Not Your Grandfather’s Genealogy: How to Read GM III
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The third essay of On the Genealogy of Morals stands out from the other two. Twice as long as the first essay, and half again as long as the second, it is singled out by name at the end of the preface to the volume, where Nietzsche remarks that the book may “jar on the ears” of readers who are unused to “the aphoristic form” in which (we infer) it is written. The problem, he explains, is that “today this form is not taken seriously enough.” In consequence, “the third essay of the present book [is offered] as a model of what I mean by the ‘interpretation’ [of an aphorism]—an aphorism is prefixed to this essay, the essay itself is a commentary on it” (GM P:8).
Until 1997, when Christopher Janaway and John Wilcox independently reached the correct conclusion, no one knew what Nietzsche meant when he said that he had prefixed an aphorism to GM III, since no one knew that what he was talking about is the first numbered section of the essay.1Before then, a dismaying amount of time had been...