Conscience Blame and Punishment

Conscience, for Reee, is a reflexive version of the moral feeling of disapprobation. Having the contingent, habitual association of feelings of blame with egoistic actions, we come involuntarily to associate the same feelings with our own actions, so that 'a man who appears bad and blameworthy to himself because he has inflicted suffering on another feels what is called pangs of conscience (Gewissensbisse)'.18 When we act egoistically, we automatically feel an unpleasant feeling of...

Giving Meaning to Suffering

If religion, morality, philosophy, academic learning, and science have all been re-formations of the same basic ascetic material, driven throughout by a need to devalue ourselves, to diminish our own particular, transient, and vulnerable existence by comparison with some superior and unconditionally valuable entity or state, the question arises Why Nietzsche's answer is, in short, that the ascetic ideal enables our existence to be meaningful. The first and last sections of the Third Treatise...

Rhetorical Method and the Affects

In 1888, the year after the Genealogy appeared, Nietzsche composed his supposed autobiography, Ecce Homo. Although in general this work is approached with some degree of caution by many writers on Nietzsche, it is worth risking the thought that the single page of description entitled 'Genealogy of Morals. A Polemic', which purports to be a resume of the intentions informing the rhetoric of the Genealogy's three treatises and an assessment of their achievement, can be taken at face value as a...

Rees Account ofGood and

Ree's book is dominated by his account of the distinction between good and bad the latter not distinguished by him from 'evil' of which more later . In outline Ree argues as follows. Human beings have natural, inborn drives, ofwhich the dominant and most ancient is an egoistic drive, directed towards self-preservation, sexual fulfilment, and the satisfaction of vanity. While egoism gives rise to hard-heartedness, envy, hatred, vengefulness, cruelty, and malicious pleasure,1 there is an opposing...

Question Marks after Ourselves

A theme that has arisen at various points in this book is Nietzsche's critique of philosophical and scholarly enquiry itself.The Genealogy begins with the notion that 'we knowers' are estranged from ourselves because we have not sought to know ourselves, and ends with an invitation to remove a mainstay of traditional knowledge-gathering the unconditional valuation ofholding, telling, and pursuing the truth. Nietzsche has a radical message for philosophers and 'scientific' investigators your...

The Opposition

The Preface to the Genealogy makes it clear that Nietzsche seeks a critique of the values of morality, and plants the thought that these values are inimical to the highest potentials for humanity. Setting himself against a majority assumption of the Western culture that has inherited Judaeo-Christian values, he is not surprised to have found no followers of his own, and considers his book hard to read. He later predicts that it will be 200 years before there is cultural change sufficient to...

Acting Otherwise

Let us return once more to Schopenhauer and Ree. Both thinkers deny free will in a specific sense they claim that for any particular action A of 1 A distinction made by Ken Gemes between deserts' free will and agency free will is an appealing way of resolving the tension see Gemes 2006a , to which this chapter was originally written as a companion piece. 2 See Owen 2003 for an account of the development of the genealogical method. any human individual, if the individual's character and all the...

Nietzsches Dialogue with Mr Rash and Curious

Section 14 of the First Treatise is a good example of Nietzsche's use of artistic methods in pursuit ofhis diagnostic and therapeutic aims. He invents a character with whom the essay's narrative voice suddenly enters into comic dialogue. It is like calling for a volunteer from the audience 'Would anyone like to go down and take a look into the secret ofhow they fabricate ideals on earth Who has the courage to do so ' The supposed volunteer is addressed as mein Herr Vorwitz und Wagehals rendered...

Who Interprets

Nietzsche's other general claim that there is no form of knowing that is not affective looks harder to sustain. We are prompted to seek some theoretical ground for Nietzsche's refusal in principle to allow affect-free knowledge. At this point it will help to consider who or what is the knower, the subject of knowledge, for Nietzsche. The readings of perspectivism discussed so far have tended towards the implicit assumption of what we might call 'a commonsense conception of human knowing' in...

Schopenhauer as Subtext in Genealogy III

With this wider picture in place the attentive reader will find Schopen-hauerian markers in section 12 from beginning to end. The phrase 'will to contradiction and anti-nature' is a play on words which takes another stab at Schopenhauer's central idea of 'will to life'. The ascetic priest and the philosopher in his commonest guise to date is a life form whose fundamental drive is against life. The ascetic character paradoxically tends towards a kind of survival or continuation of existence, but...

