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Nietzsche- Genealogy Essay 2 (I)

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Peter King

NIETZSCHE: GENEALOGY, SECOND ESSAY (I) [1] In the Second Essay of The Genealogy of Morality, Nietzsche is deconstructing moral agency. That is, he tries to show the genealogy behind moral agency—what it takes, historically, to develop a human being who is capable of moral action. Nietzsche’s answer: “We moderns ve inherited millennia of conscience-vivisection and animal-torture inflicted on ourselves” (§24). Let’s see how this plays out. [2] Nietzsche holds that the real achievement in developing moral agency is to breed an animal with the prerogative to promise (§1). This is an achievement because by nature we (and most an- imals) are inclined to forgetfulness, which is, he maintains, an integral part of our psychological health. It is the foundation for moral agency, since it is at the root of responsibility. Unless we can be calculable, regular, able to foresee and determine our behaviour in advance, we cannot be moral agents. The upshot is that to become “sovereign individuals” we need to look at the mechanics of forgetting/remembering, and especially what they have to do with the evolution of our moral selves—the “long history of the origins of responsibility” (§2). [3] Nietzsche, characteristically, thinks that memory works via pain (in “blood, torments, and sacrifices” [§3]): we remember things because it hurts not to remember them. This is evident in (say) the training of animals, and we are no different in this regard; we can learn through rewards but we learn much more quickly through pain. This leads Nietzsche on to the main topic discussed in the Second Essay, namely punishment, since th
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