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NIETZSCHE’S CRITICISM ON MORALITY AND THE MORALITY OF HIS CRITICISM

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A Term Paper

Presented to the Faculty

of the Department of Philosophy

College of Arts and Sciences

University of San Carlos

Cebu City, Philippines

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In Partial Fulfillment

of the Requirements for the Course

General Ethics

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by

GLENN REY DISMAS ANINO

March 2011

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INTRODUCTION
Ethics as it has been commonly defined as a branch of philosophy deals on the inquiry on
how to live a good life and how should human beings act in such a way that they might acquire a
life being lived well. The term good life refers to the quality of life that the individual strives to
achieve. To be clear, there is a need to differentiate between the concept and the conceptions of
good life. The concept refers to the general structure that is applicable to all while conception is
the personal understanding of the general structure. Thus, the question concerning what is a
good life is the concept but the question on how to have a good life is the conception. This is the
reason why every philosopher has its own conception of what is the good life. With this in mind,
the researcher is going to present the conception of a particular philosopher who belongs to the
life philosophy movement. Friedrich Nietzsche devotedly contributed dedication to his
philosophical pursuit and his capability of dark, passionate, and serious suggestion about life. In
this paper, the researcher would try to clarify some questions such as: What is the good life
according to Nietzsche? What is the ground of his criticism on morality? What is the moral
implication of his criticism?”

WILL TO POWER
At the center of Nietzsche’s thought, there is the most basic value that we cannot reject and
this value is life itself. It is the main value by which all valuations come to be. What then is life
for Nietzsche? Life itself is will to power.1 Two words need to be cleared: will and power. The
act of willing seems ambiguous in Nietzsche’s unsystematic thoughts but he commonly refers to
it as something consist of varieties of affects or feelings. He argues in the following:
“Willing-seems ambiguous to me to be above all something complicated,
something that is a unity only in one name… let us say that in all willing there is
firstly a plurality of sensations, namely, the sensation of condition ‘away from
which we go’; the sensation of the condition ‘towards which we go’; the sensation
1
Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, tr. by Marie Cowan. Henceforth referred to as BGE.
(Chicago: Henry Regney Company, 1996), §13.

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of this ‘from’ and ‘towards’ itself, and then besides, and accompanying muscular
sensation, which… commences its action by force of habit.”2

The first component of will being recognized is feelings; however, behind the willing is the
thought that commands.3 In this case, to will is to be aware of a certain command that comes
from the within of a person who wills. The person who expresses his will commands himself to
do what he wills from himself. Thus, Nietzsche asserts, “In all willing it is absolutely a question
of commanding and obeying.”4 Power is another term that needs to be explicated. This is a term
by which many political leaders misunderstood Nietzsche.5 Despite this misunderstanding,
power is not associated to a direct physical force over the other. He uses the German word
Macht not Kraft.6 I think Nietzsche does not also refer to politics or state but rather he is against
the state in the sense that the concern is collective and not on the individual.
Nietzsche does not mean power as the ability of the individual to compel obedience but it
is the power of the individual over oneself. Thus, will and power are nothing else but one and the
same. Every willing is a manifestation of power and the latter is the inner strength of the will.
Will itself is the will to power and this is concretized in the act of overcoming oneself. Will to
power is that which moves life to its own growth by the movement of going beyond what life is
at present. Life is a tremendous shaping that starts from within and exploits or utilizes outside
circumstances in the environment. As a principle of life, it is the will to stand oneself and to
become stronger. This does not mean that life is just a whole matter of preservation as Darwin
proposes, but rather it is the accumulation of forces and appropriation of what affirms life. In this
case, life is not fixated but is always in the process of becoming. In Darwin’s perspective, life
involves evolution and survival to the fittest. Nietzsche only argues on the kind of survival which
is not directed towards the species but on the survival of the superior type of human being which
he calls the Ubermensch. His notion of the will to power is not only limited to life but also
extended to the whole universe. Thus, he points out that “this world as will to power – and
2
Ibid., §19.
3

“In every act of will there is a ruling thought” (BGE, §19).


4

BGE, §19.
5

Nietzsche was made guilty by association when he was regarded as the spiritual father of Nazism. This
misinterpretation took Nietzsche’s work unheard in the Anglo-Saxon world.
6

The former is brutal violence while the latter is a mental creative power.
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nothing besides.”7 This means that will to power, as the basic human drives, has no limit, no
boundaries, and even to break some laws as obstacles which hinder its expression. The concept
of the will to power as life-affirmation shapes Nietzsche’s thought.

CRITIQUE ON MORALITY
Nietzsche has a critical and paradigmatic view about existing values he sees around in his
time. His main criticism centers on the unchallenged conception of morality as something
absolute, immutable, and eternal by claiming that morality is relative in the situation in which
man finds himself. His moral principle explicitly means that man is the sole originator and
determiner of values that best suited to his own way of life. “There is no such thing as moral
phenomena, but only a moral interpretation of phenomena.”8 Everyone has his own morality and
therefore there is no absolute standard on our judgments of what is right and what is wrong.
Despite that Nietzsche attacks morality, he does not completely reject all morality because it
presupposes that when one attacks a certain kind of morality a person has a suggestion of
replacing it. What he criticizes is the kind of morality which has a metaphysical foundation
which claims to be the Morality.9 This type of morality claims to be the standard of all moralities
and it results to become misdirected due to its principles, ideas, and motives they provoke.
Nietzsche’s ethics has a dual aim namely a) the criticism of existing morality through his idea of
reevaluation of all values b) the morality of his criticism which is based on achieving human
excellence as the meaning for having a good quality of life. In this way, Nietzsche’s ethical
philosophy can be best understood as the criticism on morality and the morality of his criticism.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Will to Power, tr. by Walter Kaufmann. Henceforth referred to as WP. (New York:
Random House, 1967), §1067.

8
BGE, §108.
9

There is a difference between morality with capital letter ‘M’ and with small ‘m’. The latter refers to the
pluralities of moral embraced by people in different cultures. In this case, every individual has its own kind of
morality. On the other hand, the former is kind of morality that is singular and objective. Thereby its judgment is
nonnegotiable by the individual valuation. Thus, people would state: “Morality says that this is act is right or
Morality dictates that this act is wrong.” The former is the subject of Nietzsche criticism.

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Nietzsche’s Critique and Revaluation of Truth and its Value
One can never delve on ethics without centering on the idea of truth and its value for it is
generally considered that what is true is good. Value and truth is closely related because no
person acts and dies on his belief if he conceives it as false. Value lies on one’s conviction that
what he believes will lead him to something better. The idea of truth is shaken and is approached
differently by Nietzsche. The opening line of Beyond Good and Evil states: “Supposing truth is a
woman- what then?”10 If truth were a woman, then Nietzsche wants to know the nature of both
truth and woman. In the old configuration about women, they are commonly viewed as
inconsistent, subtle, and not fixated. Their decision is not so fixed and there is a kind of
flexibility. Whenever a woman decides, it takes much time that she will come up with a final
decision even to the point of arriving at the contrary to her first choice. Let us take for example
on the case of suicide. Many women try to commit suicide but most of them do not succeed and
only men succeed in the end. They are inconsistent with their own decision. What they believe in
a particular time may change in an hour or even in a minute. Their thought is too subtle to grasp.
In the case of the dogmatic philosophers, Nietzsche says that they were not able to understand
woman in their search for truth because they tend to explain truth objectively, absolutely, and
legitimately. Thereby it has the authority over individual such as the claim of the truthfulness of
God-given rubrics of laws in the field of ethics. Truth as a woman can be both interpreted as
paradoxical and it is approached through perspective where it depends on how he interprets it.
He further adds about women:
“But she does not want truth- what does woman care for truth? From the very first,
nothing is more foreign, more repugnant, or more hostile to woman than truth- her
great art is falsehood, her chief concern is appearance and beauty.”11

Woman does not want truth if that truth is insofar the truth according to the seduction of
dogmatic philosophers: that truth is somewhere there as a thing or an object to be found and the
philosophers as the seeker of it are the subjects. In the words of Luce Irigaray, “any theory of the
subject has always been appropriated by the “masculine.”12 Nietzsche is arguing that truth is not

