Foucault: Nietzsche, Genealogy, History
In his 1977 essay, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History”, Michel Foucault criticizes the traditional historical method and makes an argument for why a ‘genealogical’ approach is important. But what is genealogy?
It’s a history of us. Of the attitudes and dispositions we embody today. The way we approach and do things. These things often seem like they don’t have a history, that they’re human nature. That they’re normal, eternal, unchangeable. Genealogy attempts to uncover how they’ve changed over time – how there are different ways of approaching them. It uncovers how they’re not the way they are because they’ve gradually improved; they’re not part of an inevitable linear progression through history. They’re contingent.
Genealogy often examines attitudes, beliefs, presuppositions. – Morality, discipline, sexuality. It addresses a traditional history that assumes simple movement forward over time. It draws out, uncovers, and critically examines the origins of a specific conception of what’s morally good, or the source of a particular way of disciplining societal criminality, or the genesis of attitudes about what it means to be a feminine woman.
Foucault is influenced by Nietzsche, the first person to show that morality – our ideas of what’s good and bad - has a history, has changed over time.
He is searching for the 'origins' of the genealogical method in Nietzsche.
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