Saturday, November 16, 2019

On Master Morality and Slave Morality

In his two books Beyond Good and Evil and On the Genealogy of Morality, Friedrich Nietzsche argues that there are two fundamental types of morality: master morality and slave morality. Both the moralities, he says, originated in ancient societies of Greece and Rome. The ancient masters belonged to aristocratic families and were strong, creative, wealthy, and powerful; they viewed themselves as just and moral and they ruled the ancient world with an iron hand, even during the period when Greece and Rome were democracy or republic.

The slave morality, on the other hand, originated among the people in the ancient world who were slaves and servants. They were weak, powerless, lacking in education and intellect, and had no hope of ever enjoying the good life that was being enjoyed by the master class. The relentless oppression that they suffered from their masters had turned them into servile, reactionary, and resentful creatures. While they regarded the virtues of their masters as evil, they had a low opinion of themselves because they believed that they, in some way, deserved their fate.

The masters became the fountainhead of the notion that wealth, glory, ambition, and excellence are compatible with a moral way of life. The thinking of the slaves gave rise to the idea that denial of desire, renunciation, and self-sacrifice are a necessary condition for being moral. Thus master morality is based on self-actualization and slave morality is based on self-denial.

According to Nietzsche, slave morality has been the popular principle for more than 2000 years and the modern age is its climax. However, master morality has not vanished—it continues to exist in peoples minds as a bad conscience which often asserts itself in form of a conflict between things like excellence and mediocrity, pride and humility, selfishness and selflessness, desire and renunciation. Nietzsche imagines that evolution may give rise of the Übermensch who is an expression of master morality and also contains the speritualized elements of slave morality.

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