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Against Nietzsche's 'Theory' of the Drives

Stern, TJ; (2015) Against Nietzsche's 'Theory' of the Drives. Journal of the American Philosophical Association , 1 (1) 121 - 140. 10.1017/apa.2014.23. Green open access

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Abstract

Nietzsche, we are often told, had an account of ‘self’ or ‘mind’ or a ‘philosophical psychology’, in which what he calls our ‘drives’ play a highly significant role. This underpins not merely his understanding of mind—in particular, of consciousness and action—but also his positive ethics, be they understood as authenticity, freedom, (self-)knowledge, autonomy, self-creation, or power. But Nietzsche did not have anything like a coherent account of ‘the drives’ according to which the self, the relationship between thought and action, or consciousness could be explained; consequently, he did not have a stable account of drives on which his positive ethics could rest. By this, I do not mean that his account is incomplete or that it is philosophically indefensible: both would leave open, misleadingly, the possibility of a rational reconstruction of Nietzsche's views; both would already assume more unity and coherence than we find in his texts. Specifically, as I show through detailed analysis, Nietzsche provides varied and inconsistent accounts of (1) what a ‘drive’ is, (2) how much we can know about drives, and (3) the relationship between drives and conscious deliberations about action. I conclude by questioning the hunt for a Nietzschean theory: is this the best way to be reading him?

Type: Article
Title: Against Nietzsche's 'Theory' of the Drives
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1017/apa.2014.23
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1017/apa.2014.23
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: history of philosophy, nineteenth-century philosophy, German philosophy, philosophy of mind, action, consciousness, Nietzsche, drives
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1464444
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