Assess Nietzsches Account of Noble Values

Assess Nietzsches account of noble values

In this essay it will be argued that Nietzsches noble values are an assertion of his pragmatism, supported by an ideology which is born out of his perspectivist approach to truth. It will be argued that due to his denial of metaphysics and an intransitive realm altogether, Nietzsche encounters vast numbers of unavoidable contradictions and inconsistencies in his approach to morality, and that these, coupled with the reply put forward by Sayers qualified ethical naturalism, are enough to conclusively defeat the master/slave morality he proposes. In doing this, Nietzsche is left with no philosophical shield with which to defend his noble values, which can now be exposed as nothing but a self-preservative ideology, and as such can be discounted from any salient philosophical discussions.

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Friedrich Nietzsche, in Beyond Good and Evil, placed a lot of focus on master and slave morality, and displayed an underlying obsession with hierarchy in his account of noble values. He argues relentlessly that the nature of the aristocratic society and noble values are of a fundamental importance for the development of humanity as a whole; without the notion of aristocracy, there would be no sense of self-improvement and development ??“ and no culture. It is these very notions of rank, ruler-ship, social order and slavery that allow us to strive towards what he calls ???self-overcoming??? – that is, by thinking that we are better than others we also learn to look at our own qualities and characteristics with a critical eye, and seek to overcome or better ourselves.

Nietzsche argues that refinement of character leads to what he terms ???a pathos of distance??? – a keen sense of ones own difference ??“ whether looking down upon ones own lower self, or the aristocrat or noble looking down on the lower classes. He maintains that the first aristocrats were simply a stronger people than those they conquered, in both a physical and a ???psychical??? sense. In this way, they were more complete and alive human beings, so through thousands of years of breeding, the superior aristocratic classes are to this day, fundamentally better by virtue of their humanity, and both physically and psychologically stronger. A healthy aristocracy therefore does not look to justify or explain itself, but rather considers itself to be the very reason that the society it governs actually exists; the purpose of society is to ensure that the higher form of life which the aristocracy represents can exist and flourish. Nietzsche explains that the strong-willed demonstrate a stronger will to power, so when the first aristocracies came about, it was due to the exercising of this stronger will to power, that granted them their position in a new hierarchical society; those with the stronger will to power would rule over those with the weaker will to power. And this difference in will to power between individuals, argues Nietzsche, came about naturally so the noble classes exercising of power over the lower classes, is an organic function of the will to power and so noble values are thus beyond morality.

However, in advocating such arguments that are of a fundamental importance to his philosophy as a whole, he is contradicting himself in his stance to metaphysics and truth. Nietzsche expresses his argument as an objective fact; that noble values are a natural product of the organic exercising of the aristocracys will to power. As Arthur Danto argues, ???[…] speaking as though an objectively better type of being can be talked of, whereas it is wrong to take normative criteria as having the least bearing on the way things are to be judged in reality [??¦] is an unpleasantly tangled pocket in his system. [??¦] I see no way of explaining it away???. Danto identifies that Nietzsche is inconsistent with his approach to truth (or indeed, untruth) since he sets out in the beginning of Beyond Good and Evil, his position as a perspectivist, and his claim that everything is false. But it is interesting that Danto seems to intent on saving Nietzsche; surely such a stark incoherence and inconsistency should be left as such, and there is no point in attempting to explain it away as Danto so wishes to do. Rather, in response to Nietzsches perspectivist position from which he states ???there are no facts only interpretations???, Alain Boyer rightly argues ???What should one answer To begin with, nothing. There is no argumentative response to be made to someone who authorizes himself not to accept the others arguments under the pretext that he does not consent to being dragged into the snares of logic???. Instead of simply accepting that there are some metaphysical truths, Nietzsche asserts in his pragmatist attitude of reducing the idea of truth to that of utility, that we must ???step outside metaphysics???, but yet nevertheless continues to make objective and metaphysical truth claims. Nietzsches pragmatism does help to explain his seemingly self-centred attitude to hierarchical society, but it serves as no benefit to the verifiability of his claims, once it is identified that his approach is nothing but a means to satisfying the ends that are his lust for power, fortune and respect. Indeed, according to Nietzsche on a par with pragmatism, p is true and q is false if p works and q does not; if we take p to represent noble values, and q to represent egalitarianism, Nietzsche derives the truth in noble values from the fact that they work for him, in achieving his personal goals, and that egalitarianism does not.

