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Nietzsche- Genealogy Preface.pdf

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Peter King

NIETZSCHE: THE LESSONS OF HISTORY [1] Friedrich Nietzsche: life and times. More than most philosophers, Nietzsche’s writing is a matter of style: aphorisms, multiple voices, short paragraphs, ringing challenges, asides, apos- trophe, wit. Love it or hate it, the reading is lively; you have to have a broad notion of what counts as an ‘argument’ to appreciate what Nietzsche is about—less a matter of careful argument than a series of insights, which add up to an alternative way of looking at a subject. Nietzsche’s style requires patience but is well worth the effort. [2] Nietzsche more or less invents a new philosophical methodology for his use in his Genealogy of Morality, which he calls ‘genealogy’. We might call it ‘the history of concepts’: Nietzsche notes, correctly, that concepts have a history, one that can be tracked not least by language (in particular the discipline known as philology). Here’s how he puts it in his Preface, §3: ...eventually my curiousity and suspicion were bound to fix on the question of what origin our terms good and actually have... Fortunately I learnt, in time, to separate the- ological from moral prejudice and I no longer searched for the origin of evil beyond the world. Some training in history and philology, together with my innate fastidiousness with regard to all psychological problems, soon transformed my problem into another: under what conditions did man invent the value judgments good and evil? and what value do they themselves have? What earlier philosophers had treated as a merely conceptual investigation (think of Aristotle), Nietzsche wants to read as calling for a historical, even psychological, study. This he takes to be the consequence of the approach initiated by Hume and Kant: if we take seriously the idea that we need first to investigate our cognitive apparatus as a preface to philosophy, then it seems clear that we should first enquire how our cognitiv
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