- Nietzsche’s Metaphysics of the Will to Power: The Possibility of Value by Tsarina Doyle
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018. 248 pp.
isbn: 978-1-108-41728-0. Cloth, £75.00.
Tsarina Doyle’s bold new effort to interpret Nietzsche as a metaphysician will be of interest to readers concerned with his views on metaphysics, metaethics, and the philosophy of mind. Doyle argues that Nietzsche proposes the metaphysics of the will to power in response to the problem of nihilism, which emerges via the recognition of the unjustifiability of a traditional presupposition about our values—namely, that they are objective and meaningful in virtue of “corresponding to value properties instantiated in a mind-independent and non-empirical world” (3). According to Doyle, Nietzsche’s will to power thesis combats the problem of nihilism by underwriting values that are objective and mind-independent insofar as they cooperate with what Doyle calls the “dispositional-causal fabric of reality” (91). Here I offer a summary of each of the book’s five chapters and provide some critical assessment of the arguments Doyle presents in favor of her interpretation.
In chapter 1, Doyle offers a negative argument in support of the claims that (1) our values must be objective and (2) the basis of their objectivity cannot be metaphysically neutral. She considers several nonobjectivist and metaphysically neutral interpretations of Nietzsche’s metaethics and concludes that they fail to offer a satisfying response to the problem of nihilism. First, Doyle considers Nietzsche’s apparent fictionalism, stemming from his idealism in the early, unpublished essay “On Truth and Lies in a Non-Moral Sense,” before turning to a slightly different version of fictionalism [End Page 284] presented in the middle period work HH. According to Doyle, however, fictionalist interpretations such as those offered by Nadeem Hussain and Bernard Reginster fail to provide motivation for acting, leaving Nietzsche without an answer to the problem of nihilism (see Hussain, “Honest Illusion: Valuing for Nietzsche’s Free Spirits,” in Nietzsche and Morality, ed. Brian Leiter and Neil Sinhababu [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007], 157–91 and Reginster, The Affirmation of Life: Nietzsche on Overcoming Nihilism [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006]).
To close the chapter, Doyle considers a third account of value, Peter Poellner’s noncognitivist interpretation. Poellner’s Nietzsche treats values as expressions of emotional attitudes that are not truth-apt and do not posit mind-independent value properties in the world, but which nevertheless present evaluative properties of things as phenomenally objective insofar as such responses are considered merited by objects rather than merely caused by them (see Poellner, “Affect, Value, and Objectivity,” in Leiter and Sinhababu, Nietzsche and Morality, 227–61). Doyle argues that Poellner doesn’t go far enough in demonstrating the relation between the evaluative human mind and the world. In light of this and her objection to fictionalism, Doyle concludes that we must understand Nietzsche’s account of value as objectivist and metaphysical.
Though I am satisfied by the points Doyle raises against fictionalist and noncognitivist readings of Nietzsche, I am less convinced that chapter 1 fully motivates the need for an objectivist, metaphysical reading of his understanding of value. Doyle would do well to address a wider array of interpretations of Nietzsche’s metaethics than she considers in chapter 1. Alex Silk (“Nietzschean Constructivism: Ethics and Metaethics for All and None,” Inquiry 58.3 : 244–80), for example, has recently offered a constructivist interpretation of Nietzsche that avoids positing objective, mind-independent values without committing Nietzsche to the view that our values are mere fictions. I am curious to know why Doyle rejects this and other less metaphysically ambitious projects, especially given the textual obstacles facing a metaphysical reading of Nietzsche.
One answer might be that she finds them unable to deal with the problem of motivation that she takes to be central to Nietzsche’s account of nihilism. However, this leads to a second concern I have for Doyle’s project: In privileging the recognition of the lack of metaphysical support for traditional values as the central aspect of Nietzsche’s conception...