Furthermore, even without a barrage of contradictions regarding morality, Nietzsches perspectivism and attempt at inferring the redundancy of metaphysics, are inherently flawed. In persuing a perspectivist stance on truth, Nietzsche is reducing matters of an ontological status, to epistemological quarrels, in reducing matters of fact to matters of perspective and interpretation. By denying metaphysics furthermore, he removes any ounce of ontological content to said disputes, and literally reduces every matter of truth, to a perspective that is neither true, nor untrue; just an interpretation that is meaningful to the person. Surely, if we cannot appeal to any fact independently of its relation to the perspective it is meant to support, we can do little more than insist on our perspective, and try, if we can, to impose it on other people. But it must be asked, as to where these perspectives originate, if not from metaphysical facts. If there is no independent reality (or what Roy Bhaskar refers to as the intransitive dimension), then how can we even have perspectives to begin with And what would they correspond to The only conclusion that can be reached from Nietzsches perspective, is one of nihilism, since it is clearly seen that the intransitive places limits on what we can say about it, otherwise anything could be said, since it would be in regards to nothing, and therefore there would be no point in supporting, or contesting, any perspective at all. Indeed, according to a correspondence theory of truth, there is clearly a transcendental (i.e., necessary conditions of possibility) for a metaphysical, independent reality, from which we derive our concepts and language, and to which they then correspond. Without such an intransitive dimension, concepts and language become meaningless.

Even further still, regardless of the latter issues and contradictions facing Nietzsche in regards to truth and metaphysics however, we must question how Nietzsches account of noble values, if they are beyond morality as he claims, they can have any implications for morality Nietzsche is wavering between giving an account that somehow transcends morality and yet is itself moral; any thesis that carries implications for how others are treated is by definition, irreducibly moral. Indeed, after claiming that noble values are beyond morality, he nevertheless sets out his ideas concerning master and slave moralities, which are inherently linked to his account of noble values. It is what Nietzsche defines as a pathos of distance (a feeling of distance) which separates slave morality and master morality. He asserts that good is everything that is helpful, and that bad is everything that is harmful, to the strong-willed individuals in the master class. In other words he assumes that ???usefulness??™ is ???goodness as a value??™.
The slaves??™ morality is merely a response to this master-morality; it is said to help alleviate the suffering felt by the lower orders caused by ???the masters??™.
As the master-morality originates only in the strong-willed according to Nietzsche, so the slave-morality respectively originates only in the weak-willed individuals. Therefore traits such as pity, patience and humility are regarded as ???good??™ for the slaves. The slaves therefore wish for a democratic individualist society, where there are no ruling classes, and society works together on the same level, with no hierarchy; a striving that, to Nietzsche, clearly demonstrates their weak will to power. So to Nietzsche, the desire of the weak-willed for full-fledged egalitarianism, means that the distance between upper and lower classes, and the leadership of the aristocrats is essential, since to submit to democracy would be to weaken the human race as a whole by surrendering our will to power to egalitarianism. So in this way, aristocracy strengthens the aggregate of the entire population and thus, the shortfalls suffered by the lower classes are justified.

But to this extent, Nietzsches definition of master-morality in terms of his noble values is quite clearly nothing but an ideology that attempts to justify itself in legitimizing the inequality, and exploitation and domination of the weaker classes, in the interest of strengthening the noble classes. As Nietzsche states, “The noble type of man experiences itself as determining values; it does not need approval; it judges, what is harmful to me is harmful in itself; it knows itself to be that which first accords honour to things; it is value-creating”. This is a clear example of how Nietzsches pragmatism sneaks into his views on morality and noble values; the exploitation of the weaker classes is being used as a means towards his egotistical ends. This approach to justifying social injustice and exploitation was first described as ideological (a set of ideas that are put forward in an attempt to justify or legitimize unequal social relationships) by Karl Marx, when he described the relationship between the Proletariat (the means of production) and the Bourgeoisie (the owners of the means of production), and criticised the use of such things as religion, by the bourgeoisie, as a method of justifying the social injustice in hierarchical societies. A parallel can clearly therefore be drawn between Nietzsches advocacy of noble values, and Marxs critique of the subjugation and domination of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie, where Nietzsche attempts to justify his noble values with the definition of master and slave morality (although if noble values are beyond morality, it is surely impossible for him to legitimately do this, since noble values are distinct from the morality Nietzsche uses to defend them).
Indeed, just because the ruling classes apparently have a stronger will to power, and are in a position to exercise that power, does not mean that their interests should take primacy, or their values should be beyond needing approval. In-fact, because there are many more individuals in the lower classes than the upper classes, surely according to Nietzsches very own perspectivist stance that ???there are no facts, only interpretations???, a complete relative aggregate of all perspectives and interpretations on this matter would reveal itself largely in the lower classes own favour, which undeniably contradicts Nietzsches attempted justification to the ideology that it is right to exploit the lower classes. To this degree, Nietzsche ruins the foundations of his own discourse, and is left with two options. Either he abandons perspectivism in favour instead of a correspondence theory of truth that permits metaphysics and the objectivity of the will to power, but undermines his will to untruth, or, he must abandon the idea that the will to power is a natural, organic function completely, which then in turn undermines his claim that noble values are naturally beyond morality, which thus leaves his arguments redundant of any warrant whatsoever, leaving his entire set of noble values, nothing more than a matter of perspective (and surely, a wrong one).

