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 to attempt it.

values] have grown, under which they have developed and shifted' (GM, Preface, 6). But he juxtaposes this task of discovering origins with another, more emphatically expressed: 'we need a critique of moral values, for once the value of these values must itself be called into question'; 'what value do they themselves have? Have they inhibited or furthered human flourishing up until now?' (GM, Preface, 6, 3). A prime methodological question facing the reader of the Genealogy is, therefore: How does the account of the origins of moral values relate to the task of evaluating them? Nietzsche more than once gives a succinct answer to that question. In Ecce Homo he calls the Genealogy's essays psychological studies 'preliminary' to the revaluation of all values, and in the Preface to the Genealogy he describes 'hypothesizing about the origin of morality', his own included, as undertaken 'solely for the sake of an end to which it is one means among many', that of questioning 'the value of morality [...] in particular [...] the value of the unegoistic, of the instincts of compassion, self-denial, self-sacrifice' (GM, Preface, 5). This strongly suggests that genealogy, knowing or hypothesizing the conditions of the origin of our values, is distinct from, and instrumental towards, the critique or revaluation of values that Nietzsche hopes will take place. Genealogy does not itself complete the process of revaluation, but is a necessary start on the way to it.6

First, then, what is genealogy? Alexander Nehamas has written that for Nietzsche genealogy is 'history, correctly practiced', and more recent writers have echoed that statement.7 But this formulation may run the risk of being uninformative: there are some notable differences between genealogy and other forms of history. Like ordinary family genealogy, Nietzsche's investigation of morality is restricted to those aspects of the past that causally terminate in our specific present-day states, and so is a highly selective exercise, ignoring vast tracts of history from which our current attitudes do not clearly descend. If I am pursuing my own genealogy, my being a descendant of X is decisive in X's being a salient object of study for me. Only tangentially, if at all, do I care to discover who lived in the

6 Loeb (2005) argues that because of Nietzsche's aristocratic conception of values he is able to regard the origin of moral values in slavish attitudes as already sufficient critique of their value. However, Nietzsche is not writing for readers who already subscribe to aristocratic values; hence his revaluative strategy does not, I suggest, rely solely on genealogy, but uses it in a 'preliminary' way as a means towards revaluation.

7 Nehamas (1985: 246 n. 1); see also Geuss (2001: 336); Leiter (2002: 166 n. 1, 180).

neighbouring plot ofland to my ancestors, how they fit into wider patterns of change in social attitudes or movements of labour, what were the most significant political events and personages ofthat age, and so on. Genealogy lacks the horizontal spread ofinterest characteristic ofmuch historical work and is a vertical tree-shaped study, rooted in ourselves as the eventual outcome. So too with Nietzsche's genealogy: it is extremely selective ofits past and always guided by the question, How did we come to feel and think in these ways of ours? Indeed, I shall argue that such enquiry is ultimately to be conducted in the first-person singular. The individual is the target for the kind of historical scrutiny Nietzsche describes: 'Your judgement, ''that is right'' has a prehistory in your drives, inclinations, aversions, experiences [...] you have to ask, ''how did it emerge there?'' and then also, ''what is really impelling me to listen to it?''' (GS 335).

The history provided by Nietzschean genealogy is to a large extent psychological. It seeks truths about interpretations made in the past and explains their being made in terms of the psychological states of those who made them. For example, in the First Treatise of the Genealogy it claims truth for the proposition 'The slaves in ancient societies had a reactive feeling of ressentiment and attained an enhanced feeling of their own power by interpreting the exercising of power by the strong as something evil that no one ought to do and that all are free not to do'. Genealogy involves claims that psychological states such as ressentiment really existed in the past and that they gave rise to more ingrained feelings ofinclination and aversion towards certain behaviours and character-types, which in turn issued in the concepts 'good' and 'evil' and many generally held beliefs such as 'It is evil to exercise one's power over someone weaker than oneself'.

Another notable feature of Nietzsche's procedure, however, is that it involves a projected or imagined generic psychology, not properly localized to times, places, or individuals. For example, when Nietzsche diagnoses the psychological origins of Christian values, we start in a Greek world reminiscent of the Homeric age, but are sometimes among early Christian sects and the Roman Empire, at other times somewhere vague in the history of Judaism, and so on.8 What interests Nietzsche is the type of psychological state—especially in this case the undischarged reactive aggression of ressentiment—that can explain why a type of personality in a

8 Discussion with Ken Gemes brought this to my attention.

type of predicament adopts a type of values. Types are not wholly ahistorical for him—one cannot have a 'masterly' or 'slavish' character without specific cultural structures in which such characters can form—but their influence can endure through history into very different cultures. In Western culture, for the most part, we do not have individuals standing in master-slave relationships, but, for Nietzsche, the residue of the psychological states that produced master-values and slave-values persists and informs our own evaluations.

Nietzsche's genealogy, then, is an attempt to explain our having those beliefs and feelings that constitute our moral values in the here and now, by tracing their causal origins to generic psychological states—typically drives, affects, inclinations, and aversions—that we can reconstruct as having existed in certain types of human being in the real past, and as having caused our present attitudes through the mediation of interpretations and conceptual innovations made by successive developments of culture. This enquiry into the prehistory of one's attitudes is not a dispassionate exercise for Nietzsche, but includes an engagement of one's own affects and prejudices. I have already remarked on the prominence of positive and negative feelings, inclinations, and aversions in Nietzsche's genealogical explanations. He has a related conviction that one can truly succeed in an investigation into one's values only by being emotionally involved in it: 'It makes the most telling difference whether a thinker has a personal relationship to his problems and finds in them his destiny, his distress, and his greatest happiness' (GS 345). Ree, as we shall see, exemplifies for Nietzsche the genealogist who fails partly because he is wedded to a conception of cool, detached scientific discovery and does not personalize his enquiry. I shall argue that Nietzsche's evident concern to provoke the affects of his own readers is intimately related to his genealogical project, and that in this way Nietzsche's conception of'history, correctly practiced' is once again quite distinctive.

