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


Third Essay

§1 What do ascetic ideals mean? [ascetic = austere, self-denial, imposing (physical) hardship] That ascetic ideals have meant so much to man shows that the human will “needs an aim -, and it prefers to will nothingness rather than not will.”

§2 use of ascetic ideals for artists e.g. homage to chastity

§4 should separate artist from his work; judge work, not include descent of the work nor artist (who is the womb, the soil). [N.B. origin of Barthes’s ‘death of the author’] in fact, creation involves not being the same – Goethe could not have created Faust had Goethe been a Faust

§5 meaning of ascetic ideals for artists: nothing at all, or so many things that in effect nothing

§6 aesthetics, being disinterested [N.B. do not confuse ascetic and aesthetic: ascetic means concerned with self-denial, aesthetic means concerned with art or beauty]

§7 ascetic ideal for philosopher – no wife, no children Þ independence, liberty, “the optimum condition of the highest and boldest intellectuality” – not denying ‘existence’, but affirming only his existence

§8 ascetic ideal: poverty, humility, chastity – in great, inventive spirits, these not ‘virtues’, but proper prerequisites for best existence and finest productivity, appreciate isolation, peace, distance

§9 (our attitude towards God combative, arrogant, presumptive; God = “some alleged spider of purpose and ethics lurking behind the great spider’s web of causality”)

§10 early philosophers cruel towards themselves, imaginative self-mortification to violate gods and traditions in themselves Þ fear and respect themselves Þ accept their own new value judgements and innovations

§11 ascetic priest rests his faith in ascetic ideal – values life as wrong, as a mistake. such priests are prevalent in many different cultures and ages. ascetic life is self-contradictory, ressentiment, desire for power over life itself; satisfaction found in pain, voluntary deprivation, destruction of self, self-flagellation, self-sacrifice – life turning against itself, denying itself

§12 asceticism in philosophy: demoting physical world to illusion, scepticism, denying senses, one’s ego, reason Þ$ truth that reason cannot access” (perhaps noumenal world, mysticism)

“to see differently, and to want to see differently”, different perspectives & valuations. using different perspectives and emotional interpretations Þ knowledge, objectivity (objectivity not disinterested contemplation, which is contradictory; seeing is active, can’t see without interpreting)

“There is only a perspectival seeing, only a perspectival ‘knowing’; the more [feelings] we are able to put into words about a thing, the more eyes, various eyes we are able to use for the same thing, the more complete will be our ‘concept’ of the thing, our ‘objectivity’.” [more true?]

attempting to be objective by eliminating emotions, preferences, would be to castrate intellect!

§13 “the ascetic ideal springs from the protective and healing instincts of a degenerating life” using every means to continue to exist. “in it [ascetic ideal] and through it, life struggles with death and against death, the ascetic ideal is a trick for the preservation of life.” man is a sick animal, depressed. “His ‘no’ that he says to life brings a wealth of more tender ‘yeses’ to light as though by magic; and even when he wounds himself, this master of destruction, self-destruction, –afterwards it is the wound itself that forces him to live.”

§14 sickly, weak are danger, hazardous for healthy, strong. the low, sick, self-contemptuous: only we are good and just (echoing I), ressentiment, shove their misery onto others Þ healthy, successful become ashamed of happiness & success, because ‘so much misery’ \ sick making healthy sick

§15 ascetic priest rules over those suffering; priest is sick too, but stronger (cunning, not physically strong), more master of himself, than others.

sufferer wants to know cause for their suffering, wants someone to blame. so can release emotion as attempt at relief. physiological cause of ressentiment is desire to anaesthetise pain through emotion

priest redirects the herd’s ressentiment. priest’s diagnosis: you yourself are to blame for your own suffering.

