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There is nearly unanimous agreement, among those who bother to pay attention to Nietzsche's anomalous claim about the "sovereign individual" in the second essay of On the Genealogy of Morals that the "sovereign" is Nietzsche's ideal, and many more still take sovereignty as the signature feature of the overman Nietzsche heralds in his Thus Spoke Zarathustra and other writings. I describe the reception among Nietzsche scholars as "nearly unanimous" because there has been at least one cry of dissent: that issued by Lawrence Harab. Curiously, his brief but incisive comments about the problematic nature of several readings along these lines continue to be ignored. With this chapter, I add my voice to his and call for a rally. Emphases on Nietzsche's sovereign individuality encourage what I shall argue is a misreading of the passage in question. Moreover, this mistake has far-reaching consequences insofar as it supports a mischaracterization of Nietzsche's philosophy generally and results in a failure to consider significant ways in which Nietzsche's conception of the subject might be relevant for contemporary moral philosophy.


This chapter was first published in International Studies in Philosophy 36:3 (Fall 2004): 127-45, and revised for publication in Critical Essays on the Classics: Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morals (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2006). All rights reserved.

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