The two understandings of "origin" are neatly identified and contrasted by Foucault in his essay, "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History." The kind of "origin" that Nietzsche criticizes sees origins as moments of creation, when things spring into being. This is the kind of origin we get in the story of Adam and Eve, where humans are spontaneously created. Nietzsche prefers a genealogical kind of origin story, where things have a long and tangled history, slowly developing their present form and meaning. We see this in the evolutionary account of the origin of humans, where a slow chain of mutations leads to our present state. Nietzsche dislikes the former interpretation because it sees the "thing" as being absolute in some way. For instance, in the Adam and Eve myth, "humanity" is seen as a constant: we were created in precisely the shape we have now, and we have always had the same purposes, drives, and wills. Nietzsche argues that one thing can have countless different meanings, and be dominated by countless different drives and wills during its existence. These different meanings and wills promote a gradual genealogy rather than an instantaneous creation.

Popular pages: Genealogy of Morals