Furthermore, returning to the idea that the lower classes exist to serve and further the flourishing of the upper classes, carries the stigma of a social inequality that is objectively, irreducibly and unavoidably immoral, despite Nietzsches claim that ???there are altogether no moral facts???. Nietzsche argues ???There are no moral phenomena, but only moralistic interpretations of phenomena.???; a statement that reduces all disputes concerning ethics to subjective matters, and are thus open to interpretation according to ones personal conceptual scheme and tables of valuation; ???Moral discoveries have reference to nothing in the world itself, but only to those who discover them???. This view ultimately infers that socially accepted moral codes are born in the relative subjectives of the individuals that constitute the society in question; a stance again supportive of Nietzsches perspectivism in regards to truth.
However, to reiterate, his perspectivist stance on truth undermines his aristocratic dichotomy between master and slave morality, in that in one intermixing society of aristocrats and commoners, there would be one dominating aggregate of personal moral perspectives that was sociologically accepted to be the norm and would therefore become the foundation of what is right and wrong, and the basis of law and order.
However in Nietzsches account, he describes a separate and distinct difference between master and slave moralities, but if we have the choice, as Nietzsche inadvertently permits us, between two contradictory moralities, which one do we choose Surely, we would adopt the one that best-suits our own well-being and self-preservation; the master morality. But if everyone were to adopt the master morality, there would be no difference between nobles and commoners as Nietzsche would have you think; the only difference between all those individuals in society would be that some are in a position to rule, while others are all striving to themselves rule, so the will to power would be equal and balanced in all individuals so that there would be no stronger or weaker classes, and no physical or psychical difference between master and slave, in that the allocation of power is opportunistic, impartial and fair to all; a fact which completely undermines Nietzsches account of noble values, in a step towards his forever-feared egalitarianism and democratic individualism.
Furthermore, if Nietzsches claim that ???there are altogether no moral facts??? is indeed true, it highlights that his take on master/slave morality and noble values, are, permitting to his perspectivism, just one of many possible interpretative stances on morality and ethics; he reduces his own argument to a mere perspective, which, whilst remaining consistent, renders his entire belief system in terms of noble values and morality, redundant of any propositional content.

Nietzsches claim that there are altogether no moral facts therefore is undermining of his own fundamental account of noble values. But whilst sufficient in defeating Nietzsche on his own terms, it is wrong to think that morality is a subjective phenomenon of interpretation as he believes.
Truly, Nietzsches tumble towards a subjectivist morality, is antecedent to establishing what David Hume would term, an is-ought gap, in that Nietzsche is supposedly establishing a gap between natural facts and moral judgements, when he claims that there is no objective basis for moral action. But in fact, Nietzsche does more than this; by denying metaphysics altogether, he is not just creating a gap between natural facts and moral judgements, he is tearing them apart, and disposing of natural facts, because according to him, there are no facts, only interpretations. But one can identify yet another inconsistency here, in that yet while Nietzsche inadvertently denies any is-ought gap, by disposing of the is, and focussing solely on the ought, he at the same time, applies this ought to every day situations, thereby restoring again, the is. By doing this, Nietzsche suggests that we can create an ought prior to any is but then expect to apply it to an is afterwards. Nietzsche is clearly wrong to suppose that one can derive an ought without reference to an is, in the same way that he is wrong in supposing that one can derive a perspective without reference to an intransitive dimension. He cannot simply deny any is-ought distinction, then establish one for which to apply morality to afterwards. Surely, any moral ought is transcendentally dependant on an ontological is; so in this way, the gap between is and ought should be closed, not so that what there is now, is what there ought to be, since that would imply that the current state of the universe is what is morally good, and morality is not nor should not, be temporally dependant; but there is still an inescapable tie between morality and ontological facts, that is revealed by arguing for a significant element of overlap between is and ought, as Bhaskar rightly argues; ???there is no inseparable barrier between is and ought statements [??¦] i.e., to affirm the derivability of what really and actually ought to be from what really is; which has the corollary of the dependence of evaluative upon factual statements???.

