Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Genealogy of Morals

Prefaces and Essay 1.

In essay I, Nietzsche applies his historical and philological method to the meanings of "good" and "evil."  He argues that there original sense was assigned by an aristocratic class of conquerors, and that "good" was synonymous with strength, health, high birth and military vigor, whereas "evil" applied to the conquered - the weak, the ill-born, and the slaves.  Over time, he says, the resentment of the slaves gradually won a victory whereby "good" became associated with the decadent values of the Sermon on the Mount - poverty, humility, weakness, etc.

Nietzsche's aristocratic infatuation was great enough that he fabricated a noble ancestry for himself - one utterly unfounded in reality.  That infatuation, combined with his obsession with race, violence and decadence was the source of much of the poison in this book.  For me, almost every intellectual element of Nazism is here: the master race, the Aryan race, contrasted with slave races, especially the Jews.  Blood poisoning and the two-thousand year plot of the Jews to undermine and corrupt the ruling race.  The emphasis on violence as the remedy for the decadence of the Jewish slave morality.

To be sure, what Nietzsche meant by "Jews" was not exactly what Hitler meant - Christians were pretty much the same as Jews in most of these contexts.

These ingredients spoil any intellectual appreciation of Nietzsche's achievements for me.  Ayn Rand never acknowledged her debt to Nietzsche, but the intellectual content of her ideas owes almost everything to Nietzsche, though she blended it with a dim romanticism that would likely have turned his stomach.