Friedrich Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morality is a sustained feat of incisive interpretation. Well known as one of Nietzsche’s greatest works, and as one of the most important books of nineteenth-century philosophy, On the Genealogy of Morality also provided the inspiration for the methodologies of several key philosophers of the modern age. Michel Foucault and Judith Butler, among others, cite Nietzsche as an influence specifically because of the interpretative techniques laid out in this work – techniques which are a model for the ways in which interpretation can be used to power critical thinking of the highest order.
The key aspects of interpretation are understanding, clarifying, and questioning definitions; what Nietzsche brings to the process is a sense of how important context, history and culture are to understanding any term. In the case of morals, for instance, he argues that if we are to truly understand what we mean by “good” or “evil,” we cannot ever assume the two concepts have a stable meaning, outside of a given moment in history. Indeed, to understand what they mean now, and might mean in the future, we need to trace the genealogy of concepts back to their very roots – a feat of interpretation that Nietzsche undertakes masterfully.
Table of Contents
Ways in to the Text
Who was Friedrich Nietzsche?
What does On the Genealogy of Morality Say?
Why does On the Genealogy of Morality Matter?
Section 1: Influences
Module 1: The Author and the Historical Context
Module 2: Academic Context
Module 3: The Problem
Module 4: The Author's Contribution
Section 2: Ideas
Module 5: Main Ideas
Module 6: Secondary Ideas
Module 7: Achievement
Module 8: Place in the Author's Work
Section 3: Impact
Module 9: The First Responses
Module 10: The Evolving Debate
Module 11: Impact and Influence Today
Module 12: Where Next?
Glossary of Terms
People Mentioned in the Text
Dr Don Berry holds a PhD in philosophy from University College London and an honors degree in mathematics from Cambridge. His research focuses on bioethics.