Volume 20, Issue 2, Fall 2016

Willow Verkerk
Pages 22-41

Nietzsche’s Agonistic Ethics of Friendship

In this essay, I argue that Nietzsche’s account of friendship must be understood as part of his therapeutic philosophy that promotes shared self-overcoming. Previous accounts of Nietzschean friendship give a strong foundation, but concentrate on his middle works and overlook the role of agon in higher friendship. In order to grasp the ethical connections that Nietzsche makes between friendship, agon, and self-overcoming, I argue that we must turn to Nietzsche’s writing on friendship in Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Beyond Good and Evil, as well as in the middle works. Nietzsche brings enmity into friendship not to deny the possibility of friendship, but instead to transform friendship into an exercise of therapeutics that promotes free-spiritedness and, in doing so, challenges the life-denying practices of nihilism.