Is Nietzsche a Perfectionist?

Vanessa Lemm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Stanley Cavell's reading of Nietzsche as a moral perfectionist is without doubt the most influential perfectionist reading of Nietzsche. Cavell developed his interpretation of Nietzsche as a moral perfectionist in response to John Rawls's use of Nietzsche in A Theory of Justice.1 In a footnote of that book, Rawls cites a passage from Nietzsche's "Schopenhauer as Educator" in order to illustrate the principles of political perfectionism, which he condemns as "inherently undemocratic and elitist."2 Cavell, however, defends the moral perfectionism he finds in Nietzsche's philosophy of culture on the basis that such perfectionism is indispensable in fashioning an internal critique of democracy, vital to "the life of justice in a constitutional democracy."3
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-27
Number of pages23
JournalThe Journal of Nietzsche Studies
Issue number34
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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