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Nietzsche's Free Self

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Nietzsche’s accounts of selfhood and freedom appear to contain inconsistencies. At a theoretical level, Nietzsche suggests that our common conceptions of selfhood and freedom are poisonous illusions. However, his practical philosophy utilises both concepts. This thesis explores and resolves these inconsistencies. It is argued that Nietzsche’s practical philosophy does not require the concepts that he theoretically rejects. Without presupposing consistency, it is shown that an attempt to resolve the inconsistencies should be undertaken. Nietzsche was not deliberately inconsistent in these areas. To set the scene for a positive account of Nietzschean selfhood, an analysis of Nietzsche’s drive psychology and treatment of conscious deliberation is undertaken. The Nietzschean self should be understood as a complex structure of interacting drives and affects. This account of selfhood maintains Nietzsche’s rejection of metaphysical and transcendental conceptions of self whilst avoiding excessive reductionism. It is argued that by redefining selfhood, Nietzsche can coherently endorse a drive-based fatalism and the ideal of self-creation. Importantly, it is shown how self-creation can be a self-consciously subjective act. One achieves subjectivity when one comes to view oneself as a Nietzschean self. Nietzsche finds freedom within his fatalistic framework in two ways. Firstly, Nietzschean autonomy is achieved when one follows values legislated by one’s own will to power. Secondly, ultimate freedom is constituted by a freedom from nihilism. One achieves such freedom when one can affirm the doctrine of eternal recurrence. It is also argued that Nietzsche’s general philosophical project can be reconciled with his fatalism. Far from a contradiction, Nietzsche’s practical philosophy is a total reckoning with and overcoming of his theoretical work. The result is an ambitiously subversive philosophy.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date2017


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