Robert Guay
State University of New York at Binghamton
“The genealogy of morals” is, most famously, a pair of genealogies: that of the good/evil dichotomy in the First Treatise, and that of the bad conscience in the Second Treatise. But the straightforward presentation of these two narratives is subverted even before it begins. Nietzsche classifies the book not as a treatise or inquiry but as a “polemic”; voices interrupt the narrative to insist that much is left unsaid; the narratives are framed by, of all things, reflections on the scientific conscience; Nietzsche declares the entire enterprise to be a contribution to the critique of “the value of values”; the two genealogies of the first two Treatises overlap and various points and ultimately converge in a discussion of the “meaning” of the “ascetic ideal.” Whatever one makes of these complications, two tentative conclusions can be drawn. Nietzsche is profoundly concerned with the status of his genealogy. And genealogy does not function as reportage, primarily concerned with the accurate depiction of events; rather, it aims to reveal something about the status of “moral values” and the possibility of an alternative to them.
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