Will to Power and Interpretation

In addition to using the notion of will to power in these many forms of psychological explanation, Nietzsche sometimes seeks to embed human psychology within a broader picture oforganic nature as will to power. The most theoretical discussion of will to power in the Genealogy occurs at the centre of the book's central essay, in sections 12 and 13, where Nietzsche uses the case of punishment to show why his genealogical method is needed, in the light of the way phenomena in human culture are...

Nonsense about Compassion

In The Gay Science, well after his disillusionment with all of Schopenhauer's doctrines 8 Nietzsche complains that what impresses some of his contemporaries in Schopenhauer are not his virtues as a philosopher, but his 'excesses and vices', among which he lists the indemonstrable doctrine of One Will 'all causes are merely occasional causes of the appearance of the will at this time and this place' 'the will to life is present wholly and undividedly in every being, even the least, as completely...

The Doer and the Deed

In the opening of GM I. 13 Nietzsche's rhetoric, as often in the Genealogy, aims to tease out fundamental inclinations and aversions in the reader, probing those habitual affects which, for Nietzsche, are the bedrock of our attachment to the values of morality. Our instinctive reaction to the mini-parable in which lambs feel anger at birds ofprey, but the birds ofprey love lambs, may be to sympathize with both affective standpoints in quick succession, revealing how readily we understand the...

Faith in the Value of Truth

The last quarter of the Third Treatise contains a startling reversal. In section 23 Nietzsche asks where is the ideal that stands in opposition to 11 Cf. GM III. 20, where Nietzsche quotes 'My kingdom is not of this world' from John 18 36. the ascetic ideal. 'But I am told it is not lacking,' he replies has not a new ideal already arrived and replaced the old ' O ur entire modern science Wissenschaft is said to be witness to this this modern science, which clearly believes in itself alone,...

The Pure Willless Subject

In section 12 of the Third Treatise, Schopenhauer re-emerges through the unacknowledged quotation of his phrase 'pure, will-less, painless, timeless subject of knowledge'. For Schopenhauer this 'pure, will-less subject' is the subject of aesthetic experience, a state of consciousness in which all our desires, interests, and feelings are suspended, and we exist merely as a subject of knowledge that mirrors the world without imposing subjective forms upon it. In particular, space, time, and...

Nietzsches Choice of Style

There are passages in Nietzsche's mature works that are sometimes decried more often ignored as unnecessary rhetorical excesses. A prominent instance is this from the Genealogy's First Treatise the noble, the powerful are not much better than uncaged beasts of prey toward the outside world There they enjoy freedom from all social constraint they step back into the innocence of the beast-of-prey conscience, as jubilant monsters, who perhaps walk away from a hideous succession of murder, arson,...

Cruelty that Turns Back

The Second Treatise of the Genealogy, entitled ' ''Guilt'', ''Bad Conscience'', and Related Matters', has been comparatively poorly served by extended commentary.1 The treatise admittedly follows a winding path even by Nietzsche's standards, but I hope to reveal a central train of thought from which its many byways branch off. The central train of thought is that having a bad conscience or feeling guilty is a way in which we satisfy a fundamental need to inflict cruelty. This is achieved by...

Section i

The Preface to On the Genealogy of Morality opens with a beautiful and evocative piece of writing that may be read as a self-contained 'prose-poem', for want of a better word. Most immediately striking in this first section is the image of the bleary-eyed daydreamer whose whole life was a chiming of bells heard too dimly and too late to be counted correctly. Self-knowledge, we read, is something 'we knowers' never attain, and necessarily so 'we remain of necessity strangers to ourselves, we do...

Some Questions of Interpretation

The Second Treatise raises numerous large-scale issues of interpretation which make it difficult to go into detail beyond the level of the 'missionstatement'. Such issues should not be multiplied beyond necessity, so I shall mention just the following 1 Is 'bad conscience' a form of the 'conscience' that Nietzsche attributes to the 'sovereign individual' in the essay's opening sections 2 Are 'consciousness of guilt' and 'bad conscience' two separate phenomena, or one and the same 3 Is the...

Christian Bad Conscience

By the time Nietzsche reaches the end of his narrative and his true analysandum the moralized Christian form of bad conscience which is a pervasive guilt-consciousness it is clear that the subject of this state is indeed a self-punisher. The Christian has a concept of God as judge and executioner, which fulfils 'the will of man to find himself guilty and reprehensible to the point that it cannot be atoned for his will to imagine himself punished without the possibility of the punishment ever...

