Nietzsche’s virtue ethics

Authored by: Christine Swanton

The Handbook of Virtue Ethics

Print publication date:  November  2013
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9781844656394
eBook ISBN: 9781315729053
Adobe ISBN: 9781317544777


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For many, to speak of Nietzsche’s virtue ethics is an oxymoron. Even now, Nietzsche is seen as an egoist in the worst sense, indeed an immoralist. Furthermore, even if he can be understood as having some sort of ethics it cannot be understood as an ethics within an objectivist tradition, where virtue ethics is characteristically seen as belonging. Yet not only are Nietzsche’s texts replete with virtue and vice concepts, but he seems to be a moral reformer, arguing that traditional conceptions of virtue legitimized by the “slave revolt” in morals should be overturned. In that (Christian) revolt not only, for example, is cowardly fear transformed into the virtue of humility, the understanding of humility as a virtue is itself skewed. It is now a form of self-abasement as opposed to a sense of one’s place in the world that is not tainted by forms of overweening pride. 1 For Nietzsche there should be a “revaluation of values” where genuine virtue expresses life affirmation and strength as opposed to weakness and life denial. 2

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