On the Genealogy of Morals
Nietzsche’s Assault on Modern Morality: the Kamehameha II Connection
German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is most remembered for the jarring statement, “God is dead,” but to reduce him to such a slogan would be to truncate an intricate and complex critique of morality into just three short words. Nietzsche saw the morality of his own social context as a sickness inherited through a series of generations. In his 1884 work The Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche traces the roots of morality and thereby explains the origin of its pathogen. In this essay, I will first explicate Nietzsche’s critique of morality and explain his proposed alternative to the modern system. Second, I will evaluate author Alasdair MacIntyre’s claim that Nietzsche’s denouncement of contemporary moral beliefs closely parallels Hawaiian King Kamehameha II’s abolishment of kapu, or taboo, in 1819. I will conclude with the assertion that Nietzsche’s argument is valid because it recognizes the necessarily non-foundational nature of morality. Unlike the “taboo morality” of Enlightenment thinkers, Nietzsche recognizes that morality — though grounded in one concept — is spontaneous and irrational. For this reason, MacIntyre’s linkage between Nietzsche and Kamehameha II is not only brilliant — it is additionally well-founded.
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