§16 priest: you suffer because ‘guilty’, ‘sinful’, ‘evil’ – gives interpretation, meaning. not real cure

§17 priestly medication doesn’t address underlying cause: alleviates, consoles suffering, symptoms, weariness.

to fight dominating lethargy, ‘holy men’ ¯ awareness of life, hypnotic dampening of sensibility: no wanting, no wishing, no loving, no hating, no revenge, no work Þ loss of self (psychological), thus ridding themselves of deep depression Þ a mystica unio with God achieved, like deep sleep (!), no consciousness of what is outside nor within, hypnotic feeling of nothingness, absence of suffering

§18 more often, given that this dampening is difficult, priest prescribes mechanical activity: ‘the blessing of work’ – diverting attention of sufferer from the pain, busy, time-filling, forget oneself, so no room/time left for suffering! [e.g. rosary beads, Hail Marys. penance]

orchestrated revaluation of values: “switch names round a bit, some rebaptising, so that in future they would view a hated thing as a benefit” (slaves’ discontent real – not invented by priests).

prescribed pleasure of giving pleasure e.g. doing good, giving gifts, loving your neighbour – derive pleasure from exercising small amount of power over someone else Þ reciprocated Þ form community, mutual support Þ ¯ depression. organised by priests

§19 priests’ prescriptions vs. pain, depression in §§17-18 ‘innocent’ [therapy but no meaning; don’t help underlying problem, but don’t make it any worse]; priest also has ‘guilty’ means – using an excess of feeling to anaesthetise pain [meaning and therapy; guilty because actually makes the sick worse]

§20 want excess of feeling to anaesthetise dull pain, lethargy, depression. priest makes use of the strong aggressive internalised drives, reinterpreting guilt feeling, ‘bad conscience’, as ‘sin’. the ‘cause’ of your suffering is sin, in you, in your past, you are a sinner.

want more pain to provide intense feeling to anaesthetise current pain. however, this makes the sick sicker [so then they go back to the priests who give further prescriptions! reinforcing priests’ power]

§22 Old Testament contains great men, a heroic landscape; doesn’t like New Testament. too many Xns lack reverence: first-name-terms with God

desire for eternal life is “ultimate in presumption”

§23 ascetic ideal has a goal, a will – all other human interests appear petty against it; it can interpret history, people w.r.t. its goal; permits only its own interpretation; does not submit to any power; everything under it, receives meaning and value in terms of its one goal

science (academia) is manifestation of ascetic ideal; science as a whole has no goal, no ideal [Note, N “delights in their work” – not anti-science/ -knowledge]; diligence and industry of scholars distracts them, feel they have purpose, concealing something from themselves, ignoring real problem – self‑anaesthetic

§24 strength of belief/ faith often Þ improbability of proof, probability of deception, no guide to truth!

“all these pale atheists, Antichrists, immoralists, nihilists, these sceptics, ephectics [those who suspend judgement]”, these ‘free spirits’ are not free from the ascetic ideal “because they still believe in truth.” their faith in truth = rigidity, ¬ free! haven’t denied the God of the ascetic ideal

true freedom – not believing in truth, ‘nothing is true, everything is permitted’

the compulsion, the unconditional will to truth is “faith in the ascetic ideal itself”, a faith that truth is valuable in itself, that truth is divine [why not a wagonload of pretty possibilities? BGE §10 interpretations? daring to not have certainty? dancing beside the abyss? GS §347]

what if error and lies are divine? value of truth just been assumed, as highest authority. “The will to truth needs a critique… the value of truth is tentatively to be called into question

§25 science and ascetic ideal share faith that truth cannot be assessed or criticised, and based on impoverishment of life, emotions cooled, solemnity

scientific progress Þ man’s self-deprecation, lost faith in his dignity, his uniqueness, his importance Þ nothingness? the ideal’s goal?

transforming the unintelligible into object of admiration, worshipping the question mark as God Þ is this faith after Kant? – no knowing \ God – triumph for ascetic ideal (?)

§26 perhaps reject goals, attempts at proving, judging, and merely describe? is this an option? but this is nihilism (& ascetic) – giving up (it’s all in vain, no point). maybe this is preferable!

§27 atheism developed from will to truth, from ascetic ideal. emphasis on truthfulness in Xn morality Þ identifying lies at morality’s foundation: Xn dogma & its belief in God. [\ Xnty destroyed itself!]

§28 ascetic ideal offered meaning and purpose to man, in face of nihilism (‘no point!’) – searching for meaning, justification, explanation, affirmation – suffered from this problem. meaninglessness of suffering is intolerable, not the suffering. any meaning better than no meaning at all, and ascetic ideal provided that meaning. suffering interpreted, seemingly filling emptiness, but Þ new deeper suffering (internalised, guilt). but a meaning, (man saved). an aversion to life, rejection of reason?, longing to stop longing?, a will to nothingness.

“man still prefers to will nothingness, than not will…”