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Scepticism and self-transformation in Nietzsche–on the uses and disadvantages of a comparison to Pyrrhonian scepticism

Mitcheson, Katrina



© 2016 BSHP. Scepticism is central to Nietzsche’s philosophical project, both as a tool of criticism and, through its role in self-transformation, as a tool for responding to criticism. While its importance in his thought and its complexity have been acknowledged, exactly what kind of scepticism Nietzsche calls for still stands in need of analysis. Jessica Berry’s [Nietzsche and the Ancient Skeptical Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011] comparison between Nietzsche and Pyrrhonian scepticism recognized the importance of the practical dimension of Nietzschean scepticism but distorted Nietzsche’s philosophy in attempting to paint it as Pyrrhonian in character. Earlier discussions recognize Nietzsche’s opposition to Pyrrhonian suspension of judgement and tranquillity. They have not, however, explored in sufficient detail Nietzsche’s sceptical practice and how it affects the individual. In this article, I combine Berry’s emphasis on scepticism as a practice with attention to the important differences between Nietzsche and Pyrrhonism. I outline Nietzsche’s scepticism as a transformative practice, arguing that its differences from Pyrrhonian scepticism are as illuminating as any similarities. The scepticism that Nietzsche advocates involves not just destruction of our beliefs but destruction of who we are, and at the same time as cultivating the capacity to do without certainty, requires an experimental engagement with our drives–allowing the creation of new values.


Mitcheson, K. (2017). Scepticism and self-transformation in Nietzsche–on the uses and disadvantages of a comparison to Pyrrhonian scepticism. British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 25(1), 63-83.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 17, 2016
Online Publication Date Oct 3, 2016
Publication Date Jan 2, 2017
Deposit Date Jul 28, 2016
Journal British Journal for the History of Philosophy
Print ISSN 0960-8788
Electronic ISSN 1469-3526
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 25
Issue 1
Pages 63-83
Keywords Nietzsche, scepticism, experiment, going-under, Pyrrhonism, Hellenism
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in British Journal for the History of Philosophy on 03 October 2016, available online:


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