Nietzsche on the Function and Creation of Value Systems
In this article I reconstruct Nietzsche’s largely implicit understanding of how value systems are created. At the heart of this process are affects, which Nietzsche sees as drive-based evaluative feelings. Affects create value systems when they form rational patterns of feeling around the aims of their underlying drives. But Nietzsche sets this process of value creation in a functionalist context in which values work to promote underlying drives through the direct privileging of their aims over the aims of other drives, through encouraging the pursuit of objects and conditions that facilitate the drive’s discharge, and through the justification of the affects that create the values in the first place. I show how Nietzsche’s functionalism can be reconciled with his commitment to the idea that affects create values. And I test my claims against Nietzsche’s analysis of slave morality to show that his interpretations of the morality of custom, asceticism, and noble morality follow the same pattern.
values, value systems, affects, functionalism, slave morality
We know from D and elsewhere that Nietzsche rejects the idea that values are mind-independent. He writes, “[T]here is nothing good, nothing beautiful, nothing sublime, nothing evil in itself, but [. . .] there are states of soul in which we impose such words upon things external to and within us” (D 210).1 But Nietzsche never supplements this position with an account of how evaluative properties are imposed.2 Though he often suggests that values originate with drives and affects, specific or systematic details on precisely how this happens are harder to find. Indeed, P. J. E. Kail, in surveying recent Nietzsche scholarship that ties affects to values, notes in passing, “there is some vague connection between valuing some x and being inclined toward it.”3 In this article, I try to remove this vagueness by reconstructing [End Page 67] Nietzsche’s understanding of how value systems are created from the details he does offer. In the end, however, the evidence for my account comes as much from its power to identify a common pattern in Nietzsche’s descriptions of various value systems as it does from these details.4
The central claims of my reconstruction of Nietzsche’s thinking on the psychology of value creation are as follows: affects are drive-based evaluative feelings that create value systems when they form rational patterns of feeling around the aims of their underlying drives.5 Nietzsche sets this process of value creation in a functionalist context in which the creation of value systems has the effect (though not the intention) of promoting underlying drives in at least three related ways: by encouraging more of what is valued and thus more of what helps these drives, by directly privileging the aims of these drives over the aims of other drives, and by justifying the drive-based affects that create the values.6 We will see that Nietzsche’s analyses of slave morality, the morality of custom, asceticism, and even noble morality follow this pattern of psychological explanation, a pattern that reconciles the functionality of values with their grounding in our affects.
In reconstructing this explanatory pattern in Nietzsche’s accounts of the origins of various value systems, I identify him metaethically as a subjective realist.7 As such, Nietzsche prefigures a key element of recent response-dependent theories insofar as he finds that evaluative properties are dependent for their existence upon affective responses. In making this case, I will follow Peter Poellner some of the way to the claim that Nietzsche considers evaluative properties to be akin to secondary qualities for our affects.8 Values diverge from the analogy with colors by being relative to a perspective, though they often conceal this relativity by implicitly capitalizing on their phenomenology and claiming objective standing.
Notice that in undermining the supposed objective standing of such value systems, Nietzsche requires an alternative explanation for how these systems—created out of drives and affects—can operate like objective value systems in constraining our feelings and actions. And thus Nietzsche must have a response to the problem of the contingency of desires that Reginster worries about in attributing to him what he calls normative subjectivism.9 Reginster notes that Nietzsche’s suggestion that “desires and passions” possess a “quantum of reason” (KSA 13:11, p. 131)10 may help him avoid the implication that collapsing values into mere desires undoes the constraining authority of values. But Reginster concludes, “Unfortunately, he does not spell out this suggestion, which remains ambiguous.”11 This article is, [End Page 68] in part, an attempt to articulate a precise sense in which Nietzsche thinks desires and passions possess a quantum of reason, and can thus ground value systems that bind certain groups of people. In other words, we will see how value systems, as Nietzsche understands them, can both emerge from contingent drives and affects and yet establish normative control over the communities from which they emerge.
In the following section, I introduce the two dominant themes in Nietzsche’s analyses of value creation: the relation between affects and values, and the functionality of values. Next, I use the example of slave morality to tie the functionality of values to underlying drives that generate evaluative affects. In the third section, I move beyond the functional framework of Nietzsche’s account of values to his understanding of the nature of values and the kind of warrant or constraint they provide. In the fourth section, I reconstruct Nietzsche’s view on how drives and affects create value systems. And in the final section, I conclude by testing my reconstruction against Nietzsche’s analyses of the morality of custom, asceticism, and noble morality.
Affects and Functionalism
The overlap between what Nietzsche calls affects and what we call emotions or feelings is clear from some of his lists of affects: “hatred, envy, covetousness, and the lust to rule” (BGE 23) or “fear, love, hatred, [. . .] laziness” (BGE 192). Indeed, Nietzsche himself sometimes uses the terms “feelings” (Gefühle) and “affects” (Affekten) as equivalents (D 34). I will follow his lead here and use the terms “affect,” “emotion,” and “feeling” interchangeably.12 Though Nietzsche does not spell out a theory of affects, the evidence indicates that he thinks that they are responsive and intentional states of mind (HH 57; D 58; GS 14, 117; BGE 201). So, when he says that affects are “inclinations and aversions” (D 34) to things, he is emphasizing how they move us relative to whatever they are responding to. For example, the slaves’ ressentiment is a complex feeling of aversion in response to their situation.
Nietzsche famously connects affects and values when he says that “moralities are [. . .] a sign language of the affects” (BGE 187). The implication here that affects somehow express themselves through evaluations is complemented by the idea that evaluating is a way that affects interpret things: “What is the meaning of the act of evaluation itself? [. . .] Answer: moral [End Page 69] evaluation is an exegesis, a way of interpreting [. . .] Who interprets?—Our affects” (KSA 12:2, p. 161).13 So, it seems that Nietzsche is saying that affects express themselves by interpreting things as valuable or disvaluable, and in this way cause values or bring them into the world. But this claim merely sketches out an idea, the details of which we must fill in.
But Nietzsche also uses a functional model to explain values at least as frequently as he talks about their affective basis.14 Here are two typical examples of what I mean:
[M]ost of the conscious thinking of a philosopher is secretly guided and forced into certain channels by his instincts. Behind all logic and its apparent sovereignty of movement, too, there stand valuations or, more clearly, physiological demands for the preservation of a certain type of life. For example, that the definite should be worth more than the indefinite, and mere appearance worth less than “truth”—such estimates might be, in spite of their regulative importance for us, nevertheless mere foreground estimates, a certain kind of niaiserie which may be necessary for the preservation of just such beings as we are.(BGE 3; see also GS 116; BGE 187, 262)
The clear implication here is that values are somehow for the (instinctively demanded) preservation of certain beings. Nietzsche is more explicit in his notes: “Analysis of individual tables of value revealed that their erection was the erection of the conditions—often erroneous—of existence of a limited group—for its preservation” (KSA 10:24, p. 652).15 The main idea seems to be that valuing things like the “definite,” or “truth,” or (say) communal “sharing” tends to result in more of these things and that this promotes the relevant preservational aim.
Functional explanations of this kind might tempt us to think that Nietzsche sees value creation as part of a strategic process of forwarding various drive-based aims. But this interpretation does not fit with the idea that values are an expression of our affects, and seems to undermine Nietzsche’s recurring attacks on excessively intellectualistic accounts of motivation (e.g., D 109, 129; GS 354). In detailing Nietzsche’s view on how value systems are created we must figure out how he reconciles the function of these value systems in promoting the aims of drives with his commitment to the idea that affects create values. [End Page 70]
Functionalism: Drives, Affects, and Values That Justify
R. Jay Wallace’s perceptive analysis of the origins of slave values in GM suggests a way we might start combining Nietzsche’s commitment to the affective basis of values with his functionalism.16 Wallace focuses on the question of precisely how ressentiment creates the slaves’ system of values and is initially concerned to reject the idea that these values are strategically created as a means to satisfying the vengeful aims generated by ressentiment. He claims that moral values are simply not the kinds of things one adopts as a means to some end: “The fundamental emotional dynamic of the slave revolt is not the selection of means to an end that is set by one’s desires. It is the expression of one’s negative emotional orientation toward the powerful, in the embrace of an evaluative framework that makes sense of that basic orientation.”17 Wallace unpacks this idea of making sense of the slaves’ emotional experience of the world as follows: “If the masters are evil, then hatred of them becomes a response that is merited by its object.”18 The proposal here is that affects, as pro and con attitudes, (somehow) express themselves in values, which function to justify these affects.19 So, vengeful hatred toward the nobles is justified by the negative evaluation of them as evil, and thus the slave is secure against the suspicion that his deepest held feelings of hostility against his oppressors are misplaced. Before considering how this function might connect with the broader functionality of values in promoting the aims of certain drives, it is worth pausing on the issue of values justifying affects.
