is explicitly addressed in §39 of the same work: its specific quality [of sensory sensation] can be represented as completely communicable in the same way only if one assumes that everyone has a sense that is the same as our own—but this absolutely cannot be presupposed in the case of a sensory sensation. Thus, to someone who lacks the sense of smell, this kind of sensation cannot be communicated; and, even if he does not lack this sense, one still cannot be sure that he has exactly the same sensation from a flower that we have from it. (Kant 1790 §39:171)

⁴ Note that Nietzsche’s particularism about mental content implies a substantial departure from the widespread general-content conception of belief–desire psychology. See the considerations at the end of Section 6.1. ⁵ To be true, this is not the whole story according to Kant. See next footnote.



Thus, Kant maintains that in many cases I cannot assume that I can really tell other people what the phenomenal properties of my sensory experience are—as contemporary philosophers call them. There are, however, a few exceptions. The first one is the ‘pleasure’ constitutive of moral feelings, though here Kant promptly remarks that feelings of this sort ‘require concepts’, more precisely, ‘concepts of reason’ (Kant 1790 §39:172). Hence, the transmission of the pleasure constitutive of moral feelings is effected via ‘concepts’ every rational being is endowed with. The second exception is the ‘pleasure’ constitutive of the sublime. However, as this pleasure ‘presupposes’ the ‘feeling’ of ‘its supersensible vocation’, and since the latter ‘has a moral foundation’, Kant treats this case as analogous to that of moral feelings proper. Ultimately, the pleasure constitutive of the sublime is communicable because we all share the same ‘moral predispositions’. Things are different for the pleasure constitutive of our experience of beauty. This pleasure does not involve concepts and therefore cannot be conveyed in the same way in which moral feelings are. At the same time, Kant insists, it is also no mere ‘pleasure of enjoyment’ (Kant 1790 §39:172). How can someone judging about the beauty of a certain object then coherently ‘assume his feeling to be universally communicable, even without the mediation of concepts’ (173)? To answer this question, Kant argues that ‘taste’—the capacity we exercise in judging about the beauty of objects—is a variety of sensus communis—in German, ‘Gemeinsinne’ (§40:173). This is characterized by Kant as ‘a faculty for judging that in reflection takes account (a priori) of everyone’s else way of representing in thought’. Kant notes that this definition applies not only to taste—which seems to genuinely warrant the use of the term ‘sense’ given that it does not deal with concepts, but with feelings (see p. 175)—but also to ‘common human understanding’ (gemeiner Menschenverstand), for which the label ‘common sense’ is indeed confusing, for understanding is essentially difference from a ‘sense’. The point I want to drive home from this discussion is twofold. First, common sense—both qua common human understanding and qua taste—constitutively appeals to the point of view of others. (According to Kant, that is the universal point of view of reason—a point I shall come back in due course.) This, however, is what makes communication of all kinds of mental content at all possible.⁶ This means that such communicability—as long as it is possible—is grounded in the transcendental make-up of the human mind. More precisely, according to Kant the capacity to judge constitutively involves the capacity to put ourselves ‘into the position of everyone else’ (Kant 1790 §40:174). This, in turn, means holding one’s judgment ‘up to human reason as a whole’ (173). In other words, the exercise—in ⁶ This is clearly stated by Kant in an earlier paragraph. There he argues that the ‘objectivity’ of ‘cognitions’ and ‘judgments’ depends on their being communicable. This, however, is not just a matter of conveying a certain propositional content, but also requires that ‘the conviction that accompanies them’ be transmitted (Kant 1790 §21:122). From this it follows that ‘common sense’ is a ‘necessary condition of the universal communicability of our cognition’ as such (123).

