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Nietzsche on the genealogy of morals first essay

Note's on Nietzsche's Genealogy A warning.

  • When in reality the noble class is as unmindful of evil as animals are;
  • Edited by Daniel Breazeale, and translated by R.

There is much disagreement in Nietzsche scholarship. For example, some philosophers read him as often being ironic; these philosophers might then read The Genealogy of Morals as offering a kind of reductio ad absurdum of some of the claims he makes in that book.

In these notes, I read Nietzsche "straight"--I do not interpret him as being ironic. There are however some themes which unite his work and are common to much of it. Nature is incomplete at least in the sense that it cannot alone provide purposes which are sufficient.

Non-human animals are without worthy purposes, for example. Thus, from Schopenhauer as Educator: Again, from Schopenhauer as Educator: That is, to be able to assert and endorse your life would be a triumph of a kind.

The man who creates ideals and can face the possibility of eternal return is the overman. Antithesis to the overman is the last man, who is comfortable with animal pleasures alone, and who does not bother to even care about these issues. Christianity is the morality of the slave: Democracy is like Christianity in being antithetical to the task of fostering the overman.

Psychology is a fundamental science, and often our theories are expressions of unconscious motives and beliefs. Philosophical systems are often just expressions of the author's view, for example; and more often yet just expressions of the most pedestrian beliefs of one's time.

However, Nietzsche believes that philosophy has a great and important task: He only denigrates the idea tha philosophy is a rational, disinterested investigation of things, and also he denigrates philosophers who try to emulate scientists with their indifference to values. The Will to Power is a fundamental drive that can explain much, perhaps all, human endeavors. This is a theme that Nietzsche does not do much to explain; he seems to have meant to work this out more but did not stay healthy long enough to do so.

Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals Here, Nietzsche uses the term "genealogy" in its fundamental sense: He is going to offer a theory of the genesis of Christian morality, which nietzsche on the genealogy of morals first essay believes is also democratic morality. His historical analysis is a radical attack on these morals, offering a kind of social and psychological account of why they arose, as a replacement for the Christian story of these ethics being grounded in the will of the Christian god.

Nietzsche has an alternative theory of value, which is only implicit in this book, and arises from his views about the will to power. We will discuss this. Note that Christians, and nearly all if not all theists, tend to implicitly accept what I have called Foundationalism about Purpose. The character of Ivan in Doestoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov expresses this sentiment clearly when he says that if the Christian God does not exist, then "all is lawful," by which he means that any old purpose will count as well as any other which may, given some understandings of "purpose," be just to deny that there are purposes.

In these notes, and in the notes I write on other philosophers and artists, I will save time by sometimes taking N's point of view. This is not an endorsement of his view, but rather a shorthand way to avoid having to write "Nietzsche says. The English psychologists are perhaps men nietzsche on the genealogy of morals first essay Hobbes and Hume; or, since he is mentioned later in the book, Herbert Spencer.

All these philosophers share that they wrote on the origin of morality in terms of historical development. N argues the English psychologists have a genealogy of the good that claims our ancestors found some unegotistical acts useful to themselves, and then later "forgot" this self-referring aspect of the usefulness, and just began to call unegotistical acts good.

N instead begins with the claim that the concept of good started not as a label for unselfish acts, but rather as a label of distinguishing the noble in various senses from those to which the nobles considered themselves superior N seems to be willing to say, that nobles were in fact superior. It is a later development to associate good with unegotistical acts, and his genealogy is largely concerned to trace this development.

N claims the English psychologists' notion that our ancestors "forgot" the self-benefitting aspect of unselfish is ridiculous -- the benefit of an action must be present at all times in order for us to form the habit of calling that action good.

N was a philologist a scholar of languages and their development by training and for a short while by profession.

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He claims that nietzsche on the genealogy of morals first essay etymology of the many various cognates in different languages for "good" all reveal an origin in some notion of being aristocratic and noble. N believes this is compelling evidence for his central claim. N goes on to give some examples of etymological and philological speculations. For example, dark can mean bad and lower in Italy, and blond in Gaelic meant noble and good, because he claims the conquerors and rulers of these places at one time were blond haired.

N does not appear to mean to endorse the idea here that being blond is good, but rather just claims that it is a historical fact that these places -- during the relevant period in the development of these terms like "Fin" -- were conquered by blond people. N admits that good has also included often the concept of pure.

He argues that the early rulers, for which the ancestral concepts of our "good" first applied, were sometimes priests. Priests are, N claims here, a bad thing -- they transform rulers into inactive and unhealthy people. But they do also ask interesting questions, and have therefore some benefit as N implicit understands benefit. Historically, however, there is a split between priest and warrior, and the priests are weak and impotent.

As a result, they are overwhelmed with resentment and hate. This resentment and hate was in some ways beneficial, since it generated or allowed for many social and cultural creations I believe that N's point here is that without this resentful attack on the noble warriors, those noble warriors would have happily spent the next two thousand years jousting and fighting and so on, as opposed to developing other aspects of society like art.

