The Most Agreeable of All Vices: Nietzsche as Virtue Epistemologist

Here’s the penultimate draft of my paper, ”The Most Agreeable of All Vices: Nietzsche as Virtue Epistemologist,” which is forthcoming in the British Journal for the History of Philosophy.  Comments and criticisms welcome and invited, as always.


The Most Agreeable of All Vices:

Nietzsche as Virtue Epistemologist

But a curiosity of my type remains after all the most agreeable of all vices

– sorry, I meant to say: the love of truth has its reward in heaven and even on earth.

Beyond Good and Evil 45


1. Nietzsche and virtue


Nietzsche’s corpus is an exotic concoction of irony, buffoonery, hyperbole, and ambivalence.  This is one of the reasons why reading him is so hard but also so interesting.  In this paper, I assemble an interpretation of Nietzsche as a virtue theorist – in particular, as a virtue epistemologist in the inquiry responsibilism school.

It might seem strange to attribute such a view to Nietzsche.  He says some nasty things about virtue.  In The Gay Science (21; see also 150), for instance, he claims that “virtues (like industriousness, obedience, chastity, filial piety, and justice) are usually harmful for those who possess them [….] When you have a virtue, a real, whole virtue,” he says, “you are its victim.”[1]  In The Anti-Christ (1), he objects to the “virtuous filth of the modern yes and no” and considers it “better to live on the ice than among modern virtues.”  And in Ecce Homo, he writes, “I negate the type of man that has so far been considered supreme: the good, the benevolent, the beneficent” (Destiny 4).  Such expressions of disdain and disgust have led Brian Leiter (1997), among others, to insist that Nietzsche shares at most in the negative, anti-consequentialist and anti-deontological project of virtue ethics, not its positive project of identifying the characterological components of a flourishing life.[2]  Notice, however, that these negations are directed not at virtue as such, but at particular virtues.  This leaves it open whether Nietzsche would recognize value in other traits of character, a supposition made more than plausible by the fact that chapters six, seven, and nine of Beyond Good and Evil are titled “We Scholars,” “Our Virtues,” and “What is Noble,” respectively.

The notion that Nietzsche is a virtue theorist was first popularized in Anglophone philosophy by Walter Kaufmann, in his classic (1968) study.  Kaufmann claims that “Nietzsche’s debt to Aristotle’s ethics” – especially to the Aristotelian conception of megalopsychia, which foreshadows Nietzsche’s overman – is “considerable” (p. 384).  Although Bernd Magnus (1980) has dismantled the superficial connection between the great-souled man and the overman, many commentators still think it’s plausible to construe Nietzsche as a virtue theorist of some stripe or other.[3]  It seems that, on balance, he’s best understood as deploring many of the traditional virtues while admiring “virtue in the style of the Renaissance, virtù, moraline-free virtue” (A 2).

But even if Nietzsche is some kind of virtue theorist, one might wonder, how could he possibly be a virtue epistemologist?  Nietzsche often seems to sneer at the will to truth.  In The Gay Science, he claims that the will to truth is “bad taste” which has “lost its charm” (P4), that it puts its adherents “on moral ground,” and that it “might be a concealed will to death” (344).  In Beyond Good and Evil (10), he says there’s no such thing as a will to truth, or at least that it’s quite rare.  In the Genealogy, he argues that the will to truth is the contemporary expression of the ascetic ideal (III: 24-27).  But again, these appearances are deceiving.  Even when he suggests that the will to truth might be a concealed will to death, Nietzsche cannot refrain from admitting that “we, too, are still pious” insofar as “even we seekers after knowledge today, we godless anti-metaphysicians still take our fire, too, from the flame lit by a faith that is thousands of years old, that Christian faith which was also the faith of Plato, that God is the truth, that truth is divine” (GS 344).

I think that attending to such positive evaluations of the intellectual virtues – evaluations made in the first-person singular and first-person plural – allows Nietzsche’s commitment to a peculiar brand of responsibilism to come into focus.  Responsibilists countenance a wide variety of intellectual virtues, from open-mindedness and intellectual sobriety to creativity and originality.  Nietzsche picks out a unique constellation of intellectual virtues, curiosity chief among them, appropriate to himself and those of his type.  In fact, I will argue that even when he praises seemingly moral virtues, such as honesty and courage, the praise is typically best understood in the light shed by his valuation of curiosity.

2. Two brands of responsibilism


Responsibilist virtue epistemology was first so called by Lorraine Code (1984), who distinguished it from the reliabilist epistemology of Ernest Sosa.  For Code, the “intellectually virtuous person” is identified not merely by his purely cognitive capacities, abilities, and dispositions but also by his conative attitudes toward truth and falsehood.  He “finds value in knowing and understanding how things really are.  He resists the temptation to live with partial explanations where fuller ones are attainable, the temptation to live in a fantasy or in a world of dream or illusion, considering it better to know, despite the tempting comfort and complacency that a life of fantasy or illusion (or well-tinged with fantasy and illusion) can offer” (p. 44).

Since 1984, Linda Zagzebski (1996, 2001) has been the most articulate and prolific defender of responsibilism.  For Zagzebski, a virtue is a deep and enduring acquired excellence of a person, involving a characteristic motivation to produce a certain desired end and reliable success in bringing about that end” (1996, p. 137, emphasis hers).  It is this motivational aspect of the responsibilist virtues that allows us to count Nietzsche among the virtue epistemologists, for – as I shall argue below – the virtues he countenances are specifications of the will to power in the domain of epistemology.  That is to say, they are the way will to power manifests itself in the acquisition of ever-new and more thoroughly investigated answers to difficult and interesting questions.  Curiosity, which I shall argue is one of the two cardinal Nietzschean virtues (the other being creativity), is surprisingly lacking from Zagzebski’s own pantheon of intellectual virtues, which includes intellectual carefulness, perseverance, humility, vigor, flexibility, courage, thoroughness, integrity, as well as open-mindedness, fair-mindedness, insightfulness, and originality (1996, p. 155).  Nor does it make a showing in her rogue’s gallery of intellectual vices, which includes intellectual pride, negligence, idleness, cowardice, conformity, carelessness, rigidity, prejudice, wishful thinking, close-mindedness, insensitivity to detail, obtuseness, and lack of thoroughness (1996, p. 152).  For her, curiosity is neither a virtue nor a vice, a contrast that will help us to see the unique contours of Nietzsche’s own responsibilism.