Nietzsche comes closest to a published statement of the view that values justify our feelings (and actions) by providing reasons for them in GS 1.20 He explains that the instinct to species preservation shows up in the form of religious and moral values that provide reasons for feeling (and acting) in ways we already would based on instinct alone:
The ethical teacher makes his appearance as the teacher of the purpose of existence in order that what happens necessarily and always, by itself and without a purpose, shall henceforth seem to be done for a purpose and strike man as reason and an ultimate commandment; to this end he invents a second, different existence and takes by means of his new mechanics the old, ordinary existence off its old, ordinary hinges [. . .]. Foolish and fanciful as his inventions and valuations [Schätzungen] may be, badly as he [End Page 71] may misjudge the course of nature and deny its conditions [. . .] all the same!(GS 1)
The section as a whole makes it clear that moral and religious valuations simply supply reasons for acting and feeling in ways that are largely determined by the species-preserving instinct.21 For example, each individual can thus be assured that there is a reason that “life ought to be loved” (GS 1), and this reason—which justifies feelings of love for life—ultimately comes in the form of a moral or religious valuation of life.
But why might it matter to us that our affects be justified? And how does this desire for justified affects tie in with Nietzsche’s broader and repeated claims about the function of value systems? Though Nietzsche tells us that “[m]ost of our general feelings [. . .] excite our cause-creating drive: we want to have a reason for feeling as we do” (TI “Four Great Errors” 4), Wallace is “not certain there is a good Nietzschean answer” to the question of why we “need self-vindication of this kind.”22 But Nietzsche does offer, albeit obliquely, an answer to this question. In D, he explains that “all one is doing [in justifying one’s feelings] is complying with the rule that, as a rational being, one has to have reasons for one’s For and Against [Für und Wider]” (D 34). So, as rational creatures, we need our feelings to be justified and thus meaningful. But Nietzsche’s repeated claims to the effect that “reason is merely an instrument” (BGE 191; see also D 109; GS 333; BGE 36) of the drives or instincts should make us suspicious of the idea that he is positing an independent faculty of practical reason that is sensitive to normative reasons and thus needs justification for our feelings. In place of this excessively rationalistic idea we might ask whether it is as an instrument of a given drive that our reason demands such justification.23
And it makes sense that for Nietzsche the need to justify affects is actually a drive-based need in light of Katsafanas’s persuasive argument to the effect that Nietzsche shares the nineteenth-century view of drives as persistent and largely unconscious psychic forces that manifest in automatic behaviors, affects, desires, and so on.24 Most relevant for my purposes is Katsafanas’s idea that drives are dispositions that induce affective orientations. This view of drives secures their place at the deepest level of Nietzsche’s psychological explanations, undergirding our evaluating affects, and explaining the need for their justification. Let’s look briefly at this link between drives and affects before returning to the justification issue. [End Page 72]
Nietzsche gives voice to the grounding relation between drives and affects in a note in which he also connects our needs with our drives: “It is our needs [Bedürfnisse] that interpret the world; our drives and their For and Against [Für und Wider]” (KSA 12:7, p. 315).25 We have already seen Nietzsche refer to our affects as our “For and Against” in D 34 (but see also BGE 284), and here he is indicating that our affects are “for” things that advance their underlying drives and “against” things that do not. Most obviously, affects promote drives by directly motivating us to actions that serve these drives’ aims. But Nietzsche’s reference to interpretation suggests that affects can promote underlying drives through feeling responses— expressed in value interpretations—that are sensitive to the conditions that facilitate or impede the drive. For example, the sex drive can express itself in feelings of jealousy or frustration, which serve the drive’s aims by responding negatively to inhibiting objects and disvaluing these objects.26 This gives us an initial sense for how Nietzsche thinks affective evaluation functions to promote underlying drives without the presence of any strategic intentionality.
But the link between drives and affects also clarifies why it is that justifying affects through values matters to a given agent: it promotes the activity of the drives underlying the agent’s affects. Whatever is gained in justifying affects is gained on behalf of the drives that generate these affects. And so, for Nietzsche, value systems are rooted in drives via affects, and work on behalf of these drives both by encouraging the pursuit of objects and conditions that promote the drives and by justifying their associated affects.
Nietzsche’s understanding of the competitive nature of drives provides a context in which the importance of promoting drives through values becomes clearer. In BGE 6, after telling us that “the moral (or immoral) intentions in every philosophy constituted the real germ of life from which the whole plant had grown,” he argues that these philosophical systems are not rooted in a drive to knowledge “but rather that another drive has [. . .] employed understanding as a mere instrument.”27 But why would drives be behind philosophical systems that advance certain moral values? Nietzsche explains that “every single [drive] would like only too well to represent just itself as the ultimate purpose of existence and the legitimate master of all the other drives. For every drive wants to be master—and it attempts to philosophize in that spirit” (BGE 6; see also D 129; GS 111, 333). There are three key claims here: (1) Philosophical theories are really the expression of a philosopher’s moral values. (2) These theories and the values they more [End Page 73] or less explicitly give voice to are grounded in drives (HH 32; D 119; KSA 11:27, p. 289). (3) Drives ground moral values couched in philosophical theories in order to gain legitimate authority over competing drives (KSA 12:8, p. 323). In short, gaining purchase for its values through philosophical theories allows a drive mastery over other drives through the newly accepted authority of these values.
And so, Nietzsche’s vision of the “soul as social structure of the drives and affects” (BGE 12) includes the idea that drives compete for mastery over each other through the valuing of their (philosophically framed) aims as the highest goods. In other words, “Every drive is a kind of lust to rule; each one has its perspective that it would like to compel all the other drives to accept as a norm” (KSA 12:7, p. 315).28 Note that the role of values in establishing the direct authority of one drive over others is now the third of three ways we have encountered in which values function to promote drives. As we saw above, values justify the affects that create them, which also works to promote the activity of the drives underlying these affects. And, clearly, if values encourage the pursuit of objects and conditions that facilitate the discharge of underlying drives, then they promote these drives in a basic way.
But how does this analysis work with the starting point of our account in the slaves’ value-creating ressentiment? Does Nietzsche suggest at any point in GM that a drive underlies this affect? In fact, he tells us that in evaluating the nobles as “evil” slave morality proposes a distinction between doer and deed such that the doer can be held responsible for his deeds. He then says, “This type of man needs to believe in an unbiased ‘subject’ with freedom of choice, because he has an instinct of self-preservation and self-affirmation [einem Instinkte der Selbsterhaltung, Selbstbejahung] in which every lie is sanctified” (GM I:13; see also BGE 260). The drive to self-preservation and self-affirmation seems to be a drive to affirm one’s agency in a social context in which direct affirmation could be deadly. It is a complex drive that develops in those under conditions that demand one choose between overtly affirming oneself as an agent and staying alive; so it is a drive to affirm oneself limited by a drive to preservation.29
Nietzsche’s point then is that this underlying drive sanctifies slave morality’s distortion of the nobles’ actions as freely chosen. Nietzsche wrote earlier in GM I about the “distortion with which the entrenched hatred and revenge of the powerless man attacks his opponent” (GM I:10; see also GM I:11). And thus part of his larger argument is that ressentiment both distorts and disvalues the noble. On my reading, distorting feelings of [End Page 74] ressentiment are sanctified by the perspective of a drive to self-preservation and self-affirmation because they are generated by this drive. In other words, the slave’s drive to affirm herself is expressed in feelings of vengeful hostility toward those who stifle her sense of agency and threaten her very existence (and must suffer eternally as a result). And though the valuing of “self-preservation and self-affirmation” remains implicit within the slave’s value system, it is not difficult to argue that what is most important in a system that privileges (and thus promotes) compassion, altruism, love, and humility is the sense of self of the most socially marginalized. At bottom, then, the disvaluing of the noble in slave morality is really about promoting the aims of a drive to self-assertion limited by preservational concerns. As such, Nietzsche’s account of slave morality falls within his broader functionalist view of values.
