Here, I read through Nietzsche’s text Genealogy of Morals, compressing each aphorism into one sentence. While obviously such a task cannot capture all of Nietzsche’s genius, for me it retained enough of its vigor to feel worthwhile. Enjoy!
Context Of This Work
- Humanity is singularly ignorant of its inner nature.
- The mind of a philosopher is like a tree: their ideas have depth and are never produced in isolation.
- My answers to the title subject have grown into a secret wealth of knowledge – a garden.
- Other incompetent works spurred my publishing, and my theories have matured with my work.
Goals Of This Work
- I seek to supplant nihilism, pity, and those who would say “No” to life.
- We must unearth the motivators of moral systems, we must valuate values: what if our morality constrains our greatness?
- I call my readers to cheerfully venture into this under-explored land.
- My work is not easily penetrated; it is an art, and unearthing its meaning takes effort.
Good & Evil, Good & Bad
- Why do English psychologists pursue that which is shameful? I hope that it is because they value truth over desirability.
Morality As An Expression Of Power
- Moral philosophers are misguided: labels of “good” proceed from the ruling class (pathos of distance); only with the revolt of the herd did the concepts of the selflessness and utility become relevant.
- The liberal vision of the social contract, and the alleged subsequent forgetfulness of its participants, is utterly untenable from a psychological perspective.
- Don’t let the moralizing noise of democracy mask this fundamental truth: that “good” and “bad” express order of rank, in a concrete, etymological sense.
- Here I explore etymological roots of moral terms in Greek and Latin to reveal a social- and racial-oriented origin of “goodness”.
The Birth Of Slave Morality
- The priestly caste is a particularly dangerous amalgam of social power and moral feeling: it is intrinsically morally unstable, but is the birthplace of human depth and human evil (which is all that makes us interesting and superior to the rest of the animal kingdom).
- Conflict arises between the physical, healthy assurance of the knight-aristocracy and the impotence of the priest-aristocracy. This impotence drove the Jewish priestly class to obscene depths of hatred and ultimately resulted in the instigation of the slave revolt – “weakness alone is good”.
- A new love, Christianity, is nothing more than a necessary outgrowth of the Jewish omni-contempt: doesn’t the ghastly paradox of ultimate cruelty – “God on the cross” – represent the bait with which Judaism has snared the entire world?
- This Christian poison – redemption from classical nobility – is winning the protracted battle of history. Would not we free spirits, if it weren’t for the boorish nature of the church, still be in love with the poison?
The Threat Of Ressentiment
- Ressentiment of slave morality defines itself as a reaction to the external; it values contempt and self-deception and cleverness. In contrast, historic morality is joyously inward-looking, and joins happiness to action, to creativity, and to taking even enmity in a light-hearted spirit.
- Master morality is vulnerable to the depths of human atrocities, but is this justified fear not preferable to the stench of atrophy?
- The vitality of mankind is dwindling away: we are not merely losing our fear of him, but also our love of him (this is the meaning of nihilism).
- Slave morality invented free will to cover up its impotence and to justify its absurd demand that the beast of prey become as a lamb.
- The way that slave morality manufactures ideals reeks of deceit: misery becomes a consequence of being chosen, subjection becomes obedience, and retaliation becomes justice.
- The entrance criteria for the Christian heaven is everlasting contempt: I need only refer you to the writings of the Church, such as that of Aquinas and Tertullian.
- Slave and master morality exist as distinct concepts, and are intermingled within cultures and even within a single soul. The entirety of history, including the Roman Peace, the Renaissance, the French Revolution, the Reformation, and Napoleon, can be interpreted through the lens of conflict between Judea and Rome.
- This conflict has not yet been resolved, and will inevitably resurface.
- I call for an interdisciplinary study of the value of values; the future should look to the relationship between etymology and the evolution of valuations.
Guilt and Bad Conscience
- Two primal forces affect man: the right to promise-making (the will), and forgetfulness (sensory filtering). Memory evolved to preserve the former from the latter; and the consequence of this is that humanity has become calculable.
