A novice, I do not feel prepared yet to read Nietzsche; but please tell me if his primary sources answer my question.
Source: p 98, Philosophy ; A Very Short Introduction (2002) by Edward Craig.
The following quotation discusses The Genealogy of Morals.

The priest instinctively knows this, and gives his flock both a reason for their suffering and an author of it. They are suffering to make their souls fit for heaven, or for the victory of justice, or for the sake of truth, or so that God’s kingdom should come on earth – all fine things to suffer for. Who is to blame for the suffering?

[1.] Answer: they themselves.

With this stroke the seething resentment of the masses is directed away from the rulers, its original objects, conflict with whom will most likely only lead them into more suffering, perhaps partial annihilation.

[2.] Redirected onto themselves it may at least provide strength and motivation for a little self-discipline and self-improvement – under priestly instruction. And they are ready to accept it, for as we saw they have already turned against their own instincts and so in one sense against themselves. They know what has to be rooted out: any hint in themselves of the attitudes and behaviour characteristic of the strong. They have been rendered harmless.

I understand that sufferers liable for the suffering should blame themselves: eg, a gastronome may genuinely suffer if his $3000 USD/kg edible bird's nests are roasted instead of poached; but unsympathetic and in respect of the starving, most people would blame the gastronome for his overindulgence. But blaming a suffering innocent appears unethical: eg, while a permanent sufferer of a freak accident should try to cheer up, the blame should be on the the freak accident, and NOT on the sufferer's inability to cheer up.

  1. So is [1] excessive and unjust? Or did I misunderstand Nietzsche?

  2. How does [2.] aid the suffering? Eg, how would the sufferer of a freak accident be consoled by blaming himself, instead of accepting the significance of randomness in life and NOT blaming himself?

  • Does Craig point to a specific passage/part of GM?
    – jeroenk
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 11:04
  • 6
    Tentatively, N is describing the logic of the priest (making people blame themselves, even for mistakes; using the concept of sin). He does not agree with or promote this logic. On the contrary.
    – jeroenk
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 11:06
  • Hard to understand anyone from a page. Grab a book and read it.
    – Robus
    Commented Dec 30, 2018 at 16:54
  • Like @jeroenk I don't believe N was endorsing this view. It is the Buddhist view that suffering is unreal but for reasons N did not consider. Brilliant and brave as he was N never reached an understanding of these things.
    – user20253
    Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 13:34

3 Answers 3


"The priest instinctively knows this, and gives his flock both a reason for their suffering and an author of it."

Ergo, not they, but "the priest". The priest says: human beings suffer, it is so. We let them do so, and, according to Nietzsche, the priests direct and transform this suffering into a fuel for action. The Politician says, they should not suffer. They set goals for "the people". Both will something for one. Nietzsche says, no to this. It's your suffering (or, rather, "suffering"), don't take what is offered, prepare the freedom of your own being, take it on yourself.

The mere being of the grotesque accident, that is of any one of us, since we are all lacking in some perfection, is its own “cause”, it is simply so. One can’t undo what “is”, as if by going back into what is no more, and neither by punishing those who were in that past, or by some supposed now to be the “cause” of one’s being. The will is a modification of this being (and ultimately Nietzsche tilts the will back into being in the so-called “life giving lie”, a will to “interpret” the phenomena of being as will), the “lion”, and if it rages at some supposed cause it gives up its highest possibility, that of creativity. Envy and hate of an oppressor is a great power, for instance in the period of the Reformation, the holy zeal against the higher clergy, against their wealth especially, acted like the action of a wind which scattered fire from country to country raising every fine structure. It was very efficacious, but the crucial thing for Nietzsche is that it did not open the highest creativity, the thinking out from the zenith of a genuine freedom with respect to one’s own good, one’s own worth-ship, or worship: this true and this beautiful. It was reactive, it was locked into the historical situation. For Nietzsche there are “step children” of the historical movement, they think out of their peculiar unfolding being, from the place of their ownmost heaviness and lawmaking. So the “blame” has to do with one’s being, it is here, not there or there, and the direction of a superhuman goal-making activity need not come to a burning resentment of some cause of this being.

