Sicut Dei as our moral vocation: Paul Valadier's rethinking of Nietzsche

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    In recent years, codes of ethics have been introduced in the banking sector and academia, or have been modified in reaction to recent developments and scandals; earlier on, bioethics commissions were set up to reflect on the ‘ethical’ implications of the so-called ‘sixth technology revolution.’ Yet, this frequent reference to morality and ethics by politicians, managers, medical professionals, technologists, scientists, and lobby groups is quite disquieting. Such moralism, it is argued in this article, not only misunderstands and overshadows the nature of human morality and of humans themselves, but it also expresses the intellectual and political failure to comprehend the source of contemporary ‘moral deficiencies,’ which codes by themselves are incapable of ‘solving.’ The obvious separation between the ‘moral’ and the ‘human’ that is implied in these cases is reinforced by a different current of thought in which the Nietzschean opposition between morality and the affirmation of being is exploited, and accordingly, a life without morality is advocated. Yet another contemporary tendency among (social) scientists is the endeavour to prove how humans, as well as some animals, are ‘naturally’ moral, ‘cannot help’ being moral (or immoral). All these approaches rest on anthropologies in which the human will is neutralized, in both senses of the term. The Jesuit philosopher and theologian Paul Valadier, on the other hand, draws on the Nietzschean legacy to conclude that the affirmation of life is only possible if one is willing to live an authentic moral life, that is, if one is willing to accept the tedious process of becoming human. He thereby opposes the distinction between ‘moral’ and some kind of ‘raw’ human, as well as the belief that certainty can be achieved in the moral domain. His alternative conception of morality as ‘self-creation,’ I argue, has the potential to counter what is commonly called the intellectual and political crises of the ‘West’ by restating the need and ways to create or humanize oneself.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)196-213
    Number of pages18
    JournalInternational Journal of Philosophy and Theology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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