Home > Book Review, Philosophy > Exam Preparation – Nietzsche “Good and Evil”.

Exam Preparation – Nietzsche “Good and Evil”.

In my first Davidson post I stated that Foucault and Patocka aren’t in the readers, this is a mistake, they are, I just didn’t see them, what an idiot, right? That being the case I’m going to do some notes on Foucault too, hopefully covering my bases for this exam. I’m going to focus on the study questions given to us in the unit manual as they contain previous years essay questions – one figures these will be the exam questions this year.

Qu 1: Explain the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’

This question is the basis for much of the first essay (“First Essay: Good and Evil,’ ‘Good and Bad.'”) in our reader, where Nietzsche beings with a critique of the “English psychologists” and their pragmatism:

The way they bungled their moral genealogy comes to light at the very beginning, where the task is to investigate the origin of the concept and judgment “good”. “Originally” – so they decree – “one approved unegoistic actions and called them good from the point of view of those to whom they were done, that is to say, those to whom they were useful; later one forgot how this approval originated and, simply because egoistic actions were always habitually praise as good, one felt them to be good – as if they were something good in themselves.” (Nietzsche, p. 25, On the Genealogy of Morals, 1989)

Nietzsche believes the ‘good’ in pragmatism to be put in the wrong place, it does not arise from those to whom goodness was shown, but rather it was those who called themselves ‘good’ (meaning: the noble, powerful, high-minded etc) who deemed themselves and their actions ‘good. This was done so in contradistinction states Nietzsche to the low (meaning: low-minded, common and plebian) – it was this distance in power that the powerful sought the right to create values as a matter of utility. Nietzsche thinks it is this “pathos of nobility” (p. 26) that allowed the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ to be defined as above and below, that is the low-minded to be lower, hence bad – Nietzsche believes the ability to conceive of language is an expression of power or the rulers. Hence to Nietzsche ‘good’ is “definitely not linked from the first and by necessity to “unegoistic actions, as the superstition of these genealogists would have it.” (p. 26) Nietzsche found that when he looked at the “real etymological significance of the designations for “good”” (p. 27) coined in different languages he found that it always led back to the same “conceptual transformation” (p. 27) of the ‘good’ meaning “noble”, and “aristocratic”. This notion of privilege also always led to the conception of ‘bad’ as “common, “plebian”, or “low” (as he demonstrates in the histories of the Jewish, Roman, German and Celtic traditions pp.29-36).

Juxtaposed to this style or morality Nietzsche talks of “slave morality”, especially ressentiment:

While every noble morality develops from a triumphant affirmation of itself, slave morality from the outset says No to what is “outside,” and what is “different,” what is “not itself”; and this No is its creative deed. This inversion of the value-positing eye – this need to direct one’s view outward instead of back to oneself – is of the essence of ressentiment. (Nietzsche, p. 36-37, On the Genealogy of Morals, 1989)

Nietzsche compare what each type of morality needs, the slave needs a hostile world, while the noble, privilege. It is here he talks of the Greeks who defined their morality by the “happy” and “unhappy” which was different according to Nietzsche as the well-born thought of themselves happy but did not define their morality in contradistinction to their enemies.


Nietzsche, F. W. (1989). “First Essay: Good and Evil,’ ‘Good and Bad.'” Trans. Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale. On the Genealogy of Morals. Ecce Homo. Ed. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Vintage Books. Pp. 25, 26, 27, 29-36, 36-37,

Categories: Book Review, Philosophy
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: