Lectures on Nietzsche - Robert C. Solomon (21/25)

Lectures on Nietzsche - Robert C. Solomon (21/25)

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[Music] in this lecture we're going to talk about two of nietzsche's works which have helped to give him the reputation of being an immoralist they're entitled beyond good and evil and on the genealogy of morals what we'll be pointing out is that despite the obviously immoralist ring of these titles that what nietzsche is targeting in them is actually a particular type of morality one that he views as particularly unhealthy in its modern
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manifestations but that part of his analysis of origins of morality is an indication that even what is now sick might at one time have served really important psychological purposes the first work in which he talks about the notion of master and slave morality a kind of basic dichotomy that he uses to describe different types of moralities is beyond good and evil there he characterizes two basic types of morality on the basis
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of the political context in which they originated for example some people are in positions of power and those people are able to look at the world in a very different way than those who are not master morality as he describes it here is the kind of morality that grows up among those who really don't have anyone to answer to who are able to more or less be masters of themselves as well as other people so master morality on this account is a kind of morality that basically
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asserts itself in the world it can manifest will to power without any kind of interference from those who are outside of this particular class in most societies however those who are able to do as they please in that this way are a pretty small group of people by contrast perhaps a larger segment of society are those who have to answer for their various behaviors and particularly salient among this group are people who are literally
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enslaved slaves are not in a position to do what they want to do if they were they wouldn't be slaves they wouldn't wait on those that they have to wait on indeed in most cases people have become slaves by virtue of being captured and their way of life more or less destroyed the kind of morality that develops among people who are in that position is not one that has anything to do with self-assertion or at least not direct self-assertion instead it's much more a matter of how to live in a way that's going to create
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the least problem for yourself generally speaking direct self-assertion is not going to be valued very highly because that sort of thing only gets one in trouble instead slave morality on this account is much more morality that nietzsche associates with weakness a position of political weakness in fact a slave for example would tend to avoid directly confronting someone in charge a master though perhaps the slave might harbor quite a bit of resentment
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on the sly and indeed might among other slaves end up criticizing the master fairly harshly but this would have to be something that was kept under wraps direct challenges would not be particularly approved of so what nature sees slave morality as having amounted to was a kind of way of life geared to lack of perturbance a way of getting through pretty easily a way of avoiding any kind of posture that would challenge the masters and
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indeed a kind of way of satisfying some sense of self-regard or self-esteem without any kind of external challenging or threatening behavior and on the genealogy of morals he further develops his analysis not only focusing on this kind of external political origin although that's an important part of it but talking a little bit more in detail about what kinds of evaluations masters and slaves make it becomes a bit more psychological
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than it is in his account and beyond good and evil on the whole nietzsche does intend i think for these this model to be seen as a kind of psychological model he comments at one point that it's quite possible for a single individual to have partially a master morality and partially a slave morality at war within their own soul so he wants us to be something that we can in a sense internalize or reflect upon how much these models might in a way
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still affect our own behavior even though presumably none of us are in the position of ancient masters or ancient slaves however he does think that there is a kind of historical background to all this that more or less follows the kind of fairly simplistic model he gives he considers for instance how the ancient hebrews after a certain point of time where they were in a sense their own masters became enslaved very clearly if one reads the hebrew
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bible this was a situation that a whole people had to deal with they had to deal with the fact that their former ways of expressing themselves were now viewed as problematic to the state they had to deal with the fact that they were under the thumb of people who didn't share their religious presuppositions and the kind of way that they guarded their identity under these circumstances nietzsche concludes was to adopt a certain kind of slave morality one that's always in a sense looking over one's shoulders
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but nevertheless asserting oneself on the sly similarly he thinks that those people who were attracted to christianity initially tended not to be the people that were in charge it was several centuries into christian history before a roman emperor converted for example instead this was a religion that appealed mostly to underdogs people who were not in charge people who were in fact literal slaves under the roman regime and for them again a kind of morality
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that appealed to the idea of not threatening people externally but challenging them only in your own assessment of yourself internally was a very appealing and workable kind of view to have so despite the fact that very literally and obviously christians were persecuted at times in the roman empire nietzsche thought that at least the morality that christianity involved was not overtly as challenging as might have been some of the alternatives
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and that for many periods of time people who were in positions of being oppressed gain some kind of self-esteem through christianity without necessarily challenging the powers that be several lectures ago we introduced what might be taken as a premise of nietzsche's moral psychology the seemingly simple and obvious idea that people do what they want to do we've tried to make that clear and make it good in a number of different ways for example a few lectures ago kathy
