Philosophers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries focused the role morality played in the society rather than tried to understand what is good and what is wrong.
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Notably, their views on the role of morality were quite similar but they saw moral values rather differently. It is possible to explain this difference by the changes which were taking place throughout decades. Of course, it is also clear that the changes did not affect the way the role of morality is seen.
Before looking into similarities and differences of Nietzsche’s and Sartre’s views, it is necessary to outline major differences in the epochs. Thus, the nineteenth century is characterized by industrial development and numerous technological advances used by people.
When it comes to the twentieth century, industrial and technological development was even more significant and almost incompatible with that of the previous century. Nonetheless, people also learn about horrible destructive power of those advances and manifold nature of a human being as some people turned out to be able to commit terrible crimes.
Irrespective of these differences of epochs, the two philosophers saw the role of morality similarly. Both thinkers stressed that morality was certain set of rules people living in the society had to obey. Hence, morality is still “the best doctrine on earth” (Nietzsche 296). People tend to follow moral rules which support or, vice versa, create laws of the state.
Sartre also notes that morality can be regarded as an “omen by which to orient” oneself as people have developed numerous behavioral patterns for different situations (330). However, it is necessary to add that the reasons people articulate to follow the rules set are different for Nietzsche and Sartre.
Importantly, the philosophers believe that moral norms are followed in many settings but people have different reasons to obey moral rules. According to Nietzsche, morality is “sublime self-deception” and it serves as a tool for “the majority of… the weak and the oppressed” to “construe weakness itself as freedom” (Nietzsche 296).
In other words, following rules is a form of self-defense for weak and indecisive people who are afraid of taking on responsibility. For many people, it is easier to be patient and try to avoid conflicts and this is seen as a virtue. Thus, people tend to have ‘slave’ morality and the society is based on it.
Whereas for Sartre, following certain moral values makes people more peaceful as they feel they are doing the right thing. The entire example of the man and his decision provided by Sartre is an illustration of morality in action. Therefore, each individual has a number of possible behavioral patterns to choose. Notably, these are patterns existent in the society.
However, each individual has to choose if/when “values are vague, and if they are too broad” (Sartre 331). Basically, a person follows certain norms accepted in the society to be a part of the society. At the same time, people are free to choose a variety of values and norms for different situations.
Another difference is that Nietzsche stresses that there are two major kinds of morality while Sartre emphasizes that morality is highly subjective and individual. Hence, Nietzsche states that master’s and slave’s morality can be singled out.
Master’s morality is aimed at risking and trying to achieve goals. Admittedly, this is an individualistic paradigm and the society chooses a more collectivistic doctrine. Nietzsche stresses that people long for “the peace of community” and ‘slave’ morality ensures that people can enjoy this relaxation (291).
At the same time, Sartre claims that there can be no universal morality and “the only thing left for us is to trust our instincts” (331).
The philosopher focuses on the subjective nature of moral values and claims that people have to choose which behavioral pattern to choose in this or that situation. Sartre notes that people have developed a number of doctrines (Christian, personal, and so on) and everybody is responsible for his/her choice (Sartre 330).
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Besides, as any doctrine, morality presupposes rewards and punishment. Nietzsche sees reward as the promise of eternal bliss and punishment as condemnation on the behalf of the society (Nietzsche 298). Whereas, according to Sartre’s viewpoint, reward is peace and punishment is guilty consciousness. Since a person is free and responsible for his/her actions, he/she can reward and punish him/herself.
On balance, it is possible to note that Nietzsche and Sartre both see morality as certain doctrine aimed at helping people live in the society. However, Nietzsche focused on the view that the vast majority of people share the same moral values he called ‘slave’ morality. Sartre insists that there can be no universal morality as people have to make choices and be responsible for each of their actions.
Admittedly, these differences in the philosophers’ standpoints can be explained by peculiarities of the society they lived in. It is possible to note that Nietzsche advocated ‘master’s’ morality. Sartre developed his view after Nietzsche’s ideas had been transformed and had led to horrible consequences for the entire humanity.
Sartre stresses that a person is responsible for each choice as doctrines which existed in Nazi Germany or Soviet Union could hardly be seen as moral paradigms at all. At present, moral values also shape people’s behavior but it is still essential to make sure each person is responsible for choices he/she makes.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. “On the Genealogy of Morality.” Ethics: The Essential Writings. Ed. Gordon Marino. New York, NY: Random House LLC, 2010. 274-299. Print.
Sartre, Jean-Paul. “Existentialism and Human Emotion.” Ethics: The Essential Writings. Ed. Gordon Marino. New York, NY: Random House LLC, 2010. 328-333. Print.