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Attitudes to suffering: Parfit and Nietzsche

Attitudes to suffering: Parfit and Nietzsche
Attitudes to suffering: Parfit and Nietzsche
In On What Matters, Derek Parfit argues that Nietzsche does not disagree with central normative beliefs that ‘we’ hold. Such disagreement would threaten Parfit’s claim that normative beliefs are known by intuition. However, Nietzsche defends a conception of well-being that challenges Parfit’s normative claim that suffering is bad in itself for the sufferer. Nietzsche recognizes the phenomenon of ‘growth through suffering’ as essential to well-being. Hence, removal of all suffering would lead to diminished well-being. Parfit claims that if Nietzsche understood normative concepts in Parfit’s objectivist sense, he would not disagree with the claim that suffering is bad in itself – that intrinsic facts about suffering count in favour of our not wanting it. I argue that Nietzsche would disagree. Suffering for Nietzsche is not merely instrumentally necessary for psychological growth, nor is it easy to construe it as something bad in itself that contributes value as part of a good whole. Suffering that can be given meaning through growth is something we have reason to want. Suffering that remains brute and uninterpreted is something we have reason not to want. But for Nietzsche, suffering as such has no invariant value across all contexts.
0020-174X
66-95
Janaway, Christopher
61c48538-365f-416f-b6f7-dfa4d4663475
Janaway, Christopher
61c48538-365f-416f-b6f7-dfa4d4663475

Janaway, Christopher (2017) Attitudes to suffering: Parfit and Nietzsche. Inquiry, 60 (1-2), 66-95. (doi:10.1080/0020174X.2016.1251165).

Record type: Article

Abstract

In On What Matters, Derek Parfit argues that Nietzsche does not disagree with central normative beliefs that ‘we’ hold. Such disagreement would threaten Parfit’s claim that normative beliefs are known by intuition. However, Nietzsche defends a conception of well-being that challenges Parfit’s normative claim that suffering is bad in itself for the sufferer. Nietzsche recognizes the phenomenon of ‘growth through suffering’ as essential to well-being. Hence, removal of all suffering would lead to diminished well-being. Parfit claims that if Nietzsche understood normative concepts in Parfit’s objectivist sense, he would not disagree with the claim that suffering is bad in itself – that intrinsic facts about suffering count in favour of our not wanting it. I argue that Nietzsche would disagree. Suffering for Nietzsche is not merely instrumentally necessary for psychological growth, nor is it easy to construe it as something bad in itself that contributes value as part of a good whole. Suffering that can be given meaning through growth is something we have reason to want. Suffering that remains brute and uninterpreted is something we have reason not to want. But for Nietzsche, suffering as such has no invariant value across all contexts.

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More information

Submitted date: 14 December 2015
Accepted/In Press date: 8 February 2016
e-pub ahead of print date: 9 November 2016
Published date: 2017
Organisations: Philosophy

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 385242
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/385242
ISSN: 0020-174X
PURE UUID: 49b20f2d-d7f6-42c7-b87b-ad4952db910a
ORCID for Christopher Janaway: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-9600-8837

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 18 Jan 2016 13:42
Last modified: 28 Apr 2022 01:49

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