Nietzsche and Response Dependency
The idea that drives produce affects, which somehow create values that have the effect of promoting these drives by directly privileging their aims, by justifying these affects, and by encouraging more of what facilitates the drive only provides us with a framework for understanding value creation. In starting to explore, more precisely, how Nietzsche thinks this creation occurs we must first ask what he thinks values are psychologically such that they can play a justificatory role. Answering this question will allow us to unpack the claim in our first section that affects are expressed through interpretations of things as valuable or disvaluable.
The notion that values justify affects appears to be closely related to a key idea in response-dependent theories of value. Indeed, Poellner has made the case that Nietzsche anticipates, in some ways, the understanding of values found in recent response-dependence theories.30 One of the central claims of such theories is that evaluative properties and emotions arise as “<property, response> pairs” such that these properties are fitted to various kinds of emotions.31 Evaluative properties such as dangerousness, for example, are perceived by our affects just as secondary qualities such as colors or sounds are perceived by our senses. And so, in Wiggins’s language, evaluative properties are “made for” the emotional responses they occasion; for instance, the evaluative property of “offensiveness” is made for anger, while “dangerousness” is made for fear.32 The result, as Poellner puts it, is [End Page 75] that “our affective response in these cases is itself experienced as not merely contingently caused, but as merited by the object’s intrinsic character.”33
Poellner’s position gives us a good way of starting to unpack Nietzsche’s claim that morality is a sign language of the affects. Without rehearsing all of his case, let me just note the following. Poellner introduces his argument with evidence that for Nietzsche our primary acquaintance with values comes through our affects (BGE 187; Z I: “Thousand and One Goals”; KGW VIII:2.9).34 He goes on to argue that this affective acquaintance can be seen as a perceptual one by citing passages indicating that some affects involve representations of objects (HH 57; D 279; GS 14; GM II:16), and that our experience of values involves perceptual representations (CW Epilogue; GS 301; see also GS 7, 139). And so, missing from Poellner’s account is direct evidence for the idea that Nietzsche thinks of affects as perceptual representations of evaluative properties. Indeed, Nietzsche’s repeated use of the expression “feelings of value [Werthgefühle]” (D 148)35 suggests that a better way of reading Nietzsche may be to say that affects are felt evaluations (not perceptions) of their objects.36 Affects are felt evaluations or feelings of value insofar as they are “feelings of pleasure and displeasure” that “presuppose a calculation of utility or harmfulness to the whole; in other words, a sphere where an end is desired [. . .] and means for it are selected” (KSA 13:11, p. 33).37 That is, affects (as pleasures and pains) track how things are going for an agent’s drive-based aims. Fear just is the feeling of being pained at some danger/threat to our aims. On this reading, Nietzsche’s talk of perceiving value merely evokes the analogy between evaluative properties we feel and secondary qualities we perceive.
While the claim under consideration here is that affects are intrinsically related to evaluative properties, the argument made in the previous section puts this claim in the context of Nietzsche’s drive theory.38 So, the evaluative property of dangerousness justifies the response of fear, and it is in view of this that we can say, for example, that tornadoes are bad (i.e., dangerous) and justify fear. But for Nietzsche drives are expressed in affects, which are responsive to the interests of these drives. And thus drives explain why affects are attuned to the world in the way they are: a drive explains why one might be afraid of x and not y. A professional storm chaser may fear a “suffocating” office job, and not tornadoes, because her fears are calibrated by something like a drive to adventure. But Nietzsche’s psychological model not only explains why one’s affects see evaluative properties exemplified in certain objects but not others, but also explains why it is that some affects [End Page 76] are more likely to dominate one’s responses to the world. If one is moved by a dominant drive for social esteem, then fear and anger, rather than love or empathy, are going to be weightier and more active affects in one’s life.39 In short, underlying drives seeking expression both calibrate one’s affects to be responsive to evaluative properties in a way that promotes these drives, and also determine which of one’s affects are more likely to be actively motivating and evaluating in one’s life.
In accepting this modified version of Poellner’s case, according to which evaluative properties are fitted to certain emotions, we can understand one kind of warrant that Nietzsche must think values provide for affects: discrete affects are experienced as justified by the agent insofar as these affects involve experiences of evaluative properties that appear to be in the world. The slave’s hatred is justified insofar as the nobles seem to show up, objectively, as despicable; it seems to the slave that she is just responding (with a painful affective “no”) to something out there. And the strength of the affective response reinforces the sense in which the disvalue is out there. Nietzsche writes, “[T]he moral man [. . .] supposes that what he has essentially at heart must also constitute the essence and heart of things” because only things out there in the “world’s heart” could “produce in him such profound happiness and unhappiness” (HH 4). In many value systems, this vague sense that the world is infused with evaluative properties is picked up in an explicit judgment that the object is valuable (or not) in itself, perhaps because it was made that way or commanded to be so. Values are thus falsely seen as “eternal and unconditioned” (GS 115), or as “commanded from above” (D 108).40 And, committing to the idea that one’s values are part of the nature of the world and thus universally applicable reinforces the sense that one’s feelings and actions toward those valued objects are justified. Nietzsche says, “Morality has always been a misunderstanding: in reality, a species fated to act in this or that fashion wanted to justify itself, by dictating its norm as the universal norm” (KSA 13:14, p. 326).41
But there’s a problem here. In the previous section we discussed the agent’s need for ex post facto warrant for her feelings, a need that would presumably not exist if she experienced each affect as warranted. If a discrete affective response to an evaluative property made for it were sufficient to establish the presence of this property, then all of my affects would be experienced as justified, and there would be no need for justification. But this possibility precludes just the kind of shared constraint over time that Nietzsche has in mind when he talks about value systems like Christian [End Page 77] morality (e.g., D 97, 108; GS 5). By their very nature value systems restrict discrete feelings (judgments and actions) such that momentary lapses of fear or anger are, all things considered, experienced as precisely that— unwarranted lapses. The fact of this kind of constraint suggests that a value-based, all-things-considered warrant may be absent and thus sought after. So, Nietzsche’s idea that affects acquaint us with justifying values can be reconciled with his claim that we experience a need to justify our affects if we understand that what we need is an all-things-considered justification, which we may or may not be getting with a discrete affective experience of an evaluative property.42
While the feeling of fear, for example, certainly involves a felt evaluation of danger, it is commonplace to experience our fear as unwarranted when we also feel or see or believe that, all things considered, the object of our fear is not really dangerous. Or, while you might fly into a rage at being cut off in traffic, you will not, all things considered, experience that rage as warranted insofar as you believe, on some level, that relative to other important or valuable things (such as your safety) this offense is minor. But how might Nietzsche think that affect-based values provide this kind of all-things-considered constraining warrant? Again, the question whether something merits fear once all things are considered can be answered only in relation to a value system that is a product of a drive conditioning our affects. For example, the slaves’ hatred of the nobles is warranted only in light of how the drive to self-preservation and self-affirmation conditions their evaluative perspective. So, with these limits understood, the question is whether or not Nietzsche has the resources to explain how value systems that are created from drive-based affects can constrain what we experience as warranted. Why don’t such value systems simply give warrant to any and all of our feelings, desires, and actions insofar as these latter are drive-based?
Drive-Based Affects and the Creation of Value
Philosopher of emotion Bennett Helm has recently proposed an account of the relationship between emotions and values, specific aspects of which echo a theory of value creation left largely implicit in Nietzsche’s thought. Helm accepts the pairing of emotions and evaluative properties in response-dependent theories of value but develops it from the perspective of a theory of emotion. The following passage illustrates a number of specific notions [End Page 78] in terms of which he understands the relationship between emotions and values:
First is the emotion’s target, namely that at which the emotion is intuitively directed: when I’m angry at my kids for tracking mud into the house, they are the target of my anger. Second, each emotion type has a characteristic way in which it evaluates the target: what makes fear be fear and distinct from anger is that in fearing something we implicitly evaluate it to be dangerous, whereas in being angry at something we implicitly evaluate it to be offensive. Such characteristic evaluations are these emotions’ formal objects. Finally, and often overlooked, is the focus of emotions: the background object having import to which the target is related in such a way as to make intelligible the target’s having the evaluative property defined by the formal object. For example, in being angry at my kids, what makes intelligible how they have offended me is the relation between them and my having a clean house, which has import to me; hence having a clean house is the focus on my anger.43
So, the target of an emotion is the object exemplifying the evaluative property. The formal object is the kind of evaluative property associated with a target. And the focus is the ground or basis for the attribution of this property; it provides the context in which targets impress themselves upon us emotionally as valuable or disvaluable.
