Paper 2: Nietzsche’s GM

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Nietzsche wrote his Genealogy of Morality in part to answer his critics who claimed he was simply making wild assertions with little appeal to evidence. For ease, I have separated my description of the book and the claims it makes from my discussion and evaluation of these.

Clearly this is somewhat artificial, for example a number of Nietzsche’s best replies are that the critic has misread what he is actually claiming, but to do it this way does seem to help for teaching and learning. I will add more content later, but for starters here is a presentation that I think explains the ‘argument’ reasonably clearly:

And here are the summaries that we made in class together:


I’ve tried to put the criticisms into sections (as they appear in GM). This may not have been entirely helpful as there are some of them I would mention in any Paper 2 question on Nietzsche. I haven’t explained any of the concepts either, other than where a better understanding is in answer to a poor criticism. Because of this you will need to make separate revision material on the content of GM. jb

Preface: Why ‘backwards’ genealogies have it wrong…

  • Reé and the ‘English Psychologists’ give a differing account for the rise in ‘morals’ and ‘punishment’. Their explanation involves concepts like ‘freedom’, ‘desert’, ‘guilt’ etc. Nietzsche’s contention is that each of these actually came about as developments (even creations) after the revolt. But how do we go about deciding who is correct?
  • Nietzsche is claiming that these, and almost everyone else, have made a simple mistake. They have assumed that the roots of something must valuable in the same way we think that today’s version is. Nietzsche (with Darwin) denies this. This is the insight of the genealogical method. For (a bad) example, the tongue was presumably at some point most valuable in light of its ability to mix food with saliva. That led to its aiding survival and this has nothing to do with the ability to communicate and make a greater variety of sounds. Which is highly valuable to us now. The values of things can shift even when the mechanisms are constant.
  • Nietzsche is a denier of the metaphysical. To him any attempt to invoke another world is nonsense.
  • The aforementioned assume that pre-man had free-will, that they one day sat down with one another and made a deal. Again Nietzsche finds this incredible. He talks of a darwinian beast and a modern man having a conversation! No, the change must have been more gradual. ‘Free-will ‘, he says, came after much else.
  • FN thinks both ‘psychological introspection’ and philology support his version of events (Interestingly even MacIntyre has to acknowledge he was an excellent philologist; “his account of ‘good’ is totally compelling”).
  • The charge Nietzsche brings against Kant is that he thinks the Prussian knows something and then demonstrates it – this works equally on Reé et al. Using today’s values to evaluate past and intermediate values is, Nietzsche thinks, nonsensical.

Discussion of Essay 1: the transvaluation of values

Genetic Fallacy?

People commit the ‘genetic fallacy’ when they assume that they have explained something ‘away’ (or explained it completely) by giving a full account of the causes involved in its occurrence. Nietzsche follows Feuerbach in this understanding of religious belief as projection (It would be nice…) and Hegel in the belief that a thing’s origins are the best way to understand it properly. This is related to the intense opposition to Reé of the GM’s Introduction. FN at no point offers proof that religion or God’s existence is false. What he does do is offer an alternative explanation for why these things came about (Generally religious people consider God or some sort of revelation to be the cause of religion).

Nietzsche is not unaware of the genetic fallacy – he mentions it by name in ‘Gay Science’. Some scholars have argued that he escapes the fallacy by interpreting him as offering a critique of the ‘internal consistency’ of Morality in the Pejorative Sense (MPS). In plain english this means that these scholars think he attacks MPS saying something like “you say selfishness is bad and selflessness is good, but your reasons for thinking that are super-selfish and hate filled”. But this is just a subtler version of the same fallacy.

IMPORTANT: a lot of scholars (including Leiter) realise that even if he does commit the fallacy it is not that damaging to his overall project! He wants to set men free from the grips of MPS. Rhetoric is his chosen weapon – it is most likely to be effective and one suspects that he might well have criticised analytic philosophers for following Kant, Socrates and other deniers of Dionysius! It would have been ridiculous for him to use the very tools he is defying to make his point.

