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The "Sovereign Individual" and the "Ascetic Ideal": On a Perennial Misreading of the Second Essay of Nietzsche's On the Genealogy

of Morality
Matthew Rukgaber

The Journal of Nietzsche Studies, Volume 43, Number 2, Autumn 2012, pp. 213-239 (Article) Published by Penn State University Press

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The “Sovereign Individual” and the “Ascetic Ideal”
On a Perennial Misreading of the Second Essay of Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morality

MATTHEW RUKGABEr
ABSTrACT: This article supports Lawrence Hatab’s and Christa Davis Acampora’s interpretation that the “sovereign individual” is not Nietzsche’s positive ethical ideal. I draw on overlooked evidence from the Nachlass that bears on the notion of sovereignty, in conjunction with offering a close reading of the passages concerning this figure within the second and third essays of On the Genealogy of Morality. I argue that the second essay is not concerned with the fundamentals of agency; rather, it is focused on promising as a moral phenomenon. I demonstrate how the ambiguous traits attributed to the sovereign individual are deconstructed one after another, resulting in this figure appearing to be the culmination of the history of asceticism and moral responsibility. The sovereign individual is the modern individual who only stands apart from the herd insofar as the herd instinct has been perfectly internalized.

Introduction

T

he “sovereign individual” (hereafter, the SI) is almost universally held to be part of Nietzsche’s positive ethical ideal.1 Focus on this isolated description at the start of the second essay of On the Genealogy of Morality results in a reconstruction of Nietzschean personhood and ethics based on the capacity to make and keep promises. For example, the SI has been used to understand us as “self-conscious beings capable of standing in autonomous ethical relations to ourselves” with a “fundamental duty” to do so and with a duty to act ethically with regard to each other.2 Attempts to reconstruct a Nietzschean ethic based on the SI passage have resulted in uncharacteristically Kantian results, because of the deontological nature of promising in the SI passage.3 The SI is not Nietzsche’s ideal and embodies key traits that Nietzsche associates with the Enlightenment and of which he is highly critical.4

JOURNAL OF NIETZSCHE STUDIES, Vol. 43, No. 2, 2012. Copyright © 2012 The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.

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I begin with passages from the Nachlass that support my interpretation and that have remained unmentioned in the debate. There are a mere sixty-eight mentions of the word “sovereign” or “sovereignty” in Nietzsche’s published and unpublished works. To fail to understand that the SI is Nietzsche’s target rather than his ethical ideal inevitably results in confusion about the aim. determinism. until recently. nontechnical usage.214   MATTHEW RUKGABEr The fact that this passage results in two conflicting interpretations is no ­ ccident. instead merely gesturing at a vague Kantian ideal. selfhood. The ambiguity of the SI aides in its demolishment by seducing readers into acceptance before it is systematically undermined. Hatab’s and Acampora’s position has not been persuasive for several reasons. 335). This ambiguity is acknowledged at the close of the essay when he asks. and argument of GM II as a whole.6 Moreover. individualism.10 Sovereignty in the Nachlass Given that the On the Genealogy of Morality passages are well known. thereby enabling it to appear a both as a positive ideal and a target of criticism. the Übermensch. Several uses are clearly positive. and it is only the SI’s self-deceived self-representation that is the ideal of individual autonomy.7 I agree with the Hatab-Acampora position that the SI represents “the modern ideal of individual rational autonomy” that one tends to associate with Kant. introducing the object of the second essay’s criticism in the opening sections makes more sense than introducing an ethical alternative prior to what it is an alternative to and prior even to showing why an alternative is needed. I focus on the SI passage in context and draw on several overlooked passages from the Nachlass to support my reading. and even eternal recurrence. most notably in .5 The answer is the latter. KSA 5.9 But such contentious issues only double the interpretative challenges rather than provide convincing evidence of how to read the SI. structure. The element of irony that accompanies the description of the SI resides in the apparent praise given to an ideal that is impossible because of its opposition to our natural selves. the sole critics of the identification of the SI with Nietzsche’s positive ethical ideal. Nietzsche obscures who and what the SI is. the value of creativity. Lawrence Hatab and Christa Davis Acampora have been. freedom. They have also failed to identify how the text of GM itself provides a point-by-point deconstruction of each apparently positive trait of the SI. The SI represents Nietzsche’s own critical take on the moral philosophy of the Enlightenment. “Is an ideal actually being erected here or is one being demolished?” (GM II:24. Instead. p. they have primarily relied on inconsistencies between the SI passage and other Nietzschean doctrines such as amor fati.8 Yet that description of the SI is not entirely accurate. The word appears in political and aesthetic contexts consistent with ordinary. They have not made it clear enough who the SI is.

Nietzsche defines his sense of sovereignty as having the capacity to “revere the bad.16 Nietzsche also identifies Kant with this century. These remarks are notable in that they appear to conflict with the notion of sovereignty as rigid promise keeping found in GM II by licensing the breaking of promises. They are sovereign because of their rejection of the past and their belief in themselves. Although there are strong wills. One discussion of sovereignty in the Nachlass from 1887. The era of the sovereign will is the most antinatural of the centuries and thus the most problematic.g.11 Acampora says that the “scant references” to the notion of sovereignty in the Nachlass support her reading. and nineteenth centuries in terms of different “sovereignties” or dominant sensibilities. titled “The Three Centuries.” this period and its representative figures are averse to what is natural. too. Kantian “moral fanaticism” and the idea of practical reason are completely of the ­ eighteenth century while at the same time being “completely outside of the historical movement. the debtor-creditor relations discussed in GM II are anticipated when he claims that his sense of sovereignty demands that one “be a debtor” rather than “pay with a coin that does not bear our image” (GS 252). Nietzsche identifies this period with Rousseau and calls it “mendacious” because all authority is undermined. and to embrace it. 440–43). seventeenth-century rationalism (sovereignty of the will) is transformed by Kant and Rousseau to a zealous moralism rooted in asceticism. KSA 12:9[3]. if it pleases us” (AOM 329). But the spirit of Rousseau and the liberal ideals that Nietzsche associates with modernity and decadence do exist within Kant’s thought (e.14 Arrogant in its rejection of our animality and “the heart. In Nietzsche’s eyes. The seventeenth century is essentially Cartesian and is described as aristocratic and ruled by reason and the sovereignty of the will.13 But Nietzsche’s published works make similar claims and have not moved those who regard the SI as an ethical ideal to reinterpret it. All too Human. The antinatural rationalism of the p ­ revious century leads to a sovereignty of the senses and of feeling. p. In The Gay Science.”17 Kant ignores the spirit of his time and is in many ways retrograde in how he tries to bury the conative under the cognitive. 340–41). In it. In Human. an age that touts adhering to many ascetic habits and practices in order to be sovereign. there are also strong passions requiring asceticism. p. religious faith. and dogmatism.” strongly supports criticisms of the SI (KSA 12:9[178].12 Mentions of sovereignty in passages on the fiction of the will and the illusion of being “free and sovereign” that arises from ignorance of the origins of action certainly do not conflict with it. although the seventeenth century’s antinaturalism and focus on the will are most like the canonical SI description. eighteenth. The SI in On the Genealogy of Morality also shares features of the e ­ ighteenth century. Nietzsche characterizes the seventeenth. These two descriptions of the sorts of .15 The age and its embodiment is said to be a “beast of prey” at heart.THE “SOVErEIGN INDIVIDUAL” AND THE “ASCETIC IDEAL”   215 the published works.

vulgar and. Nietzsche has bookended the remark. Rather the notion of “will” refers to “desire.23 The result.22 An exception is the only other usage of the exact phrase as is found in GM II—“Die souveränen Individuen” (KSA 10:24[25]. The next stage is said to be “the sovereign individuals. concepts that are central to the characterization of sovereignty in On the Genealogy of Morality.24 The consequences are an age of wars and revolutions accompanied by an ever-increasing weakening of humanity.21 Several passages in the Nachlass mention the phrase “the sovereignty of the individual” (“die Souveränität des Einzelnen”) but do not suggest that it is an important philosophical notion. first. ugly. sickly herd (GM III:14. Even so. What is needed is to overcome the notion of will altogether—to deny that it is an efficient cause of action and then to rechristen it so as to indicate something altogether outside the traditional debate about the will. The characterization of the sovereign attitude of the nineteenth century is significant in that it shares little with the SI from GM II and is clearly a more positive stage in our development. that is. KSA 5. pessimistic and fatalistic. however. subterranean. better and more honest. 659). and the representative figure is Eugen Dühring. unlike the previous eras and the SI from On the Genealogy of Morality. p.27 One could try to construe this SI as a positive achievement. therefore. second. it concerns the weakness that results in a culture when it adopts the modern ideas of fairness. The description from On the Genealogy of Morality cannot be said to point to such a radical revision of the notion.26 Nietzsche regards Dühring as a moral fanatic filled with ressentiment and a desire for revenge—a “physiologically failed” priest of the weak. realistic. what the sovereign of this stage retains from the previous centuries. 370).”19 The individuals who embody this sovereignty are animalistic.216   MATTHEW RUKGABEr sovereignty characteristic of early and late Enlightenment provide a guiding interpretive framework for the SI passage from On the Genealogy of Morality.or sensible-volitional terms. All that is said is that these people have the same barbaric quantity of power as the previous weakened barbarians but that they now have liberty from all that previously existed. universal suffrage. but also weak willed. the culture under which they were bound. Initially the barbarians embody the previous culture.25 This weakening results in two sorts of barbarians.20 Progression past this sort of sovereignty is necessary as a determinist conception of the will attends it and the notion of morality is reduced to the instinct of pity.18 This period.” but their relationship to the overall weakening of humanity and to the previous sort of barbarian is not clear. The nineteenth century is identified with an “honest but gloomy” Schopenhauerian sovereignty of animality and the rule of desire. by identifying the age in which . by saying that the ultimate result of weakening is stupidity and thoughtlessness and. p. in the long run. Written three years before On the Genealogy of Morality. keeps it from being Nietzsche’s ethical ideal. is to bring victory to the stupid and the thoughtless. lacks the notion of will in either the rational. and leniency toward crime and stupidity.