Genealogy and the Value of Moral Values

Nietzsche introduces the task of genealogy by saying that 'we need a knowledge of the conditions and circumstances out of which moral 5 For Nietzsche, Ree falls into the category of those albeit unsuccessful 'English psychologists whom we have to thank for the only attempts so far to produce a history of the genesis of morality' GM I. 1 , while Schopenhauer's total lack of a historical sense is 'un-German to the point of genius' BGE 204 . One fails in the attempt at history the other fails even...

The Free Will of the Sovereign Individual

Sections 2 3 of the Second Treatise introduce the 'sovereign individual', but the text leaves us uncertain about who this individual is, was, or might be. He or she is described as an end-product of the conformist 'morality of custom', a mode of evaluation prior to the Christian morality Nietzsche is out to re-evaluate in the Genealogy.20 But are 'sovereign individuals' supposed to have existed after the age of the morality of custom was over or during its later stages And are they supposed to...

Self Affirmation The Demons Test

The classic text for Nietzsche's conception of self-affirmation is this section from The Gay Science The heaviest weight. What if some day or night a demon were to steal into your loneliest loneliness and say to you 'This life as you now live it and have lived it you will have to live once again and innumerable times again and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unspeakably small or great in your life must return to you, all in...

How Ree Goes Wrong Right at the Beginning

One can immediately see why Nietzsche says of Ree that 'in his hypothesizing we have the Darwinian beast politely joining hands with the most modern, unassuming moral milquetoast who ''no longer bites'' ' GM, Preface, 7 , and that he 'sees the altruistic manner of valuation as the moral manner of valuation in itself' GM, Preface, 4 . However, something else deserves comment. In Ree's title for chapter 1 the topic is the concepts good and evil bose . But throughout the chapter, and indeed right...

Wisdom as Woman Free Associations

So what becomes of the Zarathustra extract at the head of the treatise's opening page 24 I suggest that its lot is improved by my hypothesis. Liberated from the absurdly overtaxing double role of having some seventy pages of deliberation on a topic it does not even mention spun out of its meagre frame and thereby providing the hint from which a conception of textual Auslegung is to be learned, it can revert to its more plausible function as a pure epigraph or motto, of the kind sometimes used...

The Ascetic Priest

The clearest single statement of the significance of the ascetic priest in the Third Treatise is probably the following The idea we are fighting about here is the valuation of our life on the part of the ascetic priest he relates our life together with that to which it belongs 'nature', 'world', the entire sphere ofbecoming and of transitoriness to an entirely different kind of existence which it opposes and excludes, unless, perhaps, it were to turn against itself, to negate itself in this...

Will to Power as Psychological Explanation of Moral Phenomena

In Nietzsche's writings, and even more in other people's interpretations of them, the will to power presents itself in various guises it appears sometimes to offer a global metaphysics, sometimes to be an explanatory term specific to Nietzsche's psychology of drives, and at other times to give a criterion for his own evaluations the latter most blatantly in the late passage 'What is good All that heightens the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself in man' A 2 . I want to start by...

Perils of Present Concepts Causa Fiendi and False Unity

Further contrasts between Nietzsche's genealogical method and Ree's emerge from the methodological remarks in GM II, sections 12 and 13, surrounding the history of punishment. Nietzsche includes in the scope of his criticism here 'previous genealogists of morality' who 'discover some ''purpose'' or other in punishment, for example revenge or deterrence, then innocently place this purpose at the beginning as causa fiendi of punishment'.26 The genealogist who makes deterrence the cause of...

Nietzsche as Artist and Psychologist

If one were setting out to pose fundamental evaluative questions about the system of moral attitudes prevalent in contemporary culture, would it help to adopt an artistic approach Probably there could never be a general answer to this question, even if it were perfectly clear what is meant by 'artistic'. It would be a bold theorist who ventured that such a revaluative project, a project falling within ethics in the broadest sense, necessitated writing in the form of poem, drama, or opera, or at...

Section

Nietzsche next gives us more autobiography, partially fictionalized. He has told us that Human, All Too Human was begun in Sorrento in the winter of 1876-7. We now read that a stimulus for his work was The Origin of the Moral Sensations by Paul Ree. The text does not reveal that Ree was Nietzsche's close friend and associate at that time, nor that they spent five months together in Sorrento with another friend, Albert Brenner, engaged in shared intellectual enquiry. This intense collaboration,...