The Moral Laboratory
If you have followed this blog at all, you should be aware by now of Nietzsche’s dim view of our conventional morality. For him, it is a morality that esteems meekness, passivity, patience, equality, compassion and modesty. But it is simply the case, he argues, that these so-called ‘virtues’ are nothing but the characteristics of the slavish ‘herd’ who are, in fact, responsible for the predominance of this regrettable, conventional morality.
Nietzsche claims that the herd praises meekness because they lack strength; passivity because they are unable to take effective action; patience because they have no choice but to wait - being unable to proactively pursue their ends; equality because they are already at the bottom of the social hierarchy - they want to drag others down to their level; compassion because they suffer and, unable to redeem their own existence, they want others to pity them; and they are modest because, frankly, they have nothing to be proud of.
The ancient noble morality was, according to Nietzsche, just the reverse of all this. To the noble individual, what was ‘morally’ good were the noble’s own elite traits. He or she was strong, bold, proactive, competitive, pitiless and self-assured.
Though Nietzsche clearly regards the noble as more, well… noble than the slavish herd, he does not think society can simply revert back to this historical dynamic. Instead we must move forward to something new. The morality of this future is yet to be determined but, for Nietzsche, it must promote what is best in us, rather than degrading humanity into homogenised mediocrity – as he believes our current morality does. So what might this future morality look like?
One reading of Nietzsche’s higher morality is that it will be a values system developed by the higher men and women of the future to serve the realisation of their creative projects. As we discussed in our last post, for one aspiring to greatness, all matters are subordinate to one’s creative projects. For Nietzsche’s higher type, this even goes as far as instrumentalising other people. As Nietzsche writes:
‘A human being who strives for something great considers everyone he meets on his way either as a means or as a delay and obstacle – or as a temporary resting place’
‘A great man … wants no ‘sympathetic’ heart, but servants, tools; in his intercourse with men, he is always intent on making something out of them’
What? This guy sounds like a complete assh*le, right? This ‘using people’ is entirely contrary to our dominant moral views. Immanuel Kant, arguably still the greatest influence on modern moral thought, made it foundational that one should always treat others as ends in themselves; never as a means to an end (without wanting to delve too deeply into that topic, I will mention that Nietzsche would contend that this is pretty much impossible, for the most part).
So we can see that such a ‘higher’ morality would likely be at odds with our sensibilities. It aims at great works rather than at general wellbeing. To be fair, the higher types pursuing such a morality will even sacrifice their own wellbeing to further such projects – this is why an uncomplaining acceptance of suffering is so crucial for Nietzsche’s higher types.
If you are to aspire to the ‘higher’ and, consequently, your moral values are to be tailored to support the delivery of your great projects, then it goes without saying that you need at least one great project. If you haven’t got one, how do you discover the great project you should pursue? This was the question posited at the end of the last post. But if you are struggling, consider Nietzsche’s advice from his essay, Schopenhauer as Educator:
‘Let the youthful soul look back on life with the question: what have you truly loved up to now, what has elevated your soul, what has mastered it and at the same time delighted it? Place these venerated objects before you in a row, and perhaps they will yield for you, through their nature and their sequence, a law, the fundamental law of your true self.’
So you must look to that which has inspired you, edified your existence and made life feel worthwhile in the most profound way. As Steve Jobs said: ‘the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking.’
As the author of this blog, my primary goal is the delivery of the Nietzsche Self-Help Project book (as promised in December 2017). This is my ‘great’ project right now. To apply the speculative ‘higher’ morality we discuss above to the furtherance of this project, the following precepts might be applied:
That which promotes the successful delivery of the book is GOOD.
That which impedes or endangers the successful delivery of the book is BAD.
We might apply qualitative criteria too:
That which promotes the excellence of the book is GOOD.
That which is degrades the quality of the book is BAD.
Within this moral worldview, every part of life should be scrutinised through these lenses to create the optimal efficiency necessary to secure the highest and best.
There is much more to explore here, and I will begin in the next post by examining aspects of my own life with regard to whether they move my writing project forwards or hold it back.
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