International Conference at JCU Explores Nietzsche and Kantian Politics

The International Conference on Nietzsche and Kantian Politics

The International Conference on Nietzsche and Kantian Politics

John Cabot University hosted a conference on Friedrich Nietzsche’s critical relation to Kantian political philosophy on December 6-7. Renowned scholars of political philosophy from the United States, Europe and Australia discussed Nietzsche’s engagement with such Kantian themes as autonomy and rights, equality and democracy, morality and politics, war and cosmopolitanism, history and anthropology.

Tracy Strong (California, San Diego / Southampton) opened the conference by analyzing Nietzsche’s early cultural project, and arguing that it is based not on Wagnerian romanticism, but on a radical transformation of our ‘world’ in Kant’s epistemological sense. Hugo Drochon (Cambridge) then considered Nietzsche’s vision of a cultural ‘war of spirits’ by comparing it with Kant’s cosmopolitan vision of ‘perpetual peace’ and Bismarck’s ‘great politics’. Frederick Neuhouser (Barnard-Columbia) analyzed Nietzsche’s sense of ‘bad conscience’ as a spiritual illness caused by political constraints, drawing comparisons with Kant’s own sense of our ‘unsociable sociability’ and arguing that both are intended as ‘theodicies’ of human suffering. The theme of cultural decadence was then taken up by Andrew Huddleston (Oxford), who argued that Nietzsche need not be associated with the unsavory idea of eliminating ‘decadent’ elements or individuals, since such an attitude would itself be decadent. Martine Prange (Leiden) considered Nietzsche’s treatments of themes in Kantian cosmopolitanism, with a view to developing a plausible Nietzschean alternative. David Owen (Southampton) focused on Kant’s and Nietzsche’s senses of ‘freedom’ as non-domination, and argued that Nietzsche intends agonistic competition to prevent the cultural conformity that concerned Kant. In the final session, Andrew Benjamin (Monash/Kingston) criticized Nietzsche on Kantian grounds, by arguing that Nietzsche’s denial of unconditional standards leaves us without meaningful guidance in moral and political judgment.

The conference was organized by Prof. Tom Bailey, and was the sixth in a series examining Nietzsche’s relation to Kant and Kantianism, each focusing on specific areas and texts of Kant’s philosophy. Previous conferences were held on ethics in Leiden, aesthetics in London, epistemology in Lisbon, religion in Belo Horizonte, and anthropology in Lecce, and another will be held on the transcendental in Galway in March 2014.