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VIII "The Genealogy of Morals"
("Zur Genealogie der Moral") was written by Nietzsche primarily as an elaboration and elucidation of the philosophic points which were merely sketched in "Beyond Good and Evil." This former work had met with small success, and the critics, failing to understand its doctrines, read converse meanings in it. One critic hailed Nietzsche at once as an anarchist, and this review went far in actuating him in drawing up the three essays which comprise the present book. As will be remembered, several of Nietzsche's most important principles were stated and outlined in "Beyond Good and Evil," especially his doctrine of slave-morality and master-morality. Now he undertakes to develop this proposition, as well as many others which he set forth provisionally in his earlier work. This new polemic may be looked upon both as a completing of former works and as a further preparation for "The Will to Power." The book, a comparatively brief one (it contains barely 40,000 words), was written in a period of about two weeks during the early part of 1887. In July the manuscript was sent to the publisher, but was recalled for revisions and addenda; and most of Nietzsche's summer was devoted to correcting it. Later that same year the book appeared; and thereby its author acquired another friendly reader,[Pg 205] Georg Brandes, to whom, more than to any other critic, Nietzsche owes his early recognition.

The style of "The Genealogy of Morals" is less aphoristic than any of the books which immediately preceded or followed it. Few new doctrines are propounded in it; and since it was for the most part an analytic commentary on what had gone before, its expositional needs were best met by Nietzsche's earlier style of writing. I have spoken before of the desultory and sporadic manner in which Nietzsche was necessitated to present his philosophy. Nowhere is his method of work better exemplified than in this new work. Nearly every one of his books overlaps another. Propositions are sketchily stated in one essay, which receive elucidation only in future volumes. "Beyond Good and Evil" was a commentary on "Thus Spake Zarathustra"; "The Genealogy of Morals" is a commentary on the newly propounded theses in "Beyond Good and Evil" and is in addition an elaboration of many of the ideas which took birth as far back as "Human, All-Too-Human." Out of "The Genealogy of Morals" in turn grew "The Antichrist" which dealt specifically with the theological phase of the former's discussion of general morals. And all of these books were but preparations for "The Will to Power." For this reason it is difficult to acquire a complete understanding of Nietzsche's philosophy unless one follows it consecutively and chronologically. The book at present under discussion is a most valuable one from an academic standpoint, for, while it may not set forth any new and important doctrines, it goes deep into the origins and history of moral concepts, and explains many of the important conclusions in Nietzsche's moral code. It brings more and more into prominence the main[Pg 206] pillars of his ethical system and explains at length the steps in the syllogism which led to his doctrine of master-morality. It ascertains the origin of the concept of sin, and describes the racial deterioration which has followed in the train of Christian ideals.

In many ways this book is the profoundest of all the writings Nietzsche left us. For the first time he separates theological and moral prejudices and traces them to different origins. This is one of the most important steps taken by him. By so doing he became an explorer of entirely new fields. The moral historians and psychologists who preceded him had considered moral precepts and Christian injunctions as stemming from the same source: their genealogies had led them to the same common spring. Nietzsche entered the search with new methods. He applied the philologie test to all moral values. He brought to his task, in addition to a historical sense, what he calls "an innate faculty of psychological discrimination par excellence." He posed the following questions, and endeavoured to answer them by inquiring into the minutest aspects of historical conditions: "Under what conditions did Man invent for himself those judgments of value, 'good' and 'evil'? And what intrinsic value do they possess in themselves? Have they up to the present hindered or advanced human well-being"? Are they a symptom of the distress, impoverishment, and degeneration of Human Life? Or, conversely, is it in them that is manifested the fulness, the strength, and the will of Life, its courage, its self-confidence, its future?" In his research, Nietzsche first questioned the value of pity. He found it to be a symptom of modern civilisation—a quality held in contempt by the older philosophers, even by such widely dissimilar[Pg 207] minds as Plato, Spinoza, La Rochefoucauld and Kant—but a quality given high place by the more modern thinkers. Despite the seemingly apparent isolation of the problem of pity-morality, Nietzsche saw that in truth it was a question which underlay all other moral propositions; and, using it as a ground-work for his research, he began to question the utility of all those values held as "good," to apply the qualities of the "good man" to the needs of civilisation, and to inquire into the results left upon the race by the "bad man."

