DISCUSSION: Master morality and Nietsche
I’m here today to entertain a concept that was developed by the philosopher Nietsche called Master Morality.
If you’re familiar feel free to skip, it’s not something I usually talk about so I think it’s appropriate for me to make an introduction, put it in my own words.
My moral compass has always been one of no judgment and one of complete freedom, and if you haven’t looked into the philosophy behind Master Morality I think you’ll take something from this that will free you.
In his book “Beyond Good and Evil”, Nietsche talks about something called “Master and Slave Morality”, a dichotomy that he uses to describe these 2 types of morals.
The premise, in basic terms, is that there is a type of morality that is unhealthy, that is the one we commonly use today. To explain our morals and how they happen, he creates two contrasting terms, or kinds of morality, called Master and Slave.
Essentially, morality comes from a perspective, and depending on where you’re standing you will have a different view. For example, people in positions of power see the world very differently to those who are not. They have what he calls a Master Morality, which is a kind of morality that grows in those who don’t have to obey anybody else. They are their own masters, and that of other people’s.
I really agree with this kind of morality because it’s very direct, I will explain how. It doesn’t have to answer to anybody else. What a Master considers “good”, is to be the best version of oneself, to reach one’s own excellence for the maximum benefit of the world. The definition of “bad” for a master, is to be weak, not the best, or to be unsatistifying. This code of morals allows you to implement your own instincts at full force.
Slave morality on the other hand (and this is the one that most people are compelled to follow), is a bit more complicated and false to me. It comes, essentially, from the teachings of Christianity. To understand it, I have to explain how Christianity started. Christianity is a religion that appeared at a time where a large group of people were becoming enslaved, and so they held onto this religion that offered moral support to the underdogs. It proposed a way of living that was very frugal, and very basic. A Christian was meant to serve, to have less, it reinforced the position that these people were in anyway. It also promised a greater "heaven" after life that they would attain if they followed these rules of abstinence.
It was not challenging to those in power, but in the end, this sort of moral leads to a lot of resentment and self righteousness. After all, the "slaves" don't agree with what the Masters are doing. It also collectively establishes what is good or bad, in things that are so tangible, that people become very judgemental. These people are still doing what they want, but what they want is to practice asceticism, to deny themselves pleasures (such as food, possessions, sex). This gives them self esteem and allows them to feel in control. It is their way to self gratification, that still exists, but it's just a twisted way of attaining it.
They think more in terms of limitations, of avoiding what may be seen as “bad”, than of creating a grandiose better “good”. So much emphasis is placed on not doing, not offending, not hurting, not having…that it’s hard for them all to agree on what can actually be done, and what is actually considered good. Their concept of “Good” is very very abstract.
And this Slave morality is really the one that is most encouraged in our society, you can't go far wrong with it, you won't cause offense, but in my view, you also can't do much because everything you do may cause offense or be considered "bad", and everybody feels entitled to judge you. There is so much fear, it does not respond to human instincts of good and bad. It's very unbalanced.
And I am not trying to say that all Christianity is unbalanced, that was just the history of how that concept can be explained in it's beginnings.
In Nietsche’s view, we all possess qualities of both the Master and the Slave within us. It’s very interesting to be aware of these to concepts.
So to expand:
In a Master morality, what’s considered “good” is to try to be noble, to do what you desire, but to channel and focus your desires into those that are noble and refined. For example, causing harm to other people is not noble and refined. So it would not be “good” for a Master. The mission of the Master is to create a better world, to make society more excellent and benefit humanity.
They tend to be very independent people, who are out for themselves, but are always subject to refinement. So in brief, a master is driven by what he wants to do, and what he wants to do is to be the most virtuous and excellent.
While masters do what they want, according to their own ideals of excellence, slaves respond to the opposite motivation. They tell themselves: “Don’t try to do what you want, because you will be frustrated”. They compensate for their inability of doing what they want, by rejecting it in principle.
As I’ve said, every one of us shares characteristics of both, but what Nietsche encouraged with this study was not to become a follower, to consider these things that society places upon us. I would agree, I would urge everybody to think for themselves, and act without fear.
There is so much more to say that I want to say, but I will leave it at that today, as an introduction.
Next we will talk more about good and evil