Describe Master Morality and Slave Morality in detail
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Describe Master Morality and Slave Morality in detail
- Describe Master Morality and Slave Morality in detail. Which of the two moralities comes first, and how does the one change into the other? Which of the two moralities do you think Nietzsche would claim United States of America currently falls into, and why? Give examples to back up your argument.
Master and Slave Morality
Nietzsche recognizes two fundamentally distinct types of morality in the world, what he terms master morality and slave morality. The former has always originated in the noble or aristocratic caste, the latter among the slave or dependent class. The two value terms that are applied in master morality are “good” and “bad.” The aristocratic man—who according to Nietzsche finds historical embodiment in “the Roman, Arabic, German, and Japanese nobility,” as well as among the Homeric heroes and Scandinavian Vikings—“conceives the root idea ‘good’ spontaneously and straight away, that is to say, out of himself.” “He honors whatever he recognizes in himself: such morality is self-glorification.” But what precisely are the qualities that characterize the aristocratic soul, qualities that find concrete expression in the formulation “good”? “The noble man,” Nietzsche explains, “honors in himself the powerful one, him also who has power over himself…who takes pleasure in subjecting himself to severity and hardness, and has reverence for all that is severe and hard.” Thus self-mastery, above even the brute physical strength used to subjugate others, emerges as the defining characteristic of nobility. As Nietzsche asserts in the previous section (What is Noble?), the aristocrats’ “superiority did not consist first of all in their physical, but in their psychical power—they were more complete men…” The aristocratic caste, as the incarnate will-to-power, is fiercely proud of its superior strength and elevated stature. This “instinct for rank” impels the nobles to segregate themselves from the lower beings, those who possess “the opposite of this exalted, proud disposition,” the multitude of slaves and weaklings of all sorts, toward whom the nobles (who have duties only to their equals) may act in whatever manner they wish.
While master morality spontaneously conceives the idea “good” as the embodiment of the nobles’ defining qualities (self-mastery, pride, physical strength, ambition, etc.), the concept “bad” is more of an afterthought: it encompasses all that is devoid of “goodness” and thus rightly deserving of scorn: “the cowardly, the timid, the insignificant, those thinking of narrow utility…” as well as “the distrustful…the self-abasing, the dog-like kind of men who let themselves be abused, the mendicant flatterers, and above all the liars.” So it is that the antithesis “good” and “bad” in master morality “means practically the same as ‘noble’ and despicable.’”
Whereas master morality is properly speaking active, originating out of the spontaneous assertion of the aristocratic caste’s essential qualities as “good,” slave morality, by contrast, is more aptly characterized as passive or reactive: “slave morality says ‘no’ from the very outset to what is ‘outside itself,’ ‘different from itself,’ and ‘not itself,’: and this ‘no’ is its creative deed.” Slave morality is born out of the resentment experienced by “the abused, the oppressed, the suffering, the unemancipated, the weary, and those uncertain of themselves,” who tremble in fear at the “power and dangerousness,” the “dreadfulness, subtlety, and strength” of the noble caste and thus who, “deprived as they are of the proper outlet of action, are forced to find their compensation in an imaginary revenge.” Instead of asserting their will by way of direct action and manly self-assertion (of which only the “well-born” are capable), the impotent multitudes must resort to contriving a system of values whereby they exact “an imaginary revenge” on their betters by consigning them to the illusory category of evil—“the original, the beginning, the essential act in the conception of a slave morality”—in contrast to which the slave caste, by a wild leap of self-delusion, elevates itself to the status of “good”: The “‘tame man,’ the wretched mediocre and unedifying creature, has learnt to consider himself a goal and a pinnacle, an inner meaning, an historic principle, a ‘higher man.’” The transition from master to slave morality therefore looks like this:
Slave morality, Nietzsche explains, is essentially the morality of utility. Those qualities “which serve to alleviate the existence of sufferers,” to make their lives less painful, less insecure, less contemptible, and therefore more tolerable, are enshrined in the morality of the lower class:
It is here that sympathy, the kind, helping hand, the warm heart, patience, diligence, humility, and friendliness attain to honor; for here these are the most useful qualities, and almost the only means of supporting the burden of existence.
As Nietzsche restates in Goodness and the Will to Power, “good” in the aristocratic sense (which Nietzsche fully endorses as the valuation that best corresponds to “the nature of the living being as a primary organic function”) is constituted by “all that enhances the feeling of power.” “Bad,” by contrast, is that which “proceeds from weakness.” True happiness, then, is the “feeling that power is increasing—that resistance has been overcome.” The happiness of the noble caste is thus inseparable from activity, as opposed to the sham happiness “of the weak and oppressed, with their festering venom and malignity,” for whom happiness “appears essentially as a narcotic, a deadening, a quietude, a peace, a ‘Sabbath,’ [i.e., a break from activity]…in short, a purely passive phenomenon.” The aristocrat’s inherent vigor and vitality reveal themselves in his “contempt for safety, body, life, and comfort, [his] awful joy and intense delight in all destruction, in all the ecstasies of victory and cruelty…” The diffident, slavish man, on the other hand—represented by modern egalitarians who “believe almost instinctively in ‘progress’ and the ‘future’”—desires nothing more than comfort and safety, which accounts for Nietzsche’s chilling observation that
The profound, icy mistrust which the German provokes, as soon as he arrives at power—even at the present time—is always still an aftermath of that inextinguishable horror with which for whole centuries Europe has regarded the wrath of the blonde Teuton beast…that lies at the core of all aristocratic races.
 Referring to the ideas of St. Thomas Aquinas.
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