Ideas from 'On the Genealogy of Morals' by Friedrich Nietzsche [1887], by Theme Structure

[found in 'On the Genealogy of Morals/ Ecce Homo' by Nietzsche,Friedrich (ed/tr Kaufmann,Walter) [Vintage 1969,67-23033 (Cong)]].

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1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 5. Aims of Philosophy / a. Philosophy as worldly
The main aim of philosophy must be to determine the order of rank among values
                        Full Idea: The future task of the philosophers is the solution of the problem of value, the determination of the order of rank among values.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (On the Genealogy of Morals [1887], I.§17 note)
                        A reaction: 'Determine' is presumably either a power struggle, or needs criteria by which to do the judging.
1. Philosophy / G. Scientific Philosophy / 3. Scientism
Scientific knowledge is nothing without a prior philosophical 'faith'
                        Full Idea: Strictly speaking there is no knowledge [science] without presuppositions; a philosophy, a 'faith', must always be there first of all, for knowledge to win from it a direction, a meaning, a limit, a method, a right to exist.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (On the Genealogy of Morals [1887], III.§24)
                        A reaction: He sees philosophers as the creators of this faith, and laughs at anyone who tries to set philosophy on a scientific basis.
2. Reason / D. Definition / 3. Types of Definition
Only that which has no history is definable
                        Full Idea: Only that which has no history is definable.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (On the Genealogy of Morals [1887], II.§13)
                        A reaction: Too subtle to evaluate! It sounds as if it could be right, that some things are definable, but when the accretions of human history are interwoven into an identity, we can forget it.
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 5. Aiming at Truth
Philosophers have never asked why there is a will to truth in the first place
                        Full Idea: Both the earliest and most recent philosophers are all oblivious of how much the will to truth itself first requires justification: here there is a gap in every philosophy - how did this come about?
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (On the Genealogy of Morals [1887], III.§24)
                        A reaction: This seems to me a meta-philosophical question which will lead off into (quite interesting) cultural studies and (trite) evolutionary theory. Truth isn't a value, it is the biological function of brains.
13. Knowledge Criteria / E. Relativism / 1. Relativism
There is only 'perspective' seeing and knowing, and so the best objectivity is multiple points of view
                        Full Idea: There is only a perspective seeing, only a perspective "knowing", and the more different eyes we can use to observe one thing, the more complete will our "concept" of this thing, our "objectivity", be.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (On the Genealogy of Morals [1887], III.§12)
                        A reaction: A very perceptive statement of the most plausible and sophisticated version of relativism. It is hard to see how we could distinguish multiple viewpoints from pure objectivity.
16. Persons / F. Free Will / 5. Against Free Will
Philosophers invented "free will" so that our virtues would be permanently interesting to the gods
                        Full Idea: The philosophers invented "free will" - absolute human spontaneity in good and evil - to furnish a right to the idea that the interest of the gods in man, in human virtue, could never be exhausted.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (On the Genealogy of Morals [1887], II.§07)
                        A reaction: Wonderfully outrageous suggestion! If we had true metaphysical 'absolute' free will, we would be much more interesting, and have a much higher status in the cosmos. Nietzsche is probably right.
18. Thought / A. Modes of Thought / 1. Thought
People who think in words are orators rather than thinkers, and think about facts instead of thinking facts
                        Full Idea: Whoever thinks in words thinks as an orator and not as a thinker (it shows that he does not think facts, but only in relation to facts).
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (On the Genealogy of Morals [1887], III.§08)
                        A reaction: Good. It is certainly not true that we have to think in words, or else animals wouldn't think. Good thinking should focus on reality, and be too fast for words to keep up.
20. Action / A. Definition of Action / 1. Action Theory
It is a delusion to separate the man from the deed, like the flash from the lightning
                        Full Idea: Just as the popular mind separates the lightning from its flash and takes the latter for a 'action', so they separate strength from expressions of strength, but there is no such substratum; the deed is everything.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (On the Genealogy of Morals [1887], I.§13)
                        A reaction: Of course, there is no reason why an analysis should not separate the doer and the deed (to explain, for example, a well-meaning fool), but it is a blunder to think of a human action as a merely physical event.
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 1. Nature of Ethics / h. Against ethics
We must question the very value of moral values
                        Full Idea: We need a critique of moral values; the value of these values themselves must just be called in question.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (On the Genealogy of Morals [1887], Pref)
                        A reaction: But we must start somewhere with values, to avoid an infinite regress.
