Published on April 22, 2014
Genealogy of Morals by Friedrich Nietzsche Translated by Ian Johnston The Genealogy of Morals, first published in 1887, is widely considered the most important work written by the revolutionary and extraordinarily influential German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). The work consists of three essays, each one examining some aspects of the historical development of modern moral concepts. Nietzsche’s purpose here, as in his other works, is to expose the falsity and deleterious effects of traditional morality, especially the morality of Christianity. (2nd edition, revised 2014) Nietzsche’s central concern is the value of morality, something traditional philosophers have not questioned. To address this question of value, he asserts, we need a history of moral systems, morality as it has actually been practiced. If we do that, we will come to understand that many of the values we assume to be true are, in fact, the product of particular historical circumstances, especially of the revolt of the slave classes against their masters and the consequent inversion of values, which led to the creation and imposition of a morality which, for all the good things one might say about it, made human beings sick and hindered their development as healthy, joyful creatures. Genealogy of Morals is an eloquent demonstration of Nietzsche’s remarkable talent for acute linguistic and psychological observation and of his formidable rhetorical gifts, here put to use in sustained arguments which depart somewhat from his earlier aphoristic style. The work is essential reading for anyone who wishes to learn about the development of modern philosophy. Ian Johnston’s fluent English translation is faithful to the original German and captures the spirit of Nietzsche's bold, polemical style.