Nietzsche and Morality
Friedrich Nietzsche and Morality
Nietzsche is one of the most renowned philosophers and lived between 1844 and 1900. He is regarded differently according to the perspectives that the individual successive philosophers take on him. To some, Nietzsche is just another controversial philosopher in history who does not warrant a lot of attention due to his take on the issue of morality. This group view him as an overrated person who was a fraud and set out to get attention through his pronouncements that tricked some into viewing his pronouncements as great. People like Leo Tolstoy disregarded Nietzsche as a person who was only out to get attention by making unsubstantiated claims and controversial statements. Yet to others, he is regarded as one of the top tier thinkers and an intellectual in philosophy.
It is however important at this stage to know what pronouncements or central claims did Nietzsche make to hand him such controversial and differing reception among his fellow philosophers. Thus, this paper explores the central arguments that Nietzsche made in the world of philosophy with an inclination towards his view on morality and how morality should be treated within the society.
‘Slave morality’ and the ‘Master morality’
One of the central arguments that put Nietzsche into the limelight is his take on the two different types of morality that he claims have differing motivations; the ‘Slave morality’ and the ‘Master morality’. From the onset, he states that he believes in the master morality and indeed that the winners in the entire history lived by the master morality and the dictates of it.
The master morality, he states, is life-affirming. In defense of this, he says that the master morality regards power as a good thing and it is the achievement of ones superior and noble status. Nietzsche views masters as people who are bold, open, uninhibited, self-confident as opposed to the slaves. They are people who pursue their ends by whatever means possible and through any available avenues. They do what is necessary to achieve their goals. Masters are not constrained in the use of their powers and they act with a lot of autonomy as well. He is that parson who ends up having that which the society deems not desirable.
He further indicates that master morality is morality of the strong- willed people and disagrees with the popular notion that the good is everything that is helpful to human beings and on the other hand what is harmful is bad. To him, this view ignores the origin of the values that are closely held in the contemporary society. He goes further to indicate that the good, is deemed so due to the habitualness and that it has always been described as good. Nietzsche says that historically, the value or lack of it of any action has been historically derived from the consequences. This he says is the wrong perspective as there is no moral or immoral phenomena, only the interpretation is moral or immoral. Hence, for the strong-willed people with the master morality perspective, the ‘good’ is the noble things, the powerful and the strong things, yet on the other side the ‘bad’ is the weak, timid, petty and cowardly actions or things.
Nietzsche therefore posits that the epitome of master morality is the nobility in any action. The master morality starts within the ‘noble man’ with the conception of good and then conversely the idea of what is bad develops from there as what is not good. This shows that the ‘noble man’ is the one who determines the values and does not wait for the approval from elsewhere. He views concepts as what is harmful to him is what is harmful in itself, he is value-creating. Being a noble man is to recognize oneself as the measure of the surrounding things and values and not the other way round. Masters are observed as the creators of morality while the slaves respond to the morality and the standards that are created by the masters over time. The strong-willed will only value what is helpful to himself (Roger C., 2008).
The slave morality on the other hand is the powerless feeling and the resentment that the powerless fell towards the strong willed. This is exactly the opposite of the morality that Nietzsche upholds; indeed he detests such kind of morality. This is, apparently, the morality standards of most philosopher and religious groups. The philosophy of Christianity emphasizes on this a lot through episodes such as the sermon on the mountain. It is the morality that is widely held across the globe, that which detests militarism and upholds religious rights as an important aspect.
Nietzsche views the slave morality as a morality of excuses since they lack strength, they are wanting in courage to attain what they can best attain in life hence weak people develop special dislike for power, wealth, as well as success in general. This group of people will emphasize on meekness, kindness, altruism, the willingness to suffer without much complaining, patience and such liked constraining virtues. This group will try to get self-worth from constant reassurance among themselves of the value derived from them accepting the situation as it is and that this act makes them superior to the people who make decisions over them. Nietzsche views this as a sickening rationalization of weakness.
Nietzsche had some contempt for the moral philosophers claiming that they greatly contributed to making people shamed of success in life and perpetuating the slave morality. He says that the conventional morality were meant to make people deprived of what the world could offer, opposed to sensuality, hostile to life and were angled towards making people pitiful of their conditions and be weak as opposed to being feared and strong (Raymond G., 2013).
