NietzscheGM1 - On the Genealogy of Morality Lecture 1...

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On the Genealogy of Morality Lecture 1
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Nietzsche (1844-1900) Background as a classicist. (Professorship at age 24 in Basel.) Musical interests. Friendship with Wagner. Main productive period. Statelessness. Psychological break (1889). Possible infection with syphilis. Sister Elizabeth. Associations between Nietzsche and right-wing German political movements.
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Nietzsche and Nihilism Sometimes Nietzsche is read as wanting to destroy or undermine all values – as a nihilist who denies that anything is really valuable. But in fact, nihilism is one of Nietzsche’s main targets: “Precisely here lies Europe’s doom - with the fear of man we have also forfeited the love of him, the reverence toward him, the hope for him, indeed the will to him. The sight of man now makes tired - what is nihilism today if it is not that?. .. We are tired of man…” (GM, I,12)
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Nietzsche’s Real Target? To understand what Nietzsche really aims to attack, we need to distinguish between two different senses in which we might speak of a system of values (a “morality”).
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Two Senses of “Morality” (1) Any system of norms/values/ideals intended to guide our behavior. Whoever proposes an ideal for human life proposes a morality in this sense. (Even the pure egoist is, in this sense, proposing a system of values, a “morality”.) (2) Contemporary (Judeo-Christian) morality. I.e. as the set of values and norms that is shared by most people in the Judeo-Christian West. From now on, I’ll use “Morality” (capitalized) to refer to the second of these.
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The Target Nietzsche’s criticism of “morality” is a criticism of Morality in the second sense - that is, it is a criticism of contemporary (Judeo-Christian) Morality. He doesn’t mean to argue that there are no ideals, values, or norms at all. Rather, he wants to attack our current moral views in order to make room for a new set of ideals, values, and norms. (A re- valuation , not a de-valuation.)
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The Content of Morality But what is it about contemporary Morality that
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NietzscheGM1 - On the Genealogy of Morality Lecture 1...

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