10

BGE, Preface.
11

Ibid., §232.
12

Atkins Kim, Self and Subjectivity (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, 2005), p.271.
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something to be found in the world as objective that will serve as the basis of one’s action. He
criticizes the dogmatic “Platonism in Europe…as ‘the worst, the most tiresome, and the most
dangerous of errors hitherto has been a dogmatist error- namely, Plato’s invention of Pure Spirit
and the Good in Itself’.”13 According to Plato, it is not only enough to say that truth can be
found but it can be found not in this world but to the world of Ideas. This is the beginning of “the
condemnation of the entire world of becoming as illusion, and an invention of a true world that
lies beyond.”14 This is what Nietzsche mainly attacks because it tends to escape or to despise this
world, the apparent world, and also its affairs. Plato’s ethics is other-worldly. It is as if a person
must act in accordance to the attainment of such metaphysical truth to the point of sacrificing his
immanent life for after all this world is just an illusion. Nietzsche does remind us to be faithful to
this earth. “Remain faithful to the earth and do not believe those who speak to you of
extraterrestrial hope.”15 He is critical about all the existing moral claims about truth at his time
because the nineteenth century Europe has perfectly deified the concept of truth that has been
started by Plato as it is the absolute source of all claims.
Nietzsche also attacks Kant’s categorical imperative in its claim on the universal truth
that is something to be found among reasonable man. The categorical imperative is the residue of
Kant’s synthetic a priori. It is a morality of reason as if everyone is bound to follow as long as
he is rational. This law is extrinsic that is externally given value system. He rejects this kind of
morality for it is the law that binds to every action. These are samples of his attack:

“The former reality, namely Kant’s, demanded of the individual actions which
one desired of all men: that was a very naïve thing; as if everyone knew without
further ado what mode of action would benefit the whole of mankind, that is,
what actions at all are desirable.”16

13

BGE, §3.
14

Karl Jaspers, Nietzsche: An Introduction to the Understanding of His Philosophical Activity (Tucson:
Arizona University Press, 1965), p. 245.
15

Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None, tr. by Adrian del Caro, ed. by
Adrian del Caro and Robert Pippin. Henceforth referred to as TSZ. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006),
“Zarathustra’s Prologue”, §3.
16

Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits, tr. by R. J. Hollingdale. Henceforth
referred to as HAH. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), §25

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“It is absolutely not desirable that all men should act in the same way, but rather
that in the interest of ecunumical goals whole track of mankind ought to have a
special, perhaps under certain circumstances even evil tasks imposed upon
them.”17

Nietzsche’s main critique to all system moral is this: all systems of morals are just personal
confession of every moralist.

“It has gradually become clear to me what every great philosophy up till now has
consisted of namely, the confession of its originator, and a species of involuntary
and unconscious auto biography; and moreover that the moral (or immoral)
purpose in every philosophy has constituted the true vital germ out of which the
entire plant has always grown.18

In this case, there is no standard of which morality should be followed in the sense that everyone
can have the confession of his own morality. What is good for me may not be good for the
person. I think Nietzsche is arguing for the diversity we find in human beings. If moral principle
is just a confession of a certain individual then it will not be good if it tries to encourage
everybody to follow it. Attacking Kant, he said like this, “there is a categorical imperative in us,’
one can always ask: What does such an assertion indicate about him who makes it.”19 In
attacking moral claims, Nietzsche also look at the character of the one who claims it such as the
philosopher behind the doctrine. In the case of Kant, Nietzsche criticizes him because of the
belief in the power of human reason and goal of enlightenment. The latter also tries to preserve
his own pietism by proposing that every human being has an equal dignity and must be treated
equally. “So, act as to treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of any other, always
at the same time as an end, and never merely as a means.” 20 It seems that Nietzsche falls into a
logical fallacy of argumentum ad hominem just as his view on Plato as a coward. “Plato is a

17

Ibid.
18

BGE, §6.
19

Ibid., §187.
20

Quoted in: Frederick Copleston, History of Philosophy, vol. 6. (New York: Doubleday, 1994), p. 328.

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coward in the face of reality – consequently he flees into the ideal.”21 But I think that he is not
using the rules of logic and indeed it was he who said that logic is just human constructs of
ordering the world. He attacks the person because a philosopher must be an example of his own
philosophy and a confession of his own personality. An idea is embodied on the one who
professes it. We have to look for the inner pathos and the moral intentions of the philosopher in
order to understand his thinking.22
Plato is a coward in the sense that his philosophy on the world of Forms is an escape to
the reality he found in the world of the senses. He invents another reality which he considers as
the true reality that an individual must strive to achieve and must be given priority. In summary,
“systems of morals are only a sign- language of the emotions.” 23 Philosophers have their own
motives on the ideas they have as their means to exploit the other just like the slave morals which
will be discussed later in this paper.
“There are systems of morals which are meant to justify their author in the eyes of
other people; other systems of morals are meant to tranquilize him, and make him
self- satisfied; with other systems he wants to crucify and humbles himself, with
others he wishes to take revenge, with others to conceal himself, with others to
glorify himself and gave superiority and distinction.”24

In this manner, a doubt may arise about the truthfulness of truth itself whether it is a value in
itself or a means to the attainment of something and other people even use it for selfish end. For
instance, a misfortunate person uses the truth of the teachings of his own religion to encourage
other people to be generous at him. This person can use the truth claims as a means of his own
interest. If this is the case, every person will have to make truth claim to advance his personal
desire. So, truth is pragmatic in the sense that it is something to be made by ourselves through
our way of interpretation. Truth has no ontological value but only a grammatical one. Every
language use eventually changes the moral action of a person. Though a person does not

21

Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, tr. by Walter Kaufmann. Henceforth referred to as TI. (New
York: Viking Press, 1968), “What I Owe to the Ancients,” §2.
22

Keith Ansell Pearson ed., A Companion to Nietzsche, (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2005), p. 389.
23

BGE, §187.
24

Ibid.
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recognize consciously, it slowly develops and the person is shaped by it as if it becomes a
framework or scheme of thought in one’s life.
“Truth as the mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and
anthropomorphism- in short, a sum of human relations, which we have enhanced,
transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use
seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to people: truths are illusions about which
one has forgotten that this is what they are; metaphors which are worn and
without sensuous power; coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only
as metal, no longer as coins.”25

This would mean that truth as something to be of objective existence is a lie. What is considered
to be true is just a human construct and is always being repeated. Let us take for example the
experience of telling a lie accompanied with conviction, then, always repeat it to people and it
becomes true not only for the audience but also to the person who lies. As long as there is a
constant remembrance of what has been told and being used to hear about it then, that will be
elevated as the truth. This is only a matter of convention through frequent linguistic practice and
it will be no longer an illusion. Since that truth has no objective firmness, the truthfulness or the
falseness of an opinion will not matter but what matters most is how it is self- preserving. This
sounds pragmatic. In Nietzsche’s thought, people make such ‘truth’ because they are in the
society. They create something through convention to make society in order. They are all lies but
in a non moral sense, that is, “to recognize untruth as a condition of life.” 26 The object of the
man’s intellect and logic as its tool is not truth but only a servant on self- preservation.
“we are fundamentally inclined to maintain that the falsest opinions (to which the
synthetic judgments a priori belong), are the most indispensable to us, that
without a recognition of logical fictions, without a comparison of reality with the
purely imagined world of the absolute and immutable, without a constant
counterfeiting of the world by means of numbers, man could not live—that the
renunciation of false opinions would be a renunciation of life, a negation of
life.”27

Nietzsche disputes the claims by modern science that it reveals the truth about the world through
the formulations of laws such as the gravity of Newton. This law is just a human construct as a

25
Friedrich Nietzsche, On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense, in The Portable Nietzsche, tr. Walter
Kaufmann. (New York: Viking Press, 1968), p. 46.
26

