“The Genealogy of Morality” is a book that analyzes the concept of morality and the occurrence of moral value through the genealogical methodology. However, it is not about the origin of moral theory, but about the origin of the moral concept and moral value. In other words, under what conditions will humans have a moral value judgment of good and evil? It aims 1) understanding of the dominant morality of modern Europe, 2) understanding the whole moral code as a sign and a symptom of life, 3) ethical judgment and elucidation of the concept of morality, 4) critical review of the effect, function, and impact of the dominant moral.
The text is composed of three small papers. Each of these papers has a distinct purpose and a corresponding individual strategy. The first paper attempts to uncover the lineage of the concept of morality by presenting a net of psychological, historical, etymological, social, political, and physiological hypotheses about morality. As a result, by restoring the confrontation between ‘moral-not moral’ to ‘good-bad’ instead of ‘good-evil’, it presents a ‘noble’ moral evaluation method. The second paper is a key part of “The Genealogy of Morality” and is based on a genealogical point of view. It attempts to connect morality with other fields by mobilizing physical evolutionary theory, economics, civilization theory, law theory, anthropology, and religion. In other words, the lineage of morality is suggested to be inseparable from the lineage of memory, the lineage of the state, the lineage of civilization, and the lineage of religion. The third dissertation proceeds in the form of academic criticism, in order to understand asceticism as an attribute which is commonly shared by discipline and philosophy.
How does a genealogical account of morality proceed? The concept of genealogy has been used since the 17th century. The genealogy used at this time was related to the creation of a family tree for a descent. The term ‘Genealogy’ refers to a variety of patterns that have developed from the origin of a lineage or descent when it has been passed down with biological continuity. Genealogy is the scientific study of the pedigree. The starting point of genealogy is not only to answer the question of what morality is, but it is based on how the concept of morality should be constructed and applied in the relationship between the other fundamental concept and the structure of the world.
How does a genealogical account of morality offer a critique of other moral systems? Traditionally, people think that contradictory values such as authenticity, good and evil, and beauty or ugliness exist, and think that they originate from something completely different from the beginning. According to our values belief, we cannot doubt that the highest value has an inherent origin, as it cannot arise from the opposite. However, faith in the value conflict is an expression of Decadence and is only an ideological tool of the lower class. This is because dichotomous thinking is only the most erroneously proven assumption in the world. It lacks the courage to accommodate conflicting values together. The concept of absolute value requires a “one eye” that we cannot fully think about. To see with one eye intrudes active and interpretive power. Digging into the virtues of the most respected era, people will soon discover how many hidden hypocrisies are in the inside. Human greatness is determined by how many and various things they can handle and accept.
Regardless of many different countries in many different eras, the teaching “Dodge all evil, take all good and do it” has been the golden rule of moral and ethical. This nomenclature assumes that all humans deserve to know what good is and what evil is, and it falls on our heads like a command. So, even today, we only accept in good faith the form of ‘good is never a good thing, and we must do it’. It became so natural that it became rather strange to be foolish about it. For this reason, we can’t even ask, ‘Why good is good, and what is it worth for us?’ And ‘Where does it come from?’ Likewise, the question “Why is evil bad and where does it originate from?” cannot be asked. This fact means that we have no idea of good or bad, the basic guideline of ethics. The fact that human beings live within the borders of ethics and morality and have never considered it is inevitably made humans ‘the farthest strangers from themselves.’ The reason for this situation is that, from Nietzsche’s point of view, humans have never explored themselves.
The first thing a human being needs to learn to live in a community is the moral and ethical demands of that community. For this reason, the question of morality has been discussed in depth since history. In fact, many philosophers have so far sought to provide a reasonable basis for morality, and also believe that they have provided the very foundation. Nevertheless, morality itself is still “given.” It has been considered undoubtedly true. The attitude that regards the morality itself as a given, that is, the rejection of moral discourse will be the one that puts morality into crisis once more. This is because the moral crisis will be a crisis of discourse on morality. Since human life does not deviate from the scope of the value system, in order to escape, “values of values” and “values themselves” must be questioned. In order to view the value problem of value, “the knowledge of the conditions and situations in which values have grown, developed, and changed” is necessary.
A genealogical account is not purely negative, but it also provides a positive account of morality. In fact, what philosophers say is the beginning of morality is a kind of negative attitude that morality itself should not be questioned. Nietzsche intends to re-examine our lives in a dynamic and stereoscopic way by presenting a new perspective on the existing value system through genealogical inquiry. Above all, he wants to emphasize the fact that moral evaluation, moral phenomena, and moral values that we have only seen on one side so far can be viewed from different sides and that various interpretations are possible. The more eyes we see about the situation, the more interpretations come out, the healthier and richer our lives become. In that sense, a genealogical account is a new form of philosophical methodology.
Thus, a genealogical account is not a merely negative methodology, but it can offer a positive conception of morality as well. As a form of philosophical methodology, it would imply for philosophy a new methodology for Umwertung. It should be noted that Nietzsche’s insights into the human formation are presented in Part 2 of “The Genealogy of Morality”. There, Nietzsche describes the change from “animal” to “human.” As the final product of the process, “sovereign individual” and “future human” are presented. He is “autonomous, super-ethical,” who no longer needs the external regulation of customary morality. “Pride for the exceptional privilege of accountability” and “this rare freedom, the consciousness of the power that governs oneself and destiny” are established as instincts at the core of their existence. That is “Gewissen.” Nietzsche’s “conscience” refers to a feeling of affirming oneself or good feelings for oneself.
‘Bad feelings for yourself’ is a negative condition like ‘disease’, but it is a disease in the same sense as saying that pregnancy is a disease, and it is a disease that may lead to ‘great health’. In Nietzsche, ‘bad feelings for yourself’ can be afflicted with pathological phenomena of religious fanaticism and deep guilt, as illustrated by Western Christianity. However, as in the case of ancient Greeks, if you use the gods to control it and enjoy soul freedom, you can also move to a healthy and positive state. It is the greater power, “Great Health,” that moves “bad feelings about yourself” into an affirmation of oneself and “good feelings about oneself.” The greater power you need to move forward must be found in yourself and in the reality in which you live. Nietzsche seems to be betting hope on the “anti-Christ” and “anti-nihilist,” which will control self-denial and bring the freedom and affirmation of the soul enjoyed by ancient Greeks. Thus, the Übermensch was not only inclined to negativity, and he cannot be different from the “sovereign individual” as the final fruit of the human formation process.
- Nietzsche, Friedrich. Nietzsche: Beyond good and evil: Prelude to a philosophy of the future. Cambridge University Press, 2002.
- Nietzsche, Friedrich. Nietzsche: on the genealogy of morality and other writings. Cambridge University Press, 2017.
- Bevir, Mark. ‘What is genealogy?.’ Journal of the Philosophy of History 2.3 (2008): 263-275.
- Evans, Fred. Genealogy and the problem of affirmation in Nietzsche, Foucault and Bakhtin. Philosophy & social criticism 27.3 (2001) 41-65.