Is Nietzsche a Virtue Theorist?
Nietzsche makes liberal use of the language of virtue and vice, and he often appears to be praising and exhorting, condemning and encouraging his readers in just such language. He reflects thoughtfully and at length on issues of character, habit and motivation. And his critical enterprise is explicitly framed by a concern with human flourishing (GM P:3).1 But is Nietzsche a virtue theorist? Notwithstanding a number of strenuous efforts to read him as one, the answer to this question has to be ‘no’.
In the first two sections of this paper, I present two serious obstacles to the development of a virtue-theoretic reading of Nietzsche. In the face of such obstacles, determined commentators have been forced, or at least tempted, to read selectively, to dismiss textual counterevidence as hyperbole or irony, or to otherwise modify or outright deny what Nietzsche says in the interest of supplying him with views compatible with the contemporary virtue tradition in ethical thought....