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Journal Article

Naturalism and the Genealogy of Moral Institutions

Mario Brandhorst
Journal of Nietzsche Studies
No. 40 (AUTUMN 2010), pp. 5-28
DOI: 10.5325/jnietstud.1.40.0005
Stable URL:
Page Count: 24
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Naturalism and the Genealogy of Moral Institutions
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Abstract This article discusses two general strategies that have been pursued to explain how moral thought and moral institutions might have emerged. The first is found in the tradition of those whom Nietzsche calls “English psychologists”; the second is Nietzsche’s own. I begin by giving an account of the resources of “English” genealogy as represented by Paul Rée and especially Charles Darwin. On the basis of that discussion, I consider Nietzsche’s objections to English genealogy in detail. I argue that as they stand, these objections are inconclusive; while they are, at least to a certain extent, effective against Rée, they fail as objections to the fundamental insights of Darwin. Moreover, I argue that on reflection, the rival genealogy that Nietzsche puts forward is not nearly as well supported and cannot plausibly bear the weight of explanation alone. Finally, I ask what this entails for our conception of ethical emotion.

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