Zagzebski not only values intellectual virtues, but also aims to explicate the epistemic properties of mental states in terms of the agents who have them.  For instance, she defines a justified belief as “what a person who is motivated by intellectual virtue […] might believe in like circumstances” (1996, p. 241) and knowledge as “a state of true belief arising out of acts of intellectual virtue” (p. 271).  Does such a view accord with Nietzsche’s many pronouncements on truth, knowledge, objectivity, and perspectivism?  So far as I can tell, in none of his published works does Nietzsche offer a definition of truth or knowledge.  He of course attributes knowledge – as well as ignorance, error, and self-deception – to many people and has much to say about truth-seeking, but one is hard-pressed to find anything that resembles a definition of either concept.  One might think that GM III: 12 provides something like a definition of justification.  There, he famously says that “to see differently” and

to want to see differently, is no small discipline and preparation of the intellect for its future ‘objectivity’ – the latter understood not as ‘contemplation without interest’ (which is a nonsensical absurdity), but as the ability to control one’s Pro and Con and to dispose of them, so that one knows how to employ a variety of perspectives and affective interpretations in the service of knowledge.


He then goes on to claim:

There is only a perspective seeing, only a perspective ‘knowing’; and the more affects we allow to speak about one thing, the more eyes, different eyes, we can use to observe one thing, the more complete will our ‘concept’ of this thing, our ‘objectivity,’ be.


One might try to extract a definition of objectivity from this, frame a definition of justification in terms of objectivity, and then articulate a definition of knowledge in terms of justification.  It would go something like this:

(comparative objectivity) A belief b is at least as objective as a belief b* if and only if at least as many interpretations and affective perspectives were employed in forming b as b*.

(categorical objectivity) A belief b is objective if and only if it is at least as objective as some minimal standard belief b.[4]

(comparative justification) A belief b is at least as justified as a belief b* if and only if b is at least as objective as b*.

(categorical justification) A belief b is justified if and only if it is at least as justified as some minimal standard belief b.

(categorical knowledge) A belief b is knowledge if and only if it is justified and true.

Such a set of definitions, besides having to contend with well-known puzzles like the Gettier problem and lottery paradoxes, takes us well beyond anything to be found in GM III: 12, or any other part of Nietzsche’s corpus for that matter.  Nevertheless, I maintain that Nietzsche is best understood as a responsibilist.  Why?  Not because he defines the epistemic standing of mental states in terms of the intellectual virtues of the agents who have them, but because he thinks that human flourishing depends on cultivating and acting from virtue, and that (for some people at least) the most fitting virtues are motivational intellectual virtues.

Thus, I think that Nietzsche is best understood not as a classical responsibilist like Zagzebski but as an inquiry responsibilist like Jason Baehr (2006, 2011) and Christopher Hookway (2003, 2006).  Classical responsibilists set themselves the task of analyzing traditional concepts such as doxastic justification, knowledge, and reliability.  Inquiry responsibilists, by contrast, focus on the process of investigation, the value of justification, knowledge, and intellectual virtue, and the contribution of virtue to flourishing.

One of the things that distinguishes inquiry responsibilism is its focus on process rather than product.  Less concerned with what it means to say of a belief that it counts as knowledge, philosophers in this tradition seek to map out how actual people can and sometimes do go about acquiring and refining knowledge, how they learn.  This involves many intellectual virtues.  People need to be sensitive to problems and puzzles, to phenomena that call for explanation.  They need to be observant.  They need to be inquisitive, to want to answer questions rather than leave them for another day or another inquirer.  They need to be careful to consider alternative possibilities, conscientious about the kinds of evidence they do and do not bring to bear, and perseverant even when the result of inquiry is disappointing or even appalling.

Another distinguishing feature of inquiry responsibilism is its attention to the criteria and objects of epistemic evaluation.  We praise and blame some dispositions for the contributions they make to our inquiries.  20/20 vision is better than 20/200 vision.  Sometimes, we shift our evaluative gaze from the disposition to the person who has it.  Hookway (2003, p. 184) talks of praising people for their “cognitive successes” and blaming them for their failures, saying that the value of some intellectual virtues (e.g., open-mindedness) accrues to the agent who has them, whereas the value of others (e.g., good eyesight) does not (p. 188).  Baehr (2011, p. 102) defines an intellectual virtue as a “character trait that contributes to its possessor’s personal intellectual worth on account of its involving a positive psychological orientation towards epistemic goods” (emphasis his).

A third distinguishing feature of inquiry responsibilism is its commitment to the idea that intellectual virtues contribute to and are even partially constitutive of flourishing, especially to the flourishing of the agents who possess them (Baehr 2011, p. 211).  Your possession (or not) of intellectual virtues partially determines whether you life is going well, is worth living, is an admirable way to be.

For these reasons, Baehr (2006) argues that inquiry responsibilism is especially suited to answering questions on which other branches of epistemology have little traction: “How are the intellectual virtues related to one another?” “Are there any higher-order intellectual virtues?” “Are intellectual virtues instrumentally or intrinsically valuable?” and “Do intellectual virtues make their bearers’ lives or the lives of their bearers’ peers better?”  These are exactly the sorts of questions that concern Nietzsche when he says, “‘Life as a means to knowledge’ – with this principle in one’s heart one can live not only boldly but even gaily” (GS 324).

What I argue in this paper, then, is that Nietzsche is not only a virtue theorist, but a virtue epistemologist; not only a virtue epistemologist, but a responsibilist; and not only a responsibilist, but an inquiry responsibilist.  He thinks that particular sets of virtues are appropriate to people of particular types, in the sense that they promote the flourishing of people of those types, where flourishing is in turn understood in terms of will to power.  And for people of his type, curiosity and the dispositions that support it are just such a set.


3. Nietzsche’s virtues


I’ve suggested several times now that Nietzsche praises certain intellectual virtues, but only in himself and his type.  This relativizing is essential, I think, because Nietzsche would be the last to argue that a given constellation of virtues, a given way of life, a given table of values, is appropriate for all just because it’s appropriate for some.  This point is related to what Leiter calls the Doctrine of Types, according to which, “Each person has a fixed psycho-physical constitution, which defines him as a particular type of person” (Leiter & Knobe 2007, p. 88; see also Leiter 2002, p. 8).  People of different types feel, desire, reason, decide, act, and react differently.  Hence, the conditions under which a person of one type would flourish may differ – sometimes incrementally and sometimes dramatically – from the conditions under which a person of another type would flourish.