The issue is not that Nietzsche opposes struggle and destruction, since “philosophizing with a hammer”, e.g, to be an “antichrist”, is to count something as unworthy by one’s own yardstick, and to say: it is most deserving of destruction. That is, according to one’s goal, to one’s will, which from its free and creative action worships this, and annihilates that. One easily takes the message to be, don’t be “against”, the issue is, rather, don’t relinquish what is most one’s own by not taking the decision to oneself about the goal. Not to let the will that befalls one direct one, but to say yes to the zenith of one’s own brilliant creation; the sheer will to creating an idea, rather than the Platonic discovery of it as what is not oneself and to which one draws back and bows to.


So is [1] excessive and unjust? Or did I misunderstand Nietzsche?(Bold by the author of an answer)

How does [2.] aid the suffering? Eg, how would the sufferer of a freak accident be consoled by blaming himself, instead of accepting the significance of randomness in life and NOT blaming himself?

Let see the perspective of the quotes-

Nietzsche's purpose in the "Third Treatise" is "to bring to light, not what [the ascetic] ideal has done, but simply what it means.

It is a commentary on the aphorism prefixed to it.

For the priest, its meaning is the "'supreme' license for power". He sets himself up as the "saviour" of the physiologically deformed, offering them a cure for their exhaustion and listlessness.

Nietzsche suggests a number of causes for widespread physiological inhibition:

(i) the crossing of races; (ii) emigration of a race to an unsuitable environment (e.g. the Indians to India); (iii) the exhaustion of a race (e.g. Parisian pessimism from 1850); (iv) bad diet (e.g. vegetarianism); (v) diseases of various kinds, including malaria and syphilis (e.g. German depression after the Thirty Years' War) (§17).

The ascetic priest has a range of strategies for anaesthetizing the continuous, low-level pain of the weak. He further has a number of strategies which are guilty in the sense that they have the effect of making the sick more sick.

Such training in repentance is responsible, according to Nietzsche, for phenomena such as the St Vitus' and St John's dancers of the Middle Ages, witch-hunt hysteria, somnambulism (of which there were eight epidemics between 1564 and 1605), and the delirium characterized by the widespread cry of evviva la morte! ("long live death!").

Given the extraordinary success of the ascetic ideal in imposing itself on our entire culture, what can we look to oppose it? "Where is the counterpart to this closed system of will, goal, and interpretation?" (§23)

Nietzsche considers as possible opponents of the ideal: (a) modern science; (b) modern historians; (c) "comedians of the ideal" (§27).

(a) Science is, in fact, the "most recent and noblest form" of the ascetic ideal. It has no faith in itself and acts only as a means of self-anesthetization for sufferers (scientists) who do not want to admit they suffer.

By dismantling church claims to the theological importance of man, scientists substitute their self-contempt [cynicism] as the ideal of science.

(b) Modern historians, in trying to hold up a mirror to ultimate reality, are not only ascetic but highly nihilistic. As deniers of teleology, their "last crowings" are "To what end?," "In vain!," "Nada!" (§26)

(c) An even worse kind of historian is what Nietzsche calls the "contemplatives": self-satisfied armchair hedonists who have arrogated to themselves the praise of contemplation (Nietzsche gives Ernest Renan as an example). Europe is full of such "comedians of the Christian-moral ideal." In a sense, if anyone is inimical to the ideal it is they, because they at least "arouse mistrust" (§27).

The will to truth that is bred by the ascetic ideal has in its turn led to the spread of a truthfulness the pursuit of which has brought the will to truth itself in peril. What is thus now required, Nietzsche concludes, is a critique of the value of truth itself (§24).

The work has received a multitude of citations and references from subsequent philosophical books as well as literary articles, works of fiction, and the like. On the Genealogy of Morality is considered by many academics[3] to be Nietzsche's most important work, and, despite its polemical content, out of all of his works the one that perhaps comes closest to a systematic and sustained exposition of his ideas.

In philosophy, the genealogical method is a historical technique in which one questions the commonly understood emergence of various philosophical and social beliefs by attempting to account for the scope, breadth or totality of ideology within the time period in question, as opposed to focusing on a singular or dominant ideology.

In epistemology, it has been first used by Nietzsche and later by Michel Foucault, who tried to expand and apply the concept of genealogy as a novel method of research .Stephen Greenblatt has said in an interview that On The Genealogy of Morality was the most important influence on his life and work.[6]




I think that Nietzche finds the key to the evolution of modern societies in the liberation from self-destructive hatred. His prescription appears convincing:


  • Why would you argue that the description in the reference appears convincing? Welcome to Philosophy! Commented Dec 30, 2018 at 19:49

You must log in to answer this question.