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Publication Details

Nietzsche’s Anti-democratic Liberalism

(Original title: Nietzsche’s Anti-democratic Liberalism)
Filozofia, 63 (2008), 2, 174-185.
Type of work: A View beyond the Frontier
Publication language: English

Since W. Kaufmann’s attempt more than half a century ago (Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist, [N]1950) to rehabilitate Nietzsche as a progressive thinker there has been a lively debate about the relation between Nietzsche’s philosophical and political positions. According to some, Nietzsche’s “reactionary politics” follows naturally from his doctrines of Will to Power and the Overman. (Bruce Detwiler argues for this position in: Nietzsche and the Politics of Aristocratic Radicalism [D], 1990.) Others maintain that, properly interpreted, Nietzsche’s philosophical views imply a progressive political position which Nietzsche could not arrive at because he was captive of a number of misguided assumptions. (Mark Warren in Nietzsche and Political Thought [W], 1988; and William E. Connolly in Political Theory and Modernity [C], 1988, take this position.) I am going to defend a version of W. Kaufmann’s thesis that Nietzsche’s teachings on the Overman and the Will to Power ought not to be interpreted in (traditional) political terms. However, in contrast to Kaufmann, I will argue that in his middle period Nietzsche does put forth a fairly coherent political position and, furthermore, I will argue that his doctrine of Will to Power does have some political implications. In opposition to Kaufmann’s critics, on the other hand, I will argue that Nietzsche’s attacks in his final period, on what he calls “herd morality”, are compatible with constitutional liberalism.

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