Master vs Slave Mentality

Master–slave morality is a central theme of Friedrich Nietzsche’s works, in particular the first essay of On the Genealogy of Morality. Nietzsche argued that there were two fundamental types of morality: ‘Master morality’ and ‘Slave morality’. Slave morality values things like kindness, humility, and sympathy, while master morality values pride, strength, and nobility. Master morality weighs actions on a scale of good or bad consequences (i.e. classical virtues and vices, consequentialism), unlike slave morality which weighs actions on a scale of good or evil intentions (e.g. Christian virtues and vices, Kantian deontology).

For Nietzsche, a particular morality is inseparable from the formation of a particular culture, meaning that a culture’s language, codes and practices, narratives, and institutions are informed by the struggle between these two moral structures

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Masters are creators of morality; slaves respond to master-morality with their slave-morality. Unlike master morality which is sentiment, slave morality is based on re-sentiment—devaluing that which the master values and the slave does not have. As master morality originates in the strong, slave morality originates in the weak. Because slave morality is a reaction to oppression, it vilifies its oppressors. Slave morality is the inverse of master morality. As such, it is characterized by pessimism and cynicism. Slave morality is created in opposition to what master morality values as ‘good’.

Slave morality does not aim at exerting one’s will by strength but by careful subversion. It does not seek to transcend the masters, but to make them slaves as well. The essence of slave morality is utility:[ the good is what is most useful for the whole community, not the strong. Nietzsche saw this as a contradiction. Since the powerful are few in number compared to the masses of the weak, the weak gain power by corrupting the strong into believing that the causes of slavery (viz., the will to power) are ‘evil’, as are the qualities they originally could not choose because of their weakness. By saying humility is voluntary, slave morality avoids admitting that their humility was in the beginning forced upon them by a master. Biblical principles of turning the other cheek, humility, charity, and pity are the result of universalizing the plight of the slave onto all humankind, and thus enslaving the masters as well. “The democratic movement is the heir to Christianity.”[the political manifestation of slave morality because of its obsession with freedom and equality.

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