Nietzs che is difficult to read becaus e he dem ands that we overturn or s us pend m any of the as s um ptions that our very reas oning relies upon. He is one of the Wes tern tradition's deepes t thinkers precis ely becaus e he calls s o m uch into ques tion. If we can com e to unders tand Nietzs che's genealogical m ethod, his doctrine of the will to power, and his pers pectivis m as all linked, his argum ents will becom e m uch eas ier to follow.
In Nietzs che's dis tinction between a thing and its m eaning, we find the initial doubt with which Nietzs che unravels s o m any of our as s um ptions . We are generally tem pted to s ee things as having inherent m eanings . For ins tance, punis hm ent is at once the act of punis hing and the reas on behind the punis hm ent. However, Nietzs che argues , thes e things have had different m eanings at different tim es . For ins tance, the act of punis hm ent has been at tim es a celebration of one's power, at tim es an act of cruelty, at tim es a s im ple tit-for-tat. We cannot unders tand a thing, and we certainly cannot unders tand its origin, if we as s um e that it has always held the s am e m eaning.
Central to Nietzs che's critique, then, is an attem pt at genealogy that will s how the winding and undirected route our different m oral concepts have taken to arrive in their pres ent s hape. Morality is generally treated as s acred becaus e we as s um e that there is s om e trans cendental ground for our m orals , be it God, reas on, tradition, or s om ething els e. Yet contrary to our as s um ption that "good," "bad," or "evil" have always had the s am e m eanings , Nietzs che's genealogical m ethod s hows how thes e term s have evolved, s hattering any illus ion as to the continuity or abs olute truth of our pres ent m oral concepts .
Becaus e they can have different, even contradictory, m eanings over the cours e of their long life s pans , Nietzs che does not believe that concepts or things are the fundam ental s tuff that m akes up reality. Ins tead, he looks beneath thes e things to s ee what drives the different m eanings that they adopt over tim e. Hiding beneath he finds force and will. All of exis tence,
Nietzs che as s erts , is a s truggle between different wills for the feeling of power. This "will to power" is m os t evident on a hum an level, where we s ee people cons tantly com peting with one another, often for no other purpos e than to feel s uperior to thos e that they overcom e.
That a thing has a m eaning at all m eans that there is s om e will dom inating it, bending it toward a certain interpretation. That a thing m ay have different m eanings over tim e s ugges ts that different wills have com e to dom inate it. For ins tance, the concept of "good" was once dom inated by the will of healthy, s trong barbarians , and had the oppos ite m eaning that it does now that it is dom inated by the will of weak, "s ick" as cetics .
According to Nietzs che, then, a belief in an abs olute truth or an abs olute anything is to give in to one particular m eaning, one particular interpretation…