Wednesday, October 24, 2012

BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL


Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil, is essentially a diatribe of countless critiques and criticisms of the philosopher's scholarly and philosophical contemporaries, as well as society in general, regarding everything from religion to morality to truth to nationalism. To a certain extent, Beyond Good and Evil functions as a crystal ball of sorts, offering future thinkers a vision of what is to come, while Nietzsche serves as a mustached clairvoyant, warning, advising, and steering readers in the 'right' direction (although at times, it feels like he's blind-drunk steering a semi). It's no secret that Nietzsche was a bit manic – this is clearly reflected in the chaotic nature of the Beyond Good and Evil - and at times, the text comes off as muddled and bit helter-skelter. However, I think Nietzsche offers some really remarkable insight on a gamut of topics, and although I don't necessarily entirely agree with many of his points, I can certainly appreciate his philosophic brilliance.
For me, the most intriguing part of Beyond Good and Evil is the section regarding the nature of morality, in which Nietzsche delves into the effect society has had on the development of morality thus far, as well as the future effect that society will have on the evolution of morality. This section also comes off as a challenge of sorts, or perhaps an emphatic suggestion, encouraging readers to consider ideologies and moralities other than their own, so as to gain a broader understanding of the nature of morality.
The main posit of this section - and one of the major points of Beyond Good and Evil as a whole – is Nietzsche claim that in the world, there exist two basic type of morality: 'master morality' and 'slave morality'. And between these two moralities there is one fundamental difference: the longing for freedom; that is, in the slave morality, the longing for happiness by way of freedom is as necessary as, and therefore analogous to, the longing for artful and thoughtful contemplation by those in the master morality. I suppose I can, for the most part, agree with the basics of each type of morality. That is, that at its core, master morality is self-glorification, while slave morality is morality of utility. Those in a high-ranking, more 'favorable' position in society will determine what is good and base this determination on the nobility or contemptibility of an action. Conversely, those in a low-ranking, less 'favorable' position in society will be (rightfully) suspicious of the virtues of the powerful, and associate goodness with utility; thus, qualities that help the oppressed make the most of their existence, such as compassion, modesty, and diligence, and are thought to carry the most goodness. Again, I can certainly agree with the tenants of both of Nietzsche's type of moralities; however, I think that by reducing morality as a whole to two general types with one difference, Nietzsche may have oversimplified an immensely profound aspect of humanity, and offered a radically cynical view of the human condition.
Additionally, Nietzsche is highly critical of moralities that are exhibited and embraced by the masses, asserting that these moralities are exploitative and based on fear, and used as a means of taming individuals and clustering society at large into a single mass in which no individual can think for his or herself. This is a bold assertion that I'm not sure I can much agree with. The nature of the master-slave relationship requires that there be fewer masters than slaves, and that although few in numbers, masters are rich in power. As such, it seems more likely that moralities exhibited by the masses would be more akin to the qualities embraced by the slave morality, such as cooperation and compassion, as these qualities would best lend themselves to the well-being of society in general.


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