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Contingency and Necessity in the Genealogy of Morality

Paul di Georgio’s “Contingency and Necessity in the Genealogy of Morality” appears in Telos 162 (Spring 2013). Read the full version online at the Telos Online website, or purchase a print copy of the issue in our store.

This article evaluates the relationship of the concepts of contingency and necessity to the historical developments and power relations in Nietzsche’s Genealogy. Both Nietzsche and Foucault maintain that, contra Herder, their genealogies are not grounded in originary investigation. Thus for their sort of genealogy to be a philosophically useful method, the force of interpretive analysis must be located elsewhere. The analytic force, I argue, is based in the relationship of values, events, and moral beings. Specifically, I maintain that the progression of moral stages in Nietzsche’s study is ordered in such a way that the failure of each stage is logically and structurally necessary, and that each failure structures the resultant system or paradigm. However, we must also note that the historical manifestation of moral paradigms which coincide with predicted or projected theoretical structures remains contingent upon a multitude of other historical factors, most importantly, human involvement. The conclusion is that systematic internal failures of moral stages allow for but do not cause successive events, since the structural scope of possibility within which a value may be held is best explained in terms of a “middle space” characterizable in both contingent and necessary terms.

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