Geneology of Morals

In On the Genealogy of Morals, Friedrich Nietzsche attempts to find the significance of the values people hold; he describes a value as a guideline for existence. Nietzsche determines that there are both positive (life-affirming) and negative (life-repressing) values.   He also says that people can be evaluated using either a moralistic evaluation (good vs. evil) or a physiological evaluation (good vs. bad).  Nietzsche then categorizes all people into three categories: the nobles, the slaves, and the priestly.

The noble can be characterized as spontaneous, active, and naive.  The noble sees everything as a challenge that will give him the opportunity to assert himself further.  He lives by the quote, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  Nietzsche evaluates the noble moralistically.  He says that the noble creates his own values based on what feels good and what feels bad.  Activities that are self-assertive feel good to the noble, and activities that are self-repressive feel bad to the noble.  When the noble establishes his own values, he does not rely on outside influences, like opinions or recognition from other people.  The noble is truly independent and is associated with strength.  Unfortunately, he is very individualistic and full of himself, and therefore, is lonely.  There is no true example of a noble in existence.

The slave is the opposite of the noble.  He can be characterized as intelligent and clever; these attributes compensate for his physical inability to assert himself.  Nietzsche evaluates the slave physiologically.  The slave upholds self-repressive values as good; he believes in selflessness.  For the slave, compassion, generosity, selflessness, and philanthropy are examples of what is good.  Reaction is what is evil to the slave.  The slave is led by resentment.  He blames others to make himself feel better, especially the noble, to whom he imposes guilt.  The slave is the definition of a follower; he cannot make his own way because he needs constant reassurance.  The slave has a mass mentality, meaning that he feels most comfortable in numbers.  An example of a slave is a member of a church because church members follow the guidance of a priest.  The slaves are crucial to the priestly individuals, who need them to maintain their leadership role.

The priestly individual is a leader who needs followers to function.  The priestly individual develops life conditions that are void of both pleasure and enjoyment, which is why they are also known as ascetic priests.  The priestly individual wants to assert himself in order to get recognition for his work.  His power is completely based on a feeling of dependency.  Without followers, the priestly individual cannot be a leader.  The priestly individual lives by the ascetic ideal, meaning that he believes in postponed enjoyment.  The best example of a priestly individual is a priest.  A priest convinces his followers that they must absolve their sins in order to get into Heaven, in an attempt to make them dependent upon him.  He preaches that the worldly things we lack now will be ours in the future, when we enter the kingdom of God.