Nietzsche on Master and Slave Morality
Veni Vidi Vici – Cur ante tubam tremor occupat artus?
Nietzsche began his career as a philologist (student of ancient text and languages) and developed an overriding interest in the Ancient Greeks, who he thought represented the peak of Western civilization before the onset of ‘slave’ or ‘herd’ morality which culminated in Christian, Utilitarian and Kantian systems of ethics (among others). Like Callicles, Nietzsche argued that morality was something developed by ‘weak’ people in order to defend themselves from the ‘strong’.
At this point, we might recall the elitism of Aristotle’s ethics, where moral excellence is only available to the nobility. However, Nietzsche has something rather different in mind. One of the main themes in Nietzsche’s work is that ancient Roman society was grounded in master morality, and that this morality disappeared as the slave morality of Christianity spread through ancient Rome. Nietzsche was concerned with the state of European culture during his lifetime and therefore focused much of his…
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