Nietzsche’s Notion of Slave Morality
NIETZSCHE’S NOTION OF SLAVE MORALITY 7
Nietzsche’sNotion of Slave Morality
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FriedrichNietzsche was a German philosopher, poet and culture critic. He wasborn in 1844 and died in 1900. During his lifetime, he wrote severaltexts on science, philosophy, contemporary culture and religion.Among the major tenets of his work, Nietzsche condemned the moralphilosophy of his time. He argued that traits such as meekness,kindness, humility and pity are not universal virtues (BookCaps,2011). According to Nietzsche, such traits are deemed to beuniversally good in the eyes of the weak in the society. The weakembrace a moral philosophy called “slave morality.” He arguedthat slave morality is developed and embraced by the weak in theirrevenge against the noble and the strong. The weak perceive thetraits of the noble and strong in the society as evil (BookCaps,2011). Precisely, the weak perceive traits such as egoism, will topower, independence of thought and aggressiveness to be evil, sincethey are traits of their masters, who are also their oppressors(Nietzsche, 2006). In reference to the traits associated with themasters in the society, Nietzsche introduced the concept of “mastermorality.” In particular, master morality is an exact opposite ofslave morality (Nietzsche, 2006).
Mastermorality is embraced by noble men, who only focus on the things thataffect them and what they do. They view things that bring profit tobe good and things that have a negative impact to be bad. Accordingto Nietzsche, slave morality evolved as the “slaves” establishedways of revenge against their masters (Nietzsche, 2006). In the viewof Nietzsche, slave morality has succeeded in replacing the mastermorality that was originally dominant. This paper presents a detailedexplanation of Nietzsche’s notion of slave morality. With regard toNietzsche’s views, the paper explains the reason why people in thecontemporary society should only embrace some of the valuesassociated with the slave morality.
Historically,Nietzsche argued that slave morality was established by the Jews andlater spread to Europe and other parts of the world. According toNietzsche, Majority of the Jews who loved Jesus were the poor and theweak. This was mainly caused by the fact that the values that Jesusembraced highly resonated with the interests of the weak and thepoor. Just as the poor did, Jesus showed hatred for the valuesassociated with the strong and the powerful (Nietzsche, 2003). Duringhis ministries, Jesus taught his followers that they should disregardthe earthly wealth and focus on the heavenly life. In addition, theteachings of Jesus seemed to console those who suffered under thehands of their masters, and to despise the acts of the masters. As aresult, most of his followers developed a negative attitude towardsthe virtues of the powerful.
Overall,Christianity has always promoted values such as humility, showingpity, love, harmlessness, kindness and selflessness. At the sametime, the powerful are presented as wicked. They are involuntarilyrequired to support the poor and the weak. In this regard, Nietzscheargued that Christianity promotes the incapacitation of the powerfuland the exaltation of the weak (Nietzsche, 2003). In other words,Christianity supports the replacement of master morality with slavemorality. As Christianity spread to different parts of the world, thevalues of associated with slave morality were embraced by slaves, thepoor and the weak. Since the slaves, the weak and the poor were themajority in many parts of the world, they managed to overcome theirmasters. Eventually, the masters were forced to embrace the valuesembraced by slave morality, which were also promoted by Christianity(Nietzsche, 2003).
Asmentioned earlier, slave morality is the opposite of the mastermorality. As such, slave morality opposes what is percieved as goodby the master morality. According to Nietzsche, master moralityweighs issues in terms of good and bad consequences, whereas theslave morality weighs issues in terms of good and bad intentions.What is valued as good in the perspective of master mortality isregarded as evil by the slave morality (Nietzsche, 2003). Unlike themaster morality which perceives power as good, the slave moralityperceives lack of power as good. Slave morality was meant to build upthe poor, the ugly and the weak, unlike master morality whichglorified in privilege, beauty and strength (Nietzsche, 2003). Whilethe master morality is based on active will to power, slave moralityis based on reactive will to power. Slave morality is based on thehatred of the strong and the powerful. In other words, slave moralityis based on the resentment of the weak and the poor. In their effortsto revenge against the powerful, the poor and the weak tend torevalue everything that is valued by the powerful, including wealth(Nietzsche, 2006). As a result, the slave morality villainizes thepowerful.