BGE., §4.
27

Ibid.
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product of man’s thinking and even if it is not really found in reality, yet it serves as a guide on
human conduct. If those laws are just human construct it follows that those laws are not really
outside objectively. And so it is false and a lie but if we disregard such laws there will be no
order and harmony in our daily life.
In this case, there are supposedly truths of the individual but not the Truth in itself. Truth
has only been a product of more than two thousand years of promise in the Greek civilization
taken only as a means to dominate, exploit, and rule the other culture. Such truth is a claim of
power over the other. If all systems of morals were just a sign language of emotions and a
personal confession with moral intentions, Nietzsche proclaims that all that has been learned is a
lie. According to Nietzsche, God is a sacred lie.28 The God of religion who, from many centuries,
had ordered men not to lie is a lie itself. This proclamation really changes the ethical perception
of man when all that has been taught by people about the commandments of God becomes
superfluous. In the perspective of the believer, all the received commandments are true only if
God is the truth.29
But in the reality the God of the faithful turns out to be the imaginary outcome of what
Nietzsche calls vanity such as the experience of an ascetic priest who starves himself30 which
result into charity in sacrificing one-self in behalf for others; lust for power such as the
experience of the prophets in the holy tradition as they are the instruments who proclaim God’s

28

Gott ist ein heiligen Luge. In The Gay Science Nietzsche asks: "But what if this [sic, the idea that truth is
divine] became more and more incredible, if nothing should prove to be divine any more unless it were error,
blindness, the lie – if God himself should prove to be our most enduring lie?-” Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay
Science, in The Portable Nietzsche, tr. Walter Kaufmann. Henceforth referred as GS. (New York: Random House,
1976), §344.
29

In Daybreak, Nietzsche writes : What is truth? -- Who will not be pleased with the conclusions which the
faithful take such delight in coming to? -- "Science cannot be true for it denies God; and consequently it cannot be
true, -- for God is truth." It is not the deduction but the premise which is fallacious. What if God just were not truth,
and if it were exactly that which was proven? if he were instead man's vanity, lust for power, the ambitions, the fear
and the enraptured and terrified folly of mankind? Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of
Morality, tr. by R. J. Hollingdale. Henceforth referred as D. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), §93.
30

“This shattering of oneself, this scorn for one’s own nature… which religions have made so much out of, is
actually a high degree of vanity.-” HAH, §137.
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word to the people;31 and the heavenly delusion of men as projection of the enjoyment in the
otherworldly which he does not find here.

Nietzsche on Surpassing Mediocrities


Before the establishment of true science by the modern age, nature was not very kind to
people and it seemed that nature was threatening. Some people are inclined to superstitions in the
sense that they cannot dominate the power of nature. Nietzsche however believes that life is
primarily a manifestation of will to power seen by its multiplicity of forces, bundles of drives,
and affects of feeling. With these forces, every living being creates a being on its own by
exploiting external things. Man uses science as a tool and its corresponding laws to arrest the
danger of becoming thereby construct a reality which man can master. Knowledge is only an
interpretation to appropriate one’s power. The desire to shape life tremendously by working
within man himself and exploiting and utilizing outside circumstances is essentially the life of
appropriation. “Life itself is essentially appropriation, injury, conquest of the strange and weak,
suppression, severity, obtrusion or peculiar forms, incorporation, and at the least, putting it
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mildest, exploitation.” Weakness is not needed for the enhancement of life. This kind of
weakness is manifested in various ways. Nietzsche rejects the notion of will as being free or not
free but what he believes is that there is only strong and weak will. Weakness arises from the
weakness of man to will something. The measure of one’s power and weakness is through his
will. One manifestation of weakness is to be at home at one’s cherished beliefs without
subjecting them into criticisms. This is indeed true. To criticize ethical beliefs of others is not
much heavy on putting our beloved ideas into question and for self criticism. Many people feel
safe about their own certitude and others take refuge and hide themselves in the dogmas of
reason and of the church and other systems which are founded on unquestioned premises. What
Nietzsche praises more is on the reflective attack on our set of principles and the truth we believe
rather than on its establishments. No table of values serves to fix moral valuation. This weakness
is observable in the crowd. The individual joins in a group to identify himself from the tenets of

31

As the faithful believes that God will help and deliver them from the sufferings they endured, God will
comply with their human interests. That is why many prophets would say: “God says that this and this and this.”
Nietzsche observes that the motives are based on the lust for power and there is nothing transcendence on it.
32

BGE, §259.
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the group through an act of conformity. A feeling of safety and comfort is achieved upon the
premise that he has a community which he can lean on when trouble comes. That is why people
who are always in the group tend to abuse in their personal manner and carry the name of the
group where they belong. The abusive act is personal yet the responsibility is collective.
In his controversial book The Antichrist he says, “The priest knows of only one great
danger: that is science- the sound comprehension of cause and effect.”33 This would mean that
the priests are comfortable with what they believe and Nietzsche uses science in its character of
always finding new sets of belief through questioning the status quo of its method by having
some experiments and reject old belief if ever new evidences are found. To question is to liberate
ourselves from our common belief that sometimes it is a hindrance to human development. Only
by being critical to ourselves we can have a progress on our lives for sometimes our fixed moral
ideas may lead us into a kind of deep slumbering. What Nietzsche is trying to say is the
reawakening of our consciousness because what used to be good that is found in the rubrics of
laws can be bad and vice versa. With this in mind, moral values must be put into scrutiny.
However, this may further lead to a kind of doubt and skepticism. Nietzsche’s view is that
existence is not just a matter of living and an easy pursuit of comfort but more on journeying to
the unknown or in Nietzsche’s parlance to live dangerously. “The secret for harvesting from
existence the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment is- to live dangerously.”34 To live
dangerously is to take risks in our decisions and actions by deciding the undecided of the future
and taking personal responsibility on its consequences. Many people surrender themselves
blindly by leaving their fate to God. The Filipino values of bahala na is an exact example of
cowardice in taking risks. The idea of living dangerously is in connection of human excellence
not over the other but over oneself. If one wants excellence, taking the risks in the pursuit of
undertaking a task is expected. In short, the adage “no pain no gain” seems fitting. If a person
has an expertise in music and he just plays the music composed by known musician then he is
just a copy-cat musician. In order to excel he must not only concern on playing the composition
of others but eventually to make on his own. The herd takes the safest path but the excellent man
takes risks and responsibility. Complacency is not needed but what Nietzsche asserts is courage

33

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Antichrist, in “The Portable Nietzsche”, tr. by Walter Kaufmann. Henceforth
referred to as AC. (New York: Penguin Books, 1976), §49.
34
GS, §283.
12
in our thoughts and being responsible in its consequences. Here, Nietzsche is attacking the
morality of his time, as what he observes, for some people resort to an easy pursuit of pleasure
and also of the herd fashion of action.
“A traveler who had seen many countries and people and several
continents was asked what human traits he had found everywhere; and he
answered: men are inclined to laziness…They hide behind customs and
opinions… When a great thinker despises men, it is their laziness that he
despises.”35

The image of the traveler and of the thinker is Nietzsche himself. Laziness as a result of the
weakness of will breeds a lower type of human being. To belong in the higher type by which
Nietzsche praises does not just happen easily because it needs more hard work in creating
oneself. The task is existential which is to carve our own self as a masterpiece and so a
‘philosophy with a hammer’ is needed.36 Every philosopher must have a hammer as an
instrument such as the hammer of critique against the existing values. This is not an easy task
and it needs more effort. That is why Romualdo Abulad, in his commentary on Nietzsche, said
that “it is not enough to live. The task is to surmount our mediocrities in order to make dent in
this competitive game of life.”37 An easy pursuit of what is pleasurable is just an animal instinct
and we are more than animals. Human reality can go beyond the animal dichotomy of pleasure
and pain in having a good life.