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particular—of common human understanding involves committing oneself to judge not from one’s subjective point of view, but rather to judge from the point of view of every possible human being. This, however, is just the universal point of view of reason as such. Second, on these grounds Kant complains about the very qualification ‘common’ (gemein) which comes attached both to ‘sense’ and ‘human understanding’, for what it suggests ‘(not merely in our language, which here really contains an ambiguity, but in many others as well) comes to the same as the vulgar, which is encountered everywhere, to possess which is certainly not an advantage or an honour’. In striking opposition to Kant, Nietzsche emphatically insists on precisely the connotation in terms of ‘vulgar’ of the German word ‘gemein’.⁷ BGE 268—the aphorism in which Nietzsche addresses the issue of the communicability of mental content—opens with the question: ‘What, in the end, is base (Gemeinheit)?’ (BGE 268) The answer, as we know, is that it directly results from the requirement of mutual understanding on which social life rests: ‘easy communicability of needs’, as Nietzsche writes, ‘means having only average and base (gemein) experiences’. As a perfect circle, the aphorism closes with the same term: socialization makes ‘people becoming increasingly similar, ordinary, average, herd-like,—increasingly base (in’s Gemeine)!’ The same point, of course, is made in GS 354, though there Nietzsche does not again exploit the ambiguity of the term ‘gemein’ and of its cognates. (He only uses the term ‘vergemeinert’—modelled on and employed together with ‘verallgemeinert’ as a way to describe the ‘world of which we can become conscious’ (GS 354)). Of course, it is not hard to identify what explains Kant’s and Nietzsche’s contrasting attitudes towards the pejorative connotation of the German word ‘gemein’. Whereas Kant takes the communicability of thoughts to be guaranteed by the very transcendental structure of the human mind, Nietzsche sees it as a much more ambivalent result of socialization. It is obviously true that linguistic communication allows human beings to survive by living in society. However, it is also true that socialization produces an ongoing and pervasive psychological standardization. Coupled with the values of JudaeoChristian morality, this process prevents, in Nietzsche’s view, the flourishing of genuine individuality.⁸ As we saw in the previous chapter, this claim plays a crucial role, in particular, in his diagnosis of late modernity: that’s why Nietzsche reserves for himself as well as for the philosophers of the future he

⁷ Loukidelis (2013:34) made me aware of this point. ⁸ Nietzsche also draws an explicit link between the communicability of one’s experiences and their average character in TI: ‘We stop valuing ourselves enough when we communicate. Our true experiences are completely taciturn. They could not be communicated even if they wanted to be. This is because the right words for them do not exist. The things we have words for are also the things we have already left behind. There is a grain of contempt in all speech. Language, it seems, was invented only for average, mediocre, communicable things. People vulgarize themselves when they speak a language’ (TI ‘Skirmishes’ 26). See also GS 371.



envisages in BGE a noble taste sharply contrasting the common-qua-‘gemein’ sense of his late 19th-century contemporaries (see, for instance, BGE 43).

12.3 Reason’s Sociality: Hegel vs. Nietzsche Hegel famously argued that fundamental aspects of human mindedness are irreducibly social. First, this is the case of self-consciousness itself. As he writes in the Phenomenology of Spirit: ‘Self-consciousness is in and for itself while and as a result of its being in and for itself for an other; i.e., it is only as a recognized being’ (Hegel 1807:108). Hence, self-consciousness constitutively involves the mutual recognition of two human beings. Once we get to this stage, Hegel says, we enter the realm of ‘spirit (Geist)’, i.e. the proper realm of reason. This position marks a twofold departure from the picture one finds in Kant. First, the capacity for rational and self-conscious thought is not built into the transcendental structure of the human mind from the very beginning, but rather appears as a specific stage in the development of spirit—whatever that may be. Indeed, that of selfconsciousness is the stage in which spirit as such appears. Second, that capacity is essentially social and develops as long as spirit itself develops. Crucially, according to Hegel, this process involves the acceptance (and later revision) of shared normative standards in the light of which the members of the relevant community judge both whether a certain behaviour counts as an action and, consequently, what kind of action it is, whether the subject can be held accountable for it, whether it is morally good, etc. A consequence of this picture is that—as Katerina Deligiorgi puts it—Hegel’s ‘conception of action is forensic; that consciousness “displays” itself in action does not mean that something inner becomes outer but that action already belongs to the public tribunal of objective spirit’ (Deligiorgi 2010:107). Only within the context of normative social space governed by the practice of reason-giving and reason-demanding can human behaviour count as an action. There is therefore a sense in which an action is constituted by shared normative standards. Thus, the way we make sense of our own agency is essentially social. Though these claims may seem to resonate with much of the picture that has emerged in the previous chapters, there are strong differences between Hegel’s view and Nietzsche’s.⁹ In a sense, they both agree that rationally assessing an action in light of shared normative standards is essentially different from causally explaining it. However, Hegel takes this to mean—as Katerina Deligiorgi again nicely puts it—that ‘human acts are placed outside the worldly stuff we encounter ⁹ Similarities between Nietzsche’s project and Hegel’s are stressed by Forster (2017), who traces them back to Herder’s insights about how human sentiments and values are subject to historical changes.