KSA 5. must itself be largely unconscious (GM II:1. but perhaps only insofar as it no longer needs external powers (priests. 291).30 Nevertheless. brutality. 383–84). active suppression is crucial to self-conscious activities of all sorts. foreseeing. That mistake is to take Nietzsche to be providing an analysis of the very emergence of humanity. This “positive faculty of suppression” is said to keep things from entering into consciousness and. a fundamental interpretative mistake is often made that inevitably leads interpreters to evaluate it positively. and Hominization Before the SI is even introduced. and several already human capacities provide the groundwork for this specialized agency. If this were Nietzsche’s topic. 291). p. with its unique form of agency. and misery for the masses and the highest individuals. and the abilities of “ruling. KSA 5. 291). punishments. The second essay begins with an analysis of forgetfulness. rather it is a redirection of ressentiment inward in an effort to overcome suffering. Whether entirely unconscious or having some degree of consciousness. p. 291). [and] predetermining” (GM II:1. p. then the culmination of hominization in the SI would be a praiseworthy human being who is most fully and completely an agent. p. KSA 5.29 Nothing in the notebooks supports a strong positive reading of the SI. yet several passages suggest that Nietzsche is critical of it. including the “digestion” . the making of judgments and evaluations. the past) to keep it within the herd: it has internalized the process. Promising. Hatab and Acampora both place some weight on the fact that the SI shows up nowhere else. and the lack of meaning. out of animality. but absence cannot prove Nietzsche’s intention in On the Genealogy of Morality. external law. The SI is distinguished from the herd. Yet Nietzsche does not hesitate to describe it in intentional and agential terms as the act of “closing the doors and windows of consciousness” (GM II:1. The SI is the realization of the capacity to be bound by promises.31 But the text shows something different. KSA 5. These uniquely human capacities are preconditions for promising and are a function of “active forgetfulness” rather than of the process called “memory of the will” (GM II:1. Suppression. therefore. KSA 5. pp.THE “SOVErEIGN INDIVIDUAL” AND THE “ASCETIC IDEAL”   217 they emerge as one of “great stupidity. boredom. sovereign individuals with sovereign wills do appear in the Nachlass and support the rejection of the SI as Nietzsche’s ethical ideal. This creation of “die souveränen Individuen” is not antithetical to the herd. the clearing of consciousness. which allows the “nobler functions” of humans to emerge—the ordering of experience and thought.”28 A natural reading of this passage is that the first barbarians are the ascetic priests whose work consists not just in “herd formation” but also in the development of individuals out of ascetic “aversion to himself” (GM III:18.

pp. hope for the future. there is now a counterintentionality that will not allow it. KSA 5. But this “form of strong health” and its consequences are not Nietzsche’s main concern (GM II:1. in regards to oneself and the world. p. Otherwise one could only complicate oneself reservedly. p. anymore than active suppression is mere passive. KSA 5. This self-binding is not so primitive that it constitutes the emergence of humanity itself. even when doing so is in the person’s best interest. This can be called “command over the future” because that to which one binds oneself against oneself continues to reiterate itself within one’s will (GM II:1. 292). presumably with the aim of serving our natural values or general health.” a form of memory that actively “disconnects forgetfulness” in “cases where a promise is to be made” (GM II:1. 292). KSA 5. 292). KSA 5.34 A desire in the will that derails the natural. p. His focus is the “opposite faculty. 291–292). p. KSA 5. 292). if one did not want to risk loss of some desires to newer ones. KSA 5. Unlike other desires that can naturally run their course or that we can forget as they become irrelevant. pride in the ­present or the past. p. the “memory of the will” is a desire that obligates one to attend to it even against other significant forces in the will. p. KSA 5. This contrasting faculty is not memory in general. physiological forgetting. . of the concepts of necessity. like remembering a rule. KSA 5. 291. healthy discernment of what should and should not enter into conscious concern is a necessary component of ressentiment. Nietzsche addresses a force in the will that binds it in a way that it cannot escape.218   MATTHEW RUKGABEr or ­ processing of and learning from experience. No matter how much one wants and needs to suppress something. 291). 292). intentions. The expert use. A memory that ­ creates a force that can block some vital function of the will seems to me to be “the paradoxical task nature has set for itself” in creating promising animals (GM II:1.32 Active suppression is a discerning perception that blocks access to consciousness. 292). p. he does not analyze the notion of “memory of the will” enough to recognize the rudiments of ressentiment within it. the opposing faculty is a “memory of the will” or a semiautonomous desire (GM II:1. Although Hatab recognizes that forgetting might be part of the solution to the problem of ressentiment. and desire (GM II:1. p. KSA 5. 291). 292). contingency.” even those that are in one’s best and natural interests (GM II:1. This recalcitrant desire allows one “without reservation” to populate the will with other acts. Rather than addressing the birth of human agency out of mere animality. Rather than a mere intellectual memory.33 Mere memory is a ­ “passive no-longer-being-able-to-get-rid-of the impression once it has been inscribed” or a sort of physiological “indigestion” (GM II:1. p. KSA 5. and even having a reflective “present” in time (GM II:1. “Active no-longer-wanting-to-get-rid-of” is a continual rewilling of what one once willed (GM II:1. A promising animal is not paradoxical unless one recognizes promising to be essentially antinatural in this way. This faculty blocks the active discernment of what enters into consciousness and leaves one unable to make “space for new things.

rule.41 One may want to forget a promise. Richard Schacht takes the “memory of the will” to be the formation of humans with personal identity. A promise is not just a voluntary norm. Promising requires the precondition that we are regular and necessary and that we have an image of ourselves as such (GM II:1. and guilt—the hallmarks of bad conscience. Nietzsche says that the precise moment at which promising occurs. Promising is not simply future-directed agency. 298). Many scholars regard this opening section as concerning the birth of agency itself.37 The “memory of the will” is the capacity to promise and enter into contractual relations. regret.”38 Nietzsche does not provide an explicit analysis of promising. 292). rather than merely acting and reacting as one is moved in the moment to do. then promising creates sticky valves that allow consciousness to continue to be flooded even if it would be better for them to be closed. promising is contract making. and ends is required “in order to be able to vouch” for oneself “as future. as one who promises does” (GM II:1. Nietzsche is said to offer an anthropological study of how we graduate from beings whose existence is “little more than a succession of episodes in which one responds in an immediate way” to beings with a “consciousness” that “transcends the immediacy of absorption in these circumstances in the moment.” in particular how we become “ethical agents. 305). If suppression is something like valve control over what floods consciousness. when the preconditions finally give rise to it. KSA 5. agents who act in accord with a conception of ourselves.36 Schacht describes Nietzsche’s concern to be how we “come to think for ourselves. Nietzsche’s genealogical investigation into moral obligation begins with the economic contracts made between creditor and debtor. it is not a real promise. relations that bring feelings of obligation (duty) . 292). temporality. p. p. A promise is elective. and he calls these the very source of guilt and of personal obligation (GM II:8. insofar as these do not create a desire that can then resist active attempts to purge it. it is not our evolution beyond being mere “creatures of the moment. For example.THE “SOVErEIGN INDIVIDUAL” AND THE “ASCETIC IDEAL”   219 causality. means. even need to forget.” that is. yet an obvious feature of a promise is that it is binding on the will. and the “memory of the will” is the capacity to enter into moral relationships.40 Echoing Rousseau. KSA 5. p.”35 Owen argues similarly.42 A broken promise brings remorse. contending that what is under discussion is “the question of the conditions under which doings (events) are deeds (actions). but it inhabits the will and cannot be eliminated. but it then reduces one’s power of election: if it does not. is during “contract relationships” between creditors and debtors (GM II:5. KSA 5. KSA 5. p.” but that transformation is not what comes about by producing in us the “memory of the will” by which we are able to make a promise and shut down the natural and healthy irregularity enabled by forgetting. or conception of one’s self.39 One ought to keep one’s promises and cannot ignore them at will. Promising or contracting is the source of all moral phenomena for Nietzsche.

is identified with human history’s “meaning.220   MATTHEW RUKGABEr and personal responsibility (guilt) (GM II:6. Nietzsche says that such a “piece of perfection”—those who keep their promises even under the “assault of personal injury. the most responsible ­ being. rather than promising and responsibility.44 Yet the SI is something of an idealization. and accordingly p ­ redictable” via “the morality of custom and the social straightjacket” (GM II:2. p. KSA 5. 293). Human prehistory can be seen as a “condition and preparation” for “first making humanity to a certain degree necessary. like among like. a desire to keep one’s promises (duty) and to avoid breaking them (guilt). in which one in any case should not all too easily believe” precisely because even “the most righteous” have passions and desires that can emerge and motivate breaking a promise (GM II:11. To say that the SI is an ideal of the Enlightenment might provoke the objection that the SI does not appear to appeal to reason and the categorical imperative. its great justification” (GM II:2. 311). KSA 5. regular. But Nietzsche thinks of the Kantian as a passionate moral dogmatist that simply appeals to absolute duties and an antinatural conception of the will. p. p. p. insofar as the figure embodies the sovereignties of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries discussed in the Nachlass. Although Nietzsche does want to eventually salvage the notion of responsibility to self. KSA 5. 298). 300). The “memory of the will” creates desires that spring not from our own nature but from the needs of others and the community. portrayed as having a complete sovereignty of will.”43 The SI is already achieved. there is no reason to think that he has in mind anything but the notion of moral responsibility at this point in the text. KSA 5. accusation”—is something “one would be prudent not to expect here. The History of Responsibility and the SI as Its Ideal GM II:2 describes the history of promising as the story of the origins of responsibility. p. The SI ultimately suffers from the stupidity and inability to weigh the relevant concerns of the situation for which Nietzsche criticizes Kantian practical reason (A 12). Becoming calculable. For the longest period of human history. but he “finds it . derision. uniform. The notion of being personally responsible is not yet on the table and only arrives through the emergence of voluntary contractual relations and promises. Christopher Janaway recognizes that the consequence of identifying the SI with the Kantian ideal is that the SI has never existed. social relations and punishments were independent of any concern for personal responsibility (GM II:4. What is created is a “wanting” that suppresses the power to suppress one’s promises. The SI is the culmination of that history. The question is inevitably raised “whether [the SI] is a creature already achieved or one yet to come. 293). KSA 5.