- Our prehistoric roots are responsible for consciousness, the sense of responsibility, and the conscience (“the right to affirm oneself”).
Suffering And Commerce Underlie Human Nature
- Memory, to be adequately preserved, requires self-denial and cruelty and blood. How much blood lies at the bottom of all “good things”!
- Guilt, bad conscience, and the presumption of an equivalence between insult and pain, logically arises from the contractual relationship between creditor and debtor.
- Given the promise-oriented nature of the creditor-debtor relationship, we expect, and do in fact find, evidence for immense cruelty. This equivalence between sadist pleasures (exercises of power) and possessions gave humanity a foretaste for order of rank.
- Don’t let the domesticating tides of modernity mute this truth: that without cruelty and punishment there can be no festival; to watch, and to make, someone suffer does one good.
- Prehistory, while evil, has not produced the icy “No” to life that exudes from modernity. And what is the complaint against suffering? That it is senseless. Mankind was thus “virtually compelled” to invent gods and free will, so as to render its suffering eternally interesting.
- Commerce is basal to thought, and provided the breeding ground where valuations could become abstract; from these roots originate social super-structures and justice (good will).
The Sophistication Of Punishment
- In prehistory, society firstly furnished protection. The lawbreaker was seen as a threat to the entire community; as such, the entire community behaved toward the lawbreaker as would a jilted creditor: with ferocious wrath – this is why the forms of punishment map to the forms of war.
- As societal power expands, penal codes tend towards moderation: the actor is separated from the deed, protected from the victim, and consequences are localized. It is not unthinkable that justice may ultimately overcome itself, and say “what are my parasites to me?” For mercy is the privilege of the powerful.
- Justice is not avarice – no! it is a positive stance, and one always sees power striving to quiet ressentiment, most directly through law (which can never eradicate the conflict that erupts from life, but rather depersonalizes and tames revenge).
- Before examining punishment, let us carefully distinguish between origin and utility: utility is not the logical outgrowth of origin but is subject to the virile battles between competing wills to power.
- “Only that which has no history is definable”; therefore, the meaning of punishment is slippery. It has been associated with: incapacitation, compensation, stabilization, terrorization, redistrubution, expulsion, festival, the memorable, payment, compromise, declaration, and still more concepts.
- Whereas the objective meaning of punishment is over-determined, its popular meaning is the inspiration of guilt-feelings. However, punishment generally “makes men hard and cold”, and inhibits guilt: for the criminal can easily see the same form as his action perpetuated by the powerful in good conscience.
- The prehistoric reaction to punishment – prevalent enough today so as to merit notice by Spinoza – is to regret being apprehended. Punishment tames men but does not make them better; “it makes one bad”, and “fortunately, it frequently makes people stupid”.
The Internalization Of Cruelty
- Our animal instincts do not perish with repression, but turn inward; as people became behaviorally tame, these instincts created the depths of the soul, and they “turned [themselves] into an adventure, torture chamber, and wilderness”; finally, that internalization of instinct also produced the bad conscience.
- This development was revolutionary and fueled exclusively by acts of violence: it is only through the terrible freedom of the “blond beast of prey”, the “artists of violence”, that created a will strong enough to turn upon itself when caged.
- Don’t make the mistake of dismissing prehistoric savagery out of hand, for it is “the same active force” as the bad conscience; namely, the instinct for freedom (“in my language: will to power”). What would be beautiful if the contradiction had not first became conscious of itself?
Religion As A Vehicle Of Conscience
- Guilt is an illness, but let us diagnose its origins. We know from prehistory that tribes felt debt to their ancestors, and that this debt / lofty vision is directly proportional to the success of the tribe. This lofty vision can begin to explain the origins of theism.
- The guilty feeling of indebtedness to the gods thus grew throughout the millennia, and has reached its peak with the Christian God (if atheism prevails, it will correspond to a second innocence).
