Furthest Right

Noble and Slave Moralities (Friedrich Nietzsche)

1. Nobility. The noble type of man experiences itself as determining values; it does not need approval; it judges, “what is harmful to me is harmful in itself”; it knows itself to be that which first accords honor to things; it is value-creating. Everything it knows as part of itself it honors: such a morality is self-glorification. In the foreground there is the feeling of fullness, of power that seeks to overflow, the happiness of high tension, the consciousness of wealth that would give and bestow: not from pity, but prompted more by excess of power over himself, who knows how to speak and be silent, who delights in being severe and hard with himself and respects all severity and hardness. (Beyond Good and Evil, Section 260)

2. Pathos of Distance. Now it is plain to me, first of all, that in this theory [Utilitarianism] the source of the concept “good” has been sought and established in the wrong place: the judgment “good” did not originate with those to whom “goodness” was shown! Rather it was “the good” themselves, that is to say, the noble, powerful, high-stationed and high-minded, who felt and established themselves and their actions as good, that is, of the first rank, in contradistinction to all the low, low-minded, common and plebeian. It was out of this pathos of distance that they first seized the right to create values and to coin names for values: what had they to do with utility! The viewpoint of utility is a remote and inappropriate as it possibly could be in face of such a burning eruption of the highest rank-ordering, rank-defining value judgments: for here feeling has attained the antithesis of that low degree of warmth which any calculating prudence, any calculus of utility, presupposes — and not for once only, not for an exceptional hour, but for good. The pathos of nobility and distance, as aforesaid, the protracted and domineering fundamental total feeling on the part of a higher ruling order in relation to a lower order, to a “below” — that is the origin of the antithesis “good” and “bad.” (From Genealogy of Morals, First Essay, section 2)

3. Whom Do You Call Bad?— Those who always want to put to shame. What do you consider most humane? — to spare someone shame. What is the seal of attained freedom? — no longer being ashamed in front of oneself. (Gay Science, Sections 273 – 275)

4. Slave Morality.It is different with the second type of morality, slave morality. Suppose the violated, the oppressed, suffering, unfree, who are uncertain of themselves and weary, moralize: what will their moral valuations have in common? Probably, a pessimistic suspicion about the whole condition of man will find expression, perhaps a condemnation of man along with his condition. The slave’s eye is not favorable to the virtues of the powerful: he is skeptical and suspicious, subtly suspicious, of all the “good” that is honored there — he would like to persuade himself that even their happiness is not genuine. Conversely, those qualities are brought out and flooded with light which serve to ease existence for those who suffer: here pity, the complaisant and obliging hand, the warm heart, patience, industry, humility, and friendliness are honored — for here these are the most useful qualities and almost the only means for enduring the pressure of existence. Slave morality is essentially a morality of utility. (Beyond Good and Evil, Section 260)

5. Slave Morality: A Morality of Reaction. The slave revolt in morality begins when resentment itself becomes creative and gives birth to values: the resentment of natures that are denied the true reaction, that of deeds, and compensate themselves with an imaginary revenge. While every noble morality develops from a triumphant affirmation of itself, slave morality from the outset says No to what is “outside,” what is “different,” what is “not itself”; and this No is its creative deed. This inversion of the value-positing eye — this need to direct one’s view outward instead of back to oneself — is of the essence of resentment: in order to exist, slave morality always first needs a hostile external environment: it needs, physiologically speaking, external stimuli in order to act at all — its action action is fundamentally reaction.
The reverse is the case with the noble mode of valuation: it acts and grows spontaneously, it seeks its opposite only so as to affirm itself more gratefully and triumphantly — its negative concept “low,” “common,” “bad” is only a subsequently-invented pale, contrasting image in relation to its positive basic concept — filled with life and passion through and through — “we noble ones, we good beautiful, happy ones!” (From Genealogy of Morals, First Essay, section 10)

6. “Good and Bad” vs. “Good and Evil.” To be incapable of taking one’s enemies, one’s accidents, even one’s misdeeds seriously for very long — that is the sign of strong, full natures in whom there is an excess of the power to form, to mold, to recuperate and to forget. . . Such a man shakes off with a single shrug many vermin that eat deep into others; here alone genuine “love of one’s enemies” is possible — supposing it to be possible at all on earth. How much reverence has a noble man for his enemies! — and such reverence is a bridge to love. — For he desires his enemy for himself, as his mark of distinction; he can endure no other enemy than one in whom there is nothing to despise and very much to honor! In contrast to this, picture “the enemy” as the man of resentment conceives him — and here precisely is his deed, his creation: he has conceived “the evil enemy,” “the Evil One,” and this in fact is his basic concept, from which he then evolves, as an afterthought and pendant, a “good one” — himself!
This, then, is quite the contrary of what the noble man does, who conceives the basic concept “good” in advance and spontaneously out of himself and only then creates for himself an idea of “bad”! This “bad” of noble origin and that “evil” out of the cauldron of unsatisfied hatred — the former an after-production, a side issue, a contrasting shade, the latter on the contrary the original thing, the beginning, the distinctive deed in the conception of a slave morality — how different these words “bad” and “evil” are, although they are both apparently the opposite of the same concept “good.” But it is not the same concept “good”; one should ask rather precisely who is “evil” in the sense of the morality of resentment. The answer, in all strictness, is: precisely the “good man” of the other morality, precisely the noble, powerful man, the ruler, but dyed in another color, interpreted in another fashion, seen in another way by the venomous eye of resentment. (From Genealogy of Morals, First Essay, sections 10 and 11)

