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Contradictions in the Genealogy of Morals

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In his Genealogy of Morals Nietzsche censures the members of the Judeo-Christian tradition for their "impotence." As a result of their impotence the descendents of this tradition (slaves, as I will call them to maintain some modicum of political correctness), have developed a hatred "to monstrous and uncanny proportions" (33). This hatred has had the end result of squelching the happiness and will to powerÐ'‹two truly laudable elements of humanityÐ'‹that a truly strong individual might otherwise develop. While Nietzsche touches upon positive aspects of what he would like to see in the world in the Genealogy of Morals, he spends the majority of the work destructing the tradition that he views as having taken over the world. Nietzsche takes issue with two primary aspects of the Judeo-Christian tradition: its reactivity rather than creativity, and its celebration of suffering rather than joyful activity. He takes issue with both because they display a passivity that attacks rather than creates. Both allow humans to dwell on things that are not natural human impulses, and avoid willful creative activity. The great contradiction of the work is that in its expression Nietzsche shows a propensity for the same behavior he condemns. His entire work is a reactive, pessimistic attack on the western traditionÐ'‹a tradition he feels prey to. This contradictory expression brings his own philosophy under the axe that he has built, but first it demonstrates the way that suffering and reactivity are the natural human impulses he says they are not.

Nietzsche explains that the Judeo-Christian values system can be explained in terms of the weakness of its followers. During their developmental periods both Jewish and Christian cultures were enslaved cultures. As these philosophies were developed by people in slavery they came to be philosophies that in some way accepted slavery as part of the human condition and celebrated it. In celebrating their own condition, Nietzsche says the slaves came to believe, "he is good who does not outrage, who harms nobody, who does not attack, who does not requite, who leaves revenge to God, who keeps himself hidden as we do" (46). The notion of being hidden in this philosophy is very important for Nietzsche for it suggests the way these people avoided constructive behavior. Instead they celebrated their suffering and developed a "will to self-tormenting," to venerate the slavery that was unfortunately and unnaturally a part of their condition. The slaves are thus like the aesthetic philosopher Nietzsche similarly disdains, who "affirms his existence and only his existence, and this perhaps to the point at which he not far from harboring the impious wish: Let the world perish, but let there be philosophy, the philosopher, me!" (108 translated from the latin).

Like the aesthetic philosopher, in the celebration of their own existence the slaves celebrate negative values that would have the world perish, or at the very best, abstain from all good human behavior. A noble morality celebrates "vigorous, free, joyful activity" (33), but Nietzsche says the slaves say No to this philosophy: "slave morality from the outset says No to what is Ð'Њoutside,' what is Ð'Њdifferent,' what is Ð'Њnot itself'; and this No is its creative deed" (36). This pessimistic rejection grows out of the "hostile external world" of the slave." The slave's reaction cannot be creative but rather is "fundamentally reactive" (37). Because they are always saying no, the slaves can never partake in any true creative deed. They can only destroy, and their first instinct is to destroy the master: "he has conceived Ð'Њthe evil enemy,' Ð'Њthe Evil One,' and this in fact is his basic concept, from which he then evolves, as an afterthought and pendant, a Ð'Њgood one'Ð'‹himself" (39). The primary aspect of the good in the slave morality is the suffering that is endemic to this condition; this Nietzsche says, is not something to be celebrated.

Nietzsche insists that the human reverence for suffering, and the reactionary aspect of the Judeo-Christian tradition should not be taken to be natural human impulses just because they are expressed in the dominant system. Speaking of the causality of history he says, "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" (77). His skepticism of the values system of the modern world is the impetus behind the historical nature of his genealogy. In this genealogy he believes that central place of suffering and the reactionary attitude of the western tradition are derived from essentially artificial conditions. Because the slave was forced into hiding, the slave developed a mode of battle that Nietzsche refers to as "cleverness" (39). The word is used in a very derogatory sense to refer to self-interested sophistical arguing and scheming rather than an honest consideration of human impulse. More significantly, the very values of the Judeo-Christian tradition evolved only as a result of the artificial creditor-debtor relationship. This relationship taught man that he owed something to everyone who had given him anything, including one's ancestors. The debt to one's ancestors is fundamentally unpayable because they are dead, and as a result one develops a tremendous sense of guilt, which one only knows how to correct through suffering, as one would for a creditor. Christianity is the apex of this philosophy for it heightens the sense of guilt and thus the demand for suffering in the individual. The sense of guilt imposed by the Christian system is thus derived artificially from an unnatural human conditionÐ'‹the creditor-debtor relationship.

So far this discussion has revolved around what Nietzsche has found at fault in the Judeo-Christian tradition. This is because the Genealogy of Morals is primarily a reaction to the Judeo-Christian tradition, rather than a discussion of his own, positive philosophy. He has occasionally spoken about a positive morality, mentioning the "vigorous, free, joyful activity" (33), but this was primarily as a means for attacking the hatred he sees at the core of the Judeo-Christian tradition. On a larger scale Nietzsche does try to allow positivity to dominate. He begins the book by defining "good," but this discussion quickly appears to be little more than an introduction to his derisive discussion of "evil" in Judeo-Christian culture. The second essay is titled with the concepts of "guilt" and "bad conscience," while the third essay is titled, "What is the Meaning of Ascetic Ideals." Both of these titles

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