the idea that history even progresses in such a lawful way. 295). the analogy between the production of the SI and the production of fruit by a tree suggests that the SI is a lawful outcome of the social straightjacket that creates moral responsibility. to what end. 293). The final section of On the Genealogy of Morality gives a summary of moral history. On the one hand. KSA 5. promising. p. change. willing “nothingness” and ­ rebelling against “the most fundamental presuppositions of life” in order to ­ overcome depression and listlessness through self-anesthetizing flurries of feeling (GM III:28. . 336). to affirm” itself (GM III:28. KSA 5. then “we must at least be in doubt whether there has ever been any prerogative to promise. KSA 5. can be summarized as “the entirety of asceticism” (GM II:3. it is with hesitation: an end “still by no means in sight. p. Humanity was faced with suffering and could find no meaning: there was a need “to justify. KSA 5. still more of the material” by turning away “from all appearance. p. Nietzsche provides an organic metaphor of the SI as the fruit produced by the tree of the history of responsibility (GM II:2. 411). p.] we find the sovereign individual” (GM II:2. still more of the animal.45 Janaway’s difficulty stems from the non sequitur that if the sort of freedom that the SI represents is an ideal that has and will never be. p. KSA 5. 412). KSA 5. The ascetic ideal is the mere willing of willing. responsibility. When Nietzsche depicts his own ideal in On the Genealogy of Morality. 323). The conception of the will that results expresses “hatred of the human. and conscience. Interpreting the SI as Nietzsche’s inversion of the history of moral responsibility and its reigning ascetic ideal is not supported. p. so far. p. . .47 To criticize such an ideal with its radically sovereign will does not mean that there might not be some alternative natural foundation on which to ground humanly possible senses of responsibility. the formation of which. or conscience. p. The reigning ascetic ideal provided a justification of life: armed with it. KSA 5. as Nietzsche makes clear.” “a great promise” that may be possible someday (GM II:16. KSA 5. The SI is introduced as something plainly in sight: “Placing ourselves at the end of the enormous process [. On the other hand. who will not break her promise no matter what. 412). humanity “could will something—no matter for the moment in what direction. “has been the only meaning” (GM III:28. The SI is a figure who promises perfectly. 411). with what [it] willed: the will itself was saved ” (GM III:28. even if the world should perish. . KSA 5. p. Nietzsche proclaims that “redemption from the curse that the previous ideal placed upon reality” is possible (GM II:24. The ascetic ideal was the solution and.]” (GM III:28. [and] becoming [.48 At the end of GM II. Yet the only other ideal in the second essay is the SI. 293 translation modified). p. .THE “SOVErEIGN INDIVIDUAL” AND THE “ASCETIC IDEAL”   221 difficult” to read the passage in this way. KSA 5.”46 There is no reason to think that the impossibility of the SI invalidates these notions entirely. 412). willing for its own sake emptied of all natural values. to explain.

and elimination of previous meanings and purposes (GM II:12. There is little reason to think. KSA 5. 395). The break in history whereby the social straightjacket creates individuals is therefore in plain sight. KSA 5.” and “übersittlich” should not be translated as “morality. Besides this a ­ mbiguity.” “sittlich. that the creation of the will within the SI is what redeems and finally helps us step beyond our ascetic ­history. 324). the first stage in Hegel’s objective spirit. the organic metaphor is misleading because an inversion of some sort must have occurred if the herd mentality produced individuals rather than just more of the herd. p. transforming. But surely we cannot interpret the tree to be our becoming human. spoiling the metaphor even as it is being stated. obscuring. p. Nietzsche’s great insight into the promising animal in GM II and the ascetic animals in GM III is how it is that the herd persists and even thrives through construction of the modern individual. he ultimately says. arguing that within historical development and the struggle for power there is a continual reinterpreting. does not emerge until the final state of objective spirit in Hegelian philosophy. p. “Sittlichkeit” refers specifically to “social ethics” or the customary norms (Sitte) of a society. The metaphor is apt if we read “everything on the tree” to be the social straightjacket.” Nietzsche uses the words “Moral” or “Moralität” when referring to morality. KSA 5. “Sittlichkeit. KSA 5. p. Nietzsche was surely aware that Sittlichkeit indicates the initial development of social mores. which individualizes while weakening and which internalizes what was external coercion.” and “supramoral. a leap. conquering. which was “prepared and in the process of growing towards” the certain end of the SI (GM II:3. 295). is something that Nietzsche deconstructs in GM II:12. the metaphor is unrepresentative of Nietzsche’s long view of history. The history of responsibility. a question of translation is in order. . Nothing said about the SI gives us reason to think that this is “the ­ opposing will in which an opposing ideal [to asceticism] expresses itself ” (GM III:23. 314). which is not Nietzsche’s topic.” and innumerable instances of derived words. in the Kantian sense. This is the sense in which the term is used in Daybreak (see D 18). three hundred of “Moralität. The SI and the Morality of Custom Before introducing the SI. Therefore. a compulsion” (GM II:17. whereas there are almost a thousand uses of the word “Moral” alone. Morality. There are fewer than three hundred uses of “Sittlichkeit” and all its derivates in the entirety of Nietzsche’s published and unpublished writings. given the omnipresence of the ascetic ideal in history.” “moral. That break is the creation of the ability to be one’s own torturer (through guilt or bad conscience).222   MATTHEW RUKGABEr like the natural process of fruiting. is not the story of a gradual “organic growth” but of “a break.

the SI is both free from and the goal of “society and the ethics of custom [der Sittlichkeit der Sitte]” (GM II:2. the various sovereignties mentioned in the Nachlass are also said to resemble only themselves because they believe that they have cut themselves off from their past by relying on their individual reason and sentiments. Although the trait could refer to the individual who gives style to his character and whom Nietzsche praises. an “impossible task” (KSA 9:7[82]. p. how morality comes from immorality. The modern individual does not stand apart from the herd. it could just as well refer to the Enlightenment figure who sees her own reason as the ultimate authority. The word’s association with the Kantian tradition makes it the most likely meaning here. p. p. 293). and how life denial comes from life are the puzzles that motivate On the Genealogy of Morality. KSA 5.50 But Kant and Hegel would agree completely with Nietzsche’s parenthetical remark that “‘autonomous’ and ‘sittlich’ are mutually exclusive” (GM II:2. . 63). p. KSA 5. where it is said to be “rare” (KSA 9:7[66]. The trait of “resembling only oneself” appears positive. 66). then the actual impossibility of a totally autonomous will without deep roots in its culture and tradition means that the SI. Morality is not separate from immorality. autonomous and ü ­ bersittliche” (GM II:2. Nietzsche shows the dichotomy to be false. p. when the SI is said to resemble the other promise keepers. p. The SI is introduced as “the individual resembling only himself. p. How the “individual” comes from the herd. given that there is no reason to think that Nietzsche ever tries to adopt the term “autonomy” as his own and no reason to think that he is talking about anything other than social mores. insofar as it indicates modern humanity rather than an idealization.THE “SOVErEIGN INDIVIDUAL” AND THE “ASCETIC IDEAL”   223 Morality can only emerge once significant internalization of norms (Sitte) and of one’s gaze takes place through punishment and ascetic practices. p. 293). free again from the ethics of custom [der Sittlichkeit der Sitte]. 125). It is therefore extremely unlikely that Nietzsche is here adopting the notion of autonomy as his own positive ideal. If my interpretation of the SI is correct. As I have noted. Life denial is still an act of life. KSA 5. 293). including Walter Kaufmann. “as lawgiving in a kingdom of ends. but this trait is devalued later in Nietzsche’s description. believe that the claim that the SI is “übersittlich” shows that the SI is not Kantian. where it is praised by French philosophers who are said to be sheep (KSA 13:11[137]. Many scholars. and four times in the Nachlass. KSA 5. There is absolutely no reason to think that Nietzsche is saying here that his version of autonomy is incompatible with traditional Enlightenment morality. 331). In each case. Paradoxically.”49 The word “autonomy” appears in the entirety of Nietzsche’s written work only seven times: twice in GM II.51 To think otherwise is to believe that Nietzsche is talking about something other than the morality of custom and that he switches topic in midsentence. once in Beyond Good and Evil to describe the herd (BGE 202. 333). and where it is said to be in decline in modern society (KSA 13:11[142].

at least with respect to countries (BGE 208. KSA 5. . in terms of “how much and how many things one could bear and take upon himself” (BGE 212. 336). he states that “we no longer admit the will as a faculty. Also merely willing something a long time is not sufficient to positively evaluate the act of willing: the question is whether it is “a will to negate or a will to affirm” (BGE 208. given that in GM II:7. 139). KSA 5. KSA 5.]. In The Antichrist.53 Of course. A few lines later. We can hardly be expected to unquestionably accept the SI as the actual embodiment of freedom. then the SI passage is hardly reflective of it. p. If this is Nietzsche’s conception of the will. who is really permitted to promise. long will. Again this has no relation to the SI. However. Nietzsche envisions responsibility in terms of maintaining a sense of self or harmony while containing as diverse and as conflicting set of drives or impulses as possible.]” (GM II:2.’ of absolute spontaneity of man in good and evil” was in fact created by “philosophers” in order to make the world into a field of permanent interest to god(s) (GM II:7. 139). this lord of the free will. 146). 293). entirely free from the herd morality of custom. This is the ironic element in the description and proving this is the very point of the second essay’s history of morality. The SI and the Will The SI is defined as “the human being with his own independent. p. this sovereign [. KSA 5. a kind of individual reaction. this trait is associated with “indolence” and being “hard headed” and is not unambiguously positive (BGE 208. p. Nietzsche reiterates the previous description except for exchanging “long will” for “free will”: “This being who has become free. KSA 5. p. . 139). Part of that redemption from asceticism is the rechristening of the “instinct for freedom” as “the will .52 Promising is described as an autonomous action for which the SI is responsible rather than a necessary reaction to stimuli. Of course Nietzsche does want to retain some notion of the will. and resembling only itself. Nietzsche does ultimately suggest that his ideal can “make the will free again” by “absorption in reality” and through “a kind of sublime malice [. the human being who is permitted to make promises” (GM II:2. which follows necessarily upon a number of partly contradictory. . Nietzsche claims that the idea “of ‘free will. p. KSA 5. KSA 5. 293). p. I also believe that Nietzsche does have an account of responsibility. an ultimate most self-assured mischievousness of knowledge” that belongs to and places ultimate value in the “great health” (GM II:24. p. partly harmonious stimuli: the will no longer ‘acts’ or ‘moves’” (A 14). 305).224   MATTHEW RUKGABEr is not in fact autonomous. p. It is the case that “to will something for a long time” does seem to be praised in Beyond Good and Evil. The old word ‘will’ now serves only to denote a resultant. KSA 5. .

