Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Moving back from his “death of God” thesis (see here) to his genealogy of moral pluralism, Nietzsche identifies ‘two basic types’ of morality – “master morality” and “slave morality” – within ‘the many subtler and coarser moralities’ (Beyond Good and Evil, S260). The difference between these two moralities illustrates how Nietzsche’s critique of Christianity centres on the charge that it is a religion born ‘out of the spirit of ressentiment’ or resentment (Ecco Homo, p.312).
These two moralities differ in origin, with master morality found among the strong and powerful, and slave morality among ‘the violated, oppressed, suffering, unfree, who are uncertain of themselves and weary’ (Beyond Good and Evil, S260).
But they also differ in content, as Nietzsche’s account of master morality highlights:
The concept good and evil has a two-fold prehistory: firstly in the soul of the ruling tribes and castes. He who has the power to requite, good with good, evil with evil, and also actually practices requital – is, that is to say, grateful and revengeful – is called good; he who is powerless and cannot requite counts as bad. As a good man one belongs to the “good,” a community which has a sense of belonging together… As a bad man one belongs to the “bad,” to a swarm of subject, powerless people… Good and bad is for a long time the same thing as noble and base, master and slave. On the other hand, one does not regard the enemy as evil: he can requite. In Homer the Trojan and the Greek are both good.
Nietzsche, Human All Too Human, S45.
As ‘the soul of the ruling tribes and castes’, the master morality consists of ‘the evaluative traditions and customs’ of a particular community of the strong and the powerful (Merold Westphal, Suspicion and Faith, p.233). As such, revenge, which is the power to requite evil with evil in the service of the community, is a virtue, a natural expression of that community’s will to power.