Helm echoes Nietzsche in treating emotions as “essentially evaluative feelings: feelings of things going well or poorly.”44 But this does not mean that the import or value of something is logically or ontologically prior to the emotion.45 In fact, emotions are constitutive of value insofar as they form interconnected patterns around a given focus. These interconnections arise from the way that emotions involve commitments to other emotions (and, indeed, desires and judgments) with the same focus:
Emotions are not [. . .] states of feeling we can understand in isolation from one another; rather, they are essentially interconnected with other emotions and desires so as to constitute import. Consequently, it is not possible to have the capacity for one emotion type without also having the capacity for many [End Page 79] other emotion types and for desire: fear is unintelligible apart from other emotions like relief, disappointment, joy, anger, and hope, or apart from desire.46
So, if you feel fear at the thought of poor health, then you are rationally committed to hoping that you remain healthy, and to feeling relief when illness is avoided.47 These commitments are imposed in light of a shared focus on your health. The focus allows the emotions to form a rational, projectible pattern of feeling, a pattern that exerts pressure on you to feel the same kinds of emotions in situations relevant to this focus. Such a pattern of emotions constitutes import, or value, in the sense that for something to have value just is for it to matter to you such that if it is affected favorably or adversely you will respond emotionally.
It is clear from this much that for Helm there are actually two levels of evaluation in play: the evaluation of the focus of one’s emotions, and the evaluation of the various targets associated with this focus. One’s health is valued insofar as it is the focal point of a pattern of interconnected emotions (fear of poor health, hope for good health, relief at the doctor’s all-clear, etc.). The value of health is constituted through the response not of a single discrete emotion, but of an interconnected and projectible pattern of emotions. At the same time, and this is the second level of evaluation, it is because this focus is valued that flu season, for example, is fearfully evaluated as dangerous. The evaluative response to this target arises in light of the focus’s value such that if one did not value good health, then flu season would not be felt to be dangerous and any fear of it would not be justified or warranted (except maybe as part of a different affective pattern with a different focus).
Helm’s account, as stated, allows us to see how a theory that grounds values in drives and affects can both resist the idea that every affect is ipso facto justified by an evaluative property and explain the constraining nature of values. Belonging to a pattern of emotion is a necessary condition for the warrant of particular emotional responses, and given that this pattern constitutes value, it follows that values provide “a standard in terms of which the warrant of particular emotions is to be assessed.”48 So, feeling happy that you have fallen ill (since it allows you to avoid dreaded meetings) is an unwarranted feeling in light of the value you place on your health. But Helm argues that as long as such feelings remain isolated incidents the focal commitment to health is not undermined. And so, just because an emotion [End Page 80] may be experienced as warranted in a moment of abandon or forgetfulness, it doesn’t follow that it is, all things considered, warranted. In such a case as this, one might feel joy at the effects of falling ill, and yet feel and then judge that your joy is unwarranted as the value of good health exerts a constraining pressure on your joyful feelings.49
The relationship in Helm’s account between the focus of a pattern of emotions and the targets linked to this focus points to a way in which value systems are formed. For example, a pattern of emotions focused on health will generate a system of evaluated objects as this pattern responds to various types of targets typically relevant to health (e.g., exercise, a balanced diet, stress-reduction, etc.). The focus of the pattern is thereby valued for itself, while the objects valued or disvalued as targets have either instrumental value relative to this focus, or value as instantiations of this focus (if, for example, the focus is an activity). Obviously, a rational pattern of emotions need not be accompanied by a conscious awareness of its focus or of how targets are related to this focus. One could develop a pattern of emotions around the focus of always besting others without becoming consciously aware of this focus or of how various targets are related to it. Instead, one might simply find oneself hating to lose board games, loving only the best sports teams, and developing a cutting wit.
On my reading, Nietzsche’s understanding of value creation prefigures key elements in Helm’s account. For example, I think Nietzsche hints at the simultaneously constitutive and responsive relationship between feelings and values when he writes, “Whence come evaluations? Is their basis a firm norm, ‘pleasant’ and ‘painful’? But in countless cases we first make a thing painful by investing it with an evaluation” (KSA 10:24, p. 652).50 We invest a thing with value through our drive-based affective patterns, and then we find that thing and things related to it valuable or disvaluable through our discrete feeling responses.
To be sure, Nietzsche’s drive theory provides an un-Helmian explanation for how something becomes the intrinsically valued focal point of a pattern of affects: dominant drives express themselves in affective patterns focused on the aims of these drives.51 But just as Helm sees a pattern of evaluating feelings forming around a focus, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that Nietzsche thinks of value systems as hierarchically organized around the aim of a single dominant drive. In GS, he asks us to consider, “why does the sun of one fundamental moral judgment and primary value-standard shine here—and another one there?” (GS 7). The primary value standard—Helm’s [End Page 81] focus—in any system is the valuing of the aim of the dominant drive as the highest good. In the same text, Nietzsche describes one of the great human errors as follows: “he invented ever new tables of goods and for a time took them to be eternal and unconditioned—so that now this, now that human drive and condition occupied first place and was ennobled as a result of this valuation” (GS 115). In D, Nietzsche argues that a modern socialist drive to general welfare dominates at the expense of the individual: “Everything that in any way corresponds to this body- and membership-building drive and its ancillary drives is felt to be good, this is the moral undercurrent of our age; individual empathy and social feeling here play into one another’s hands” (D 132). In other words, the socialist “drive to general welfare” operates through felt evaluations of various related targets with “individual empathy and social feeling” working together as predominantly active affects in a larger pattern.
As we saw above, Nietzsche puts a drive to “self-preservation and self-affirmation” at the ground of slave morality. In generating ressentiment, this drive produces a pattern of affects that feature feelings of hatred and vengeance, but also include feelings of impotence, fear, envy, and all of the rationally connected emotions, desires, and judgments that such a pattern of feeling commits one to. The dominant drive responds to the nobles’ stifling oppression by generating this pattern of affects, which constitutes the systematic disvaluing of the nobles and all of their characteristic qualities, activities, and conditions of success. Note that insofar as self-preservation and self-affirmation are (unconsciously) the highest aims in this value system, the nobles are just a primary target; they are the main threat to slaves’ aims and are disvalued as such. To those under the influence of this dominant drive the positive evaluations of affirmation-enhancing targets such as selflessness and humility give warrant to discrete feelings of hatred toward the selfish and arrogant actions of the nobles, and in doing so promote the drive to self-preservation and self-affirmation by assuring the agent that in spite of appearances his own selfless humility is a mark of effective agency.52
A value system like slave morality becomes a dominant social phenomenon over time as the conditions that shape its grounding drive spread, and this drive becomes more influential in shaping the affective patterns of those in its grip. Eventually, the resulting evaluative perspective spreads to enough of a population to form a pressure on others to conform. Naturally, a value system with these kinds of roots will vary slightly from place to [End Page 82] place as its shaping drive takes hold in different types of people, subject to different conditions, and thus having different evaluative targets. Within one community, it will shift in subtle ways over time as conditions change and reshape the demands the underlying drive makes (BGE 201). And it may even outlive the conditions that shaped this drive into a dominant force. Nietzsche writes of some who “still carry around the valuations of things that originate in the passions and loves of former centuries” (GS 57).
On this view, an agent’s personal value system may have a communally shared system of values—like slave values—at its center, off which are branched several interrelated subsystems as a complex web of targets cluster around a ranked set of higher aims that are at least consistent with the central slave values. Nietzsche’s vision allows for fluidity as conditions change and the various aims that make up the personal system are ranked and reranked through a lifetime of successive reorientations and reshuf-flings (BGE 268; KSA 11:27, p. 289). When Nietzsche talks about contemporary “European morality” as “the sum of commanding value judgments that have become part of our flesh and blood” (GS 380), the implicit idea is that over time a composite moral value system such as nineteenth-century European morality arises as different drives become dominant and then give way to each other without having their attendant values completely erased.
