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Nietzsche's "On the Genealogy of Morals"

One of the most important philosophers of the 19th century, Nietzsche was perhaps the most anomalous. Where other philosophers (particularly Schopenhauer) defined virtue as caring for others and submerging the ego, Nietzsche thought this a betrayal of human nature. For him, the superior individual, demonstrated by his strength or intelligence, had the right to impose his will over those weaker. The enemy of man was not autocracy but democracy, not the atheist but the priest. Rejecting the exaltation of Reason, especially as exemplified by Kant and Hegel, Nietzsche glorified imagination, passion, creativity, and boldness. Historians, aware of the Nazis’ veneration of Nietzsche, have debated whether fascism was the natural culmination, or a profound distortion, of his values. Conversely, Freud saw him as anticipating the psychoanalytic theory of repression.

At our meeting we will discuss Nietzsche’s key concepts:

• Will to Power
• Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence
• Ressentiment
• Master/Slave Morality
• Übermensch
• Nihilism
• Perspectivism
• Apollinian versus Dionysian (Nick will give a brief presentation on this)

If you have not read any of Nietzsche’s works, I recommend starting with On the Genealogy of Morals; it provides the clearest exposition of his ideas and will be the primary text for our discussion. The complete work and four others (The Birth of Tragedy, Beyond Good and Evil, The Case of Wagner, and Ecce Homo) are included in Basic Writings of Nietzsche, ed. Walter Kaufmann, Modern Library edition, 2000, available from for $12.24 (new) and from $6.43 (used). To read free public domain copies of Nietzsche’s works, click here.

The following resources provide additional background, analyses, and bibliographies:

Wikipedia: "Friedrich Nietzsche", "Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche", "On the Genealogy of Morality", "Übermensch", "Ressentiment", "Master/Slave Morality". "Perspectivism". "The Birth of Tragedy", "Influence and Reception of Friedrich Nietzsche"

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: "Friedrich Nietzsche", "Nietzsche's Moral and Political Philosophy"

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: "Friedrich Nietzsche"

Richard Schacht, "Nietzsche in a Nutshell" Nietzscheana #9, North American Nietzsche Society.

Kenneth Kierans, "On the Unity of Nietzsche's Philosophy"Animus 14 (2010).

"Kierkegaard & Nietzsche: Two Different Passions” (from Soren Kierkegaard web site)

Walter H. Sokel, "On the Dionysian in Nietzsche: Monism and Its Consequences" New Literary History 36 no. 4 (2006): 501-20.

Robert B. Pippin, “Agent and Deed in Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals” in A Companion to Nietzsche ed. Keith Ansell Pearson. Wiley-Blackwell, 2009, pp. 371-386.

Nadeem J. Z. Hussain, “Eternal Recurrence and Nihilism: Adding Weight to the Unbearable Lightness of Action” (Professor of Philosopy at Stanford University)

Roger Kimball, “The Legacy of Friedrich Nietzsche” The New Criterion (September 1991): 28.

Course and Lecture Notes

"Profound Atheism: Friedrich Nietzsche [masked])" by Profressor Wesley J. Wildman, Department of Philosophy at Boston University

"A Review of Some Major Epistemological Themes in Nietzsche" by Professor Dennis M. Weiss, Department of Philosophy at York College of Pennsylvania

"Notes on Nietzsche's Genealogy" by Professor Craig DeLancey, Department of Philosophy at SUNY Oswego

"On the Genealogy of Morals" by Professor Tad A. Beckman, Department of Philosophy Humanities and Social Sciences at Harvey Mudd College

Youtube: "J. P. Stern on Nietzsche": Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Join or login to comment.

  • Alex R.

    This was the best I'd been to in a long time- not that I don't always enjoy it. Really thought provoking and helped me to figure out the new philos that came after Nietzsche vs older philos, and it's place.

    May 21, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    Great discussion. Great meeting of minds.

    May 21, 2012

  • Kyongsook K.

    Great. I learned a lot.

    May 20, 2012

  • Scott

    See the e-mail I'm sending you.

    May 18, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    A bibliography of other works on Nietzsche are available upon request to anyone interested.

    April 7, 2012

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