Friedrich Nietzsche
On the Genealogy of Morals
Has any philosopher proposed a bolder agenda than Nietzsche.  He
proclaimed the death of God, branded the pieties of Judeo-Christian ethics
as a "slave morality," and even deigned to set up his alternative
mythology in
Thus Spoke Zarathustra.   The questioning spirit of the Age of
Enlightenment may have been more than a century old at the time, but
Nietzsche went well beyond the skeptical tone of his predecessors.  This
was not just speculative thinking, but rather a fierce attack on the core
principles at the heart of Western culture.  

In the century since his death, Nietzsche's reputation has risen and fallen
in response to many factors.  But most would agree that the influence of
this seminal thinker has, if anything, been on the rise in recent decades.  
The collapse in Marxist and Hegelian thought has led to a backlash against
the grand systematizers, and Nietzschean thinking stepped into this void
with renewed vitality.  Nietzsche stands out as the quintessential
anti-systematizer, offering aphorisms and biting attacks where others
construct their lofty models.  The publication of
The New Nietzsche (edited
by David Allison) in 1977 was a signal event, as were other influential
writings by Jacques Derrida (
Spurs, Nietzsche's Styles, Chicago: The
University of Chicago Press, 1979) and Gilles Deleuze (
Nietzsche and
New York: Columbia University Press, 1983) -- works whose
cumulative impact made explicit the linkage between this nineteenth
century rebel and the trendiest schools of contemporary continental

But no one did more to resuscitate Nietzsche's reputation -- which still
bore the taint of inspiring proto-Nazi tendencies -- than Michel Foucault,
who adopted the concept of tracing genealogies as the cornerstone of his
own thinking on social history and theory.  Nietzsche left behind a large
number of important volumes, but this relatively short work offers an
excellent entry point into his thinking.  
On the Genealogy of Morals includes
some of his most trenchant attacks on conventional morality, and also
stands as testimony to the power of his methodology.  


The best way to learn Nietzsche is at the Nietzsche Family Circus where a
random quote from the master is paired with an equally random cartoon.  
Must be seen to be appreciated.  

Friedrich Nietzsche finishes fourth in the
BBC vote for the greatest
philosopher of all time.  

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