A clear manifestation of this philosophical perspective is the Nazism that made the Aryan race view themselves as the masters over every other race in the world and did anything possible, including killing other races to wipe them off the face of the earth in order to maintain the master status. Hitler never cared much of the moral standards of the entire world and commenced brutal experiments with the people from other races with the ultimate aim of making his own race the superior one.
The slave morality ideally does not seek to make the slave get over the master, but to make the master a slave as well. It is an attempt to deconstruct the construction of the masters in terms of the moral standards. It has the utility factor in mid, in that, the thing that is useful is the which produces the highest good for the entire community and not just the strong alone. The slaves do not view humility as a concept that was forced on them by the masters, but rather as a voluntary engagement hence they accept their status as it is.
In the real life and contemporary society, Nietzsche insists that the two kinds or morality are ever in competition and there are indications of the master morality getting defeated at some point in history. With the advent of Christianity and the rapid spread, the slave morality was taking over the Roman Empire and beyond. The historical tussle between the Roman as the master and the Judean as the slaves in terms of culture has always been in a continuous tussle. Nietzsche would have hated the triumph of the slave morality in the West where the democratic movement has been taking over every sector. Indeed he referred to democracy as the collective degeneration of man. To Nietzsche, democracy and Christianity had the same end result in mind and that is to emasculate the master and make all equally slaves.
It is however significant to note that Nietzsche did not posit that everyone should adopt the master morality as the final gauge of behavior, he had the belief that there will be the revolution of morals that will act to normalize the inconsistencies that may be there in both the master morality as well as the slave morality. He however indicated that the master morality was a preferred morality over the slave morality (Philo G., 2011).
Nietzsche on right, wrong and the will to power
On the concept of morality, Nietzsche argues that there are indefinite number of varied things that can be possibly and factually be referred to as ‘morality’ and there is not just a single measure of it all without one being improper. Some of these varied aspects exist at different times and in different places yet others may overlap. This he attributes particularly to the 19th Century European middle-class central Europeans who defied the single unitary morality measure and adopted the diverse forms of morality. Nietzsche views this diversity as an unresolved spiritual struggle towards the incompatible moral points-of-view. These varying points of morality prompts Nietzsche to attempt the study of the natural phenomenon; the typology of the morality and a look at their origins, the relative strengths of these moralities, the functions as well as the weaknesses of them all. However, Nietzsche is keen to observe that the fact that there are varying standards of morality or different moralities does not mean that there is no form of biding morality. If this is the case therefore, then it is logical to argue that there are as well varying kinds of ‘binding’ originating from the varying moralities, for instance, the Christian binding cannot be deemed the same as the binding fronted by the Kantian philosophy on life. These two bindings have to be different it can be argued. Either of the Christian philosophies and moralities, or the Kantian moralities or any other out there cannot be said to be a universal phenomena but an evolution and a product of a specific circumstance meant to fulfill a given deficiency. The fact that they must have different ‘bindings’ also does not mean that they are therefore useless, indeed they are central for different people located at different places and possibly different times in life phases. The variance in the belief and the moralities that we hold is from what Nietzsche refers to as ‘life itself’ which is the valuation and giving preference to one thing or idea over the other, the discriminative aspect.
This philosopher was very concerned about the aspect of assigning a universal value to morality such that he considered it ‘immoral’ to assert that one standard should be used to measure morality. He asserts that the creation of positive value can only be derived from the ‘pathos of distance’ which is the long lasting feeling on the part of a ‘higher ruling order’ of its total superiority in relation to a ‘lower’ order, hence the idea of slave and master morality comes into play once more. Indeed it is the difference in the view and measure of morality that asserts the will of the master over the slaves hence creating the tension that exists between the two classes hence giving room for new morality to be created in a bid to reconcile the two classes and the existing differences. This then means that the aspect of slavery was not just a necessity as a tool to give pleasure to the upper class that were the masters to enable them produce their desired artifacts, but philosophically was a necessity in social-psychological aspect since it is only in a situation when the upper class has the lower class to look down upon and despise as inferior to themselves that the society is able to create positive values, that explains why the caste system was and still is existence and philosophically necessary as well.
