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Posted on April 19th, 2014, by

F. Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals studies the genealogy i.e. the origins of moral rules and concepts: my thoughts over the origin of our moral prejudices for this polemical tract is concerned about that origin (Nietzsche) writes he in the introduction to this work. He uses the term genealogy metaphorically in the title of his work to hint at the fact that moral code is as old in its history as humanity itself. In relation to the problem of origin of morals and its value (the latter is perhaps, of more interest to Nietzsche), Nietzsche discussed the concepts of good and evil, of guilt, pity and the origins of law, justice, mercy and religion. He sees the key to the problem of genealogy of morals in a study of the history of human moral beliefs: it’s obvious which colour must be a hundred times more important for someone seeking a genealogy of morals namely, gray, in other words, what has been documented, what can be established as the truth, what really took place, in short, the long, difficult-to-decipher hieroglyphic writing of the past in human morality (Nietzsche).

Later in this work, F. Nietzsche states and proves that some morals, like humility, pity, the good and the evil originated from hate which Jews (as the nation which has suffered the most) felt to their oppressors. In his opinion, essentially weak people are the strongest supporters of morality and religion, because they feel insecure in the face of strong and noble people. The weak so disguise their weakness and hatred under the shroud of morality, religious feelings, pity, compassion and submission, proclaiming those to be the highest moral values. To them, strong people are always evil, just because they are strong, thinks Nietzsche. But Nietzsche also speaks of the morality of noble people, which is an opposite to the morality of the weak. The nobles, in his view, first evaluated their actions as good, noble in contrast to everything low-minded, vulgar (that of their subordinates). He states that the idea of usefulness of actions as a basis for judging good and evil deeds has originated in the lower classes and has nothing to do with nobility, because they themselves had a right to create moral values and did not care about usefulness: From this pathos of distance they [the nobles] first arrogated to themselves the right to create values, to stamp out the names for values. What did they care about usefulness! (Nietzsche).

The law and the justice, he claims, both originate from the relationship between debtor and creditor, the crime understood here as debt, which a criminal must pay to society to make amends for the breaking of order inside it. Religion, which originates from the same relationship, as was already mentioned above, serves to mask the true feelings of weak, subordinate people and nations. Especially it is evident in Christianity with its idea of love for the enemy and humility in the face of their masters and God.

In conclusion, we must admit that in his On the Genealogy of Morals F. Nietzsche shows the winding and indirect path of origins of morals throughout human history, which had as its result the present state of moral norms and in future will lead to the appearance of super-human. This super-human, according to Nietzsche’s philosophy, is the highest goal humanity can and must achieve.

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