On the Discipline of Suffering


Nietzsche knows some of the ethical theories of Kant but there is no exact information of
how much is his knowledge of him. Kant argues that we have the duty to develop our human

35

Walter Kaufmann, Existentialism: From Dostoevsky to Sartre (New York: Meredian, Penguin, 1989),
p.101-2.
36

Nietzsche is known as the philosopher with a hammer because his writing especially Twilight of the Idols
is alluded as “How One Philosophizes with a Hammer.”
37

Romualdo Abulad, “Options for Filipino Philosophy,” Karunungan,(Manila: De La Salle University,


1984), 77-30.
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potentialities. The main question is how much is needed. In ethics there are two perspectives.
These are minimal ethics and maximal ethics. The former is based or focused on the avoidance
of anything that is not good to oneself. This means to refrain from evil and so this is passive. The
latter is active in a sense that one is going to assert his own values and ideals that a person has
according to what he believes. If achievement of excellence is needed, Nietzsche’s ethics is
related to maximal ethics in order to achieve human development. This task can be done through
a passionate commitment to one’s own task guided with self- discipline, even the discipline of
suffering. Sometimes suffering is needed to live the life we want to the fullest. Similarly,
Nietzsche knows what suffering means to us humans. “The discipline of suffering, of great
suffering—knows you not that it is only this discipline that has produced all the elevations of
humanity hitherto?”38 The experience of human suffering is not something to be avoided in life
but it is a discipline that is necessary in aiming a well lived life. Only few men succeed in life
because they are the type of person who understands the beauty that is to be found in suffering.
We find Nietzsche in his work on The Birth of Tragedy where he associates suffering to aesthetic
as he asserts: “Only in aesthetic phenomenon that the world is eternally justified.”39 He tries to
aestheticize suffering through life affirmation despite the tragedies that are happening to life
without the consolation of the otherworldly metaphysics. The only way to affirm the life of
tragedies is to reverse our view or attitude towards suffering. In this view, he shares the Stoic
who once suggested that we do not have a full control of nature but only on our personal
emotions toward on it. The stoic is the philosophy of self-control as a way of approaching nature.
This is what also Nietzsche believes in The Birth of Tragedy when the Dionysian knows “the
insight into the horrible truth.”40 This means that tragedies and sufferings in life are inseparable.
Life without suffering is impossible. Nietzsche makes a strong assertion when he says: Whatever
does not destroy me makes me stronger.”41 This would mean that anything that a person
encounters in his life as a suffering or even flagellating himself as long as it cannot end his life, it
will do him something good and that something is valuable. Through the experience of human

38
BGE, §225.
39

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy ,tr. by Ian C. Johnston. Henceforth referred as BT. (Canada:
Malaspina University Press, 2000), §6.
40

Ibid., § 7.
41

TI, “Maxims and Arrows”, §8.


14
suffering, the will as it endures suffering is strengthened and it is in this experience that both life
and spirit is affirmed thereby an understanding of what life is deepened.

Criticism against Altruism


According to Nietzsche, morality is misguided as it encourages holding the ethical
doctrine of altruism. Altruism “refers to any attitude or position that favors benevolence, it
applies to any system that reduces morality to love of neighbor, makes the quest of happiness of
one’s fellow man the basic moral value, and defines the good simply as whatever furthers the
well-being of others.”42 In short, morality as altruism emphasizes more on the duty to other
people while disregarding the duties to one self. Nietzsche rejects the positivism and altruism
suggested by August Comte. Comte writes:
“social point of view… cannot tolerated the notion of rights, for such notion rest
on individualism. We are both under a load of obligations of every kind to our
predecessors, to our successors, to our contemporaries. After our birth those
obligation increase or accumulate, for it is some time before we can return to any
service… This [‘live for others’], the definition formula of human morality, gives
a direct sanction exclusively to our instincts of benevolence, the common source
of happiness and duty. [Man must serve] Humanity is who we are entirely.”43

Comte’s positivism has left the individual less duty to decide what he needs to do for himself.
With regard to his altruism, every individual has the duty to serve others even to the point of
sacrificing oneself. The other people are given much priority and value rather than oneself. This
moral belief is example of Nietzsche’s criticism because it ignores and devalues self-reverence
and makes the individual not able to develop his own ability, excellence, and personal self-
development. The idea of sacrificing oneself for the sake of other people will just end up a
person into a kind of martyrdom and leave the person no accomplishment being done by him
except of giving life itself.
As Nietzsche attacks altruism’s idea of being at service to other people without the
expectation of return, he arrives at attacking also the Christian notion of love of neighbor. Judeo-

42

G. J. Dalcourt, “Altruism” in New Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. Most Rev. William J. McDonald (editor
in chief). (Washington: The Catholic University of America, 1967), pp. 355-356.
43

August Comte, Catechism of Positivism, tr. by R. Congreve. (London: Kegan Paul, 1891), p. 332.
15
Christian religion is a religion of servitude that teaches people to turn the other cheek, to take
care of the needy, and to be humble. In sum: to love thy neighbor. This teaching is designed to
keep every individual to remain in its place and to settle limit on personal development by means
of other-directedness. “Your love of the neighbor is your bad love of yourselves….you flee to
your neighbor to escape yourself and you want to make virtue of it: but I see through your
selflessness.”44 The love of neighbor is a kind of misguided passion of the individual in loving
himself. It is a means of escaping oneself in confronting himself in his own situation. In the
person of Zarathustra, Nietzsche comes to suspect selflessness as the virtue on loving one’s
neighbor because when a person loves his neighbor he actually loves himself as the agent of the
act. Moreover, Christian believes in the reward that is attainable in the other world and it would
seem that a believer is driven only by a selfish ends. The motives are either for the award or for
fear of losing it. In every action that a person does towards his neighbor, egoism is still there.
The worse is that such egoism needs other people who seemed to be helpless to say that the
former is a good person. “You invite witness when you want someone to speak well of you; and
when you have seduced him into thinking well of you, you then think well of yourselves.”45 The
motive in doing the act is to reciprocate the initial desire to love oneself through the recognition
made by others. “Nietzsche’s contempt for fleeing to the neighbor, or rushing to love one’s
neighbor, is not merely a desire to live in solitude and love ourselves. Rather it is a call to do
something for the impossible.”46 The impossible is referred as going beyond on the confinement
of comfort. Nietzsche’s criticism reminds that loving one’s neighbor is a kind of covetousness
and a desire to posses more and more. “Our love of our neighbors- is it not craving for new
property?”47 A neighbor is considered as a property in the sense that we know something of his
personal identity. That is why it is easy to manipulate him through the art of seduction of our
actions thereby the attention is captured and glorification of the giver follows.
“When we help someone suffering, we like to use this opportunity to take
possession of him; that is for example what those who become his benefactors
44

TSZ, “On Love of the Neighbor.”


45

Ibid.
46

Ananda Abeysekara, The Politics of Postsecular Religion: Mourning Secular Future (New York:
Columbia University Press, 2008), p. 66.
47

GS, §14.
16
and those who have compassion for him do, and they call the lust for new
possession that is awakened in them ‘love’, and their delight is like that aroused
by the prospect of a new conquest.”48

The desire to help others is founded merely on self-interest to conquest, a greed for power over
the other, and a kind of avarice yet it is concealed in the subtle word ‘love.’ Let us say some
generous men who are benefactors in the some institution such as the Church. They try to help
by appearing to be selfless but are they not wanting for an extensive power that will enable them
to gain more influence? In some cases, it is. A person shows generosity to the people but it turns
out later that he will be going to run for a certain position in the government. So, the people who
are benefited from that generosity will be obligated to vote for him. This is what common in the
Philippine system of politics. As a response to this situation, the best way is to harden our hearts
at first when someone tries to give something to us and at the same time to ask the motives
behind the person who gives.
In summary of Nietzsche’s attack to altruism, there are three propositions come up: a)
altruism gives much priority over other people while disregarding oneself, b) egoism belongs to
the essence of a noble soul49 which is expressed in the discharge of one’s will to power, c) it is
only in fleeing away with the burden of obligations with our neighbor’s concern that one can live
in solitude, love of himself and pursue one’s own future project of excellence- Ubermesch. Thus,
Nietzsche advocates loving thyself over loving one’s neighbor which calls the individual on the
priority self-elevation. I think this is similar with the saying that we cannot give what we do not
have. The first thing to consider is to develop first ourselves before helping others to develop too
but not out of pity.