 ’  


daily and understand nomologically’, not because causal laws do not apply to human beings, but simply because causal considerations do not tell us ‘anything informative—any of the things we care—about actions’ (Deligiorgi 2010:105). Of course, Nietzsche does not want to draw the same conclusion. First, he takes the fact that reason-giving accounts of actions diverge from causal accounts to strongly indicate that the former are descriptively wrong. Second, though he agrees that adopting the framework embedded in our practice of reason-giving and reason-demanding makes us interpret what we do from the viewpoint of the ‘public tribunal of objective spirit’, Nietzsche’s project consists precisely in debunking the alleged legitimacy of that viewpoint, as he sees the social normative standards that make up objective spirit simply to express the viewpoint of a set of socially selected drives—again, of ‘the herd’. This, in turn, challenges another crucial claim Hegel defends: that the objective spirit’s viewpoint is essentially different from and superior to that of unreflected drives and inclinations. On the contrary, to Nietzsche’s eyes the viewpoint of self-conscious rational thought is not only just the point of view of certain drives, but also the point of view of drives that are ‘gemein’ in the un-Kantian sense of ‘vulgar’. Of course, this has farreaching philosophical consequences. I shall briefly point out just two. First, whereas Hegel believes that the developing viewpoint of self-conscious thought provides an increasingly deeper understanding of human agency, Nietzsche takes it to be a mere cognitive add-on that typically supplies only post-hoc rationalizations of what we do. Second, whereas Nietzsche praises evaluative independence as the noble capacity of setting one’s own standards of value, Hegel affirms: ‘True freedom is ethical life (Sittlichkeit), where the will has for its purposes a universal content, not subjective, i.e. self-centred content’ (Hegel 1817/1827/1830 §469:206). That Hegel and Nietzsche came to endorse such diverging outlooks is arguably due to their disagreement about deep-running methodological and philosophical commitments. Nietzsche’s adherence to a robust version of naturalism explains why he takes psychology to afford the adequate understanding of human nature. Hegel, on the contrary, takes the viewpoint of psychology to belong to a relatively undeveloped moment in the development of spirit, that of ‘observing reason’.¹⁰ A proper comprehension of our nature requires, on the contrary, that we come to see objective spirit as logically independent from—and, consequently, irreducible to—causally governed facts. Unsurprisingly, Nietzsche programmatically disagrees:

¹⁰ Naturalistic readings of Hegel have been recently proposed, most notably by Pinkard (2012). However, the naturalism thereby ascribed to Hegel is of the Aristotelian sort and thus quite different from that typically ascribed to Nietzsche. (See Leiter (2002) for the most influential naturalistic reading of Nietzsche.)



To translate humanity back into nature; to gain control of the many vain and fanciful interpretations and incidental meanings that have been scribbled and drawn over that eternal basic text of homo natura so far; to make sure that, from now on, the human being will stand before the human being, just as he already stands before the rest of nature today, hardened by the discipline of science,—with courageous Oedipus eyes and sealed up Odysseus ears, deaf to the lures of the old metaphysical bird catchers who have been whistling to him for far too long: ‘You are more! You are higher! You have a different origin!’— . . . (BGE 230)

Of course, this is not the place to spell out and defend Nietzsche’s fundamental commitment to this sort of naturalism. What I hope to have shown in this book is that one of its major upshots—Nietzsche’s philosophical psychology—offers a philosophically powerful account of human mindedness and agency.

