Nietzsche the Moralist
1 Aph. 260.
In this way Nietzsche arrived at the following broad generalisation: that all the moralities of the world could be placed under one of two heads, Master Morality or Slave Morality.
In the first, the master morality, it is the oak which contends: I must reach the sun and spread broad brandies in so doing; this I call "good," and the herd that I shelter may also call it good. In the second, the slave morality, it is the shrub which says: I also want to reach the sun, these broad branches of the oak, however, keep the sun from me, therefore the oak's instincts are "bad."
It is obvious that these two points of view exist and have existed everywhere on earth. Apart
These are now questions of the utmost importance; because it is precisely now that pessimism, nihilism, and other desperate faiths are beginning to set their note of interrogation to human existence, and to shake our belief even in the desirability of our own survival.
It is now time for us to discover whence arises this contempt and horror of life, and to lay the blame for it either at the door of the master or of the slave morality.
In order that we may understand how to set forth upon this inquiry, let us first form a mental
Nietzsche reminds us before we start, however, 1 that in most communities the two moralities have become so confused and mingled, in order to establish that compromise which is so dear to the hearts of the peaceful, that it would be almost a hopeless task to seek any society on earth in which they are now to be seen juxtaposed in sharp contrast. Be this as it may, in order to recognise the blood of each when we come across it, we have only to think of what must have occurred when the ruling caste and the ruled class took to moralising.
Taking the ruling caste first, it is clear that in their morality, all is good which proceeds from strength, power, health, well-constitutedness, happiness, and awfulness; for the motive force behind the people who evolved it was simply the will to discharge a plenitude, a superabundance, of spiritual and physical wealth. A consciousness of high tension, of a treasure that would fain give and bestow, this is the mental attitude of the nobles. The antithesis "good" and "bad" to this first class means the same as "noble" and "despicable." "Bad" in the master morality must
1 G. E., p. 227.
The creator of the master morality was he who, out of the very fulness of his soul, transfigured all he saw and heard, and declared it better, greater, more beautiful than it appeared to the creator of the slave morality. Great artists, great legislators, and great warriors belong to the class that created master morality.
Turning now to the second class, we must bear in mind that it is the product of a community in which the struggle for existence is the prime life-motor. There, inasmuch as oppression, suffering, weariness, and servitude are the general rule, all will be regarded as good that tends to alleviate pain. Pity, the obliging hand, the warm heart, patience, industry, and humility, these are undoubtedly the virtues we shall here find elevated to the highest places; because they are useful virtues; they make life endurable; they are helpful in the struggle for existence. To this class, all that proceeds from strength, superabundance of spiritual or bodily power, or great health, is looked upon with loathing and mistrust, while that which is awful is the worst and greatest evil.
The creator of slave-morality was one who, out of the poverty of his soul, transfigured all he saw and heard, and declared it smaller, meaner, and less beautiful than it appeared to the creator of the master values. Great misanthropists, pessimists, demagogues, tasteless artists, nihilists, spiteful authors and dramatists, and resentful saints belong to the class that created slave-morality.
The first order of values are active, creative, Dionysiac. The second are passive, defensive, venomous, subterranean; to them belong "Adaptation," "adjustment," and "utilitarian relationship to environment."
Now, seeing that mankind is undoubtedly moulded by the nature of the values which prevail over it, it is manifestly of paramount importance to the philosopher to know which order of values conduces to rear the most desirable species of man, and then to advocate that order, with all the art and science at his disposal.
Nietzsche saw two lines of life: an ascending
He believed that the first, or noble morality, when it prevailed, made for an ascending line of life and therefore favoured the multiplication of a desirable type of man; and he was now equally convinced that whenever ignoble or slave morality was supreme, life not only tended to follow the descending line, but that the very men whose existence it favoured were the least likely to stem the declining tide. Hence it seemed to him that the most essential of all tasks was to ascertain what kind of morality now prevailed, in order that we might immediately transvalue our values, while there was still time, if we believed this change to be necessary.
What then are our present values? Nietzsche replies most emphatically they are Christian values.
In the last chapter we saw that although Christian dogma was very rapidly becoming mere
Perhaps to some this may appear a somewhat sweeping conclusion. To such as doubt its justice, the best advice that can be given is to urge them to consult the literature, ethical, philosophical, and otherwise, of those writers whom they would consider most opposed to Christianity before the publication of Nietzsche's works; and they will then realise that, with very few exceptions, mostly to be found among uninfluential and uncreative iconoclasts, the whole of the Western civilised world in Nietzsche's time was firmly Christian in morals, and most firmly so, perhaps,
It had therefore become in the highest degree necessary to put these values under the philosophical microscope, and to discover to which order they belonged. Was Christianity the purveyor of a noble or of a slave morality? The reply to this question would reveal the whole tendency of the modern world, and would also answer Nietzsche's searching inquiry: "Are we on the right track?"
Pursuing Nietzsche's method as closely as we can, let us now turn to Christianity, as we find it to-day, and see whether it is possible to bring its values into line with one of the two broad classes spoken of in this chapter.
