Nietzsche On Genealogy Of Morals First Essay

In the Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche aims to provide a new philosophical standpoint, one based on the concept of value and its role in how we interpret the world.In the first essay of the book, Nietzsche takes a genealogical approach to this concept and aims to show how value provided the basis for moral thinking, and indeed ‘thinking’ in general.

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The slave makes the first evaluation here not about himself, but about the master; the slaves own valuation of himself comes as a reaction to his idea of the master, thus the master is the source of his judgement of good and evil.

To paraphrase Deleuze: “What Nietzsche calls noble, high and master is sometimes active force” and “What he calls base, vile and slave is sometimes reactive force”5.

The origin of the opposition between ‘good and evil’ comes via another means; it comes via the means of a reactive judgement that Nietzsche attributes to the slave.

The slave sees the noble master as cruel and violent and therefore evil, so in reaction to this when comparing the master to himself he assumes that he himself must be good.

The impact of the master’s cruelty towards the slave does not dissipate however; it boils up under the surface and eventually produces a response.

The slave’s ressentiment is what causes this response, it is what brings about the change in morality from the ideas of good and bad to good and evil.

Indeed, as Richard White summarises “If we accept Nietzsche’s philology, it now appears that at the very start of history, or the origin of language itself, ‘good’ is the name and celebration of life as it appears in its most powerful exemplars”9. White (1988) The Return of the Master: An Interpretation of Nietzsche’s ‘Genealogy of Morals’.

Thus Nietzsche has outlined the genesis of morality through his own speciality of philology, and this is what he believes separates him from the failed attempts of the ‘English psychologists’.

This idea was thus carried on habitually throughout time and became the epitome of goodness in the modern world.

Nietzsche finds in this a fundamental flaw; to him goodness is not derived from those to whom goodness is shown, instead it is the noble or powerful man who sees his own actions as fundamentally good.


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