I wrote a dissertation on Nietzsche’s conception of friendship, and my continued interest in his work has led to an interest in the traditions and figures in the history of philosophy to which Nietzsche responds, especially Kant and Schopenhauer. These days, I am thinking and writing about Nietzsche on truth, compassion, culture, the self, and the values that motivate his moral philosophy most generally.
Please see my PhilPeople page for pre-prints of some of my papers and to view my cv.
Journal Articles & Book Chapters
“Nietzsche, Trump, and the Social Practices of Valuing Truth,” forthcoming in The Pluralist.
While Nietzsche offers resources for thinking about the post-truth politics of Donald Trump, this is not because Nietzsche gives up on truth but because he is prescient in realizing what is at stake in our esteem for it. Nietzsche argues that the specifically unconditional value we attribute to truth raises the spectre of nihilism. Trump is a harbinger of this nihilism because he flaunts our shared social practices of valuing truth. While Nietzsche’s accounts of truth and objectivity appear to make room for Trump, Nietzsche also praises epistemic virtues—honesty, courage, curiosity, and responsibility—that Trump surely fails to express.
“Self-Creation and Community: Nietzsche, Foucault, Rorty,” forthcoming in The Ethics of Richard Rorty: Moral Communities, Self-Transformation, and Imagination, eds. S. Dieleman, D. McClean, and P. Showler, Routledge.
I argue that important differences between Foucault and Rorty can be accounted for by different answers given to Nietzschean questions concerning community, justification, and affirmation, especially the extent to which a person must see herself as embedded in some community if she is to authentically engage in processes of self-creation. Nietzsche’s is a middle-ground position between Rorty and Foucault since he offers an affirmation of community, on grounds that Rorty might accept, without acquiescence to the status quo, a concern for Foucault. Rorty misses the force of Nietzsche’s views on self-creation and the affirmation of community because Rorty mischaracterizes Nietzsche’s perspectivism by construing it along narrative rather than affective or physiological lines.
2020 "Nietzsche on Honesty and the Will to Truth," Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 51(3): 247-258
Nietzsche values intellectual honesty, but is dubious about what he calls the will to truth. This is puzzling since intellectual honesty is a component of the will to truth. In this paper, I show that this puzzle tells us something important about how Nietzsche conceives of our pursuit of truth. For Nietzsche, those who pursue truth occupy unstable ground, since being honest about the ultimate reasons for that pursuit would mean that truth could no longer satisfy the important human needs it satisfies at present. We can pursue truth, or be honest about what in us is served by such a pursuit, but not both. Nietzsche aims to show that understanding and owning up to this instability is the sort of affirmation of human life to which we ought to aspire, and is the price we pay for being free from other-worldly morality.
2019 “Nietzsche on the Soul as a Political Structure,” Symposium: Canadian Journal of Continental Philosophy 23(1): 260-280
A critic of metaphysically robust accounts of the human self, Nietzsche means not to do away with the self entirely, but to reimagine it. He pursues an account according to which the unity of the self is born out of a coherent organization of drives and yet is not something other than that organization. Readers of Nietzsche have pointed to a so-called “lack of fit” between this theoretical account of the self, according to which the self is nothing apart from the organization of drives, and Nietzsche’s practical account of human agency, which often seems to require that the self be something more than mere drives. I suggest Nietzsche’s interest in Greek agonistic norms of contest sheds light on this apparent incongruity. Agonistic relationships, insofar as they cultivate contest among diverse forces, are for Nietzsche one appropriate model for the subjectivity of beings whose psychology is similarly characterized by contest among diverse forces—that is, beings like us.
2017 "Nietzsche and Aristotle on Friendship and Self-Knowledge," Journal of Nietzsche Studies 48(2): 245-260
Focusing on Nietzsche’s “middle period,” I argue that in those works friendship serves a vital function in Nietzsche’s account of self-creation, and that there a kind of self-knowledge figures importantly. It is knowledge not of a self per se, but of a need for what Nietzsche will call self-overcoming, the imperative to understand oneself as importantly constituted by processes of change and development rather than as the logical or transcendental condition of such processes. Friends figure in such processes because they are best placed to propel us on the particular path down which our development leads by making life seem worthwhile, and so making the processes of self-creation matter too. Here, I discuss Nietzsche’s view of friendship and self-knowledge as it compares to that of Aristotle. And I attempt to show how Nietzsche’s positive account of friendship and self-knowledge makes sense against the background of his more general criticisms of modern morality.
