Philosophical Genealogy from Nietzsche to Williams

A special issue of Genealogy (ISSN 2313-5778).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (10 March 2021) | Viewed by 19492

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
Philosophy Faculty, Providence College, Providence, RI 02918, USA
Interests: philosophy of history; nineteenth century philosophy; history of philosophy

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Genealogy is a broadly encompassing historiographical technique that investigates the emergences and subversions of trends over time. Philosophical genealogy is a species of genealogy that generally turns this technique upon trends in philosophical ideas, especially upon values, norms, and societal structures. Although there were important precursors, the progenitor of this technique is largely acknowledged to be Friedrich Nietzsche, whose Genealogie der Moral (1887) supplied a genealogical analysis of contemporary European values as they emerged out of the confluence and disruptions of a long history of competing power interests. Famously, Michel Foucault both interpreted Nietzsche’s essay and used it to progress beyond what he labeled the “archeological” character of his earlier histories of madness and the clinic. Foucault’s genealogical method highlights the inextricably contingent and accidental character of power transfigurations, in that it is set against more conventional historiography’s attempt to either explain historical change according to their material conditions or else find a rational plan within the progressive maturation of ideas, events, or values. Foucault’s Surveiller et punir (1975) and L'Histoire de la sexualité (1976) proceed to analyze the power and domination dynamics inherent in the emerging social instantiations of punishment and sexuality, respectively. From a different perspective, Bernard Williams’ Truth and Truthfulness (2004) employs a genealogical technique to uncover the development humanity’s value for accuracy and sincerity out of a suspicion of being deceived and a reluctance to be considered naive. Williams’ project contributed significantly to contemporary social and virtue epistemology. 

This Special Issue of Genealogy seeks to examine and to put into critical cross-interrogation several philosophical accounts of genealogy. Including but not limited to the cluster of ideas introduced by Nietzsche, Foucault, and Williams, we invite papers that investigate the prospects and problems genealogy has as a philosophical technique within and beyond these thinkers. In addition, we welcome intersections with critical race theory, feminist theory, virtue epistemology, value theory, the philosophy of history, anthropology, and political philosophy—all broadly construed. Our hope is to offer a space for the exploration and critical engagement with philosophical genealogy through these various lenses, and to advance genealogy as a historiographical enterprise.

Prof. Dr. Anthony Jensen
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • historiography
  • history
  • Nietzsche
  • Foucault
  • Bernard Williams
  • genealogy