It would take us too far afield to go into the evidence for Nietzsche’s commitment to the Doctrine of Types, but I will tarry over a couple of passages in which he says things about virtue that presuppose it.  In GS 120, Nietzsche revises the dictum “virtue is the health of the soul” to “your virtue is the health of your soul,” and in A 2, he claims, “A virtue needs to be our own invention, our own most personal need and self-defense: in any other sense, a virtue is just dangerous.”  Statements like these suggest that if we want to discern Nietzsche’s virtue theory, we need to look not (or at least not only) at his praise of ancient noble societies, of Napoleon, and of Cesare Borgia, but (also) at his self-attributions.  This would allow us to pick out the set of traits he considers virtues for his type – a modern type – and therefore perhaps a set of virtues that would be attainable by and appropriate to some other modern individuals.

Before proceeding, I should explain what I take a Nietzschean character trait to be, since his conception has some uncommon features.  In the currently dominant, neo-Aristotelian theory of virtue, a virtue is a complex disposition comprising a cluster of sub-dispositions, including a perceptual sensitivity, a tendency to construe ambiguous situations in particular ways, a standing motivation, deliberative excellence, and the ability to carry out intentions reliably and successfully.  For example, generosity isn’t just the disposition to give resources to people, or even to give resources to people who need or would appreciate them.  To neo-Aristotelians, such a disposition seems insufficiently reason-guided to count as a virtue.  Rather, the generous person is disposed to notice opportunities for giving, to construe ambiguous cues charitably, to want to help, to deliberate soundly about what would help in each particular circumstance, and to act reliably and successfully when she intends to help.

Nietzschean virtues differ from neo-Aristotelian virtues because they are sophisticated versions of Nietzschean drives.  In earlier work, I have argued that a Nietzschean drive is a specification of the will to power.  Whereas will to power is an indeterminate second-order desire, a drive is a “largely indeterminate first-order desire – a desire for something of type T.  Drives are individuated by the types associated with their objects” (2010, p. 41).[5]  So, for instance, the sex drive is a desire for sex (with someone or other), the aggressive drive a desire to dominate (someone or something), and the will to truth a desire to know (something or other).  Drives exhibit exactly the sort of arationality that makes neo-Aristotelians hesitate to identify the disposition to give with the virtue of generosity.  A Nietzschean virtue is, I submit, a sophistication of such a drive: a motivational action-tendency calibrated both to its bearer and to the situation.  Many passages accord with this interpretation, among them D 293, D 392, D 452, BGE 30, BGE 41, BGE 201, BGE 206, and BGE 284.  In BGE 201 Nietzsche even equates virtues with drives.  The basic assumption in all of these passages is that a given trait can count as either a virtue or a vice, depending both on the type of person who possesses it and the situation (physical, psychological, social) he finds himself in.  That could only happen if the trait involved a relatively fixed tendency to act in particular ways, which would be either appropriate or inappropriate depending on the circumstances.

If this is right, it prompts the question of which combinations of traits, people, and situations Nietzsche regards as virtuous, a question most perspicuously investigated by looking at his self-attributions.  This methodology is needed because of Nietzsche’s proclivity for using words in non-standard ways and his frequent employment of persuasive definition (Leiter 2011, p. 118).  If we only pay attention to whether he is using a given word, we will miss crucial distinctions.  It cannot be expected that every time he uses ‘Neugier’ [curiosity] or one of its cognates, he means the same thing by it.  Another reason to pay close attention to the context in which Nietzsche uses virtue terms is his avowed belief that our psychological vocabulary is insufficiently nuanced to do justice to the complexities of cognition and agency (BGE 19).  In particular, he seems to think that there is a great deal of diversity among the dispositions designated by any given virtue-term.  In D 277, for instance, he says, “Courage as cold valourousness and intrepidity, and courage as hotheaded, half-blind bravery – both are called by the same name! Yet how different from one another are the cold virtues and the hot!”  For these reasons, superficial and decontextualized reading of Nietzsche’s texts is sure to lead to misinterpretation.  Instead, in this paper, I limit my attention as much as possible to cases in which he self-attributes virtues or at least uses virtue attributions to express praise.  Doing so helps us to limn the contours of the particular dispositions he thinks are “really” virtues.

When he gets around to attributing virtues to himself in the first-person singular and first-person plural, though, he isn’t exactly univocal.  Alluding to the Aristotelian archer analogy, he claims in the Preface to Beyond Good and Evil that “we good Europeans and free, very free spirits” feel “the whole need of the spirit and the whole tension of its bow.  And perhaps also the arrow, the task and – who knows? – the goal.”  Aristotle had of course compared the virtuous person to an archer who, through training and habituation, acquires reliability in aiming at and successfully hitting his target.  For Aristotle, aiming corresponds to deliberation and choice, success corresponds to action, and the target is the good.  And for Nietzsche?  He’s not exactly clear on this question, but he does say that “our” task is “wakefulness itself,” that we fight against “error,” and that our need is a need of “the spirit.”  This suggests that the virtue he is self-attributing has to do with investigating well, so that aiming corresponds to choosing questions, success corresponds to belief-acquisition, and the target is truth.  All of one’s actions could then be considered “experiments and questions – as attempts to find out something.  Success and failure” would constitute not just outcomes but “answers” (GS 41).

Does Nietzsche really self-attribute only (or mostly) intellectual virtues?  Does he really consider “our thirst for knowledge and self-knowledge” (GS 120) an admirable thirst for those of his type?  In Daybreak (556), he claims honesty, courage, magnanimity, and courtesy for himself and his ilk.  Honesty can easily be construed as an intellectual virtue, but what about courage, magnanimity, and courtesy?  This list is not too dissimilar from the one in BGE 284, where he lays claim to courtesy (ironically dubbed a vice in this context), along with courage, insight, sympathy, and solitude.  This set of virtues is much more clearly intellectual, though one may question whether he means intellectual courage or some other type – a concern I address below.  Elsewhere, Nietzsche seems to diverge further from the list in Daybreak.  For instance, in GS 123 (see also 319), he says that the will to truth has been elevated from being merely the “best means to virtue” to being a virtue itself.  And in the first section of the “Our Virtues” chapter of Beyond Good and Evil, he says, “It is probable that we, too, still have our virtues, although in all fairness they will not be the simpleminded and foursquare virtues for which we hold our grandfathers in honor – and at arm’s length” (214).  What are these new virtues?  Nietzsche goes on to mention “our dangerous curiosity” and “our mellow and, as it were, sweetened cruelty in spirit.”

How are we to interpret such divergent lists of virtues?  Is Nietzsche just playing around, elevating now this, now that, trait in order to show us how quixotic all talk of virtue at bottom really is?  Can we simply compile all of these tables of values into a master list that would contain all and only the Nietzschean virtues?  Is there some organizing principle at work here, perhaps a cardinal virtue to which the others are auxiliaries?  In the balance of this article, I discuss in more depth what I take to be the key Nietzschean virtues – virtues for his type of person only, to be sure, but virtues nonetheless.  I argue that a certain kind of curiosity is a cardinal Nietzschean virtue, and that the others (especially courage and honesty, though also skepticism, sympathy, and courtesy) are all traits needed by someone who wants to investigate as Nietzchean curiosity demands.