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Index For the benefit of digital users, indexed terms that span two pages (e.g., 52–53) may, on occasion, appear on only one of those pages. Abel G. 71–2 Access conscious/reflectively conscious 80, 153 direct 179–82 Direct Access 179n.2, 180–5 epistemic 179 introspective 112–13, 179–80, 227 privileged 181–2, 227 Privileged Access 179–82, 185–90, 193n.17 unmediated 121 Affect/affective states, see especially 34–47 and causal inference 38–42 in relation to consciousness 123–5 in relation to drives 45–7, 61–8 phenomenology of 35–6 valenced and appraisal character of 36–8 Agency 1, 5–6, 14–16, 19, 48, 50, 56n.7, 66–7, 115, 129–30, 139–40, 155n.22, 163, 168, 189–90, 194, 220n.14, 234–6 experience/feeling/sense of free 200, 203–4, 205n.6 phenomenology of 201–2 zombie 127–8, 130, 139 Alcibiades 226 Alfano M. 4, 22–3, 29n.16, 222n.15 Alignment Claim 105–6, 111 Anderson L. R. 11, 62–3, 63n.15, 64, 71–2, 74, 167–8, 173–5, 208n.1, 209, 212n.4, 220n.14, 222 Anscombe G. E. M. 180n.4 Appraisal 36–8, 43–4 affective 102–3, 124 character 34–8, 45–6, 55–6 moral 187–8 valenced 37, 212–13 Bad conscience 63n.18, 113, 159–61 Bain A. 19–21, 23–4 Bargh J. and Chatrand T. L. 142 Belief-desire psychology 7, 11, 68n.24, 103, 229–31 Billon A. 124n.24 Block N. 79 Bonaparte N. 225–6 Brusotti M. 27, 206

Caesar 208, 226 Campioni G. 187n.11 Carruthers P. 138, 158, 180n.5, 184–5, 187–8 Cassam Q. 190–1 Categorization (perceptual) 114–15 Clark M. 30, 30n.19, 103n.3, 116 and Dudrick D. 2n.2, 22–3, 26, 55–9, 63n.17, 65, 199n.2, 200n.3, 201–3, 205n.6 Communication and consciousness 75–90 and socialization 150 and understanding 91–2 Kant’s view of 231–4 Concept (see also content, conceptual/nonconceptual) 104–10 and communication according to Kant 232 language-dependence of 105–8 moral 154 perceptual 108, 110 Consciousness animal 77n.5, 100, 181 higher-order thought (HOT) theory of, see higher-order thought pre-reflective awareness/consciousness 76, 86–7, 168, 184n.8, 190–1 perceptual 99–100, 103–5, 110–11, 115, 117–18, 122–5, 128, 130, 163 phenomenal 72, 76, 79, 104, 118–20, 123, 127–8 qualitative 118–20, 122–5, 163 reflective, see especially 71–98 self-consciousness 77, 113, 171, 234 Constâncio J. 72, 105–6, 123n.22, 129n.1, 155, 220n.14 Content (mental/perceptual) 36, 75, 78–9, 90–1, 99–100, 103, 108, 109n.7, 110–11, 113–14, 116–20, 124, 144–7, 151–3, 171–2, 174, 179–80, 187, 201–2, 231–5 conceptual/non-conceptual 105–6, 111, 113–14, 116–18, 124 evaluative 51n.5 language-dependent 113–14 moral 150 pictorial 99–100, 108, 110, 113–14, 116–18, 121, 123, 230



Content (mental/perceptual) (cont.) propositional 75n.3, 103, 232n.6 representational 24–5, 115, 123–4, 158, 163, 196 verbal/verbally articulated 75n.3, 76, 79–80, 82–3, 97, 100, 111, 113–14, 147 Crane T. 230n.2 Damásio A. 170 Darwin C. 19–21, 110n.8 Davidson D. 230 Deligiorgi K. 234–5 Dennett D. 49–50, 57–9, 65 Deonna J. and Teroni P. 63n.14, 66–8, 124–5 Dependence Claim 167–9, 174–5, 178 Descartes R. 132, 169–71, 179, 188 Descartes-Kant-Picture 169–70, 173 Dilthey W. 11, 16 Discharge 26–7, 31–3, 36, 39–40, 46–7, 61–5, 148, 159–60, 173–5, 177, 197, 214–17 affective 40 model 27–8, 31–2, 36, 45, 62n.13 motor 58n.9 Doyle T. 71–2, 78–9, 155, 157 Drayson Z. 49–50, 49n.1, 58n.10 Dretske F. 24–5 Drives, see especially 11–33 as behavioural dispositions 14, 22–4, 103, 168, 198, 210–12 as multi-track affective dispositions 66–8, 125n.26 as strictly unconscious 99–100, 125 in relation to affects 45–7, 61–8 order/social structure of, see especially 48–68 Schneider’s theory of 16–19 Schopenhauer’s theory of 14–16 Du Bois-Reymond E., 119 Dudrick D. see Clark M. and Dudrick D. Fanatic(ism) 214–15, 218–21 First-person belief/thought 171–2, 179–80, 201–2 experience 192 perspective/point of view 167–8, 173, 175, 178, 182n.6, 197, 227 pronoun 77, 169–72, 188–9, 201–2 self-knowledge 179n.1, 191 Eliminativism 2, 132, 134, 143 Elliott R. 216n.7 Emotion 19–20, 29n.17, 34–7, 40–7, 56n.7, 66–7, 74, 84n.11, 85–6, 124–5, 136, 142, 147, 158–9, 186, 229–30 Epiphenomenalism, see especially 126–64 global/local 127–31 modular 131

