Nietzsche: The Lessons of History
• Writings a matter of style: aphorisms, multiple voices, short paragraphs, ringing
challenges, asides, apostrophe, wit.
o Less a matter of careful argument than a series of insights, which add up
to an alternative way of looking at a subject
• Invents a new philosophical methodology which he calls ‘genealogy’
o History of concepts
o Notes that concepts have a history, one that can be tracked not least by
In particular the discipline of known as philology
Preface 3: what in fact is the origin of our good and evil? …
Fortunately I learned early on to distinguish theological from
moral prejudice and no longer sought the origin of evil behind the
world. A little historical philological schooling, combined with an
innate sense of discrimination in all psychological questions, soon
transformed my problem into a different one: under what
conditions did man invent those value judgments good and evil?
And what value do they themselves have?
• Nietzsche wants to read as calling for a historical, even psychological, study. He
describes the project in Preface 6:
o We need a critique of moral values, for once, the value of these values
must itself be called into question-and for this we need a knowledge of the
conditions and circumstances out of which they have grown, under which
they have developed and shifted… knowledge of a kind that has neither
existed up until now or even been desired.
• New methodology is (a) historical, (b) naturalistic, and (c) deflationary.
o Third has to do with something peculiar to moral concepts, namely that
they exercise their power over us to the extent we take them as given, as
unquestioned, and once they are no longer seen that way they lose their
Notion of divine right
• If there are no gods, or if political power is seen as
something that comes from those who are ruled (rather than
above), this notion will have no hold on us at all-and to
raise the possibility is to cause it to lose its hold
• What Nietzsche hopes to do with morality as a whole
• A kind of moral relativist
o Be careful
o Thinks that human beings have come to adopt p