On the Genealogy of Morals

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Vintage Books, 1989 - Philosophy - 367 pages
105 Reviews
On the Genealogy of Morals (1887) is a book about the history of ethics and about interpretation. Nietzsche rewrites the former as a history of cruelty, exposing the central values of the Judaeo-Christian and liberal traditions - compassion, equality, justice - as the product of a brutal process of conditioning designed to domesticate the animal vitality of earlier cultures. The result is a book which raises profoundly disquieting issues about the violence of both ethics and interpretation. Nietzsche questions moral certainties by showing that religion and science have no claim to absolute truth, before turning on his own arguments in order to call their very presuppositions into question. The Genealogy is the most sustained of Nietzsche's later works and offers one of the fullest expressions of his characteristic concerns. This edition places his ideas within the cultural context of his own time and stresses the relevance of his work for a contemporary audience.

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Review: On the Genealogy of Morals

User Review  - Rlotz - Goodreads

For all his brilliance, Nietzsche was not one for exposition or systematic investigation. He writes in impassioned bursts rather than extended thoughts—a style in keeping with his abhorrence for all ... Read full review

Review: On the Genealogy of Morals/Ecce Homo

User Review  - Kevin Wong - Goodreads

A landmark work; changed the way I think about morality, history, and perspective. A difficult, but brilliant introduction to Nietzsche for those looking to grapple with the widest range of his seminal ideas in a single work. Read full review

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About the author (1989)

The son of a Lutheran pastor, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was born in 1844 in Roecken, Prussia, and studied classical philology at the Universities of Bonn and Leipzig. While at Leipzig he read the works of Schopenhauer, which greatly impressed him. He also became a disciple of the composer Richard Wagner. At the very early age of 25, Nietzsche was appointed professor at the University of Basel in Switzerland. In 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War, Nietzsche served in the medical corps of the Prussian army. While treating soldiers he contracted diphtheria and dysentery; he was never physically healthy afterward. Nietzsche's first book, The Birth of Tragedy Out of the Spirit of Music (1872), was a radical reinterpretation of Greek art and culture from a Schopenhaurian and Wagnerian standpoint. By 1874 Nietzsche had to retire from his university post for reasons of health. He was diagnosed at this time with a serious nervous disorder. He lived the next 15 years on his small university pension, dividing his time between Italy and Switzerland and writing constantly. He is best known for the works he produced after 1880, especially The Gay Science (1882), Thus Spake Zarathustra (1883-85), Beyond Good and Evil (1886), On the Genealogy of Morals (1887), The Antichrist (1888), and Twilight of the Idols (1888). In January 1889, Nietzsche suffered a sudden mental collapse; he lived the last 10 years of his life in a condition of insanity. After his death, his sister published many of his papers under the title The Will to Power. Nietzsche was a radical questioner who often wrote polemically with deliberate obscurity, intending to perplex, shock, and offend his readers. He attacked the entire metaphysical tradition in Western philosophy, especially Christianity and Christian morality, which he thought had reached its final and most decadent form in modern scientific humanism, with its ideals of liberalism and democracy. It has become increasingly clear that his writings are among the deepest and most prescient sources we have for acquiring a philosophical understanding of the roots of 20th-century culture.

Walter Kaufmann was born in Freiburg, Germany in July 1, 1921. He arrived in the United States at the age of 17 and became a citizen in 1944. He received a B.A. degree from Williams College in 1941 and a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1947. During World War II, he served in the United States Army from 1943-1946. He was a member of the philosophy department at Princeton University from 1947-1980. He was a philosopher, translator, poet, and photographer. His first book, a critical study of Nietzsche, was published in 1950. His other works include Critique of Religion and Philosophy, From Shakespeare to Existentialism, The Faith of a Heretic, Tragedy and Philosophy, Without Guilt and Justice, Religions in Four Dimensions, and Man's Lot. He died on September 4, 1980 at the age of 59.

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