Immanence, Transcendence and Neutrality in Nietzsche’s Genealogical Critique of Morality

I argue that the apparent usefulness of the distinction between external and internal critiques when approaching Nietzsche’s works rests on the assumption that any critique of values must itself be grounded on values that function as evaluative-critical standards. If the assumption is right, then one of two things, either the values that are deployed as standards coincide with those that are the target of critique, in which case the critique is internal, or they are not, in which case it is external. The assumption is thus liable to render us forgetful of a third possibility, that of a critical strategy that does not work by deploying (internal or external) values as standards of critical assessment, but by revealing something about the nature of value, and more precisely about the origin of any individual’s commitments to their values. On the view that I defend, one of the crucial steps of Nietzsche’s genealogical method is to bring his reader to realize that any individual’s commitment to their values is expressive of and rooted in their commitment to preserve their way of life. Realizing this does not require that the reader abandon their own values. But it does require that they acknowledge that were they committed to a relevantly different way of life, they would subscribe to different values. And this, in turn, suffices to bring about a transformation in their understanding of and relationship to those commitments through the further realization that it is ultimately always up to them to undertake the project of taking distance from and ‘re-evaluating’ those values.