So great was the misunderstanding which attached to his phrase, "beyond good and evil," and so persistently was this phrase interpreted in its narrow sense of "beyond good and bad," that he felt the necessity of drawing the line of distinction between these two diametrically opposed conceptions and of explaining the origin of each. His first essay in "The Genealogy of Morals" is devoted to this task. At the outset he devotes considerable space criticising the methods and conclusions of former genealogists of morals, especially of the English psychologists who attribute an intrinsic merit to altruism because at one time altruism possessed a utilitarian value. Herbert Spencer's theory that "good" is the same as "purposive" brings from Nietzsche a protest founded on the contention that because a thing was at one time useful, and therefore "good," it does not follow that the thing is good in itself. By the etymology of the descriptive words of morality, Nietzsche traces the history of modern moral attributes through class distinctions to their origin in the instincts of the "nobles" and the "vulgarians." He shows the relationship between the Latin bonus and the "warrior," by deriving bonus from duonus. Bellum, he shows, equals duellum which equals duen-lum, in[Pg 208] which word duonus is contained. Likewise, he points out the aristocratic origin of "happiness"—a quality arising from an abundance of energy and the consciousness of power.

"Good and evil," according to Nietzsche, is a sign of slave-morality; while "good and bad" represents the qualities in the master-morality. The one stands for the adopted qualities of the subservient races; the other embodies the natural functioning of dominating races. The origin of the "good" in these two instances is by no means the same. In the strong man "good" represented an entirely different condition than the "good" in the resentful and weak man; and these two "goods" arose out of different causes. The one was spontaneous and natural—inherent in the individual of strength: the other was a manufactured condition, an optional selection of qualities to soften and ameliorate the conditions of existence. "Evil" and "bad," by the same token, became attributes originating in widely separated sources. The "evil" of the weak man was any condition which worked against the manufactured ideals of goodness, which brought about unhappiness—it was the beginning of the conception of a slave-morality, a term applied to all enemies. The "bad" of the strong man was the concept which grew directly out of his feeling for "good," and which had no application to another individual. Thus the ideas of "good" and "bad" are directly inherited from the nobles of the race, and these ideas included within themselves the tendency toward establishing social distinctions.

The second section of "The Genealogy of Morals," called "'Guilt,' 'Bad Conscience,' and the Like," is another important document, the reading of which is almost[Pg 209] imperative for the student who would understand the processes of thought which led to Nietzsche's philosophic conclusions. In this essay Nietzsche traces the origin of sin to debt, thereby disagreeing with all the genealogists of morals who preceded him. He starts with the birth of memory in man and with the corresponding will to forgetfulness, showing that out of these two mental qualities was born responsibility. Out of responsibility in turn grew the function of promising and the accepting of promises, which at once made possible between individuals the relationship of "debtor" and "creditor." As soon as this relationship was established, one man had rights over another. The creditor could exact payment from the debtor, either in the form of material equivalent or by inflicting an injury in which was contained the sensation of satisfaction. Thus the creditor had the right to punish in cases where actual repayment was impossible. And in this idea of punishment began not only class distinction but primitive law. Later, when the power to punish was transferred into the hands of the community, the law of contract came into existence. Here, says Nietzsche, we find the cradle of the whole moral world of the ideas of "guilt," "conscience," and "duty"; and adds, "Their commencement, like the commencement of all great things in the world, is thoroughly and continuously saturated in blood."

Carrying out the principle underlying the relationship of debtor and creditor we arrive at the formation of the community. In return for protection and for communal advantages the individual pledged his good behaviour. When he violated this contract with the community, the community, in the guise of the defrauded creditor, took its revenge, or exacted its payment, from the debtor, the[Pg 210] criminal. And, as was the case in early history, the community deprived the violator of future advantages and protection. The debtor was divested of all rights, even of mercy, for then there were no degrees in law-breaking. Primitive law was martial law. Says Nietzsche, "This shows why war itself (counting the sacrificial cult of war) has produced all the forms under which punishment has manifested itself in history." Later, as the community gathered strength, the offences of the individual debtors were looked upon as less serious. Out of its security grew leniency toward the offender: the penal code became mitigated, and, as in all powerful nations to-day, the criminal was protected. Only when there was a consciousness of weakness in a community did the acts of individual offenders take on an exaggerated seriousness, and under such conditions the law was consequently harshest. Thus, justice and the infliction of legal penalties are direct outgrowths of the primitive relation of debt between individuals. Herein we have the origin of guilt.

