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Friedrich Nietzsche’s Moral Philosophy: A Summary

Beyond Good and Evil, Friedrich Nietzsche, Nietzsche, Psychological Egoism

In Beyond Good and Evil, one of Friedrich Nietzsche’s most famous works, he condemns the popular moral philosophy of his day. He denies that traits such as pity, humility and meekness are universal virtues. In fact, Nietzsche goes on to call a philosophy that deems such traits to be universally good one of “slave morality;” Nietzsche defines slave morality as any morality created by the weak in revenge against the strong and noble such that the traits of the strong and noble are deemed to be evil. Slave morality, according to Nietzsche, will predictably call traits such as aggressiveness, true independence of thought, and egoism because they are the traits of the their oppressors, the masters of society.

The original moral philosophy, which is more noble according to Friedrich Nietzsche, is that of what he calls “master morality.” Master morality embraces what is deemed evil by most today, such as egoism and a will to power. Noble men embrace master morality, says Nietzsche, and these noble men consider bad those most unlike them and those things which are harmful to them and therm only. Then Nietzsche goes on to speculate that slave morality evolved as a reaction to master morality; the “slaves” of society needed a way to get their revenge on these higher noble men. Nietzsche concludes that slave morality has indeed succeeded in its attempt to replace the originally dominant master morality, for now slave morality, with all its emphasis on altruism and mediocrity, dominates popular moral philosophy.

Friedrich Nietzsche, in the end, however, does not really endorse either slave or master morality. He really deems that it is high time for a revaluation of all values. Just as the “slaves” created a new morality from an old one, Nietzsche thinks it is time to create a new morality from the currently rampant slave morality. In essence, he is calling for creative philosophers to pave the pave for a paradigm shift in morality. Whatever popular moral philosophy comes out on top, however, Nietzsche just hopes that it is one “beyond good and evil”–one independent of the good and evil of today.

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