philosophical 129–30 strong/weak 127–31 Weak Local Epiphenomenalism (WLE), see especially 131–49 Espinas A. 57–8, 72–3, 84–90, 91n.16, 92, 97–8, 183n.7 Explanation 11, 36, 65, 93–4, 124–5, 152–3, 182, 187–8, 210 causal 56n.7, 65, 127–8 genealogical 191–2 mechanistic 53 personal-level/subpersonal 24–5, 49–50, 58n.10, 60, 228n.19 psychological 17, 23–4, 48, 54–5, 66–8, 98, 115, 123, 128, 132, 137, 149, 174 teleological 54 Falsification 99–101, 110–12, 116–18, 121–3, 181–2, 185, 187–8, 201–2 Falsification Claim 99–103, 181–2 Fére C. 141–2, 206 Filevich E. 141–2 Folk-psychology 90–8 of Judaeo-Christian morality 187–8 folk-psychological beliefs 125 folk-psychological competence 94 folk-psychological falsification 188 folk-psychological framework 94, 96, 98, 101–2, 184–5, 187–8, 227 folk-psychological interpretation of actions 189–90 folk-psychological vocabulary 186 Fornari M. C. 85n.14 Forster M. N. 234n.9 Fouillée A. 53–4 Fowles C. 34–6, 38–42, 44–5, 63n.14, 66–7, 82n.9, 83n.10, 106, 108n.6 Frank M. 113n.13 Frederick II 226 Freud S. 23–9, 50, 62n.13, 84, 124–5, 229 Frith C. 154–5 Gallagher S. 154n.21 and Zahavi D. 113n.13 Gardner S. 48, 50, 167–9, 171–3, 178, 228n.19 Gemes K. 60–2, 208n.1, 215–17, 218n.9, 219n.10, 220n.14 Gertler B. 179n.2, 180n.5 Gibson J. J. 25–6 Goethe J. W. von 217–19, 225–6 Gori P. 2 Green P. A., Bradley N. C. and Nowicki S. 114–15

 Habituation Claim 41, 61n.12 Haeckel E. 53–4 Haggard P. 141–2 Hassin R. R. 140–1 Hatfield G. 119, 132 Haynes J.-D. 140–1 Hegel, G. W. F. 7, 229, 234–6 Helmholtz H. von 56n.7, 110–12, 119 Hermeneutic View 80–4, 144 Higher-order thought (HOT) 77–80, 82–4, 82n.9, 95, 97, 126, 144–6, 171–3 Homuncularism/homunculi 24–5, 48–50, 52–4, 57–9 homunculus fallacy 48–50, 52, 60–1, 64–5 Hornsby J. 58n.10 Hume D. 59–60, 68n.24, 229–30 Humean account 59–66 Humean desires 11, 229–30 Humean theory of motivation 230 Hussain N. 121–3 Husserl E. 199–200 Huxley T. H. 132n.6 Image 80–1, 106, 109, 156–7, 161n.26, 172, 179, 218n.8 acoustic 106 imagistic 108, 160–1 mental 21, 109, 121, 125 visual 106 Imagination/imagery 16–17, 21, 66, 109, 136, 142, 160–1 Imitation 85–6, 88–9, 96–7 Incorporation 29, 151 Inner Opacity 182, 185, 191 Instinct 23, 25–6, 31n.20, 46–7, 61–3, 133, 145, 155–6, 159–62, 211–12, 222 causal 40–2, 139 Schneider’s theory of 18 Schopenhauer’s theory of 14–16 vs. drives according to Nietzsche 28–9 Intention 36, 57, 87, 95, 139, 143–4, 146, 182–3, 187–8 conscious/reflectively conscious 68, 130n.3, 131, 132n.7, 140–4, 146–7, 153, 198 distal/proximal 129–30, 141n.14 formation 131 Internalization 150–3, 163, 215–16, 227 Interpretation-Dependence Claim 39–41 Interpretive Account 38–42, 44–5, 61n.12, 111–12, 119–20, 139 Introspection see self-knowledge