7. The Primary Function of Ascetic Morality. It will be immediately obvious that such a self-contradiction as the ascetic appears to represent, — life against life — is, physiologically, a simple absurdity. It can only be apparent . . . Let us replace the usual interpretation of asceticism with a brief formulation of the facts of the matter: the ascetic ideal springs from the protective instinct of a degenerating life which tries by all means to sustain itself and to fight for its existence; it indicates a partial physiological obstruction and exhaustion against which the deepest instincts of life, which have remained intact, continually struggle with new expedients and devices. The ascetic ideal is such an expedient; the case is therefore the opposite of what those who reverence this ideal believe; life wrestles in it and through it with death and against death; the ascetic ideal is an artifice for the preservation of life. (Genealogy of Morals, III, 13)

8. The Genesis of Ascetic Values. Would anyone like to take a look into the secret of how ideals are made on earth? Who has the courage? — Very well! Here is a point we can see through into this dark workshop. . . — I see nothing, but I hear more. There is a soft, wary, malignant muttering and whispering coming from all the corners and nooks. It seems to me one is lying; a saccharine sweetness clings to every sound. Weakness is being lied into something meritorious, no doubt of it, and lowliness which does not requite into ‘goodness of heart’; anxious lowliness into ‘humility’; subjection to those one hates into obedience’ (that is, to one of whom they say he commands this subject — they call him God). The inoffensiveness of the weak man, even the cowardice of which he has so much, his lingering at the door, his being ineluctably compelled to wait, here acquire flattering names, such as ‘patience,’ and are even called virtue itself; his inability for revenge is called unwillingness to revenge, perhaps even forgiveness. They also speak of ‘loving one’s enemies’ — and sweat as they do. (From Genealogy of Morals, III, 14)

9. Altering the direction of Resentment. We must count the ascetic priest as the predestined savior, shepherd, and advocate of the sick herd. . Indeed, he defends his sick herd well enough, this strange shepherd — he also defends it against itself, against the baseness, spite, malice, and whatever else is natural to the ailing and sick and smolders within the herd itself; he fights with cunning and severity and in secret against anarchy and ever-threatening disintegration within the herd, in which the most dangerous of all explosives, resentment, is constantly accumulating. So to detonate this explosive that it does not blow up herd and herdsman is his essential art, as it is his supreme utility; if one wanted to express the value of the priestly existence in the briefest formula it would be: the priest alters the direction of resentment. For every sufferer instinctively seeks a cause for his suffering; more exactly, an agent; still more specifically, a guilty agent who is susceptible to suffering — in short, some living thing upon which he can vent his affects: for the venting of his affects represents the greatest attempt on the part of the suffering to win relief, anesthesia. . .”I suffer: someone must be to blame for it — thus thinks every sickly sheep. Someone must be to blame for it: but you are yourself this someone, you alone are to blame for it — you alone are to blame for yourself!” — This is brazen and false enough: but one thing at least is achieved by it, the direction of resentment is altered. (Genealogy of Morals, III, 13)

10. Giving Meaning to Suffering. Apart from the ascetic ideal, man, the human animal, had no meaning so far. His existence on earth contained no goal; “why man at all?” — was a question without an answer; the will for man and earth was lacking; behind every great human destiny there sounded as a refrain a yet greater “in vain.” This is precisely what the ascetic ideal means: that something was lacking, that man was surrounded by a fearful void — he did not know how to justify, to account for, to affirm himself; he suffered from the problem of his meaning. He also suffered otherwise, he was in the main a sickly animal: but his problem was not suffering itself, but that there was no answer to the crying question, -why do I suffer?-
Man, the bravest of animals and the one most accustomed to suffering, does not repudiate suffering as such; he desires it, he even seeks it out, provided he is shown a meaning for it, a purpose of suffering. The meaninglessness of suffering, not suffering itself, was the curse that layover mankind so far — and the ascetic ideal offered man meaning! In it, suffering was interpreted; the tremendous void seemed to have been filled; the door was closed to any kind of suicidal nihilism. . But all this notwithstanding — man was saved thereby, he possessed a meaning, he was henceforth no longer like a leaf in the wind, a plaything of nonsense — the -senseless” — he could now will something; no matter at first to what end: the will itself was saved.
We can no longer conceal from ourselves what is expressed by all that willing which has taken its direction from the ascetic ideal: this hatred of the human, and even more of the animal, and more still of the material, this horror of the senses, of reason itself, this fear of happiness and beauty, this longing to get away from all appearance, change, becoming, death, wishing, from longing itself — all this means — let us dare to grasp it — a will to nothingness, an aversion to life, a rebellion against the most fundamental presuppositions of life; but it is and remains a will. . . And, to repeat in conclusion what I said at the beginning: man would rather will nothingness than not will. (Genealogy of Morals, III, 28)

11. Morality as Anti-Nature. Admitting that you have understood the villainy of such a mutiny against life as that which has become almost sacrosanct in Christian morality, you have fortunately understood something besides; and that is the futility, the fictitiousness, the absurdity and the falseness of such a mutiny. For the condemnation of life by a living creature is after all but the symptom of a definite kind of life: the question as to whether the condemnation is justified or the reverse is not even raised. In order even to approach the problem of the value of life, a man would need to be placed outside life, and moreover know it as well as one, as many, as all in fact, who have lived it. These are reasons enough to prove to us that this problem is an inaccessible one to us. When we speak of values, we speak under the inspiration, and through the optics of life: life itself values through us when we determine values. From which it follows that even that morality which is antagonistic to life, and which conceives God as the opposite and condemnation of life, is only a valuation of life — of what life? But I have already answered the question: it is the valuation of declining, of enfeebled, of exhausted and of condemned life. Morality, as it has been understood hitherto is the instinct of degeneration itself, which converts itself into an imperative: it says “Perish!” It is the death sentence of men who are already doomed. (Twilight of the Idols, 5)

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