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Reviews223 Nietzsche and the Origin ofVirtue, by Lester H. Hunt; xxiii & 200 pp. New York: Roudedge, 1991, $49.95. Hunt characterizes his book as an "attempt to take Nietzsche seriously as a contributor to the ethics of character" (p. lviii) and he warns us that some of Nietzsche's recommendations "give us cause for alarm" (p. 91). Tracing the development of the concept of virtue across a vast range of Nietzsche's works, Hunt enables us to appreciate the evolution in Nietzsche's thinking on a diversity of moral topics. The analysis of Nietzsche's concept of virtue is situated in a broader perspective of Nietzsche's social and political philosophy. Among the topics that Hunt treats are Nietzsche's claim to be an immoralist, his criticism of the concepts of responsibility and oughtjudgments, politics and anti-politics, his account of rights, and most significantly, his concept of virtue. According to Hunt, Nietzsche locates the source of virtue in a person's deep character. On this view, virtue has two components: (a) passion and (b) a goal. A person's virtue is a result of deep character or passion, which is unconscious and unintentional. "For Nietzsche, the passion which is also a part of virtue is simply a source ofenergy which drives the agent toward the goal" (p. 82). What is this energy source? The will to power is a spontaneous and dominant source of energy which determines the meaning of its circumstances. Passion is a fundamental part of character, but passion individuates moral character only when one strives to a goal. Nonetheless, moral character, according to Hunt, is individuated by deep character, not the goal toward which one strives. Moreover , unlike Aristode's cataloguing ofvirtue, we cannot, according to Nietzsche, foresee the infinitely diverse ways in which passion individuates the pursuit of a good. Nietzsche rejects the classical view that a plurality of virtues is required for a proper development of moral character. On Nietzsche's view, one virtue competes with and excludes other virtues. Instead of a doctrine of a unity of virtues, Nietzsche presents a doctrine of the enmity of virtues! For example, Hunt tells us that the religiously motivated skeptic, Pascal, was a man torn by his religious piety, on the one hand, and his scientific love of truth. Nietzsche thinks this inner conflict is resolvable only if one of these passions occupies a privileged position. One loses out to the other: Pascal's piety transforms his scientific love of truth in such a way that he contrives intellectual problems which illustrate the futility of reason. Hunt characterizes Nietzsche's theory as a pure ethics of virtue: "whatever ethical merit an act possesses depends entirely on the virtuousness of the states of character from which it arises" (p. 171). Nietzsche expunges reason from his theory ofvirtue. The sole determinant of the worth of an action or an agent lies in character. Consider courage. Aristode tells us that courage requires the practical wisdom to estimate the mean with respect to the passions of fear and 224Philosophy and Literature confidence. Reason enters into the agent's determination of the mean (Nichomachean Ethics 1139a30ff). Courageous persons do not pursue a dangerous state of affairs for its own sake, but estimate their own ability to overcome the challenge in light ofthe goodness ofthat goal. But on Nietzsche's view, courage "includes a positive desire to face the dangerous" (p. 86); it is "an authentic and passionate desire to face the dangerous and difficult" (p. 87). The goodness of the goal (or the act itself) does not warrant the action; rather, the discharge of passion (will to power) justifies seeking that goal. Any dangerous situation in which one can discharge that passion is desirable. This fundamental reliance on passion in Nietzsche's theory of virtue obfuscates the difference between courage and daring. Hunt, like most of us, appreciates that difference and he realizes the unsetding consequences of basing a theory of virtue solely on the notion of deep character. This book is not for students who are getting acquainted with Nietzsche's thought. It is ambitious and given its range of topics Hunt occasionally (and consciously) resorts to speculation. The little obscurity...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 223-224
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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