Workshop 'Nietzsche the Kantian?'

On 11 and 12 February 2011 the Leiden Institute for Philosophy will host the workshop 'Nietzsche the Kantian? Reading Nietzsche and Kant on the Sovereign Individual, Freedom and the Will.'

Nietzsche the Kantian? Reading Nietzsche and Kant on the Sovereign Individual, Freedom and the Will

Workshop at the Institute for Philosophy, Leiden University

11-12 February 2011

Lipsius building
Cleveringaplaats 1, 2311 BD Leiden 

   route description and map 
map WSD-complex

This is the first of a series of workshops on Nietzsche’s relation to Kant, to be held in various European universities. The workshop aims to illuminate the relations between Nietzsche and Kant in the field of ethics by engaging with recent debates in the English-language literature over their conceptions of ‘sovereignty’, ‘freedom’ and the ‘will’. It will respond critically to the currently popular idea that, despite his criticisms of free will, moral responsibility, intentional causality and the ‘subject’ itself, Nietzsche affirms a ‘Kantian’ sense of agency that admits certain positive senses of freedom, responsibility and intentional causality and bases a positive ethics on it.

The workshop will concentrate on Nietzsche’s later writings and will challenge the current emphasis on the ‘sovereign individual’ passage of On the Genealogy of Morality by opening up the discussion to Nietzsche’s treatments of ‘will’, ‘freedom’ and ‘sovereignty’ elsewhere in his published and unpublished work. The workshop will also attempt to correct the caricature of Kant that Nietzsche himself and his commentators often present and to thus provide for more sophisticated and fruitful engagements with Kant and Kantian positions.

It will consist of 30-45 minute presentations of papers, some of which will be pre-circulated among participants at the beginning of February, followed by an open discussion guided by chairs. 

The workshop is free and open to all interested persons. However, space is limited, so please contact Herman Siemens if you wish to attend:

For abstracts, pre-circulated papers or any other information, please contact the organizers, Herman Siemens & Tom Bailey

The workshop was made possible by the generous support of the Institute for Philosophy, Leiden University.

Confirmed speakers

  • Dr. Tom Bailey
    Department of Philosophy, John Cabot University, and Center for Ethics and Global Politics, LUISS ‘Guido Carli’, Rome

  • Prof. Marco Brusotti
    Department of Philosophy, University of Berlin, and Department of Philosophy, University of Salento

  • Prof. João Constancio
    Department of Philosophy, New University of Lisbon

  • Prof. Paul Katsafanas
    Department of Philosophy, Boston University

  • Prof. Luca Lupo
    Department of Philosophy, University of Calabria

  • Dr. Simon Robertson
    Department of Philosophy, University of Stirling

  • Dr. Herman Siemens
    Institute for Philosophy, Leiden University

Provisional programme

Friday 11 February
Lipsius room 130

14.00 - 15.30      Marco Brusotti (Berlin/Salento) 
                         Nietzsche on Action and the Will

15.30 - 16.00      Coffee/tea break

16.00 - 17.30      Tom Bailey (John Cabot and LUISS, Rome)    
                         Nietzsche's Kantian Will  &  
                         Herman Siemens (Leiden)   
                         Kant's "Respect for the Law" as "Feeling of Power": 
                         On (the Illusion of) Sovereignty

17.30 - 18.30      Drinks
19.00                 Dinner 

Saturday 12 February
Lipsius room 148

9.00 - 10.30        Paul Katsafanas (Boston) 
                          Nietzsche and Kant on Agency: Two Models of the Will   

10.30 - 11.00      Coffee/tea break

11.00 - 12.30      Simon Robertson (Stirling)  
                         Nietzsche versus Kant on Moral Psychology and Normativity

12.30 - 14.00      Lunch

14.00 - 15.30      João Constancio (Lisbon)   
                         Nietzsche on Freedom as Autonomy

15.30 - 16.00      Coffee/tea break 

16.00 - 17.30      Luca Lupo (Calabria)  
                         Willing and Time in Nietzsche's Twilight of the Idols

17.30                 Drinks
19.00                 Dinner

Biographies and abstracts

Marco Brusotti, ‘Nietzsche on Action and the Will’

