It consists of a preface and three interrelated essays that expand and follow through on concepts Nietzsche sketched out in Beyond Good and Evil (1886).The three Abhandlungen trace episodes in the evolution of moral concepts with a view to confronting "moral prejudices", specifically those of Christianity and Judaism.This edition places his ideas within the cultural context of his own time and stresses the relevance of his work for a contemporary audience.
Nietzsche rewrites the former as a history of cruelty, exposing the central values of the Judaeo-Christian and liberal traditions - compassion, equality, justice - as the product of a brutal process of conditioning designed to domesticate the animal vitality of earlier cultures.
The result is a book which raises profoundly disquieting issues about the violence of both ethics and interpretation.
Nietzsche proposes that longstanding confrontation between the priestly caste and the warrior caste fuels this splitting of meaning.
The priests, and all those who feel disenfranchised and powerless in a situation of subjugation and physical impotence (e.g., slavery), develop a deep and venomous hatred for the powerful.
But they have no right to make the bird of prey accountable for being a bird of prey.
Nietzsche concludes his First Treatise by hypothesizing a tremendous historical struggle between the Roman dualism of "good/bad" and that of the Judaic "good/evil", with the latter eventually achieving a victory for ressentiment, broken temporarily by the Renaissance, but then reasserted by the Reformation, and finally confirmed by the French Revolution when the "ressentiment instincts of the rabble" triumphed.In contrast, slave morality believes, through "ressentiment" and the self-deception that the weak are actually the wronged meek deprived of the power to act with immediacy, that justice is a deferred event, an imagined revenge which will eventually win everlasting life for the weak and vanquish the strong.This imaginary "good" (the delusion of the weak) replaces the aristocratic "good" (the strong decide) which in turn is rebranded "evil", to replace "bad", which to the noble meant "worthless" and "ill-born" (as in the Greek words κακος and δειλος).This inversion of values develops out of the ressentiment of the powerful by the weak.Nietzsche rebukes the "English psychologists" for lacking historical sense.Rather, the good themselves (the powerful) coined the term "good".Further, Nietzsche sees it as psychologically absurd that altruism derives from a utility that is forgotten: if it is useful, what is the incentive to forget it? by expectations repeatedly shaping the consciousness. From the aristocratic mode of valuation another mode of valuation branches off, which develops into its opposite: the priestly mode.Here he introduces the concept of the original blond beasts as the "master race" which has lost its dominance over humanity but not necessarily, permanently.Though, at the same time, his examples of blond beasts include such peoples as the Japanese and Arabic nobilities of antiquity (§11), suggesting that being a blond beast has more to do with one's morality than one's race.Nietzsche expressly insists it is a mistake to hold beasts of prey to be "evil", for their actions stem from their inherent strength, rather than any malicious intent.One should not blame them for their "thirst for enemies and resistances and triumphs" (§13).