On Nietzsche’s Critique of Pity


With his view on human suffering, Nietzsche is justifying himself from his objection of
pity as a sign of weakness. One of his criticisms on the morality is the problem it faces namely,
pity. The “problem of the value of pity and of the morality of pity”50 is what he attacks. This
48

Ibid.
49

BGE, §265.
50

Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, tr. by Walter Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale.
Henceforth referred as OGM. (New York: Random House, 1967), Preface §6.
17
critique of pity already begins in his earlier work in Daybreak where he pointed it out that pity
“is a weakness… It increases the amount of suffering in the world: if suffering is here and there
indirectly reduced or removed as a consequence of pity.”51 Nietzsche understands that suffering
is inseparable from our lives and it even molds us into a better person. Being pitied is “the most
shameful and profoundest humiliation”52 as if a person can do nothing about himself and there is
the feeling of self-gratification to pity others. Nietzsche denounces the virtue of pity because the
motive behind the act can be put into suspicion. To pity other people is a kind of selfishness to
appropriate oneself to the other and thereby a person who shows pity feels good about himself.
To act on behalf of pity does not help in encouraging the sufferer to grow in strength out from
the experience of human suffering. Moreover, the person who is pitied turns out to be a
dependent individual by not asserting his own strength and capacity in facing the suffering and
even not making the most of himself that is in line with excellence. Let us elaborate the
experience of pity in the ethics of education. Suppose that I have a friend who has difficulty in
his logic class. Out of pity, I help him to do his assignment. In the long run, I am not actually
helping that person because I am the one making it for myself and that friend of mine will not try
to do the best that he can since he can rely always on me. Pity shows weakness because every
moment that my friend will ask for help, I will always help because I pity him. In that situation,
my friend will not learn and excel. He let others to do a task for him. This is similar to the
teachers also. Some teachers give a passing grade to the undeserving student only out of pity.
The student has passed but he does not learn from the class.
The task is not to expect any help from others. If they try to help, it is fine as long as you
know the motivation and no condition is given as an exchange. Simon May agrees with
Nietzsche as he argues: “Thus, pity is bad when inertia alia,53 it has the ‘insane’ aim of
abolishing suffering- insane because suffering is inseparable from living, because suffering is, in
large part, both cause and effect of our growth in power and creativity and ‘sovereignty’, and
because the state of undisturbed ‘well-being’ which such pity seeks ‘makes man ridiculous and

51

D, §134.
52

Ibid., §135.
53

Pity is bad or a sign of weakness when inner strength of a person is considered. The person who shows
pity presupposes that he has understood the suffering of the pitied which is impossible.
18
contemptible’”.54 The act of showing pity, sympathy, or being compassionate to other people
makes both the actor and the one pitied forget their goal of a higher disciplined excellence.
Nietzsche accepted both the contrasting claims about man- of his animality and of his
subjectivity. He asserts: “In man creator and creature are united: in man there is not only matter,
shred, excess, clay, mire, folly, chaos; but there is also the creator, the sculptor, the hardness of
the hammer, the divinity of the spectator, and the seventh day.” 55 The object of pity is on the
animal side of man aims is to alleviate the suffering but undermining his full potential for
greatness. Pity is only a concern for “the creature in man applies to that which has to be
fashioned, bruised, forged, stretched, roasted, annealed, refined- to that which necessarily suffer,
and is meant to suffer.”56 It is an instinctual drive to help the pain of others.
In particular, Nietzsche attacks Christian pity because it presupposes that each person
must help each other as a response to the situation that this world is a world of evil and suffering
as if this world is an asylum of great sufferers and each is to become a nurse to each other. In this
case, pity degrades oneself to elevate oneself from his own suffering. To pity a friend or
someone is to feel sorry for him. Let us say that I have a good friend whose feet are badly injured
in a basketball game. This friend has to do adjustment in his lifestyle to a new situation such as
he cannot go to the mall anymore. When I am with that friend, the good thing to do is not to offer
a favor by stating my feeling of how sorry I am for him and what a horrible accident befalls him
because if I say so I put him down by degrading his situation and at the same time I am raising
myself to a higher position more than him. Further, I equate his whole being to the misfortune he
has and thereby pity paralyzes him to feel good about himself. In this case, to pity someone is not
just to pity him on that particular situation but could also mean that his whole life is wretched
and pitiable. This is what happened to the Christian perception of the world of suffering that a
person is pitiable, that all lives here are wretched. What Nietzsche proposes is the higher type of
being in man which is the creator in him who has the vitality to explore and to pursue a unified
project towards a movement of growth as an expression of the will to power. So Nietzsche
argues: “What is good? – Whatever augments the feeling of power, the will to power, power

54

Simon May, Nietzsche’s Ethics and his War on ‘Morality’ (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 37.
55

BGE, §225.
56

Ibid.
19
itself, in man. What is evil- Whatever springs from weakness.”57 This antithesis is Nietzsche’s
differentiation between the two types of morality which he discusses in the Genealogy.

The Purpose of Genealogy


Nietzsche approaches moral ideals through a genealogical treatment. This is a reproach to
the unchallenged moral purity of an idea of guilt, good, evil, and bad by looking at them at the
historical perspective in such a way that it shows how these concepts arise in history. This
perspective already presupposes that those concepts abovementioned are neither originating from
a transcendent source such God nor they are eternal but rather a human, all too human constructs
that have been produced in the different moments in history in a particular culture. The moral
ideals of loving thy neighbor, generosity, and compassion can even be put into a suspicion as the
motives of the action are examined. Nietzsche observes that every one’s motive especially in
earlier history is having the “pathos of distance”58 which could mean that of having a hierarchical
domination over the other. In other words, all men compete for power in order to survive and to
gain a certain status of respect, opportunities, and privileges in the society. Nietzsche observes
that the kind of morality in his time especially Christian morality that has been regarded as the
morality of the age is just a particular kind of morality in relation to the other. In the desire to
compete for power, moral distinctions are based in two unequal sides- the morality of the ruler
and the morality of the ruled. So Nietzsche acknowledges two types of morality. “There is
master morality and slave morality… The distinctions of moral values have either originated in a
ruling caste, pleasantly conscious of being different from the ruled- or among the ruled class, the
slaves and the dependents of all sorts.”59
In the genealogy, he distinguishes between master and slave morality according to their
own set of perspectives: good and bad in master morality, and good and evil in slave morality.
The present moral valuations are not entirely the same when they are compared to its origin in
the historical account of morals. “The concept ‘good’ has been sought and established in the
wrong place: the concept ‘good’ did not originate with those to whom ‘goodness’ was shown!”60
57
AC, §2.
58

BGE, §257.
59

BGE, §260.
60

OGM, First Essay, §2.


20
The concept of what is ‘good’ was first experienced by those people who are in power who find
pleasure and joy in all their actions and achievements. These people are belonging to the
knightly- aristocratic class whose power, wealth, and victory by which they can afford to have
are the basis of goodness. These people are their own legislators of their own actions and
deliberately decide for themselves on what they are going to do with their lives. They have all
what they needed in elevating themselves above the common people. Whatever they do which
increases the possession of power such as courage, conquest and command over the other are
considered as good. Exploitation is just natural and no feeling of guilt has been practiced yet.
That is why in the ancient Greeks owning a slave is natural. People belonging in this type
proclaim themselves with exaltation that they are good even without the need of being affirmed
by the others. They are active and powerful. The character deemed to be bad are those characters
born out of weakness that is coming from the slaves. The slaves are bad as the master maintains
the status of separating the powerless from himself. There is an order of rank between them.
Gilles Delueze interprets that the master would argue something like this “I am good therefore
they are bad” while the slave would say “the masters are evil therefore I am the only good.” The
masters at first feel themselves of their goodness according to their capability and this goodness
is the criterion of judging the opposite side who are the slaves. The slaves on the other hand are
reactive to the masters thereby condemning their act as evil and only after the reaction that they
can feel good about themselves. The main point here, as Nietzsche noted, is that the concept of
good and bad according to the master type of morality is not absolute. The antithesis is biased in
favor to the master and the noble types never consider it to be deemed as absolute. The antithesis
of good and bad is only seen as a social status of every individual living in the society. Hence,
there is no slavish moral content.
The conception of a universal moral principle was only started by a slave moral revolt
that was born out of reaction or resentment. “The slave revolt in morality begins with resentment
itself and becomes creative and gives birth to values.”61 Slave revolt began from the people
belonging to priestly caste started by the Jews and arrived at its crowning achievement in
Christianity.62 The slaves react to the characters of their masters for the reason that they are not
capable of what their masters enjoyed. They do not like the exaltation and pride dispositions of
61
Ibid., First Essay, §10.
62

