Nietzche's Master and Slave Morality

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In Of the Genealogy of Morality, Nietzsche sought to provide context for what he saw as the central value system of the society in which he lived: slave-morality. Nietzsche saw morality as reflective of the conditions in which its proponents were brought up. He saw the roots of slave morality in oppression and slavery, and posits that it grew as a reaction to the morality of the masters of the time. What follows is a simplified account of Nietzsche’s master-slave dichotomy, and what he saw as the dire consequences for human progress should the pervasiveness of slave morality be allowed to remain at the expense of the master. I will argue that although religion and slave morality may have had significant influence in Nietzsche’s day, his…show more content…
In contrast to the consequentialism of master morality, slave morality can be seen as a deontological morality. It determines an action’s goodness by looking at the actor’s intention: to slave moralists, the ends do not, necessarily, justify the means. The nature of acts and their actors plays an important role in Nietzsche’s discussion of morality. Slaves believe in and strive for freedom and see evil in the masters’ oppression of them, as they believe they perform these acts of oppression of their own free will. They believe that, because the masters are free agents, they should be held responsible for their actions and criticized for them. Nietzsche disputes this view, and demonstrates his argument using the analogy of the eagles and the lambs: “That lambs dislike great birds of prey does not seem strange: only it gives no ground for reproaching these birds of prey for bearing off little lambs. And if the lambs say among themselves: 'these birds of prey are evil; and whoever is least like a bird of prey, but rather its opposite, a lamb - would he not be good?' there is no reason to find fault with this institution of an ideal, except perhaps that birds of prey might view it a little ironically and say ‘we don’t dislike them at all, these good little lambs; we even love them: nothing is more tasty…”.

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