In the existing epoch of blogs and 24-hour news networks, issues of morality, of right and wrong, of good versus evil are increasingly dealt with in a manner that treats individual interpretation as authoritative, rather than subjective. This was a natural evolution when one traces its origins – the increased empowerment and accessibility of individual opinion as a result of increased global democratization and communication has lent itself for opinion to share equal weight to the issues that it wishes to interpret. On the surface, that is not inherently negative. Yet, its dangers become apparent on cable news television channels that have devolved into a laughable state of affairs. The format usually follows with two “experts” of opposing opinions are brought on to yell past one another and fail to enhance debate in any meaningful way. To a philosopher such as Friedrich Nietzsche, this form of debate goes beyond being useless. It becomes a manifestation of an immorality that is resulting in a modern malaise. The sheer quantity of opinions has reduced debates into side-taking because of convenience. Indeed, this apparent devolution into mob-like arguing has not, by and large, served to enhance the debates at all. They merely represent the continued evolution of an evil – an evil of achieving life-denying consensus.
Central to understanding evil in Nietzsche philosophy was the idea of affirmation of life. Nietzsche was known to question everything. He questioned socially accepted doctrines and was referred to as the first existentialist philosopher. Nietzsche’s education and associations with other philosopher’s defined his thinking for what later became an understanding of evil in Nietzsche’s Philosophy. The basis for Nietzsche philosophy of good and evil can best be explained by Nietzsche’s belief that truth is nothing more than the invention of fixed conventions for practical purposes. Nietzsche felt that once humanity dies out there will have been no significant changes in the grand scheme of things. According to Nietzsche, humans are not driven by the instinct to survive; instead we are driven by the will to power.
The main thrust of Nietzsche’s initial analysis, particularly emphasized in his text Beyond Good and Evil, consists of demonstrating how this anemic alienation of futile debate and gross simplifications are producing a society of mediocrity and complacency that stands in contrast to a desirable ideal, namely the robust affirmation of life. Nietzsche philosophy remarks bitterly in the Genealogy of Morals that, “We can see nothing today that wants to grow greater, we suspect that things will continue to go down, down, to become thinner, more good natured, more prudent, more comfortable, more mediocre, more indifferent.” Accepting conventional wisdoms as seen in popular debates do not serve in the interest of “growing greater” – which is the most admirable ambition for any individual. Improving oneself requires not just yelling at those you find contemptible, but to assault your own paradigms with a sledgehammer. Once this is done, then one may truly reveal what represents good and evil. And when one identifies good and evil, then life may be affirmed. After affirmation of life, individuals may indeed “grow greater.” Existing avenues of debate are immoral because they do not actually challenge themselves, only the opposing opinion which, in turn, does not improve the individual. Worse yet, even the opinions that are opposed to one another are more similar than they are dissimilar to one another. The opposing views share generalizations and stubborn acceptance of certain truisms of right and wrong. For example, imagine how quickly someone would be condemned by justifying suicide bombings as moral.
The origin of this affirmation of life stems from what Nietzsche philosophy terms Master Morality, a view of the world which acknowledges and unabashedly embraces an undistorted view of reality, rather than constructs an illusory point of view. Alienation, by contrast, is solely the product of Slave Morality, a system rooted in Judeo-Christianity whose very existence is predicated on creating false meaning to justify suffering. He is reviled by the illusory and illegitimate nature of this moral system, labeling this Bible morality as “the sublime self-deception that interprets weakness as freedom.” The movement of human rights and individualism may be interpreted to repulse a thinker such as Nietzsche. These abstract ideals are merely an inversion of how human beings initially were ruled under Master Morality. All that was once good and moral became demonized by the oppressed who created Slave Morality as a response. Debates and arguments today fail to acknowledge that what is now perceived to be “immoral” was once admirable. Indeed, most energy in debates are life denying because they are spent on arguing what should not be, rather than what should be i.e. do not kill, do not steal etc. As long as this paradigm of weakness and restraint being admirable is enforced, debates do not serve a constructive purpose. Consequently, they are not “Good.”
Just as one example, in Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche challenges the ideal of equality that has become increasingly legalized and institutionalized globally (such as the United Nations Charter, for example): “Refraining mutually from injury, violence, and exploitation…is good manners…if these men are similar in strength and value standards.” Equality, however, contradicts “life itself… which is essentially appropriation, injury, overpowering what is alien and weaker” (203). Democracy and popular debate remain an extension of slave morality that weakened humanity because many do not challenge the nature of equality. Whereas slave morality preached “Equality under God”, democracy substitutes that creed with the immunity of “Equality under Law.” Nietzsche explains that what is considered a good or evil action depends on what kind of person is acting that action out. And apparently the way to decide is according to whether said person is sicker, weaker, and on the decline of if that person is healthy, more powerful and ‘overflowing with life’. If the happy, healthy person conducts themselves in an evil way, would it really be considered evil?
Overall understanding evil in Nietzsche’s philosophy comes down to the belief that there is not a universal morality code applicable to all human beings; instead, there is a series of morals designated to different people according to what ranking they hold in society. The rankings were considered either subordinate or dominant and leading roles.That is not to say debates on news channels and blogs cannot become productive in remedying this malaise. It has the capacity and potential to do so. Nietzsche predicts that new philosophers will be bred once aforementioned popular prejudices of erroneous truisms are shattered. These philosophers observe that “this degeneration and diminution of man into the perfect herd animal” (118) that democracy and the modern epoch has only exacerbated can be challenged. Once it is challenged, Morality (singular and all encompassing) will be weakened and the debates can move beyond Good and Evil.
The Will To Power by Friedrich Nietzsche
A selection of Nietzsche philosophy. This book can change your life.