On my reading, this understanding of the links between drives, affects, and values explains what Reginster takes to be the ambiguous suggestion that passions possess what Nietzsche calls a “quantum of reason.” Passions, for Nietzsche, are drives or drive constellations that have taken a strong hold on the agent.53 This explains why Nietzsche can say both that “reason is a system of relations between various passions and desires” (KSA 13:11, p. 131)54 and that “our intellect is only the blind instrument of [rival] drive[s]” (D 109), or that understanding is nothing but the “behavior of the drives towards one another” (GS 333; see also BGE 36). In saying (1) that drives and passions possess a measure of reason, and (2) that reason or thinking exists in the relations between drives and passions, Nietzsche denies the existence of an independent faculty of either instrumental or normative reason. Let’s take each of these claims in turn.
Nietzsche’s point in (1) is that drives have enough of their own kind of reason to perform both instrumental and normative functions. Drives possess a measure of instrumental reason not just insofar as any means-ends reasoning takes place from the perspective of a given drive, but also [End Page 83] (as we’ve seen) in the sense that drives generate rationally interconnected patterns of affects. Part of this interconnectedness involves the coordinated capacity to track the instrumental and instantiating connections between their focus and the various targets to which they respond. So, a slave’s feelings of attraction to instances of humility are rational in tracking the instrumental value of humility to the unconscious aim of self-preservation and self-affirmation.55 And the rationality of such affects in responding to targets relevant to their drive-based focus explains how affects can normatively constrain each other when discrete evaluative responses to target events come into conflict with established patterns of response that track a given aim.
In also saying that reasoning involves a system of relations between drives, Nietzsche tells us something about how competing drives vie for evaluative interpretations of given targets. Drives are capable of a limited kind of normative reasoning here in giving way to each other as conditions demand it. In GS 333, Nietzsche suggests that understanding (intelligere) is “the way we become sensible” of opposing drives in their interactions over how to interpret a given object or event. He explains that much of this interaction in settling on such an interpretation is unconscious but that the latter stages rise to consciousness and thus give understanding a good name as “conciliatory, just, and good.” This suggests that any critical thinking we might engage in in interpreting a target is just the latter stages of a process prompted by the affects, desires, and beliefs of competing drives.
This rational inter-drive process has normative implications. Consider an athlete whose controlling drives include drives to aggression and dominance, and who responds to defeats with feelings of anger, frustration, and humiliation. Depending on the strength of her other drives, the evaluative interpretation of such defeats may come to be contested. Should she develop strong drives to family harmony and activity, then feelings of unease may arise at her responses to such defeats and the affect-based thought may occur to her that she should put such defeats in perspective.56 In such a case, the family drives have precipitated a revaluation of the target events such that defeats are still disvalued as (i.e., felt to be) “blots” on her record, but are no longer “unacceptable calamities.” The drives to dominance and aggression display—through their patterns of affects, desires, and judgments—normative reasoning in allowing for an evaluative reinterpretation of a target that accommodates in a small way the place of familial aims in the athlete’s normative order of values. [End Page 84]
This fills out to some extent the meaning of Nietzsche’s idea that the soul is a “social structure of drives and affects” (BGE 12): as drives rise and fall in response to changes in conditions they must give way to each other to some degree in order to maintain a single evaluative point of view. Of course, if dominant drives are deeply threatened or undermined by such accommodations the result of the exchange between drives may be different. Should a slave with a residual drive to war begin to feel admiration for a noble’s military successes these feelings would likely be squashed by the ressentiment that expresses the slave’s dominant drive to self-affirmation and self-preservation. The slave’s order of values, which wholeheartedly disvalues the nobles, can make no reasonable accommodation for a drive that encourages such affective responses to the nobles.
Much of what I have laid out here can be seen as an elaboration of Katsafanas’s view that for Nietzsche values arise from drive-induced affective orientations. But we can see now that his account also requires a modest revision. Katsafanas argues that for Nietzsche: “An agent values X iff the agent (1) has a drive-induced positive affective orientation toward X, and (2) does not disapprove of this affective orientation.”57 For example, an ascetic with a positive affective orientation toward sex who consciously maintains that sex is disvaluable cannot be said to value it. Katsafanas says that disapproval can involve a discrete conscious judgment or “more modestly, it can be a feeling of aversion, doubt, conflict, or dissatisfaction with one’s attitude toward X.”58
The problem here is that isolated or discrete judgments or feelings of disapproval will typically not be enough to undermine the evaluative force of an “affective orientation” once we understand this orientation in terms of a pattern of interconnected affects. If all one has stacked up against a pattern of interrelated affects is a discrete judgment or feeling, then all the pressure will be on this latter judgment or feeling to change. In this sense, the disvaluing of x captured in Katsafanas’s definition is unstable. Katsafanas’s own discussion of Swann’s love for Odette (i.e., valuing her as loveable) illustrates my point. Katsafanas tells us that in his moments of cold rationality, “Swann can tell himself that Odette isn’t worthy of love,” but he notes that owing to the power of drives to induce affective orientations that shape how we see things Swann “persists in his valuation.”59 And thus the judgment that Odette is not worthy of love is insufficient—in the face of the affective orientation—to establish that Swann does not value Odette as loveable.60 This shows that the discrete judgment or feeling, in order to [End Page 85] count effectively against the valuing of something, must be part of a larger pattern that itself includes feelings and desires. Making the judgment that Odette is not loveable commits Swann, on pain of irrationality, to having the relevant feelings of aversion toward her.
Morality of Custom, Asceticism, and Noble Morality as Drive-Based Systems of Value
In concluding, it is worth revisiting the central claims I have made about the function and creation of values in Nietzsche’s thought. Dominant drives compete with each other in part by producing patterns of feeling that are focused on the aims of these drives. Such a pattern of feeling expresses itself in evaluative systems that have the effect of promoting the underlying drive by encouraging more of what allows this drive to discharge, by (consciously or unconsciously) privileging its aims over other drives’ aims, and by justifying the affects that make up the drive-based pattern. But do Nietzsche’s analyses of value systems beyond slave morality reflect the basic contours of this view? In answering this question, I will look at Nietzsche’s account of the morality of custom in some detail, and then touch on how his treatments of asceticism and noble morality also fit this reading.
Throughout his works Nietzsche grounds the values associated with the morality of custom in communal preservation (HH 96; AOM 89; WS 44; D 9; GS 116). Along these lines, his discussion of the morality of custom in BGE 201 opens by referring to “moral value judgments [that are connected with] the utility of the herd, [. . .] the preservation of the community,” and traces these values to a “herd instinct.” He goes on to argue that from the perspective of this instinct different kinds of drives, opinions, and so forth become seen—through fear—as valuable under different communal conditions:
After the structure of society is fixed on the whole and seems secure against external dangers it is fear of the neighbor that again creates new perspectives of moral valuation. Certain strong and dangerous drives, like an enterprising spirit, foolhardiness, vengefulness, craftiness, rapacity, and the lust to rule, which had so far [. . .] been honored insofar as they were socially useful [. . .] are now experienced as doubly dangerous, since the channels to [End Page 86] divert them are lacking, and, step upon step, they are branded as immoral and abandoned to slander. Now the opposite drives and inclinations receive honors; step upon step, the herd instinct draws its conclusions. How much or how little is dangerous to the community [. . .] in an opinion, in a state or affect, in a will [. . .] that now constitutes the moral perspective: here, too, fear is again the mother of morals.(BGE 201, emphases added)
Nietzsche claims here that a communal or herd instinct fearfully evaluates various targets. Under conditions of external warfare, the herd instinct calibrates fear to see craftiness as a virtue, while (say) a gentility is disvalued as a dangerous vice. The (conscious or unconscious) valuing of the aim of preserving the community in wartime makes these evaluations intelligible, and points to the function of such evaluations of craftiness in encouraging this quality and justifying fear of external threats. Shifts in social conditions can alter the substantive aims of the herd instinct away from defense against external threats, with the result that the drive-based evaluative pattern of affects (of which fear is a very active part) becomes attuned to the world in a different way.
