Purdue University Graduate School
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Untimely Reflections on Nietzsche's Notions of Nature, Society, and the Self

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posted on 2020-06-16, 17:46 authored by James A MollisonJames A Mollison

While Nietzsche is known as a virulent opponent of conventional morality, the critical dimension of his philosophy cannot be divorced from his novel understandings of nature, society, and the self. This dissertation clarifies Nietzsche’s treatments of these notions by comparing his views to those of other figures in the western philosophical tradition. I defend a comparative approach to Nietzsche’s philosophy and provide an overview of my project in chapter one. In chapter two, I argue that although Nietzsche shares Stoicism’s emphasis on self-discipline and on the affirmation of fate, he rejects the Stoics’ teleological understanding of nature and their view of moral values as descriptively objective. This leads Nietzsche to value passion and suffering for helping us realize the world’s indifference to our all-too human concerns and for prompting value creation. In chapter three, I argue that Nietzsche agrees with Leibniz about the existence and character of unconscious perceptions and appetites – and about the way much of our metaphysics derives from our understanding of the self. Nevertheless, Nietzsche audits metaphysical notions such as God and substance on the basis of his rejection of Leibniz’s view of the self as a monad. This leads him to pursue a naturalistic understanding of consciousness, and of ideas, as emerging to satisfy unconscious drives. In chapter four, I examine Deleuze’s interpretation of Nietzsche’s notions of the will to power and the Overman. In addition to defending the viability of these interpretations, I show how they inform Deleuze’s later notions of desiring-production and nomadology. These studies demonstrate Nietzsche’s untimely relevance to ancient, early modern, and contemporary philosophical approaches.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Philosophy

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Daniel W. Smith

Additional Committee Member 2

Daniel Frank

Additional Committee Member 3

William McBride

Additional Committee Member 4

Jessica Berry

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