Nietzsche, La Mettrie, and the Question of the Legitimacy of Punishment: A Hidden Source?

by Marco Piazza

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), starting from the years of Human, All Too Human (Menschliches Allzumenschliches: 1876-1878) elaborates a conception of punishment based on an organic reflection on the origin of morality, the function of custom, the critique of remorse and the origin of justice, a reflection that then finds a definitive reworking at the time of On the Genealogy of Morality (Zur Genealogie der Moral: 1887). About one hundred and thirty years earlier, in his Discourse on Happiness (Discours sur le bonheur: 1748-1751), Julien Offray de La Mettrie (1709-1751) had elaborated a conception of punishment with several analogous lines. Starting from this theoretical coincidence, in this article we ask ourselves: did Nietzsche know the theories of La Mettrie? Had he read his works? Do the two philosophers really support the same theories? To try to give an answer to these questions, we will first present the doctrine of La Mettrie and then that of Nietzsche, before presenting a final balance sheet of the survey.

DOI 10.23815/2421-2156.ITALJ           ISSN 2421-2156

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