Recalling that such discovery of past psychological origins is in the aid of Nietzsche's more important aim for the present and the future, namely the critique, or 'calling into question', of moral values, we need now to ask how he conceives such a critique. In works later than the Genealogy Nietzsche describes his task, with increasing emphasis and shrillness, as the revaluation of all values (Umwerthung aller Werthe).9 He spoke of the task under the same name in a passage of the earlier Beyond Good and Evil, hoping for 'new philosophers [...] who are strong and original enough to give impetus to opposed valuations' (BGE 203). It is a surprise then to find in the Genealogy itself only three occurrences of the form of words 'revaluation of values'. One is in Nietzsche's mention of a book project still in progress entitled The Will to Power: Attempt at a Re-valuation of All Values.10 This suggests that he regards the revaluation as happening, if at all, in a future beyond the Genealogy, an impression confirmed by his retrospective description of the Genealogy as 'three [...] preliminary studies by a psychologist for a revaluation of all values'."

By contrast, the two further mentions of 'revaluation of values' in the text of the Genealogy apply to something that has already taken place: the invention by the Jews of the opposition 'good' and 'evil' which reigns supreme in morality today. 12 Nietzsche is hoping for a repeat or reversal of what has happened before in history: that behaviour and attitudes and types of human character that have been evaluated negatively should be evaluated positively and vice versa—indeed, Umwerthung carries a sense of values being reversed or turned on their head, not merely examined afresh, as may be connoted by the 'critique' or 'calling into question' of the Genealogy's Preface." Specifically, in calling for a revaluation, Nietzsche would be calling for the assignment of positive value to characteristics of human behaviour that have been decried as 'egoistic', and negative value to those that have been lauded as 'unegoistic' or selfless. So, for instance, strong

9 See TI, Foreword; 'The Four Great Errors', 2; 'What I Owe to the Ancients', 5; A 13, 61, 62; EH, 'Why I Am So Wise', 1; 'Why I Am So Clever', 9; 'Human, All Too Human', 6; 'Daybreak', 1; 'Beyond Good and Evil', 1; 'Genealogy of Morals'; 'Twilight of the Idols', 3; 'The Case of Wagner', 4; 'Why I Am a Destiny', 1, 7.

10 GM III. 27. Nietzsche never completed such a work, the eventual publication with this title after his death being, as is commonly known, a compilation by his sister Elisabeth Forster-Nietzsche and Heinrich Koselitz, known as Peter Gast. The evidence suggests, furthermore, that Nietzsche himself abandoned the attempt to publish such a book. See Magnus (19886); Montinari (1982).

11 EH, 'Genealogy of Morals'. Note, however, that he can also describe the revaluation of former values as having begun before the Genealogy in BGE (see EH, 'Beyond Good and Evil', 1).

12 GM I. 7, 8. Ridley (2005a: 185) comments rightly that 'it is partly in proposing that, and in attempting to explain how, traditional morality is the product of such a re-evaluation that Nietzsche's own re-evaluation consists'.

13 Ridley (2005a), by contrast, hears the connotation of an open-ended calling into question also in Umwerthung, hence preferring 're-evaluation' to the more common 'revaluation' (p. 171 n. 1).

self-expression or self-determination might become something positive in the eyes of someone who had made the new revaluation, and self-suppression, conformity, and putting others first would become something negative. This, I suggest, would mean more than just making judgements that attach value-terms to the respective traits, more than just a change in beliefs. In Daybreak, the work where he reports that his battle against the morality of selflessness began,14 Nietzsche announced his programme with the words 'We have to learn to think differently—in order at last, perhaps very late on, to attain even more: to feel differently' (D 103). The person who has genuinely revalued the prevailing Judaeo-Christian values will, then, have his or her affective polarities altered, and will be horrified, ashamed, afraid, contented, admiring, or loving in ways that differ from the present norms—although, as Nietzsche says in the same passage, it does not follow that he or she will approve of all types of action that are now condemned, or vice versa, only that he or she will approve and condemn for 'other reasons than hitherto'.

That takes me to a final opening remark. For all his cataclysmic portrayal of the future revaluation as 'the tremendous task', 'the great war', 'the shattering lightning bolt',15 Nietzsche envisages something in one respect more modest than the transformation that brought about Christianity and Western morality. That is, Nietzsche does not expect or even desire that all agents, all judging subjects, will share allegiance to the same new values. The expectation of common and even universal values is built into current morality, but is indeed, in Nietzsche's eyes, precisely one of the deleterious aspects of current morality that a revaluation could free us from. Nietzsche emphasizes how rare, few, and unique will be the 'new philosophers' who have qualities sufficient to transform their values,^ how they will 'create tables of what is good that are new and all their own', how they will be ashamed if others share their judgements and taste, and 'nauseous about some people's moral chatter about others'." If current moral values come to be seen as deleterious to human flourishing, it will not be the majority who see them thus—Nietzsche prides himself on not coinciding with the majority view. If a whole culture, or even humanity in general, is ever to receive the benefits of Nietzsche's critique

15 EH, 'Twilight of the Idols', 3; 'Beyond Good and Evil', 1; 'The Case of Wagner', 4.

16 See e.g. BGE 43, 203; and perhaps GM II. 24. " See GS 335; BGE 43.

of moral values, the primary work will be for him to influence the attitudes of a small number of individuals, as yet unknown, who may read his book. It is here, on the project of persuading or realigning the individual reader's habits of evaluation, that I shall place the greatest stress in what follows.

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