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Ernesto Rodriguez

Philosophy 12: Ethics

Summer 2004

 

Midterm Question 1

 

Offer a detailed description of Nietzsche’s ethical views. What is his opposition to Christian morality? What does he mean by transvaluation of values? Why does he love Jesus but hate Paul? Why does Christian morality offend him? What does he envision for the height of humanity?

 

The ideas that Nietzsche so passionately held about ethics were nothing gentle or compassionate. He held strong animosity toward what he saw was weakness and self-indulgence on behalf of European civilization. He loathed the practices and the ideas of the Christian church. He favored strength above all things, the “Will to Power” in his words. The way in which Nietzsche saw ethics drew a sharp distinction between the strong “master-morality, and the weak “slave-morality”. The former being what Nietzsche considered being true morality.

 

It is this logic, favoring strength above all things that brought Nietzsche to have such an aversion to Christian morality. Nietzsche, ever so succinctly, decried Christian morality as “the most fatal and seductive lie that has ever yet existed”. As he saw it, Christian morality and all its principles of humility and sympathy only work to suppress the “Will to Power” which he valued so much. It suppresses the “Will to Power” that Nietzsche contended is central to our advancement, therefore it works against us. Nietzsche argued that those things that Christian morality seeks to suppress are part of nature, thus he condemned it as being “anti-nature”. The consequence of this, Nietzsche believed was a weak and decadent European culture.

 

By “transvaluation of values” Nietzsche meant a redefinition of what are considered to be true values. Those values upheld by the Christian church were the paradigm of ethics, and according to Nietzsche those values were “reversals” of true values. Thus Nietzsche saw the need for a “transvaluation of values”, a reevaluation and reinterpretation to be carried out by those capable of doing so, namely the aristocrats. This restructuring of values involved replacing those values imposed by Christian morality, such as humility, sympathy, and love, with Nietzsche's ideas of values: pride, apathy, and above all things, strength.

 

Nietzsche thought of Jesus as good news, and of Paul and the early Christians as the “persecutors of God” who unwittingly distorted this good news. Nietzsche believed that true Christianity is found in the acts, the practice, not in the beliefs or the words. He argued that Jesus was a model of this, that his life and death were intended to be a model for Christians to follow in their lives. But this message was lost, according to Nietzsche; entirely misconstrued by the narcissism of Paul and other early Christians as a symbolic redemption of man’s sins.

 

Nietzsche was offended by Christian morality on many levels, beginning with the aforementioned “Betrayal of Jesus” that he accredited to Christians. What is more, Nietzsche saw the priests advocating humility and complacency while covertly acting the opposite in order to secure power for themselves.

 

“Disobedience of God, that is to say of the priest, of ‘The Law’, now acquires the name ‘sin’…”

 

In this statement, Nietzsche makes the implication that it is not God but the priests who govern Christian morality.  According to this, “sin” is act against the institution of the church, not necessarily against God. Nietzsche argues that this definition of “sin” is what the priests use to maintain their control over Christian morality. This is what leads Nietzsche to denounce Christianity and declare it corrupted.