Ethical theory – 4

Shri Vergese Mathew Pamplani

DSCF1777 copyThis article is the summary of an extensive study and research done by Shri Verghese Pamplani. This is for those who are interested to know the facts and truths on which Christian Philosophy was founded. Shri Verghese Mathew Pamplani (75), originally from Kerala, is an enthusiastic reader and a gifted writer, who lives in UK now. He began his career as a teacher but ended up as Deputy General Manager in Reserve Bank of India – Trivandrum. By temperament, he is agnostic; his extensive reading has helped him to reinforce his thinking and beliefs.  Joseph Mattappally (Asso. Editor)

Previous posts:  Ethical theories -1: Ethical theories – 2: Ethical theories – 3


Ethical Theories -4 

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 7 . Morality and Power
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844‐1900)

He had the courage to attack the key features of the philosophy and religion of his day and to raise fundamental questions. Brought up in a Christian household he was very familiar with Christian ideas of morality and sin and was taught that humankind was fundamentally fallen. In order to receive grace and salvation a person must confess that he or she is a sinner unworthy of God’s love.without God’s grace human beings can achieve nothing .he thought in terms of an onward process of change. He was also aware of evolution and development and the newly enhanced view of humankind within the natural order. He did not see humankind as fixed but in a process of becoming.

God is dead

Nietzsche sew the earth as floating free from the constrains of the old theistic structures.his task was to examine a word without God and a world within which humankind is at the leading edge of evolution. That requires courage and to face reality and a desire to establish a new sense of direction now that there is no God to provide it. The direction that he finds in the absence of God is the next stage in the evolution of humankind,what he terms the the “overman” or as Superman. If the direction in which humankind is moving from animal to Superman then this will have profound implication for ethics. Rather than requiring morality to conform to a God‐given fixed structure or an anticipated benefits ,moral assessment is to be made in terms of the direction in which man is headed.

Following Kant and Schopenhauer ,he sees the will as the point at which morality comes into play. He is asking people to choose,to will,that Superman be the meaning of the earth.

It is nota matter of proving it be so but willing to be so. Once that step is taken it is important that people will the future of the earth and not try to see their goals as being in some heavenly realm .he calls those who who were mainly concerned with spiritual things and rewards after death the “afterworldsmen” and regarded them as a threat to his new positive morality.Nietzsche wants to set aside all traditional morality and start again . He wants to set aside all traditional morality and start again.he wants to go beyond the traditional way of assessing behaviour and go Beyond Good and Evil the title of a book he published in 1886. The phrase used by him for this process was “the revaluation of all values”

Master morality and slave morality.

Nietzsche considered that the sort moral qualities that had been promoted by Christianity ,meekness, gentleness, compassion, were features of the morality of slaves, those who were concerned to help one other in a situation of helplessness and suffering. He contrasted such “slave morality” with “master morality” which he saw prefigured in Greek ideal of the good life,which included the sense of nobility and self‐development. “Master morality” sought qualities that would advance humankind ,slave morality sought qualities that would protect the weakest in the society.

He did not limit his moral criticism Christianity . Nietzsche considered that the concepts of justice, equality and compassion as the emerged from the Enlightenment and as they had been presented unchallenged as moral ideals and models by secular philosophers were equally the product of slave morality.

He considered that these two forms of morality gave rise to two different personal attitudes to the world. Those who followed master morality seek to develop themselves,to explore every potential to its limit and even to give their lives for the sake something higher. By contrast those following slave morality would be mainly concerned with self‐preservation.

The threat of Christian ascetic

Nietzsche saw traditional Christian morality as threat. It appeared to him to inhibit the natural development of strength and by emphasising the weakness of man, it undermined a fundamentally positive approach to life which would be necessary for strength and nobility to be recognised and approved .

Those who suffer think that they are to blame for their suffering . The concept of a sinner create a sense of guilt as a response to suffering and this is encouraged by what he calls the ascetic ideal. Those who are sickly blame themselves as sinners for their plight. The fact that someone feels guilty does not prove that he or she should be guilty. Guilt is interpretation,not fact,but it is an interpretation that Nietzsche ascribes to Christian morality.

Ascetic ideals are hostile to life. Nietzsche sees them within the Judaeo‐Christian tradition and the secular forms of them accepted in the Western philosophy he saw around him. It is these anti‐life ideals that he considers to be poisoning the life of the state. Although he saw.

its influence as harmful Nietzsche also saw the power of the ascetic ideal,the slave morality,and asked why it should have gained such power. His answer is that it something to fill the void of a world without meaning and some consolation in the meaningless suffering. In other words human kind revolts the idea of complete meaningless. It would rather accept a negative attitude to life than to have no attitude at all. It craves meaning it offered is laden with a sense of personal guilt and unworthiness.

Nietzsche’s criticism of Church morality is made clear in a section entitled (Morality as Anti ‐ nature “in Twilight of Idols. “The Church combats the the passions with excision in every sense of the word: its practice ,its “cure” is castration. It never asks ‘How can one spiritualise, beautify,deify a desire?’‐ it has at all times laid the emphasis of its discipline on extrication ( of sensuality,of pride ,of lust for power, of avarice , of revengeful ness). But attack the passions at their roots means to attack life at its roots : the practice of the Church is hostile to life…”.

The eternal recurrence

Everything in the world is linked together happiness and sorrow,success and tragic failure – and one cannot accept some parts of it without accepting them all. For Nietzsche the triumph of Superman and indeed of any one who can say” Yes” wholeheartedly to anything is this this absolute and positive affirmation of the world just as it is,however, much pain it might involve. Whatever meaning and purpose there is in life it is given that meaning by humankind. There is no God, no external guarantor or provider of meaning.

The eternal recurrence presents those who think morally with a fundamental question. Are we attempting through our ideals and sense of what is good to escape from the reality of the world as it is? Or are we prepared to,say Yes to the mixture of experiences,both happy and painful that are reality of life and with in that context exercise our will in order to shape our destiny?

Challenge and a problem

The positive morality if the Superman is a reality that accepts life just as it is and says Yes to it that develops its limit and is not deflected by self‐pity or any substitute, otherworldly goals. The only criterion for moral action is self‐transcendence – to develop oneself. One’s action becomes morally good if done with conviction, and without the prospect of self‐ contradiction if everyone else does the same

Summary List

In a world without God one needs the courage to face one’s situation,sets one’s own goals and say ‘Yes’ to life.

Humankind is to strive to beyond itself and to allow that quest to give meaning to life. (Contd.)

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