An Analysis of Nietzsche’s First Essay in “On the Genealogy of Morality”
No other thinker in the history of humankind has ever reached the mad ecstatic rambling genius of Nietszche. His every sentence is poetic; his every sentiment dangerously contrarian and radical. And no better do we see this in his great collection of essays “On the Genealogy of Morality”.
The central thesis of the first essay is suggested by its title “Good and evil”, “Good and Bad”. What are the genealogical roots of these words through history, physiology, etymology and sociology. Instead of the commonplace assumption that good is something objective (although we will see it is, but in a different sense), or desired by God, or selfless, Nietzsche asserts that good is synonymous with a kind of blood and cultural nobility of soul. The bad is not something abhorrent per se (although it still is according to Nietzsche) but weakness and pettiness, arousing the worst of all emotions, pity, in the human soul.
Nietzsche states that it is the all-out war between the two, the polemic between good and bad which has characterized all of history, since the powerful, noble detest the weak for their being opposite them; while the weak detest the strong for their being opposite to them. It is a contest between the noble Roman ideal and slave Judeo-Christian morality.
What is interesting is that Nietzsche makes it clear (while lamenting simultaneously) that he thinks Judeo-Christian slave morality won out the war. What I want to do is to suggest why this happened, even if we accept Nietzsche’s worldview of the strong oppressing the weak.
We must start with an understanding of the players in the game as it were. Imagine a lineup of every being in the universe, ordered from the strongest to the weakest. The essential dynamic is that powerful, noble beings will use their strength to dominate weaker, baser spirits. So on one hand, from the viewpoint of human society, we have the Lord at the top, the gods just below, kings and queens still under, noblemen and aristocrats further down, bourgeois freemen and merchants beneath, and then slaves at the very bottom ( a very rouch sketch without detailing all the shades of hierarchy known to man). What we see is that there is an equilibrium at every step, with no or very little movement at the top and the bottom. But in between the derivative is immense. That is to say, because the Lord is so powerful, so strong, and according to Nietzsche wants to use his power against weaker, but still strong beings, those who are gods, kings and queens, noblemen and aristocrats have the most to lose, and will definitely be oppressed by the Lord. The Lord is uninterested in oppressing the weakest, because, here’s the kick, they are already the most oppressed in the universe, by guess who?, the Lord himself.
Therefore the true synthesis between Nietzschean will-to-power and Judeo-Christian morality, is that the position of every single member of society is measured between their own individual will-to-power, and the Lord’s will-to-power which acts as a corrective and stabilising feature. This is why our position in society is determined doubly by fate (read God) and our own free-will initiative.