Nietzsche attempts an elaborate analysis of the history of punishment, in an effort to ascertain its true meaning, its relation to guilt and to the community, and its final effects on both the individual and society. It has been impossible to present the sequence of this analysis by direct excerpts from his own words, due to the close, synthetic manner in which he has made his research. Therefore I offer the following brief exposition of pages 88 to 99 inclusive, in which he examines the causes and effects of punishment. To begin with, Nietzsche disassociates the "origin" and the "end" of punishment, and regards them as two separate and distinct problems. He argues that the final utility of a thing, in the sense that[Pg 211] revenge and deterrence are the final utilities of punishment, is in all cases opposed to the origin of that thing; that every force or principle is constantly being put to new purposes by forces greater than itself, thus making it impossible to determine its inception by the end for which it is used. Therefore the "function" of punishing was not conceived with a view to punishing, but may have been employed for any number of ends, according as a will to power has overcome that function and made use of it for its own purpose: in short; punishment, like any organ or custom or "thing," has passed through a series of new interpretations and adjustments and meanings—and is not a direct and logical progress as to an end.

Having established this point, Nietzsche endeavours to determine the utilisation to which the custom of punishment has been put—to ascertain the meaning which has been interpreted into it. He finds that even in modern times not one but many uses have been made of punishment, and that in ancient times so diverse have been the utilisations of punishment that it is impossible to define them all. In fact, one cannot determine the precise reason for punishment. To emphasise this point, Nietzsche gives a long list of possible meanings. Taking up the more popular supposed utilities of punishment at the present time—such as creating in the wrong-doer the consciousness of guilt, which is supposed to evolve into conscience and remorse—he shows wherein punishment fails in its object. Against this theory of the creation of remorse, he advances psychology and shows that, to the contrary, punishment numbs and hardens. He argues also that punishment for the purpose of making the wrong-doer conscious of the intrinsic reprehensibility of his crime, fails because the very act for which he is[Pg 212] chastened is practised in the service of justice and is called "good." Eliminating thus the supposed effects of punishment, Nietzsche arrives at the conclusion (included in the excerpts at the end of this chapter) that punishment makes only for caution and secrecy, and is therefore detrimental.

In his analysis of the origin of the "bad conscience," Nietzsche lends himself to quotation. Therefore I have been able to present in his own words a fair resume of the course pursued by him in his examination of the history of conscience. This particular branch of his research is carried into the formation of the "State" which, according to him, grew out of "a herd of blonde beasts." The older theory of the state, namely: that it originated in the adoption of a contract, is set aside as untenable when dealing with a peoples who possessed conquerors or masters. These masters, argues Nietzsche, had no need of contracts. By using the "bad conscience" as a ground for inquiry, the causes for the existence of altruism are shown to be included in the self-cruelty which followed in the wake of the instinct for freedom. (This last point is developed fully in the discussion of ascetic ideals which is found at the end of the book now under consideration.) Nietzsche traces the birth of deities back along the lines of credit and debt. First came the fear of ancestors. Then followed the obligation to ancestors. At length the sacrifice to ancestors marked the beginning of a conception of duty (debt) to the supernatural. The ancestors of powerful nations in time became heroes, and finally evolved into gods. Later monotheism came as a natural consequence, and God became the creditor. In the expiation of sin, as symbolised in the crucifixion of Christianity, we have this same[Pg 213] relationship of debtor and creditor carried out into a more complex form through the avenues of self-torture.

The most important essay in "The Genealogy of Morals" is the last, called "What is the Meaning of Ascetic Ideals?" Nietzsche examines this question in relation to the artist, to the philosopher, to the priest, and to the race generally. In his examination of the problem in regard to artists he uses Wagner as a basis of inquiry, comparing the two phases of Wagner's art—the Parsifalian and the ante-Parsifalian. Artists, asserts Nietzsche, need a support of constituted authority; they are unable to stand alone—"standing alone is opposed to their deepest instincts"—and so they make use of asceticism as a rampart, as building material, to give their work authority. In his application of the ascetic ideal to philosophers, Nietzsche presents the cases of Schopenhauer and Kant, and concludes that asceticism in such instances is used as an escape from torture—a means to recreation and happiness. With the philosopher the ideal of asceticism is not a denial of existence. Rather is it an affirmation of existence. It permits him freedom of the intellect. It relieves him of the numerous obligations of life. Furthermore, the philosophic spirit, in order to establish itself, found it necessary to disguise itself as "one of the previously fixed types of the contemplative man," as a priest or soothsayer. Only in such a religious masquerade was philosophy taken with any seriousness or reverence.

