Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Philosophy

Committee Chair

David Sherman

Commitee Members

Bridget Clarke, Ramona Grey


ethics, Nietzsche, philosophy


University of Montana


Friedrich Nietzsche presents clear attacks on deontological and utilitarian branches of ethical theory. His thoughts on virtue ethics, however, are less clear. Some ethicists argue that Nietzsche’s ethical project is essentially virtue ethical, while others argue that Nietzsche fails to put forth an acceptable ethics. Sympathetic virtue ethicists typically focus on Nietzsche’s virtues of individual character, whereas critics often highlight potential problems between the Nietzschean virtuous agent and his or her society. This thesis seeks to respond to the concerns of the latter group, in order to help make room for reading Nietzsche’s ethical discussions in a more positive light. I pursue this line of thought by way of detailed responses to two prominent critics of Nietzsche’s ethics, Alasdair MacIntyre and Philippa Foot. Chapter one responds to MacIntyre’s claim that Nietzsche’s ethical project is a creation of values ex nihilo, without respect to tradition or community, and is therefore relativistic. I argue that this is not the case, and show that Nietzsche’s ethics is perhaps more capable of responding to the problems MacIntyre sees in modernity than MacIntyre allows. In chapter two I respond to Foot’s claim that Nietzsche’s ethics fails because it cannot categorically proscribe even the most egregious acts. In my view, even though Nietzsche rejects the notion of categorical proscriptions, he has a response to Foot’s concern.



© Copyright 2011 Andrew Theodore Soderlund