In the first place, Nietzsche discovers that Christianity is not a world-approving faith. The very pivot upon which it revolves seems to be the slandering and depreciating of this world, together with the praise and exaltation of a hypothetical world to come. To his mind it seems to draw odious comparisons between the things of this earth and the blessings of heaven. Finally, it gushes in a very unsportsmanlike manner over an imaginary beyond, to the detriment and dis-
What, now, is the mental attitude of these "backworldsmen," as Nietzsche calls them, who can see only the world's filth? Who is likely to need the thought of a beyond, where he will live in bliss while those he hates will writhe in hell? Such ideas occur only to certain minds. Do they occur to the minds of those who, by the very health, strength, and happiness that is in them, transfigure all the world even the ugliness in it and declare it to be beautiful? Do they occur to the powerful who can chastise their enemies while their blood is still up? Admitting that the world may be surveyed from a hundred different standpoints, is this particular standpoint which we now have under our notice, that of a contented, optimistic, sanguine type, or that of a discontented, pessimistic, anæmic one?
"To the pure all things are pure! I, however, say unto you: To the swine all things are swinish." 2
Nietzsche's sensitive car caught curious notes in the daily dronings of those around him notes
1 John xii. 25; 1 John ii. 15, 16; James iv. 4.
2 Z., p. 249.
He heard to his astonishment: . . . "the wretched alone are the good; the poor, the impotent, the lowly alone are good; only the sufferers, the needy, the sick, the ugly are pious only they are godly; them alone blessedness awaits but ye, the proud and potent, ye are for aye and evermore the wicked, the cruel, the lustful, the insatiable, the godless; ye will also be, to all eternity, the unblessed, the cursed, and the damned." 1
He continued listening intently, and, with his ear attuned anew, these sentiments broke strangely upon his senses:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
"Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
"Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." 2
There was no time for brooding over stray thoughts; there was still much to be seen and
1 G. M., 1st Essay, Aph. 7.
2 Matthew v.
In his lonely hermit cell he was able to catch all the sounds that rose from the city beneath him, and he heard perhaps more than the inhabitants themselves.
He could see them all fighting and quarrelling, and he was cheered, because he knew that where the great fight for power ceases, the standard of life falls. But some he saw were wounded, others were actually unfit for the battlefield, a large number looked tired and listless, and there were yet others a goodly multitude who were resentful at the sight of their superiors and who, like sulky children, dropped their arms in a pet and declared that they would not play any more. And what were all these feeble and less viable mortals doing? They were crying aloud, and making their deepest wishes known. They were elevating their desiderata to the highest places amongst earthly virtues and driving back the others with words! Nietzsche thought of Reynard the Fox, who, at the very moment
And some cried: "It is God that avengeth me!" to those who oppressed them, and others said: "The Lord avenge me!" 2
Whereupon Nietzsche thought of the Jehovah of the Old Testament, the God of revenge and thunderbolts; he recalled the sentiment: "Ye shall chase your enemies and they shall fall fall before you by the sword," and he wondered how this had come to mean "love your enemies," in the New Testament. Had another type of men perhaps made themselves God's mouthpiece?
Yes, that must be so; for, in their holy book, he came across this passage, ascribed to one of their greatest saints:
1 Matthew xxiii. 39; Mark xiii. 31; Luke x. 27; Matthew v. 44.
2 Luke xviii. 7, 8; Romans xii. 19; Revelation vi. 10.
"For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
". . . . Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called:
"But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise: and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty:
"And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are." 1
Here, Nietzsche tells us, he began to hold his nose; but he still listened; for there was yet more to be heard. From the smiles that were breaking over the lips of those who read the above words, he gathered that they must have overcome their unhappiness. Yes, indeed, they had. But what did they call it? This was important even the Christian view of unhappiness seemed significant to Nietzsche in this inquiry.
Their unhappiness, their wretchedness, they
1 1 Corinthians i. 20, 21, 26, 27, 28.
At this point Nietzsche declares that he could stand it no longer. "Enough, enough! Bad air! Bad air!" he cried. "Methinks this workshop of virtue positively reeks."
He had now realised in whose company he had been all this time.
These people who halted at nothing in order to elevate their weaknesses to the highest place among the virtues, and to monopolise goodness on earth who called that good which was tame and soft and harmless, because they themselves could only survive in litters of cotton wool; who coloured the earth with the darkness that was in
1 G. M., 1st Essay, Aph. 14. See also Epistle to the Hebrews xii. 6, and Revelation iii. 19.
The answer is obvious, and we need not labour the point. But it was so obvious to the lonely hermit, that the thought of it filled him with horror and dread, and he was moved to leave his cell and to descend into the plain, while there was yet time, with the object of urging us to transvalue our values.
In Christian values, Nietzsche read nihilism, decadence, degeneration, and death. They were calculated to favour the multiplication of the least desirable on earth: and, as such, despite his antecedents, and with his one desire, "the elevation of the type man," always before him, he condemned Christian morality from top to bottom. This magnificent attempt on the part of the low, the base, and the worthless, to estab-
"O my brethren, with whom lieth the greatest danger to the whole human future? Is it not with the good and the just?
"Break up, break up, I pray you, the good and the just!"
This condemnation of Christian values, as slave values which Nietzsche regarded as his greatest service to mankind he says he would write on all walls. He tells us he came just in the nick of time; to-morrow might be too late.
"It is time for man to fix his goal. It is time for man to plant the germ of his highest hope.
"His soil is still rich enough for that purpose. But that soil will one day be too poor and exhausted, and no lofty tree will any longer be able to grow thereon." 1
1 Z., p. 12.