Given its apparently scholarly form, the Genealogy of Morals is often read as a succinct, relatively systematic, and canonical exposition of Nietzsche’s mature views on morality. This article argues, however, that the work was intended as a parody of a scholarly treatise and examines how this parody is best understood. It begins by surveying some evidence that supports reading the Genealogy as a ‘textbook’ presentation of Nietzsche’s views. It then develops an exegetic case for reading it as a work of parody, based on the third essay’s claims about the ‘self-cancellation’ of truth-directed discourse and how to oppose the ascetic ideal, along with the Genealogy’s internal organization and its place in Nietzsche’s oeuvre. Finally, it examines whether this parody is best interpreted philosophically as having the force of a strong parody that denies the possibility of truth-directed enquiry or that of a weak parody denying the intrinsic value of such enquiry. Although reading it as a strong parody perhaps makes it more radical and potentially appealing, I argue that the Genealogy is best read as a weak parody, because this is both more tenable and suffices for the claims Nietzsche himself makes about the work’s aims and character.
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