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Nietzsche, "On The Genealogy of Morals": Second Essay

Nietzsche is one of the most challenging thinkers because he calls so many of our assumptions into question. Following his genealogical method, however, his doctrines become much easier to follow.

Nietzsche's method begins with the initial doubt: is there a distinction between a thing and its meaning? Is the fact of punishment, for example, intrinsically linked to our reasons for doing so?

No. Things have had different meanings at different times - we cannot understand a thing, if we assume that it has always held the same meaning.

In The Genealogy, Nietzsche attempts a genealogy that will show the tumultuous channels down which our different moral concepts have taken to arrive in their present shape. What is the good of goodness? The bad of badness? The evil of evil?

If morality is generally treated as sacred (or even assumes some transcendental ground), such that its value cannot be fully questioned, are we cut off from our humanity in an important way?

For Nietzsche, if we look behind the meaning that drives the concepts making up our reality throughout history, we find always: will to power.

Acknowledgement of this fact allows taking life into one’s own hands, to live fully and thrive. Failure to do so, leads to resentment, or hatred, and living according to the rule, the ‘ratio’, of others.

In this second essay, Nietzsche traces the origins of guilt and punishment, showing that originally they were not based on any sense of moral transgression. Rather, guilt simply meant that a debt was owed and punishment was simply a form of securing repayment. The development of society came with the need to inhibit our animal instincts for aggression and to turn them inward upon ourselves. With the rise of "slave morality" (discussed more in the first essay), this led to the development of bad consciousness, and we began to see ourselves as sinners.

Let's read the 2nd essay, "Guilt, Bad Conscience, and Related Matters". (We will read the 3rd essay in the near future)

Meetup Format: JAM SESSION - Although reading is "assigned", let us be unafraid to abandon the text in favor of cooperative dialogue, philosophizing freely, and riffing off the themes.

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  • mazal

    was this organized last minute? oh, so sorry i missed! at least i got some good and necessary work done today, on the heels of conference. hope to be rejoin SOON.

    1 · October 21, 2012

  • Brian

    Best of all time. Everyone got involved.

    October 20, 2012

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