Alignment and Morality part 2 – Hypothetical Woman meets Neitzsche

Hello again, and here as promised is the second half of my alignment rant. I only just discovered Neitzsche, so please bear with me – glaring mistakes are likely due to the fact that there is a lot I don’t know about his life and work yet. Anyway, these are my initial thoughts.

The Polish* philosopher Freidrich Neitzsche (and no, I wouldn’t have spelled it right without checking) is often closely associated with Adolf Hitler and Nazism, and so people are afraid to read his work and consider it for themselves – maybe they think they will see the words, think the same thing as Hitler thought, and facism will be born? I don’t know. It annoys me that so many people have an inability to form an independant opinion just because a figure historically marked as the Big Bad liked it.**

So, what does Neitzsche say? Well, he says a lot of things, one of his more famous philosophies is to do with the Übermensch, or Superhuman, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about his views on morality. The Master and Slave theory. That there is a simplified view, this is a more detailed explanation.

So as you can see, Neitzsche believed that Europe (and America, but Neitzsche was concerned with Europe) was ruled by the Slave mentality. I would not go so far as to call it the social illness that he did, but I can see what he meant. We are expected to be selfless, look out for other people, be modest, prudent, and so on. Our films praise the underdog and our politics are all about giving everybody a say. Our religions are about shoring up good deeds for a heavenly afterlife. So far, so good. Nothing wrong with this, really.

But why is the Master mentality (as characterized by, among others, the Hellenic races such as the ancient Greeks and Romans) bad? Is it bad to think of yourself? To say ‘I know’ instead of ‘aw, you’re too kind’ when someone says you did really well? To be experimental and creative? To concentrate on this life instead of the next one? Why can’t our films be about a strong hero?

Yes, there are flaws with both mentalities, but neither is bad, really. The Master mentality is terrible when taken to extremes. That’s when you get people trying to make a Master *race*. But the Slave mentality is also terrible when taken to extremes – that kind of thing triggers people shooting abortion doctors because they kill the poor defenseless unborn babies. *Any* philosophy can be taken to extremes, and I struggle to think of an occasion when this is a good thing.

Currently, our society tends to express anger ‘resentfully’, as Neitzsche put it, as opposed to directly. Especially in Britain, if someone slights us, we tend to do nothing, mutter behind their backs, and sometimes try and get them back in some other way. We have a kind of malicious joy in seeing the misery of those who are richer, more glamourous, more powerful than us – otherwise the celebrity magazines wouldn’t sell so well. This kind of behaviour corresponds to the Slave mentality, and its opposite would be if we expressed anger immediately – this is not to say disproportionately, although I imagine a lot more fights would be started if we were governed by a Master mentality.

For example, Hypothetical Woman lives in a society governed primarily by the Master mentality. So does Random Guy, and they are talking, and suddenly Random Guy makes a joke that Hypothetical Woman finds offensive. Instead of worrying about whether it is rude to tell Random Guy she didn’t like the joke, she confronts him about it. What happens next? I have no idea. I live in a society governed by a Slave mentality so I think if I was Random Guy I would apologise and the conversation would carry on uninterrupted. Dr. X. Ample says he would punch Hypothetical Woman in the face for daring to challenge him, but then, he would. He’s got a Master mentality, but he’s crazy.

* – Neitzsche is commonly identified as German but he was born in Prussia and identified as Polish. Germany as it is now didn’t exist at the time of his birth.

** – There is no evidence that Neitzsche would have liked Nazism, had he lived to see it. He died in 1900. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that he would have despised it.

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One Response to “Alignment and Morality part 2 – Hypothetical Woman meets Neitzsche”

  1. I am back to internets, hooray!

    Taking that last example, I would say that the confrontation resolves into a duel. That is taking some liberties, as well as the example, but say Random Guy can’t fathom why Hypothetical Woman would find that joke offensive, or, perhaps, find her ‘easily offended’, and interprets that as a weakness. In the best scenario, they would simply accept a difference and move on, or find some way of sussing out the issue at hand until they could both be satisfied. Identifying those both as more difficult, I’ll go with the historical interpretation- a disagreement leads to an offense, which leads to a duel. Might of will gives way to might of arms.

    But there is a problem in this interpretation that’s so deep-rooted as to be impossible to dig out of the argument itself. It starts in the very basis of the scenario: that Hypothetical Woman gets offended. She feels the need to confront Random Guy about it. What, then, would she ask him to do? Not say such offensive things? Merely inform him that he was offensive to her? Does she then measure Random Guy against the meter that is herself, and find him lacking?

    That’s where the dueling idea comes from, his nobility is insufficient. to inform him of such, though, where does that rank on the measure of the strong-willed man?

    I realize you don’t take sides on the matter, that one is whole-heartedly better than the other, but rather seem to suggest that perhaps we could more attentive to both. However, being a huge nerd, I feel the need to prod at the ideas that lie beneath- especially in Nietzsche, whose desire, at least in one work, was to go beyond morality. In some interpretations, this ‘beyond’ may mean so much as going without morality, as the strong-willed man would have no need to respond to, or curry favor with, the judgments of others. If the measure is himself, where included in that idea is a concept of ‘the other’, except as thing to be eventually judged? (That’s where some folks get the ubermensch’ idea mixed up with the ‘gigantic Nazi asshole’ idea, if you ask me).

    If you have more Nietzsche thoughts you should post them as well :). I am no Nietzsche scholar, though I’ve met a few, and he’s well worth reading, and thinking about, which you do well.

    Glad to be back reading, too!

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