The main difference between master and slave morality is that the master morality emphasizes and values power and pride whereas the slave morality emphasizes and values qualities such as empathy, kindness, and sympathy. Consequently, master morality respects harshness and severity and sees life as glorious while slave morality sees humans as weak and helpless, and life as suffering.
Fredrick Nietzsche (Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche 1844-1900) was a German philosopher and a scholar who was a significant figure in the field of Ethics and Western philosophy. He worked as the Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel. According to his works, especially in the book ‘Geneaologie der Moral’ (On the Genealogy of Morality) written in 1887, there are two types of morality as master morality and slave morality; the good and evil in the world are viewed accordingly. This concept influenced the development of Western philosophy greatly.
Key Areas Covered
1. What is Master Morality
– Definition, Essence, Qualities
2. What is Slave Morality
– Definition, Essence, Qualities
3. What is the Relationship Between Master and Slave Morality
– Outline of the Association
4. What is the Difference Between Master and Slave Morality
– Comparison of Key Differences
Ethics, Master Morality, Nietzsche Principles, Slave Morality, Philosophy, Sociology
What is Master Morality
Nietzsche describes that master morality goes with noble and strong-willed people. Thus, the master morality concept emphasizes qualities such as pride, power and courage, openness, and, self-worth. According to master morality, the consequences of the actions define the good and bad.
Consequently, people with master morality see themselves as people with high self-worth having a sense of ‘fullness’ from power, wealth, abilities and talents, and from that, they will try to help those who are below them. Consequently, this creates a sense of hierarchy in them and they start pitying those who are below them and only help them out of that attitude. Thus, master morality can be defined morality associated with pride and strong-willed people
Essence of Master Morality
More importantly, the essence of master morality is nobility. Also, other qualities that we often value in master morality are open-mindedness, courage, truthfulness, trust, and an accurate sense of one’s self-worth. Master morality begins in the “noble man”, with a spontaneous idea of the good; then the idea of bad develops as what is not good. Hence, a noble person sees himself as the origin of value and good; therefore he should evoke fear on those who are below him and should have respect for those who are equal to him (such as family and friends).
Hence, Nietzsche describes that someone with a master morality has the ideology that pride and power are two essential elements in life. Similarly, those who are cowardly and weak or petty are considered bad by the master morality. Hence, if someone has a determination for power and hierarchy that person is valued and appreciated by someone with a master morality. Thus, the desire for power and related qualities is a core element in the master morality. As a result, any signs of weakness are despised, and harshness and severity are respected.
Nietzsche valued master morality over slave morality. Moreover, this morality spans back to the Greek times where Greek heroes view themselves as the epitome of physical and mental strength. They are strong, glorious characters who make their will into reality no matter the consequences. It is well stated by the famous phrase “the strong do what they will, the weak suffer what they must.” The classical literature such as Odyssey and Illiad exemplify Nietzsche’s master morality.
What is Slave Morality
According to Nietzsche, masters are creators of morality. Therefore, slaves should respond to master morality with their slave morality. Hence, slave morality is the responsive opposite of master morality. Moreover, slave morality is for the weak and the people who are below the nobles.
It values qualities such as empathy, sympathy, kindness, generosity, patience, altruism, humility, etc. unlike master morality that values pride and power. Moreover, unlike master morality, unlike master morality, slave morality weighs actions on good or evil intentions. Thus, someone with a slave morality looks at one’s actions with regard to their intentions.
Essence of Slave Morality
According to Nietzsche, slave morality is not ambitious to exert one’s will by the strength and prefers to be subservient rather. It does not seek to exceed the masters but aims to make them slaves as well. The essence of slave morality is, therefore, utility. Slave morality sees nobility as evil and as the creator of suffering. Therefore, pity, altruism, and a lack of interest in oneself are good. It also encourages humility and patience.
Moreover, it questions the apparent happiness of the noble person, rejects hierarchy, and argues that morality is the same for every person. It also sees the human condition as suffering and oppressed by the desire for power; consequently, slave morality sees people as helpless and suffering.
Nietzsche believed that the purest existing form of the slave morality is in Christ’s teachings and explained that the Beatitudes best expressed the morality’s core ideas.
Relationship Between Master and Slave Morality
- Both are ethical concepts brought forward by Fredrick Nietzsche.
- These two opposing moralities create friction among each other.
Difference Between Master and Slave Morality
Master morality focuses on qualities such as power, pride, and hierarchy while slave morality focuses on qualities such as kindness, empathy, sympathy, etc. Thus, this is the main difference between master and slave morality.
Another difference between master and slave morality is their essence. The essence of master morality is nobility while the essence of slave morality is utility and the relief of suffering.
Master morality values qualities such as pride, wealth, glory, ambition, desire for power, popularity, self-worth, courage, reverence, and, determination while slave morality values qualities such as kindness, patience, humbleness, equity, generosity, and, virtues. Hence, this also another major difference between master and slave morality.
Moreover, while master morality promotes hierarchical and authoritarian principles, slave morality disregards hierarchy and promotes socialist and communal principles.
Desire for Power
The desire for power is another difference between master and slave morality. The desire for power is a core element in master morality. As a result, it does not tolerate any sign of weakness, and harshness and severity are respected. On the other hand, it is not so in slave morality; slave morality seeks to eradicate the desire for power and encourage altruism, patience, and kindness.
Actions and Intentions
Actions and intentions are also a difference between master and slave morality. Master morality weighs actions on good or bad consequences while slave morality weighs actions on good or evil intentions.
Sense of Fear and Respect
Furthermore, master morality emphasizes the use of fear on those who are below them in order to have a sense of respect for the nobles as they see them as the origin of vanity and good. On the other hand, slave morality sees everyone as equal, yet they are subservient for those who are above them; nobles, so they see suffering and oppression as a part of their life.
According to the German philosopher Nietzsche, morality comprises mainly of two categories as master morality and slave morality. These two moralities are two opposing poles in the concept of morality. Master morality emphasizes and values power and pride whereas slave morality emphasizes and values qualities such as empathy, kindness, and sympathy. Consequently, master morality respect harshness and severity and life as glorious while slave morality sees humans as weak and helpless and life as suffering. Thus, this is the main difference between master and slave morality.
1. “Master–Slave Morality.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Dec. 2018, Available here.
2. Lacewing, Micheal. “Nietzsche on Master and Slave Morality.” Amazon.com, Routledge; Taylor and Francis Group, Available here.
1. “Nietzsche187a” By Friedrich Hartmann – (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “1374830” (CC0) via Max Pixel
3. “Genealogie der Moral cover” By C. G. Naumann, publisher – Deutsche Historische Museum, LeMO, (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
4. “Image from page 78 of “History of the Underground railroad as it was conducted by the Anti-slavery league; including many thrilling encounters between those aiding the slaves to escape and those trying to recapture them” (1915)” By Internet Archive Book Images (No known copyright restrictions) via Flickr