2017 "Compassion and Affirmation in Nietzsche," Journal of Nietzsche Studies 48(1): 17-28
Nietzsche expresses ambivalence toward compassion. While he is most often critical of compassion as a moral response to others, he also sometimes praises forms of compassion made different by the different forms of life in which they are implicated. Accounting for this ambivalence, I argue that compassion as concern for suffering is not condemnable in itself, but only when such concern erases any vantage point on our situation that might lend suffering significance. In making this case, Nietzsche looks to norms of contest in the Greek agon as exemplary of a culture able to affirm human suffering and striving. Understanding that those affirmative elements of Greek life are extinguished through modern morality, Nietzsche puts forward an ideal of self-overcoming that, invested with something of what was affirmative in Greek life, offers us the possibility of making our finitude matter.
2015 “Friendship as Shared Joy in Nietzsche,” Symposium: Canadian Journal of Continental Philosophy 19(1): 199-221
Nietzsche criticizes the shared suffering of compassion as a basis for ethics, yet his challenge to overcome compassion seeks not to extinguish all fellow feeling but instead urges us to transform the way we relate to others, to learn to share not suffering but joy. For Schopenhauer, we act morally when we respond to another’s suffering, while we are mistrustful of the joys of others. Nietzsche turns to shared joy, in order to help him to articulate his ethical ideal for human beings.
2012 “Nietzsche’s Social Account of Responsibility,” Southwest Philosophy Review 28(1): 103-110
I have two aims in this paper. The first is to add to a growing case against reading the sovereign individual, discussed by Nietzsche in On the Genealogy of Morality, as Nietzsche’s ethical ideal. I suggest that the conception of responsibility active in the sovereign individual passage is directly at odds with what, as a second aim, I argue Nietzsche’s positive account of responsibility to be. Thinking that the sovereign individual, a sort of distant and composed individual who stands apart, represents Nietzsche’s ideal fails to appreciate what we can call the social aspects of Nietzsche’s philosophy. Nietzsche’s positive account of responsibility is a conception that sees as central and crucial our place in a community of interpreting and self-interpreting others who figure in the processes by which we, as Nietzsche puts it, become what we are.
2011 “Of Somethings and Nothings: Wittgenstein on Emotion,” International Philosophical Quarterly 51(1): 73-84
Competing theories of emotion offer different accounts of what an emotion is. Put most bluntly, feeling theories identify emotions with bodily events while cognitive theories insist that any coherent conception of emotion begins with acts of mind. The purpose of this paper is to argue the extent to which this debate is motivated by Cartesian considerations that unduly problematize the relationship between mind and body, and to suggest that in Wittgenstein we find resources for a view of emotions that overcomes this Cartesian problematic. My strategy will be to show the important intuitions captured by each theory, intuitions the accommodation of which is necessary for any satisfactory theory of emotion, and how it is that Wittgenstein enables this accommodation without the stalemate characteristic of the present debate.
2010 “Nietzsche, Pragmatism, and Progress,” Etica & Politica 12(2): 338-354
If we think of political progress as indexed to some permanent standard, and then agree that it is Nietzsche who dispels the authority of any such standard, then we may perhaps conclude that after Nietzsche, progress is ruled out. I want to show, however, that we find in Nietzsche comfort for a continued vision of human progress through engaged political action. I suggest that we look to Derrida and Rorty as offering a view of a post-Nietzschean democracy the engine of which is an account of ameliorative progress that is at home in the Enlightenment tradition while avoiding its universalist pretensions.
Journal Special Issue
2015 “Nietzsche and Virtue,” Journal of Value Inquiry 49(3), with Guest Editor's Introduction pp. 325-328
Representing a variety of interpretive strategies, and looking closely at a wide range of Nietzsche’s works, the papers in this issue are nevertheless united by a common concern to make clear whether and how our understanding of Nietzsche is improved by paying closer attention to his treatment of virtue. For Nietzsche’s overlapping projects of interrogating inherited values and of envisioning forms of human life outside of the present moral economy of guilt and retribution both grow out of concerns central to virtue ethics. That is, Nietzsche is asking whether morality in its present state is good for human beings, where what counts as good has to do with the kind of creatures we are, and so what it takes for us to flourish.
Recent Book Reviews
2020 Matthew Meyer, “Nietzsche’s Free Spirit Works: A Dialectical Reading,” Journal of the History of Philosophy 58(4): 827-828
2017 Paul Katsafanas, "The Nietzschean Self,” Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review 57(1): 185-186
2016 Peter Sedgwick, "Nietzsche's Justice," University of Toronto Quarterly 89(3): 451-453
2016 Jeffrey Church, "Nietzsche's Culture of Humanity," Review of Politics 78(2): 326-329
2021 "Nietzsche, Trump, and the Social Practices of Valuing Truth," Atlantic Region Philosophers Association
2019 "Self-Creation and Community: Nietzsche, Foucault, Rorty," Richard Rorty Society
2018 "Nietzsche on Honesty and Truthfulness," Canadian Philosophical Association
2018 “Nietzsche and Kant on Morality and Value,” Atlantic Region Philosophers Association
2016 "Nietzsche and Aristotle on Friendship and Self-Knowledge," North American Nietzsche Society