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talked about the problem of asceticism people deny themselves they want to eat and they don't they want to excel but they hold themselves back they want wealth but they deny themselves wealth or in the extreme form say thomas of beckett they give all of their wealth away why do people do such a thing because it seems to be that they're not doing what they want and this is something that has to be explained
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and the answer as cathy put forward is that they were really doing what they wanted to do namely their exercise and their power or they're gaining a feeling of self-righteousness or more easily to put they were simply delaying gratification or preventing some future harm so asceticism can be explained not by rejecting but rather by appealing to the principle that people do what they want to do now an easy way to understand what master morality is all
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about is it simply takes this premise as straightforward people do what they want to do now of course they're all different levels of desires there are very vulgar desires but they're also very sophisticated and refined desires and part of being a master or to use the word that nature actually favors and uses much more part of being noble is not a matter of not doing what you want to do but to the contrary making sure that what you want to do is
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itself noble and refined so we might think of don juan as somebody who does who does what he wants to do but the result is not only harmful to other people but it turns him into a kind of creep on the other hand if you think of someone like mozart and i'm not talking about his under the piano activities but rather his at the piano activities mozart what he wants to do is to compose the perfect piece of music and so doing what he wants to do in fact
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is doing something that we all want as well and the consequence of the masters as nietzsche puts it doing what they want to do is to make the entire society more excellent now the masters tend to be individuals in history of course one isn't entirely clear about this but if you think about the aristocracy about the ruling class in most states and certainly the rulings ruling aristocracy as depicted say in homer's elliot when you have people
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like agamemnon and many laos even though they're brothers and they're related and all that they're still always very much individuals and kind of semi-at war with one another but they're very independent people and the roman empire which nietzsche perhaps admired more than he should have you think of all those roman empire emperors who hardly had a good deal of family feeling where they were all in a very straightforward way out for themselves out for themselves and consequently murderous as a result and the renaissance which nietzsche also
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admires if you look at for example some of stendall's reports of goings on in the italian renaissance one is shocked by the kind of independence ruthless and brutal independence that you find in the masters but the idea of individuality here is something that again is subject to refinement and of course when nietzsche talks about higher types he's not talking about the monsters of ancient rome he's not talking about the monsters of the renaissance even
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though in one notorious comment he does mention caesar borgia not to praise him but rather to contrast him and say he'd prefer even a caesar borgia to one of the slave types that he can wants to put down but the idea is that the higher type is someone more like gerda one of the people he certainly most admires and most frequently mentions in this regard or artists like beethoven mozart i presume other great writers he wasn't so much
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involved with painting but one can imagine any number of say romantic and classical artists that might come to mind in general what nietzsche is referring to by doing what you want to do is something that is very refined and he has by no means praise for anyone doing what they want to do after all how could anyone not do what they want to do that's the premise but rather there are certain ways of desiring and there are certain kinds of ambitions there are certain kinds of drives that are more noble and better than
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others and for the master what simply drives his or her behavior is the idea of doing what he or she wants where what he or she wants is ideally to be conceived of as being the best and being the best as a person being the best as a citizen being the best as an artist being a best as a warrior or whatever the truth is that when nietzsche talks about master morality one might say there isn't all that much
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to talk about because if morality simply consists of doing what you want to do and what you want to do should be as virtuous as excellent as possible and if we're talking about individuals who have different talents and consequently different virtues different excellencies there's very little by way of a positive ethics or a positive morality with a small m that one can provide and that's why nietzsche often says in many of his works just not i'm going to tell you what to do but quite to the contrary
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he says find your own way zarathustra in a famous passage says don't follow me find your own way there's an etymology behind this as well just as cathy said that one finds the origins of slave morality not in the days when for example israel was a mighty nation king solomon no doubt was just as much of a tyrant did just as many awful things as the leaders of other great civilizations of the ancient world but it's when the hebrews were in exile when the
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hebrews were slaves in egypt that's where what we call morality with a capital m starts its origins or in the early christian days when christians were by no means the rulers in rome but they were being persecuted right and left and so on that's where it comes from so slave morality has to be conceived of as a kind of reaction and kathy will talk more about that in a moment a reaction to master morality in particular the idea of people who can just do what they want in fact the very word
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good nietzsche suggests comes from an ancient root which basically means warrior and it has to do with a kind of what aristotle not the later christians would call pride a sense of being great sold a sense of self-confidence or these days i suppose we might say very high self-esteem the model of excellence i mean what could it be except oneself
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this is what people should be in the very funny play funny thing happened on the way to the forum there's a very obnoxious roman general there who sings a song which goes basically i am my own ideal that is master morality it's not taking instructions from outside even if of course masters are going to be part of a possibly very long tradition it's not going to be taking instructions for god
