Contradictions in the Genealogy of Morals

Topics: Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality, Morality Pages: 5 (1831 words) Published: March 22, 2007
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 power‹two truly laudable elements of humanity‹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 tradition‹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 Œoutside,' what is Œdifferent,' what is Œnot 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 Œthe evil enemy,' Œthe Evil One,' and this in fact is his basic concept, from which he then evolves, as an afterthought and pendant, a Œgood one'‹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...
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