Nietzschean Constructivism: Ethics and Metaethics for All and None

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This paper develops an interpretation of Nietzsche’s ethics and metaethics that reconciles his apparent antirealism with his engagement in normative discourse. Interpreting Nietzsche as a metaethical constructivist—as holding, to a first approximation, that evaluative facts are grounded purely in facts about the evaluative attitudes of the creatures to whom they apply—reconciles his vehement declarations that nothing is valuable in itself with his passionate expressions of a particular evaluative perspective and injunctions for the free spirits to create new values. Drawing on Nietzsche’s broader epistemological and psychological views, I develop a distinctive, and genuinely Nietzschean, version of constructivism. On this account, evaluative properties are grounded in affective valuations of the new philosophers. The proposed interpretation synthesizes a variety of disparate features of Nietzsche’s writings and improves on existing interpretations in the literature. The resulting version of constructivism is also worthy of attention in contemporary theorizing. The fruits of understanding the distinctive form of Nietzsche’s ethical theory are an illuminating example of how metanormative inquiry can undergird normative evaluation in practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)244-280
Number of pages37
Issue number3
Early online date18 Feb 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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