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and certainly not going to be simply obeying a set of prohibitions but rather it's going to be pursuing a sense of excellence which is very much one's own and that's what the word good means by contrast the word bad is its opposite bad refers to failure bad refers to weakness bad refers to pathos what's pathetic bad refers to what's vulgar what's low class
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what is not the best what is unsatisfying so you might look at the difference between master and slave morality here both of them following the basic premise of human behavior people do what they want to do the difference is masters accept that follow it straightforwardly and their ideal is to simply to be the best that they can be whereas those who are not masters those who are slaves follow the opposite premise don't do what you want to do
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don't try to do what you want to do because you only be frustrated so what they want to do in a way is to compensate for that inability to do what they really want to do and slave morality comes from that one of the rather interesting features of nietzsche's use of the expression good and evil is that he thinks that very dichotomy is a matter that's born of slave morality if you think about the situation bob just described the master doesn't question anything
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about his or her usually his situation the master is simply filled with self-assertion there's no reason to question that the way they live is good on the other hand for people that became enslaved there was certainly a reason to doubt their own status they didn't have any external political status and if you think about the way the ancient hebrews dealt with the situation there are many aspects of the hebrew bible many discussions about what have we done
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wrong how could this have happened to us it led to a great deal of self-questioning nietzsche thinks in that context actually what the slaves did in developing slave morality was a step in the right psychological direction he comments the slave revolt morality begins when risanti ma itself becomes creative and gives birth to values now what does this mean well first of all what it means is that the slaves develop their morality by virtue of being resentful
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pretty obvious who they'd resent they resent the people who have enslaved them they resent the masters who can go around being obnoxious as they feel like without even questioning it themselves and the slave revolt in morals comes when they make that observation the way the masters are isn't good in itself in fact it isn't even very self-controlled the way the masters are what the masters assert to be good the slaves come to view with skepticism in fact they end up concluding that it's
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evil even were they in the position of the masters they imagine they wouldn't want to act that way the way the masters behave is not something to admire indeed it's something to despise and if that's the case what are they by contrast well as slaves they're certainly not acting like the masters and by contrast with this sense that the masters are evil they can view themselves as good but notice this is exactly the reverse of the way the masters evaluate things
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the masters seem see themselves as good without question therefore they see people who are different from them probably the slaves most obviously as bad so nietzsche views the dichotomy good and bad as something that goes with master evaluations whereas good and evil comes from the position of the slaves evaluating as slaves and they reverse who's good the masters view themselves as good without question the slaves have to conclude that they're good they're already in a position of
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questioning their status their own morality and they have to conclude that they're good only on the basis of having seen someone else as worse than themselves and in this case it's the masters that they view this way so what good amounts to from their point of view is not asserting yourself in the kind of direct way that the masters do it involves having more self-control of course their political position almost ensures that they will have developed some ability in this regard they view the masters as people who
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haven't learned these kinds of traits who haven't learned to be so clever who haven't learned to be devious who haven't learned to internally disrespect what externally they might go along with and that kind of internal move on the part of the slaves need to use as a kind of brilliant bit of psychology the problem is it later ends up becoming a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy that always puts the slave in a kind of secondary position there is no immediate sense of self-worth
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without their first having to be a view that someone else is evil one can think of this and let's give it a name trans valuation of values a term which nature uses actually quite frequently at one point late in his career was thinking of writing a whole multi-volume series with that it's a title the transvaluation of values might be put in terms of a simple list that for the masters the primary sense is good that good refers to who they are and
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what they do bad is a secondary term it refers to they're not getting what they want so they're being dissatisfied or worse it refers to those people who are so pathetic that they actually never get what they want the slaves on the other hand take what the masters think of as good and that is evil it is the primary term and what's particularly interesting here as kathy said is that good then becomes the derivative term it becomes the end of an inference that
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evil is doing what those guys do that they consider good whereas what's good for the slaves is not doing all that so you can think of any number of occasions for example wealth has always been thought of in the whole history of humanity since uh the discovery of valuable things it's always been thought of as something desirable and people have always wanted wealth but then here comes
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christianity and what does it tell you it's easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to get into the kingdom of heaven in other words wealth is evil money we're told is the root of all evil or to appeal to a different sense strength power warrior virtues are what the masters have it's how they remain masters and consequently in christianity