- Christianity aims to turn back “guilt” and “duty” upon man, which eats at him until he invents the concepts of irredeemable penance, eternal punishment, and pointless existence. Behold this disgusting sight: the creditor sacrifices himself for the debtor through love!
- Humanity thereby wills itself to be judged as guilty and deserving of hell – what madness! what hideousness! “what bestiality of thought erupts as soon as he is prevented just a little from being a beast in deed!”
- Yet the invention of gods need not lead to such self-mutilation; the gods of antiquity served to justify man, and to nobly absorb guilt.
- I speak not to destroy temples but to replace them. Although our species is now too immersed in the mortification of his animal nature to understand me, one day an anti-Christ, an anti-nihilist will come and redeem us of this guilt and its accompanying will to nothingness – he will teach us contemptuous, free love. He will teach us to dance…
- Here I must be silent, as only Zarathustra the godless has a right to speak.
The Meaning Of Ascetic Ideals
- The ascetic ideal means many things to many people. This fact serves to express a basic fact of the human will: that it needs a goal, that “it would rather will nothingness than not will”. Doesn’t make sense? Then let me start from the beginning.
Asceticism In Art
- Only lesser men perceive a pervasive antithesis between chastity and sensuality. Why then would an artist, someone like Wagner, embrace such a perspective? What does it mean?
- Perhaps Wagner meant his last plays, like Parsifal, seriously – perhaps he truly was an apostate. Or perhaps he set himself up in a transcendental moment of self-mockery. Who knows?
- This embarrassing story drives home the following moral: that one should not take an artist as seriously as his work: for if he could truly live as one of his characters, he could not find it within himself to create their encompassing world.
Asceticism In Philosophy
- The artist, therefore, has nothing interesting to say about ascetic ideals. In contrast, through his underscoring the sovereignty of music, Schopenhauer profoundly affected the history of the question: but what does it mean when such a philosopher pays homage to ascetic ideals?
- Kant ascribed disinterest to beauty, whereas Stendhal calls it a “promise to happiness” (which implies the arousal of will). Schopenhauer nominally agreed with Kant, calling it an antidote for sexual “interestedness”; however, if one looks closely at his relationship with beauty, it is more accurate to describe his homage to the ascetic ideal as the will to gain release from torture.
- Schopenhauer participates here in a general trend: wherever there are philosophers there is also rancor against sensuality – why? Historically, great philosophers were not even family men (not even the Buddha). Asceticism has many bridges to independence, and philosophers are in danger of thinking “Let the whole world perish but for me and my philosophy”.
- “Every spirit has its own sound and loves its own sound”; the philosophical spirit seeks to float above life and its values, it hates the noise of current events, “they themselves are this desert, these educated people.”
Asceticism In Prehistory
- Let’s now approach the problem from prehistory. As we know from the previous essay: “all good things were formerly bad things” and “every smallest step on earth has been paid for by spiritual and physical torture.”
- “Contemplation first appeared in disguise, with an evil heart and often an anxious head.” The philosophical spirit has always had to use a mask of previously established religious forms. The ascetic priest was a precondition of philosophy – have we outgrown this type?
- The ascetic priest is too involved in his craft to produce an adequate defense of his way-of-life; let us do it for him. Viewed from afar, we can see that his type appears and prospers everywhere, in every age. From this we know that it must “be in the interest of life itself that such a self-contradictory type does not die out.”
- Asceticism is at the heart of solipsism and pure reason: in these spaces it finds room for its contradictions to be vented against reason and reality. But let us philosophers take man’s perspective, his limitations, his conflicting wills, his embodiment into account, if we seek to approach that which is objective.
- But the contradiction of asceticism is only apparent. It is ultimately an incarnate desire to be different, a new will that is in a creative, dynamic struggle against the more ancient, animal wills; it persuades to life; through its No, it reveals – as if by magic – “an abundance of tender Yeses”.
Asceticism As A Remedy For Weakness
- Those who are healthy, those who are noble – they are our hope, our future. By the principles of order of rank, and by pathos of distance, we ought not risk their contamination by condemning them to associate with, and to heal, the sick.
- Who then will nurse the sick? The ascetic priest! His role has obtained a different, unhealthy sort of power; he seeks to dominate suffering. Moreover, he redirects ressentiment: the sick strive to vent their anger on an object of blame (so as to find relief), and the priest responds “yes! blame yourself!”
- Why is it necessary to redirect ressentiment? To render it harmless, to lead it to self-destruction, to encourage self-overcoming, to separate the weak from the strong. You will note that here I take for granted the non-existence of sin; rather, I assert that the weakness of the herd derives from a physiological cause.
- Since the disease is physical, but the purported cures of the ascetic priest are moral-psychological, any relief will be from symptom-alleviation, and not disease-prevention. These partial remedies come in different forms; the first is to dumb every feeling of life, every will, and every affect; this is the explicit goal of mysticism and “salvation” generally.
- Other easier, partial remedies to this depression of physiological smallness is ritual (which distracts, since “the chamber of human consciousness is small!”), love of neighbor (which arouses a limited sense of superiority, and the will to power is life-affirming), and congregation (social solidarity can better withstand individual depression).
- Another, less innocent, means in the struggle against displeasure intends to produce orgies of feeling. You find the phrasing of this truth uncomfortable? This is because weak people do not know how to tell lies, and therefore cannot distinguish between truth and falsity within themselves. Only the strong can tolerate a true biography.
- The ascetic priest achieves this orgy of feeling through the exploitation of guilt. The old weariness is thus overcome, the world thus thirsts for pain. However, this new kingdom comes at a price: the sick get sicker.
The Social Consequences Of Asceticism
- The social consequences of this medication are extreme: it proliferates quickly, produces phenomena such as witch-hunts and cries “long live death”… even the gnawing problems of alcoholism pales in comparison.
- The ascetic priest not only heralds social ruination, but also erodes progress in the humanities: behold, his “book in itself” – the New Testament. In contrast to the nobility of the Old Testament, the New is unbearably petty, so fixated on the most private affairs, and insistent that God cares about this trivia! Martin Luther was, after all, a peasant who fought for permission to speak informally to his god.
Science As An Instrument Of Asceticism
- But what can such terrible effects tell us of the meaning of ascetic ideals? The power exhibited by these ideals raise the question: is there any sufficiently elaborated system that can function as a competitor? Science is not an adequate answer; in fact, it largely constitutes the latest manifestation of asceticism! Note that there is no One Goal of the scientist; rather, the field more typically permits scholars to bury themselves in their work (see how fragile their egos are when subjected to criticism!)
- Today, atheists alone possess an intellectual conscience, but there is one thing they refuse to question: they still have faith in the truth. But this so-called divinity of truth is rooted in Christianity, Platonism, dogma, and the ascetic more generally. It is time to “experimentally call into question the value of truth.”
- Science is thus a facet of the ascetic spirit. Its Copernican principle betrays this subterranean connection; it is an expression of the will to self-belittlement (which is a pride); it is thus directed towards nihilism.
- Historiography, with its objectivity (like a mirror), has denounced all perspective and is thus also nihilism. And how I hate all of these partially-objective histories of the Hegelians and the anti-Semites – at least asceticism is honest!
- “All great things bring about their own destruction through an act of self-overcoming:” Christian dogma is destroyed by its own morality, and Christian morality must perish with it as the will to truth becomes self-conscious.
- Asceticism is a terrible solution to a still more terrible problem: it was invented to offer humanity an account of himself, a reason to forestall suicide, a mechanism to preserve his will (any will). But the will of man’s asceticism targets his very self; it is the will to nothingness. But “people would rather will nothingness than not will.”
4 thoughts on “Nietzsche: Genealogy of Morals”
This is awesome thanks. Nietzsche was such an arrogant dude
Glad you enjoyed it!
Thanks for this!
You’re welcome. 🙂