As another example, Nietzsche sees belief in God as a projection. He, like Freud, draws our attention to the wealth of food/sustenance and protection metaphors and analogies in the scriptures (Southwell). Both of these men see this as evidence of the very human origins of the idea of the divine. This, of course, is not a convincing ‘argument’. It does, however, force the open minded reader to question which claim – that of the theist or that of Nietzsche – is better evidenced. Leiter’s example (of a friend’s restaurant recommendation) makes the point clearly.

Why would powerful people submit to the weak?

This really is one of the key questions of the whole book. In fact it is usual to consider the second and third essays as giving an account of how such a counter-intuitive victory could be won. There are scholars who think that the way the slaves celebrated their values was appealing to the masters who had a more ‘unreflective’ view of things. This contention doesn’t seem to sit too well with the text as a whole and, as a result, the majority of scholars attribute it to the psychological vulnerability (BC) which was exploited by a third caste: the ‘nimble’ and ‘clever’ priests. Anyway, both the second and third essays will need to be discussed in order to adjudicate here.

Were you to write an essay on essay 1, a significant part of your discussion would include bad conscience and the bad asceticism of the poisonous priests. In his earlier works Nietzsche seemed to think of morality as a thin veneer (Leiter) that clothes selfish intent. But this view develops into the much more psychological explanation given in GM. Another interesting question to discuss might be whether psychological drives can really bring about the sort of social change Nietzsche attributes them. As a minor closing point it is important to note that Nietzsche doesn’t think the battle is completely over. There are plenty of places to fight, he says, if one is willing to look. This is further evidence for the psychological interpretation offer in the next section.

Only two sorts of morality?

A much voiced criticism of Nietzsche’s account of morality is that of over-simplification. Are we really to believe that there are only the two sorts of morality which Nietzsche describes in essay 1? If the answer is no it would potentially limit Nietzsche’s argument to the parts of the world with a tradition of Judeo-Christianity.

Again there are a number of ways to see Nietzsche avoid this criticism, most of which have a significant amount of textual support. In BGE Nietzsche’s evidence seems to be that in most societies that advocate selflessness there is a big difference between the ideal and the actual live of most people. He thinks this indicates that individuals do not genuinely ‘will’ to be selfless.

Let’s consider the distinction(s) that Nietzsche actually makes. Leiter is particularly good here (ch6). Firstly there are what Leiter calls ‘genetic’ differences – that slave and master moralities have different origins and motive. This seems evident in the text. Secondly there are, he says, ‘evaluative’ differences. Master morality focusses on the individual and understands ‘bad’ to be a lack of its own good, slave morality is reactive, polar and denotes individual actions as ‘evil’ without considering the nature of the actor. In this way the latter is universal – it expects everyone to act in the same way.  It is precisely this feature that attracts Nietzsche’s attention. It is this expectation that prevents ‘higher’ men from reaching their telos, their potential. Thirdly, each morality has a different metaphysical assumption when it comes to the question of free will (see below).

Speaking broadly, Nietzsche thinks that slave moralities are sick and damaging because they involve the ‘will to nothingness’. In contrast to the WTP, this will or desire is one of self-denial. The individual under the spell of the will to nothingness is in a state of sickness perpetuated by the poisonous priests (see below). But is this even true? Do universal, or action-based, ethical theories deny what is natural. Certainly the majority of religions contain strict rules concerning things like sexual purity and condemn violence.

Some people criticise the GM for confusing classes in society with psychological classes and it is true that the reader can never be 100% sure as to which Nietzsche is referring. Solomon and Higgins appear to be on sure ground when they draw our attention to the fact that he uses the words ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ aesthetically in both cases. Strong is best interpreted as ‘healthy’; ‘weak’ and sick’ are used interchangeably. For many this narrows the gap between historical and psychological categories and seems to allow Nietzsche to claim (as he does) that past historical mental states still live on psychologically today. In the exam you will need to make your own decision on this. It certainly seems reasonable to note that Nietzsche’s constant movement between an individual’s psychology and cultural arrangement would have benefitted from further explicit discussion of methodology.

If Nietzsche’s notion of ‘good’ morality is indeed possible then it is as Kenny notes ‘clearly intriguing’. It would require an understanding of humanity where each individual has no neighbour. In direct contrast to this (see MacIntyre) Aristotle claimed true flourishing unavoidably involved living with of others.

Is ‘master’ morality really superior?

Phillipa Foot complains “How could one see the present dangers that the world is in as showing us that there is too much pity and not enough egoism around?” This is a bit of a stalemate position for Nietzsche would insist that he is trying to set people free from the spell of MPS (Leiter says those ‘trapped in concepts [of hatred]). The most recent scholarship sees FN as profoundly and intensely concerned by human flourishing.

Certainly Foot (and most of us) could say that a world where less people suffer will include the most flourishing. But again this is the same position. Nietzsche is not looking for an end to physical suffering and is only concerned with the flourishing of a few great men. Moreover, it is often suffering (real suffering not the metaphysical sickness of MPS) that spurs these men onto their greatness. This is apparent in his many descriptions of overcoming sufferingHe might well consider himself the prime example and considers war a good for all the opportunities to flourish that are brought to great men.

The problem here is one of values. Obviously Nietzsche believes his (nobler) values are better but we might ask why this has to be the case. See discussion of Reé above. What’s certain is that Nietzsche doesn’t demonstrate (in the analytic sense) that his values are more valuable, but he does expect his rhetoric to cause the reader to lean towards his position. If we do consider Nietzsche to have given a plausible account of the origin of morality, then it does follow that we will question the morality that surrounds us today.

Discussion of Essay : bad conscience and where it came from…

Does Judeo-Christianity always = ressentiment?

It was discussed above whether it was an oversimplification to claim that there are only two sorts of morality. Related to this it might also be beneficial to discuss whether all Christianity (even religion in general) is attributable to ressentiment. The latter point is most simply dealt with. Nietzsche loves paganism for he finds it affirmative of life. Moreover a number of scholars have described the Nietzschean quest for salvation as ‘deeply religious’ in character. Whether we find this convincing or not it is clear that he is not against religion per se but only that which involves ‘life denial’. It should be noted, however, that all the major world religions include themes of ‘conquering’ the self or sacrificing desires, even putting others first. It is also worth noting that Nietzsche makes some wonderfully admiring statements about the man Jesus, saving his most vehement criticism for his early followers which leaves the answer to the original question out of sight.

At the end of the second essay the reader is left wondering why, if bad conscience predates the transvaluation, the Greek and Roman slaves were not able to poison their masters in the way the Christians later did. These slave must have had the same psychology of ressentiment.

If Bad Consciousness was around before the revolt, why weren’t there ‘guility’ Greeks?

Whilst reading the second essay it becomes apparent that Nietzsche is claiming that, at least chronologically, the events described happened prior to those outlined in the first essay. This raises an important question. If BC is the cause of the slave revolt then Nietzsche must explain why the Greeks, Romans and other cultures for which Nietzsche has an admiration, did not have similar revolts in their histories. Though he alludes to the belief that it has something to do with religion towards the end of the second essay, it is not until the third that he makes his case for this claim. Before moving on to discuss this account it is important to understand exactly what Nietzsche says. To use words we learned at this beginning of the course, it appears that Nietzsche is claiming that BC is necessary cause of conversion to the transvalued values he attributes to the slaves. It seems, though, that there is at least one other cause necessary too and so the objection that surely the Greeks should have developed a slave morality is mistaken in the sense that it assumes Nietzsche is suggesting a ‘necessary’ causal link.

This defence, however, is only convincing if his account of the other cause can clarify this difficulty further. So it is to that we turn…

Discussion of Essay 3: the important difference, and spotting it today….

What’s wrong with life denial?

Clearly Nietzsche’s charge against what he calls ‘life denial’ is just that. In other places he calls it ‘sick’ and ‘unnatural’. It goes without saying that, for him, nature essentially ‘exploitive’ (BGE). In GM he claims life is injury, assault and WTP. This view is famously described by John Millbank as betraying an ‘ontology of violence’.This may seem fairly uncontroversial to the reader with similar preconceptions, but a number of interpreters have seen fit to question whether this view is as indubitable as we might first think. Clearly this is related to the first point discussed.

Other discussion that might fit into any essay on the GM:
Nietzsche applies his genealogical method to a number of things in his immediate culture. One thing he does not analyse in this way is his naturalistic values. Neither does he scrutinise his belief that what is important is the flourishing of ‘higher’ men.