Slavemorality embraces values that have high utility for the community.The weak and the poor perceive good actions as those that are usefulto the whole community and not the powerful, a view that Nietzschefound to be contradictory. Nietzsche found that, unfortunately, slavemorality does not focus on rising or gaining power than the mastersrather, it aims at enslaving the master as well. Since the weak aregreater in number compared to the powerful, the weak use theirnumbers to weaken the power of the strong (Soccio, 2012). Theycorrupt the powerful into believing that they are the causes ofpoverty and slavery. They emphasize that they could have chosen thevirtues of the powerful but they decided to reject them because theyare evil. They also corrupt the powerful into thinking that adheringto slave morality values such as humility and kindness is voluntary(Soccio, 2012).
Nietzschecriticized the perception of slave morality that the virtues ofmaster morality are evil. According to Nietzsche, the actions of thepowerful in the society emanate from their inherent traits, such asstrength and independence of thought, and not from any maliciousintent. Nietzsche gives an example of the “blond beast” (thelion) and its prey. He argued that it is wrong to hold the blondbeast as evil for hunting its prey. It would also be wrong to holdthe lion as wrong for resistances and triumphs, since those arenatural traits (Soccio, 2012). Similarly, it would be wrong toresent the powerful for their actions since all their actions emanatefrom inherent traits. Nietzsche noted that the struggle between thetwo opposing valuations (master morality and slave morality) haslasted for thousands of years, since the war of Judea and Rome. Judeaembraced slave morality while Rome embraced master morality (Soccio,2012).
AsNietzsche argued, people in the contemporary society should notfollow all values associated with slave morality. Values such ashated for the powerful, hatred for wealth and enmity that areassociated with slave morality should be avoided. As mentionedearlier, slave morality is based on hatred of the strong and thepowerful. Everything that is associated with the powerful is seen asevil. Further, slave morality deceives the weak that they are blessedand should be satisfied with their present circumstances. Embracingthis notion may affect the ability for people in the contemporarysociety to work hard and to acquire wealth (Soccio, 2012). The hatredfor the values associated with master morality emanates from thefeeling of resentment among the weak. In response, the weak set up animaginary revenge against that powerful (Soccio, 2012). Thus, for theslave morality to be able to sustain itself, it requires enemies. Itis wrong to follow values that lead one to form enemies. Such valuesthat have negative impact on the interaction between the weak and thepowerful should be avoided. However, there are some values that areassociated with slave morality that people in the contemporarysociety should follow. They include humility, kindness, love andjustice. Such values should be embraced since they support positiveinteraction between the poor and the rich, leaders and their subjectsand slaves and masters.
Inconclusion, slave morality is the opposite of master morality. Itoriginated from Christianity, which was initially a Jewish religion.As Christianity spread in Europe and other parts of the world, thevalues associated with slave morality were embraced by the weak, thepoor and the slaves. Since the weak, the poor and the slaves weregreater in number compared to the powerful, they managed to corruptthe powerful. Slave morality emanates from resentment among the weakin the society and thus, it is a reactive will to power. Despitetheir efforts, the weak do not aim to transcend the powerful rather,they aim at enslaving them as well. This is due the fact that theyview everything that is associated with the powerful to be evil. Theweak embrace values such as justice, love, pity, humility andkindness. Such values are good and they should be embraced by peoplein the contemporary society since they support positive interactionbetween individuals from different social classes. However, slavemorality also support hatred for anything associated with thepowerful, including wealth. They also see the powerful as theirenemies. Such negative values associated with slave morality shouldnot be followed. In short, we should only embrace values that supportpositive interaction between the powerful and the weak in thesociety.
BookCaps.(2011). FriedrichNietzsche in Plain and Simple English.California, CA: BookCaps
Nietzsche,F. W. (2003).TheGenealogy of Morals.New York, NY: Courier Dover Publications
Nietzsche,F. W. (2006). Beyond Good and Evil. New York, NY: FiliquarianPublishing, LLC
Soccio,D. (2012). Archetypesof Wisdom: An Introduction to Philosophy.New York, NY: