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On the Genealogy of Morals (Oxford World's Classics) 1st Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199537082
ISBN-10: 0199537089
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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

Nietzsche has been proclaimed the seminal figure of modern philosophy as well as one of the most creative and critically influential geniuses in the history of secular thought.

Douglas Smith was born in Winnipeg in 1949. He is a teacher and poet.
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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (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: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,702 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"On The Genealogy of Morals" is made up of three essays, all of which question and critique the value of our moral judgments based on a genealogical method whereby Nietzsche examines the origins and meanings of our different moral concepts.

The first essay, "'Good and Evil,' 'Good and Bad'" contrasts what Nietzsche calls "master morality" and "slave morality." Master morality was developed by the strong, healthy, and free, who saw their own happiness as good and named it thus. By contrast, they saw those who were weak, unhealthy, and enslaved as "bad," since their weakness was undesirable. By contrast, the slaves, feeling oppressed by these wealthy and happy masters, called the masters "evil," and called themselves "good" by contrast.

The second essay, "'Guilt,' 'Bad Conscience,' and the like" deals with (surprise, surprise) guilt, bad conscience, and the like. Nietzsche traces the origins of concepts such as guilt and punishment, showing that originally they were not based on any sense of moral transgression. Rather, guilt simply meant that a debt was owed and punishment was simply a form of securing repayment. Only with the rise of slave morality did these moral concepts gain their present meanings. Nietzsche identifies bad conscience as our tendency to see ourselves as sinners and locates its origins in the need that came with the development of society to inhibit our animal instincts for aggression and cruelty and to turn them inward upon ourselves.

The third essay, "What is the meaning of ascetic ideals?" confronts asceticism, the powerful and paradoxical force that dominates contemporary life. Nietzsche sees it as the expression of a weak, sick will.
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Format: Paperback
A reasonably-priced readable translation of one of Nietzsche's more approachable works, this edition also features a useful introduction and notes that give information without seeking to shape the reader's interpretation. I'm not a philosopher, and I came at this after discussing, with a reading group, "The Gay Science" and "Zarathustra," which were tough sledding, and now, I think, I could usefully return to these slightly earlier texts in light of this more discursive one. I still can't decide whether or not Nietzsche's analysis of the genealogy of morals necessitates the particular intensity of his cultural pessimism, and that's in part because I'm not sure of the substance of his idea of the fuller human life. It's one thing to appreciate both the quality of thought and the rhetorical verve that goes into his critique of post-Enlightenment culture, but what the "modern" embodiment of a Zarathustra or of the ancient aristocracy might be is harder to tell. One is tempted to say "artist," but what the artist's medium might be -- his or her own life? -- is hard to pin down. I tend to see Nietzsche's critique as having affinities with work of Blake, Shelley, Yeats, Carlyle, and even Matthew Arnold, all of whom are critics of modernity and standard religious forms -- but none has Nietzsche's despair, and maybe only Blake has his verve, although in a very different mode. Be all that as it may, this is a wonderful and sometimes maddening book -- the critique is pointed, and the analysis disquietingly prescient.
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