Monday, October 04, 2010

Sinhababu, Neil. Review of Robert Pippin, NIETZSCHE, PSYCHOLOGY AND FIRST PHILOSOPHY. NDPR (September 2010).

Pippin, Robert.  Nietzsche, Psychology, and First Philosophy.  Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2010.

Robert Pippin's goal in Nietzsche, Psychology, and First Philosophy is

to present a comprehensive interpretation of what Nietzsche means by 'psychology,' what the relationship is, as he understands it, between such a psychology and traditional philosophy, and why he thinks such a psychology is (indeed is, as he says, 'now') so important, why it is 'the path to the fundamental problems.' (xi-xii)
One might expect to find an account of this psychology in the first chapter, titled "Psychology as the 'Queen of the Sciences.'" Here Pippin characterizes Nietzsche's psychology as standing outside the tradition of philosophical psychology from Plato to Hume to Davidson, with philosophers defending positions on such issues as the roles of reason and passion in directing action:

Nietzsche does not appear to want simply to add another position to this list. Indeed, his main point seems to be that there is no general philosophical psychology. His view, which I will be exploring in these chapters, is that views of the soul and its capacities vary with beliefs about and commitments to norms; normative commitments are subject to radical historical change; and so what counts as soul or psyche or mind and thus psychology also changes. The "soul" is merely the name for a collective historical achievement, a mode of self-understanding, of one sort or another, what we have made ourselves into at one point or another in the service of some ideal or other. When we describe to one another what the soul is, we mean thereby to propose an ideal, usually something like psychic health. Hence also the deep interconnection or inseparability between psychology and genealogy.  (3)
The view seems to be that psychological claims are in some way grounded in normative claims. Here we might ask Pippin how exactly normative commitments are connected to psychological claims, how historical changes play into this relationship, and how the resulting psychology will explain our thoughts, feelings, and actions. (If Pippin leaves us with a psychology that cannot accomplish this explanatory task, we might ask what makes it psychology at all.) Given satisfactory answers to these questions, we might ask for textual evidence that Nietzsche held such a view and for independent reasons to accept it. . . .

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1 comment:

  1. Nice review. I was wondering whether it was just me who thought it was contradictory of Pippin to argue for a Nietzschean psychology but also warn us against reifying Nietzsche's concepts.