The following note, which seems connected to his thinking on the morality of custom, also presupposes much of what I have been arguing:
It lies in the instinct [Instinkt] of a community (family, race, herd, tribe) to feel [empfinden] that the conditions and desires to which it owes its survival are valuable in themselves, e.g., obedience, reciprocity, consideration, moderation, sympathy—consequently to suppress everything that contradicts or stands in the way of them.(KSA 12:10, p. 568; emphases added)61
The communal instinct feels that the “conditions and desires” that promote it are valuable in themselves. In other words, drive-induced affects are calibrated to see positive evaluative properties in those targets that facilitate the drive. Notice, the targets are felt to be “valuable in themselves”; that is to say, affects respond to evaluative properties as though they were in the world.
Though Nietzsche does not make an explicit case for the communal instinct generating a pattern of affects, he does say something about the morality of custom that at least points to this idea: “Morality is first of all a means of preserving the community and warding off its destruction; [End Page 87] then it is a means of preserving the community at a certain height and in a certain quality of existence. Its motive forces are fear and hope” (WS 44). The suggestion here is that the communal instinct primarily works through the affects of fear and hope. Of course, experiencing fear of communal destruction involves a commitment to feelings of hope for communal flourishing, as well as regret over certain actions, sadness, or anger over other events. And so, I suggest that for Nietzsche fear and hope are the predominantly active affects in a pattern of affects with a focus on communal preservation.
In the Third Essay of GM Nietzsche tells us explicitly that “the ascetic ideal springs from the protective and healing instincts of a degenerating life” (GM III:13), and this comes after his telling us that in the ascetic life “an unparalleled ressentiment rules [. . .] which wants to be master not over something in life, but over life itself and its deepest, strongest, most profound conditions” (GM III:11). And so, in the sickly and enervating lives of ascetic priests a desperate instinct to protect and heal themselves generates a pattern of affects that turn with vengeful hatred upon all the basic conditions of human life: food, sex, comfort, and so on. These targets are all disvalued as austerity, celibacy, poverty, and so on are elevated. For Nietzsche, this ascetic value system promotes the underlying drive to protect and heal in the sick by holding out a higher (noncorporeal) possibility for living, and making life (and suffering) on earth meaningful as a bridge to this possibility (GM III:11, 28).
And finally, I will conclude here by pointing to the same idea of a structuring “primary value standard” (GS 7) even in Nietzsche’s account of noble morality. Drawing noble values into this discussion might seem problematic given that Nietzsche tells us that it represents a distinct “method of valuation” (GM I:10) from slave morality. He explains that noble morality develops “spontaneously,” while slave morality is “basically a reaction” (GM I:10). But this distinction does not speak to the structure of value creation. Instead, it represents a distinction between the kinds of drives that ground the evaluating affects in question. The drive to self-preservation and self-affirmation (and, indeed, all preservational drives) is a reactive drive in the sense that it operates by reactively assessing all the risks in the environment. The nobles’ dominant drive allows for consideration of only that which is outside of the nobles as an afterthought. And thus while Nietzsche sees preservational aims behind many value systems, he is struck in GM by the distinct method of evaluation involved in the nobles’ values. [End Page 88]
Nietzsche is not explicit about naming the drive behind the nobles’ value creation, but his claims about the roots of this value system consistently point in the same direction: “The noble type of man experiences itself as determining values; it does not need approval [. . .]. Everything it knows as part of itself it honors: such a morality is self-glorification” (BGE 260).62 In his next book, he writes, “[A]ll noble morality grows out of a triumphant saying ‘yes’ to itself ” (GM I:10). The nobles’ primary value standard is self-glorification; it is this drive to self-glorification that attunes the nobles’ primary affects (i.e., feelings of superiority, pride, shame, etc.) to value first and foremost themselves and all of their characteristic traits (e.g., truthfulness, courage, etc.), and then all of those things that contribute to their glory (e.g., “war, adventure, hunting, dancing, jousting”; GM I:7). So, Achilles’s rage at Agamemnon’s offensive seizure of Briseis is a feeling calibrated by the drive to self-glorification, and so is his contemptuous evaluation of the gifts Agamemnon’s embassy brings to pay him off. And this is why Nietzsche insists that one cannot
fail to hear the almost kindly nuances which the Greek nobility [. . .] places in all words that it uses to distinguish itself from the rabble; a sort of sympathy, consideration and indulgence incessantly permeates and sugars them, with the result that nearly all words referring to the common man remain as expressions for “unhappy,” “pitiable.”(GM I:7)
From the perspective of someone primarily moved by a drive to self-glorification, feelings of pity are the appropriate response when one considers those too low to be capable of any glory for themselves. They can neither threaten nor bolster the nobles’ glory, leaving them to be pitied as the merely unfortunate.
1. See also D 3; GS 115, 301; BGE 108. Citations of Nietzsche’s work refer to the following translations: Human, All Too Human, Assorted Opinions and Maxims, and The Wanderer and His Shadow, trans. R. J. Hollingdale (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986); Beyond Good and Evil, trans. W. Kaufmann (New York: Vintage, 1989); Daybreak, trans. R. J. Hollingdale (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997); On the Genealogy of Morality, trans. C. Diethe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994); The Gay Science, trans. Josefine Nauckhoff and Adrian del Caro (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001); Twilight of the Idols, trans. R. J. Hollingdale (New York: Penguin, 1990); Writings from the Late Notebooks, trans. K. Sturge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003); The Will to Power, trans. W. Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale (New York: Vintage, 1967); Thus Spoke Zarathustra, trans. W. Kaufmann (New York: Viking, 1954).
2. Two brief clarifications: First, when I refer to “values” I am referring to objects taken as valuable. Values exemplify evaluative properties such as goodness, or beauty, or dangerousness. Second, I will be largely restricting my discussion to Nietzsche’s descriptive treatment of other people’s values (or, more specifically, value systems), and not his normative account of the genuine values he endorses. Of course, insofar as Nietzsche’s own values influence his thinking about others’ value systems they will come up. See notes 7 and 52 below.
3. P. J. E. Kail, “Value and Nature in Nietzsche,” in The Nietzschean Mind, ed. Paul Katsafanas (New York: Routledge, 2018), 236, emphasis mine.
4. Recent accounts of Nietzsche on values largely eschew his analyses of how actual value systems are created, focusing instead on isolated remarks he makes about values and valuing. But it is worth noting that Nietzsche is primarily interested in analyzing value systems and often tends to think of values in terms of systems. For example, he discusses shared value systems (e.g., morality of custom, Christianity, consumerism, socialism, etc.) in most of the fifty or so sections in which he refers to values or valuing in D. Moreover, as I argue in the fourth section, values for Nietzsche are usually created in systems. This is reflected in his use of the terms “tables of goods” (Z I: “Thousand and One Goals”; see also GS 115, 335) and “order of rank of [. . .] valuations” (BGE 224; see also BGE 268; GM I:2).
5. Katsafanas argues that for Nietzsche values are a product of drive-induced affective orientations of which we do not disapprove (The Nietzschean Self [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016]). In this article, I build on this view by detailing exactly how such orientations might create value systems, but I also suggest (in my fourth section) a refinement to Katsafanas’s account.
6. So, Nietzsche is suggesting not that value creation has the purpose of justifying and promoting drives and affects, but rather that affect-based values are used for this purpose by an agent under the influence of a dominant drive. I reject the idea that Nietzsche thinks of drives as homunculi, and understand those passages in which he seems to speak of drives as little agents to mean that an agent under the influence of a drive operates from a very specific and determinate point of view.
7. Though my focus is on Nietzsche’s moral psychology, I want to be clear about the kind of metaethical view I attribute to him. Nietzsche subscribes to a version of subjective realism, which Nadeem Hussain defines as the view that values (genuine or otherwise, I would add) can be reduced to psychological facts (“Metaethics and Nihilism in Reginster’s The Affirmation of Life,” Journal of Nietzsche Studies 43.1 : 99–117, 107). John Richardson expresses the key idea by saying that “values only occur as contents of valuing attitudes or behaviors” (Nietzsche’s New Darwinism [New York: Oxford University Press, 2004], 104). More specifically, when Nietzsche describes other value systems he sees these values arising from drive-based affective responses to the world. I hesitate to ascribe an antirealist position to Nietzsche—if that position is understood (as it sometimes is) in terms of the impossibility of some evaluative claims having a kind of privilege over others—because he thinks his own values (centering around power) do give him a privileged point of view from which he can assess slave values, for example, as less genuine, lower, or even false values. In this respect, my position is similar to Reginster’s (The Affirmation of Life [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006], 156–59) and Richardson’s (Nietzsche’s New Darwinism, 118–32); both argue for versions of the idea that for Nietzsche the valuing of power is implicit in all evaluative perspectives, and thus provides him with the leverage to critique other values. In limiting my focus to a reconstruction of Nietzsche’s account of how other value systems arise from drives, I am largely setting aside this issue. But I will give a brief sketch below of how I think Nietzsche’s own values are grounded in drive-based affects, and of why he thinks them better than others. Thanks to anonymous referees for pressing me for more clarity on these questions.