He sees the Jews as the victors in a great inversion of values. They were oppressed by warrior nobles e. Jesus is the culmination of this inversion of values. The victory of Christianity is the ultimate revenge of the weak over the strong, the slave over the noble, the priestly over the warrior. Christian churches are almost irrelevant now in the spread of this inverted morality, it is so pervasive. He argues that the resentful measure themselves always against others, especially against the nobles.

They are reactive, and because they are impotent they harbor festering hatreds. Nobles instead, he claims, are so full of life and purpose that they don't have time to measure themselves against others. Nor do they harbor hatreds -- they act on insults immediately or are too busy accomplishing things to hold onto hatreds.

I find this section problematic. On the one hand, many of us know people who are full of energy and life and plans, and as a result are generous and never petty. Many of us know people who are petty and mean precisely because they really have no good purpose and are jealous of others who do. On the other hand, nobles -- and all human beings, one might suppose -- likely measure themselves against others.

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If N's concept of nobility is essentially comparative, and the noble are those who are better than others, then the nobles are just as externally oriented as the resentful.

What is unclear here is whether everyone can be noble -- and, to refer to another concept of Nietzsche's, whether everyone can be a super wo man. One way out of this problem for N might be to argue that the features that were recognized as noble are only contingently features of nobility, and rather arise from being independent, self-willed, autonomous, etc.

Then they would be elitist features but not necessarily measured against others. The noble conceive only as an afterthought of "bad," and it plays a minor role in their view. The resentful develop the concept of evil, and it is essential to everything they do. Bad and evil are both the opposite nietzsche on the genealogy of morals first essay "good," but bad and evil are different.

One notion of good is the noble. This was the old or original notion. Another notion, the resentful or slave's notion of good, is weak, unselfish, unassertive. Its opposite is the noble the other notion of good! They are "blond beasts" Kaufmann argued that Nietzsche meant by this term a lion: But this does not mean that the resentful slave morality is beneficial because it cages this blond beast. Rather, we should be willing to live with danger in order to have something noble.

Sympathetic philosophers have argued that Nietzsche sees the great artist as the best example of the new possible noble.

22 points from Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals

If this is correct, it is unfortunate that his example here of allowing some alternative to a resentful culture is to allow the danger of raping, killing, and pillaging. It may be that Nietzsche's rhetorical style sacrifices precision for flourish and effect.

However, in his notes published as The Will to Power, he seems more explicitly to endorse violence as a necessary feature of the great; furthermore, if we set aside the works on Wagner, Nietzsche's praise of warriors far, far outweighs his mention or praise of artists.

This makes me suspicious of those who want to make Nietzsche seem nicer than he sounds. Nietzsche is aware that he will be accused of nihilism since he denies the values that most hold dear. Here, he argues that there is a nihilism that is growing out of the culture that the resentful slaves have created. This culture suppresses the will to power that he believes creates values. N believes that there is a confusion in much theorizing, in which we posit a reality behind appearance when it is unnecessary to do so.

Also, he believes the strong man is the one who does things that require strength. The resentful claim instead that the strong man is capable of doing things that require strength, and can choose not to do them.

This is a contradiction for N, but it also allows the resentful to claim that the strong choose to do the things that require strength, and therefore can be said to be accountable for those things. Also, they are thus allowing that they can call someone who never does anything strong, "strong. Similarly, the weak adopt the false consciousness that their weakness is a merit.

  • N claims the English psychologists' notion that our ancestors "forgot" the self-benefitting aspect of unselfish is ridiculous -- the benefit of an action must be present at all times in order for us to form the habit of calling that action good;
  • But who would not find it a hundred times better to fear if he could at the same time be allowed to admire, rather than not fear and no longer be able to rid himself of the disgusting sight of the failures, the stunted, the emaciated, the poisoned?
  • And this No is its creative act.

But really, to be weak is to be unable to do things requiring strength. How can this inability be a merit? Nietzsche imagines a kind of festering dark basement of the collective unconscious, where in bad faith the resentful values are made. Here, weakness is called merit, inability to revenge is called forgiving, suffering is called bliss, subjection is called obedience, the longing for retaliation is called longing for justice, and the inability to create a better life here is assuaged with the claim that there is a better life after this one.

The gate to Dante's hell is inscribed, "I too was created by eternal love," meaning God's love created even hell, presumably for our benefit. Nietzsche claims the gate to heaven should read, "I too was created by eternal hate," since heaven and the victory of the Christian God over the strong is all the product of the hateful spite of the weak.

As evidence of this claim, he offers a disturbing phrase from Saint Thomas: This passage from Tertullian is very striking in light of Nietzsche's earlier claims.

We might, of course, doubt: Tertullian's early writings, including this one, are widely considered by scholars of Catholicism to be orthodox, acceptable, important early Christian works.