The notion of cardinality has about a long pedigree.  From the Latin ‘cardo’ meaning hinge, a cardinal virtue is a trait on which its bearer’s life turns.  Here’s one way of understanding the metaphor: if having virtue V entails having virtue V* but not conversely, then V is cardinal with respect to V*.  This would make the cardinality relation transitive and asymmetric, since V* might in turn be cardinal with respect to V†.  A virtue counts as cardinal full stop if it is cardinal with respect to at least one other virtue and there is no virtue that is cardinal with respect to it.  In this paper, I argue that curiosity is a cardinal Nietzschean virtue for this reason: if someone were curious, then she would be courageous, honest, and so on.

In fact, creativity seems to be the only Nietzschean virtue that does not to fall under the umbrella of curiosity.[6]   It follows from this that Nietzsche believes in a version of the unity of virtue thesis: to be fully curious, one must also possess the other intellectual virtues (with the exception of creativity).  This view falls on the weak end of the spectrum of unity theses, but is still somewhere on the spectrum.  The strongest form of the unity thesis has it that there is in fact only one virtue (usually phronesis), which manifests in different circumstances as the differentiated virtues we sometimes attribute (courage, honesty, generosity, open-mindedness, etc.).  A less extreme view holds that to fully have any given virtue, one must fully have all of the others.  A still less extreme view holds that to fully have any given virtue, one must at least partially have the others.  Nietzsche’s view, as I understand it, is even less extreme: he thinks that to fully have one particular virtue (curiosity), one must at least partially have all of the others (again, with the exception of creativity).  In what remains of this section, I try to make good on this interpretation.


3.1. Curiosity[7]


Though it’s a cardinal Nietzschean virtue, curiosity receives short shrift both in the history of philosophy and in contemporary virtue epistemology.  The Christian theologian-philosophers considered it a vice.[8]  This should come as no surprise.  After all, in Christianity, original sin is supposed to stem from Adam and Eve’s eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  In modern virtue epistemology, curiosity has been singularly absent.  Roger Crisp (2010, p. 30) mentions it in passing as a virtue.  Linda Zagzebski (1996, p. 148) ambivalently claims that curiosity “can either aid or impede the desire for truth.”[9]

In his published writings, Nietzsche there are sixty-eight passages in which he uses ‘Neugier’ and its, and seven passages in which he uses ‘Wissbegier’ and its cognates.[10]  Consider first ‘Wissbegier’.  Of its seven uses, two are positive self-attributions (DS 4 and D 195), four are positive attributions to another (HH 409, WS, BGE 186, and GM III.9), and one is ambiguous (D 18).  Consider next ‘Neugier’ and its cognates.  Of its sixty-eight uses, all twenty-one of the self-attributions are clearly intended as praise.[11]  When he clarifies the exact kind of curiosity he has in mind in these passages, describes it as “jubilant” (GS 375), as a “craving” (GS 382), and as “the most agreeable of all vices” (BGE 45).  The other uses of the term are roughly half positive and half negative.  When he uses the term as an epithet, by contrast, he typically has in mind the curiosity of “idlers” (D 469) who are overly “familiar” (BGE 226), “self-satisfied” (BGE 269), “complacent” (NCW 2), or “bored” (TI “Skirmishes” 3).

But what exactly is Nietzschean curiosity?  Nietzschean virtues, as calibrated action-tendencies, are individuated by their characteristic action-types.  Generosity differs from tact insofar as what the generous person wants and is inclined to do differs from what the tactful person wants and is inclined to do.  So the question What is Nietzschean curiosity? devolves on the question What does the person with Nietzschean curiosity want and do, qua curious person?  Nietzsche himself provides an initial taxonomy of the possible answers, saying of knowledge, “let it be something else for others; for example, a bed to rest on, or the way to such a bed, or a diversion, or a form of leisure – for me it is a world of dangers and victories in which heroic feelings, too, find places to dance and play.  ‘Life as a means to knowledge’ – with this principle in one’s heart one can live not only boldly but even gaily” (GS 324).

In light of such a statement, the answer to the question What does the person with Nietzschean curiosity want? cannot be merely that all her beliefs be true.  First, it’s almost certainly impossible to have only true beliefs.  Second, and more to the point, one could move in the direction of only true beliefs by suspending judgment, but suspending judgment is diametrically opposed to the curious investigation of a “world of dangers.”[12]  This point relates to William James’s distinction between “two ways of looking at our duty in the matter of opinion [….] We must know the truth; and we must avoid error” (1896, p. 17).  If curiosity were merely a matter of avoiding error, it could be accomplished by withholding judgment, but it hardly seems apt to describe the strategic skeptic as experiencing “heroic feelings.”

Nor can it be a desire that one have more or even many more true beliefs than false beliefs.  As with the desire for only true beliefs, this desire could be satisfied by withholding judgment.  In addition, such a state could be static.  Someone could satisfy this desideratum by attaining a sufficient preponderance of true beliefs and then resting on her laurels.  But for Nietzsche, doxastic change through investigation is essential.  He says that the will to truth “still tempt[s]” to “many a venture” (BGE 1) and that “travelers and adventurers” like him discover a “world of insight” (BGE 23).  Nietzschean curiosity is opposed to both ataraxia and faith because faith, as he understands it, is the disposition to stop investigating.  It’s an expression of the need for something firm “that one does not wish to be shaken because one clings to it” (GS 347).  Faith is “a veto on science” because it involves “not wanting to know the truth” (A 52).[13]  The faithful person stops investigating, not out of complacency, but out of a fanatical certainty that she knows the truth.  One might say that the person with faith abandons the standards of inquiry (collecting sufficient evidence, considering alternative hypotheses, etc.) without abandoning the goals of inquiry (true beliefs).[14]

Nor still – though this is closer – is Nietzschean curiosity characterized by a desire to acquire true beliefs.  This proposal is closer to being correct because it emphasizes doxastic change and the practice of inquiry.  Nietzsche considers it “contemptible” to “stand in the midst of this rerum concordia discors and of this whole marvelous uncertainty and rich ambiguity of existence without questioning, without trembling with the craving and the rapture of such questioning” (GS 2).  However, Nietzschean curiosity involves not just asking questions but asking questions of a particular type.  To return to the metaphor of the archer, it involves not only aiming at and hitting the target but also choosing worthy targets in the first place.  Nietzsche scorns curiosity as mere “amour-plaisir” (GS 123), as dilettantism and the assembling of facts.[15]  When he praises curiosity, what he has in mind is the “attraction of everything problematic,” which he calls his “new happiness” (GS Preface 3).