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

17 pages, 282 KiB  
Article
Nietzsche: Three Genealogies of Christianity
by Michael Neil Forster
Genealogy 2022, 6(2), 38; https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy6020038 - 4 May 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2683
Abstract
Nietzsche develops three important genealogies of central aspects of Christianity: one concerning a certain syncretism between Judaism and the cult of Dionysus; a second concerning a “slave revolt in morality”; and a third concerning doctrines about an otherworld (God, an afterlife, etc.). In [...] Read more.
Nietzsche develops three important genealogies of central aspects of Christianity: one concerning a certain syncretism between Judaism and the cult of Dionysus; a second concerning a “slave revolt in morality”; and a third concerning doctrines about an otherworld (God, an afterlife, etc.). In each case, his genealogy appears implausible or even perverse at first sight, but on closer examination turns out to be very historically plausible, indeed correct. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Philosophical Genealogy from Nietzsche to Williams)
19 pages, 319 KiB  
Article
A Genealogy of XIXth Century French Criticism—Typology, Physiology and Genealogy in Sainte-Beuve, Taine and Nietzsche
by Arnaud Sorosina
Genealogy 2021, 5(3), 73; https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy5030073 - 10 Aug 2021
Viewed by 1552
Abstract
The genealogical paradigm was renewed in French literary criticism in the XIXth Century. The problem it encounters is the following: on the one hand, to reduce the specificity of literary and artistic genius within natural or historical laws; on the other hand, being [...] Read more.
The genealogical paradigm was renewed in French literary criticism in the XIXth Century. The problem it encounters is the following: on the one hand, to reduce the specificity of literary and artistic genius within natural or historical laws; on the other hand, being too fascinated by the uniqueness of genius, so that any historical explanation of the latter could be attempted. Literary genealogy in France is aimed at escaping the antithesis between reductionist naturalism and ahistorical romanticism. First approached through both a biographical and naturalistic method by Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve during the first half of the century, it turns into a more physiological and Darwinian perspective through Hippolyte Taine’s historiography. Seen from Nietzsche’s European point of view, this way of proceeding lacks self-examination, because every good genealogy must become aware of the values it conveys. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Philosophical Genealogy from Nietzsche to Williams)
15 pages, 262 KiB  
Article
Constructing Ableism
by Stephanie Jenkins
Genealogy 2021, 5(3), 66; https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy5030066 - 16 Jul 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 4075
Abstract
This essay builds upon research in disability studies through the extension of Garland-Thomson’s figure of the normate. I argue that biopower, through the disciplinary normalization of individual bodies and the biopolitics of populations, in the nineteenth-century United States produced the normate citizen as [...] Read more.
This essay builds upon research in disability studies through the extension of Garland-Thomson’s figure of the normate. I argue that biopower, through the disciplinary normalization of individual bodies and the biopolitics of populations, in the nineteenth-century United States produced the normate citizen as a white, able-bodied man. The normate citizen developed with the new political technology of power that emerged with the transition from sovereign power to biopower. I focus on the disciplinary normalization of bodies and the role of industrial capitalism in the construction of able-bodied norms. I argue that the medical model of disability is produced through a dual process of incorporation: the production of corporeal individuals and the localization of illness in the body. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Philosophical Genealogy from Nietzsche to Williams)
15 pages, 308 KiB  
Article
Genealogy of Experiential Frames: Methodological Notes on Arendt
by Ari-Elmeri Hyvönen
Genealogy 2021, 5(2), 42; https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy5020042 - 20 Apr 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2641
Abstract
This article seeks to add a new theoretical voice to the tradition of genealogical inquiry in political theory and beyond by offering a re-reading of the thought of Hannah Arendt. Going beyond the letter of her thought, in this article I propose that [...] Read more.
This article seeks to add a new theoretical voice to the tradition of genealogical inquiry in political theory and beyond by offering a re-reading of the thought of Hannah Arendt. Going beyond the letter of her thought, in this article I propose that placing Arendt in the genealogical tradition of inquiry (particularly its Foucauldian strand) helps to make sense of what she was “up to” when she turned to history in her work, especially in the analysis of totalitarianism and the account of modernity presented in The Human Condition. I will specifically highlight the historical emergence of “process-thinking” that Arendt traces across her writings. The article seeks to sketch a unique approach to genealogical inquiry that can be taken up by anyone interested in critical analysis of our present age and its politics. Towards the end of the essay, I elaborate this approach methodologically by making a reference to frame analysis. Thus, I articulate a “genealogical frame analysis”, an inquiry into historical emergence of various metaphors and frames that organize our experience of the world. I also highlight the centrality of events for Arendt’s genealogy, as well as its role in a broader set of world-building practices. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Philosophical Genealogy from Nietzsche to Williams)
