Nietzsche and Morality
Friedrich Nietzsche, born 1844 in Röcken near Lützen, deceased 1900, was a postmodern philosopher who led a short but intensive life. His theses were critical of religious loyalty towards institutions. Not for nothing, Nietzsche's quote „God is dead“ is famous, but I won't go into that in this article, as that would need to go far afield.
The emphasis of this article will be on his views towards the morality of humans. Nietzsche was a great admirer of Schopenhauer, whose philosophy fascinated and inspired him.
"Life is suffering" was not only Schopenhauer's central theme: Nietzsche internalized this theme in his theories. The theme that engaged him throughout his life was the tragedy of fate and the abyss humans could fall into. Beauty walks hand in hand with ugliness. Suffering is thus predetermined. He also said, just like Schopenhauer, that suffering prevails. When I read the book „Thus spoke Zarathustra“ I realized that Nietzsche was not a purely analytical philosopher, trying to get to the bottom of things via a cold analysis. Instead it was his poetic and creative vein that surfaced as well as his love for the language that he often flirted with.
Viewing Nietzsche as a poet and author belonging to German Romanticism, one discovers that he was a great advocate of individual progress, of attending and caring the Self and of a self-assurance that was almost bordering on megalomania.
At the same time Nietzsche was a great sceptic who verbally destroyed the morality prevalent in that time's society and who accused people of impuissance behind the curtains of morality.
He despised society's defined morality and said that man would never be able to set free from his shackles if he would continue to be obedient to the morality arisen from that culture.
Nietzsche stated in his book „Götzendämmerung" (Twilight of the Idols), S. 92, "the most general formula that lies at the basis of every religion and morality is, 'Do such and such, don’t do such and such - that will make you happy!' Every morality, every religion is this imperative - the immortal unreason."
Nietzsche thinks that the centuries-long continuity of morality, which was so established in society, brought with it a blind obedience. The true purpose of moral doings is upstaged while people are accustomed to do things the way they always did. The fear to, or more precisely, the repugnancy to question the actual doings could cause incomprehension and one would have to create something new, start to think in new ways, to newly define things.
He continues: "Firstly morality is a means to uphold the community and to ward off doom; secondly it is a means to keep the community on a certain level and to uphold a certain goodness. Its motives are FEAR and HOPE."
Basically morality is a manifestation that is subject to natural laws, morality demands concern for the fellow human.
However Nietzsche's approach is opposite: in his belief, one should assert one's actions and purpose, even if this causes suffering to others.
With this approach every moral feeling is destroyed, for he says that morality is something ugly and egotistical. Man would deny himself following this prefixed societal pattern. To Nietzsche, the adherence to this morality means to deny oneself liberty, it is a cruelty because it demands a personal sacrifice.
Man should liberate himself in order to be able to grow. Reading the summary of his theses, one could think that Nietzsche was an immoralist that saw a new beginning in destroying, seeing morality as ankle cuff.
Reading his work „Menschliches Allzumenschliches“ (Human, All Too Human) or „Fröhliche Wissenschaft“ (The Gay Science), one doesn't dive into his pragmatic statements, but gets the feeling of a rebellion against the indoctrinated, against that, what the socially imposed morality is supposed to carry with it, namely strict obedience.
To break this circle, one should start to question things; the rebellious, which conversely carries something destructive with it, should gain more ground internally and externally.
It should be beyond good and evil, it should simply just be. Time should be surmounted. (Fröhliche Wissenschaft S. 339/40).
The interesting in his writings is, that he wasn't opposing virtue per se. He writes: "One should not shy at assuming a virtue, even if one clearly sees that nothing but egotism - benefit, personal convenience, fear, consideration of one's health, reputation or fame - are the driving motives behind this. One calls these motives ignoble and selfish: yet good when they lead to assuming a virtue, for example austerity, dutifulness, order, frugality, measure and center, so do listen, whatever the epithets may be!" (Menschliches Allzumenschliches S. 50)
Furthermore he writes on page 385 of the same book: "the day's first thought. The best way to start every day in a good way straight after awakening is: think about doing a favor to at least one person. If this could become a substitute to the religious habituation of praying, fellow humans would yield advantage from this alteration".
If one dedicates oneself to Nietzsche's works, addressing his theses, one notices that they share one thing: the criticism of society of his time, which was shaped by blind obedience towards the Church, a time in which socialism broke ground and idolatry for fatherland and capitalism slowly awoke.
To me, the term "Übermensch" arises from man's constant struggle with himself in order to set himself free from the fear-soaked shackles of society to enjoy life. He calls this SLAVE MORALITY.
And that is the crucial turning point in his theses on morality. In my opinion, many readers that study Nietzsche don't fully understand this point. Nietzsche didn't ask people to act arbitrarily destructive towards morality, he asked them to awake and to defy slave morality, even if that required drastic steps. Not to do this would be like not living in full bloom, it would be like not facilitating the power of thought, it would be like not being human.
The aim is the MASTER MORALITY, as he calls it. That includes that one gauges one's actions with no regard for the benefit. Oneself decides whether an action is good or bad, just like the mighty and powerful in society do. Oneself decides whether the action is of use and not an indoctrinated societal morality.
The master moral is arisen from an independent feeling of strength. Nietzsche, who was a supporter of individualism, states in his thesis that every individual can reach its self-defined master moral by giving priority to its evolution as a human being.
And thus we return to the starting point: "God is dead" is not the end of Godhood, of creation, of allmightiness, but the end of the institution that has failed in letting people live free in their thoughts and to let them blossom.
How do you see this? In my second article on Nietzsche I will cover the topic "Übermensch".
Looking forward to feedback.