nietzsche - Understanding Nihilism: On the Genealogy of...

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Understanding Nihilism: On the Genealogy of Morals April 25, 2007 Honors Ethics Dr. Gorman
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Friedrich Nietzsche brought a new era of philosophy into the world in the late 19 th century. Nietzsche’s philosophical works represented a new offshoot of Judeo-Christian morals and enlightenment ideals. In On the Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche offers questions for the readers about the value of their own morality. Morality, he states, is anything but absolute. Morality evolves constantly, sometimes through force and sometimes by accident, but it never stays the same. He developed the “Nietzschean” school of thought that radically transformed the way many people thought of family, religion, and a general way of life. Nietzsche begins the first essay of On the Genealogy of Morals by bringing up the subject of “goodness”. He says that the English psychologists of the time bungled their theories so that “the judgment ‘good’ did not originate with those to whom ‘goodness’ was shown!” (Nietzsche 25) He goes on to say how the social status of a person is usually and quite unjustly a determinate in the social ranking of a person’s “goodness”. Because the commoners and the plebeians of the society are at the bottom of social rankings, they are punished by being thought of as having few moral values. The Aristocracy, Nietzsche explains, decides the rules of morality and decided that nobility is an important and deserving part of being virtuous and moral. He speaks of the etymology of “good” and “bad” in section four of the first essay and how he has noticed that the words “noble” and “aristocratic” always lead back to a sense of “good”. Also, the terms “common” and “plebeian” are lead back to be synonymous with “low” and “bad”. (Nietzsche 28) Later in the first essay, he begins to speak how the “ meaning of all culture is the reduction of the beast of prey ‘man’ to a tame and civilized animal”
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Within the second essay, Nietzsche speaks on the problems and the relationships that arise between creditors and debtors in society. He states that this relationship is the basis for his original thesis of the institution of punishment. He says that in order for a “morality of custom” to begin that people must always honor their promises and renounce the idea “faculty of repression” which many people use as a scapegoat to forget the past. The product of this “morality of custom” is an autonomous individual who can receive restitution for broken promises by inflicting some sort of pain onto the guilty party. Nietzsche also states that he believes the German word for debt, Schulden , could come from the German word for guilt, Schuld. This idea could be thought of in two different lights, that the creditor was ashamed and guilty for the punishment or pain inflicted upon the debtor. Or that a debtor could simply feel guilty for being in debt with little chance of ever repaying all of his debts owed. Nietzsche develops an idea in the second essay that later carries over to the third
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This note was uploaded on 03/26/2008 for the course HON 3347 taught by Professor Gorman during the Spring '07 term at Texas State.

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nietzsche - Understanding Nihilism: On the Genealogy of...

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