In addition to this there are a number of words he chooses not to use philology to analyse. Southwell notes that if one gives a philological account of the word sacrifice on encounters strong   elements of the individual reaching fulfilment as well as surrendering oneself to God.

Simon May wonders whether Nietzsche may have retained more than he realised from the system he rejects. May mentions the belief that suffering has some sort of meaning. This in fact leads to a further, and oft made, criticism that these views were more biographical than anything else.

Lack of analytic argument / unfalsifiability

Foot is absolutely correct in stating that, for the analytic philosopher, Nietzsche is approached with great difficulty. Kenny describes his writing as ‘wilfully chaotic’. He is rarely explicit about his premises and how these inform his conclusions. His style is even sometimes accused of being ‘inimical’ to reason. Foot is also right in stating that it is a mark of respect to a philosopher to investigate whether what they claim is in fact true. There are  other thinkers who interpret Nietzsche as claiming that truth is not there and so claim that this is a doomed enterprise.

If, however, we read Nietzsche as a naturalist who seeks to free higher men from MPS it is likely that we will learn much from evaluating his account. Janaway defends Nietzsche’s ‘emotive’ style, understanding it as fundamental to the argument made in GM. To grasp this we need to remind ourselves of Nietzsche’s feelings about tragedy in Ancient Greece. It was Socrates he blames for favouring the Apollonian vision of reason and comprehensibility at the expense of that of Dionysus. In other works Nietzsche refers to himself as a disciple of Dionysus (who represents choas in contrast to Apollo). Bearing this in mind, it would have been strange for Nietzsche to utilise the tools of the system from which he is trying to liberate us to do it. He believes that philosophy made its mistake when it became purely rational. It forgot he cries, what made man man. With Socrates’ over emphasis on reason, and complete denial of emotion, philosophy became less than human. Nietzsche doesn’t have any interest in reluctant converts. He seeks great men who hear the rhetoric and say ‘Yes’.

For Southwell this is whole question is most frustrating when one seeks to take Nietzsche seriously. Discussing ressentiment he notes that it is the inaccessibility of another’s, or even my own subconscious, that makes the issue so difficult. Popper’s critique of Frued seems to apply equally to Nietzsche in that is is difficult (though perhaps possible) to think of what might falsify his account. It may also be that other significant criticisms made of Freud, can point to limits of Nietzsche’s method. Barbara von Eckhart accuses Freud of only using one criterion of truthfulness when proposing his theory: that of explanatory power. Simply put, this means if a theory can explain more of the observable phenomena it is more likely correct. This is both reasonable, and is a tool still relied upon by philosophers and scientists alike. However, simply because a theory explains all of the observable phenomena it does not follow deductively that it is correct (though it might well be). In the end it will be the reader who must decide for themselves if the WTP becomes a theory that could in fact explain any observation (like Freud’s) or it is in fact more resilient when faced with Popper’s criticism. Another way to state this might be to ask whether ressentiment (or WTP, or TOV) is simply a creation of Nietzsche’s? This is discussed in more detail below.

FN on Free Will

Some critics thinks that Nietzsche’s views on free will were mistaken and use this as a reason to reject his whole project. Later existentialists have found his determinism problematic, even dispensable. Clearly Sartre would take real issue with the parable of eagles and lambs for, in line with N’s naturalistic outlook, it says very strongly that essence precedes existence. Yet the more one reads Nietzsche, it becomes clear that he is no determinist in the ordinary sense of the word. Though no lamb could choose to fly, it is possible (and upsetting) that an eagle may choose to eat grass an stay earthbound. The free will that Nietzsche rejects is the ‘ought implies can’ of Kant’s absolute and ‘Christian’ morality.

Still others voice the complaint that his whole book is about ‘guilt’ (HP: which requires free will) yet rejects that humans have real (metaphysical) freedom. This inconsistency, they say, shows Nietzsche’s account to be less than unified. While on the face of it this appears to be a reasonable complaint, after a little thought it becomes clear that this attack is ill-founded. The whole point of Nietzsche’s account is that concepts like guilt and free will depend upon the transvaluation of values, not the other way around. This mistake is the same as that outlined in the introduction.