This new happiness may include as well a disposition to find things interesting, to invest them with interest.  Consider the difficulty faced by a curious person to whom no interesting problems occur.  She has a desire to solve interesting problems, and the capacity to do so when they present themselves, but they stubbornly refuse to appear.  She could end up stymied, dissatisfied, even resentful.  Alternatively, she could seek out or create interesting problems to solve or invest extant problems with interest.  The former strategy seems to make an appearance in BGE 18, but the latter is surely more promising.[16]

Nietzschean curiosity as I understand it, then, is characterized by an insatiable desire to solve novel, difficult problems and puzzles, and to discover or invent them when none are ready to hand.  Someone with Nietzschean curiosity doesn’t concern herself with the acquisition of true but trivial beliefs because her “great passion” forces her to “live continually in the thundercloud of the highest problems and the heaviest responsibilities” (GS 351; see also GS 249; BGE 6, 64).  Nietzschean curiosity seeks the answers to interesting questions.[17]  And Nietzschean curiosity does not stop when it arrives at an answer; it always finds a new question, a new investigation, a new inquiry.  The curious person is concerned with the product of investigation; she would not be satisfied with false beliefs, unsupported beliefs, or the withholding of judgment.  But she is concerned as well, perhaps even more so, with the process of investigation; she can’t stop thinking, inferring, refuting, synthesizing, and so on.

This point allows us to make another connection between Nietzcshean curiosity and the will to power.  As I hinted above, I’m congenial to Reginster’s account of will to power as a second-order desire “for the overcoming of resistances in the pursuit of some determinate first-order desire” (2007, p. 37).  If this is the right way to think about will to power, then Nietzschean curiosity is the specification of the will to power in the domain of knowledge; it’s the second-order desire for the solving of problems and puzzles in the pursuit of a determinate first-order desire to believe the correct answers to hard questions.  Nietzschean curiosity is a matter of successfully struggling with difficult, interesting questions; it’s intellectual agonism.  In GS 14, Nietzsche characterizes “our love of knowledge, of truth” as a “lust for new possessions.”  And because the point is not to have won a single encounter but continually to overcome new obstacles, the person with Nietzschean curiosity is insatiable.  “A matter that becomes clear ceases to concern us” (BGE 80), he says.  “Gradually we become tired of the old, of what we safely possess, and we stretch out our hands again” (GS 14).

So far, I have tacitly assumed that the object of curiosity is knowledge, or true belief, or justified belief, or something like that.  Other objects are possible.  Two that readily spring to mind when thinking about Nietzsche are artistic forms and values.[18]  Nietzsche often praises both.  Is it right, then, to place such a heavy emphasis on cognitive objects of curiosity (knowledge, belief, etc.)?  I think it is, in part because it seems to me that it’s not quite right to speak of discovering new artistic forms and values rather than inventing or creating them.  Nietzsche himself inclines towards this view.  If one looks through BGE, for instance, one notes that he tends to use intentional idioms that presuppose the antecedent existence of their objects, such as ‘discover’, when speaking about knowledge and belief; by contrast, he uses words that do not presuppose the antecedent existence of their objects, such as ‘create’, ‘invent’, and ‘originality’, when speaking about forms and values.

A third potential object of curiosity is phenomenal experience.[19]  The curious person might want to find out what it’s like (to use a contemporary turn of phrase) to experience various emotions, sensations, attitudes, and so on.  Consider, for instance, Nietzsche’s equation of understanding “six sentences” of Z with experiencing six sentences from it (EH “Books” 1) and his claim in GM Preface 8 that, “I do not allow that anyone knows [Z] who has not at some time been profoundly wounded and at some time profoundly delighted by every word in it; for only then may he enjoy the privilege of reverentially sharing in the halcyon element out of which that book was born.”  Or reconsider the idea of employing “a variety of perspectives and affective interpretations in the service of knowledge” from the third essay of GM.  What knowledge is gained by employing different affective interpretations?  Knowledge of the object, to be sure, but also knowledge of what it’s like to experience an object from such an affective stance.  I’m happy to take this idea on board, since the object of curiosity would still be knowledge; instead of propositional knowledge, though, it would be phenomenal knowledge – knowledge of what it’s like.

I argue next that the person with Nietzschean curiosity also needs courage and honesty, suitably construed.  If these arguments are on the right track, the case for the cardinality of curiosity would be further corroborated.  That is, if we grant that curiosity is an important Nietzschean virtue, and that someone can possess curiosity fully only if he also has a sufficient degree of intellectual courage and honesty (but not conversely), then it would seem that at least a weak unifying relation governs the Nietzschean virtues.


3.2. Courage


Let us grant that courage is the virtue most relevant to responding to threats.  From a neo-Aristotelian point of view, this claim might be spelled out in terms of noticing threats, construing ambiguously threatening situations correctly, wanting to overcome threats when possible, deliberating soundly about the best means of doing so, and reliably and successfully acting on the basis of such deliberation.  Since Nietzschean virtues, understood as calibrated motivational action-tendencies, are less cognitive than neo-Aristotelian virtues, the Nietzschean picture of courage is a disposition to (want to) overcome threats.

There can be little doubt that Nietzsche thinks his sort of “ruthless curiosity” (BGE 188) presupposes a kind of courage.  He calls himself “Mr. Rash and Curious,” the “man of the most perilous kind of inquisitiveness” (GM I:14).  Is this just grandiose pomposity?  What dangers really confront the insatiable investigator?  What perils lie in the path of “daredevils of the spirit” (GS Preface 4)?  Could curiosity really kill the Nietzschean cat?

Surely not physical dangers.  Nietzsche is not talking about the very real dangers faced by anthropologists who study headhunters, chemists who play with deadly poisons, or 21st-century physicists and their Large Hadron Collider, which apparently has the potential to turn the Earth into a black hole (though of course he respects such courage, too).

