Nietzsche essay 1 summary

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Nietzsche genealogy of morals essay 1 summary

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Copypasting is out of the question, our writers perform professional research and deliver original content. Your academic reputation is safe with us! High-quality papers. So let us improve your grades by taking care of your homework! Custom homework help. Your custom homework help is one click away! Here is the hinge of his entire thesis, not only for The Genealogy of Morals, but for much of his entire philosophy. For Nietzsche, since the golden age of the Greeks man has experienced inexorable decline; a loss of animalism, of feeling at home in nature, or instinct and strength.

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In its stead has come arid intellectualism, petty utility over aesthetic grandeur, the debasement of the natural aristocracy at the hands of the herd-like multitude. And the catalyst for this cataclysm began with the general rise of the priestly caste, especially in Palestine and India, but occurring in some form everywhere. The Jews, slaves in Egypt for centuries, managed to turn the original, aristocratic morality on its head. They created a God who favored them, the vanquished, as the chosen race; who saw their race as clean and others unclean; who promised eventual deliverance.

With the rise of the priestly caste in India and elsewhere began the first, sinister transvaluation of values, from which, Nietzsche insists we still suffer. But Nietzsche is more at home in the West than the East, and the first essay follows the historical thread of his argument from prehistoric times to his own day.

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In however sketchy a form, Nietzsche provides an original and alternative view of history. Lending such colossal drama to history is exciting stuff, but relies on appeals to our intuition tantamount to a suspension of disbelief. It is here that Nietzsche is most original and convincing. First the priest manufactures the illusion of the moral agent, making weak and strong alike responsible for their state, a matter of choice , rather than a manifestation of natural accident and breeding. Instead of supposed natural generosity of aristocrats to their own, we now have the onus of responsibility to others regardless of our estimation of their worth.

Perhaps exploring the contemporary effects of morality on mankind can equally expose their effects on ancient man, for whom morality was perhaps not inevitable, at least in its familiar form. To support his case, Nietzsche must dissuade us from our conception of conscience, as well as our views toward the underlying motivations of pity, kindness, meekness and other attributes of the ascetic priest, who, despite being seen as increasingly misguided by Enlightenment and Romantic thinkers alike, was usually not depicted as being evil incarnate.

Certainly St. To achieve this end, Nietzsche portrays a time when ancient man held no moral views, lived in his glorious animal nature, and had not yet been subverted by the wicked priestly caste. In this early state, promises existed only between equals, a responsibility toward immediate family and perhaps fellow warriors, certainly not toward the downtrodden. The notion of punishment originated as retaliation for broken contracts and failure of repayment, and has none of its later righteous tincture. With this key conception in place, justice is soon conceived as the means to exact comparable revenge from debtors; a table of punishments can be drawn up, now that acts can be evaluated in terms of their damage to the creditor.

Mutuality and commensurateness replace the former individuality of all persons and actions. Instead, Nietzsche anxiously presses on to a critique of the State, asserting that it emerged in much the same position as the early creditor. Always eager to extol the virtues of the state, courts of law exist as much to remind law-breakers of the benefits the state has given them as to punish them. As societies grow in power, offenses are taken less seriously; offenders as seen more as pesky insects.

From his depiction of the State as supreme creditor, Nietzsche offers an analysis of justice. For Nietzsche, this already represents a degeneration in the notion of justice, which Nietzsche believes degenerates pari passu to the extent that it is a reactive feeling—Nietzsche attaching greater value to proactive behavior of any sort. For Nietzsche, the fact that before responding to aggression the reactive man must first consult a table of punishments—implicit or explicit—means that he is somehow false and counter-instinctual.

Consider this extraordinary passage:. The democratic idiosyncrasy against everything which rules and wishes to rule, the modern misarchism to coin a bad word for a bad thing , has gradually but so thoroughly transformed itself into the guise of intellectualism, the most abstract intellectualism, that even nowadays it penetrates and has the right to penetrate step by step into the most exact and apparently the most objective sciences: this tendency has, in fact, in my view already dominated the whole of physiology and biology, and to their detriment, as is obvious, in so far as it has spirited away a radical idea, the idea of true activity.

II, Thus, Nietzsche, while tackling the problems of man-as-animal explicitly rejects the Darwinian vision, and strives for his own original depiction of man-as-animal. That is to say, before the sinister transvaluation of values weakens the strong.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844—1900)

Law, presumably a mechanism for justice, represents a war against reactive feelings, an attempt by the state to control them, to enjoy a monopoly of force. But the idea that law or morality can represent any absolute good is absurd; the war of the wills still rages. The establishment of the State signifies that the old war of wills will continue to be waged through different channels and apparatuses, but continue nonetheless.

For Nietzsche, punishment, like any custom, undergoes such a dramatic transmogrification over time that its final end is often a diametric opposite of its original intention. Again, the procedures of certain punishments existed long before they were put to use in the name of the State or a moral code. But now the application of punishment is sometimes justified as a mechanism to induce guilt in the victim of the punishing power—as if pain or solitude will somehow awaken the sleeping conscience.

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After devoting the first fifteen sections of the second essay to brief descriptions of the origins of promises, memory, justice, the state, obligation, punishment, and conscience, Nietzsche turns to the ill effects of conscience on mankind. To do so, he contrasts the hallowed, pre-moral era, with the time immediately after the establishment of the state.


  1. Nietzsche: Genealogy of Morals: First Essay.
  2. Nietzsche's Concept of the Will to Power;
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But first he returns to embellish his theory of the origin of the state. In the early state, ancestors assumed a place of preeminent authority, and in some cases were even worshipped because of their role in creating the existing social structure.

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Nietzsche posits that in the fear of such ancestors may lay the origin of gods themselves—significantly, from fear , still a primary motivation in belief. Progress towards universal empires invariably means progress towards universal deities; despotism, with its subjugation of the independent nobility, always paves the way for some system or other of monotheism. By digging into the grisly roots of Western cultural history, Nietzsche has offered his own account of the origins of the state, and later, of religion, as an offshoot thereof.

Still aiming for the knockout blow, Nietzsche offers another scalding explanation for the rise of Christianity. As belief in a God tends to wane or ossify as in 1st Century B. Palestine there grows the belief that the debt to God cannot be paid as with the state, the relationship between God and man is that of creditor and debtor. At first this realization brings horrible guilt; later man turns against his creditor God, or nature, or even existence [24] ; eventually man finds alleviation in the unique claims of Christianity: that God, the creditor, has sacrificed himself out of love for his debtor!

Tamed man, following Christian dictums, turns his natural instinct for cruelty against himself, and psychologically impales himself on the opposing horns of God and the devil. Or he completely eschews the pleasures of this life, mortifying his flesh in hopes of pleasure and reward in the next.

And this for Nietzsche highlights the horrors of Christianity, the reason for his ceaseless critique: that many otherwise strong spirits, as well as entire eras, have had their strong natural instincts trod underfoot and repressed by Christian dogma. For Nietzsche, refining and exercising our wills in this life is the ultimate end, and any dogma that inhibits this process is a manifestation of sickness. In depicting this dogma as all-intrusive, Nietzsche attempts to show first how even artists and philosophers—usually considered free-thinkers—are themselves afflicted by this dogma, as manifested in their works, which often exude the sickly smells of morality and asceticism.

Nietzsche seems especially prescient of twentieth century trends in literature in stating that man has a need for some will, some goal, even the will for nothingness—a statement that seems to anticipate existentialism, and the literature of the absurd, as much as it is a critique of nineteenth century nihilism. But aside from Wagner, Nietzsche aims to show that asceticism is a common but by no means necessary trait of the artist.