Jackson F. 119, 127–8 James W. 16, 18n.8, 35–6, 64n.20, 142, 195n.1, 205n.5, 206n.7 Janaway C. 22–3, 28, 50n.2, 154n.20, 179n.2, 220n.14, 225 Johnston M. 60n.11 Joyce R. 110n.8, 153n.19 Kant I. 7, 50, 116, 169, 171, 229, 231–4 See also Descartes-Kant-Picture Katsafanas P. 13n.5, 22–3, 25–6, 28, 31–2, 50, 58n.9, 61–2, 63n.16, 71–2, 78–9, 104–8, 110, 112–15, 129n.1, 139n.12, 155, 157–61, 194, 215–16, 218n.9, 220n.14 Keil G. 50 Kennett J. and Smith M. 212–13 Knobe J. 187–8 Lampl 195n.1 Lange F. A. 2, 111n.9 Language Constraint 105–8 Leibniz G. W. 53–4, 73–5, 109n.7 Leibniz Thesis 75, 77–9 Leiter B. 1n.1, 4, 22–3, 35, 49n.1, 51n.5, 55, 103n.2, 115, 126, 134n.9, 144–5, 178, 179n.1, 199n.2, 200n.3, 201–3, 205, 208n.1, 220n.14, 222n.15, 235n.10 Leonardo da Vinci 226 Lichtenberg G. C. 1–2 Liebmann O. 75, 109–12 Locke J. 75, 179–80 Loeb P. 30n.18, 54 Look B. 53 Loukidelis N. 75, 233n.7 Löwith K. 74 Lupo L. 72 Mayer J. R. 27–8, 36, 58n.9 McDougall W. 18n.8, 25–6, 61–2 McDowell J. 57–8, 104, 110 McGeer V. 94–5 Mele A. 129–30, 141n.14 Mental cause/causation 95n.18, 133–4, 143–4, 146, 155 Mind-reading 89–97, 182–5 capacity 82, 88–90, 93–4, 98, 153, 156, 182, 184n.8 (reflectively) conscious/imitation-based 96–7 function 93 inward-directed 182 Mitchell J. 43–4 Mittasch A. 27 Mood 34, 37, 39–41, 44 Morton A. 93–6, 98



Motive 21, 65–6, 133, 215–16 conflict of 135–7 (reflectively) conscious 57, 134–8 Schopenhauer’s view of 14–16 Nahmias E. 131, 140–1 Naturalism 2, 235–6 Normativity 59 Clark and Dudrick’s normative reading 55–9 Panksepp J. (also with Alcaro A.) 67–8 Papineau D. 82, 108–9, 114–15 Particularism (about actions/mental content) 101–3, 149n.16, 189–90, 231n.4 Passion 34–7, 102, 131, 199, 211, 214–18 great 219–20, 225, 230 Phenomenal Objectivity Claim 43–4 Pity 80, 147–9, 185 Plato 50 Poellner P. 34–5, 42–5, 48, 49n.1, 50–1, 71–2 Rée P. 12–14, 21–2 Reflection see consciousness, reflective Reginster B. 31–2, 63n.16, 214 Release 26–8, 31–3, 36, 39, 62n.13 Mayer’s theory of 27, 58n.9 Ressentiment 221–2 Reuter S. 72, 111n.9, 119n.20 Ribot T. 141–2, 194–9, 206, 208–12, 220n.12 Richardson J. 22–5, 30–2, 50n.3, 71–2, 76n.4, 156–7, 175, 213n.6, 217, 220n.14 Rochat P. 95 Rosenthal D. 78–9, 83–4, 139, 144–5, 171–3, 184n.9 Roskies A. L. 140–4 Rutherford D. 220n.14 Schlimgen E. 71–2 Schmaus M. 19–20 Schmitz-Dumont O. 117n.18, 120n.21 Schneider G. H. 6, 12–14, 16–24, 28–9, 45–6, 62–3, 66, 85n.14 Schopenhauer A. 12, 14–16, 18, 23, 28–9, 50n.3, 53–4, 66n.22, 105–6, 110, 112, 113n.13, 118, 124, 188, 198–9, 217–18, 226 Schwitzgebel E. 179, 186–7, 191 Self, see especially 167–78 bodily 7, 115n.15, 167–9, 173–9, 188–9, 207n.9, 215–16, 227 (reflectively) conscious 7, 115n.15, 134, 167–78, 188–9, 201–2, 207n.9, 212, 227 divided self/self-division 215–16, 221, 223 Ich 168–9, 176, 178