Many interpreters suggest that the reason behind why Nazi accept Nietzsche as their spiritual father
because of his indirect attack to the Jews.
21
their masters but they do not have the power and capacity to stop from what they are doing nor
can’t they convince them by appearing to be weak. The slave revolt begins trough an imaginary
revenge. These people overturned the tables of values. What the master calls “bad” is considered
good by the slave, and what the master calls “good” is considered not just bad by the slaves but
out of unsatisfied hatred against their masters, the slave put more filthy identity by calling them
“evil.” Here there are two different set of estimation, that is, bad and evil that opposes to the
same concept of good. The social status antithesis of good and bad according to the master’s
perspective is changed into a moral dimension not only of good and bad but out of hatred call it
good and evil. The latter antithesis becomes the heart of religious moral system. After the said
revolt and the turning of the table of values, the slaves create their own value and these values
are the following:
“the wretched alone are the good; the poor, the impotent, lowly alone are
blessed by God, blessedness is for them alone- and you, the powerful and noble,
are on the contrary the devil, the cruel, the lustful, the insatiable, the godless to all
eternity; and you shall be in all eternity the unblessed , accursed, and damned!”63

This was only a standpoint of the oppressed slaves. They invented an imaginary existence of an
eternal and divine being as an armor of defense. Since they are not capable of overthrowing their
conquerors, they invent a lofty- seducing idea in order to capture the minds of their masters by
introducing a feeling of guilt. Their defense is that there is a God who favors the lowly and
punishes all who do wrong and injustice for them. They resort to the imaginary power of eternity
that poisons their masters. This is exactly what happened to the medieval time where the state
has no power over the church for it is the latter that will decide on the issue concerning whether a
person will go into hell or into heaven. Let us use the analogy between lambs and birds of prey.
The lambs are easily wounded and come to hate the birds of prey. The lambs would say: Birds of
prey are always attacking us. Why can’t the birds of prey be more like us? Why can’t they gentle
and not feed on little lambs? The lambs decided that the birds of prey are evil for their act of
killing them and consider themselves as the only good because they do not kill others. The lambs
do not hunt not because they observe certain ground of goodness but they are incapacitated to do
the hunting. Likewise, the slaves condemned the act of their masters as evil not because they are
basing it from a certain moral and transcendental grounds but they just create their own moral

63

OGM, First Essay, §7.


22
standard because they are not capable of what the masters are doing. The slaves who do not have
the courage to have a character like that of their masters seek revenge, out of their callous hatred,
against their cruel masters but not on the basis on the here and now but on the other world
accompanied with the concept that there is a powerful God who would inflict vengeance on their
behalf. This moral is born out of resentment or hatred of the slaves from their masters.
“Resentment itself becomes creative and gives birth to values.”64 Slave morality in particular the
Christian or herd morality regarded everyone as equal which becomes poisonous to the
exceptional man. The herd morality only promotes the average type of human being, in a word,
mediocrity. They promote the morality of loving one’s neighbor but only to the point of
developing the virtue of quiet and calm resignation to furnish an exceptional breed of human
being. Nietzsche argues that the desire to love one’s neighbor is just secondary manifestation of
our fear of our neighbor and the only way is through leveling all people.
“Let us be different from evil, namely the good! And he is good who does
not outrage, who harms nobody, who does not attack, who does not requite, who
leaves revenge to God, who keeps himself hidden as we do, who avoids evil and
desire little from life, like us, the patient, humble, and just.”65

“We weak ones are, after all, weak; it would be good if we did nothing for which
we are not strong enough.”66

“Slave morality is that everything that ‘elevates an individual above the herd and
intimidate the neighbor is henceforth called evil; and the fair, modest, submissive
conforming mentality, the mediocrity of desires attains moral designations and
honors.”67

In a nutshell, the slaves would just beat their breast and concludes that they must remain as what
they are now for there is nothing to do about the matter; they just cultivate their own norms.

The Successful Slave Revolt


Nietzsche argues that the Judeo-Christian, as a religious system, was the one who
introduces the concept of guilt in a moral sense. The origin of guilt was only in the social
64
Ibid., First Essay, §10.
65

Ibid., First Essay, §13.


66

Ibid.
67

BGE, §201.
23
relationship between the debtor and its creditor. The debtor is accountable for his debt while the
creditor has the power to execute punishment toward the debtor whenever he is not going to pay
in the sphere of legal obligation. Punishment is done because of indebtedness and it was not yet
associated with the sense of guilt. The Jewish people belonging to a priestly nation render all
men and their actions accountable to God who deemed all men equal in His eyes. The concept of
guilt and duty are put into a religious set of principles which is “the involvement of the bad
conscience with the concept of god.”68 This religious presupposition is only a chief trick used by
the ascetic priest in convincing the violent soul of their master into a heart-rending. The priestly
caste uses the concept of transcendent idea to exploit the masters, “the exploitation of the sense
of guilt.”69 They use persuasion by telling them that there is a life beyond this world. The masters
are made to feel guilt out of their act. As a result, the power of guilt has effected on them by their
tendencies to despise their unruly and previous behavior as they consider the plight of the poor
and the oppressed to the point of realizing that the masters or the nobles will no longer do
whatever they want. And so the revolt was indeed successful. Nietzsche once wrote “that with
the Jews there begins the slave revolt in morality: that revolt which has a history of two thousand
years behind it and which we no longer see because it has been victorious.”70

Assessing Master and Slave Morality


Both master and slave conceptions of what is good are based on limited and biased
perspective. What are deemed to be good and bad by the masters are only fitting for them while
the slaves view in an opposite way. In the pursuit for having power, the masters compete for it
without thinking the benefit of happiness or pleasure because it is already assured but they
compete for victory. On the other hand, the slaves compete for power by using some means such
as altruism, the idea which encourage individual to benefit another person without getting
anything in return. The motive behind this moral principle is exploitation. It is a moral means
used by the powerless to exploit the powerful. The giver or the benefactors are praised when they
give without any expectation of return and the people who can afford to become a benefactor and

68

Ibid., Second Essay, §21.


69

Ibid., Third Essay, §20.


70

Ibid., First Essay, §7.


24
who do not want of any return are only those people belonging to a powerful class. Granted that
both cases are bias then everyone may choose whatever he likes. A person either chooses to
belong to the master morality or to the slave morality. In the case of Nietzsche, he will prefer the
master type if one wants excellence on life. According to Nietzsche, the concerns of the
powerless are only the struggle to alleviate the sufferings in life while the powerful are always in
want to have more and are always creative with their lives by living dangerously. Nietzsche
envisages the genuine type of being as the goal of our existence. He introduces the humanistic-
existential process of enhancing life and calls the type of person who achieves it as the
Ubermensch.