Perhaps he has in mind social dangers: the curious person is sure to alienate others, especially those with embarrassing truths to hide.  Perhaps the potential harm to the curious person is ostracism.  Overcoming fear of social sanction is what Zagzebski (1996, p. 13, 175) takes intellectual courage to amount to.  This suggestion provides part, but only a small part, of the answer to our question.  Nietzsche points out that “the attitude of those who seek knowledge” is considered “dishonorable while the petrification of opinions is accorded a monopoly on honor” (GS 296).  He puts the sentiment, “I do not want to see anything that contradicts the prevalent opinion.  Am I called to discover new truths?” in the mouth of the person “not predestined for knowledge” (GS 25).  He says that independence of thought – freedom from the social conventions that regulate opinion and its expression – presupposes that one is “not only strong, but also daring to the point of recklessness” (BGE 29).  One of the perils of Nietzschean curiosity is social isolation, but there is a greater danger.

The greatest threat to the curious person is not external but internal, not the minotaur but the “minotaur of conscience” (BGE 29).  Nietzsche’s deep pessimism about human nature (or, to be more precise, about the natures of many human types) means that he sees curiosity and thinking well of people (both others and oneself) as implacable enemies.  If one seeks the truth only to do the good, he says, one “finds nothing” (BGE 35).  The curiosity of the moral psychologist must be ruthless.  It requires “a certain levelheaded cruelty that knows how to handle a knife surely and subtly, even when the heart bleeds” (BGE 210; see also 218).  If Nietzschean curiosity is a matter of investigating difficult problems, of overcoming great intellectual resistances, then one of its purest expressions is in the investigation precisely of the most nauseating facts about ourselves.  “The attraction of knowledge would be small,” he says, “if one did not have to overcome so much shame on the way” (BGE 65).  Such curiosity pits itself against “the inclination of the spirit” and “the wishes of the heart”; thus, “in all desire to know there is a drop of cruelty” (BGE 229) towards oneself and one’s tender feelings.  The soul of such an investigator is the battleground on which will to power as curiosity contends with “life-preserving errors,” where the question “To what extent can truth endure incorporation?” is put to the torture (GS 110).  Nietzsche claims that “We have had to wring the truth out of ourselves every step of the way, we have had to give up almost everything that our heart, our love, our trust in life relied on” (A 50; see also HH Preface 6).

We can see Nietzsche suffering through his investigations up-close in the Genealogy, where he equates bravery with the disposition to “sacrifice all desirability to truth, every truth, even plain, harsh, ugly, repellent, unchristian, immoral truth. – For such truths do exist” (I:1).  Three times, the narrator of this work is so overcome with nausea that he practically screams, “Enough!  Enough!” (I:14, II:25, and III:27).  The “subterranean” adventure of this series of essays is “painful” (GM II:6); it’s at once “interesting” and full of “a gloomy, black, unnerving sadness” (GM II:22).[20]

Furthermore, Nietzsche’s war on pity appears in a new light when considered from the point of view of curiosity and intellectual courage.  While I do not doubt that he thinks ill of pity for other reasons as well, pity – for oneself, for one’s friends and family, for humanity in general – is especially problematic for the curious vivisector of moral psychology.  Registering the obtuseness, and still more the slavishness, of others and of oneself hurts.  This may be why Nietzsche considers pity not just a great danger but his own personal greatest danger (GS 271).  “In a man devoted to knowledge, pity seems almost ridiculous, like delicate hands on a cyclops” (BGE 171).  The curious “unriddler of souls” needs courage so that he does not “suffocate from pity” (BGE 269).[21]

If one were less pessimistic than Nietzsche about the deliverances of moral psychology, this point would not be wholly undermined.  He seems to think that a peculiar sort of intellectual courage subserves curiosity because the most interesting investigations turn up nauseating facts about moral psychology.  If he’s wrong about what’s most interesting, or about the nauseating deliverances of moral psychology, intellectual courage would presumably still be required for overcoming some other threat to inquiry – be it physical, social, or psychological.  And if at least some of the knowledge that the curious investigator acquires is phenomenal, courage would surely be required for that portion.  How could one set out to discover what it’s like to feel abject terror, all-consuming rage, sickening envy, nauseating disgust, and so on without a good deal of courage?

Thus, while courage (whether intellectual or otherwise) presumably does not presuppose curiosity, curiosity – especially Nietzschean curiosity – presupposes intellectual courage.  This asymmetry corroborates the claim that curiosity is a cardinal Nietzschean virtue.


3.3. Honesty


Just as Nietzschean curiosity presupposes a form of intellectual courage – not just the courage to consider and express unpopular opinions that Zagzebski praises but the courage to see and accept unpleasant truths about oneself and others – so it also presupposes a peculiar form of honesty.  We’re all familiar with Nietzsche’s distinction in GS 344 between the will to truth as a will not to allow oneself to be deceived and the will to truth as a will not to deceive, not even oneself.  Nietzschean honesty, as I see it, is an expression of the latter type of will to truth. Nietzsche does of course criticize the will to truth as a kind of piety in this passage and in GM III: 24-27, but he also admits that “we, too, are still pious.”  I think that Nietzschean curiosity escapes the most damning criticism of the will to truth as an unwillingness to deceive, however. The curious person wants to believe the truth because he wants to overcome the resistance that interesting problems afford.  Acquiring true beliefs is just how the curiosity game is played.  By contrast, someone who has the will to truth in the pejorative sense wants to believe the truth because he thinks doing so has unconditional value.[22]

If my arguments about Nietzschean curiosity and intellectual courage so far have been correct, then the curious investigator of the nauseating facts of moral psychology needs protection against wishful thinking; he needs a special brand of honesty towards himself, a “fastidious” “courage of conscience” (BGE 5).  This honesty even turns and bites its own tail when it “triumph[s] over the Christian god” (GS 307) who ordained honesty as a virtue in the first place.

As I argued above, this cluster of traits – curiosity, intellectual courage, and honesty – cleave together; there is a certain unity to the Nietzschean intellectual virtues.  One can only be fully curious if one is also sufficiently courageous and honest.  The converse, however, does not hold: one can be courageous without being particularly curious or honest, and one can be honest without being curious.[23]  To be a free spirit is to be simultaneously “curious to a vice,” investigative “to the point of cruelty,” and “ready for every feat that requires a sense of acuteness and acute senses, ready for every venture” (BGE 44).  In the preface to The Anti-Christ, Nietzsche says that his style of investigation requires one to be “honest to the point of hardness” and to have a “predilection” for “questions that require more courage than anyone possesses today; a courage for the forbidden.”

