For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

On the Genealogy of Morals and Ecce Homo

by Nietzsche, Friedrich (1989)


The great philosopher's major work on ethics, along with Ecce Homo, Nietzche's remarkable review of his life and works. On the Genealogy of Morals (1887) shows him using philsophy, psychology, and classical philology in an effort to give new direction to an ancient discipline.The work consists of three essays. The first contrasts master morality and slave morality and indicates how the term "good" has widely different meanings in each. The second inquiry deals with guilt and the bad conscience; the third with ascetic ideals—not only in religion but also in the academy. Ecce Homo, written in 1898 and first published posthumously in 1908, is Nietzsche's review of his life and works. It contains chapters on all the books he himself published. His interpretations are as fascinating as they are invaluable. Nothing Nietzsche wrote is more stunning stylistically or as a human document. Walter Kaufmann's masterful translations are faithful of the word and spirit of Nietzsche, and his running footnote commentaries on both books are more comprehensive than those in his other Nietzsche translations because these tow works have been so widely misunderstood.

Key Passage

One should not overlook the almost benevolent nuances that the Greek nobility, for example, bestows on all the words it employs to distinguish the lower orders from itself; how they are continuously mingled and sweetened with a kind of pity, consideration, and forbearance, so that finally almost all the words referring to the common man have remained as expressions signifying "unhappy," "pitiable" (campore deilos, deilaios, poneros, mochthêros, the last two of which properly designate the common man as work-slave and beast of burden)—and how on the other hand "bad," "low," "unhappy" have never ceased to sound to the Greek ear as one note with a tone-color in which "unhappy" preponderates: this as an inheritance from the ancient nobler aristocratic mode of evaluation, which does not belie itself even in its contempt (—philologists should recall the sense in which oïzyros, anolbos, tlemon, dystychein, xymphora are employed). The "well-born" felt themselves to be the "happyly"; they did not have to establish their happiness artificially by examining their enemies, or to persuade themselves, deceive themselves, that they were happy (as all men of ressentiment are in the habit of doing); and they likewise knew, as rounded men replete with energy and therefore necessarily active, that happiness should riot be sundered from action—being active was with them necessarily a part of happiness (whence eu prattein takes its origin) —all very much the opposite of "happiness" at the level of the impotent, the oppressed, and those in whom poisonous and inimical feelings are festering, with whom it appears as essentially narcotic, drug, rest, peace, "sabbath," slackening of tension and relaxing of limbs, in short passively. (p.37)


Nietzsche, Ancient Greece, Happiness


Nietzsche Citations

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