293). However. Again. KSA 5. . a feeling of the completion of man himself” (GM II:2. implores us to consider Nietzsche’s views of this notion.] to their ‘consciousness. undermined. The double mention of consciousness. twitching in all his muscles. The same sort of permission appears again.” the terrible cruelties of the past “well up” within us. of what has finally been achieved and become flesh in him. the physiology and origin of promising is important given the description of the SI. p. inferring. He says that whenever we are “serious. 297). thereby. with unusual density in GM II. In both descriptions of the SI mentioned so far. KSA 5.55 It is difficult to ignore the idea of promises cut into the flesh of “tamed” humanity in this description. KSA 5.54 The phrase of being “permitted to X” itself is not especially significant: it peppers Nietzsche’s published and unpublished works in a way indicative of ordinary German usage. making it clear that it is the “community” that permits (GM II:10). In the very next section of the essay. If the SI is allowed to promise or is granted permission. who permits? The natural answer is that permission derives from the SI’s actual ability to live up to the standard of keeping one’s promise.THE “SOVErEIGN INDIVIDUAL” AND THE “ASCETIC IDEAL”   225 to power” (GM II:18). 300). 318). It is clear from the history of contractual relations that Nietzsche offers in the rest of GM II that he believes that our promises continue to be haunted by the coercion of the past. a crucial Enlightenment concept. there is simply too little evidence in the description of the SI to claim that the permission granted the SI comes from the community and that the SI’s supposed independence from that community is. Poor translations have rendered this more positive sounding (“having the right to promise”) than it is. When discussing bad conscience. The language of permission appears when discussing the economics of debt that permits one to “vent power” on the powerless and to “hold a being in contempt and maltreat it” (GM II:5. connecting cause and effect.’ . However. p. 295–97). One possibility is that the permission to make promises and contracts comes from the herd once one sufficiently acquires “bad conscience” or the “pang of conscience” (GM II:14. KSA 5. although that raises the question of why a far more ordinary construction indicating ability (“können. pp. leaving humanity “to thinking. Nietzsche identifies its source as the “reduction” of strong drives in human being and the eventual condemnation and punishment of those drives. . relative to the rest of his writings. echoing the ancient “‘I will nots’ in connection with which one has given one’s promise in order to live within the advantages of society ” (GM II:3. a true consciousness of power and freedom. calculating. We find “in him a proud consciousness.” “to be able”) is not used. KSA 5. Besides casting doubt on the SI’s liberation from the past. p. then the question arises. the phrase appears. p. the phrase “being allowed” or “permitted” (“dürfen”) to promise is used. [. nothing in the SI passage suggests that this it is Nietzsche’s alternative conception of will. he scornfully calls reflective consciousness “gloomy” and a “showpiece of man” (GM II:3.

By contrast. but they are in service “of discipline. This individual is the figure of “self-chosen torture” who appears as an individual. life-affirming values. Nietzsche asks. 30. of self-control. p. self-control. one can hardly overlook a passage that prefigures this discussion. These two ideals can become easily confused. 30–31). Yet On the Genealogy of Morality hardly says anything about the positive alternative ideal and is focused instead on undermining the ascetic ideal. 31). the ascetic individual whose actions support the herd and the selfish individual whose actions aim at satisfying her desires. KSA 5. KSA 3. KSA 3.56 The veracity of the SI’s consciousness of power and freedom is questionable simply because one surely has no conscious awareness of whether one is free or not. It is only by looking at the content of the will that we can determine whether it is or isn’t part of the ascetic ideal. of privation. of cruel chastisement” for its own sake or for the sake of being moral (D 18. The two ideals. p. Both ideals feature discipline. The SI’s Standard of Value and Relations to Others The relationship between the SI and the rest of the world is introduced first in terms of the SI’s superiority and then in terms of the affects of others that are provoked. Nietzsche explicitly mentions two different ideals. p. essentially the same story given in On the Genealogy of Morality (D 18. 31). KSA 3. pp. mirror precisely the battle between ideals in GM II. how much . The other ideal has some of these traits. of the hard life. It is even less likely that one can have a veracious feeling of being the completion of humanity. 322). p. and responsibility: identifying such traits in the SI does not identify which ideal it is.226   MATTHEW RUKGABEr to their poorest and most erring organ” (GM II:16. This description of the SI is also very antinatural. “reason” and “the feeling of freedom” that are our “pride” are undermined by the description of its historical development. The first is the “most ethical person [sittlichsten Menschen] of the community” who possesses “the virtue of the most frequent suffering. of satisfying the desire for individual happiness” (D 18.57 As for the pride being taken in such consciousness. as they share some features. given that it is consciousness in every muscle instead of the multifarious drives and instincts that Nietzsche believes make us up. responsible. In that passage from Daybreak. But the former simply aims at being moral: the reason for the ethical person’s self-torture is the good of the herd. KSA 3. the figure that pursues her desire actually aims at self-perfection and has positive. “How should he not know what superiority he thus has over all else that is not permitted to promise and vouch for itself. translation modified). will. and moral agent but one whose actions have been directed toward the good of the community and toward promotion of “belief in themselves” (D 18.

and reverence—lead one to ask who it is that has these affective responses to the SI. such subtleties might strike one as convoluted and are not necessary for b ­ ringing the SI’s responsibility for these affects into question.]” (GM II:2. 293–94). such that he now is a self-regulating and self-punishing moral agent. 294)58 The SI is said to have within the possession of this “long unbreakable will” a standard of value—namely of having such a will (GM II:2.—that is. slowly. and just as necessarily as he honors the ones like him. as if he randomly peppers his text with them without reason.59 What is being said is that the SI’s ultimate standard of value is simply the having of this will. however. . p. KSA 5. who conveys a mark of distinction when he trusts. he honors or holds in contempt. those surrounding the notion of life as will to power. I do find it troublesome. has in this possession his standard of value: looking from himself towards the others. The affects are awakened within those who are inferior promise keepers. even leader.THE “SOVErEIGN INDIVIDUAL” AND THE “ASCETIC IDEAL”   227 trust. The history of the SI’s emergence brings it into question already. unbreakable will. everyone who promises like a sovereign. . 294). KSA 5.]. the most problematic for anyone who claims that the SI is Nietzsche’s positive ethical ideal: The “free” human being. of the herd. It is wrong to think that what is being said here is that the SI has some positive values—for example. has fear of the SI’s response to a broken contract. But even if this superiority is over just the less adept promise keepers. It has nothing to do with any of the innumerable traits and capacities that Nietzsche regularly praises but with the ability to promise. in my opinion. p. (GM II:2. KSA 5. the possessor of a long. the strong and reliable (those who are permitted to promise). then he is indeed superior to similarly weakened but less active beings who simply follow the herd. how much fear. seldom. pp. To say that a will that cannot be broken and that keeps a promise . weightily. the mere herd members who still simply follow the ethics of custom and who have not ascended to full-blown morality and become a selfregulating member. Nietzsche asks how the SI is supposed not to know of its superiority. who is stingy with his trust. The next passage is. So there is a legitimate sense in which the SI does awaken these affects in the inferior promisers. . what is important is the standard by which the SI is said to be superior over others. fear. The less able promiser can trust the SI to keep her promise. and can easily succumb to the SI’s merely apparent godlike transcendence of human inconsistency. If the SI is the perfect internalization of social ethics (Sittlichkeit). . who gives his word as something on which one can rely [. how much reverence he awakens—he ‘earns’ all three [. presumably over the rest of nature and not just over persons who are not permitted to promise. The three affects—trust. However. I believe that Nietzsche’s stress and use of scare quotes in stating that the SI “earns” these affective responses suggests doubt about the SI’s responsibility for who and what she is. that Nietzsche’s scare quotes in the SI passage are regularly ignored.

” The SI is now seen to be a part of a group of like-minded. mastery of the appetites: punishment tames man. in the insight that one is once and for all too weak for many things. we find a continued cruelty directed at imperfect promisers. This cruelty is clearly in line with the history of cruelty that creates modern morality. and narrowly prudent soul who is too weak to live up to the idea of Nietzschean sovereignty and responsibility in which one risks pursuit of a complex and even contradictory field of desires. KSA 5. but it does not make him ‘better’” (GM II:15. 312). 294). which is “devoid of all sense” (GM II:11. reliable persons. more mistrustfully. in a kind of improvement in self-assessment. that statements [. I find it hard not to see the SI as a fearful. The SI’s value system is clearly Kantian. Little else could be said about this trait. Instead. p. slow. although I may do no wrong to any particular person. tame. and so too that all rights which are based on contracts come to nothing and lose their force. in which the unconditional value of the “good will” grounds all else. KSA 5. in a will hereafter to proceed more cautiously.] in general are not believed.60 This is precisely the problem with Kant’s defense of promise keeping. . and his switch for the liar who breaks his word already the moment it leaves his mouth” (GM II:2. “Just as necessarily he will hold his kick in readiness for the frail dogs who promise although they are not permitted to do so. . and stingy trust and promise making with similar persons may seem like a natural trait to have. this is not cruelty aimed at reattaching a good and valuing conscience to the natural inclinations.”61 The SI’s standard of value undermines the trait of “resembling only himself. p.62 Although cruelty is not bad in itself. given the seriousness of the SI’s promising. The “actual effect of punishment” is said to be “a sharpening of prudence. Nietzsche criticizes the formalism of such an ethics. Kant argues that one cannot make a false promise to someone “however great the disadvantage to him or to another that may result from it” because. The sort of radical revaluation that is associated with Nietzsche’s positive ethical ideal is not on display here. perhaps even those who are mischievous in their promising. The SI’s seldom. more secretively. I do wrong to “humanity generally” by “bringing it about. Given the similarities between this description and the SI. its progression to an “ever more impersonal appraisal of deeds” leading to the notion of things being “in themselves” bad or good.228   MATTHEW RUKGABEr regardless of the consequences and changes in circumstances is the ultimate standard of value by which persons are judged not only has no precedence in Nietzsche’s thought but stands quite opposed to his fundamental value system. in a lengthening of memory. 321). The earlier affect of fear is now explained in more detail. . a sharpening of prudence.” unless we read that only to mean “divorced from tradition. KSA 5. indicating that the fruit has not fallen far from the tree. Generally what can be achieved among humans and animals through punishment is an increase in fear. as far as I can. p. if it did not reappear later in GM II.

. KSA 5. The rhetorical question becomes more difficult to take seriously when the SI is said to be master over nature and all unreliable persons. So obviously opposed to Nietzsche’s positive ethical ideal. 297). 336). If one wanted to praise the SI. the possessor of a long. [. strength here is synonymous with the unbreakable will that is upheld in the face of all “accidents” that might occur and “even ‘against fate’”—that is. p. But this is nevertheless how the radical. . The idea of an unbreakable will so committed to its promise. p. Nietzsche’s ideal is precisely not that of a being who has mastery over all of nature and fate. even ‘against fate’” (GM II:2. one could argue that the SI’s resoluteness makes external circumstances irrelevant. antinatural freedom of the SI is conceived. and all lesser-willed and more unreliable creatures” (GM II:2. p.63 As Hatab and Acampora have pointed out. p. But in GM II:3.66 One might argue that it is hard to envision the SI as Kantian given the failure to mention reason as the ground that permits true promising. something that Nietzsche values. unbreakable will.64 Although the SI is said to have strength. . KSA 5. given that Nietzsche goes on say that our “animal instincts” are “inescapable” (GM II:22.65 The scare quotes suggest that Nietzsche is skeptical that this is even possible. 332). speaks to a will that will stand by its obligation even at the expense of life.THE “SOVErEIGN INDIVIDUAL” AND THE “ASCETIC IDEAL”   229 The SI as Master of Nature and Fate Of the SI. KSA 5. Nietzsche’s ethical ideal is described as a being who refuses to stand “apart” or “beyond” nature and instead submerses and buries himself within nature to ultimately redeem its value (GM II:24. Nietzsche argues that through the social straightjacket and its violent punishments one retains in the memory of the will a few “‘I will nots’” or promises that then make the bedrock of reason—although Nietzsche places scare quotes around “reason” to cast doubt on whether this is really being rational (GM II:3. KSA 5. 294). almost mechanical promises to “reason” and “mastery over the affects” seems to be the leap from the social straightjacket to the SI who is “apparently” master of all of nature. 294). to the fundamental value of promise keeping. Of course.] he knows himself to be strong enough to uphold [his promises] even against accidents. KSA 5. The move from engrained. against all intrusions of reality and life (GM II:2. in the sense of being able to completely shut it out of his will. over nature. p. KSA 5. p. ignoring changing circumstances that might necessitate the breaking of a promise seems to indicate the most rabid deontologist. The same idea appears again and sounds just as impossible and anti-­ Nietzschean: “the ‘free’ human being. 293). it is also asked how should he not be aware of “how this mastery over himself also necessarily brings with it mastery over circumstances. the SI passage causes more interpretive problems than it solves.

This idea. in particular.” (GM II:2.’ [. which does not suggest an inversion of its origins (GM II:3. how is one identifying the self. 74).67 The idea that there is nothing more fundamental or deeper in the person than sense of responsibility and of one’s freedom over all other aspects of one’s person (and even fate) is at odds with Nietzsche’s most basic conception of our being. These claims are remarkable in that they are so completely opposed to Nietzsche’s philosophy that it is mind-boggling that they have been considered to be a characterization of his ethical ideal. Conscience coemerges with contract law and carries with it the ideas of “‘guilt. . p. of conscience as the dominant instinct. and therefore to the individual. the dominant instinct:—what will he call it. KSA 5. adopting a good conscience that affirms life and natural values. sovereign and tyrant. This can be seen in the way that “bad conscience” or “consciousness of guilt” is able to take “all the ‘no’ that one says to oneself. p. 300). . responsibility has become the dominant instinct. p. Although Nietzsche may want to modify the notion of conscience. . The previously mentioned traits of having pride and being “permitted to vouch for himself” are now identified with being “permitted to say ‘yes’ to oneself too” (GM II:3. antipessimistic response to life. I do not believe that this is so. has sunk into his lowest depth and has become instinct. is regarded in the Nachlass as a fundamental distortion and weakening of humanity (KSA 10:3[1]. What is so devious about the ascetic formation of the modern individual is that an attitude antithetical to life. at the lowest depth of the person. the facticity of one’s being and casts it out of oneself as a ‘yes’ as existing. this dominant instinct. is the ability to look at oneself and one’s actions and say “yes” or “no” to them. 294). as corporeal.’ [and] ‘sacredness of duty’” (GM II:6. to nature. p.176. naturalness. Although the SI’s saying “yes” to himself may seem like Nietzsche’s affirmative. . 294). either intellectually or at an affective level. Presumably conscience. p. the consciousness of this rare freedom. What must be asked is exactly to what one is saying “yes” and.] ‘duty. masquerades as an affirmative one. real. To say that conscience is the dominant instinct is to say that all other instincts must seek permission from conscience before being allowed to manifest. What has not been mentioned is the idea that now. whether good or bad. assuming that he feels the need to have a word for it? But there is no doubt: this sovereign human being calls it his conscience . it would be rather odd to mention such a fundamental inversion of the phenomenon of conscience before even stating what conscience is and why such an inversion is needed. KSA 5. KSA 5. as God. almost disconcerting form” of conscience. .230   MATTHEW RUKGABEr The SI and Conscience The final lines of the SI passage summarize several of the previous claims: “[T]he proud knowledge of the extraordinary privilege of responsibility. KSA 5. The SI is said to be the “highest. this power over oneself and fate. 294).

“Equality. But that is hardly a sufficient reason when faced with the difficulties within the text—especially. but the SI’s focus on promise keeping seems to be “inner-directed” (i. 2. 7).e. 59). David Owen. White claims that the SI contains “all the connotations of self-mastery and self-legislation that one would typically associate with the ordinary ideal of autonomy” (Nietzsche and the Problem of Sovereignty [Urbana: University of Illinois Press. White backpedals and states that Nietzsche hardly accepts an ordinary notion of autonomy. For example. Democracy. and his own redeeming natural ideal. the SI represents several errors of Enlightenment thought and is not intended as a charitable representation of Kant or any other specific thinker. Nietzsche would have no other reason to intentionally construct such an ambiguous passage if it were not to entice us with an ideal that is then exposed as fraudulent. as immeasurability of punishment and guilt” (GM II:22. Thanks to an anonymous reviewer for motivating me to clarify this. as hell. except that on the surface it appears positive. In an earlier version of this article I simply identified the SI with a Kantian ideal. as torture without end.. and his criticisms of notions central to the SI—these all seem like inescapable evidence for not only the ambiguity of the passage but also for its interpretation as part of the ascetic ideal that has dominated human history up until this time. In conclusion. whereas I should have said that the SI is Nietzsche’s critique of Kant and Rousseau as moral dogmatists masquerading under the banners of reason and feeling. as executionership of God. So the final direct reference to the SI in GM II:3 is another ambiguous description that is undermined by the history of conscience that Nietzsche soon provides. 332). in a footnote. the ability of the SI passage to sustain two completely contradictory interpretations cannot be denied. Although Kant is a leading figure of the Enlightenment. 3. I can find no reason to support the SI as a representative of Nietzsche’s ethical ideal. In his translation of On the Genealogy of Morals. focused on the intention of the promiser) in precisely the way Kaufmann characterizes Kant’s ethics (On the Genealogy of Morals [New York: Random House.THE “SOVErEIGN INDIVIDUAL” AND THE “ASCETIC IDEAL”   231 as holiness of God. Nietzsche’s own conception of the will.com NOTES 1. 4. Passages from the Nachlass indicating that the sovereign will is a relic of the Enlightenment. . the SI’s general antinaturalism and standard of value—and its subsequent deconstruction within GM. Kaufmann. identifies the SI with Nietzsche’s ideal and with the opposite of an “inner-directed” Kantian ideal. as eternity. 1997]. as beyond. Either this ambiguity is unin­ tentional and Nietzsche is a failure as a writer or else it is intentional and the reading provided here is the correct one. p. 1967].” Journal of Nietzsche Studies 24 (2002): 115–16. as judgeship of God. KSA 5.rukgaber@gmail. Sensing the implausibility of such a reading. and Self-Respect: Reflections on Nietzsche’s Agonal Perfectionism. Eastern Connecticut State University matthew. Richard White’s book on the problem of sovereignty in Nietzsche is plagued by Kantianism because of the SI-passage. responsibility.

