Miscellany (from Mar. 31, 2006)

Re-reading my journals of the past five years, I thought I would condense them, selecting out those remarks that might be useful for me to return to. Then I thought, perhaps some of these things would be of interest to others. I begin from 3/31/06.

Two quotes:

“I am not suggesting that we ought to re-read ‘Nietzsche’ and his great politics on the basis of what we know or think we know Nazism to be. I do not believe that we as yet know how to think what Nazism is. The task remains before us, and the political reading of the Nietzschean body or corpus is a part of it.” –Derrida

“Some illiterate Nazis who want to be considered part of the Hitler intelligensia because they once smashed the head of a political opponent with a telephone book claim Nietzsche for their own. Who cannot claim him for their own? Tell me what you need and I will supply you with a Nietzsche citation… for Germany and against Germany, for peace and against peace, for literature and against literature–whatever you want.”–Tucholsky

[What does Nietzsche scholarship look like after proper contemplation of these two quotes?]

We assume that if Nietzsche believed that the will to power is in some sense real (as soon as I know what that means I will know what to think when I hear people deny it) that he had to have a teleological virtue ethic. The unconscious association with antiquity also encourages this thought. But Nietzsche thought the self was a battlefield. How does a battlefield self-actualize? If there are no Forms or Essences to move toward? All we can say is: this arbitrarily circumscribed and identified system on the field is more powerful in some sense. Trying to assimilate this to Aristotle is a mistake.

Morality is like law. The legal structure of contracts is like the moral structure of promise-making. Why we have the structure is rooted in agent-relative value, but a principle of maximizing value cannot be identified with or replace moral practices. Even if it is no longer best for me to repay a debt, I still owe one. The practices that determine who owes what are not facts, and they are not agent relative: they are a body of rules. What I owe under the rules is a fact, a fact about my relationship to the practice.

Virtue ethics cannot yield duties.

My idea is to unwind Platonic moral mistakes using Wittgensteinian instead of Nietzschean or Heideggerian tools. But Nietzsche and Heidegger are still right that if you swing the axe precisely here, a very tall tree falls.

The best way to think about the relationship between Sellars and Millikan is that Millikan wants to overcome the manifest image/scientific image distinction. The manifest image is essentially hermeneutical, whereas the scientific image is essentially physicalist. But biology is invisible here. If it is restored to its proper place, this distinction breaks down. Animal behavior is neither devoid of meaning nor rich with meaning.


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