Furthermore, as Andrew Sayer argues, ???In engaging in arguments about ethical matters, we can hardly avoid appealing to common standards and to objective or independent circumstances, rather than merely to our own individual preferences or those of our community???; indeed, Nietzsches argument for a dichotomy of class in a hierarchical society excludes an appeal to any objective or independent referent; his argument is therefore, his own individual preference or that of his community so as such, contains no more propositional content than that of his ad hominem arguments made indiscriminately against all past belief and philosophy.

Sayer therefore argues for what he terms a qualified ethical naturalism; ethically naturalist in that it considers that the very meaning of good or bad cannot be determined without reference to the nature of human social being, or in other words, an overlap between is and ought. Primarily, Sayer argues that ???we can say that the meaning of good and bad ultimately relates to human needs and human capacities for flourishing or suffering???. This is not merely a matter of values or subjective opinion or of pleasure and pain, for it concerns objective matters ??“ objective in the sense of being independent of what particular observers happen to think. So ethical naturalism argues: that which contributes to eudaimonia (human flourishing) is moral, and the converse, that which inhibits eudaimonia, is immoral. Eudaimonia refers to the fundamental human essence that is, to be, is to flourish; flourishing depends on some basic human needs, for example adequate nutrition, access to water, clothing, shelter, a degree of freedom etc. So actions performed by humans that dispose another human being to hardship in fulfilling any of these basic needs are therefore considered as immoral acts, and those actions which seek to preserve or further the fulfilment of any of these basic needs, are considered moral acts.
To this extent, Nietzsches noble values can be seen as, not transcending morality as he would argue but, being inherently immoral, because they inhibit the ease with which the lower classes fulfil their basic needs; i.e., less freedom because they serve the master classes, less money to obtain nutrition, water, food, shelter etc. This distinction of a qualified ethical naturalism is supportive of the human conscience in deriving guilt, and is the basis of all biblical and political laws and legislations. The fact that the basic principle of preserving eudaimonia is a solid theme running in the various moral codes of cultures as can be seen inexhaustibly throughout history, is evidence to support Sayers ethical naturalism. There are cases where autocracies have given birth to extensive inequality and injustice in the past, for example, in Hitlers Nazi Germany, but such cases are examples of how different individuals and cultures have different stances on ethics (the practical application of morality), but this differs from morals, in that morals are the objective rights and wrongs, whereas ethics are how morals are applied in practical situations.
Sayers qualified ethical naturalism, is therefore a satisfactory replacement for Nietzsches master and slave moralities, and as such, undermines the ideology he attempts to set up to defend his noble values. Nietzsche is therefore left with just his perspective that is noble values, which, neither according to his own stance, correspond to reality, nor carry any philosophical warrant at all.

So in summary of Nietzsches noble values, in relation to his philosophy as a whole, Nietzsche seems to trip himself up with every turn, with a philosophical self-bombardment of inconsistency and contradiction. Indeed, with perspectivism and the denial of metaphysics at the centre of these contradictions and inconsistencies in his approach to morality, Nietzsches denial of any is-ought relationship is typical of his denial that there are objective truths, and a metaphysical reality to back them up. So instead, we should turn to a correspondence theory of truth, that resolves the problems that are the product of Nietzsches perspectivism, and which allows for an overlap between is and ought, that permits Sayers qualified ethical naturalism, as a resolution to Nietzsches overall denial of moralistic facts. It has been shown, that Nietzsches account of noble values are nothing but a means to fulfilling his selfish pragmatic desire for a hierarchical society that exploits the working classes to further the aristocracy, and the use of master morality as an ideology which justifies his values, is in-fact, inescapably immoral.