The history of asceticism in the priest I have been able to set forth with a certain degree of completeness in Nietzsche's own words. The priest was the sick physician who administered to the needs of a sick populace. His was the mission of mitigating suffering and of performing[Pg 214] every kind of consolation. Wherein he failed, says Nietzsche, was in not going to the source, the cause, of suffering, but in dealing merely with its manifestations. These manifestations were the result of physiological depressions which prevailed at intervals among portions of the population. These depressions were the outgrowth of diverse causes, such as long wars, emigration to unsuitable climates, wrong diet, miscegenation on a large scale, disease, etc. According to Nietzsche the cure for such physiological phenomena can be found only in the realm of moral psychology, for here the origin is considered and administered to by disciplinary systems grounded in true knowledge. But the method employed by the priest was far from scientific. He combated these depressions by reducing the consciousness of life itself to the lowest possible degree—that is, by a doctrine of asceticism, of self-abnegation, equanimity, self-hypnotism. By thus minimising the consciousness of life, these depressions took on more and more the aspect of normality. The effects of this treatment, however, were transient, for the starving of the physical desires and the abstinence from exercising the physical impulses paved the way for all manner of mental disorders, excesses and insanity. Herein lies Nietzsche's explanation for religious ecstasies, hallucinations, and sensual outbursts.

Another form of treatment devised by the ascetic priests for a depressed people gave birth to the "blessedness" which, under the Christian code, attaches to work. These priests attempted to turn the attention of the people from their suffering by the establishment of mechanical activity, namely: work, routine and obedience. The sick man forgot himself in the labour which had received sanctification. The priests also combated depression by[Pg 215] permitting pleasure through the creation and production of joy. That is, they set men to helping and comforting each other, by instilling in them the notion of brotherly love. Thereby the community mutually strengthened itself, and at the same time it reaped the joy of service which had been sanctioned by the priests. Out of this last method sprang many of the Christian virtues, especially those which benefit others rather than oneself.

Such methods as these—devitalisation, labour, brotherly love—are called by Nietzsche the "innocent" prescriptions in the fight against depression. The "guilty" ones are far different, and are embodied in the one method: the production of emotional excess. This, the priests understood, was the most efficacious manner in overcoming protracted depression and pain. Confronted by the query: By what means can this emotional excess be produced? they made use of "the whole pack of hounds that rage in the human kennel"—rage, fear, lust, revenge, hope, despair, cruelty and the like. And once these emotional excesses became established, the priests, when asked by the "patients" for a "cause" of their suffering, declared it to be within the man himself, in his own guiltiness. Thus was the sick man turned into a sinner. Here originated also the conception of suffering as a state of punishment, the fear of retribution, the iniquitous conscience, and the hope of redemption. Nietzsche goes further, and shows the racial and individual decadence which has followed in the train of this system of treatment. Dr. Oscar Levy says with justice that this last essay, considered in the light which it throws upon the attitude of the ecclesiast to the man of resentment and misfortune, "is one of the most valuable contributions to sacerdotal psychology."

[Pg 216]


The pathos of nobility and distance.... the chronic and despotic esprit de corps and fundamental instinct of a higher dominant race coming into association with a meaner race, an "under race," this is the origin of the antitheses of good and bad. 20

The knightly-aristocratic "values" are based on a careful cult of the physical, on a flowering, rich, and even effervescing healthiness, that goes considerably beyond what is necessary for maintaining life, on war, adventure, the chase, the dance, the tourney—on everything, in fact, which is contained in strong, free, and joyous action. The priestly aristocratic mode of valuation is—we have seen—based on other hypotheses: it is bad enough for this class when it is a question of war! Yet the priests are, as is notorious, the worst enemies—why? Because they are the weakest. 29

The slave-morality requires as the condition of its existence an external and objective world, to employ physiological terminology, it requires objective stimuli to be of action at all—its action is fundamentally a reaction. The contrary is the case when we come to the aristocrat's system of values: it acts and grows spontaneously, it merely seeks its antithesis in order to pronounce a more grateful and exultant "yes" to its own self.... 35

The aristocratic man conceives the root idea "good" spontaneously and straight away, that is to say, out of himself, and from that material then creates for himself a concept of "bad"! This "bad" of aristocratic origin and that "evil" out of the cauldron of unsatisfied hatred—the former an imitation, an "extra," an additional[Pg 217] nuance; the latter, on the other hand, the original, the beginning, the essential act in the conception of a slave-morality—these two words "bad" and "evil," how great a difference do they mark in spite of the fact that they have an identical contrary in the idea "good." 39

It is impossible not to recognise at the core of all these aristocratic races the beast of prey; the magnificent blonde brute, avidly rampant for spoil and victory; this hidden core needed an outlet from time to time, the beast must get loose again, must return into the wilderness—the Roman, Arabic, German, and Japanese nobil............
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