1.Both “historians” of ethical systems and philosophers of morality typically begin their accounts with the terms of moral discourse already in place as their ground, whereas Nietzsche in the Genealogy of Morals offers a basis for ethical concepts in a complex derivation from early forms of economic exchange. According to Nietzsche, utilitarian ethics (the greatest good for the greatest number), for example, suffers from its reliance on ready-made concepts, which are common to the liberal democratic political tradition in general.
The problem, as Nietzsche sees it, is that freedom is thereby defined entirely negatively as the absence of constraints in relation to others, as opposed to the necessary imposition of such constraints, which result from being subject to the material conditions of our environment, such that, we are always already materially (Schulden), as well as morally (Schuld) indebted, since the human animal, having been born prematurely (both in the sense of being helpless and untimely) is defined by our dependence or reliance on others, as opposed to the alleged autonomy, which Mill simply takes for granted.
By contrast, Nietzsches genealogy of moral terms, such as the concept of “guilt” (German: Schuld) is defined in terms of the state of being in “debt” in a material sense (German: Schulden). Now, it could be argued that Nietzsche is helped here by the fact that the German word for both “guilt” and “debt” is “Schuld”. However, this commonality turns out to exist in a slightly different form in English as well, since “guilt” is related to the old English “gieldan”, to pay for a debt. Moreover, the English, “guilder” which is the translation for the Dutch and German “Gulden” (a unit of money) is in its turn related to “gold”, which is probably the source for “gieldan.
In other words, by analyzing the etymology of the word “guilt”/”Schuld”, as well as by providing a speculative (hi)story of derivation, “indebtedness” firstly in the financial sense, becomes “guilt” in the moral sense.
Please discuss. Do you buy Nietzsches derivation of moral debt from material debt? Why? Why not?
2.Not only does Nietzsche link moral conscience genealogically to freedom from material indebtedness in the financial sense, but he also claims that the equivalence between the two kinds of indebtedness depends upon human beings first becoming calculable, or predictable, as if they could be subject to the laws of nature. Similarly, todays credit card companies consider your moral credibility to be a function of your credit-worthiness which depends upon your ability to establish a regular payment history. Oddly, autonomy in the first instance thus would seem to depend upon the individual agreeing to subject themselves to the regularity of rules or the generality of laws, without exception. In this scheme, there can be no room for the haphazard, the game of chance, much less the reliance on luck or divine miracles. Ironically, only the individual whose behavior is subject to algorithmic regularity can truly claim the autonomy that comes with what is known as freedom of choice. The individual who is not defined as a follower of the herd must apparently first agree to be herded. What is going on here? Is this a case of Orwellian totalitarianism, whereby war is peace and vice versa, or determinism is freedom? Is Nietzsche simply contradicting himself, or is he on to something?
3. Nietzsche links the cultivation of memory to an original act of branding. Moreover, following the link between searing pain and the cultivation of a moral conscience, an individual is said to finally remember his or her obligations (or a few, I will nots..). That is, the ability to keep a promise or meet obligations is said to result from an internalization that is originally dependent on the cultivation of memory, which is a result of the external infliction of pain. Enforcement of mores or morality by means of pain only ceases once the internalization of the rule of law has been successfully completed. Indeed, the higher the degree of internalization in the absence of the continued infliction of pain, the greater the degree of civilization (i.e., fewer police, prisons, and the like), as well as the greater the use of torture in the past to inscribe memory.
Indeed, though the concept of responsibility is linked, not just historically, but essentially, i.e., conceptually to the idea of free will; genealogically, speaking, however, the latter (freedom) is no more than a fiction we invoke to claim the benefit of moral conscience. In truth, the transcendence we claim over our bodies (mind over matter), our circumstances etc., is little more, according to Nietzche, than the cultivation of a bodily habit by means of (painful) training. In fact, it could be argued that in the long run, the successful maintenance of moral habits depends as much on our ability to internalize the law by means of suffering, as it does on forgetting or repressing the past use of pain by means of which we did the right thing.
Accordingly Nietzsche is fond of reminding us that the cultivation of memory must necessarily be accompanied by the ability to forget, which is necessary to maintaining the health of the psyche, lest , that is, we suffer from an overload of stimuli, which may in turn lead to a failure to make room for new impressions. Moreover Nietzsche like Freud, was concerned that as essential as active forgetting or repression is to health, on occasion, repression fails and leads to what Freud called the return of the repressed! Discuss and Explain.