Professor Keith Ansell-Pearson of the University of Warwick Philosophy department took part in BBC Radio 4's 'In Our Time' discussing Friedrich Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morality (1887) on 12 January at 9:00am and 21:30.
Ahead of the discussion he said,
"Although it has come to be prized by many commentators as one of his most important texts, Nietzsche conceived On the Genealogy of Morality (1887) as a small, polemical pamphlet that might help him sell more copies of his earlier writings. It clearly merits, though, the level of attention it receives today and can justifiably be regarded as one of the key texts of our intellectual modernity. For shock-value no other modern text on the human condition rivals it.
"Nietzsche’s text is not an exercise in orthodox moral philosophy. He was convinced that most moral philosophy was boring and belonged among the sedatives, so he sets out to entertain - and unnerve - the reader with tales of blond beasts, a slaves’ revolt in morality, and recounting the fantastical origins of the bad conscience, or feeling of guilt.
"Nietzsche’s text has to be read carefully – if it isn’t then it may confirm the reader’s worst fears about him, namely, that he is a vicious anti-Semite, which could not be further from the truth. Nietzsche is stridently contra German nationalism and German anti-Semitism, and to be a good German for him means to de-Germanize oneself. Nietzsche’s text was read and refined by subsequent European thinkers such as Henri Bergson (1859-1941) and William James (1842-1910), and exerted an enormous influence on the ‘genealogical’ analyses of the French historian and philosopher, Michel (1926-1984) Foucault. It is a text we are still coming to terms with and learning how to read, and so as to be provoked and challenged."
Professor Ansell-Pearson has a wide range of interests, a constant in his work has been the study of Nietzsche where he is keen to situate his writings and their legacy in relation to strands of modern European thought. This first manifested itself in his earliest writings, such as Nietzsche contra Rousseau (1991) and the edited volume, Nietzsche and Modern German Thought (1991).
This work is being carried out with renewed vigour and rigour in forthcoming book publications, including Nietzsche's 'Dawn' (co-authored with Rebecca Bamford, 2017), and a new work, Nietzsche's Search for Philosophy (2017/18).
Alex Buxton: Media Relations Manager, University of Warwick
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