that is. he argues that the SI is “not responsible and autonomous enough” (“Finding the Übermensch in Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morality. Acampora. 12. Christa Davis Acampora.” before it undergoes “gradual unrest” (EH “Books” GM. it never becomes a debtor because its debts and promises are always made on its own terms. 1997) is in some ways superior. 8. I hold that the SI does move beyond the mere following of social norms to the stage of morality. to read this passage as articulating a kind of ideal of agency or selfhood. 178). Ecce Homo (New York: Random House. KSA citations are given for Nietzsche’s unpublished writings and for longer passages in the published works. I use the Maudemarie Clark and Alan J. 2008. however. Loeb makes several points that support my reading. J. MD: Rowman and Littlefield). 80. ” 77–82. I am grateful for an anonymous reviewer pointing out to me Nietzsche’s own description of how On the Genealogy of Morality functions in Ecce Homo: “Every time [in each essay. in context.” in Nietzsche’s Postmoralism. 11. 1998). 10. 1995). The radical nature of Loeb’s reconstruction of Nietzsche’s ideal suggests that a qualitatively different sort of responsibility is needed (The Death of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra. by Christopher Janaway. 152. 2008). he is mistaken to characterize this as a continuous quantitative increase of the same sort of responsibility and autonomy that founds the SI. Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. 76. Hatab. “On Sovereignty and Overhumanity: Why It Matters How We Read Nietzsche’s Genealogy II:2. Swensen translation of On the Genealogy of Morality (Indianapolis. Nietzsche’s “On the Genealogy of Morality”: An Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. For example. ed. KSA 6. But morality and its “bad conscience” consist merely of social norms abstracted from their origins. 2010]. I think it is far more plausible to understand the passage as being wholly ironic and mocking” (review of Beyond Selflessness. 6. p. 225n). The other translations I use are by Walter Kaufmann—The Antichrist. however. A Nietzschean Defense of Democracy: An Experiment in Postmodern Politics (Chicago: Open Court Press. Hollingdale—Daybreak (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. there is] a beginning that is calculated to mislead” and that is “even ironic” and “deliberately in the foreground. The Death of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra [New York: Cambridge University Press. IN: Hackett. Lawrence Hatab.” Journal of Nietzsche Studies 30 (2005): 78–79. 147–61 (Lanham. Richard Schacht [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. in The Portable Nietzsche (New York: Penguin Books. 1974)—and by R. 219). that the SI is described in terms of an ideal criticized in Thus Spoke Zarathustra and that the SI’s supposed power is illusory (“Finding the Übermensch in Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morality. Nietzsche’s “On the Genealogy of Morality. 1967). 38. “On Sovereignty and Overhumanity. Brian Leiter has recently offered some support for the Hatab-Acampora position. All too Human (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.nd. Christa Davis Acampora. Schacht claims that the “whole burden” of GM II is “to contrast the ‘conscience’ and special sense of ‘responsibility’ of such an individual [the SI] both with the mentality of those who are merely sittlich [following social norms] and with the ‘bad conscience’ of others in whom a different sort of psychology has been cultivated” (“Nietzschean Normativity. although Carol Diethe’s translation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Paul Loeb has also voiced a qualified support. stating that “it seems to me a mistake. including. Although Loeb is correct that the Nietzschean ideal SI does have some sort of responsibility and autonomy. June 3. for example.232   MATTHEW RUKGABEr 5.edu/news/23543-beyond-selflessnessreading-nietzsche-s-genealogy). 1982) and Human. 2001]. Lawrence Hatab. 1996). and The Gay Science (New York: Random House.” 153. 1954). 7. Although the defender of the SI passage in On the Genealogy of Morality might counter this passage from The Gay Science by observing that the SI never promises in a way that does not fully represent itself.” in Nietzsche’s “On the Genealogy of Morals”: Critical Essays. . http://ndpr. 9. ed. 352).” 81).

p. 20. eure ‘Menschlichkeit’ zur Milde gegen Verbrechen und Dummheit (KSA 10:24[25]. 19. “Ä u ß e r l i c h: Zeitalter ungeheurer Kriege. One passage that is relevant is a summary of the argument of GM II. 24.THE “SOVErEIGN INDIVIDUAL” AND THE “ASCETIC IDEAL”   233 13. p. 659). . Explosionen. 659). p. unreflective. p. “A u f d i e D a u e r b r i n g t i h r d a m i t d i e D u m m h e i t u n d d i e U n b e d e n k l i c h e n z u m S i e g e” (KSA 10:24[25]. 440). 486–87). 440). w a h r e r. Zeugniß von der Souverainetät des W i l l e n s” (KSA 12:9[178].] man glaubt. 25. “A n i m a l i s m Schopenhauer. 442). “Kant. endlich—eine wirkliche Umtaufung: man sieht so wenig Wille. Herrschaft des G e f ü h l s. viel asketische Gewöhnung. Herrschaft der B e g i e r d e. 659). 440). p. 26. mit seiner ‘praktischen Vernunft. “[. 282). “Das 19. .B. Interestingly. p. p. 16. Sovereignty is tentatively mentioned as an opposing force to the herd instinct. p. 659). ordnend. p.]” (KSA 12:9[178]. 21.’ vor der ‘Wirklichkeit’ jeder Art unterwürfiger. generalisirend und souverain gegen Vergangenheit: denn es glaubt an sich. weil sein Ursprung uns verborgen bleibt und weil der Affekt des Befehlenden ihn begleitet” (KSA 11:27[24].] die Leugnung des Willens als ‘wirkende Ursache’. This passage also counts against those who would argue that expert. 27. p. streng gegen das Herz. ihr höheren Naturen. ‘undeutsch. treibt euch zum suffrage universel usw. p. zuerst natürlich unter der Form der bisherigen Cultur (z. 442). ohne jeden Blick für die Wirklichkeit seiner Zeit z. Viel Raubthier au fond.’ dem Burlesken und dem Natürlichen abhold. Umstürze.B. 440–41). . Jahrhundert. p. um etwas Anderes zu bezeichnen” (KSA 12:9[178]. daß er frei und souverän ist. 441). “Der Wille als Erdichtung. p. 18. . pöbelhafter. “2) Die s o u v e r ä n e n I n d i v i d u e n (wo barbarische K r a f t - M e n g e n und die Fessellosigkeit in Hinsicht auf alles Dagewesene sich kreuzen)” (KSA 10:24[25]. und ebendeshalb ‘besser’ ‘ehrlicher. 282). aber nichts ist charakteristischer für seine Philosophie. unterirdischer. daß das Wort f r e i wird.’ sogar ohne Gemüth. then all value lies in self-denial (KSA 12:10[57]. 14. 441). and virtuoso action is a feature of the SI and constitutes a veracious affect regarding our freedom. Jahrhundert ist a r i s t o k r a t i s c h.. hochmüthig gegen das Animalische. Zeugniß von der Souverainetät der Animalität (redlicher. 15. p. Herrschaft der V e r n u n f t. p. Yet Nietzsche goes on to argue that insofar as the idea of sovereignty includes the notion of an individual in-and-for-themselves.’ mit seinem M  o  r  a  l - F a n a t i s m ist ganz 18. aber fatalistisch” (KSA 12:9[178]. es ist kein Zweifel: n a t ü r l i c h e r. “F e m i n i s m Rousseau. “Zeitalter der größten Dummheit. aber traurig und dunkelbegehrlich. 22. p. 659). um Herr zu bleiben. als daß der Wille in ihr fehlt. “Das 17. realistischer. Jahrhundert ist a n i m a l i s c h e r. “E u r e B i l l i g k e i t. die absolute Verleugnung des eigentlichen W o l l e n s” (KSA 12:9[178]. I n n e r l i c h: immer größere Schwäche der Menschen” (KSA 10:24[25]. 23. “1) D  i  e B  a  r  b  a  r  e  n. 659). 28. this aphorism also suggests that the affect of sovereignty is the false unification of different affects into the will (KSA 11:27[24]. Nietzsche then describes how the distinction between I and non-I leads to a sort of dialectic in which value is located in one or the other. Das willenss t a r k e Jahrhundert. It begins by claiming that the psychological error from which the dichotomy moral/immoral (selfless/selfish) emerges is dogmatism about the ego. h ä ß l i c h e r. auch das der starken Leidenschaft” (KSA 12:9[178]. . aber düster)” (KSA 12:9[178]. . 17. ‘ungemüthlich. Brutalität und Erbärmlichkeit der M  a  s  s  e  n und der h ö c h s t e n I n d i v i d u e n” (KSA 10:24[25]. noch völlig außerhalb der historischen Bewegung. . Revolution [. aber willensschwach. p. “A r i s t o k r a t i s m Descartes. Zeugniß von der Souverainetät der Sinne (verlogen)” (KSA 12:9[178]. Dühring)” (KSA 10:24[25]. [. “Schopenhauer sagte ‘Wille’.