Ethical Argument against Religion


Nietzsche’s atheism is a type of anti- theism, the view that the belief in God is
debilitating to human excellence. Many believers resort to religion and blindly surrender their
future to God and leaving behind their responsibility to achieve what they want. What they
cannot do for themselves, they leave it to God. Like Feuerbach and Marx before him, Nietzsche
agrees that the religion is the opium which console humanity’s problem and results in not facing
them. However, Feuerbach and Marx approach religion in social and psychological context.
Nietzsche adds one that is the belief in God is spiritually debilitating. Let us say the Filipino
culture of Bahala Na as an exact example. The phrase Bahala Na has its origin in the expression
Bathala Na which means leaving it to God what one is not capable of doing. This has both
positive and negative value. It is good if it indicates courage and risk-taking in doing a task
without the expectation of being helped by other. It becomes bad if one is expressing it as a sign
of resignation as a result of the fatalism of belief in the will of God. People are often inclined not
to do the best in themselves since the belief that God will provide everything is still present. The
negative side is more common to people. Many still believe in the superstition of luck and fate
(malas, swerte, kapalaran sa kinabuhi). This ethical belief leads every Filipino to social
indifference and paralysis. As a sign of resignation, one is not concern on the national concern
and even it is hopeless to help in solving the country’ problem since all is already fated. With

25
this in mind, a person is paralyzed to act for the country. This belief is destructive to a person
which will result to the impossibility of achieving excellence.
Nietzsche also attacks the establishment of religion because it tries to establish a rigid
moral system of what is good and evil. Religion prescribes an easy way to solve moral problem
just by consulting the rubrics or the letters of the law. What is good and what is evil is
determined through rules and a norm set up by all too human institution thereby it is legalistic.
For Nietzsche, this system of morals is only fitted for the herd mentality which does not enable
the common to think for themselves on what is good for them. A person is good if one is not
contradicting the rules prescribed by the institution such as religion. “Morality for Nietzsche is
never a set of rational principles embraced by enlightened minds, or a set of rules burned into
stone by some deity.”71 He rejects God-given morality not because of his own atheism or
criticism he had against Judeo- Christian morality but it is because of the idea of externally given
value system as unnatural, that is, coming from a transcendent source thereby it is handed down
from God above. Since the type of morality introduces by religion is the morality which is anti-
nature, it is unhealthy. “All healthy morality is dominated by an instinct of life.”72
When religion is established, it encourages people into subjection. Believing that each
individual is driven by the desire for power, Nietzsche has a suspicion to the motives of religious
leaders in their preaching of submission and humility in front of the Church and its authority.
People who are in the religious authority claim for the truthfulness of their doctrines as if they
are all coming from a transcendent source, but they are only from their personal interest and
needs to dominate. That is why they have doctrines, laws, rights, and even dogmas of any kind as
an attempt to level all men and to suppress their own desires. Even some of them manipulate its
doctrines as a means of controlling the daily lives of the believers. Let us say confession which
was not only used by Spanish friars before but even until now and also evangelizing others so
that people of other culture will be converted and will later on become a member of the religious
group. In order to compel obedience, religion imposes punishments that are based on some
assumption such as the necessity of the existence of God, of the antithesis between heaven and
hell, purgatory, sin, redemption, and the belief in the final judgment. The concept of reward and
punishment too is despised by Nietzsche because this must not be the basis of one’s action. All
71
Douglas Mann, Structural Idealism: A Theory of Social and Historical Explanation, (Canada: Wilfrid
Laurier University Press, 2002), p. 141.
72

TI, “Morality as Anti- Nature.”


26
those otherworldly concepts according to Nietzsche are imaginary and “there is nothing that so
much touches on reality.”73
“Under Christianity neither morality nor religion has any point of contact
with actuality. It offers purely imaginary causes (‘God’, ‘soul’, ‘ego’, ‘spirit’,
‘free-will’, -- or even ‘unfree’), and purely imaginary effects (‘sin’, ‘salvation’,
‘grace’, ‘punishment’, ‘forgiveness of sins’). Intercourse between imaginary
beings (‘God’, ‘spirit’, ‘souls’); an imaginary natural history (anthropocentric; a
total denial of the concept of natural causes); an imaginary psychology
(misunderstandings of self, misinterpretations of agreeable or disagreeable
general feelings—‘repentance’, ‘pangs of conscience’, ‘temptation by the devil’,
‘the presence of God’); an imaginary teleology (‘the kingdom of God’, ‘the last
judgment’, ‘eternal life’).—This purely fictitious world, greatly to its
disadvantage, is to be differentiated from the world of dreams; the latter at least
reflects reality, whereas the former falsifies it, cheapens it and denies it.”74

In general, Nietzsche attacks religion as it tries to implement its own dogmas of metaphysics. As
Nietzsche attacks Plato’s metaphysics of the otherworldly, it extends into Christian religion
because it is the “Platonism for the people”75 and Christian religion can never be a religion or it
cannot stand as a religion without the need of metaphysics.

The death of God

Nietzsche’s atheism does not proclaim that God does not exist but God is dead. As he
attacks Plato’s metaphysics, he is also attacking God as the source of all valuations of the true,
the good and the beautiful. The death of God is never intended only for intellectual statement but
a wide cultural event that shaken the foundation of all disciplines. “The greatest recent event-
that ‘God is dead’; that the belief in the Christian God has become unbelievable- is already
starting to cast its first shadow over Europe.”76 This proclamation is indeed become true at the
time when Nietzsche died. Humanity has changed its lifestyle and even radically changes the
discipline of ethics concerning what is good and evil esp. situational ethics, political and social

73

AC, §39.
74

Ibid., §15.
75

BGE, Preface.
76

GS, §343.
27
theory, psychology, anthropology, philosophy, etc. After the death of God, humanity is facing
nihilism, the belief that “the highest value devaluate themselves.”77 This cultural phenomenon
portrays that the whole existence is meaningless and nothing valuable on it. Nietzsche’s
proclamation of the death of God when applied into ethical perspective implies that there is no
longer a divine Being that will give the basis of a moral code of our conduct. There will be
pluralisms of moral principle. For the believers the death of God would be the “monstrous logic
of horror”78 but the case is not the same in Nietzsche. For him, the death of God let man to attain
the highest possibility of enhancing life. Man will be able to realize what he is to become in the
future. “Man cannot be while God lives. He cannot be the self he would create, or the self he
knows he actually is, while God remains significant in the world where autonomous man
dwells.”79 I think that Nietzsche is arguing like Sartre that the best way to live as human being or
as a consistent existentialist respectively is to be an atheist because God will crush man’s
freedom of creating himself. If man and God have a connection before and the proclamation that
God is dead then, that connection is no longer tenable. Nietzsche does not also want that the idea
of God to be abolished but also that of man. According to Allain Badiou, “God must die, and
Man must be overcome.”80 If God is dead, then, man who has a relation to God before his death
must also be dead. Indeed, this was Nietzsche original ethical plan- the vision of a higher breed
of humanity embodied in his idea of the Ubermensch.

The Ubermensch or Overman as the Goal


Nietzsche was not afraid of the consequences after the death of God but he is overjoyed
about it. Christian morality as anti-nature will be destroyed and the only criterion that man must
value is only the concern of this-worldly quality of life and nothing eternal.
“The most immediate consequences of this event- the consequences for ourselves,
are the opposite of what one might expect- not at all sad and gloomy, but much
more like a new and barely describable type of light, happiness, relief,

77

WP, §2.
78

GS, §343.
79

Gabriel Vahanian, The Death of God: The Culture of Our Post-Christian Era (New York: George
Braziller, 1961), p. xvii.
80

Alain Badiou, The Century, (USA: Polity, 2007), p. 168.


28
amusement, encouragement, dawn; …. Finally the horizon seems clear again,
even not bright… the sea, our sea, lies open again.”81

Man is now free to create his own meaning and standard of values and accepts the world of
immanence as it is without the need for consolation of metaphysics that is to be found in religion.
After the death of God, the concept of meaning is not something to be found, ready- made, or
given but it is something to be created through actions. The redemption of life after the death of
God can be done through achieving greatness or the realization of human excellence through a
multi-dimensional perspective of life and course of action. Nietzsche’s highest virtue as attaining
human excellence is inseparable from the idea of will to power and overcoming. To achieve
greatness in life one must have the power to take risks and be responsible for its consequences.
Moreover, what an individual achieves as of now is not enough. One must overcome what he is
at the present and in the process attains maturity. To achieve this goal one must appropriate all
his revitalizing strength, passion, sublimation of one’s drive, and self-discipline. In the task of
attaining self-development, Nietzsche is inviting individuals to become godlike and to realize the
greatest potentials that one has. An authentic person is the one who carved out the best in him.
From TSZ Nietzsche notes, “Away with such a god! Rather no god, rather meet destiny on one’s
own, rather be a fool, rather be a god oneself.” 82 What Nietzsche is trying to envision is the
creator in us and not the contented animal. Thus, he calls for self- perfection which he calls in
Human, All Too Human as “the free spirit”, in Beyond Good and Evil as “the New Philosopher”,
and in Thus Spoke Zarathustra as “the Ubermensch.”
“I teach you the Superman. Man is something that is to be
surpassed. What have you done to surpass man? … The Superman is the meaning
of the earth. Let your will say: The Superman shall be the meaning of the earth! I
conjure you, my brethren, remain true to the earth, and believe not those who
speak unto you of otherworldly hopes.”83

The Superman is this-worldly antithesis to God and the one who masters his passion through the
will to power. He faces the godless and harsh world by creating meaning and life promoting
values. The Superman is the goal and not man for the former accepts the world as it is then loves
81

GS, §343.
82

TSZ, “Retired.”
83

Ibid.,, “Zarathustra’s Prologue”, §3.