8. Peter Poellner, “Affect, Value, and Objectivity,” in Nietzsche and Morality, ed. B. Leiter and N. Sinhababu (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 227–61.
9. Reginster, Affirmation of Life, 99; see also Poellner, “Affect, Value, and Objectivity,” 231.
10. Translated as The Will to Power §387.
11. Reginster, Affirmation of Life, 99.
12. See Poellner, “Affect, Value, and Objectivity,” 229, for a useful discussion of these distinctions, and Christopher Janaway, “Autonomy, Affect, and the Self in Nietzsche’s Project of Genealogy,” in Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy, ed. K. Gemes and S. May (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 52–53, for a more exhaustive account of Nietzsche’s use of the term “affect.”
13. Translated as The Will to Power §254. Hussain argues that interpreting Nietzsche as a subjective realist “does not fit with . . . [his] suggestion that evaluative judgments are ‘interpretations’ of the world from the viewpoint of our desires” (“Metaethics and Nihilism in Reginster’s The Affirmation of Life,” 107). Hussain explains that on a reductive subjective realist account “evaluative claims are just straightforward psychological claims” and thus “are not interpretations in any interesting sense” (107). But Hussain fails to distinguish between the third-party analysis of an evaluative claim as a claim expressing a psychological state of affairs, and the more or less complex first-person process of forming evaluative claims through interpretations of the world that are informed by one’s psychology. He wants to split the subjective realist reading from the notion that morality is a function of interpretation because one of his central pieces of evidence for a “sweeping error theory” (“Honest Illusion: Valuing for Nietzsche’s Free Spirits,” in Leiter and Sinhababu, Nietzsche and Morality, 159), which challenges the subjective realist view, is as follows: “[T]here are no moral facts whatever. Moral judgement has this in common with religious judgement that it believes in realities which do not exist. Morality is only an interpretation of certain phenomena, more precisely a misinterpretation” (TI “Improvers” 1). If reading Nietzsche as a subjective realist is compatible with the morality-as-interpretation reading, then one of Hussain’s lead-off pieces of evidence for a sweeping error theory is not actually decisive.
14. Reginster (Affirmation of Life, 89) and Harold Langsam (“How to Combat Nihilism: Reflections on Nietzsche’s Critique of Morality,” History of Philosophy Quarterly 14.2 : 235–53, 239) refer to Nietzsche’s functionalism in passing but do not explore it in any depth. See A. Thomas, “Nietzsche and Moral Fictionalism,” in Nietzsche, Naturalism, and Normativity, ed. C. Janaway and S. Robertson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) for a more sustained engagement with the idea.
15. Translated as The Will to Power §260; see also §§12, 216, 261, 262.
16. R. Jay Wallace, “Ressentiment, Value, and Self-Vindication: Making Sense of Nietzsche’s Slave Revolt,” in Leiter and Sinhababu, Nietzsche and Morality, 110–37.
17. Wallace, “Ressentiment, Value, and Self-Vindication,” 118.
18. Wallace, “Ressentiment, Value, and Self-Vindication,” 119.
19. In fact, Wallace argues that the slaves’ adoption of new values is an expression of their negative feelings toward the nobles, but that the priests strategically create these values. I take issue with this reading in “Ascetic Slaves: Rereading Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals” (Journal of Nietzsche Studies 45.3 : 230–57), arguing that the priests’ ressentiment nonstrategically creates slave values. When I turn directly to value creation in the fourth section of this article, I will focus not on who specifically creates values but just on the role of their affects in the process. For now, the important point is just that slave values make sense of or justify the slaves’ emotions. See Christopher Janaway, Beyond Selflessness (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 44–50, for another discussion of values as justificatory.
20. In an 1885 note Nietzsche writes: “Man, in whatever situation he may find himself, needs a kind of valuation by means of which he justifies, i.e., self-glorifies, his actions, intentions and states towards himself” (Writings from the Late Notebooks, 18). In 1888, he puts it as follows: “Morality has always been a misunderstanding: in reality, a species fated to act in this or that fashion wanted to justify itself, by dictating its norm as the universal norm” (KSA 13:14, p. 326; trans. as The Will to Power §423).
21. See Maudemarie Clark and David Dudrick, “Nietzsche and Moral Objectivity: The Development of Nietzsche’s Metaethics,” in Leiter and Sinhababu, Nietzsche and Morality, for a different way of reading GS 1.
22. Wallace, “Ressentiment, Value, and Self-Vindication,” 131.
23. It may appear from Nietzsche’s observation that we look for warrant (or reasons) for our affects that reason is an independent source of motivation. But we will see below, when we turn to BGE 6, that he thinks that affects alone are not enough to motivate action (but seek justification), not because we need reason as an independent arbiter, but because the competition between affects (which is expressive of the competition between their underlying drives) demands that they justify themselves with reasons, which can take the form of values couched in more or less persuasive philosophical theories. And thus the warrant for any given affect is sought from the viewpoint of an underlying drive, even if it understands itself as seeking independent justification. And the warrant given (through philosophically couched values) is given from the perspective of such a drive.
24. Katsafanas, Nietzschean Self.
25. Translated as The Will to Power §481.
26. Needless to say, I cannot here detail the full range of ways in which drives promote their activities through feelings and perceptions (see D 119). See Mattia Riccardi, “Virtuous Homunculi: Nietzsche on the Order of Drives,” Inquiry 61.1 (2017): 21–41, for more on this issue.
27. See also KSA 13:14, p. 326 (trans. as The Will to Power §423).
28. Translated as The Will to Power §481.
29. Thanks to an anonymous referee for pressing me on this issue. Ultimately, the drive to self-preservation and self-affirmation is expressive of a will to power under oppressive conditions. Reginster’s notion of power as effective agency, or agency that can impose its own form or shape on its environment, is useful here in understanding the etiology of this complex drive (“The Psychology of Christian Morality: Will to Power as Will to Nothingness,” in The Oxford Handbook of Nietzsche, ed. K. Gemes and J. Richardson [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013], 706). Though I am setting aside the issue of the precise roles slaves and priests play in the creation of these values, my view is that both priests and slaves share this grounding drive, though the conditions of their existence modify how they are driven to self-affirmation under circumstances that threaten their existence. For an alternative account of the drive that undergirds slave morality, see Ken Gemes, “Freud and Nietzsche on Sublimation,” Journal of Nietzsche Studies 38 (2009): 38–59, who argues that a repressed drive to aggression is the grounding drive.
30. Poellner, “Affect, Value, and Objectivity.”
31. David Wiggins, Needs, Values, Truth (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 197.
32. Wiggins, Needs, Values, Truth, 194.
33. Poellner “Affect, Value, and Objectivity,” 232.
34. Poellner clarifies that on this account it is possible to believe that x is valuable without having an affective experience of it (occurrent or otherwise). A child can believe, based on her parents’ insistence, that x is valuable. The key point is that the only thing that can verify this belief is an affective experience (“Affect, Value, and Objectivity,” 249).
35. See also BGE 4, 186, 211; KSA 13:15, p. 461; 12:6, p. 238; and 12:947, p. 368 (trans. as The Will to Power §§294, 565, and 580); and Writings from the Late Notebooks, 172, 181, 202.
36. I borrow the expression “felt evaluations” from Bennett Helm (“Felt Evaluations: A Theory of Pleasure and Pain,” American Philosophical Quarterly 39.1 : 13–30), whom I discuss further below. A full defense of the idea that affects are felt evaluations and not perceptions is beyond the scope of this article.