36. Even more strange is Owen’s claim that Nietzsche is discussing entitlement to represent ourselves “‘to others as holding certain beliefs or attitudes’ or commitments” (“Nietzsche Ethical Agency and Democracy. 35. I do not see that Acampora’s praise of forgetting is either out of touch with Nietzsche’s text or that it radically suggests some sort of atavistic return. act. I certainly do think that Nietzsche has a conception of the self and of agency. “Autonomy. Hatab. ed. “representing myself to the world” is not some power that I master. 30.” in Nietzsche. which those who praise the SI seem to forget (“On Sovereignty and Overhumanity. Nietzsche’s “On the Genealogy of Morality. Such claims partially explain why their reading has not been more influential. and Self-Love: Nietzsche on Ethical Agency. who also regards this as being Nietzsche’s concern in the SI passage. 2008]: 55). ed. 153. a being with a robust. but he nevertheless regards this figure as “the pre-historic progenitor of the nobles described in Essay I” (57). 2008]. which is a criticism Loeb raises of her interpretation (“Finding the Übermensch in Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morality. If the SI is prehistoric. This strange . premoral Greeks. “Nietzsche on Free Will. I explained that the SI can be seen as the tame animal who is the “perfect instantiation” of social norms insofar as these agree with rational norms. “On Sovereignty and Overhumanity. First.” 150. 112. Richard Schacht. Self-Respect. Self-Respect.” in Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy. perhaps. then he is not Nietzsche’s ideal. Nietzsche’s “On the Genealogy of Morality. I have made this aspect of SI’s inclusion within the herd more explicit based on Nietzsche’s remarks in GM III about the activity of the ascetic priests and the Nachlass. and behave and others represent me. David Owen. Kem Gemes and Simon May (Oxford: Oxford University Press. Making Sense of Nietzsche: Reflections Timely and Untimely (Urbana: University of Illinois Press. he does see the SI as a positive accomplishment. such grand and interpretatively contentious claims are not the best way to make the relatively straightforward textual point that the SI is criticized in GM II. 1995). independent. 33. Loeb.” a notion that Owen borrows from Ken Gemes. but even if I did not.” 149). 36). equating the SI. Acampora.” 152. Hatab. 31. Owen claims that Nietzsche is advancing the idea of “agency free will. is quite mistaken when he suggests that what Nietzsche is claiming here is that “conscience is what allowed the emergence of the human animal from the mere animal” (75). Conway mistakenly regards Nietzsche’s discussion of memory here to be elevatating humans above a mere animal existence that relies entirely on instincts (Nietzsche’s “On the Genealogy of Morals” [London: Continuum. 2009). ” 76. and Politics: Rethinking Nietzsche’s Legacy for Political Thought. Autonomy. The idea of “full competence to represent oneself to the world” strikes me as odd for two reasons. I represent myself to myself but not to the world. 34.234   MATTHEW RUKGABEr 29. Gemes. “Autonomy. But the values of the SI are not those of the more naturalistic. and Self-Love.” in Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy. Herman Siemens and Vasti Roodt [Berlin: de Gruyter.” 78). Power. and Hatab makes a similar point (Acampora. 148). 205. Acampora properly stresses the positive nature of forgetting. Conway does not equate the SI with the ideal of GM II:24. In an earlier version of this article. ” 78–79). although rightly being skeptical of the SI as Nietzsche’s ideal.” 205. Agency free will is just the notion of that an action can be mine without carrying with it the weight of moral responsibility (Owen. “On Sovereignty and Overhumanity. On the other hand. Conway’s discussion does seem to cast the SI in a positive light. Acampora argues that Nietzsche rejects the unity of the self and of being in favor of notions of plurality and becoming. My representation to the world is largely a matter of how others represent me: I present. 32. self-reliant will and conscience that has not been polluted by the moral tradition and bad conscience (58). This was my way of unifying the idea of the SI as the Kantian ideal of a self-legislator with Nietzsche’s critical perspective on the SI as the embodiment of the ascetic tradition. with some of the ancient Greeks that Nietzsche valorizes. This is a rather unique interpretation. Hatab. Nietzsche’s “On the Genealogy of Morality. ” 70. and the Sovereign Individual.

thereby giving rise to the SI. Manuel Dries [Berlin: de Gruyter. But having express. ed. John Richardson helpfully frames the issue in terms of our forming an allegiance to a rule or norm. Richardson’s view is that Nietzsche “affirms the power and freedom in agency in his account of the sovereign individual” (“Nietzsche’s Freedoms. Self-Respect. “‘We Remain of Necessity Strangers to Ourselves’: The Key Message of Nietzsche’s Genealogy. are merely notions of self-directed agency and reflective-normative activity in general (18–19). Schacht. dreams. Even characterizations of it as second-order willing. ed. “have no free will” that we should regard the SI as an ideal for the future (“Nietzsche on Free Will. In his book on Nietzschean “sovereignty. [Amherst. linguistic. or to find oneself bound” (“Nietzsche.” in Nietzsche’s “On the Genealogy of Morals. 39. 88). NY: Prometheus Books. the inheritors of slave . 112. and other variants of future-directed intentionality. assuming that I can’t simply break an allegiance (“Nietzsche’s Problem of the Past. 38. willing to will. Of course we. and the Sovereign Individual. Owen also claims that acquiring the ability to have second-order volitions is essential for there be “normative expectations” regarding the behavior of persons and that therefore it is central to personhood itself (203). expectations. 37. Making Sense of Nietzsche. “Nietzsche on Free Will. and reflective beings have had imperatives bred and burned into them that then enable them to burn imperatives into themselves. namely as a wanton. at least sees that what is at stake here is to “be able to so bind oneself. 42. It is unclear if this is what Richardson means because he merely explains it in terms of memory of a rule. whims.” who does not (149).THE “SOVErEIGN INDIVIDUAL” AND THE “ASCETIC IDEAL”   235 phrase contains. Autonomy. a buried ethical judgment about the need to be honest with others and with oneself. for one.” in Contemporary Analytic and Linguistic Philosophies. Yet the wanton is also representing themselves to the world. therefore. I can be committed to various tasks or ideas (second-order volitions) and release myself from them simply by changing my mind on further reflection. 448).” 37.” asserting that it is simply the idea of “self-commandment” (Nietzsche and the Problem of Sovereignty.” 203). E. 6).” in Nietzsche on Time and History. and Self-Love. Schacht. It is the story of a unique stage in human development. 113. 40. principled commitments (second-order cognitions) is not the same as promising. or forming a principle of willing that one will continue to follow in the future. ed. Making Sense of Nietzsche. Gemes. He says that we cannot guarantee that we can fulfill our promise because of our disorderly drives and so we must not be the SI. who has such competence in self-representing to the world. My second problem with this idea is that Owen contrasts the SI. Gemes incorrectly argues that because we moderns are inheritors of slave morality and. in which already social.C. with the “wanton. or the determination of the individual as such. Tobias Hoffmann [Washington D. Klemke.” in Weakness of Will from Plato to the Present. Ken Gemes. Autonomy.” White defines it extremely generally as “the condition of the individual as an individual. I believe. Owen also regards Nietzsche as simply concerned with “second-order volitions” (willing to will something) (“Autonomy. Tracy Strong. which grounds Owen’s notion of ethical agency. and the Sovereign Individual. 41. 43. 246).” in Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy. the Will to Power. There are many forms of second-order volitions that are not promises: hopes. But this seems false: I can have normative expectations about the behavior of my dog without attributing to it second-order volitions. 1965]. 2008]. I do not take the story of memory in the second essay to be the story of our socialization (89). D. In any case. If one does not address how promising binds the will in a way that creates a fundamental tension in the will by which the power to forget is disconnected and no longer available to us.: Catholic University Press. and the Weak Will. 2008]. then one simply is not talking about promising. which are other characterizations that White uses. 142). Searle’s analysis of the speech act of promising is helpful here.” 37). The “essential condition” is that “S intends that the utterance of T will place him under an obligation to do A” (“What Is a Speech Act?. ” 200.

Nietzsche intends to turn to that which cannot be justified as the meaning of our human history. let us turn now to the present. His main point is that the SI does not fit well with Nietzsche’s life-affirming values. 46.” 154). fiat philosophus. 48. KSA 5.” 151. 8:378). 50. This point is one of the most significant made by Hatab (Nietzsche’s “On the Genealogy of Morality. A Nietzschean Defense of Democracy. See Kant’s notion to “do justice. Gesammelte Schriften. ed. One can find Kaufmann’s mistake. 45. “after the prehistory of making humanity calculable. Nietzsche could mean. 345. This is echoed by Nietzsche in GM III:7 where the ascetic philosopher proclaims. 66. 351). It should be noted that Nietzsche introduces the SI by saying “on the other hand” (“dagegen”). Mary J. “Breaking the Contract Theory: The Individual and the . for the original German. UK: Clarendon Press. fiam!” (“Let the world perish. 83. The fourth possibility is that having identified the meaning and justification of history with the preconditions for the SI. 219). See Acampora “On Sovereignty and Overhumanity. Gesammelte Schriften. pereat mundus”) in Toward Perpetual Peace (1795) (in Practical Philosophy. In his response to Hatab. 1900–]. Only the second option is acceptable for those who argue that the SI is Nietzsche’s ethical ideal. Gregor [New York: Cambridge University Press. we come upon the sovereign individual gives us several options. Kevin Hill (Nietzsche’s Critiques: The Kantian Foundations of His Thought [Oxford. 4:434. “Beyond Selflessness in Ethics and Inquiry. Strangely.” 78). So I have to disagree with Acampora’s remark that the SI is self-undermining in the sense that radical stress on autonomy and the “hypercultivation” of memory results in “an individual who. 49. There is a contrast here. in the work of Aaron Ridley (“Nietzsche’s Intentions: What the Sovereign Individual Promises. to date [Berlin: Akademie der Wissenschaften. 2003].” in Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy. 192) and R. p. 52. though the world perish” (“fiat iustitia. but what is it? Nietzsche’s assertion that when we locate ourselves at the end of the process. see Immanuel Kant. 51. fiat philosophia. are part of a long history of weakening the drives: orderly drives and promising keeping are our expertise. UK: Clarendon Press. May does not think that the SI is presented as the subject of criticism in the second essay but rather just that Nietzsche is unsuccessful in characterizing his positive ideal in it. especially given the stringency of their duty to keep their promise. Immanuel Kant Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. 44. But this overlooks the antinaturalism of the SI. 47. but it is not obvious that is the contrast being made.” Journal of Nietzsche Studies 35–36 [2008]: 130). let there be philosophy. Hatab. However. as sovereign. 1999]. 117). Janaway posits the SI as an actuality of the past that we might embody in some way in the future. and that is correct. Kant. But the identification of the SI and the Übermensch seems incorrect to me. Janaway. Janaway. a view he shares with Conway (“Beyond Selflessness in Ethics and Inquiry. First. 38. that state of affairs indicates that it is a target of criticism not of admiration. The third possible meaning is that Nietzsche means to turn to the perversion of humanity through morality after having identified the true work of humanity on itself to be its becoming regular. without making clear what was “on the one hand” (GM II:2). Simon May’s interpretation is that the SI is unattainable and undesirable as an ideal but also that the SI is the Übermensch figure (Nietzsche’s Ethics and His War on Morality [Oxford. let there be me!”) (GM III:7. “Beyond Selflessness in Ethics and Inquiry.” The second possibility is similar except it would place the SI in the future. But Gemes is right that no one can live up to the antinatural restriction of drives found in the SI.236   MATTHEW RUKGABEr morality and asceticism. There is no reason to think that the SI overcomes morality. 1996]. “Pereat mundus. 23 vols.” 130. let there be the philosopher. for example. and Lawrence Hatab. no longer recognizes claims of moral law” (“On Sovereignty and Overhumanity. in Practical Philosophy.” 130.

