Nietzsche's Justice

Nietzsche's Justice: Naturalism in Search of an Ethics

Peter R. Sedgwick
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Nietzsche's Justice
    Book Description:

    In Nietzsche's Justice, Peter Sedgwick takes the theme of justice to the very heart of the great thinker's philosophy. He argues that Nietzsche's treatment of justice springs from an engagement with the themes charted in his first book, The Birth of Tragedy, which invokes the notion of an absolute justice grasped by way of artistic metaphysics. Nietzsche's encounter with Greek tragedy spurs the development of an oracular conception of justice capable of transcending rigid social convention. Sedgwick argues that although Nietzsche's later writings reject his earlier metaphysics, his mature thought is not characterized by a rejection of the possibility of the oracular articulation of justice found in the Birth. Rather, in the aftermath of his rejection of traditional accounts of the nature of will, moral responsibility, and punishment, Nietzsche seeks to rejuvenate justice in naturalistic terms. This rejuvenation is grounded in a radical reinterpretation of the nature of human freedom and in a vision of genuine philosophical thought as the legislation of values and the embracing of an ethic of mercy. The pursuit of this ethic invites a revaluation of the principles explored in Nietzsche's last writings. Smart, concise, and accessibly written, Nietzsche's Justice reveals a philosopher who is both socially embedded and oriented toward contemporary debates on the nature of the modern state.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8983-4
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[x])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [xi]-2)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 3-15)

    AMONGST THE VARIOUS DEVELOPMENTS in Nietzsche criticism one of the most striking is the “surge of interest” in the political significance of his thought.¹ there has, in the last thirty years especially, been increasing debate concerning the political and social aspects of Nietzsche’s writings and the possible contribution his ideas might make to our understanding of contemporary political matters. As is often the case with things relating to Nietzsche, this debate is marked by various and complex forms of anxiety. Some have responded to it by arguing that Nietzsche’s thinking is devoid of any political dimension of significance. On such...

  4. 1 The Divine Justice of Tragedy: Myth, Metaphysics, and Modernity
    (pp. 16-53)

    1. A concern with the nature of law and justice is evident even in Nietzsche’s earliest major work,The Birth of Tragedy.This concern is reflected in the text’s deployment of its central concepts, the Apollonian and the Dionysian. The god Apollo is law-like and manifests the order and harmony characteristic of the individuated social realm. Apollonian rules keep lawless nature at bay, concealing it beneath an aesthetic of harmonious proportion. In contrast, Dionysus, the god of intoxication and excess, is associated with lawless nature. Through Dionysian impulses individuated Apollonian order is torn asunder; the normative realm and the rationality...

  5. 2 The Unjust Animal, the Law-Like Animal
    (pp. 54-77)

    1.Human, All Too Humaninitiates Nietzsche’s turn against the metaphysical ideas of his earlier writings in favour of naturalistic “historical philosophy.” Where metaphysics seeks to explain reality in terms of timeless, universal ideas, historical philosophy points to an essential historical contingency underlying all notions of timelessness. Nietzsche’s historically informed account of thought, with its blend of history, natural history, and psychology, asserts metaphysics to be a delusion. Historical philosophy seeks to explain human rationality, truth, logic, and the virtues in terms of the prehistoric conditions under which they evolved. On such an account, human identity is not a given...

  6. 3 Justice Talk, Community, and Power
    (pp. 78-102)

    1. Our nature, for Nietzsche, is the cumulative outcome of the prehistoric mastering of drives through practices. Culture is thus a synthesis of the organic and the normative. It is in this synthesis that the sources of justice lie. Here, too, Nietzsche’s thoroughgoing naturalism is evidenced. Justice, prudence, indeed, all the Socratic virtues, he argues, originate in animality and the pragmatic demands of life.

    As we have seen, Nietzsche develops a naturalism that holds the primeval, normative force of custom and tradition to have shaped the human animal in a decisive manner. To be human is to be a being...

  7. 4 The Punishing Animal
    (pp. 103-145)

    1. Metaphysics holds us to be creatures endowed with free will. This, for Nietzsche, forms the basis of a metaphysical distinction between humanity and nature. We presuppose that natural events carry no moral accountability, whereas human actions do. One is a sphere of mere necessity, the other of choice. The “criminal” is, in line with this distinction, deemed “evil” and “immoral” because they are considered capable of choosing otherwise than they did, i.e. they are held to be endowed with “intelligible freedom.” Nietzsche’s naturalism seeks to challenge this conception of accountability and the opposition between humanity and nature. He does...

  8. 5 The Law-Giving Animal
    (pp. 146-195)

    1. For a consideration of Nietzsche’s views on “the good and the just” one can turn toThus Spoke Zarathustra,a work that challenges not only accepted conceptions of morality but also conventional understandings of the genre of philosophical discourse. As such,Zarathustrais best read in conjunction with the work that follows it,Beyond Good and Evil,a text that also makes explicit Nietzsche’s challenge to the conventions of philosophical thought.Zarathustraopens with the giving of a gift of wisdom. It is a dangerous gift (a gift of “fire”), because its acceptance entails rejecting the rule of norm...

  9. 6 Revaluation and Beyond
    (pp. 196-218)

    1. The 1886 preface toHuman, All Too Humancharacterizes the “revaluation of values” in terms of the pursuit of freedom. Freedom demands one be the strongest critic of one’s own “virtues.” It requires one grasp that a degree of injustice is a necessary ingredient even of what one esteems most. Justice, Nietzsche holds, needs to be rethought in light of the recognition that life is characterized most essentially by its multiplicity. There is a multiplicity of possible ways of living, each of which expresses a partial and restricted perspective on the whole. This restriction, which rules over every form...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 219-226)

    WHAT CAN BE LEARNT FROM NIETZSCHE concerning our dominant conceptions of justice and law? Even a relatively cursory glance reveals Nietzsche as highly critical of commonly accepted notions of justice, and of the political movements associated with them. On the one hand, he has little time for socialism and its egalitarian articulation of justice, which is arguably one of the most powerful and in many ways most constructive political forces of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.¹ He is equally critical, and perhaps more perceptive,² in his discussions of the more general political transformations associated with the culture of burgeoning nineteenth...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 227-232)
  12. Index
    (pp. 233-240)