‘Banishing’ metaphysics

Nietzsche’s naturalism entails a rejection of metaphysics, which a number of critics have sought to use against him. One of the major difficulties is that a number of very significant thinkers see problems with his reason for rejecting religion. Nietzsche does this, it is clear, because of the ‘other-worldy’ element he perceives. He is clear on this in a number of passages. The importance laid on ‘heaven’ leads to bizarre and unhealthy behaviour on earth (think only about why a charity like Christian Aid had to make its slogan what it did for proof of this). If we believed that ‘religion’ was not something essentially metaphysical, as Wittgenstein did, then it seems Nietzsche’s case against religion is weakened. Wittgenstein’s approach, that religion was something more expressive, denies the charge of ‘projection’. It is, however, not without it’s critics and you should consider what you think about it before the exam (the reason it is criticised is that, it is argued, an expressive account of religion would expect to see less diversity). William James also denied that religions were essentially metaphysical, but for different reasons. (more later)

Secondly, Nietzsche claimed that metaphysical definitions of ‘good’ were simply human creations. In the ethics section we discussed G E Moore’s Naturalistic Fallacy, which states exactly the opposite. You will remember that Moore had a vast array of critics and that these included the philosophers Ayer and Stevenson (emotivism). By rejecting these definitions of ‘good’, Nietzsche is going right back to Socrates and pointing at what the former thinks was philosophy’s biggest mistake. Both of these criticisms are highly philosophical and might be of little interest to the religious believer.

Thirdly, in contrast to these, there are a growing number of ‘Christian’ readings of Nietzsche that see him as an ally in the battle to rid their faith of ‘bad religion’. Paul Tillich was a Christian theologian who argued that the God whom Nietzsche proclaims dead is the one created, and prayed to, in church – Feuerbach’s ‘big man in the sky’. This, he says, has nothing in common with the God of Psalm 139.

Finally, there is one point of consistency. One might ask whether Nietzsche’s WTP is not, in fact, a metaphysical proposition. Clearly Nietzsche hopes to convince his readership that it is not and that the WTP is in fact a psychological, and so physiological, drive (more next section).

A naturalist’s conflict with science…

In contemporary philosophy there are two sorts of interpretations of Nietzsche’s attack on morality. On the one hand there are ‘post-modern’ interpreters like Deleuze and Foucault who read him as attacking the very nature of truth itself. On the other, readers like Janaway and Leiter see Nietzsche as a naturalist. This word can mean a number of things but it seems likely that in Nietzsche’s case it is best used to draw one’s attention to the fact that he attempts to explain features of the world with no appeal to the supernatural. In so doing he mimics the approach he saw in science. Unfortunately this raises more questions than it answers. To begin with, it seems odd that a man mimicking something should also turn on it with such aggression. The is also the matter of where Nietzsche parts company with scientific orthodoxy: The doctrine of the Will to Power.

In order to understand the first of these, it will help to clarify what exactly it is that Nietzsche finds so offensive about the ‘science’ of his day. Scientists, though Nietzsche does think there are some exceptions, are generally using their position or credentials to gain power over others. In doing so, he finds them guilty of the same over-arching ‘truth claiming’ that is present in Christianity. Science, in fact is perfectly positioned for such a position of power as it is able to herald ‘objective truth’ in exactly the same way the Christians used monotheism. Again it becomes apparent that any ‘objective’ and universal account is to be rejected. Firstly for the fact that all men are not equal and secondly because objective perception is, for him, an oxymoron. This view is sometimes called perspectivism.

On reflection, it also become more obvious that the WTP is not a completely Darwinian concept. We have already mention how big an influence this man was on Nietzsche but it is clear that he thinks Darwin missed something. In the biological sciences any discussion of a base drive that is responsible for everything is going to involve some sort of genetic ‘will to survive’ or reproduce. What Nietzsche is proposing is importantly different (Southwell is particularly clear here). Where the biologist stresses mechanism, being fittest and survival as supremely important categories; Nietzsche changes all of these. The WTP suggests that humans, at least, are more than mechanism or feel like they are. This is called vitalism and would not be entertained in contemporary science (due to Ockham’s). Nietzsche is also more concerned with the ‘higher’ men rather than those with best adapted for survival. On this point, it seems, Darwin and Nietzsche might be able to agree. Nietzsche claims that the higher men are often weaker which (if the only telos involved in evolution is survival) is certainly non-contradictory (could add telos problem?). Biology, however, with its materialistic assumptions will never be able to see the will to power. How is the reader is to make her mind up here? It seems to come down to how you see things. If you ‘have eyes to see’ the will to power, then it seems you certainly will. Before moving on it is worth noticing that even Nietzsche’s most charitable interpreters consider him as suffering from a sort of ‘philosophical tunnel-vision’ in his later works. In his last texts he blames almost every problem in the world on MPS.

