Genealogy of Morals

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2. Critique of Religion and Morality

But the vengefulness of the pious slave goes a great deal further than simply twisting the idea of God into an instrument of revenge. For Nietzsche's contention is that the very origins of morality itself — and secular morality just as much as its Judeo-Christian predecessor — can be understood as springing from the same impulse.

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Socialists beware: he thinks this is your story too. Don't look for proper history here. In a sense, Nietzsche is re-narrating the myth of the fall.

Nietzsche and Morality: The Higher Man and The Herd

In the beginning, so he says, there was nothing much wrong with the notion of God. Yahweh represented a culture at ease with itself and its prosperity. The festivals of religion were about exuberance, the means by which life was to be celebrated.

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  4. But then came slavery and deportation into exile. And with this, the whole idea of God was re-imagined. Instead of being an expression of abundant confidence, God was transformed into a vehicle for desired revenge. Only those who suffer are good, only the poor, the powerless, the lowly are good; the suffering, the deprived, the sick, the ugly, are the only pious people, the only ones saved, salvation is for them alone, whereas you rich, the noble and powerful, you eternally wicked cruel, lustful, insatiate, godless, you will be eternally wretched, cursed and damned.

    OGM With slavery, all values are reversed.

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    Everything vibrant and life-affirming is redescribed as "bad" so as to undermine the authority of the strong. Morality is a put-down. And with this revolutionary redescription, Nietzsche contends, humanity degrades itself. Humanity withers. It may be worth nailing the jibe that Nietzsche was antisemitic.

    Certainly, his talk of "the Jews" in the above reference will make many of us squirm. And his famous friendship with Wagner and the fact that he became Hitler's favourite thinker do nothing to ease this discomfort. Yet, the truth is, Nietzsche loathed antisemites. He thought them vulgar and often said as much. In Beyond Good and Evil he muses: "It would perhaps be a good idea to eject the antisemitic ranters from the country.

    Despite the fact that all this is widely accepted by scholars, many who read Nietzsche still experience some residual anxiety that his celebration of the powerful and his denigration of the weak has proto-Nazi overtones. In OGM he speaks approvingly of the "magnificent blond beast avidly prowling around for spoil and victory" in contrast to the "failed, sickly, tired and exhausted people of whom today's Europe is beginning to reek".

    This is not a reference to Jews. Even so, I think Nietzsche apologists have been far too indulgent of his celebrated rhetorical flamboyance. This sort of language stinks.

    The ’73 Graft: Punishment, Political Economy, and the Genealogy of Morals

    But although there are several occasions when the modern reader will want to hold their nose whilst reading Nietzsche, it is worth persevering. For there is much here to ponder, not least the familiar idea that those who are bullied and abused in one generation can often turn into the bullies and abusers of the next.

    With Nietzsche, this thought becomes the guiding thread of cultural history. The impact of suffering cascades down the generations, finding its way into all aspects of life, cultural and psychological. Scarpitti is an independent scholar of philosophy whose principal interests include English and German thought of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as exegesis and translation theory.

    Nietzsche’s bid to trigger moral Armageddon reads like a great horror novel

    Robert C. Works published after his death in include Will to Power, based on his notebooks, and Ecce Homo, his autobiography. For the latest books, recommendations, offers and more. By signing up, I confirm that I'm over View all newsletter. Paperback Features Articles, Games and more Penguin Shop Penguin Shop Book bundles. Penguin gifts. Writing workshops. View all. Events Podcasts Apps.

    Friedrich Nietzsche (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

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    On the Genealogy of Morals

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