Zur Genealogie der Moral : eine Streitschrift

by Friedrich Nietzsche

Paperback, 1997



Call number

CG 5904 G326



Stuttgart: Reclam


On the Genealogy of Morals (1887) is a book about the history of ethics and about interpretation. Nietzsche rewrites the former as a history of cruelty, exposing the 4entral values of the Judaeo-Christian and liberal traditions - compassion, equality, justice - as the product of a brutal process of conditioning designed to domesticate the animal vitality of earlier cultures. The result is a book which raises profoundly disquieting issues about the violence of both ethicsand interpretation. Nietzsche questions moral certainties by showing that religion and science have no claim to absolute trut

User reviews

LibraryThing member NoLongerAtEase
Of all the books by or about Nietzsche, I think this particular edition of the Genealogy would be the best place for the novice to start. The introduction by Clark (a very well regraded Nietzsche scholar) is excellent and provides a workable framework for interpreting a text (and an author) that
Show More
can often be difficult to decipher.

The scholarly apparatus is exhaustive; the editors provide end notes that cover nearly every page in the original text and help the reader to make sense of Nietzsche's sometimes unclear allusions and provide voluminous biographic and bibliographic detail covering both Nietzsche and the interlocutors he mentions in the text (as well as a few he merely alludes to).

As for the text itself, I think it is notable primarily for the genealogical analysis of the concepts of good/right-bad/wrong and for a glimpse of Nietzsche's "perspectivalist" epistemology in the third section.

These views have been highly influential (although not among philosophers as such) over the past century and anyone that wishes to understand the course and trajectory of 20th century thought should be aware of them. Nietzsche is a master stylist, so the reading is fun as well as thought provoking.

Of course, the central question, considering Nietzsche qua philosopher, is this: Does Nietzsche get thing right?

I think it's pretty clear that the answer is "no". Although his castigation of scientific atheism as an extension (perhaps the highest extension) of religious asceticism shows depth and brilliance, he doesn't ever give us any solid arguments for thinking that truth itself hinges on particular standards of evaluation. Nietzsche seems to me to be skeptical of the idea of truth as correspondence (the standard view) because it situates truth outside of life. It makes truth something that transcends individual human beings. Perhaps this is true, and given Nietzsche's rejection of any and all transcendent things it makes sense that he'd want to reject truth conceived of in this way. What isn't clear is that he CAN do this, that is, that his view is warranted. The fact that the correspondence of theory of truth has implications that Nietzsche finds repulsive is no reason for thinking that it's false.

Furthermore, without some notion of truth as correspondence, it's not clear that his earlier critique of moral concepts has any real bite.
Show Less
LibraryThing member djlimb
Hey you know what them Christians really piss me of walking about the place claiming all these absolutes of whats good and bad. Morality wasn't set in stone it evolved, there were different views before them and there sure as hell can be different views after them.
LibraryThing member Big_Bang_Gorilla
Being three essays in which the great prophet of atheism discusses the origins of morality, particularly Christian morality, in human psychology, contrasting an asceticism which attempts to appeal to a mass mind to older, pagan mentalities which the author considers superior. As always with
Show More
Nietzsche, the book is full of insights which are expressed in colorful and dramatic language. The book is jumpy, though, and extremely esoteric. It often seems that no two paragraphs have the least connection with each other, which is somewhat typical of Nietzsche's rambling later books. .
Show Less
LibraryThing member Michael.Bradham
A book of 3 essays. Almost stopped reading after introduction. Then again half way through first essay. Found a few statements interesting in first 2 essays.
Found third essay a bit more interesting.
Neitzsche mentions becoming more Chinese. Also shutting down animal aspects of humans and
Show More
hibernating, internalizing instincts. I wonder how Nietzsche exercised.
Show Less
LibraryThing member madepercy
The word ought has its origins in the word owe. Whether or not this relationship survives translation I don't know, but why let semantics get in the way of a good idea. Reading Beyond Good and Evil before attempting this follow-up work would be the more logical option. But I doubt one can simply
Show More
dip one's toe in to Nietzsche anyway - it is a case of diving in head first and trying to make sense of the turmoil. Nietzsche's racism reflects the tone of the times, and there is plenty of conflicting views to support the argument that his sister re-construed his work to fit comfortably with the Nazis. But in the end I felt Nietzsche's racism was as relevant to Nazism as Jack London's. It is interesting that he seems to support women's rights (remembering that J.S. Mill's On the Subjection of Women was published 18 years before), planes the edges off his Orientalism with Buddhism and Brahmanism, and doesn't appear so overjoyed at the "death of God" as Atheist's gleefully point out. Indeed, Nietzsche makes a point of saying that science is a more advanced form of the "ascetic ideal". The back cover of the work sums up Nietzsche's thesis as "culture and morality, rather than being eternal verities, are human-made". This is an oversimplification that reduces the depth of his work. Far be it for me to be an apologist for Nietzsche - the "intellectual" gatekeepers would never let such work be published today - but the brilliance is in its originality. To comprehend the thesis adequately, prior reading of Buddhism, Luther, Brahmanism, Kant, Spinoza, Goethe, Feuerbach, and Schopenhauer would be helpful but is not essential. However, a knowledge of the classics (at least Plato) is important. Nietzsche final words are that "man will wish Nothingness rather than not wish at all". I immediately thought of the maxim "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail". Probably the most useful idea from this work is that one needs to go back to first principles in establishing a philosophy - does or can truth exist? - (and even if we don't care to consciously develop a philosophy, the shepherds of the "herd mentality" will provide one for us without our knowledge or consent), and Nietzsche does so by regularly referring back to "Heracleitus" and Hesiod. I have already picked up the scent of the pre-Socratics and their importance in understanding the human-created chasm between philosophy and religion (and more recently, but less convincingly, between science and religion), and Nietzsche confirms this clue. Rather than the über-power of pre-Enlightenment Christian church and its priesthood driving the herd, Nietzsche foresaw ("forsooth"?) the pluralism of modern asceticism (which annoys me on Facebook, Twitter, and the news media any time I look). Admittedly, he was optimistic about this future, but then he didn't know what "the Internet" would say about him (how I loathe that saying!). So why don't I see the ascetic for what it is and just get off Facebook once again? Well. it's the guilt, you see. But you can't blame me - I didn't create it (Facebook or the guilt).
Show Less
LibraryThing member .json
"What clues does the study of language, in particular etymological research, provide for the history of the development of moral concepts?"

Such a great project - to historicise what other philosophers (even now) try to make ahistorical. Too bad Nietzsche himself cannot escape historicisation. Like
Show More
all the race stuff. Yikes.
Show Less


Original publication date



3150071232 / 9783150071236
Page: 0.2554 seconds