Friedrich Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals 2nd and 3rd Essays

Friedrich Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals 2nd and 3rd Essays

David L. Potts

2 Mins
March 8, 2011

This commentary is part of The Atlas Society's 2000 online "CyberSeminar" entitled " Nietzsche and Objectivism ."

In this post, I briefly note some of the more interesting points that struck my notice in the second and third essays of The Genealogy of Morals.

At ii.12-13, Nietzsche articulates a view of creativity as reorganization. If you’ve been wondering how the blond beasts, acting only on brute instincts, can be the fount of creativity and culture (an honor I would hardly expect him to confer upon the herd), the answer is that creativity is merely a matter of the reorganization, the imposition of a new form, upon whatever is to hand. So long as any “reorganization” counts as creation (as a building may be “reorganized” into a pile of rubble, for example), intellect is unnecessary.

In this same passage, reorganization is often referred to as reinterpretation. That is, one important way in which social institutions are reshaped to new functions involves reinterpreting their meaning in society, reconceptualizing them as it were. This is a very Foucauldian idea, and I would expect to find this a favorite passage of Foucault and other postmodernists.

At ii.16, Nietzsche seems to say that a social existence requires bad conscience. Later, he asserts clearly, however, that bad conscience is not something suffered by the blond beasts of prey but rather something which they force others to suffer. That further seems to imply that the blond beasts are not fit for society (society being a thing Nietzsche regards as good), whereas the herd are not good at being human. Thus human nature itself seems in a way incoherent for Nietzsche. (This incoherence I think is the source of many interesting tensions in Essay 2, not just this one.)

There is a very interesting epistemological digression at iii.12, in which Nietzsche comes very close to identifying the diaphanous model at the heart of Kant’s epistemology.

Finally, at iii.23-25 Nietzsche attacks science as unidealistic. (He also attacks it as grounded ultimately on faith, but that is less interesting to me.) This raises a very interesting question for Objectivists: exactly what is the nature of “objective ideals”?