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On the Genealogy of Morals (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – January 15, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0199537082 ISBN-10: 0199537089

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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (January 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199537089
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199537082
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 0.6 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #222,418 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Douglas Smith is Lecturer in French Studies at the University of Warwick. He is currently preparing a book on the reception of Nietzsche in France.

Customer Reviews

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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By T.M.O. (tomer@essex.ac.uk) on September 19, 1999
Format: Paperback
Undoubtedly Nietzsche's most penetrating and philosophical work, the "Genealogy of Morals" is a shattering indictment of science, Judaeo-Christian morality and modern Western values such as liberalism, socialism and feminism. It identifies these phenomena with the reactive, self-preservative "ascetic ideal" - the oppressive "will to truth" - that aims to constrain and deny life. In opposition, Nietzsche propounds art and culture as a counteragent and champions the "Diyonisan tragic artist" who will affirm and celebrate life. - Also a pioneering text for deconstruction and poststructuralism in its analysis of historicism and interpretation.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Herbert L Calhoun on May 31, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is a complex, often confusing, yet a very important book, because it gets at the bottom line of one of the thorniest conundrums ever to face man: The problem of where his morals originate. Although several books have readdressed this issue in light of new findings in psychology (Freud in his Civilization and its discontents), social psychology (Robert Wright's Moral Man), and Anthropology (Ernest Becker, Angel in Armor) just to name my three favorites, none have done so with either the emotional intensity or philosophical depth as has Nietzsche.

In this, Nietzsche last book, he locates the origins of morality at the intersection of man's transition from hunter-gathers to agrarian societies. With the advent of agrarian societies, there was a crossover in the survival value of violence versus that of cooperation: man's instinct for violence cease to have the survival value equal to that of cooperation. And as a result, he was forced to learn to outwardly suppress his violent instincts by more and more turning them inward. This conversion of outward violence into an inner struggle, allowed man to use his conscience to carve out an inner life, which was a mixed blessing as there were both collateral benefits and penalties. Along with guilt and bad conscience, man also acquired a sense of beauty. The upshot of his inner struggles was that they eventually got resolved through the development of religion: Bad conscience and moral guilt could be redeemed or forgiven through the grace and mercy of a higher, morally perfect, being.

With this as introduction, Nietzsche's story of morality takes place in three parts over the span of three essays, each of which elaborates a different aspect of the details of his theory.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Shane Wahl on May 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
Nietzsche gives an historic account of how morality has developed in the world. Unlike many others, Nietzsche takes a historical approach to the development of morality and gets into the etymology of the the ancient languages. The "good vs. bad/good vs. evil" distinction is very important to get a grasp of as well as the concepts of guilt, conscience, and the ascetic ideal. Along with Beyond Good and Evil, this book should be one of the first by Nietzsche that you should read, in my opinion, to get a good grasp on Nietzsche's thought. Great analysis of Christianity too!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer F Armstrong on December 12, 2012
Format: Paperback
Rereading the Genealogy of Morals last night, it occurred to me that I have a fine way of differentiating between those who submit to a negative mode of life -i.e. slave morality, ressentiment, punishment and self-abnegation -- and those who operate according to a `master morality'. At the most basic level the question is: Have you submitted to a subject-object reversal, whereby your subjectivity is displaced into some kind of ruling object and its will? Or, are you still your own subject, the master of your own will?

I think there is much room for misunderstanding Nietzsche if one doesn't already thoroughly and fully possess one's own subjectivity. One can invest all of one's philosophical capital in the images that Nietzsche portrays, of oligarchy and a lust for power, along with a kind of unconscious sadism (the eagle that "loves" the lamb). However, there is no point in adopting any of these mannerisms and proclaiming that one is now "master" when one has not first obtained power over one's subjectivity. To assume that one already has this power, when one has not, must be the most common mistake of most of Nietzsche's adherents.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Luc REYNAERT on May 21, 2010
Format: Paperback
In his characteristic raging style and with a sometimes obscene vocabulary, Friedrich Nietzsche shouts (`Am I understood?') his vision on the origin of morals (good, bad and evil), of guilt and bad conscience and on the value of ascetic ideals.

The origin of morals
The antithesis good-bad was established by `noble' rulers who seized the right to create their own values. They called their egoistic actions good, which means `of first rank'. Who were these masters? At the bottom all these noble races were `blond beasts of prey in search of spoil, living the voluptuousness of victory and cruelty.'
It was only when the aristocratic value judgments declined that the slaves (other names: the herd, the plebeians, the low, the mob, cellar rodents, insects, the oppressed, the downtrodden, the worm-eaten) could impose their own morality of unegoism, pity, self-sacrifice and self-abnegation on mankind.
The moral revolt of the slaves began when their ressentiment became creative. This ressentiment is an imaginary revenge, a brain-sickness, by those who are denied true action. The egoistic `good' of the rulers became `evil'.
However, the slave morality is an illness based on the phantasmagoria of anticipated bliss, the `Last Judgment'. It is anti-life and a danger for the species `man'.

Guilt, Bad Conscience
Guilt has its origin in `debts', in the contractual relations between creditor and debtor, in which the latter pledged that if he should fail to repay, he would substitute his debt by something else that he possessed (body, limbs, wife, freedom).
The origin of bad conscience comes from the internalization of instincts which couldn't discharge themselves.
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