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 2. Source of Ethics / f. Übermensch
The concept of 'good' was created by aristocrats to describe their own actions
                        Full Idea: The judgement 'good' did not first originate with those to whom goodness was shown! Rather it was the 'good' themselves, that is to say the noble, powerful, high-stationed and high-minded who established themselves and their action as good.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (On the Genealogy of Morals [1887], I.§02)
                        A reaction: This may be right, but not very profound. Virtually all concepts are created by the most educated classes. The first recipient of charity may not have had the concept, but they would have been gobsmacked by the novelty.
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 2. Source of Ethics / g. Will to power
All animals strive for the ideal conditions to express their power, and hate any hindrances
                        Full Idea: Every animal instinctively strives for an optimum of favourable conditions under which it can expend all its strength and achieve its maximal feeling of power; every animal abhors ...every hindrance that obstructs this path to the optimum.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (On the Genealogy of Morals [1887], III.7)
                        A reaction: This became the lynchpin of Nietzsche's account of the source of values. It is a highly naturalistic view, fitting it into evolutionary theory (thought running deeper than that), so I have a lot of sympathy with the view.
23. Ethics / A. Egoism / 1. Ethical Egoism
Only the decline of aristocratic morality led to concerns about "egoism"
                        Full Idea: It was only when aristocratic value judgements declined that the whole antithesis of "egoistic" and "unegoistic" obtruded itself more and more on the human conscience.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (On the Genealogy of Morals [1887], I.§02)
                        A reaction: But Aristotle, who is no aristocrat, has a balanced and sensible view of 'egoism', where it isn't the patronising arrogance that Nietzsche seems to like, but a proper concern with one's own character.
Nietzsche rejects impersonal morality, and asserts the idea of living well
                        Full Idea: Nietzsche's rejection of impersonal morality is an assertion of the dominance of the ideal of living well.
                        From: report of Friedrich Nietzsche (On the Genealogy of Morals [1887], I) by Thomas Nagel - The View from Nowhere X.2
23. Ethics / B. Contract Ethics / 1. Contractarianism
Basic justice is the negotiation of agreement among equals, and the imposition of agreement
                        Full Idea: Justice on the elementary level is good will among parties of approximately equal power to come to terms with one another, and to compel parties of lesser power to reach a settlement among themselves.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (On the Genealogy of Morals [1887], II.§08)
                        A reaction: This pinpoints a key problem with the social contract as a moral theory - that it requires equals, and recognises only terror of superiors, and indifference to useless inferiors who have nothing to offer (paraplegics and animals).
A masterful and violent person need have nothing to do with contracts
                        Full Idea: He who can command, he who is "master", he who is violent in act and bearing - what has he to do with contracts!
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (On the Genealogy of Morals [1887], II.§17)
                        A reaction: The persistent problem with social contract theory is that those much stronger or much weaker seem to have no interest in morality at all, and yet they can all have standards of behaviour.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / f. Compassion
Plato, Spinoza and Kant are very different, but united in their low estimation of pity
                        Full Idea: Plato, Spinoza, La Rochefoucauld, and Kant are four spirits very different from one another, but united in one thing: their low estimation of pity.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (On the Genealogy of Morals [1887], Pref §5)
                        A reaction: Plato is no surprise, as virtually no Greeks value pity. Spinoza and Kant are interesting. Presumably Kant's 'contractualism' places respect far above pity, and is theoretical neglect of animals would fit. Remember Nietzsche embraced a horse in Turin.
23. Ethics / D. Deontological Ethics / 2. Duty
Guilt and obligation originated in the relationship of buying and selling, credit and debt
                        Full Idea: The feeling of guilt, of personal obligation, had its origin in the oldest and most primitive personal relationship, that between buyer and seller, between creditor and debtor.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (On the Genealogy of Morals [1887], II.§08)
                        A reaction: In other words, lofty Kantian ideals started life in the grubby world of the Hobbesian social contract, and self-seeking has been disguised by idealism. Too harsh on Kant, who explains why contracts have force, not just convenience.
25. Society / B. The State / 2. State Legitimacy / c. Natural authority
The state begins with brutal conquest of a disorganised people, not with a 'contract'
                        Full Idea: Some pack of blond beasts of prey, on a war footing, unscrupulously lays its dreadful paws on a populace which is shapeless. In this way the 'state' began on earth. I think I have dispensed with the fantasy which has it begin with a 'contract'.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (On the Genealogy of Morals [1887], II.17)
                        A reaction: [compressed] It is certainly likely that a tribe which got itself well organised and focused on some end would achieve total dominance over other tribes that just focus on food.
29. Religion / D. Religious Issues / 1. Religious Commitment / a. Religious Belief
The truly great haters in world history have always been priests
                        Full Idea: The truly great haters in world history have always been priests.
                        From: Friedrich Nietzsche (On the Genealogy of Morals [1887], I.§07)
                        A reaction: Wicked, but it has a lot of truth. Priests have a lot to defend, and a lot of reasons for feeling threatened.