29
it and creates meanings on it. He bears the formula of greatness- amor fati. Amor fati is
associated with the idea of becoming who you are and the acceptance of life as having only
counted years to live. Nietzsche argues that one is born with certain talents and abilities to be
realized only in a given span of time. The individual has only limited years to cultivate his own
talents and the best way to develop them is at the present; now is the time to show what one is
capable of doing. With this in mind, Nietzsche is against the practice of procrastination. To be a
higher type of being one is to cultivate one’s talents through laborious action for a higher type of
individual is not merely born or simply emerge in just a blink of an eye but it is made.
The Superman is also associated with the concept of eternal recurrence. In GS 343,
Nietzsche presents the dramatic argument of the idea:
The Heaviest Weight. What is someday or night a demon were to steal into your
loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it
you will have to live once again and innumerable times again; and there will be
nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and
everything unspeakably small or great in your life must return to you, all in the
same succession and sequence… and even this moment and I myself.”84

Nietzsche presents the idea as existential which calls the individual to affirm the daily repetition
that one finds in life. Appling this into ethics, the right time of all the repetition to be examined is
the present moment which is the now. Understanding the self- repetition of all our actions, one
must act in such a way that it is worth repeating. If one is engage in a certain task which he does
not like then the moment that he will be given that same task, the result will not be productive.
The individual must choose and act to what he considers as the best of all his choices because
that action is the sum total of his own being and it defines him. By choosing the best actions in a
repetitive time man overcomes himself from himself as time passes on and becomes the
Ubermensch. He is an optimist as he affirms life. When man realizes to become the Ubermensch
through the attainment of excellence, he will not need God but considers Him only as
unnecessary.

Courage as Virtue

84

GS, §343.
30
Nietzsche’s call for human excellence is reflective to himself. Indeed he argues: “I care
for a philosopher only to the extent that he is able to be an example.”85 His care for that
philosopher is applicable to himself because he was able to overcome himself despite all of his
sickness. He is able to reawaken and find his authenticity that which is in him. Nietzsche’s
account of authenticity is existential which means that each individual self can find the
authenticity he seeks only by himself. This authenticity is manifested in the Ubermensch. The
prefix uber asserts that the individual never stop of what he is at present, in other words, each
person is in the process for the term does not only mean literally as “above or over man” but it is
also a “crossing over and a going under.”86 Nietzsche portrays this in the situation of a tightrope
walker who is always in danger in crossing the rope between two points: “mankind is a rope
fastened between animal and overman- a rope over an abyss… a dangerous crossing, a
dangerous on-the-way, a dangerous looking back, a dangerous shuddering and standing still.”87
The tightrope walker as it is shown shows courage and seriousness in his task and thereby he is
praiseworthy. He represents the Ubermensch because of his kindred spirit to cross over the rope
which made him above the crowd. Romualdo Abulad applies the dramatic event in the discipline
of ethics by saying that “a man or woman of true moral worth is always walking on a tightrope…
to be virtuous is a courageous thing.”88 Nietzsche’s conception of courage is different from the
ordinary because he identifies it with a goal. His ethics is a kind of a goal oriented and its main
virtue is courage. An optimist person has a goal in life which is to attain human excellence that
he is going to pursue but without courage there is less or no possibility of achieving as such. For
Nietzsche, courage entails wisdom for it is not only a mere feeling. In the idea of eternal
recurrence, he calls it as the greatest weight and thought provoking hypothesis where courage is
the main virtue that is required to bear such thought. It seeks a man of courage to understand, to
face and to affirm life despite its endless repetition. “Courage. . . is the best slayer. . . for it say,
‘Was that life? Well then! Once more!”89 Nietzsche asserts that it entails to act what is the best
85

Walter Kaufmann, Existentialism: From Dostoevsky to Sartre, p.102.


86

TSZ, “Zarathustra’s Prologue”, §4.


87

Ibid.
88

Romualdo Abulad, “The Future of Ethics: A Postmodern View,” in Two Filipino Thomasian Philosophers
on Postmodernism, (Manila: UST Publishing House, 2004), p. 120.
89

31
and in overcoming what one already is. One needs courage over himself not to fall out of
inauthenticity such that of mediocrity. Also man needs courage so that he might have
experienced the feeling of hardness against slave moral values such as pity and overcomes pain.
“The man of virtue, too, helps the unfortunate, but not, or almost not, out of pity, but prompted
by an urge which is begotten by the excess of power.”90
Above all, courage entails spiritedness and a positive attitude in facing difficulties and
pain and the best of them is loneliness. The Ubermensch only comes out after facing
courageously the death of God and nihilism as its consequence. The formation of the
Ubermensch can never be done by always being with the crowd or herd as what Nietzsche calls
it. The herd always wants every individual to act what everybody is doing. In the crowd, one
needs only to appease the other members and says to them, “be like us, and you will be safe.” 91
In this case, the crowd is a danger for it seduces a happy and safe life that is born out of
conformity and a sense of leveling to mass mediocrity. With this in mind, most people who
achieve excellence are those who are able to bear their own solitude in order to think deeply for
themselves. Even in Nietzsche’s life as a philosopher, solitude constitutes most of his spiritual
maturity and greatness. His boldness to undertake such task is his highest spiritual discipline.
“The man is great who knows how to be most solitary, the man who is surrounded by loneliness,
not because he wishes to be alone but he is what he is, and he cannot find his equal.” 92 All in all,
courage is required in the transvaluation of all learned values and without that the task will not
be successful. To rethink our learned values is to overcome what is at present and therefore it
aims at improving more which is a call for excellence. Thus, courage is needed in taking the task
deliberately and confronting the expected hardships. Only in this way that excellence is
achieved.

TSZ, “On the Vision and the Riddle”, §1.


90

Philip Stokes, Philosophy: 100 Essential Thinkers, (New York: Enchanted Lion Books, 2003), p. 147.
91

Ralph Harper, The Seventh Solitude: Metaphysical Homelessness in Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, and
Nietzsche (Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1967), p. 6.
92

Ibid., p. 153.
32
Conclusion
Nietzsche’s ethics is a call to excellence which is embodied in the Ubermensch.
Excellence refers to realizing all the potentials that an individual is capable of doing. This task is
not easy because it requires us to live dangerously, that is, to take risks in taking our decision in
what we believe as something good for us and at the same time to take responsibility on it. That
is why Nietzsche criticizes all those accepted values that serve as the hindrance for this call and
in putting those values into a critique will somehow lead to the liberation from slavish values and
liberation to realize the desire to excel through the process of self-overcoming. Excellence does
not necessarily mean as going ahead over the other people but to overcome what one is already
achieved at present. Thereby, will to power as power over oneself is necessary for self-
overcoming. So, Nietzsche’s conception of what does it mean to have a good life is to pursue
excellence and this is the meaning why we are motivated to do our tasks even though we are
experiencing sufferings in the process. In this case, a person who desires for excellence must be
his own lawgiver or standard of his own value. Values that serve to threat and to limit the
impulse to cultivate one’s potential should be criticized and to be reexamined.
But what is easy is to fall. People are inclined to be complacent with what they already
have by settling on the unquestioned belief. In order to avoid this falleness and to be able to
pursue excellence, one must embrace the morality prescribed by the master morality which has
the great possibility of providing a condition to become the Ubermensch. The Ubermensch is the
higher type of human being who always goes beyond good and evil. He creates his own values
out of strength and so this breed of human being is not subjected to the morality of the herd
which based the concept of good and evil in terms of equality. The herd morality only favors
mediocrity but the Ubermensch goes beyond the binary thinking of good and evil thereby there is
not stagnation of oneself but always a process of betterment.

33
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