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meekness becomes a virtue now of course this is tied to a theological promise namely the meek shall inherit the earth but again you can see this sort of flip of evaluation so that what was good for the masters now becomes evil according to the slaves and one might even think in terms of knowledge although this is a more contemporary notion but if education knowledge is something that's good something to be pursued for its own sake or pursued because it makes you a more
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excellent person then ignorance is bliss or simple faith is the ideal there's a sense though in which all this leaves something unanswered if there are two moralities and if there were master moralities and of course we still see master morality at work even for example within the christian religion if you think of the history of the catholic church i mean the most powerful person on earth for many generations
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was the pope now on the one hand he was more powerful than even the most powerful the roman emperors at the same time he was a christian and here's that internal mix we were talking about about being both master and slave in the same soul one imagines what it's like to be a pope and i'm talking about a devout pope rather than a corrupt pope but what it's like to be a pope and really believe all the language of slave morality and at the same time be the most powerful person on earth and be able to do
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anything you want to do it would be a very complicated situation the question is how did we get to the point where slave morality is simply morality with a capital m date one can provide kathy mentioned it would be in basically the 330s a.d um it's when constantine converted himself and the roman empire emperor and when constantine converted both himself
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and the roman empire and actually moved the capital uh for a while but more interesting is the mechanism and while in history the mechanism must have been very complicated i think the basic strategy can be illustrated in a particularly crude example i sometimes use my students we've been emphasizing how what nietzsche always insists on is naturalistic explanations which means that we are animals and we should understand ourselves in just that way
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so let's use an animal account and talk about how a transformation of this sort might have taken place imagine a baboon colony and if you visit a zoo you'll see very quickly that the baboons quickly rank themselves in a certain order at the top of the ranking is always the alpha male males among the baboons are much bigger than the females and also older males tend to be larger and tougher and smarter than the younger males
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so you have this ranking where the male baboon does basically whatever he wants if there is a favorite spot in the baboon island let's say a swing with a tire on it he takes over and swings whenever he feels like it and if another baboon is already there they'll scatter when the food comes if he's hungry he just plows right in and takes it and the others have to wait their turn and in general if he wants to mount he mounts
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if he wants to run he runs if he wants to throw things he throws things now one can imagine slightly intelligent articulate baboons among the beta males and the females a certain amount of resentment starts building up why does he get to do whatever he wants to do and we have to wait in line or we get mounted without our say so and so they invent a story it can't be that when they get together
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they could beat up the alpha male if they could have done that things would have changed a long time ago they can't and so they invent a story and it goes like this there's a new zookeeper and this zookeeper has particular contempt for alpha males he doesn't like the way they do whatever it is they want to do and when the zookeeper who is to be distinguished from the ordinary bloke who comes and delivers the food every day when the zookeeper finally comes to
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visit the colony he is going to make short work of the alpha male unless of course the alpha male changes his ways now one can imagine that if the alpha male were to hear this story over and over again over the months or years he might start to worry he might start to worry that the zookeeper might actually come and if all the other apes are right then he's going to be in big trouble so he may like one of the medieval popes
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find himself both in a position of absolute power and at the same time filled with a kind of self-constraint trying to tie himself down and make himself no different from the others it's a phenomenon that nietzsche calls bad conscience and something that one often finds even in us it's that twist between master morality and slave morality within each of us and eventually we can imagine the alpha male actually giving in and stating and acting as if
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he is just another ape if that's so then we can see here's how slave morality becomes the morality is accepted not just by the slaves the lower people themselves but it is accepted by everyone now in terms of what we talked about before one can easily appreciate how master morality really lends itself to a kind of virtue ethics analysis we can also understand how slave
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morality lends itself to the contrary to a kind of content today or christian analysis namely that ethics is universal the rules are externally imposed or at least they're externally sanctioned and they apply in just the same way to everyone one of the things we should notice here is that nietzsche seems to be in a way vilifying slave morality and i think that that's right even though
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originally he thinks that it was a good move on the part of the slaves and importantly an expression of their will to power being slaves they had no choice but to want to express themselves in some way and they did it the best they could he currently criticizes the type of christian morality that involves a reflection on other people and their sins as a means of feeling a bit better oneself he indeed thinks that that's what a lot of christian morality encourages noting how other people are just as bad
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as oneself if not worse and particularly looking for sensational tales that point out that some people are really bad sinners whereas one is only guilty of the all-too-human nietzsche does not perhaps surprisingly urge us to go back to master morality he thinks that's not psychologically possible but what he does ask is that we move beyond good and evil beyond simply viewing ourselves in light of how much we can vilify others and that's where we're going to
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go on with this discussion next thank you

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