On the Genealogy of Morals

by Friedrich Nietzsche

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Nietzsche's views on Christian morality and the value of morality in On the Genealogy of Morals

Summary:

In On the Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche critiques Christian morality, viewing it as a system that promotes weakness and suppresses individual strength and creativity. He argues that traditional moral values are rooted in a "slave morality" that arose from resentment by the oppressed. Nietzsche posits that true value lies in a "master morality" that celebrates power, nobility, and self-affirmation.

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What is Nietzsche's critique of Christian morality in On the Genealogy of Morals?

Nietzsche characterized Christianity as, in its essence, a "slave" morality. It was born, as one scholar has written, in the "bottled up resentment that the oppressed feels towards their oppressor." For Nietzsche, Christianity imparts in people a spirit of asceticism, in which people practice self-denial and spurn creativity out of a belief that these things are sinful—and in Christianity it is sin, after all, that justifies God's judgment on people. Therefore, it causes the oppressed to blame themselves for their own oppression and demands that they solemnly accept their situation. The effect of this, Nietzsche argues, is mediocrity and a general fear on the part of people to live their lives to the fullest. This is especially true in art and literature, which are Nietzsche's primary concerns. Christian morality was thus born in resentment and hatred born out of slavery, turned inward by the enslaved themselves, leading to a new and even more insidious form of oppression. To remove oneself from this oppression, Nietzsche claimed, was to be a "free spirit" that said "yes to life."

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What is Nietzsche's critique of Christian morality in On the Genealogy of Morals?

On the Genealogy of Morals by Friedrich Nietzsche portrays morality not as a series of abstract and transcendent principles, but rather a series of ideological positions that evolved in response to particular historical circumstances and contexts and often functions as ideologies that reinscribed power struggles into a linguistic realm but were used to formulate tools of repression and constraint of the Dionysiac and creative impulses. He sees moral discourse as an oppressive tool of the elites which functions as a sort of soft power, causing people to repress themselves. Thus mechanisms like guild and conscience act as a sort of internalized police force complicit with elite rule.

Christian is a system of belief that causes the believer to become submussive, obedient, and rule bound and worked, according to Nietzsche as a sort of control mechanism in the Roman Empire. It subornitates the strong in particular because it channels their strength towards ascetism rather than rebellion.

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What does Nietzsche describe as the value of morality in On the Genealogy of Morals?

Nietzsche in this text argues very strongly against any concept of morality, believing it to be untrue and deeply unhelpful to humanity as a whole. He argues very cogently that the beliefs a civilisation consider to be "moral" are actually based not in any sense of essential, unchanging "goodness," but actually are based on a sense of resentment and hatred of anything that emerged from a sense of inadequacy and expressed towards others that were stronger than man and more powerful. The only purpose of morality, therefore is to keep the human species back from achieving what it is capable of achieving and turning mankind's aggressive instincts against themselves as they try to live up to a moral code that they have convinced themselves is based in such untouchable ideas as belief in God or a higher order, whereas actually in fact they are only keeping themselves back from developing as they ought. Note what Nietzsche writes about morality and the danger that it represents to man in the following quote:

We can see nothing today that wants to grow greater, we suspect that things will continue to go down, down, to become thinner, more good-natured, more prudent, more comfortable, more mediocre, more indifferent, more Chinese, more Christian—there is no doubt that man is getting 'better' all the time.

The value of morality therefore only lies in the way that it deceives mankind to believe its creeds and to dedicate their lives to try and follow a moral code that is only created and definitely not a reflection of any divine truths. Nietzsche saw morality as a key enemy of mankind, something that held mankind's development up and represented a danger to man's progression.

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