Marco Brusotti is Professor of History of Contemporary Philosophy at the Department of Philosophy and Social Sciences at the Università del Salento ( Lecce, Italy) and a university lecturer (Privatdozent) at the Department of Philosophy of the Technische Universität Berlin (Germany). He graduated in Philosophy at the University of Genova, gained his Ph.D. in Philosophy at the Technische Universität Berlin (winning the Joachim Tiburtius-Preis 1995, under the supervision of Wolfgang Müller-Lauter and Günter Abel), there also gaining his Habilitation in Philosophy. He is vice-president of the Nietzsche-Gesellschaft, member of the Scientific Board of the Friedrich-Nietzsche-Stiftung and member of the Italo-German Center for European Excellence of Villa Vigoni (Menaggio, Italy). At the University of Salento he coordinates a unit of the ‘Colli Montinari‘ Center for Nietzsche Studies, a collaboration between the Universities of Pisa, Lecce and Bologna. His publications on Nietzsche include “Die 'Selbstverkleinerung des Menschen' in der Moderne. Studie zu Nietzsches 'Zur Genealogie der Moral"', in Nietzsche-Studien 21 (1992), Die Leidenschaft der Erkenntnis. Philosophie und ästhetische Lebensgestaltung von Morgenröthe bis Also sprach Zarathustra (Berlin/New York: De Gruyter, 1997), "Ressentiment, Wille zum Nichts, Hypnose. 'Aktiv' und 'reaktiv' in Nietzsches Genealogie der Moral", in Nietzsche-Studien 30 (2001), and “Wittgensteins Nietzsche. Mit vergleichenden Betrachtungen zur Nietzsche-Rezeption im Wiener Kreis“, in Nietzsche-Studien 38 (2009).

This paper presents a reading of Nietzsche’s theory of action in the Genealogy, and considers its relation to Kant’s conception of the ‘will’. In particular, it examines the employment of Kantian terms such as ‘responsibility’, ‘autonomy’, ‘free will’, and the ‘categorical imperative’ in this text, with a view to determining how far Nietzsche might be considered to endorse Kant’s conception of the ‘will’, how far he reformulates aspects of it in opposition to Schopenhauer’s conception of the ‘blind will’, and how far he rather ‘parodies’ Kant’s conception, in the technical sense of using Kantian terms to give them a radically new meaning. The paper thus engages with recent debates over Nietzsche’s understanding of action and the will, and his critical relation to Kant in this regard.

Tom Bailey, ‘Nietzsche’s Kantian Will’

Dr. Tom Bailey studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Oxford and gained his M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy at the University of Warwick. He taught at Warwick and the Open University before moving to Italy, first as a researcher at the University of Pisa and now teaching philosophy at John Cabot University and LUISS ‘Guido Carli’ University in Rome. He specialises in the history of modern political philosophy and in contemporary moral political philosophy, and particularly in Kant and post-Kantian philosophers of the nineteenth-century. Dr. Bailey’s recent publications include ‘Nietzsche’s Engagements with Kant’, in Ken Gemes and John Richardson (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Nietzsche (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), and ‘Analysing the Good Will: Kant’s Argument in the First Section of the Groundwork’, in the British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 2010.

This paper argues that Nietzsche endorses a Kantian conception of the ‘will’ as the ability to realize conscious intentions and an associated Kantian ethics of autonomy and respect, and that this position coheres with his criticisms of the freedom, responsibility, consciousness, and substantive nature of the agent. On these grounds, it is argued that recent interpretations of Nietzsche as affirming a positive sense and ethics of the ‘will’ are insufficient, particularly insofar as they attribute to him unconscious senses of agency and individualist senses of autonomy. In support of this reading, the paper will examine Nietzsche’s account of the ‘sovereign individual’ in the second essay of the Genealogy and relate it to his treatments of the ‘will’ elsewhere in his later writings.

Paul Katsafanas, ‘Nietzsche and Kant on Agency: Two Models of the Will’

Paul Katsafanas is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Boston University. He works in nineteenth-century philosophy, ethics, and philosophy of action. His research focuses on questions at the interface between ethics and philosophy of mind, including the way in which normative claims might be justified, the nature of self-consciousness, and the nature of agency. His most recent publications include: ‘The Concept of Unified Agency in Nietzsche, Plato, and Schiller’, forthcoming in Journal of the History of Philosophy, and ‘Deriving Ethics from Action: A Nietzschean Version of Constitutivism’, forthcoming in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. He is currently completing a book entitled Autonomy and Power: A Nietzschean Foundation for Ethics.

Nietzsche’s remarks on the will are, in a word, puzzling.  Sometimes, he denies that there is any such thing as a will; at other times, he claims that although there is a will, it plays no role in the production of action; and at still other times, he speaks happily of agents subordinating their impulses and controlling their affects via acts of will.  This appearance of inconsistency notwithstanding, I argue that Nietzsche does, in fact, have a coherent and substantial theory of the will.  Although he rejects certain conceptions of the will, he also develops his own unique model of willing.  I argue that Nietzsche’s model incorporates certain aspects of Kant’s account of willing, but also includes a far more complex account of the causal relationships between the will and the agent’s motives.  Accordingly, the model of willing that emerges from Nietzsche’s texts is more psychologically realistic than the Kantian model.

