Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Nietzsche: Master & Slave Morality

Nietzsche: Master & Slave Morality

Master morality

Nietzsche defined master morality as the morality of the
strong-willed. What is good is what is helpful; what is bad is what
is harmful. Morality as such is sentiment. In the prehistoric state,
"the value or non-value of an action was derived from its
consequences" but ultimately, "There are no moral phenomena at
all, only moral interpretations of phenomena." For these strongwilled
men, the 'good' is the noble, strong and powerful, while the
'bad' is the weak, cowardly, timid and petty. The essence of master
morality is nobility. Morality is designed to protect that which the
strong-willed man values, and for slave and master, "Fear is the
mother of morality." Other qualities that are often valued in master
moralities are open-mindedness, courage, truthfulness, trust and
an accurate sense of self-worth. Master morality begins in the
'noble man' with a spontaneous idea of the good, then the idea of
bad develops as what is not good. "The noble type of man
experiences itself as determining values; it does not need approval;
it judges, 'what is harmful to me is harmful in itself'; it knows itself
to be that which first accords honour to things; it is value
creating." Ultimately, "There are no moral phenomena at all, only
moral interpretations of phenomena." In this sense, the master
morality is the full recognition that oneself is the measure of all
things. Insomuch as something is helpful to the strong-willed man
it is like what he values in himself; therefore, the strong-willed man
values such things as 'good'. Masters are creators of morality;
slaves responds to master-morality with their slave-morality.

