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Hicks — Egoism in Nietzsche and Rand


Do Individuals Have Free Will?

Egoism is a thesis about morality. The existence of morality presupposes that moral agents make choices for which they can be held responsible. That presupposes that moral agents have the capacity of making choices. Rand argues this to be true of humans— man’s reason is a volitional capacity, one that is itself a species of causality along with the various other species of mechanical and biological causality that exist.

Whatever we take individual selves to be in Nietzsche’s system, there is less uncertainty about his position on volition: he rejects it. We are, he writes, before “a brazen wall of fate; we are in prison, we can only dream ourselves free, not make ourselves free” (HA, 2:33). Further, as quoted above: “the single human being is a piece of fatum from the front and from the rear, one law more, one necessity more for all that is yet to come and to be” (TI, 5:6). And again: “the voluntary is absolutely lacking . . . everything has been directed along certain lines from the beginning” (WP, 458). He ridicules the idea of volitional self-causation: “the concept of a causa sui is something fundamentally absurd” (BGE, 15). In this respect, humans are no different from any other biological species: “A man as he ought to be: that sounds to us as insipid as ‘a tree as it ought to be’” (WP, 332).

This has implications for character-development. In contrast to Rand’s belief that “man is a being of self-made soul” and that men can be evaluated morally according to their choices and achievements, Nietzsche asserts a biological determinism: “It cannot be effaced from a man’s soul what his ancestors have preferably and most constantly done” (BGE, 264). And evaluatively: “There is only aristocracy of birth, only aristocracy of blood” (WP, 942). As a result, it would make little sense for Nietzsche to make moral judgments of “good” or “evil” about individuals; instead, Nietzsche’s language is consistently populated by biomedical terms of “healthy” or “sick,” along with aesthetic judgments of “beautiful” and “disgusting,” both the biomedical and the aesthetic language to be purged of moral

connotations. “Is it virtuous when a function of a stronger cell? It has no stronger cell assimilates the weaker?

cell transforms itself into alternative. Is it evil when It also has no alternative;

a a it

follows necessity . . .” (GS, a simile that can mislead.

118; also: “Weakness of the will: that is For there is no will, and consequently

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