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


Second Essay

§1 making promises (making a commitment to do something in the future, then carrying it out). forgetfulness is active ability to suppress, preserving mental order, rest. but also developed memory, suspending forgetfulness, for making promises: active desire not to let go. to make promises, need to have memory so there can be a time gap between original ‘I will’ intention and final action, need awareness of what I can accomplish, think causally, anticipate future, have strength to carry it through, become reliable, regular Þ answerable for his own future

§2 promising requires behaving reliably, uniformly, predictably. morality of custom & ‘social straitjacket’ Þ man made predictable.

sovereign individual: ability, strength, power to promise and carry it out; aware of power, mastery over himself and circumstances and nature; free, a free will, in that can decide, then carry out decision (liberty of spontaneity); superior to others with weaker will; answerable to himself; this is good conscience

§3 memory developed out of pain, torments, blood – pain aided memory! so cruel rituals, sacrifices, castrations, harsh punishments Þ a little memory, eventual mastery of plebeian instincts

§4 genealogy of ‘bad conscience’ and guilt?

etymology (in German) of guilt = being in debt

punishment, retribution developed independently of beliefs about freedom of will – idea that criminals deserve punishment because of guilt, could have done otherwise, refined judgements, inference, psychology, developed much later

rather, punishment expression of anger at perpetrator, kept in check by notion that any injury had equivalent which could be paid in compensation (often in form of pain)

origin of idea of equivalence? primitive notion of fairness/ justice? contractual relationship between creditor and debtor, from basic bartering & commerce

§5 in such primitive contract relationships, promises made – debtor pawns something to creditor in case he doesn’t pay: his body, freedom, life – inspires confidence in creditor & etches obligation memory in debtor. creditor can dishonour, torture debtor’s body, e.g. cutting off amount of flesh that seems appropriate for debt Þ amounts legally drawn up. equivalence to make up for wrong, not compensation in land, money, possessions, but creditor gets pleasure of exercising power (later, just seeing it) over debtor as recompense – such temporary power esp. alluring & enjoyable for weaker

§6 ‘debt’, (bad, and good) ‘conscience’, ‘guilt’, ‘duty’, ‘obligation’ all originating in bloodletting

making someone suffer Þ pleasure. ancients appear to have enjoyed cruelty, plus more recent examples, even if we may not.

§7 people were cheerful with their cruelty! perhaps still pleasure in cruelty.

suffering not really a problem; senselessness of suffering the problem. suffering made sense/ had meaning if $ spectators or instigators Þ invented gods and other beings to see in the dark and witness all suffering, all suffering & evil is justified if a god takes pleasure in it. similarly, unwitnessed virtue inconceivable! (perhaps today, people justify/ invent meaning for suffering & evil by claiming life is a riddle etc.)

§8 feeling of guilt, personal obligation originated in this most primitive relationship between buyer and seller, creditor and debtor – measuring, setting values, working out equivalents Þ transferred as social units ­. Þ Every thing has its price, everything can be compensated for. justice = coming to an understanding, a settlement (either between people of roughly equal power, or forced on those with less power)

§9 a community has same relationship to members as creditor to debtor. member enjoys benefits of community, shelter, security (vs. harm, hostility), & makes pledges and takes on obligations in return. if don’t repay benefits, if break contract with the whole, community is cheated creditor. debtor cast out like hated enemy (losing protection of community) so vulnerable to hostility

§10 as community ­ power & self-confidence, offenders are less dangerous and destabilising Þ ­ lenience, offender shielded from anger of injured party. as ­ power, hardly threatening at all Þ let them off, mercy

§11 highest mastery is making clear, moderate, objective judgement, whether injury was personal or not – justice involves active, stronger people trying to end ravages of reactive emotive sentiments of inferior: removing offender from anger of injured party, suggesting, sometimes enforcing, settlements, promoting certain equivalences as norm

Þ legal system – injury now against higher authority, impersonal, distracting from anger of personal injury

c.f. revenge = only injured party’s view matters (\ justice ≠ revenge)

§12 punishment did not originate with desire/ purpose of revenge, deterrence – later re-interpretations of existing practices (\ obscuring prior meaning/ purpose). origin/ emergence of a thing and its ultimate usefulness today are v.different – purpose today not there at the start, this goal not in sight then

‘progress’ can be measured according to how much has had to be sacrificed to it

will to power = “spontaneous, aggressive, expansive, re-interpreting, re-directing and formative” instinct to dominate

