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Beyond SelflessnessReading Nietzsche's Genealogy$
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Christopher Janaway

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199279692

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199279692.001.0001

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Guilt, Bad Conscience, and Self‐Punishment

Guilt, Bad Conscience, and Self‐Punishment

Chapter:
(p.124) 8 Guilt, Bad Conscience, and Self‐Punishment
Source:
Beyond Selflessness
Author(s):

Christopher Janaway (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199279692.003.0008

This chapter gives a reading of Genealogy II, whose central argument is that bad conscience, in its developed form as the feeling of guilt, particularly associated with Christianity, is a form of legitimized cruelty turned inwards upon oneself. Nietzsche posits a fundamental human tendency to experience pleasure in inflicting suffering. He assigns the origins of bad conscience to ‘internalization’, in which aggressive instincts, curbed by civilized society, express themselves towards the self. He also cites the conventional debtor-creditor relationship as its origin. This can produce a unified account, as long as we see that the instinct towards cruelty is subject both to internalization and to legitimization. We must see the cruelty we inflict upon ourselves as deserved. The Christian God is invented as the perpetual guarantee of our deserving punishment for having aggressive animal instincts. Thus, bad conscience gains its value from the same origin as the instincts it opposes.

Keywords:   Christianity, cruelty, God, instincts, internalization

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