Genealogy of morals second essay summary

However, in Genealogy of Morals , Nietzsche had grown far beyond; here he was able to trace the development of this contrast and the evolution of Christian culture and to support his thinking more systematically, by demonstrating the evolution of value-terms in language, from antiquity. Toward the end of his First Essay 16 , Nietzsche writes, in summary, "The two opposing values "good and bad," "good and evil" have been engaged in a fearful struggle on earth for thousands of years. Most of the essay develops the enormous differences between these, and there is little doubt where Nietzsche stands.

Yet it is fair to ask whether Nietzsche would simply have condemned all of this out of existence, ruled it out of human history. At the end of 6 First Essay , is a telling remark: "For with the priests everything becomes more dangerous, not only cures and remedies, but also arrogance, revenge, acuteness, profligacy, love, lust to rule, virtue, disease but it is only fair to add that it was on the soil of this essentially dangerous form of human existence, the priestly form, that man first became an interesting animal , that only here did the human soul in a higher sense acquire depth and become evil and these are the two basic respects in which man has hitherto been superior to the beasts!

The value system of "good and bad" begins with the noblemen whose natural self-satisfaction is expressed in a language that evolves into words of praise. The good is a natural self-identification. In opposition to this, the noblemen look down at the lowly with pity or contempt; this, too, is expressed in various ways that eventually come to mean "bad.

Nietzsche second essay Nietzsche: Genealogy of Morals: Second Essay

It is a system that can be seen throughout the animal kingdom; it can erupt into violence and conquest; but doubtless it does elevate the superior individuals, setting a "standard" of what is humanly possible. The transformation to a system of good and evil was, in Nietzsche's mind, a "slave revolt. Rather than action, what we have is reaction.

Value is placed in how we react turning the other cheek rather than how we act as in doing something noble and exemplary. The noble is viewed with jealousy and hatred and eventually is reified as "the evil one. This is a system that tries to level everything rather than promote greatness; hence, the one who strives to reach beyond is always under suspicion, the evil one.

In Nietzsche's mind, the cultural impact of this slave revolt has been devastating. It is action that makes life interesting, worthy. Reaction settles everything down to a passive fatality. A people who fear what man can become has lost the love of what man is.


Nietzsche's Second Essay takes as its objective the discovery of the origins of bad conscience, or guilt. This essay can, and should, be read in close comparison with Freud's development of the concept of superego, the "brother clan," and the whole psychopathology of thanatos the death instinct and self-hatred. We need to understand what guilt is. The essay begins with a recollection of the numerous and ghastly ways in which men have treated each other throughout time. Not only had Europeans invented unbelievably terrible, bloody, dismembering tortures and punishments for each other but, and this is the important part, they seem to genuinely enjoy these, even thrive on them.

Something in the human psyche enjoys bloody punishments. This, in turn, Nietzsche connects with the creditor-debtor relationship and its own amazing history of debt-collection in dramatically physical, boody terms. As history passes and men become more sophisticated, the brute pleasures of this blood bath have to be rationalized and, of course, hidden from view.


This was ultimately achieved neatly by making men "responsible. Nevertheless, punishment, as such, has never historically promoted a feeling of guilt.

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Quite the opposite, being punished allows one the sense of "paying the debt," leaving nothing to feel guilty about. At 16, then, Nietzsche announces his very interesting psychological theory of the evolution of "bad conscience. So what is the origin of bad conscience and guilt and what do these mean?

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The whole overarching system of "social contract" that is, civil life established as it is by the powerful over the weak and thoroughly invested with a rationalized system of responsibility and debt-punishment has substantially wounded the-animal-man by confining him in a world that prohibits discharge of his natural instinctive pleasures.

Sexuality and violence eros and thanatos are both prohibited in their instinctive forms; both are confined to highly sublimated forms to use Freud's term. The loss of externalized sexuality leads to gluttony and other forms of decadence; the loss of externalized violence leads to inwardly directed violence, self-hatred in short, bad conscience and guilt. To ask other readers questions about On the Genealogy of Morals , please sign up.

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Is this book as harsh and critical as "Beyond Good and Evil"? Rebecca Garrard I'd say yes, if not more so. Definitely worth the read - despite Nietzsche's sass See 2 questions about On the Genealogy of Morals…. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 4.

Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Jun 03, Rowland Pasaribu rated it really liked it. On The Genealogy of Morals is made up of three essays, all of which question and critique the value of our moral judgments based on a genealogical method whereby Nietzsche examines the origins and meanings of our different moral concepts.

The first essay, "' Good and Evil,' 'Good and Bad '" contrasts what Nietzsche calls "master morality" and "slave morality. By contrast, they saw th"' Good On The Genealogy of Morals is made up of three essays, all of which question and critique the value of our moral judgments based on a genealogical method whereby Nietzsche examines the origins and meanings of our different moral concepts.

By contrast, they saw those who were weak, unhealthy, and enslaved as "bad," since their weakness was undesirable. By contrast, the slaves, feeling oppressed by these wealthy and happy masters, called the masters " evil ," and called themselves " good " by contrast. The second essay, "' Guilt,' 'Bad Conscience,' and the like " deals with surprise, surprise guilt, bad conscience, and the like. Nietzsche traces the origins of concepts such as guilt and punishment, showing that originally they were not based on any sense of moral transgression.

Rather, guilt simply meant that a debt was owed and punishment was simply a form of securing repayment. Only with the rise of slave morality did these moral concepts gain their present meanings.

Nietzsche identifies bad conscience as our tendency to see ourselves as sinners and locates its origins in the need that came with the development of society to inhibit our animal instincts for aggression and cruelty and to turn them inward upon ourselves. The third essay, "What is the meaning of ascetic ideals?

Nietzsche sees it as the expression of a weak, sick will. Unable to cope with its struggle against itself, the sick will sees its animal instincts, its earthly nature, as vile, sinful, and horrible. Unable to free itself from these instincts, it attempts to subdue and tame itself as much as possible. Nietzsche concludes that "man would rather will nothingness than not will. He is one of the Western tradition's deepest thinkers precisely because he calls so much into question. If we can come to understand Nietzsche's genealogical method, his doctrine of the will to power, and his perspectivism as all linked, his arguments will become much easier to follow.

In Nietzsche's distinction between a thing and its meaning, we find the initial doubt with which Nietzsche unravels so many of our assumptions. We are generally tempted to see things as having inherent meanings.

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For instance, punishment is at once the act of punishing and the reason behind the punishment. However, Nietzsche argues, these things have had different meanings at different times. For instance, the act of punishment has been at times a celebration of one's power, at times an act of cruelty, at times a simple tit-for-tat.

We cannot understand a thing, and we certainly cannot understand its origin, if we assume that it has always held the same meaning. Central to Nietzsche's critique, then, is an attempt at genealogy that will show the winding and undirected route our different moral concepts have taken to arrive in their present shape. Morality is generally treated as sacred because we assume that there is some transcendental ground for our morals, be it God, reason, tradition, or something else.

Yet contrary to our assumption that "good," "bad," or "evil" have always had the same meanings, Nietzsche's genealogical method shows how these terms have evolved, shattering any illusion as to the continuity or absolute truth of our present moral concepts.

Because they can have different, even contradictory, meanings over the course of their long life spans, Nietzsche does not believe that concepts or things are the fundamental stuff that makes up reality. Instead, he looks beneath these things to see what drives the different meanings that they adopt over time. Hiding beneath he finds force and will. All of existence, Nietzsche asserts, is a struggle between different wills for the feeling of power.

This "will to power" is most evident on a human level, where we see people constantly competing with one another, often for no other purpose than to feel superior to those that they overcome. That a thing has a meaning at all means that there is some will dominating it, bending it toward a certain interpretation.

Genealogy of morals nietzsche second essay sparknotes

That a thing may have different meanings over time suggests that different wills have come to dominate it. For instance, the concept of "good" was once dominated by the will of healthy, strong barbarians, and had the opposite meaning that it does now that it is dominated by the will of weak, "sick" ascetics. According to Nietzsche, then, a belief in an absolute truth or an absolute anything is to give in to one particular meaning, one particular interpretation of a thing. It is essentially to allow oneself to be dominated by a particular will.

A will that wishes to remain free will shun absolutes of all kinds and try to look at a matter from as many different perspectives as possible in order to gain its own.