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Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy

Volume 24, Issue 2, Spring 2020

Matthew J. Dennis
Pages 411-431

Virtue as Empowerment
Spinozism in Nietzsche’s Ethics

Virtue ethical interpretations of Nietzsche are increasingly viewed as a promising way to explain his moral philosophy, although current interpretations disagree on which character traits he regards as virtues. Of the first-, second-, and third-wave attempts addressing this question, only the latter can explain why Nietzsche denies that the same character traits are virtues for all individuals. Instead of positing the same set of character traits as Nietzschean virtues, third-wave theorists propose that Nietzsche only endorses criteria determining whether a specific character trait is a virtue or vice for a specific individual. The article examines the criteria-based approaches of third-wave theorists Lester Hunt and Christine Swanton, showing how they urgently need revising to explain Nietzsche’s endorsement of non-acquisitive character traits (such as those involving sensitivity and receptivity). To do this I explore Nietzsche’s unpublished remarks on Spinoza, which I contend better explains why he understands non-acquisitive character traits as virtues.

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