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On the Genealogy of Morals: A Polemic. By way of clarification and supplement to my last book Beyond Good and Evil (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 5 Nov 1998

4.2 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Paperback, 5 Nov 1998
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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; New edition edition (5 Nov. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019283617X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192836175
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 1.5 x 13 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,476,103 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Douglas Smith is Lecturer in French Studies at the University of Warwick. He is currently preparing a book on the reception of Nietzsche in France. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


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We remain unknown to ourselves, we seekers after knowledge, even to ourselves: and with good reason. Read the first page
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I want to make the case that this particular edition of The Genealogy of Morals (GOM) is the best place for a newbie to Nietzsche to begin their study of his works, after the usual 'Nietzsche Reader' and/or intro-to-Nietzsche type of efforts. Why?

GOM combines two qualities that make it uniquely useful for the apprentice. It is a simply structured work, consisting of three essays - essentially three chapters - on distinct but interrelated topics. And it constitutes one of Nietzsche's most mature works, prior to any suspicion of mental deterioration.

Part of the reason for this lies in explicit authorial intent. GOM is purportedly a commentary of Beyond Good and Evil (BGE) which is purportedly a commentary on Thus Spake Zarathustra (TSZ). As a fictional narrative, TSZ sounds great for a starting point. Upon wonky advisement, that's where I started. But its poetic and mythological elements make it unique and highly challenging. And despite its bad boy rep, BGE is a notoriously difficult piece of philosophical writing.

As to the content itself, one of the great boons of GOM is that it takes the student beyond the titanic trio of topics - will-to-power, eternal recurrence and the superman - that tend to overshadow the rest of Nietzsche's philosophy for the beginner. Here, in GOM, we get exposure to many of his 'second tier' topics like ressentiment, master/slave morality and perspectivism. In fact, in GOM you gain exposure to many of the tertiary concepts that make up the language-game of Nietzsche's philosophy: pathos of distance, order of rank, herd-instinct, blond beast, subterranean, tartufferie, and intellectual hygiene to name a few.

I feel compelled to say something about this particular translation too. It is instantly likeable.
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By Luc REYNAERT TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 21 May 2010
Format: Paperback
In his characteristic raging style and with a sometimes obscene vocabulary, Friedrich Nietzsche shouts (`Am I understood?') his vision on the origin of morals (good, bad and evil), of guilt and bad conscience and on the value of ascetic ideals.

The origin of morals
The antithesis good-bad was established by `noble' rulers who seized the right to create their own values. They called their egoistic actions good, which means `of first rank'. Who were these masters? At the bottom all these noble races were `blond beasts of prey in search of spoil, living the voluptuousness of victory and cruelty.'
It was only when the aristocratic value judgments declined that the slaves (other names: the herd, the plebeians, the low, the mob, cellar rodents, insects, the oppressed, the downtrodden, the worm-eaten) could impose their own morality of unegoism, pity, self-sacrifice and self-abnegation on mankind.
The moral revolt of the slaves began when their ressentiment became creative. This ressentiment is an imaginary revenge, a brain-sickness, by those who are denied true action. The egoistic `good' of the rulers became `evil'.
However, the slave morality is an illness based on the phantasmagoria of anticipated bliss, the `Last Judgment'. It is anti-life and a danger for the species `man'.

Guilt, Bad Conscience
Guilt has its origin in `debts', in the contractual relations between creditor and debtor, in which the latter pledged that if he should fail to repay, he would substitute his debt by something else that he possessed (body, limbs, wife, freedom).
The origin of bad conscience comes from the internalization of instincts which couldn't discharge themselves.
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Format: Paperback
If you are approaching Nietzsche for the first time, this book is where you should begin reading. One can read it as a commentary on Beyond Good and Evil, which in turn is a commentary on Thus Spake Zarathustra. Beyond Good and Evil is difficult because of its loosely structured and aphoristic style, whereas Thus Spake Zarathustra is positively opaque without some knowledge of Nietzsche's thought and, to a lesser extent, biography.

On the Genealogy of Morals is as close as Nietzsche got to explaining his ideas comprehensively in plain German. The book is divided into three sections with a preface. The Preface outlines Nietzsche's goal to produce a critique of morality from a genealogical explanation of the psychological formation of morals.

The first section, "Good and Evil, Good and Bad," describes Nietzsche's idea of the formation of master/slave morality, whereby the noble man forms his own values based on his will to power, and the slave forms his values based on his resentment of the noble man's power. The second section, "Guilt, Bad Conscience and the Like," describes Nietzsche's idea that guilt and bad conscience arise as a repression of the will to power and that punishment is merely a transaction in a creditor/debtor relationship. The third section is a critique of what Nietzsche calls the ascetic ideal, the ideological expression of slave morality, or a will to nothingness which must be critiqued in order to liberate the will to power.

Essentially, it is a critique of idealism, such as that of Kant, and consequentialism, such as that of Mill. One can view Nietzsche's morality as a kind of virtue ethics in which an action is deemed good or bad depending on the psychological state of the actor.
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