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Philosophical Genealogy- Volume II

An Epistemological Reconstruction of Nietzsche and Foucault’s Genealogical Method


Brian Lightbody

Philosophical genealogy is a distinct method of historical and philosophical inquiry that was developed by the nineteenth-century philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, and subsequently adopted and extended by the twentieth-century philosopher, Michel Foucault. In brief, genealogies critically examine the historical origin of philosophical concepts, ideas and practices. They challenge the value of traditional methods of philosophical inquiry along with the results that these inquiries produce.
Philosophical Genealogy Volume I: An Epistemological Reconstruction of the Genealogical Method explored the three axes of the genealogical method: power, truth and the ethical. In addition, various ontological and epistemic problems pertaining to each of these axes were examined. In Philosophical Genealogy Volume II: An Epistemological Reconstruction of the Genealogical Method, these problems are now resolved. Volume II establishes what requisite ontological underpinnings are required in order to provide a successful, epistemic reconstruction of the genealogical method. Problems regarding the nature of the body, the relation between power and resistance as well as the justification of Nietzschean perspectivism, are now all clearly answered. It is shown that genealogy is a profound, fecund and, most importantly, coherent method of philosophical and historical investigation which may produce many new discoveries in the fields of ethics and moral inquiry provided it is correctly employed.


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Section I: Heraclitus on ‘becoming’ In chapter four, I explained the overall purpose of the second essay of The Genealogy and showed the structure of the argument that Nietzsche presents there. In addition, I outlined several key features of Nietzsche’s genealogical method. I then proceeded to do the same for Foucault. I examined Foucault’s case, as it were, for the existence and growth of “carceral regimes” in Western industrial societies. I then compared and contrasted his method with that of Nietzsche’s. Finally, in the last section, I showed, with the help of Lakatos, that genealogy appears to be a very fruitful and progressive research program. Nietzsche and Foucault’s respective genealogies of morality and the prison sys- tem do seem, prima facie, to be more warranted accounts than the typical tradi- tional explanations given for the origin and rise of these same phenomena. By reflecting on my analysis in chapter four, I believe that I am finally in a position to answer the nagging questions concerning the ontological status of the body from chapter two. In the first section of chapter four, it was shown that Nietzsche does not think of “power” as some sort of metaphysical foundation which somehow grounds all things and processes in the world. Power does not exist before the world rather, power struggles are the world. Nietzsche holds a nat- uralistic conception of power; power and more precisely battles for greater units of power, are observable, testable, and more to less warranted, empirical events. Will to...

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