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Was Nietzsche a Cognitivist?

From: Journal of the History of Philosophy
Volume 22, Number 3, July 1984
pp. 343-363 | 10.1353/hph.1984.0042

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Was Nietzsche a Cognitivist?
Kenneth R. Westphal
University of Wisconsin-Madison


1. Bernd Magnus, "Perfectability and Attitude in Nietzscthe's Ubermensch," (Review of Metaphysics. 36, no. 3 (1983): 651–53.

2. I would refer those who would oppose my suggestion as un-Nietzschean insofar as it is too exoteric (cf. FW 354, 381) or incautiously argumentative (cf. J 25) to Nietzsche's remarks on the merely modern virtue of ambiguity (cf. G IX 18; EH I 7) and would suggest that being more explicit about these matters would aid our ephexis in interpretation (A 52). (A key to citations appears in note 4.)

3. The distinction between cognitivist and non- or anti-cognitivist interpretations does not fall along the divisions among Magnus's groups of Nietzsche interpreters. Though space does not allow for separate discussion, I hope to be overt enough in the following to reveal my own interpretive principles for scrutiny.

4. Cf. EH IV 1, 2, 5. Abbreviated references to Nietzsche's works follow this key: MA Human, All-too-human GM On the Genealogy of Morals WS The Wanderer and his Shadow G The Twighlight of the Idols D Daybreak (The Dawn) A The Antichrist FW The Gay Science EH Ecce Homo Z Thus Spoke Zarathustra WM The Will to Power J Beyond Good and Evil Section numbers are indicated in Arabic numerals. Main divisions, if any, are indicated in Roman numerals. Subsections, if any, are indicated in decimal points. Prefaces are abbreviated "P." Kaufman's translations are used unless otherwise noted.

5. More putative truth-claims are cited below, 000, 000.

6. For more sceptical passages, see John Wilcox, Truth and Value in Nietzsche, chap. 1.

7. My translation. Cf. MA 19; FW 110, 111; J 4; G III 2.

8. That this remark is being made from another perspective is evident from how Nietzsche shifts his discussion in the middle of this section, where he describes surely himself as "someone [who] might come along... with opposite intentions and mode of interpretatin ...." These factors are prominent in his discussion of the structure of perspectives in GM III 12.

9. Cf.J 34; GM III 12.

10. Included in the majority non- or anti-cognitivist interpretations of Nietzsche are those of A. Danto, J. Derrida, R. H. Grimm, S. Koffman, T. Strong, M. Warnock, and most of the "literary left," including P. DeMan and G. Hartman.

11. Kaufman holds this position in his book, Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist, 356–61. I take his statement in the forward to Wilcox's book that "no previous scholar has dealt with these questions in such a scholarly way in English" (Wilcox, Truth and Value ix) to implicitly admit the brevity of his own treatment.

12. R. L. Schacht, "Nietzsche and Nihilism," Journal of the History of Philosophy, 11, no. 1(1973):65–90; reprinted in Robert Solomon, ed., Nietzsche; A Collection of Critical Essays (New York: Doubleday, Anchor Books, 1973); "Philosophy as Linguistic Analysis, a Nietzschean Critique," Philosophical Studies, 25; and his review of Wilcox, Truth and Value, Journal of the History of Philosophy, 14, no. 4(1976):490–94.

13. R. L. Schacht, Nietzsche (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1983).

14. Ibid., 59.

15. Ibid., 60.

16. Wilcox, Truth and Value, 45. Further references to this book are enclosed in parentheses in the text.

17. Pride and feelings of strength (WS 9; M 128; J 19, 21), weakness (M 125), needs to justify cruelty and provide meaning for suffering (GM II 7), desires to judge and punish (G VI 7), ressentiment (FH I 6), attempts to torture, confuse, and instill mistrust (EH IV 8).

18. Friedrich Nietzsche, Werke, ed. Georgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1967–), VI. 3. 74–75; Walter Kaufman, ed. and trans., The Viking Portable Nietzsche, 485–86.

19. Schacht makes this same point against Danto. See Solomon ed., Nietzsche, 73.

20. Wilcox cites, J P, J 14, and WM 481 to support this remark (153–54).

21. The passages in question are MA 634; FW 57, 110; J 21, 192. Wilcox discusses these passages on pages 160–63. Though at first Wilcox associates the relevant sense o f "transcendent...