Moralizing Nietzsche's Moral Psychology: The Case of Katsafanas

14 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2016

Date Written: August 11, 2016


This review essay discusses Paul Katsafanas’s The Nietzschean Self (Oxford, 2016), which purports to offer an interpretation of Nietzsche’s moral psychology, including questions such as “reflection’s role in action, the genuine action/mere behavior distinction, the nature of evaluative judgment, the structure of human motivation, the possibility of freedom, and the nature of responsibility.” Katsafanas also claims that Nietzsche “wants to understand how ethical claims are justified” (hereafter, the problem of “normative authority”), although no textual evidence is ever adduced anywhere in the book showing Nietzsche to be concerned with this question.

I argue that (1) Katsafanas’s claim that Nietzsche thinks that only conscious mental states are conceptually articulated is not supported by the texts and trades on Katsafanas’s own confusion between linguistic and conceptual articulation, one that vitiates many of the arguments in the book; (2) Katsafanas has a more successful account of the role of drives in Nietzsche’s philosophical psychology and their influence on conscious reflection; (3) Katsafanas’s attempt to resist the import of the latter account for Nietzsche’s ideas about free will and the role of conscious deliberation depends on misrepresentations of the texts and philosophical confusions about the thesis that consciousness is epiphenomenal; (4) Katsafanas misrepresents Schiller’s views about the “unity” of a self, and thus fails to refute the popular view in the literature that unity, for Nietzsche, is a matter of unity among a person’s drives; and (5) many of Katsafanas’s mistakes, and especially his frequent carelessness with Nietzsche’s texts, are best-explained by his desire to construe Nietzsche’s moral psychology as responding to the problem of normative authority.

In the end, the “Nietzschean moral psychology” of this book is largely Katsafansas’s invention, occasionally inspired by snippets from Nietzsche.

Keywords: Nietzsche, moral psychology, constitutivism, will to power, metaethics

Suggested Citation

Leiter, Brian, Moralizing Nietzsche's Moral Psychology: The Case of Katsafanas (August 11, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Brian Leiter (Contact Author)

University of Chicago ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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