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Friedrich Nietzsche: Values in ‘the Genealogy of Morals’ Essay

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Updated: Dec 16th, 2021

The philosophy developed by Nietzsche is referred to as Nietzscheanism and it politically and intellectually influenced every part of the world during the beginning of the 20th century. Nietzsche mostly believed in and utilized topics like social criticism, psychology, religion, ontology, epistemology and morality. Although he directly did not exhibit his philosophy, it is quite evident from his common view of our world which can be estimated through his works. Such a work is ‘The Genealogy of Morals’ where he philosophically demonstrated the aspects of morals and values created by the human mind and explained them.

Nietzsche indicated that there are fundamentally two opposing values. “The two opposing values, ‘good and bad,’ ‘good and evil,’ have fought a dreadful, thousand-year fight in the world” (Nietzsche 31). Nietzsche had a very evocative style and also he often made outrageous claims due to which his philosophy generated universal passion. Reviewing Nietzsche’s earliest works we find that he emphasized on an opposition towards Dionysian and Apollonian impulses of art. However, he points out that the values are dependent on perspective. He clarifies; “The question, ‘What is the value of this or that table of ‘values’ and morality?’ will be asked from the most varied standpoints” (Nietzsche 33). His major currents included figure of Dionysus, will to power, a claim that God is dead, radical perceptions and the division between the moralities of master and slave. For example, he indicated, “The knightly-aristocratic ‘values’ are based on a careful cult of the physical, on a flowering, rich, and even effervescing healthiness” (Nietzsche 16). This is the fundamentals of his philosophy and the aspects of ‘values’ is dependent on it.

His views of ‘values’ is based on the parameters of Existentialism. It is a modern philosophy which considers human subjects to be the starting point of their philosophical thoughts out of these values. He way of looking at the world included the individual’s conditions of existence, feelings and actions in their philosophy. Nietzsche focuses on the way by which humans discover their existence in the world and thus, according to it human existence comes first and only after that does every individual spends their entire lifetime changing their basic nature and spirit. Simply put the ‘Values’ of Nietzsche can be thought of as one which focuses on finding one’s self and also the meaning of an individual’s life by means of personal responsibility, free will and choice. Individuals try to find out throughout their lives what they are and make certain changes, reflected through ‘Values’, in their lives based on their outlook, experiences and beliefs. These personal changes and choices are completely unique and do not require to be objective. According to Nietzsche, an individual must be responsible for the changes in their life and choose them without considering traditions, laws or ethnic rules. Also, an individual is also at his best when he has to fight for his life against his basic nature and suffers in the process and “It was out of this pathos of distance that they first arrogated the right to create values for their own profit and to coin the names of such values”. (Nietzsche 11)

Nietzsche utters, “Under what conditions did Man invent for himself those judgments of values” (Nietzsche 3). The answer can be found in his philosophical approach. The essence the ‘Value’ system by Nietzsche also refers to change in the form of revolt. The fundamental concepts of our modern industrial society were formed in the 17th century as a result of a revolt and thus Existentialism also reflects the changes in the industry. The ‘Values’ can be viewed as a revolt against the various features that existed in the industrial society before the 17th century. People constantly protested against the attitude of the industrial society in those times which finally resulted in its change today. When man protested against the belief that he was a mere element of the social process consisting of production and consumption procedures, it reflected the feeling of meaninglessness, estrangement and finitude in man.

However, it should be noted that the primary focus of morality and value was on the way the world was changing, mostly because of the Industrial Revolution in Europe. A world which had once seemed orderly and dominated by religion was now dominated by society, and because so much new technology was introduced, the world, for the most part, was starting to feel chaotic to most individuals. As such, philosophers attempted to define and describe what was going on around them. In Nietzsche’s own words it can be state that “The value of these ‘values’ was taken for granted as an indisputable fact, which was beyond all question” (Nietzsche 6).

Thus, Nietzsche indicates that there is a constant construction of ‘good and bad’ and ‘good and evil’ and the construction of these values is based on the parameters of morality. This morality is based on the basis of changing time and society. Thus, it is evident that the values indicated by Nietzsche are fundamentally related to the position of society and its moral constructions.

Works Cited

Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm. The Genealogy of Morals. Trans. Horace Barnett Samuel. NY: Courier Dover Publications, 2003.

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