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Friedrich Nietzsche, Morality in 'Beyond Good and Evil,' 30 December 2021

Updated: Jan 4

Friedrich Nietzsche argues in Beyond Good and Evil that any individual who seeks to achieve happiness must first identify the source of his or her morality, and in this view Nietzsche highlights two forms of morality, the ‘slave morality’ and the ‘master morality.’


The slave, according to Nietzsche, is compelled to the qualities of meekness and kindness by virtue of the fact that he or she lacks sufficient power to affect change in his or her environment.


In this way, slave morality honors the ability to endure potentially unjust treatment in a traditional Christian expectation of obsequious obedience.


In Nietzsche’s words,


“It is otherwise with the second type of morality, SLAVE-MORALITY. Supposing that the abused, the oppressed, the suffering, the unemancipated, the weary, and those uncertain of themselves should moralize, what will be the common element in their moral estimates?


A pessimistic suspicion with regard to the entire situation of man will find expression, perhaps a condemnation of man.


On the other hand, THOSE qualities which serve to alleviate the existence of sufferers are brought into prominence and flooded with light; it is here that sympathy, the kind, helping hand, the warm heart, patience, diligence, humility, and friendliness attain to honour; for here these are the most useful qualities, and almost the only means of supporting the burden of existence.


Slave-morality is essentially the morality of utility." (Nietzsche 260).


In contrast, ‘master morality’ values strength, courage, excellence, and leaves little room for acceptance of denigrating treatment. Under master morality, or noble morality, an individual's relative ability to mould the world to his or her will is representative of that individual's worth:


"The noble type of man regards HIMSELF as a determiner of values; he does not require to be approved of; he passes the judgment." (Nietzsche 260).


However, according to Nietzsche, these two value systems are not mutually exclusive.


"MASTER-MORALITY and SLAVE-MORALITY,— I would at once add, however, that in all higher and mixed civilizations, there are also attempts at the reconciliation of the two moralities." (Nietzsche 260).


In other words, ‘long suffering’ and ‘humility’ may be demonstrated in the vein of slave morality, while at the same time acting in a manner befitting a person of agency.


Nietzsche argues that Socrates' execution and Jesus Christ’s passion are two such examples.


For example, Jesus' meekness and acceptance of His fate was not a result of His lack of motive force to bring about changes in His environment, but rather, Jesus Christ's behavior prior to and during His crucifixion demonstrate strategic understanding of social contexts to bring about a desired end.


Christ’s instruction in Matthew 5:41 is illustrative of this point.


“If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” (Matthew 5:41)


This specific exhortation is related to the legal authority which Roman soldiers held in the remote province of Judea. A legionary could order a Jewish civilian to carry his baggage, mainly containing armor, for one Roman mile and no further. This was an arduous task of bearing 40 to 50 kilograms of weight.


Once this mile was completed, however, the Jewish citizen might be relieved, and another Roman subject could take his place.


However, if instead, the conscripted Jewish resident agreed to go an extra mile, or several, with the Roman soldier, the legal requirement would be satisfied and the imperial solider would thereafter assume a morally inferior position if further orders were to be given.


In a similar way, Christ was willing to invest labor above the norm within His community in order in gain authority to bring aid to the poor.


Nietzsche's lesson here is that in that by acceding to potentially unjust demands, even those of possible oppressors, a person of lesser authority may receive power to produce positive externalities for the society-at-large.


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In the course of His ministry Jesus Christ was repeatedly rejected by established authority figures, often in violent ways, however despite this potential discouragement Christ made a decision to serve as a representative of the less fortunate. In doing so He executed a strategy in line with 'master morality' principles.


Jesus Chirst meekly suffered harm and persecution so that others wouldn't have to. Through this plan Jesus successfully 'traveled the extra mile' in order to achieve both a higher standard of living and improved overall happiness for all those who followed Him.


Thank you for your time in reading this post and please have a good day. Sincerely, Winston




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