ON THE GENEALOGY OF MORALS by Friedrich Nietzsche

(translated by Walter Kaufmann and R.J.Hollingdale)

Vintage 1989. ISBN 0-679-72462-1

Quotations and references to Nietzsche's writing are appearing everywhere while those of other 19th century philosophers fade into obscurity. Why is this?.

One answer is surely that his philosophy (seen here in the three essays of Geneaology) gets into the question of a modern world without religion. There is no faith because you can't believe anymore, and if you don't believe then you can do what you want.

This freedom is Nietszche's "Will To Power" i.e. don't be afraid of your new freedom but use it to the maximum to create the "overman", the man fully living all his senses and possibilities. In this respect the similarity to Crowley's "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law" is curious , especially as Crowley is another name that won't go away.

The results of a philosophy of "Do what thou wilt" applied to everyone is a different question that Nietszche (or Crowley for that matter ) doesn't really go into. One guess might be that "Do what thou wilt " really means "Do what thou wilt" if you have the power and this may be what Nietszche had in mind. His model is more the romantic aristocrat fucking and fighting and generally taking anything he can lay his hands on.

A key point is that cultural control has gone, whether this is religion, law, custom or what have you, allowing the "overman" the satisfaction of doing exactly what he wants. To suppress desire is to be weakened by guilt or bad conscience (subject of the second essay). As he puts it,"- I mean the morbid softening and moralization

through which the animal "man" finally learns to be ashamed of all his instincts. On his way to becoming an "angel" man has evolved that queasy stomach and coated tongue through which not only the joy and innocence of the animal but life itself has become repugnant to him-."

This "animal life" is an interesting idea with Nietszche seeming to find the cultural life of cooperation, a much duller concept( see Micheal Corballis's very good book "The Lopsided Ape" which suggests that N. got it the wrong way round).
Take away the culture and you have the world that is explored in the amazing book "The Mountain People" by Colin Turnbull showing the hopelessness of this route even for the local "overmen" of the Ik tribe.

Nietszche looks at religion as a control system using sin and guilt , run by a unfulfilled priestly caste who take out their dissatisfaction on their flock. Man is told that he is permanently guilty with this idea being the seed of Nietzche's famous "ressentiment" or the animosity of the downtrodden against anything healthy free or overmanish. The triumph of the weak is the "inverted world" of the saintly fasting silent celibate who manages to be almost dead while still being alive.

The Vintage edition of "Geneaology of Morals" also includes "Ecce Homo", a commentary by Nietszche on his books written towards the end of his life with a collection of seventy-five aphorisms, e.g. "End and Goal.- Not every end is the goal. The end of a melody is not its goal ; and yet: as long as the melody has not reached it's end, it also hasn't reached its goal. A parable."

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