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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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From our rather lengthy investigation we have discovered that philosophical genealogy, according to Nietzsche, is charged with the task of investigating how and why certain and specific groups, feelings and ideas came to emerge in history and how these constructs of power eventually developed and expanded to have power over us. For Foucault on the other hand, the purpose of geneal- ogy is to define and trace the development of historical problematiques: why and how certain models, techniques, practices, technologies and discourses of understanding and improving the human body, developed to form a dispositif; a power/knowledge apparatus. Therefore, instead of studying history in terms of moral or social progress or in terms of the great persons or events of history, genealogy studies power as it appears and as it manifests itself in history. Thus, genealogical investigations delve deeper into the very “wellsprings” of history as well as philosophical ideas than more traditional historical methods. Those historians who only study the concepts of ‘Good’ or ‘Evil’ within the arena of the history of morality, according to Nietzsche, do not go far enough. The historian who only studies the history of thought, in the Age of Reason, has only scratched the surface claims Foucault. For underneath morality and political thought lies the soil from which these ideas had their source namely, power and the struggle for greater and greater quanta of power. In summary, the ideas of ‘Good’ and ‘Evil,’ for Nietzsche or the concept of ‘individualism’ for Foucault, at bottom,...

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