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Bernard Williams on Nietzsche on the Greeks

Bernard Williams on Nietzsche on the Greeks

(p.159) 7 Bernard Williams on Nietzsche on the Greeks
Robert B. Pippin
University of Chicago Press

In his book Shame and Necessity, Bernard Williams makes common cause with Nietzsche in rejecting the view that the Greek epic and tragic poets had a “primitive” conception of human agency and responsibility, and he sides with Nietzsche in arguing for the superiority of that poetic view over the institution of morality. But Williams’s case for the “tragic culture of the Greeks” is much more limited in scope than Nietzsche’s. Appreciating this difference in its details allows one to see that Nietzsche had a much more distinctive account of human agency itself, and a very different view of true self-knowledge and the difficulty of achieving it, than Williams, despite various convergences on these two issues. These issues are also shown to be relevant to Williams’s sense of Nietzsche’s historical significance.

Keywords:   nihilism, responsibility, asceticism, Snell, Adkins, Darwall, Rousseau, Diderot, neo-Humean, progressivists

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