I Still Don’t Understand….
Part 1 of 1: Read the summary of some of Nietzsche’s beliefs and answer the questions that follow.
Friedrich Nietzsche disputed the long unexamined notion that morality was an absolute. Meaning that no matter who you are, where you are or when you are, there has been, is and will always be a right and a wrong. He believed that morality was relative to the condition in which one finds oneself. This meant that morality could shift and what was evil to one person was good to another and both people could be correct.
In Beyond Good and Evil, he defined two moralities. The “master morality” encouraged strength, power, freedom, and achievement, while the “slave morality” valued sympathy, charity, forgiveness, and humility. Those qualities that the master morality deemed “good,” such as strength and power, were a source of fear to the slave morality and were thus deemed “evil.” Nietzsche believed that each person was motivated by the “will to power,” the essential driving force behind human behavior, and that exploitation of the weak by the strong was the very nature of life.
Therefore reform movements such as democracy and Christianity, which supported equality and not taking advantage of those who are weaker, tried to negate the ‘will to power’ and were thus “anti-life” or part of the slave morality. Nietzsche feared that Western society had been unduly influenced by the slave morality’s resentment and fear of the life-affirming qualities of the master type. These qualities were strength, power, freedom and achievement, all of which he felt were being wasted. For example, in Nietzsche’s view the little league team that wins the championship gets the trophy and pizza party. The losers get to go home and do not receive any accolades or awards. This would encourage the weak to become stronger and reward the strong for their accomplishments.
Because Nietzsche felt the achievements of the master class were necessary to human progress, the overall effect was a weakening of the human race. To solve the problem, Beyond Good and Evil suggested that the master class’s will to power should be encouraged and that members of this class should be freed from the debilitating value system of the oppressed so that they could rise above the paradigm of the slave morality; that is, “beyond good and evil.” Thus freed, they could metamorphose into a higher level of existence, which Nietzsche termed “the overman.” Nietzsche meant that people should not feel restrained by what one society deems good or bad but feel free to expand and achieve regardless of the morality.
“Summary” Critical Survey of Ethics and Literature Ed. John K. Roth. eNotes.com, Inc. 1994 eNotes.com 17 Feb, 2015 <http://www.enotes.com/topics/beyond-good-evil#summary-the-work>
- Give 3 critiques Nietzsche would make about our current society in connection with his slave vs master morality.
- According to Nietzsche, how do Christianity and Democracy support the “slave morality”?
- Do you agree or disagree with Nietzsche’s concern of the weakening of the human race? Why or why not?
- What might be some potential problems with Nietzsche’s philosophy?
- What impact would Nietzsche’s belief in no absolute morality have on religious belief systems?