§13 punishment has had many purposes/ justifications/ benefits: preventing further harm, payment of debt to creditor (maybe emotional compensation), inspire fear of authority, an aide memoire – ‘reform’ & deterrence, preventing excesses of revenge, restore peace and order, and others

§14 punishment is supposed to arouse feeling of guilt (‘pang of conscience’ or ‘bad conscience’) in offender. unrealistic. pangs of consciences don’t thrive in prisons! punishment Þ men harder, colder, stronger, alienated, less inclined to feel guilty. justice system uses similar actions to criminals’ in service of justice, so not conducive to inspiring guilt feelings in offender. previously offender not punished because guilty, but because had caused harm, a ‘piece of fate’; offender felt punishment as unforeseen ‘piece of fate’, no ‘inner pain’

§15 wrongdoers when punished thought “something has gone unexpectedly wrong” not “I ought not to have done that”; submitted to punishment resignedly as to misfortune or fate.

effects of punishment: ­ memory, fear, more cautious, intelligent, less trusting, tame, ¬ ‘better’

§16 development of ‘bad conscience’, guilt. pre-society, semi-animal man used to wilderness, war, aggressive, violent instincts, found himself imprisoned in society. instincts that could not be discharged outwards (obstructed by punishment, oppressive conformity of custom) turned inwards, internalisation – man ripped himself apart, persecuted himself, invented ‘bad conscience’ Þ man’s sickness of himself

§17 first populations formed through violence, tyranny: a few ruthless conquerors, shaped and made others compliant. no social contract! ‘bad conscience’ grew in these oppressed as their instinct for freedom (= will to power §18) was repressed, incarcerated within themselves, then discharging it against themselves

§18 “soul voluntarily split within itself” [oppressor and oppressed; sufferer and spectator (D §113)]

active ‘bad conscience’ makes person suffer out of pleasure of making suffer. the selfless, self-denying, self-sacrificing feel pleasure, pleasure of cruelty [directed toward oneself], self-violation

§19 not only indebted to community, indebted to forebears, earliest generations who founded community (so who are responsible for benefits) – community only exists due to sacrifices and deeds of ancestors, plus ancestors still exist as spirits who can act in the world, so pay them back with sacrifices, feasts and obedience to their rules (a morality of custom). never sure have paid them enough. consciousness of debt to ancestors, dread, ­ as community’s power ­. ancestors grow in stature (since appear to have been/ be so powerful to create/ support increasingly powerful community) Þ gods.

§20 even though ‘communities’ decline, man inherits feelings of debt and longing for settlement, just like slaves inherited good/bad distinction from nobles – compulsion, submission, mimicry.

feeling of indebtedness ­ as power attributed to deity ­, over millennia, want debts settled [so stricter obedience to more stringent rules; rules need to be a genuine restriction, need to suffer, either through the restriction or by failing and then punishing yourself with guilt feelings, in order to repay debt Þ Jesus and his thought-crimes] Þ Xn God is maximal god, so greatest feeling of indebtedness. decline of faith in Xn God, rise in atheism Þ ¯ consciousness of debt

§21 ‘debt/guilt’, ‘duty’ moralised by being pushed back into conscience, weaving together bad conscience and concept of God – \ feeling of guilt persists even if remove premise (God). ‘bad conscience’ growing in ‘debtor’ Þ ascetic religions: debt is impossible to pay off Þ ‘eternal punishment’, ‘original sin’, or that existence is worthless Þ paradoxical attempted solution of creditor (God) paying himself back, sacrificing himself for the debtor! but now even greater debt

§22 ‘bad conscience’ seizing on idea of debt towards God to ­ self-torture Þ man’s will to find himself guilty & condemned without reprieve, think of himself as punished but never punished enough, sickness!

§23 conception of gods doesn’t have to Þ deterioration, self-abuse. Greek gods were “reflections of noble and proud men in whom the animal in man felt deified”. Greeks used their gods to keep ‘bad conscience’ at bay, blamed gods for evil, not themselves Þ remain free, noble, happy

§24 perhaps we can set up a new shrine, new ideal (though difficult, costly), where man’s natural inclinations ¬ evil, which is healthy (¬ hostile to life). to do this, someone would have to be strengthened by war, conquest, adventure, danger, pain, who is mentally strong, creative, who will redeem us from current ideal and that which has arisen from it, from will to nothingness, from nihilism, conquering Xn God