Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche is certainly one of the greatest philosophers till nowadays and the number of his works and critical texts is really impressive. This German philosopher was not afraid to share his viewpoint and criticize some of the general and traditional ideas. Nietzsche created a large number of critical works devoted to such issues and aspects as religion, morality, philosophy, and many others. However, I would like to focus on his vision, criticism, and perception of morality.
Moral values are valued highly in any society because of their significance in shaping visions of individuals, organizations, or institutions. Leaders with moral values develop clear visions of the future they prefer to be associated with not only their organization but also the societies from which they originate. Therefore, it is important to have a vision that reflects moral values and incorporates personal and organizational perspectives.
It is important to say that Nietzsche was quite critical of moral philosophy and he made several attempts to attack morality because of its loyalty to weak descriptive claims on the matter of human nature and the harmful influence some of its standards and values may have on individuals within a society. However, Nietzsche’s ethical views contain positive aspect too that seems to be rather contradicting to his other statements. The combination of certain perfectionism as the display of the good side and the notion of human nature containing both strict and substantive elements seems to be the most realistic for Nietzsche. However, it is still necessary to say that Nietzsche’s views have little realism and it is difficult to define whether he preferred positive vision to criticism of morality or not.
According to Nietzsche, morality should be viewed as powerful means of protection of our society from disintegration. There should exist a certain system of oppression that will be able to force individuals to harmonize and coordinate their personal views and interests with the public ones. This mechanism is successful in case coercion has an anonymous form of custom, where the public authority is approved gradually through education and training. In this case, loyalty can become a second nature that is willingly demonstrated. Morality is an intrinsic property of a man and a means of self-control with the elements of improvement of the social organism.
Such reasoning in some way shows that Nietzsche is a supporter of utilitarianism. In fact, his position is not absolutely clear and there are many doubts concerning it till nowadays. Nietzsche believes in the double nature and existence of both good and evil. He states that every developed civilization contains blended elements of both good and evil that can be found in one person. However, it is very important to thoroughly distinguish these elements. According to the German philosopher, such notions as “good” and “evil” are equivalent to the “noble” and “despicable” concepts. These notions and characteristics should be referred not only to the actions of people but mainly to people themselves who perform these acts. In a moral sense of slavery, basic ethical categories depend on what is useful, the maintenance of order in society, the need to defend the interests of the spiritually weak and physically disabled individuals.
Such qualities as compassion, kindheartedness, and modesty, are considered to be virtues, and at the same time, they are the properties that exhibit strong and independent individuals who are considered to be dangerous, and therefore “evil” in some way. These ideas are presented in Nietzsche’s book “Genealogy of Morals”, where Nietzsche extensively uses the concept of revenge. The highest type of an individual, in his view, creates values in excess of its vitality. On the contrary, weak and powerless people are afraid of stronger individuals and they seek to curb and tame them, suppress their number by imposing such a characteristic as herd values and behavior. Of course, such meanness is not openly acknowledged and may not be realized and understood as the “mob” effect, however, it works by finding both direct and indirect ways of expression. All this brings to light sophisticated moral psychology that Nietzsche supported and illustrated in his works.
According to Nietzsche, there are always two main ethical positions fighting in the history of morality. From the point of view of the higher type of an individual, they can coexist. This is possible if the crowd practices a “slave starvation” solely within its environment (Kessler, 1998). Nietzsche does not completely deny the value of Christian morality, recognizing that it has made the human inner world more refined. But he sees it as an expression of meanness and the herd instinct, or in other words, slave morality. Nietzsche sees the embodiment of revenge in democratic and socialistic movements including the derivative form of Christian ideology.
Nietzsche believed that the idea of a universal, single and absolute morality should be rejected because it leads to the decline of life and degeneration of humanity. Nietzsche believed that herd should remain committed to its system of values, provided that it is deprived of the right to impose its people. When Nietzsche speaks of the need to be beyond good and evil, it should be understood as a call to overcome the so-called slave morality, which, from his point of view, puts everyone on the same level, and makes love and protect weakness and prevents the rise of the human type. He does not mean, as some claim, a complete indifference to the nature of values and the elimination of any moral criteria. Such would be suicidal for the average person. Only those who belong to a higher type, without prejudice to himself to become the “other side” of society are imposed with the idea of good and evil, because these individuals are the bearers of moral law and do not need anyone’s protection. Their self-determination, according to Nietzsche is the only path to a higher level of human existence.
The Genealogy of Morals is believed to be the most significant and impressive work of German philosophers. This straightforward masterpiece perfectly depicts Nietzsche’s views and criticism of morality. However, this work is not easy for understanding and the way Nietzsche shares his thoughts may seem rather confusing and too complex. Nietzsche’s texts were often criticized because of the misunderstanding and making an emphasis on the secondary sources instead of the primary ones. It is important to understand the whole context this great philosopher worked in, and only then analyze and evaluate his works.
Nietzsche’s analysis of the origin of morality and his perception of this notion is quite different from the way Immanuel Kant saw it. The main difference is that Nietzsche did not support Kant’s vision of non-naturalism and he was against the non-historical approach as it was not sufficient enough. Moreover, Kant does not question the value of morality as compared to Nietzsche’s strong interest in this matter. According to Nietzsche, morality and instincts are many related notions. Furthermore, German philosophers rejected and denied a great number of concepts within conventional morality. Kant’s moral philosophy marks a transition from the description and explanation of morality, to the theoretical analysis of morality as a special and specific phenomenon. Kant’s intention on the contrary to Nietzsche is to reveal the purity of morals. In this task, it is necessary to focus not on human nature and the circumstances of his life, but on the concept of pure reason. Morality, according to Kant, is the sphere of human freedom, where the will is autonomous and self-defined. Giving this will be its reconciliation with the highest moral law categorical imperative because only the goodwill can make the right choice. The moral law is for the individual as an obligation, the possibility of determining the correct choice and overcoming selfish motives.
Morality and ethics do not teach a person how to be happy, but how to be worthy of happiness. According to Kant, morality is not given by nature, on the contrary, it is imperative and requires a person to overcome selfishness in the name of proper ideals. Overcoming the contradiction between ideal and reality Kant sees in elevation, spiritual things, subordinating it to morality, expressed mainly by the generic goal of human community.
In conclusion, it should be said that Nietzsche was the most unusual of all the moralists. He defined morality through its criticism, even by the radical rejection. Nietzsche’s main contribution to philosophy and analysis of morality is that he implemented a revaluation of all the values and stated that there is little of true value in this world. In such reevaluations, Nietzsche tries to get beyond good and evil. Ordinary morality, no matter how it was developed and complex, is always enclosed in a frame, and this is the opposite side to the notion of good and evil.