Thursday, January 28, 2010

Critique of Nietzsche's Solution to Morality

This is my paper for I wrote for Honors Colloquium. I put it together very late at night so I'm sure its a little scrambled; I really enjoyed reading "On the Genealogy of Morality" and writing it though.

Honors Colloquium

Due 1/27/10

In “On the Genealogy of Morality” Friedrich Nietzsche deduces the root of social conflict by examining the history of morality. Through Nietzsche's prose the reader discovers that the definition of good is essential to morality and equally essential is good's complement, the evil or bad. Nietzsche proceeds to examine the bipartite nature of morality, morality of the weak, or slave morality (evil), and morality of the strong, or master morality (bad); concluding that in embracing weak morality “We have lost our fear of … our love for man.” It is fear of complacency in mankind that leads Nietzsche to the solution: eliminate slave morality. For Nietzsche, weak morality is the product of resentment, held by the plebeians in response to master morality. It is this fundamental resentment, described as scheming cold and calculating, that Nietzsche believes will be terminal. He choses instead to embrace master morality, which he finds superior. I think that Nietzsche's solution, while on the right track, is ultimately untenable. I would argue that the disoperation between master and slave morality is polarizing and pernicious; if humanity is to flourish, we must excise morality entirely from society. In this paper I will first analyze how Nietzsche's argument for strong morality is presented in the allegory of the birds of prey and the sheep and connect it with his thesis (s. 13); then I will link Nietzsche's endorsement of strong morality over weak to his allegory, and extend his metaphor to explain the need to remove morality; and finally I will conclude with the advantages of expulsion of morality, and address the implications. To prove my thesis I must prove that slave and master morality have a disoperational nature and that to remove one morality, both must be removed.

In section 13 Nietzsche exemplifies the differences of slave and master morality through a metaphor. Weak morality is typified the lamb and strong morality, the bird of prey. Early in the allegory a subtle assumption is made by Nietzsche on the reader's behalf; by using animals and in turn the animal kingdom, he insist there is some hierarchical order imposed likening a food chain to society. While this model in many ways persists in society, it is reasonable to argue that the animal kingdom's variant has far less entropy, thus the separation of predator from prey is not a realistic metric for the two moralities. However, Nietzsche examination of society sits on the limit of time, the war over morality, after all, has been waged for thousands of years and its long term affects should be the concern. This is the frame Nietzsche is creating for the reader. The bird's morality, based on the food chain is there from the very beginning, that superiority develops into master morality where the birds represent good. In this long term the reader sees how the lamb's resentment to the birds of prey festers inside, a lack of power eating them; the lambs morality begins to develop from here: “These birds of prey are evil and whoever is least like a bird is most opposite, like a lamb – is good isn't he?” The allegory is designed specifically to mirror the Jew's reactions to the destruction of the temple. Their religion, their morality, developed into a mechanism to cope with their disappointment over those events, a way to wage a silent war with resentment (s. 12). Christianity sprang forth as well. The meek inheriting the earth, or the spiritual superiority of the weak became the calling card of both the Jewish and Christian churches according to Nietzsche. Belief in a savior, resurrection, and in particular the beatitudes are evidence of the kernel of resentment, fundamental to both Judaism and Christianity. It is not the immediate response that is important here though, it is the long term shift in morals towards slave morality.

In slave morality, Nietzsche imagines humans as animals to whom their domestication, their complacency, their contentedness is an end in and of itself; “they construe weakness as a freedom, and their particular mode of existence an accomplishment.” This is Nietzsche's greatest fear, that man would grow tired of himself, a fear articulated in section 12, that “in losing our fear of man we have also lost our love for him ... we are tired of man.” This fear is valid: by enjoying and seeking weakness, society harms its ability to survive. If a true predator came, society would be more than simply weak, it would be unwilling to fight at all. A society becomes its own enemy, its crippling weakness a result of its mentality of resentment towards power. To survive, society must be strong and fit, and Nietzsche's conclusion regarding the elimination of slave morality is an answer, but it is not the best answer.

Seeing the world as good and bad in any context is deceptive. The situation created by the destruction of the Jewish temple is not unique; given morality of any kind the resentment present at the center of religious belief idolizing the weak will propagate again, even if slave morality were removed entirely. If morality as we understand it today, a choice between good and bad, continues to exist in any form, the bipartite system that is created as a result will only serve to repolarize morality, recreating the barriers between slave and master morality, despite attempted advances. Eliminating resentment of the lambs in the allegory would never fully succeed till the bird of prey shed his similar notions; without that action, the lamb would continue to feel the bad of master morality thrust upon him. To excise slave morality without master morality would be unproductive to the society in question. Equally deceptive is morality's cyclical deprecation, its need to follow a downward spiral. Under the influence of morality it will always be a temptation to equate things that are perceived as good, with the form of good itself. To say something is good simply for good's sake places a false value on the thing, giving it a power it should not have. Inherent in that power is deception, and when the necessity arises to adjust that object, the false value created by morality will only hinder the work. Capital punishment, for instance, should be despicable because of the Christian moral code, war an unthinkable impossibility. Only by bending one's perception of good and evil can one see the world in those 'unthinkable' manners. Morality does not stop us from approaching those 'horrible' ideas it lets us embrace them, it teaches us to better skew ourselves rather seeing the world through impartial immoral eyes. In essence, by eliminating morality, in particular the notions of good and bad, society will flourish without the constraints of false value. The only solution is to eliminate morality, to let slave and master morality persist will ensure society's demise.

To remove morality, good and bad and evil, would not adversely affect society. It is the first step to freedom from objects of falsified value and from a system that recursively creates itself. To live in a moral less society does not imply a lack of laws, each law would have a reason for existence detached from the notion of “because it is good”. Laws would be pure and clean, useful and purposeful. A world without morals does not eliminate the possibility of God, but the delusion created by resentment of the strength of the noble would no longer exist. God would no longer exist to serve the meek, but be regarded as an abstraction beyond our understanding. The recognition of morality as a cycle of ill effect by society would spur man to new places, ones undefined by the false notions of good or bad, rather painted with impartiality, and perhaps “a glimpse of something perfect … a man who justifies man himself”.