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On the Genealogy of Morals Study Guide & Plot Summary

This Study Guide consists of approximately 42 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of On the Genealogy of Morals.
This section contains 436 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
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On the Genealogy of Morals Summary & Study Guide Description

On the Genealogy of Morals Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on On the Genealogy of Morals by Friedrich Nietzsche.

Plot Summary

Friedrich Nietzsche's "The Genealogy of Morals" is a non-fiction somewhat historical and philosophical discussion of the origin of morality and related concepts in mankind. Main body of the book is comprised of three separate but related essays written by the author dealing with the concepts of good and evil, guilt and bad conscience and meaning of ascetic ideals. Nietzsche comments on some historical events in the civilization of man in society over centuries to support his case for mankind's current condition in the late nineteenth century.

Nietzsche writes The Genealogy as a critique to an associates book that he uses as a template for this work. This approach enables Nietzsche to write in a more cohesive and sustained manner than many of his other works. The Genealogy's three essays are on Christian morality. The first essay contrasts master and slave morality, called noble and herd morality. He claims "good" or "bad" originally defines a noble not moral impact. Nietzsche states that moral value is imputed by slaves who resent nobles and call their actions vices. The slave revolt has cultural effects that replace strength and action of rich nobles with passivity and flatness of the meek who inherit the earth. The second essay traces guilt and punishment that originally have no moral significance. Guilt means owing and punishment ensures repayment. Society's need to constrain behavior develops "bad conscience" when man turns inward on his soul. Nietzsche's final essay describes asceticism as an attempt to tame the animal instincts of sick, weak-willed men.

This 123-page work of non-fiction is comprised of five sections with no index or glossary. Three essays comprise the main body of the work but the biographical Note and Preface sections help to understand the author and his purpose in writing. The preface and each of the essays is further divided in subsections. Chapters and chapter subsections range in size. There are 78 chapter subsections. The amount of detail suggested by the number of subsections does not significantly contribute to the clarity of Nietzsche's work. He writes in German that is translated into English in 1913. Sentences are long with commas, colons and semicolons to separate thoughts and ideas. English grammarians might consider them "run-on" sentences. Subsection and sentence structure make the work's purported ideas challenging to find and difficult to understand. Nietzsche is apparently aware and unconcerned about the readers' difficulty as by his comment, "If this writing be obscure to any individual, and jar on his ears, I do not think that it is necessarily I who am to blame." The solution he recommends to the reader is "read my previous writings."

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This section contains 436 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our On the Genealogy of Morals Study Guide
On the Genealogy of Morals from BookRags and Gale's For Students Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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