In fact, Nietzsche even flirts with the idea that this form of honesty is not merely allied to curiosity and intellectual courage but even identical to them.  He says that the seeker after knowledge “insists on profundity, multiplicity, and thoroughness, with a will which is a kind of cruelty of the intellectual conscience and taste.  Every courageous thinker will recognize this in himself [….] Indeed, it would sound nicer if we were said, whispered, reputed to be distinguished not by cruelty but by ‘extravagant honesty’” (BGE 230).  Here he suggests that ‘cruelty of intellectual conscience’ is synonymous with ‘extravagant honesty’, that the latter is just a euphemism for the former.  In The Anti-Christ, similarly, he claims that what “it mean[s] to be honest in spiritual matters” is that you are “strict with your heart” (50).  Honesty and stringency in this context don’t just go together; they mean the same thing.  In BGE 209, he claims that a single trait (which he there calls “virile skepticism”) expresses itself as the various Nietzschean intellectual virtues discussed above – “now, for example, as an intrepid eye, now as the courage and hardness of analysis, as the tough will to undertake dangerous journeys of exploration and spiritualized North Pole expeditions.”

These pronouncements suggest that honesty might be just as cardinal as curiosity: if someone were curious, then she would be honest, and conversely, if someone were honest, then she would be curious.  One further passage even suggests that the subjunctive conditional runs only from honesty to curiosity: Nietzsche recommends in BGE 227 that we “dispatch to [our honesty’s] assistance whatever we have in us of devilry: our disgust with what is clumsy and approximate, our ‘nitimur in vetitum’ [we strive for the forbidden], our adventurous courage, our seasoned and choosy curiosity.”  Why would honesty need assistance?  He’s very poetic on this point, personifying honesty as a geriatric that might “grow weary one day and sigh and stretch its limbs and find us too hard, and would like to have things better, easier, tenderer.”  One possible interpretation of the weariness of honesty is that it refers to the suspension of judgment.  But “we last Stoics” would not be content with mere honesty because “our subtlest, most disguised, most spiritual will to power and overcoming of the world” “flies and flutters covetously.”  An alternative interpretation is that the weariness of honesty refers to the tendency to accept as true whatever is comforting, whatever one would like to be true.[24]  But honesty that accepts falsehoods is not weary honesty; it’s not honesty at all.  Thus, it seems best to opt for the former interpretation: it’s possible to have weary honesty, construed as suspension of judgment on difficult or troubling questions, without having curiosity.  Honesty does not entail curiosity, to which it is cardinally subordinated.

Thus, like courage, honesty is required of anyone who would be curious in Nietzsche’s sense.  And, as with courage, the converse is not true.  One could very well be honest (in the sense of refusing to lie, even to oneself) without being curious.  The requirements of honesty could be satisfied by withholding judgment.  They could also be satisfied by ceasing to investigate after one had achieved a sufficient preponderance of true to false beliefs.  Curiosity, by contrast, cannot be attained without honesty, which again supports the notion that curiosity is not just a Nietzschean virtue but a cardinal Nietzschean virtue.


4. Two further questions


I’ve argued that Nietzsche thinks a certain cluster of traits centered on cruel curiosity and supported by honesty and intellectual courage is the best way for his type of person to flourish.  I’d like to conclude by considering two further questions:  Why unity? and Are the other Nietzschean virtues also unified with curiosity, or do they float freely?

Why unity?[25]  Is there some reason in Nietzsche’s writings to think he would want to commit himself to a unity of virtue thesis, even a rather weak one of the kind I attribute to him in this paper?  The notion of the unity of virtue has tempted philosophers for millennia.  Perhaps Nietzsche merely succumbed to the same temptation that seduced Plato and Aristotle.  This hypothesis is unsatisfying, however, given the uniqueness of Nietzsche’s thought and of his version of the unity thesis.  Fortunately, there is some evidence in his published writing for a commitment to unity as well.  For instance, in Z I:4 he says, “One virtue is more than two,” and “if you are lucky then you have one virtue and no more.”  These passages suggest that Nietzsche somehow thinks that multiple virtues in a single person, unless they’re well-calibrated to each other, are likely to engender destructive interference.  I’m wary of putting too much argumentative weight on anything in Zarathustra, however, about which I must confess both a great deal of confusion and more than a little embarrassment on Nietzsche’s behalf.  However, if my interpretation of Nietzschean virtues as motivational action-tendencies calibrated both to the bearer and to the environment is right, there’s good reason to worry about destructive interference.  It’s of course harder to get what you want when you want two things than when you want only one of them.  Furthermore, if we remind ourselves that Nietzsche’s responsibilism is grounded in flourishing understood in terms of will to power, a slightly different argument suggests itself.  Will to power is itself a univocal concept, so it would be at unsurprising if flourishing and the virtues that support it were in some way unified.  This hypothesis gains some credence from a consideration of A 1 (“Formula for our happiness – a yes a no a straight line a goal.”) and A 44 (“Formula for my happiness – a yes a no a straight line a goal.”)

Next is the question of how much unity Nietzsche countenances.  In addition to curiosity, honesty, and intellectual courage, he sometimes celebrates magnanimity, courtesy, insight, sympathy, solitude, skepticism, and creativity.  It seems to me that (as with courage and honesty) all of these virtues, with the exception of creativity, would be needed by a curious person, though none of them requires curiosity in turn.

It seems fairly obvious that insight pairs well with curiosity.  It’s impossible to solve difficult, interesting problems without a good deal of insight.  Conversely, someone could be insightful without being curious.

The case for skepticism is also fairly straightforward.  The curious moral psychologist often opposes mawkish common opinion and therefore requires the “courage” to push “suspicion to the limit” (GS Preface 2).  Nietzsche goes so far as to claim that the philosopher “has a duty to suspicion today, to squint maliciously out of every abyss of suspicion” (BGE 34).  Pace Jessica Berry’s (2010) ill-conceived argument that Nietzsche was a Pyrrhonian skeptic, then, the skepticism evinced in these passages and many of the others cited earlier aims to disconfirm cherished notions about human nature.  As Reginster (forthcoming) points out, “Berry’s characterization of the inquirer’s attitude in terms of ‘resilience or shock resistance’ (pp. 161-3) evokes more the ability to tolerate the anxiety associated with uncertainty than an attraction to it.”[26]  If this is right, skepticism is closely tied to the other Nietzschean intellectual virtues.  Furthermore, people are typically motivated to search for counterexamples to claims when they’re skeptical about those claims.  From this point of view, skepticism is a spur to inquiry, a tool to be deployed by someone who wants to inquire well.  Think yet again of the section in GM where Nietzsche contrasts objectivity as “contemplation without interest” with objectivity as the ability to “employ a variety of perspectives and affective interpretations in the service of knowledge.”  He is pointing out that cognition and inquiry are not mere information-processing; they are instead deeply connected with the desires, motives, and values of the cognizer and investigator.  When someone desires that x be true, he tends to look for evidence for x and ignores evidence against it.  Likewise, when someone desires that x be false, he tends to seek out evidence against it and ignores evidence for it.  Rather than simply deploring these arational intrusions of desire into belief, Nietzsche recommends harnessing them.  First, get oneself to want a certain conclusion to be true, in order to fool oneself (as it were) into finding the best evidence for it; next, reverse one’s desire in order to trick oneself into discovering the best evidence against it.

What of the other Nietzschean virtues?  Magnanimity doesn’t crop up that often in his texts (fifteen times in the published writings) and even less often in his self-attributions, but when he mentions it in Daybreak (556), Nietzsche specifies that it’s magnanimity “with the vanquished.”  What or whom does a curious person vanquish?  Problems.  And perhaps also the moral psychologies of other people.  Displaying magnanimity while overcoming these might help the curious person to avoid social sanction.

Likewise, courtesy and solitude seem well-suited to the moral psychologist who would like to forestall social sanction and who wants to ingratiate himself sufficiently with others to enable him to see into their depths.  Also along these lines, sympathy – construed as the tendency to enter the affective and conative states one perceives in others – would be highly prized by the curious moral psychologist.  If you want to know what people want and feel, what gives them joy and makes them suffer, then being able to experience their psychological states vicariously would be quite useful.[27]  This point relates especially to curiosity whose object is phenomenal knowledge, knowledge of what it’s like.

As I have already admitted, creativity is a harder case – probably too hard.  Though solving problems typically does require creativity, the kind of creativity Nietzsche usually praises seems to have little to do with solving problems.  He is primarily concerned with creativity that spawns new values and art forms, not the clever creativity that helps people understand Rube Goldberg machines.  However, it does take creativity to find or invent difficult problems on which to cut curiosity’s teeth, and the experimentation that goes into creativity is at least consistent with (perhaps even supported by) curiosity.  Though I have to admit that there are two cardinal Nietzschean virtues – curiosity and creativity – it does seem to me that they are at least in harmony with one another, and that they might even be mutually supportive.




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[1] In this article, I cite the following translations of Nietzsche’s works: Hollingdale’s translation of Daybreak (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997); Kaufmann and Hollingdale’s translation of On the Genealogy of Morals and Ecce Homo in “On the Genealogy of Morals” and “Ecce Homo” (New York: Vintage Paperbacks, 1989); Kaufmann’s translations of The Gay Science (New York: Vintage, 1974), Beyond Good and Evil (New York: Vintage, 1966); Hollingdale’s translation of Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986); Adrian Del Caro’s translation of Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006); and Judith Norman’s translation of The Anti-Christ in The Anti-Christ, Ecce Homo, and Twilight of the Idols, and Other Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

[2] See, for instance, Foot (1973) and MacIntyre (1981).

[3] See, among others, Cameron (2002), Conant (2001), Daigle (2006), Hunt (1991), Hurka (2007), Hussain (2011), Katsafanas (2011), May (1999), Reginster (2006, 2007), Richardson (2004), Slote (1998), Swanton (1998, 2003), and White (2001).


[4] The minimum standard belief would be some belief that functions as a doxastic “yardstick,” a good enough belief.

[5] For a related treatment of Nietzsche’s drive theory, see Katsafanas (forthcoming).

[6] I do not have the space to argue in this paper that creativity is a cardinal Nietzschean virtue, but I take it that this claim is much less controversial than the thesis I’m advancing about curiosity, and that it has been defended convincingly already by Reginster (2006, 2007).

[7] I’d like to thank Bernard Reginster for bringing to my attention Nietzsche’s consistent self-attribution of curiosity, which he described brilliantly at the 2011 Pacific APA session of the North American Nietzsche Society.  A version of that paper is now forthcoming in the Journal for the History of Philosophy.

[8] See Augustine (Confessions, book 10, chapter 35) and Aquinas (Summa Theologica II.2, question 35, article 4, objection 3).

[9] A borderline exception is Illhan Inan’s (2011) monograph, which addresses curiosity from the perspective of philosophy of mind and language rather than virtue epistemology.

[10] These numbers were obtained by searching the database at

[11] HH 629, D 314, D 432, GS 375, GS 382, BGE 44, BGE 45, BGE 188, BGE 214, BGE 224, BGE 227, HH 1st Preface 3, HH 1st Preface 4, HH 2nd Preface 1, HH 2nd Preface 5, GS 2nd Preface 2, GM Preface 2, GM III.9, EH “Clever” 1, EH “Clever” 6, EH “Books” Z 2.

[12] Reginster (forthcoming) makes a similar point, though he commits only to the claim that curiosity is a disposition, not a virtue.

[13] This diagnosis of faith is even something philosophers of religion agree with.  In her (forthcoming) paper, Lara Buchak says (with a good conscience!) that faith requires “terminating the search for further evidence” and “not engaging in an inquiry.”

[14] For more on this, see Reginster (2003) and (forthcoming).

[15] For contemporary discussions of the same attitude towards the curiosity of the dilletante, see Code (1987, p. 59) and Zagzebski (1996, p. 152).

[16] Thanks for Reginster for emphasizing this point to me.

[17] It’s interesting to note how Nietzsche often appreciates things for being interesting (GS 1; GM I:1, I:6; A 14, 44) and depreciates them for being boring (GS 123, 232; BGE 227, 228, 239).

[18] Thanks to an anonymous referee for emphasizing this point to me.

[19] Reginster (forthcoming) makes a similar point.

[20] It’s interesting to note that contemporary researchers in moral psychology are often just as nauseated as Nietzsche was.  Edouard Machery (2010), for example, speaks of the “bleak implications” of moral psychology.

[21] In this context, HH 363 appears in a new light: “If there were no curiosity little would be done to further the wellbeing of one’s neighbor.  But curiosity creeps into the house of the unfortunate and needy under the name of duty or pity.”

[22] For more on this, see Reginster (forthcoming).

[23] Honesty does seem to require a modicum of courage, however, which indicates that honesty is more cardinal than courage, though less cardinal than curiosity.

[24] Thanks to an anonymous referee for pointing out this alternative interpretation.

[25] Thanks to an anonymous referee to for stressing this question to me.

[26] In light of everything I’ve said and cited thus far, I’m forced to conclude that Berry is not just wrong but wrong-headed in her approach to Nietzsche.  It is a stunning display of insensitive readership to premise a book-length argument on the “outright derision with which Nietzsche treats the concept of knowledge throughout his productive career” (p. 3).

[27] Although she approaches the topic from the a very different point of view – the ethics of care – Vrinda Dalmiya (2002, p. 36) also argues that what I’m here calling sympathy is helpful to someone who wants to know what others want and how they feel.

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