than its employment in punishment, that the latter is projected and interpreted into the procedure (which has long existed but been employed in a different sense)" (GM II:13). This is an application of the major point of historical method he has been developing in the essay: namely, that "the cause of the origin of a thing and its eventual utility, its actual employment and place in a system of purposes, lie worlds apart" (GM II:12).
I suggest that what Nietzsche calls the "stable element" in punishment is the act of inflicting a harm or loss on a person based on a judgment that the person deserves this loss owing to something he or she has done. Nietzsche's analysis of the debtor-creditor relation earlier in this essay makes apparent his belief that people inflicted harm based on judgments of desert before such judgments became part of punishing. He suggests, in effect, that the stable element in punishment originated in the agreement made by debtors that if unable to pay off debts, they would provide a substitute repayment in the form of some harm or physical suffering the creditor would be allowed to inflict on them (GM II:5).
It seems right to deny that such infliction of suffering (for example, the taking of a pound of flesh from the person who cannot repay a debt) constitutes a case of punishment, even though it occurs as a result of a judgment that the debtor owes this suffering (or the opportunity to inflict it) to the creditor. The purpose of inflicting suffering in this case seems to be not to punish the debtor but rather to extract a substitute repayment. The distinction made in civil cases between compensatory and punitive damages also suggests that judgments of desert are not sufficient to make inflicting a loss a case of punishment.
But then what is sufficient? What distinguishes the punitive from the nonpunitive infliction of such harm? Nietzsche answers as follows:
As for the other element in punishment, the fluid element, its "meaning," in a very late condition of culture (for instance, modern Europe) the concept "punishment" possesses in fact not one meaning but a whole synthesis of "meanings": the previous history of punishment in general, the history of its employment for the most diverse purposes, finally crystallizes into a kind of unity that is hard to disentangle, hard to analyze and, as must be emphasized especially, totally indefinable. (Today it is impossible to say for certain why people are really punished: all concepts in which an entire process is semiotically concentrated elude definition; only that which has no history is definable.) At an earlier stage, on the contrary, this synthesis of "meanings" can still be disentangled, as well as changed; one can perceive how in each case the elements of the synthesis undergo a shift in value and rearrange themselves accordingly, so that now this, now that element comes to the fore and dominates at the expense of others; and under certain circumstances one element (the purpose of deterrence perhaps) appears to overcome all the remaining elements. (GM II:13)
In thus denying that "punishment" can be defined, Nietzsche denies
that there is an essence of punishing, in the sense of a set of necessary and sufficient conditions that distinguishes the punitive from the nonpunitive infliction of harm. We can say that such harm must be inflicted for a punitive purpose to count as punishment; but Nietzsche's point is that there is no single purpose that constitutes the purpose of punishing—that our idea of punishing is an unstable synthesis of various purposes that have been served by inflicting harm based on judgments of desert. A Nietzschean history of punishment would try to show how different purposes came to be associated with inflicting such harm, and how these purposes replaced or combined with each other to explain the meaning or justification of doing so.
Analyzing the concept of punishment, however, would involve disentangling various of these purposes and exposing how they have been run together or conflated. Nietzsche suggests that concepts influenced by history are like ropes held together by the intertwining of strands, rather than by a single strand running through the whole thing. To analyze such concepts is not to find necessary and sufficient conditions for their use but to disentangle the various strands that may have become so tightly woven together by the process of historical development that they seem inseparable. Such analysis would take place most effectively in conjunction with historical theorizing, because it is the historical synthesis of strands that hides their separability from view, and it is thus by going back and forth between historical and conceptual considerations that one can hope to make progress in either the history or the conceptual analysis. Historical theorizing and conceptual analysis would thus be two sides of a complex theory as to the origin and development of punishment.
Now Nietzsche must believe that this connection between history and concepts also exists in the case of morality. After all, he articulates it in the very middle of a book titled literally On the Genealogy of Morality . Kaufmann's translation of the singular "Moral " as "morals," while not wrong, has tended to encourage those who deny that the book offers any kind of unified theory. But given the discussion of concepts at the physical center of the book, we should expect Nietzsche's view to be that a unified theory of the origins of morality would uncover the origin and trace the development of different and originally independent strands of morality that history has woven together. This, I believe, is exactly what the Genealogy attempts. I suggest that the sometimes disjointed or fragmentary character of the Genealogy has nothing to do with telling different stories or allowing in various perspectives, but is due instead to a self-conscious attempt to analyze a concept with a complex history—to disentangle originally independent elements that we can no longer see as such.
Genealogy is nothing mysterious or newfangled. Nietzsche's history of morality is a genealogy because it is the history of couplings. Something
that already exists combines with something else that has its own history to give birth to a third thing, which then combines with something else that is also the product of such couplings. Genealogy is simply a natural history. If there is something new in Nietzsche's use of genealogy, it is the suggestion that concepts are formed in the same way as other living things—and, in particular, that this is true of the concept of morality. I will now try to indicate something of the implication of this view for an analysis of the concept of morality.
Consider the First Essay, titled "'Good and Evil,' 'Good and Bad.'" Following Kaufmann, this essay is usually assumed to be a comparison of master and slave morality, an attempt to distinguish "moralities that originated in the ruling class from moralities that originated among the oppressed." I consider this misleading for two reasons. First, even in the case of good and evil, Nietzsche is not looking at a whole morality in this essay. Standards of right and wrong, for instance, receive no attention. The essay compares not two moralities, but two different ways of determining who is good and who isn't. Further, as I shall argue, Nietzsche's "good/bad" is not a moral distinction.
Nietzsche begins by arguing on philological grounds that "good" originally meant the same as "noble," or "of the ruling class," whereas "bad" meant "common" (GM I:4). But then how could "good" express a value judgment? Nietzsche answers that the nobles' self-affirmation showed through in the words they used to refer to themselves. Happy with their own existence (after all, they had power, wealth, and so forth), they naturally experienced their own lives as preferable or superior to the lives of those they ruled. Nietzsche explains the origin of regarding particular characteristics as "good"—the origin of judgments of virtue—along the same lines, claiming that the nobles called "good" the characteristics they perceived as belonging to themselves and distinguishing them from the commoners. Their self-affirmation or happiness was such that they took any characteristic they saw as peculiar to themselves to be part of their goodness, that is, an aspect of their superiority to the common human being.
At first, they perceived the distinction in crude physical terms, like wealth and power. As time went on, their view of the distinction between themselves and commoners came to center more on traits of soul or character, such as loyalty, truthfulness, and courage. They began to designate themselves as "the truthful," as "distinct from the lying common man" (GM I:5). In this process, Nietzsche claims, "good" finally lost all connection to political class, and became identical with superiority of soul. However, it is unclear whether this is supposed to have happened sometime in the past, or is being held out as a possible future development of the good/ bad distinction.
In either case, it seems to me that good/bad here is not a moral dis-
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