What does Nietzsche mean by consciousness, and does he really consider it unimportant? And if he doesn’t, why does he make so many disparaging remarks about it? In this article the author considers and rejects Mattia Riccardi’s recent claim that Gay Science (GS) 354, Nietzsche’s most important passage on consciousness, is concerned only with reflective or Rconsciousness. The article shows that GS 354 attempts to explain why mental states ever became conscious, not Rconscious. Nietzsche accepts “Sartre’s thesis” that a conscious mental state is always prereflectively self-conscious, hence brings with it the potential to activate the “mirror effect” emphasized in GS 354 but missing from the consciousness of one absorbed in an activity. A conscious mental state is one its possessor “knows” from “the inside,” hence can report to self or others without further observation or inference. The resulting communication is essential to culture, hence to what is of value in human life.

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