Nietzsche's polychrome exemplarism

Mark Alfano*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


In this paper, I develop an account of Nietzschean exemplarism. Drawing on my previous work, I argue that an agent's instincts and other drives constitute her psychological type. In this framework, a drive counts as a virtue to the extent that it is well-calibrated with the rest of the agent's psychic economy and meets with sentiments of approbation from the agent's community. Different virtues are fitting for different types, and different types elicit different discrete emotions in people with fine-tuned affective sensitivity, making Nietzsche's exemplarism doubly pluralistic. Exemplars show us how a type is expressed in different social and cultural contexts. Some live up to the full potential of their type, while others are stymied and demonstrate how pernicious influences can wreck a person's psychology. While some exemplars inspire admiration that leads to emulation, others elicit a range of other emotions, such as envy, contempt, and disgust. If this is right, then Nietzschean exemplarism offers a richer, more evaluatively and motivationally nuanced moral psychology than the monochrome admire-and-emulate model currently popular.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-64
Number of pages20
JournalEtica e Politica
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Digital humanities
  • Exemplar
  • Moral psychology
  • Nietzsche
  • Vice
  • Virtue


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