Moralities are a Sign-Language of the Affects

Brian Leiter

University of Chicago

June 8, 2012

The essay offers an interpretation and defense of Nietzsche's claim that moral judgments are "symptoms" or "sign-languages" of the affects. I argue that (1) Nietzsche has a non-cognitivist view of "basic" affective or emotional responses of inclination and aversion (which are the products of "drives"), but that he recognizes the role that culture plays in how the non-cognitive responses are experienced by agents; (2) the role of culture in explaining moral judgment is compatible with what I have called Nietzsche's Doctrine of Types, and that while Nietzsche thought about this in Lamarckian terms, the plausibility of the view can survive the demise of Lamarckianism; (3) Nietzsche's view of moral judgments wins support from the connection between moral judgment and motivation; anti-realism about value; and recent work in empirical psychology.

Keywords: Nietzsche, morality, non-cognitivism, emotions, metaethics

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Date posted: June 9, 2012 ; Last revised: October 27, 2012

Suggested Citation

Leiter, Brian, Moralities are a Sign-Language of the Affects (June 8, 2012). Inquiry, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2080307

Contact Information

Brian Leiter (Contact Author)
University of Chicago ( email )
1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
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