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NietzschePhilosophy 302: Ethics
Nietzsche, "Slave and Master Morality" 

Abstract:  Master morality creates its own values and stands beyond good and evil; slave morality values kindness, humility, and sympathy. The master transcends the mediocrity of the common person.

1. How does Nietzsche explain the origins of society? What are the essential characteristics of a healthy society?

2. Nietzsche states that a consequence of the "Will to Power" is the exploitation of man by man, and this exploitation is the essence of life. What does he mean by this statement? Is exploitation a basic biological function of living things?

3. What does Nietzsche mean when he says that the noble type of man is "beyond good and evil" and is a creator of values?

4. Explain in some detail the differences among the master-morality and the slave-morality. Are these concepts useful in the analysis of interpersonal dynamics?

5. Explain Nietzsche's insight into the psychology of vanity. Why is vanity essential to the slave-morality? How does it relate to the individual's need for approval? Is Nietzsche asserting that the vanity of an individual is a direct consequence of the individual's own sense of inferiority?


1.  How does Nietzsche explain the origins of society? What are the essential characteristics of a healthy society?

All higher civilizations, according to Nietzsche, arose from the barbarians, who with their will and desire for power, have preyed upon the weaker, moral and peaceful societies. A healthy society does not exist for its own sake, but exists for the sake of a higher type of person.

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2.  Nietzsche states that a consequence of the "Will to Power" is the exploitation of man by man, and this exploitation is the essence of life. What does he mean by this statement? Is exploitation a basic biological function of living things?

For Nietzsche, the Will to Power is the dominant principle of organic function.  Without the Will to Power exploiting the sentimental weaknesses of equality among people, society cannot develop.  The Will to Power is the Will to Life.

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3.  What does Nietzsche mean when he says that the noble type of man is "beyond good and evil" and is a creator of values?

The "over-man" is not subject to the morality of the lower-type of meek and common people who speak of good and evil in terms of equality.  Since the noble type of man is of the higher-type, he is not subject to the morality of the herd. Morality favors mediocrity; standing beyond good and evil is rising above the herd.

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4.  Explain in some detail the differences among the master-morality and the slave-morality. Are these concepts useful in the analysis of interpersonal dynamics?

The two primary types of morality are master morality and slave morality; in higher civilizations and in people, they are mixed.

Master morality is a "yea-saying" attitude where "good" and "bad" are equivalent to "noble" and "despicable" respectively. The master creates value.

Slave morality is a "nay-saying" attitude or herd morality which holds to the standard of that which is useful or beneficial to the weak or powerless.  The virtues are sympathy, kindness, and humility.  Strong and independent individuals are evil.

The history of morals is the conflict of these two moral outlooks.  The higher type creates his own values out of strength; the meek and powerless begin with resentment.  Coexistence is impossible because the herd seeks to impose its values universally.

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5.  Explain Nietzsche's insight into the psychology of vanity. Why is vanity essential to the slave-morality? How does it relate to the individual's need for approval? Is Nietzsche asserting that the vanity of an individual is a direct consequence of the individual's own sense of inferiority?

For Nietzsche, vanity is the hallmark of the meek and powerless.  They cry for a good opinion of themselves--not being able to set their own value. The slave morality is subject to flattery--such persons know they do not deserve praise yet they believe it when they are praised by the master since they have not the abilities to create value. Vanity is a consequence of inferiority.

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Recommended Sources

Friedrich NietzscheStanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: An excellent first resource for discovering Nietzsche's life and writings. 

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