In one sense this is more than understandable. Nietzsche was fully aware that the WTP was a key doctrine for his assault on morality. Leiter goes as far as to call it ‘foundational’. Nietzsche admits as much in GM. His descriptions of ressentiment, the revolt and what is wrong with slave morality all depend on the WTP. Indeed, were it replaced by a more Darwinian account, Nietzsche’s entire psychological account would collapse.

There are still, however, a number of questions not yet answered by this description. The reader may well want to ask about this further. Is it the case that the negation of the will can be an expression if the will? Does Nietzsche’s account of WTP stray onto the grounds of metaphysics that he has already denied? What about other psychological accounts that suggest a different drive as ‘lord of all’? A number of this questions are closely related to the age old question of egoism: do people ever do genuinely selfless good deeds? You will remember that in class we decided that this may be one of the questions that is, in fact, genuinely beyond us. It is such an important question, leading to other even more important questions, that a number of philosopher have decided to opt for what they perceive to be the most likely perspective and base their work on that probability.

A final, more philosophical discussion might concern the objectivity that Nietzsche denies science.

The ‘Historicity’ of his account 

In BGE Nietzsche claims that the history of philosophy has three distinct periods. First of all there was the ‘pre-moral’, a period he associates with consequentialism. This period, he says, ended about ten thousand years ago. Following that there was the moral stage which becomes more about intentions and individual act that the moral agent should not do (we know who he is thinking of here). This is probably the stage in which the majority of unreflective Britons find themselves. And finally, Nietzsche predicts a new naturalistic age.

While some interpreters (like Southwell) understand Nietzsche as heralding a new age that is unavoidable, such an assertion will seem strange to those who have read GM. Here, Nietzsche seems genuinely concerned with the extinction of the human raise due to their own life-denial. Southwell is certainly correct, however, to deny that the fact this new age has not materialised is a fatal ‘black mark’ against the Nietzschean account. Certainly this may in future come to be. A sociologist would not need to look to far that things may be heading in this direction either.

A further and more general criticism of Nietzsche’s historicity would be to question, when one moves beyond the rhetoric of ‘history properly practiced’, what actual evidence is offered for his account. We have talked about philology and will not discuss it further here. In terms of tangible, analysable evidence we are forced to admit that there is little. Yet far from being damning, Leiter argues that when we understand what Nietzsche is doing properly that, the negativity of this pales into insignificance. Leiter’s argument rests on the premise that Nietzsche most likely considers ‘history’ (as an academic discipline) to be infected by the 2000 year history that we are now no longer able to see beyond. Such an understanding appears entirely consistent with Nietzsche’s project. He also notes that there is significant evidence in note form that Nietzsche was a keen reader of the most recent historical research. As such it would be a mistake to read him as unhistorical; ahistorical would be a better description. Both of these defences seem more than plausible. Whether they are both compatible might be another question worthy of a fuller discussion.

Though we have discussed ‘historical blindness’ already it may help to clarify a number of points. Certainly if we are to defend Nietzsche using this initially surprising doctrine it is proper to consider the evidence for it. Indeed when it is noted that this blindness only extends to past values not past events a convincing explanation seems all the more essential. Why is it that we know about the advent of the Holy Roman Empire, the associated change in attitude towards sex but are unable to see the transvalutaion of values.

 Nietzsche gives three reasons. Firstly, slave morality won and in so doing claimed not just to be the ‘better’ morality but its sole meaning. Secondly there are the misleading but intuitive histories of Reé et al. These accounts fall victim to the first point and accept the orthodox but incorrect view that morality means anything more than ‘usefulness’. Thirdly Nietzsche highlights the lack of philological expertise directed at this question.

We should also remind ourselves that this blindness, for Nietzsche, is incomplete. There are psychological elements of master morality in many of us. And, conveniently for Nietzsche, those who can see this in their psychology are his target audience, those who cannot are not.