Slave morality

Unlike master morality which is sentiment, slave morality is
literally re-sentiment (resentment) – revaluing that which the
master values. This strays from the valuation of actions based on
consequences to the valuation of actions based on "intention". As
master morality originates in the strong, slave morality originates
in the weak. Slave morality is a reaction to oppression, it creates
villains of its oppressors. Slave morality is the inverse of master
morality. As such, it is characterized by pessimism and skepticism.
Slave morality is created in opposition to what master morality
values as 'good'. Slave morality does not aim at exerting one's will
by strength but by careful subversion. It does not seek to transcend
the masters, but to make them slaves as well. The essence of slave
morality is utility: the good is what is most useful for the whole
community, not the strong. Nietzsche saw this as a contradiction,
“and [sic] how could there exist a common good”. The expression is
a self-contradiction: what can be common has ever been but little
value. In the end it must be as it has always been: great things are
for the great, abysses for the profound, shudders and delicacies, for
the refined, and, in sum, all rare things for the rare." Since the
powerful are few in number compared to the masses of the weak,
the weak gain power by corrupting the strong into believing that
the causes of slavery (viz., the will to power) are 'evil', and the
qualities they originally could not choose because of their
weakness. By saying humility is voluntary, slave morality avoids
admitting that their humility was in the beginning force upon them
by a master. Biblical principles of turning the other cheek,
humility, charity, and pity are the result of universalizing the plight
of the slave onto all mankind, and thus enslaving the masters as
well. "The democratic movement inherits the Christian." The
political manifestation of slave morality because of its obsession
with freedom and equality.
Master-slave morality is a central theme of Friedrich
Nietzsche's works, in particular the first essay of On the Genealogy
of Morality. Nietzsche argued that there were two fundamental types of morality: 'Master Morality' and 'Slave Morality'.
Master Morality weighs actions on a scale of good or bad consequences
unlike slave morality which weighs actions on a scale of good or evil
intentions. What Nietzsche meant by 'morality' deviates from
common understanding of this term. For Nietzsche, a particular
morality is the inseparable from the formation of a particular
culture. This means that its language, codes and practises,
narratives, and institutions are informed by the struggle between
these two types of moral valuation. For Nietzsche, master-slave
morality provides the basis of all exegesis of Western thought. With
the Death of God morality became historical: it was created by
mankind, not by a transcendent deity. The strong-willed man
created morality by valuation.
It is then these two character-types–the master and the slave–
that we find in the world, amidst the contest of wills, the struggle of
forces, the exercise of power. The two personality-types cannot be
anymore different. In contrast to the master, who “cannot separate
action from happiness,” happiness for the slave is “obsessed with
poisonous, malevolent feelings.” Correlatively, “when the powerful
person hates, he may discharge his hatred through direct action,
and get it out of his system. The weak, however, cannot do this.
They must contain their hatred, which acts as a psychological
toxin, poisoning the spirit.” This leads the slave to resentment.
Despite (and reinforced by) forming his system of morality,
the slave (still) feels resentment: “he resents the master’s strength
as well as his own relative impotency.” According to Nietzsche’s
estimation, the slave must recognize that he is bad, “yet he is not
able to accept the idea that he is to be treated any differently from
anyone else, however high or low; or that he is to be treated as a
means to the master’s purposes or pleasures. As a human being,
he feels that he has been treated with insufficient dignity, or with
none.” The slave thus (subtly, secretively, after bottling up the
hatred deep inside)–using religion, their most common tool–takes
revenge on the master. Nietzsche claims that this has historically
consisted “in getting the master to accept the value table of the
slave himself, and to evaluate himself from the slave’s perspective”
(hence the world’s dominant religions). Thus, the slaves manage to
transform the master into the ascetic.
Existentialism is a philosophical movement which posits that
individual human beings create the meaning and essence of their
lives. It emerged as a movement in twentieth-century literature and
philosophy, though it had forerunners in earlier centuries.
Existentialism generally postulates that the absence of a
transcendent force (such as God) means that the individual is
entirely free, and, therefore, ultimately responsible. (Nevertheless,
Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky were Christians.) It is up to humans to
create an ethos of personal responsibility outside of any branded
belief system. That personal articulation of being is the only way to
rise above humanity's absurd condition (suffering and death, and
the finality of the individual).
Existentialism is a reaction against traditional philosophies,
such as rationalism and empiricism, seeking to discover an
ultimate order in metaphysical principles or in the structure of the
observed world, and therefore universal meaning. As a
philosophical movement, existentialism's origins are heavily
accredited to the nineteenth-century philosophers Kierkegaard and
Nietzsche, and existentialism was prevalent in Continental
philosophy. Literary writers such as Dostoevsky also contributed to
the movement.
In the 1940s and 1950s, French existentialists such as Jean-
Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and Simone de Beauvoir, wrote
scholarly and fictional works that popularized existential themes
such as "dread, boredom, alienation, the absurd, freedom,
commitment, and nothingness". Walter Kaufmann described
Existentialism as, "The refusal to belong to any school of thought,
the repudiation of the adequacy of any body of beliefs whatever,
and especially of systems, and a marked dissatisfaction with
traditional philosophy as superficial, academic, and remote from
Nietzsche's works were published too early to be considered a
part of the 20th century existentialist movement. They were
philosophers whose works and influences are not limited to
existentialism. They have been appropriated and seen as
precursors to many other intellectual movements, including
postmodernism, nihilism, and various strands of psychology. Thus,
it is unknown whether they would have supported the
existentialism of the 20th century or accepted tenets of Jean-Paul
Sartre's version of it. Nevertheless, their works are precursors to
many later developments in existentialist thought. Nietzsche wrote
that human nature and human identity vary depending on what
values and beliefs humans hold. It is a fundamental existential
belief that human beings are alone in the world. This aloneness
leads to feelings of meaninglessness which can be overcome only by
creating one's own values and meanings. We have the power to
create because we have the freedom to choose. In making our own
choices we assume full responsibility for the results and blame no
one but ourselves if the result is less than what was desired. The
psychotherapist helps his or her patients/clients along this path: to
discover why the patient/client is overburdened by the anxieties of
aloneness and meaninglessness, to find new and better ways to
manage these anxieties, to make new and healthy choices, and to
emerge from therapy as a free and sound human being.
Nietzsche's aesthetic usage of the concepts, which was later
developed philosophically, began with his book The Birth of
Tragedy. In this work, he stated that a fusion of Dionysian and
Apollonian "Kunsttriebe" (artistic impulses) is dramatic art's
(tragedy's) main prerequisite and that this has essentially not been
achieved since ancient Greek tragedy. Nietzsche emphasizes that
the works of Aeschylus, above all, and also Sophocles represent the
summit of artistic creation, the true realization of tragedy; it is with
Euripides, he states, that tragedy begins its "Untergang" (literally
"going under," meaning decline, deterioration, downfall, death).
Nietzsche objects to Euripides' utilization of Socratic rationalism in
his tragedies, claiming that the infusion of ethics and reason in
tragedy robs it of its foundation, namely the fragile balance of the
Dionysian and Apollonian.
Apollonian: the dream state, principium individuationis
(principle of individuation), plastic (visual) arts, beauty, clarity,
stint to formed boundaries, individuality, celebration of
appearance/illusion, human beings as artists (or media of art's
manifestation), self-control, perfection, exhaustion of possibilities,
Dionysian: intoxication, celebration of nature, instinctual,
intuitive, pertaining to the sensation of pleasure or pain,
individuality dissolved and hence destroyed, wholeness of
existence, orgiastic passion, dissolution of all boundaries, excess,
human being(s) as the work and glorification of art, destruction.
This struggle between master and slave moralities recurs
historically. According to Nietzsche, ancient Greek and Roman
societies were grounded in master morality. The Homeric hero is
the strong-willed man, and the classical roots of the Iliad and
Odyssey exemplified Nietzsche's master morality. He calls the
heroes "men of a noble culture", giving a substantive example of
master morality. Historically, master morality was defeated as the
slave morality of Christianity spread throughout the Roman
According to Nietzsche, the essential struggle between
cultures has always been between the Roman (master, strong) and
the Judean (slave, weak). He condemns the triumph of slave
morality in the West, saying that the democratic movement is the
"collective degeneration of man". Nietzsche claimed that the
nascent democratic movement of his time was essentially Jewish,
slavish, and weak. Weakness conquered strength, slave conquered
master, re-sentiment conquered sentiment. This resentment
Nietzsche calls "priestly vindictiveness", which is the jealousy of the
weak seeking to enslave the strong with itself. Such movements
were, to Nietzsche, inspired by "the most intelligent revenge" of the
weak. Nietzsche saw democracy and Christianity as the same
emasculating impulse which sought to make all equal--to make all

1 comment:

  1. Liberty cannot be established without morality,
    nor morality without faith. See the link below for more info.