The Genealogy of Morals Paperback – Apr 23 2003
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From the Back Cover
Written in response to a book on the origins of morality by his erstwhile friend Paul Rée, the three essays comprising The Genealogy of Morals—all three advancing the critique of Christian morality set forth in Beyond Good and Evil—are among Nietzsche's most sustained and cohesive work.
In the first essay—starting from a linguistic analysis of words such as "good," "bad," and "evil"—Nietzsche sets up a contrast between what he calls "master" morality and "slave" morality and shows how strength and action have often been replaced by passivity and nihilism. The next essay, looking into the origins of guilt and punishment, shows how the concept of justice was born—and how internalization of this concept led to the development of what people called "the soul." In the third essay, Nietzsche dissects the meaning of ascetic ideals.
It is not Nietzsche's intention to reject ascetic ideals, "slave" morality, or internalized values out of hand; his main concern is to show that culture and morality, rather than being eternal verities, are human-made. Whether or not you agree with all of his conclusions, his writing is of such clarity and brilliance that you will find reading The Genealogy of Morals nothing short of exhilarating.
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Nietzsche's father was a Lutheran minister, but he died five years after Nietzsche's birth in 1844. Nietzsche was raised by his mother, grandmother and aunts; later in his life, his sister would become executor of his estate (after Nietzsche had become incapable of managing his own affairs) and reshape his philosophy and writings in her own idea - this becomes a running motif in later anthologies of Nietzsche; editors can quote and clip to fit their own agendas. In some ways, that is true of the text here, but in much less inappropriate ways than others, particularly Nietzsche's first editor, his sister.
Nietzsche was a star pupil from his earliest days at university in Bonn and Leipzig. His formal study was in classical philology, but his attentions turned in various directions quickly during his writing and professional life - he had an intense interest in drama and the arts, with Wagner's music and Greek drama in principal interest. His first book was devoted to these topics - 'The Birth of Tragedy'. It was not highly regarded at the time, but has since become much more appreciated as an anticipation of later developments in philosophy and aesthetics.
Nietzsche's life after this period was a very choppy one - he left the university, claiming illness, and while this developed later to be a true situation, at the time is was probably academic politics and difficulties fitting in with the establishment he was trying to break. He had a formal falling-out with Wagner, even writing later a piece entitled ' Nietzsche contra Wagner', finished just a few week prior to his going insane.Read more ›