13 pages, 239 KiB  
Article
Knowing Ourselves: Nietzsche, the Practice of Genealogy, and the Overcoming of Self-Estrangement
by Allison Merrick
Genealogy 2021, 5(2), 41; https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy5020041 - 16 Apr 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2240
Abstract
By centering Nietzsche’s philosophical methods, notably the practice of genealogy, this article addresses how our moral values developed, and how, while they once worked to address certain needs, these values now may perpetuate our self-misunderstandings. In conversation first with Nehamas and Geuss, and [...] Read more.
By centering Nietzsche’s philosophical methods, notably the practice of genealogy, this article addresses how our moral values developed, and how, while they once worked to address certain needs, these values now may perpetuate our self-misunderstandings. In conversation first with Nehamas and Geuss, and then with Reginster, I reconstruct the two dominant conceptions of the practice of genealogy in Nietzsche Studies. I argue that when history is plainly in view, authors have a tendency to remove necessity and psychology from the picture; when necessity and psychology are sharply in focus, commentators are likely to lose sight of history. In keeping all dimensions in the picture, I argue that we obtain a richer and more textured account of the genealogical mode of inquiry. Moreover, I demonstrate that as a psycho-historical mode of inquiry, the normative force of genealogy is immanent to the system of evaluation that is under consideration, which gives Nietzsche’s version of the philosophical practice of genealogy an advantage over more contemporary accounts. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Philosophical Genealogy from Nietzsche to Williams)
15 pages, 237 KiB  
Article
The Passive Body and States of Nature: An Examination of the Methodological Role State of Nature Theory Plays in Williams and Nietzsche
by Brian Lightbody
Genealogy 2021, 5(2), 38; https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy5020038 - 13 Apr 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2114
Abstract
In his work Truth and Truthfulness, Bernard Williams offers a very different interpretation of philosophical genealogy than that expounded in the secondary literature. The “Received View” of genealogy holds that it is “documentary grey”: it attempts to provide historically well-supported, coherent, but defeasible [...] Read more.
In his work Truth and Truthfulness, Bernard Williams offers a very different interpretation of philosophical genealogy than that expounded in the secondary literature. The “Received View” of genealogy holds that it is “documentary grey”: it attempts to provide historically well-supported, coherent, but defeasible explanations for the actual transformation of practices, values, and emotions in history. However, paradoxically, the standard interpretation also holds another principle. Genealogies are nevertheless polemical because they admit that any evidence that would serve to justify a genealogical account is indexical to a perspective. In short, genealogies are not true per se. This view of genealogy leaves it vulnerable to three criticisms. I call these three: (1) the reflexive, (2) the substantive, and (3) the semantic. In contrast, Williams argues that all genealogies provide a functional account for the manifestation of something and further, that a State of Nature story subtends these accounts. The upshot of Williams’ approach is that it makes for strange philosophical bedfellows. For example, Nietzsche’s account for the rise of Christian morality shares methodological features with Hobbes’ functional explanation for the emergence of civilization and yet Nietzsche seems to take issue with genealogists who are hypothesis mongers gazing haphazardly into the blue. In the following article, I flesh out, more fully, how to make sense of Williams’ novel reclassification of genealogy. I show that Nietzsche’s genealogies are State of Nature stories and, just like Hobbes’ State of Nature story in chapter thirteen of Leviathan, are subtended by our collective corporeality. I then demonstrate how Nietzsche’s three stories in the Genealogy, when brought together, serve to undermine what Williams refers to as “… a new system (of reasons)—which very powerfully resists being understood in such terms …” Finally, I explain how my reconstruction of Williams’ interpretation of the genealogy immunizes it against the three criticisms noted above. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Philosophical Genealogy from Nietzsche to Williams)
16 pages, 285 KiB  
Article
Nietzsche, the Anthropologists, and the Genealogy of Trauma
by Iain P. Morrisson
Genealogy 2021, 5(1), 23; https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy5010023 - 17 Mar 2021
Viewed by 2286
Abstract
In this paper, I bring the Second and Third Essays of On the Genealogy of Morality into conversation with the anthropological work that Nietzsche uses to inform his understanding of human prehistory. More specifically, I show the ways in which Nietzsche’s genealogical use [...] Read more.
In this paper, I bring the Second and Third Essays of On the Genealogy of Morality into conversation with the anthropological work that Nietzsche uses to inform his understanding of human prehistory. More specifically, I show the ways in which Nietzsche’s genealogical use of prehistory both calls upon and departs from the work of figures like Edward Tylor, John Lubbock, and Albert Hermann Post. This departure is most significant in Nietzsche’s rejection of the progressive or developmental account of social and moral history for an account that emphasizes the way in which morality develops out of the psychological effects of recurring human traumas. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Philosophical Genealogy from Nietzsche to Williams)
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