Master and slavery morality is a theme central to Friedrich Nietzsche’s works (1844-1900). Beginning his career as a student of archaic texts and languages that birthed them, Nietzsche had chosen a path that would eventually lead him to develop this rather controversial notion. These texts had been masterfully crafted when civilization was at its peak with the Greek and Romans setting the pace for the rest of the world. Both have been hailed as the originators of Western Civilization attributed to their strength and will to lead. Nonetheless, these civilizations came to a halting end when those they had subjugated for centuries decided to band together to overthrow their overlords. According to Nietzsche, these events marked the beginning of the so-called “herd morality” where weaker individuals, who had previously under the control of the elites, to mark the beginning of a new epoch of rule. Moreover, Nietzsche acknowledges that it was this drastic change in the history of civilization that resulted in contemporary systems of ethics such as those present in Christianity and Kantian ideals. In essence, these positions were the brainchild of a weak people who had ganged up against those who had worked hard all their lives to ensure that humanity strived for perfection while avoiding mediocrity. Presently, Western ideals have spread across the world with democracy and even permeated remote societies. The following is an analysis and critique of Nietzsche’s position.
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In arguing out his point of view Nietzsche’s begins by paying close attention to societies and, most importantly, their origins. Man strives for the best and to eventually become the best version of the present self, which is why early civilizations had to strive hard to become higher societies. Their origin, however, was barbarian with persons who were out to establish themselves as domineering powers at any in their environments. The Greeks and Romans were notorious for this demeanor as seen in the city-state infighting between different city-states that had established themselves as a formidable polis. A typical motivation for these powers was their insatiable thirst for power which would eventually see them dominate weaker societies with the intention of using them as a conduit to greatness. Nietzsche’s believes that these weaker societies also double up ones that adhere to the highest form of morality but have to be preyed upon for a cause that is bigger than themselves (Nietzsche). From this assessment, it is important to point out that Nietzsche focus was on the development of a healthy society and probably why he looked to master morality. The society, in this particular instance, is presented as an entity that does not exist for its own sake, but an element vital in developing an ideal higher type of individual. After vanquishing the weak, stronger societies become originators of and new values that are meant to define good and evil. Values that were previously present in slave morality such as sympathy or even kindness are given the back seat and, in other cases annihilated.
Nietzsche’s master and slavery mortality create dissonance whenever put on the scale of scrutiny. Firstly, human beings always strive for greatness and in the achievements of various feats in life. We are judged by our success which is why a good education goes a long way in assuring us of success after school. Nietzsche believes in what he terms as “Will Power.” In his attempt to reach the highest echelons of power and triumph, man has to embrace the exploitation. By so doing, humanity will be a cog in the wheel of life which places specific emphasis on the dominant principle where only those who are fit can survive. Accepting master morality as a part of life is bound to lead to benefits both at an individual or societal level. Persons who ascribe to this principle play their organic function and work towards the zenith of their abilities.
Individuals who lead their lives using this disposition transcend mediocrity and lead to the development of superior societies. These societies can weather the storm of change and are well suited to dealing with the changes that are all too common in society. On the flipside, there are a couple of dangers to applying this principle on an industrial scale. There is no doubt that we live in an unequal society that will always have common people. Dominating and subduing moral societies is an affront to ethics and may lead to vices such as slavery that the world was so eager to stamp out.
In finality, Nietzsche’s master and slave morality pose fundamental questions about societies and posterity. In reality, he believes that it is an inescapable part of life that humanity has to accept; masters have to exist and must do so by exploiting the weak. While this principle motivates a man to greatness, it can also lead to untold pain and suffering to those considered “weak.”
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