so this praise must be scrutinized.g. 56. The SI has no positive value except promise keeping itself: the SI is not given as a unique. 57. I only mention this to provide evidence that the traits of the SI are said to be a part of the present. But all that we know from the passage. NY: Cornell University Press.” 148–49).” he is actually talking about unself-conscious action. 2003].” which points to the person of Enlightenment heritage and the bad conscience in language quite similar to the SI passage. the Will to Power. and the Weak Will. Both Ridley and Owen attempt to understand this embodiment of consciousness in the SI in terms of unreflective activity. built into us and whose necessity we will” is completely unsupported by the text (“Nihilism and the Free Self. falsely. the Will to Power. and the Weak Will.” 248). as May does. arguing that the SI is “permitted to promise” because in so doing one is offering a fundamental expression of one’s nature. Such an idea seems quite out of place in the discussion of the SI. that promise making is an entitlement (“On Sovereignty and Overhumanity. Nietzsche does seem to praise freedom of the will and a will to responsibility as a trait of “the philosopher.” 245–48). 80. 145). rigid being who cares for nothing but keeping the promise. textually based argument as to why Nietzsche rejects the phenomenology of willing as sufficient for determining whether an act or person is free (“Nietzsche’s Theory of the Will. 54.THE “SOVErEIGN INDIVIDUAL” AND THE “ASCETIC IDEAL”   237 Law in Nietzsche’s Genealogy. 58. Power. Her point that promising is a “power” or “depends on a power” does not preclude it being also considered an entitlement: entitlements are a granting of power and of responsibility. 1998]. an activity that one has mastered to such an extent that there “really is no gap between who one is and what one is doing.” which Hatab takes as evidence against his position (Nietzsche’s “On the Genealogy of Morality. that the SI’s actions are one of “respect of one’s own sovereignly legislated values. 104). But he does not conclude that the passage is challenging such an idea of freedom and instead says that Nietzsche is showing here that he has respect and admiration for the notions of responsibility (199). 107–26). in which Nietzsche states that “today one feels responsible only for one’s will and actions. At the end of GM III:10. as it were.” Why else but to bring it into question? Solomon at least notices the scare quotes and recognizes that if this is Kantian freedom then Nietzsche regards it “sarcastically” (Living With Nietzsche: What the Great “Immoralist” Has to Teach Us [New York: Oxford University Press. 53. Kaufmann’s translation has misled numerous philosophers into valuing the SI because of the positive valence of earning “the right” to be the SI (e. 55. But GM III:10 argues that there has been no philosopher in a Nietzschean sense so far and that all philosophers have been products of the ascetic tradition.” in Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy. It assumes that the SI is a nonascetic ideal whose values may include life and the will to power. Leiter gives an excellent. Scare quotes are introduced here around the word “free. 59. no reflective distance between thought and action” (Aaron Ridley. The Nietzschean philosopher shares nothing with the SI. Strong. One cannot overlook the discussion of bad conscience in GS 117. the only value that the .” in Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy.. and supporters of the SI have generally not relied on the positive valence of “having a right” to make their case. “Nietzsche. 198). The problem with this line of interpretation is that it is unsupported by the text. the latter’s sole concern and value being the keeping of promises.” in Nietzsche. and one finds one’s pride in oneself. To say. and Politics. Nietzsche’s Conscience: Six Character Studies from the “Genealogy” [Ithaca. “a declaration of what I am” (“Nietzsche. But even the correct translation of being allowed or permitted still carries the sense of its being an entitlement. for mention of the conflict between the SI and Nietzsche’s overall philosophy of the agent.” 125). Acampora argues that translations of the German phrase as “the right to make promises” makes the passage seem to be saying. Strong attempts something similar. artistic self-expressive being but as a brutal. and it means that when Nietzsche is talking about “consciousness of power and freedom. 76–77. that is. This person is also said “to be a self and to esteem oneself according to one’s own weight and measure” which again is precisely what the SI is said to do. those values that our fatedness has.

612. To rely on the interpretation of amor fati to support one’s reading of the SI allows the defenders of the SI to provide a more flexible reading of the love of fate (see Janaway. “Nietzsche’s Intentions. as far as possible. is the value of promising itself.” 190). But that just begs the question against the person who denies that the SI is not Nietzsche’s ideal at all. Their idea is that of a “whole-hearted commitment” whereby we do not simply intend to fulfill the promise as present conditions allow but will to resist changes in future conditions and still keep our promise (Ridley. in Practical Philosophy.” 186). “Beyond Selflessness in Ethics and Inquiry. a serious effort to consider. fate. Kant. and Self-Love.” 82). “finding that the original promise was unrealizable. 60. I will not dwell on the conflict between the idea of having power over fate and Nietzsche’s positive ideal of loving one’s fate. from a Nietzschean perspective. 1997].” 152) and Hatab (A Nietzschean Defense of Democracy. even though the SI shares no features with those figures. The SI is not looking to its nature and its fundamental passions and values but to the value of promising. 118). given the circumstances as they turned out to be” or “finding . Trusting fate and allowing oneself a multitude of drives and affects.e. 2007]. such punishment is doled out (“Breaking the Contract Theory.” but to “indemnify the promise against the ceteris paribus clause altogether. “Nietzsche’s Intentions. which is why I object to attempts to put a positive spin on the SI by arguing that Nietzschean autonomy is “the will to will” (White. Self-Respect. The problem with this is that goes against everything that is said about the SI. fallibility about the reasonableness and possibility of what was promised and about the intentions/ desires of the promiser) (Ridley. Immanuel Kant. The justification given for their conception of the SI’s promising is not that it is supported by the text but rather that it is realistic.. so that the intention is executed regardless” (Ridley. that there was not. What must be specified is the content of what is willed. for example. . and fits well with other things Nietzsche’s says about ethical action. 66.” 186. Owen. Owen and Ridley argue that the SI’s unique form of promising is one whereby a person does not just agree to carry out the promise. and all circumstances is the following: “The sovereign individual is characterized by a degree of prudence in its commitment-making activity (that is. “Nietzsche’s Intentions. and Nietzsche’s “On the Genealogy of Morality. creating an obligation in the will that is no longer simply up to us. 63. As Hatab points out. Elements such as this within the description of the SI conflict in every way Nietzsche’s actual positive ethic. 8:426. 62. The will to will sounds more like the nihilism of the ascetic priests who want to save the notion of the will regardless of what is willed. 65. “Autonomy. makes the SI a human possibility. Gesammelte Schriften. “all things being equal. . 72). 17).” 130). I believe that this still misses the way that a promise binds and obligates.” 207).” 77). the types of circumstance in which the commitment is to be honored and the range . which is one of the main points made by Acampora (“On Sovereignty and Overhumanity. Conway envisions Nietzsche as “snickering” at the idea that the ability to promise ensures freedom and argues that what would be closer to Nietzsche’s conception of a supramoral sovereign individual is “the criminal” (Nietzsche and the Political [London: Routledge. it is not at all clear why. 61.238   MATTHEW RUKGABEr SI is said to possess. For example. 38. Janaway can identify the SI with the ideal of GM II:24 and with the Dionysian or Goethean ideal proclaimed in the Twilight of the Idols. 64. This argument applies to willing itself. after all. Yet they also state that there are conditions that will invalidate the promise. even conflicting ones. even as such contradictions enter into the reconstructions of Nietzsche’s ideal. On the Supposed Right to Lie from Philanthropy. But this regularly passes without comment. are key notions of Nietzsche’s positive Goethean ideal and not the SI (Beyond Selflessness: Reading Nietzsche’s “Genealogy” [Oxford: Oxford University Press. Owen’s reading of the passages where the SI is said to be necessary and to be the master of nature. an intention” on the part of the promiser to do such and such (i. Nietzsche and the Problem of Sovereignty. The SI promises in a way that is much more radical than Owen and Ridley propose.

and progression. where this prudence is engendered precisely by an acknowledgment of one’s responsibility as extending to those occasions on which the commitment cannot or must not be honored. Richard Schacht [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. it means willingly bearing responsibility for the damage incurred when one’s commitment cannot or must not be kept” (“Autonomy. but that is why Nietzsche is not endorsing the SI. Upholding one’s word ‘even “against” fate’ does not mean fantastically committing oneself to the incoherent goal of doing what is causally or ethically impossible for one to do.THE “SOVErEIGN INDIVIDUAL” AND THE “ASCETIC IDEAL”   239 of costs that may arise fulfillment of the commitment as well as its prospects for conflicting with existing commitments). How One Becomes-Other Than What One Is. 67. Alan Schrift’s analysis of Nietzschean subjectivity as a continual becoming. who will let nothing—not fate. or. Owen is correct that the alternative interpretation of these remarks is that they come out to be absurd. they are positively at odds with the SI description. activity.’” “an attunement to the ecstatic impulses of life. Self-Respect. or any aspect of external reality—alter his promise. 8.” in Nietzsche’s Postmoralism. nature. White does the same. Schrift attributes this conception of subjectivity to the SI nonetheless (“Rethinking the Subject. 20–23).” “a refusal to be limited by any kind of fixed identity. Although all these ideas are part of Nietzsche’s positive ideal. 59). . risking one’s identity at every moment. traits are associated with the SI that simply do not fit with the given description. simply does not fit with the SI as the promise keeper par excellence. and Self-Love.” 207). ed. For example. 2001].” adopting Goethe’s approach to life and the cosmos. Regularly. attributing to the SI “absolute ‘openness to the world. and so on (Nietzsche and the Problem of Sovereignty.