37. Translated as The Will to Power §669.
38. My reading departs from Poellner’s here as well insofar as he argues that a perceptual emotion can accurately represent the value or disvalue of certain affective states (e.g., an agent’s ressentiment). I am not committing here to the claim that emotional responses are keyed to any intrinsic evaluative properties in the object evaluated. Instead, such responses are always attuned to the world evaluatively from the perspective of given drives. Thus the veridicality of any such response is always relative to such a perspective. Poellner has informed me, in correspondence, that he is currently developing a more robust treatment of Nietzsche’s normative commitments, according to which emotional responses are veridical for Nietzsche if they involve attraction to certain kinds of expressions of power, and illusory if they involve attraction to others (e.g., instances of humility). See note 52 below for an indication of how my view on Nietzsche’s normative position differs.
39. Dominant drives are precisely those drives that can call upon cognitive and conative resources (like affects) to do their bidding. For more, see Riccardi, “Virtuous Homunculi,” 35–37. See note 51 below on what allows drives to dominate.
40. See also BGE 2; KSA 12:933, p. 355, 12:6, p. 238 (trans. as The Will to Power §§20, 565).
41. Translated as The Will to Power §423.
42. This connects with the account of the felt need for warrant in the previous section as follows: one might experience a need to justify a feeling if this feeling does not square with one’s values, or more typically, if one has competing feelings reflecting the fact that one is torn between two drives (and their value systems).
43. Helm, “Emotions and Motivation: Reconsidering Neo-Jamesian Accounts,” in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Emotion, ed. P. Goldie (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 303–24, 310. For something to have import is for it to matter or have importance for someone. Helm elsewhere distinguishes between import based on caring and import based on valuing: the kind of import associated with valuing involves a deeper commitment to something insofar as it matters to our self-worth (Emotional Reason [New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001], 101). But I will use the notions of something being valuable and having import interchangeably in this article.
44. Helm, Emotional Reason, 34.
45. Helm’s main target is the cognitive–conative divide, or the notion that value is either cognitively discovered in the world or conatively projected onto it. Helm writes, “import and the emotions emerge together as a holistic package all of which must be in place for any of it to be intelligible” (“Emotions and Motivation,” 313). See also Helm, Emotional Reason, 63, for his response to the objection that not prioritizing the world or the agent is viciously circular. Nietzsche’s and Helm’s views diverge insofar as Nietzsche sees drives as the fundamental basis of our evaluative perspectives, which is closer to the idea that value is granted to the world and then found there (KSA 13:11, p. 49, 10:24, p. 652; trans. as The Will to Power §§12, 260).
46. Helm, “Emotions and Motivation,” 313–14. Helm argues that desires and evaluative judgments also make up part of a rational pattern constituting import, but I will keep my focus on emotions in this article. Both Katsafanas and Poellner share some such notion of a pattern of affects, though neither develops the idea in detail. Katsafanas refers to an “affective orientation” (Nietzschean Self, 108), while Poellner talks of a “pattern of conscious affectivity” (“Affect, Value, and Objectivity,” 231).
47. Helm gives examples of two kinds of commitments: transitional and tonal (Emotional Reason, 67–71). The former involve rational connections between forward-looking and backward-looking emotions like hope and joy, respectively. The latter connect emotions in view of the specific kinds of pleasures and pains they involve. For example, if I feel humiliated at being defeated, I am committed to feeling pride in the relevant counterfactual situation.
48. Helm, Emotional Reason, 70–74. He also writes, “Insofar as import is constituted by the whole pattern, and insofar as each evaluative attitude that is an element of that pattern is expendable, import is rationally prior to the warrant of each particular evaluative attitude and so can serve as a standard of warrant for each” (58).
49. This explains only how affects (desires and judgments) from the same pattern constrain each other. I will turn below to how affects from different patterns can either constrain or accommodate each other.
50. Translated as The Will to Power §260.
51. The relative strengths of an agent’s drives (from which their normative strengths are derived) are a function of factors such as what drives an agent needs under given conditions (KSA 13:11, p. 138; trans. as The Will to Power §353), the personal and social histories of the drives that vie to shape her life (GS 57), the persuasiveness of the philosophical accounts her drives generate or cohere with (BGE 6), etc.
52. The fact that a drive like this is dominant within the slave does not undermine the sense in which Nietzsche assesses most preservational drives as weak expressions of our deep will to power (GS 349). This is the point at which Nietzsche’s normative thinking meets his descriptions of others’ value systems. Very briefly, this is how I might start to connect Nietzsche’s normative thought to my account thus far. Nietzsche’s valuing of power, and use of it as a standard of evaluation, arises as follows: Nietzsche experiences dominant drives to create, to know, to overcome his personal difficulties in a unified meaningful life, etc. The patterns of feelings expressed by such drives constitute the value of creation, or of overcoming resistance, or of the lives of certain exemplary historical figures, or of other expressions of what he calls power, and discrete feelings of love, hate, pride, regret, and the like, are responses to the import of these aims. But Nietzsche also sees the fundamental tendency of all life (and thus all drives) as a will to increase, or gain, or the imposition of one’s form. And thus Nietzsche can point to this deep principle of life and say that it is better expressed in his drives and the values that spring from them, than it is in the drives and values of slave morality, for example. For Nietzsche, then, his drive-based affective evaluations of power-related aims are privileged because they are more expressive of the principle undergirding all drives and thus all drive-based evaluations.
53. See Writings from the Late Notebooks, 60, for Nietzsche’s account of passions as a grouping of related drives. On my reading, Nietzsche’s notion of passion is informed by Kant and Schopenhauer. Nietzsche was familiar with Kant’s idea of passion from Religion within the Bounds of Reason Alone and Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View. According to this view, a passion is an “inclination that prevents reason from comparing it with the sum of all inclinations in respect to a certain choice” (Kant, Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, trans. R. Louden [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006], 7:265). So, passions are inclinations that block the use of reason in its attempts to balance their (i.e., passions) satisfaction with the satisfaction of other inclinations. Schopenhauer adopts this understanding of passions in The World as Will and Representation (see, e.g., vol. 2., trans. R. E. Aquila [London: Pearson, 2011], 678). Indeed, Schopenhauer brings his notion of drives together with passions when he says that the sex drive in humans “rises to the level of a mighty passion” (The World as Will and Representation, vol. 1., trans. R. E. Aquila [London: Pearson, 2008], 156). It is this idea of passion that Nietzsche is picking up on when he writes that drives that “reduce the intellect to silence or servitude” are called passions (GS 3; see also D 502, 543). Later in the same passage he refers to the “unreason or odd reason of passion.” Putting this together with the claim that passions possess a quantum of reason, the suggestion is that for Nietzsche passions are dominant drives (or drive constellations) that are capable of rational exchange with other drives but usually refuse this exchange. So, while Nietzsche accepts Kant’s starting point that passions are resistant to reason in some way, he sets this idea in a context in which passions are types of drives and all drives include a measure of reason.
54. Translated as The Will to Power §387.
55. See Writings from the Late Notebooks, 51, for instance.
56. Nietzsche surely has this kind of picture in mind when he says, “Below every thought lies an affect. Every thought, every feeling, every will is not born of one particular drive but is a total state [. . .] and results from how the power of all drives that constitute us is fixed at that moment—thus the power of the drive that dominates just now as well as of the drives obeying or resisting it” (Writings from the Late Notebooks, 60; see also BGE 17).
57. Katsafanas, Nietzschean Self, 120. He also argues that drives “explain values in a very strong sense: by inducing both affects and thoughts about the affects’ being justified, drives will cause us to value their aims” (122). I agree with much of Katsafanas’s account of value, but I am not sure his main pieces of evidence for this particular claim—GS 1, 7, 139, 152, 301; BGE 186—show drives “gilding” or “coloring” the world such as to produce thoughts and perceptions that give warrant to our affects and thus cause values. Instead, these passages seem to show drives coloring the world with values themselves. On my reading, it is these values that give warrant to feelings, and not an independently arrived at warrant for our feelings that causes us to value a drive’s aims.
58. Katsafanas, Nietzschean Self, 120n3.
59. Katsafanas, Nietzschean Self, 130, 131.
60. In correspondence, Katsafanas acknowledges that his larger view of valuation in Nietzsche commits him to the idea that Swann alternates between valuing and not valuing the relationship with Odette.
61. Translated as The Will to Power §216.
62. Notice also that the nobles feel no need to capitalize on the phenomenology of value as apparently out there in the world; instead, the nobles embrace the sense in which it is their feelings that make something good (unlike the higher types of GS 301, who are thrown off by the delusion of objectivity).