Volume 42, Issue 2/3, Summer/Fall 2012
Dialectics and Genealogy
“‘[C]onscience,’” Nietzsche suggests early in Essay Two of On the Genealogy of Morals, “has a long history and variety of forms behind it” (II.3). Glossing over the explicit equivocity and irony of such statements, most commentators presume that the primary ambition of GM is to reconstruct the emergence and in so doing denaturalize and denounce the reign of conscience, which is treated as equivalent to both bad conscience and slave morality. Such presumption has obscured the central claims, operations, and stakes of the text, indeed of Nietzsche’s late work generally. Although they are intertwined, Nietzsche’s genealogy of conscience is textually, substantively, and strategically distinct from his genealogy of bad conscience, which in turn is involved in but distinct from his genealogy of slave morality. Textually, it is not until Essay Two, section four of On the Genealogy of Morals that Nietzsche begins to ask after the emergence and psychosocial (“physiological”) consequences of bad conscience, while the genealogy of conscience proceeds from the first essay. Substantively, the three genealogies are concerned with manifestly disparate objects. Strategically, the addressees of the three genealogies are diverse, thus are their modes of address: genealogy cannot be reduced to a uniform method.