Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Friedrich Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals, published late in his career, demonstrates the philosopher’s academic roots in nineteenth century classical philology. Divided into three interrelated essays subdivided by sections, the work is a relatively compact but provocative examination of morality and ethics. Subtitled “A Polemic” in certain editions, the work undertakes a radical break with previous examinations of moral philosophy. Both for its style and its argument, many contemporary philosophers judge On the Genealogy of Morals to be among Nietzsche’s most important works. Many notable modern English translations exist, and scholars generally regard the 1968 German-language version of On the Genealogy of Morals by Italian editors Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari to be the standard German edition of the work.
On the Genealogy of Morals inaugurates Nietzsche’s genealogical critique (which is about something other than tracing family histories). The philosophical method of genealogy, for Nietzsche, problematizes fundamental assumptions about morality and moral theories through a careful differentiation between origin and purpose. In other words, morality is viewed not as an unassailable, static set of facts or as an ideal realm of transcendental essences. Instead, the meaning and value of morality emerge from a sequence of shifting contexts that reveal and obscure a long, complicated chain of...
(The entire section is 1270 words.)
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