minimal self 174–5 Selbst 168, 176, 178, 198 Self-control 197, 208n.1, 212–15 Self-knowledge, see especially 179–93 introspection/introspective self-knowledge 7, 80n.8, 103, 179, 224, 227 introspective data/deliverances 43–5 Katsafanas’ discussion of introspective access 113 substantial 190–3, 208–9, 223–5, 227–8 third personal 190–3 Sellars W. 55–6, 58–9 Semiotic Claim 1–2, 4–5, 19, 43–4, 80–1, 158–9, 161n.27, 184n.8 Sensualism 99–100, 116, 120 Sentience 76, 104, 119, 122, 132 Sentiment 12–13, 63n.14, 158, 175–7, 234n.9 Shoemaker S. 167, 180n.3 Sigwart C. 110 Simon J. 71–2, 74 Simulation 89–90, 93 Sinhababu N. 11, 229–30 Sittlichkeit 95, 98, 177, 234–5 Smith B. 229–30 Socialization 3–4, 63n.18, 85–6, 94, 129, 149–50, 155n.22, 156, 163, 177, 233–4 Sommer A. U. 54n.6 Stability Claim 213 Stellino P. 191–2 Stendhal 38, 195 Stern T. 4–5 Stich S. 229 Strength-cum-Unity Claim 219–21 Sully J. 16, 18n.8, 186 Thought commandeering 200–5 (reflectively) conscious 3, 80n.7, 82n.9, 110, 114–15, 138, 139n.13, 143, 145–9, 151–2, 157–8, 162, 171, 200–2, 202n.4, 205–7 verbally articulated 79–80, 83–4, 97, 139–40, 145 Tripartite Claim 222 Valence 33, 40, 58n.9, 138, 145–6, 157–8, 212–13 Schneider’s theory of valenced states 16–19 valenced character of mental states 22–3, 33–8, 45–6, 63–4, 65n.21, 67, 148–9, 149n.16, 158, 196, 212–13 Value creation 208–9, 219–26 Velleman D. 187n.11 Vitalism 52–5 Wotling’s vitalistic reading 50–5

 Volition 4, 50–1, 63n.18, 68, 182n.6, 188, 195–6, 199–206, 210–11 (reflectively) conscious 131, 132n.7, 134–5, 141–2, 144, 197–8 phenomenology 7, 200–1, 204–7, 227 Wegner D. 141–2, 146, 153, 205 Welshon R. 22–3, 35, 49n.1, 60n.11, 63n.15, 67–8, 72, 76n.4, 78–9, 123n.23, 126, 144–6, 179n.1 Will, see especially 194–207 free 206, 209, 220n.14 freedom of the 200, 203–5, 214, 219, 220n.14

Ribot’s theory of 195–9 strength of 7, 208, 215–19 weakness of 208–9, 217–21 Will to power 12, 29–32, 68n.23 Wittgenstein L. 152–3, 169, 171–2 Wotling P. 52–3 Wu W. 127–8, 130 Wundt W. 11, 35–7, 45–6, 50n.3, 64n.20, 65–6, 110 Yorck von Wartenburg L. 11 Young P. T. 27–8