Real Evil

Clearly Nietzsche was not the ‘proto-Nazi’ that he was interpreted to be in the post-war anglophone world. This said, Fraser questions whether the Shoah leaves Nietzsche looking rather naive. Riccoeur notes that Nietzsche’s use of evil usually carries connotations of hatred and revenge. When we call the holocaust ‘evil’ he suggests we a using it in a different way. Certainly it is a ridiculous straw man to disregard Nietzsche as saying ‘evil is secretly good’. And then to argue holocaust really was bad, therefore Nietzsche is wrong. We have discussed the charge of antisemitism at length and I would suggest that anyone who finds him guilty of this charge has not seriously engaged with this polemic.

How then should I live?

There appears to me an increase in the number of people who criticise Nietzsche as having, perhaps like Kant, quite a strong negative philosophy alongside a remarkably weak positive account. Put another way his ‘no’ against Christianity’s morality is powerful but his guidance on how we should live is lacking.

I will need to come back and write more on this, but for now I would only make a few quick observations. Firstly, Keith Ansell Pearson (2005) is surely right to point out that this perception is formed through only reading Nietzsche’s later books and neglecting the earlier works which are, he correctly claims, characterised by a ‘yea-saying’ attitude (5). Secondly, and related to this, Nietzsche himself describes GM as a polemic. By genre, then, we should expect a writer such as Nietzsche to stick closely to the style expected.

J Burt 2013

1 thought on “Paper 2: Nietzsche’s GM

  1. Essay 3 – Read 7&8, (start and end of 8) 
    $5 Artist choose the ideals that they portray, often just to succeed in the world in which they find themselves. Nietzsche is not saying this is always the case but that Artist choose philosophers to represent. Further attacks on Wagner as talking the ideals of metaphysics, ascetic ideals.
    $6 So Nietzsche looks at the philosophy, the battleground, behind the art. Kant’s notion of art as ‘pleasure without interest’ is understood as living on in Schopenhauer. There is a hint at the end of this aphorism that the ascetic ideal has something to do with a ‘will to escape’ torture (perhaps of human nature).
    £$7 Torture is not all bad. Humans appear to need strife or a battle to have meaning.another sly dig at English Psychologists. FN explore why philosophers have oft hated marriage. The have looked like ascetics hiding from ties that might get in the. Way of their fully expressing their power (writing philosophy, from fully doing their thing. The ascetic ideal is something the philosopher sees and appears to adopt. But Nietzsche is claiming that this is not what is really happening. The philosopher adopts an ascetic life in order to ‘give birth’ to his philosophy in the most productive way possible. Her action is absolutely ‘be’ who she is. It is in this sense an affirmative action. the ascetic of course adopts the lifestyle to deny something, their human nature.
    $8 the former is echoed to ensure the distinction is clear. Philosophers are thinking of themselves, of fulfilling or. Following their nature. Of retreating to do this better. the ascetic ideal is described more tangibly. Poverty, Humility and Chastity are mentioned. The philosopher is not these things for their own sake but is like a pregnant mother who makes every decision based upon what will be best for healthily producing their offspring. Nietzsche uses jockeys as an analogy. the reason they abstain is not a hatred of the senses but rather a desire to be as good as they can. Philosophers are like this.
    $9 the fact that philosopher have used the AI for there own aims is restated. And the fact that philosophers have not thus far challenged it is said to be due to this. Philosophy ‘took its baby steps’ under the AI and, in a world where much philosophy invokes the Christian metaphysics, Nietzsche rejects philosophy’s sense rejection as hubris. quoting Daybreak, Nietzsche writes “Nothing has been purchased more dearly than that little bit of human reason, and feeling of freedom that constitutes our pride.” there were, Nietzsche claims, different virtues long before these such creations.
    $10 the earliest priests scared people by creating values and living as though their life was serving/embodying these values. This worked and often involved physical self mutilation. this was so horrible that it led others to accept the veracity of the values (why would you do such things unless you really believed…). this was how the philosopher survived in the early times, Nietsche calls this a mask, and that of a horrible catepillar. Now, Nietzsche sugests, might be the time for the Brith of a butterfly that is freeof this crawling.

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