Simon Robertson, ‘Nietzsche versus Kant on Moral Psychology and Normativity’

Simon Robertson is currently a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Stirling. He completed a PhD at the University of St Andrews (2005) and then held a lectureship at the University of Leeds (2005-7), followed by a postdoctoral research fellowship working on the AHRC funded project Nietzsche & Modern Moral Philosophy at the University of Southampton (2007-10). Simon’s research interests currently fall into two main areas: contemporary ethics (normative ethics, metaethics, practical reason, value theory, moral psychology); and Nietzsche (especially his significance for contemporary ethics). He has published a dozen or so articles across both fields, in journals and edited collections. He is the editor of Spheres of Reason: New Essays in the Philosophy of Normativity (OUP 2009) and co-editor of Nietzsche, Naturalism and Normativity (forthcoming OUP). Outside of philosophy, Simon’s abiding interests lie in various mountainous pursuits.

In this paper I focus initially on one aspect of Nietzsche’s engagement with Kant’s moral theory–namely, his opposition to a pivotal move Kant makes in both his derivation of the Categorical Imperative from the motive and concept of duty (Groundwork Ch.I), and then the justification of morality via rational autonomy (Groundwork Ch.III). I’ll then connect Nietzsche’s objection to a set of moral-psychological commitments that differ markedly from Kant’s; and I’ll show how this in turn yields rather different views about the nature and scope of normativity. The aim of this paper is in part expository; but I’ll also draw some substantive conclusions about the veracity of the views discussed.

João Constancio
, ‘Nietzsche on Freedom as Autonomy’

João Constâncio is Auxiliary Professor of Philosophy at the New University of Lisbon, where he is also director of a research project on "Nietzsche and the Contemporary Debate on the Self". He has published several papers on Nietzsche and is currently working on a book on Nietzsche and Schopenhauer. He is co-editor of the forthcoming volume, Nietzsche On Instinct and Language (De Gruyter).

This paper argues that for Nietzsche freedom is ‘autonomy’ in the literal sense of ‘giving oneself one’s own law’, and that for him this ‘law’ must be individual. Those who are autonomous, that is, are those who become individuals and are thus ‘supramoral’. Nietzsche thus opposes Kant’s notion of ‘autonomy’ as obedience to a ‘universal’ law of practical reason. It is further argued that Nietzschean autonomy is not that of an ‘agent’ with a ‘free will’ in the traditional sense – that is, a being whose actions stem from its rational, conscious willing. Rather, Nietzsche considers the autonomous, or ‘sovereign’, individual to be distinguished by its having values that are truly its own, such that the organism as a whole, and not just an ‘ego’, creates its own law. For Nietzsche, then, ‘giving oneself one’s own law’ means ‘creating one’s own law’, and freedom as autonomy means self-creation in the sense of the creation of individuality.

Luca Lupo, 'Willing and Time in Nietzsche's Twilight of the Idols'


Luca Lupo is Researcher and Assistant Professor in Moral Philosophy and Applied Ethics at the University of Calabria. His research focuses primarily on the textual and philosophical analysis of the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, focussing particularly on Nietzsche’s ethics and anthropology. His broader interests include the relationship between epistemology and ethics – in particular, the relationship between forms of knowledge and forms of life – and the theory of will and action – with particular attention to the problem of weakness of the will. He is a member of the Interdepartmental Centre for Nietzsche Studies for Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Studies at the University of Salento, the Seminario permanente nietzscheano and the Groupe International de Recherches sur Nietzsche. His publications include Le colombe dello scettico. Riflessioni di Nietzsche sulla coscienza negli anni 1880-1888, ETS, Pisa, 2006, Il pozzo e la scala. L’umorismo etico di Wittgenstein. in P.F. Pieri (ed.), Perché si ride. Umorismo, comicità ironia, Moretti e Vitali, Bergamo, 2007 and La deriva come meta. Etica e grammatica della serendipity in P. Napoli (ed.), Serendipity e ripetizione, Rubbettino, Soveria Mannelli, 2011.

This paper attempts to explain Nietzsche’s apparently contradictory understanding of the ‘will’ in Twilight of the Idols. There he repeats his rejection of the traditional sense of the ‘will’ as the ‘principle of action’ of a ‘subject’ and introduces the notion of the ‘innocence of becoming’ to emphasise his insistence on the non-subjective ‘origins’ of action. Yet he also continues to use the term, ‘will’, and attempts to rethink it in terms of a distinction between ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ wills that recalls the Aristotelian distinction between enkràteia e akrasìa. The paper argues that Nietzsche thus provides a sophisticated account of the relation between will and time. This account is illuminated in terms of the ability to make and keep promises, and thus to determine future action, that Nietzsche attributes to the ‘sovereign individual’ in the second essay of the Genealogy. It is also compared with Kant’s conception of the will, with a view to showing that Nietzsche differs radically from Kant in considering willing to be an immanent process – one that excludes both a supersensible and atemporal origin of action and any distinction between the plane of intention and that of the realization of action.

Last Modified: 09-02-2011