On the perception of what is right or wrong, or good and the bad Nietzsche indicates that it is purely out of the inherent discrimination that exists within man. This involves man placing one thing as better or of value over the other. This then means that for man to have a positive discrimination of things, then there is need to have positive sense of self first and that, he says, can only exist in a society of ‘rank-orders’, where distance exists. Here therefore applies the objection that Nietzsche has against assigning a universal code to morality, he says this kind of approach tends to break down the rank-ordering that exists, and rightfully so, within the society. According to him, the rank-order dictates that there should be different codes of behavior or morality that governs members of a given rank to those that govern members of another rank. If this rank-order is destabilized, then the distance between the two ranks will be compromised and in effect, the ability to generate new positive values will diminish as well. This inability to generate new positive values is viewed as decadence and according to Nietzsche is the worst thing that can happen to a society. The health of a society in terms of morals depends on the continued ability to generate new positive values (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2010 ).
The other outstanding claim that Nietzsche makes concerns ‘free will’. He asserts that there is nothing like ‘free will’ in the existence of man. However, the fact that he denies the existence of ‘free will’ does not mean that the will is unfree or is enslaved, but rather he claims that the pair, that is free and unfree will is a mere fiction of man and has not direct relationship or even practical application to ‘the will’. The concept of ‘free will’ is seen here as an invention of the weak slaves who appropriated language to express their desires, which cannot be achieved as well. Nietzsche asserts that, in line with this argument, there is nothing like an ‘agent’ behind a given action, but just the action itself. For instance he gives an example that there is noting like ‘it’ rains but just raining itself. A person can be weaker or stronger but none of these implies that the person has the ‘free choice’ to be or not to be stronger or weaker. Therefore, he argues that the free will is used by the slaves in a quest to get power within and among themselves. The first thing is that the slaves use the free will to falsely upraise themselves by turning their weakness into the point and source of self-congratulation. Indeed, the slave is not aggressive or successful (as already noted above) due to the fact that they are weak but, with the free will, they have the fall back excuse to account for their lack of success or deficiency. They say they had a moral merit for not doing what they could have done to be aggressive. So, instead of accepting that they are weak and unable to do certain things, they claim that they are morally superior hence chose no to do it. The second thing is that the slaves use the free will to try and contain or confound the strong as much as possible. The argument of the slave is that, if they can successfully manage to fix their fictitious notion of free will in the thought trends of the strong, then, they shall have significantly improved their living conditions. This is bearing the fact that the strong will now think of the slaves as having free will hence the strong will start dropping some of their actions directed towards the slaves consequently making them less powerful than was before they believed in the free will of the slaves, a situation that is advantageous fro the slaves.
From this account of free will, Nietzsche therefore indicates that ‘good’ and ‘evil’ depends on the notion of the slaves about ‘free will’ and the same applies to the notions of ‘guilt’, ‘remorse’, ‘sin’ and such like. All these, he says are misinterpretations of the existing physiological conditions. For instance, he says guilt arises from the expectation that the person will suffer pain due to failure to discharge debts. This is a physiological condition which is a combination of the intrinsic fear and the need to direct aggression towards self.
Generally, Nietzsche rejects the assertion that there should be a prescription of morality and that this prescription should apply to all the people, and that the proper stand and evaluation should be such that everyone should in principle agree with the morality. He also emphasizes that the ‘slave revolt’ only produced ‘reactive’ values instead of new ‘positive’ values.
Philo G., (2011). The Basics of Nietzsche’s Morality: Master and Slave Morality. Retrieved May 18, 2013 from http://voices.yahoo.com/the-basics-nietzsches-morality-7543272.html?cat=37
Raymond G., (2013). Nietzsche and Morality. Retrieved May 18, 2013 from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1468-0378.00024/pdf
Roger C., 2008). Nietzsche and Morality. Retrieved May 18, 2013 from http://philosophynow.org/issues/70/Nietzsche_and_Morality
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, (2010 ). Nietzsche’s Moral and Political Philosophy. Retrieved May 18, 2013 from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/nietzsche-moral-political/
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