In this commentary on Ken Gemes's “The Biology of Evil,” I endorse the general reading of Nietzsche's philosophical project proposed by Gemes while contesting his account of Nietzsche's rhetorical engagement with degeneration theory. In particular, I show that Nietzsche is mobilizing a rhetoric of degeneration that invokes, and partially subverts, the picture of degeneration proposed by Caesare Lombroso in which (contra Gemes's adoption of Nordau's view of degeneration) genius and degeneration are linked in a way that enables a positive view of degeneration as a source of social transformation. Focusing on Nietzsche's rhetorical use of the figure of Napoleon in the Genealogy, I argue that Nietzsche's engagement with the tropes of Lombroso's theory provides support for Gemes's claim concerning the ethical aim of Nietzsche's project in a way that his own account of Nietzsche and degeneration cannot.

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