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Nietzsche’s Notion of Slave Morality Essay

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Updated: May 19th, 2020

Introduction

Moral values are crucial to the growth and development of human civilization. Through these values, individuals are able to coexist as a community and work harmoniously to achieve onward development. Many philosophers have attempted to explain or contribute to the moral value system. One influential 19th century philosophers who sought to highlight the different kinds of human moralities is Friedrich Nietzsche. This German philosopher argued that human moralities could be grouped into master moralities and slave moralities. Nietzsche praised the master moralities as the strong values that lead to onward development and evolutionary growth of mankind while he blamed the slave moralities for the weak and decadent nature of the society. This paper will set out to explain Nietzsche’s notion of slave morality and show that in spite of this morality being presented as inferior, it plays a critical role in the advancement of the human civilization and should therefore be followed by all people.

Nietzsche’s Notion of Slave Morality

Nietzsche believed that in the same way that there are no absolute objective truths in science, there are no absolute objective truths in ethics. The existing values are created and chosen by man. As such, both the master and slave moralities were a creation of man. Nietzsche traces the origins of slave morality to the cult and culture of ancient Judaism (Soccio 473). The Jews were enslaved for centuries and this led to a deep hatred for the oppressors. They therefore invented a moral philosophy that was based on resentment toward the masters. These ideals were incorporated in the Judaism faith and later inherited by Christianity, which is an offshoot of Judaism.

Slave morality is the morality of the weak or those who are ruled over. This form of morality is perpetuated by the resentment felt by the majority towards the individuals who have power and wealth. The masses therefore denounced the values and morality of their rulers. They regard their master’s moralities as “evil”. Nietzsche declares that slave morality is a morality created by inferior individuals in their effort to control their superiors (Soccio 473). The value system in this morality is based on the guilt and fear that comes from the inferior individual’s awareness of his/her own inferiority. This value system praises as virtues the characteristics of the inferior types. Attributes such as passivity, dependency, and humility are praised as virtues. The master attributes such as love of domination, pride in one’s talents, and shrewdness are vilified and classified as vices.

Slave Morality is a creation of the inferior human beings who cannot face being alone in the universe. A person in this class refuses to exist as an individual and instead turns to the group for power and identity. This inferior individual is aware of his/her own inferiority, but derives some sense of power from the crowd. Nietzsche asserts that the herd has an inherent hostility to the individual who dares to express independence and delight in his own talents and fearlessness (Soccio 473). Such a person is condemned as arrogant and proud.

Nietzsche characterizes slave moralities as being “fundamentally anti-life” (Kirby 16). This morality does not promote creativity and striving for excellence by the individual. Instead, it encourages self-sacrifice and putting the interests of others ahead of your own. According to Nietzsche, any morality that advocates for humility, piety, and self-denial is in direct opposition to life. Life can only be fostered by a morality that advocates strength, growth, expansion, and expression of power.

Nietzsche expressed concern that with the triumph of Christianity in Europe following the adoption of the religion by the Roman Empire, slave morality has defeated master morality. The triumph of slave morality is for Nietzsche a terrible thing for humanity. Nietzsche viewed the European societies in his time as decadent and in decline (Kirby 16). He blamed this state of affairs on the predominance of Christian values. Christianity advocated for the Slave Moralities and this posed a serious danger to the onward development and evolutionary growth of mankind (Kirby 16).

Why we should Follow Slave Morality Values

Nietzsche had an obvious disdain for the values of the slave morality. In his opinion, the society must strive to overcome the slave morality in order to achieve its true potential. Nietzsche exhorts individuals to break free from this form of morality and instead embrace the values of the master morality. However, in spite of the negative light in which Nietzsche casts the values of the slave morality, certain values specific to slave morality are crucial for the advancement of the human civilization.

Important values such as democracy are only possible because of the notions of equality advanced by slave morality (Soccio 473). Without slave morality, the values of democracy would not be promoted in the world. Democracy is based on the notion of equality of all people. However, according to Nietzsche, the notion of equality is misguided and it leads to mediocrity. In Nietzsche’s view, democracy leads to the degeneration of mankind since it results in the predominance of the masses. A world without slave morality would promote dictatorship since it would be deemed superior to democratic values. This would be detrimental to the majority of humanity since it would lead to inequality and a lack of basic freedoms for the majority.

We should follow the values of slave morality since they ensure the harmonious existence of individuals in the society. This morality encourages people to consider the interests of others when acting (Soccio 473). Without slave morality values, radical individualism would be promoted. People would take actions aimed at promoting their success at any cost. This would include endangering the lives of others in order to achieve individual success. The abandonment of slave morality would therefore lead to the destruction of the human society, as we know it. This would be an undesirable outcome that should be prevented from happening.

Following slave morality is integral to preventing the outbreak of revolts in the society. History has demonstrated that when there is significant socioeconomic inequality in the society, the masses will rise up in armed revolt. Slave morality demands that the superior members of society should take action to improve the conditions of the poor (Soccio 473). If the slave morality is discounted, the superior members of the society will not take care of the lower members and this will lead to prevalent inequalities. This will be followed by revolts by the masses, a condition that is detrimental to the entire society.

Conclusion

This paper set out to discuss Nietzsche’s notion of slave morality and show why all people should follow this form of morality. The paper began by highlighting Nietzsche’s contempt for slave morality. It has shown how this German philosophy considered this a morality for the weak and inferior people. An explanation has been offered as to why Nietzsche has such an unfavorable view of slave morality. The paper has then discussed why modern man should follow these moral values. It has shown that some of the values considered integral to the advancement of modern civilization, such as democracy and mindfulness, are contained in slave morality. As such, slave morality values should continue to be promoted in spite of Nietzsche’s opinion concerning them.

Works Cited

Kirby, Steve. “The Internalisation of Nietzsche’s Master and Slave Morality.” Journal of the Society for Existential Analysis 14.1 (2003): 14-22. Web.

Soccio, Douglas. Archetypes of Wisdom: An Introduction to Philosophy. NY: Cengage Learning, 2012. Print.

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