This is a summary/commentary on Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morality.


First Essay

§2 what is the origin/ descent of the concept/ judgement ‘good’?

‘English psychologists’: originally, unegoistic acts praised, called ‘good’, by recipients (those to whom goodness was shown), because useful; then everyone forgot the origin of the praise (the ‘usefulness’), then people felt them as good because such acts were praised habitually as good. So, usefulness, forgetting, habit, error Þ respect for moral values.

No: the noble, mighty, high-placed, high-minded judged themselves & their actions as good, c.f. plebeian, common, lowly. pathos of distance – feeling of superiority, “we are noble, good; they are different, lesser, bad”.

§3 suppose origin of ‘good’ was in usefulness of behaviour for recipient – how would the forgetting be possible? the usefulness would be reinforced every time, so wouldn’t forget! similarly, bad = harmful.

§4 etymology: word ‘good’ developed from ‘noble’ & ‘aristocratic’; ‘bad’ developed from ‘common’, ‘plain’, ‘plebeian’, ‘low’

initial distinction between noble & common had no derogatory implication, not moral: just contrast

§5 nobles more powerful – called themselves ‘mighty’, ‘masters’; rich – ‘propertied’; but also ‘the truthful’ assimilated with ‘aristocratic’ c.f. the deceitful common man. more etymology

§6 “all ancient man’s concepts were originally understood… as crude, coarse, detached… unsymbolic”

‘pure man’ originally one who washed, avoided certain foods which cause skin complaints, didn’t sleep with filthy women, horror of blood Þ internalised, sharpened, made more demanding, diets, fasting, abstinence – ‘unhealthy’: turned away from action, brooding Þ priestly aristocracy caste

“the yearning for a unio mystica with God is the Buddhist yearning for nothingness, Nirvana – and no more!”

priests Þ first time humans are interesting animals, complex Þ superiority over other animals

§7 priestly valuations (pure/ impure) split from chivalric-aristocratic valuations (based on powerful physicality, ‘good health’, war, adventure, hunting, dancing, jousting)

priests are powerless but intelligent Þ due to powerlessness, hate swells – intellectual and poisonous, vengeful

the Jews, a priestly people (Jesus their heir): most deliberate revenge vs. enemies and conquerors, a revaluation of values, rejecting aristocratic valuations (good – noble, powerful, beautiful) Þ those who suffer, powerless, the poor, lowly = good, pious; rich, noble, powerful = wretched, damned! i.e. slaves’ revolt in morality

§8 love preached by Jesus grew out of this Jewish hatred (impressive in its creativity and impact, creating ideals, changing values) & thirst for revenge, love: the crown pursuing aims of hatred

§10 slaves’ revolt in morality: ressentiment becomes creative & creates values – ‘imaginary revenge’ because cannot respond properly with action (because weak)

[ressentiment = resentment, hatred (of stronger), together with sense of powerlessness to do anything about it, “annoyance, abnormal vulnerability, inability to take revenge, the desire, the thirst for revenge” (EC, ‘Wise’, §6)]

noble morality – affirmation, ‘yes’ to oneself; contrast ‘bad’, ‘low’ created after the event; feel their happiness, saturated with passion, necessarily being active

slave morality: powerless, oppressed; says ‘no’ to ‘outside’, nobles; reactive, responding to others; construct their happiness artificially by looking at their enemies, sometimes lying to themselves; ‘they are evil’ \ I am good

“A race of such men of ressentiment will inevitably end up cleverer than any noble race, and will respect cleverness to a quite different degree as well”

§11 noble: conceives ‘good’, then creates notion of ‘bad’, an afterthought, an aside, a complementary colour. c.f. ‘evil’ conceived from the slaves’ cauldron of hatred. ‘good’ not the same in the two cases: the ‘good’ of noble morality reconceived as ‘evil’ of ressentiment slave morality

civilised (Greek & others) culture developed from ‘barbarians’, ‘daring’, oppressing others (slaves)

§12 man is getting ‘better’, more mediocre, more comfortable, more indifferent, stunting, levelling. our being tired of man could be said to be nihilism.

a man who justified, made up for & redeemed man would enable us to retain our faith in mankind.

§13 absurd to ask strength not to express itself as strength, not to desire to overthrow, become master

like separating lightning from flash, subject performing deed, lightning subject performs flash deed – flash inseparable from lightning, doing strong deeds inseparable from being strong

slaves: strong person has freedom to manifest strength or not, free to be weak (creating notion of moral responsibility – responsible for strong actions, could have done otherwise)

the weak, powerless: we choose not to do evil (strong) things (not incapable) – revaluating weakness Þ virtue, as freedom, chosen

§14 “Lies are turning weakness into an accomplishment”. impotence which cannot retaliate Þ ‘goodness’; timidity Þ ‘humility’; inoffensiveness, cowardice, having to wait Þ ‘patience’; not-being-able-to-take-revenge Þ ‘not-wanting-to-take-revenge’; misery Þ ‘God’s chosen’, a test, training; obeying masters due to fear Þ God commands that we honour those in authority, we are better than the powerful, will be rewarded; revenge, hatred Þ justice; hating enemies Þ hating injustice, godlessness

§15 the hope for thekingdomofGodis the hope to be powerful one day – so much for humility! hope for eternal life, eternal recompense – created out of hate. Aquinas: those in heaven will see the torments of the damned so they enjoy heaven more! Tertullian: shall I laugh, rejoice, exult at kings groaning in the deepest darkness? at provincial governors melting in flames?! more pleasing than the circus, racetrack, theatre

§16 opposing values ‘good and bad’ (e.g. Roman, aristocratic), ‘good and evil’ (e.g. Jewish, Jesus, Paul, ressentiment) have continued to battle, though latter dominant. sometimes battling in a man’s intellectual nature [“within a single soul” BGE §260]

reawakening of Rome& classical ideal = Renaissance (& Napoleon); the Reformation & French Revolution = ressentiment movements – priority of the majority, baseness, levelling, decline, decay