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Nietzsche: Master Morality, Slave Morality and the Western Transvaluation

Hosu Lee


            Nietzsche looks into the psychology of the “true world” believer and understands why they holds such beliefs to protect them from the harsh reality. He realized that truth seeking always required the sufferings and tragedies in the Greek philosophy. However, Greek people deluded themselves with the pleasure that fulfills the ascetic virtue of their true world. They even consistently desired more tragedies to affirm their existences. The conviction that they had attained the inward certainty with the truth gave the meaning for their sufferings. Nevertheless, Nietzsche claimed that they wanted truth but their sole interest was knowledge which was “merely an interpretation of certain phenomena, more precisely a misinterpretation”. (Twilight of Idol, 33) Since he believed that such metaphysics was impossible to human, he introduced the concept of master and slave morality in his genealogy of morality. In this essay, I would like to explore Nietzsche’s concept of morality with the allegory of the garden of Eden and the “Jewish transvaluation”. Furthermore, this essay will investigate the possibility of another transvaluation after the rapid decline of faith in Christianity by science and technology, especially when dealing with the global problem such as climate change.

            Garden of Eden is a metaphysical world that Jews believed to be the origin of humanity to explain their sufferings in life. It is a paradise where human can live with God forever with his/her absolute obedience. In this world, the God is the “good” himself, the superior and the creator of everything. He is the being of master morality in a form of logos; his existence itself deviates from human beings from the good. Adam and Eve are bad as they contrast to the virtue of the good. In the garden, God commanded them not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Jews believed that the life with full of deaths and sufferings was the consequence of eating the fruit which allowed them to realize the evil. Indeed, the exile from the garden was the first tragedy that came into humanity according to Jews. This birth of tragedy affirmed their existences as awakening from the Apollonian dream in Dionysus reality. By Nietzsche, the allegory of the garden of Eden becomes a metaphor of realizing the primordial reality—the will to power.

            The garden of Eden represents an Apollonian world of order “in which everything is deified, regardless of whether it is good or evil”. (The Birth of Tragedy, 3, 27) According to Nietzsche, it is the “true world” that the Jews’ God dwells in, however, the reality is the Dionysian power of the will which constitutes the universe in the first place. This explains why God creates the tree of good and evil, and give Adam and Eve the free will; there was no such free will, however, the Apollonian dream has created God who collides with the reality of Dionysus who gives them the will to power. When Adam and Eve ate the fruit which gave the birth to the slave morality, they realized the metaphysical gab between the existence of their God and themselves. Adam and Eve felt ashamed by each other in their nakedness and unlikeness from God. This tragedy affirmed their lives with the certainty of the existence of master morality with the will to power. Belief in the broken utopia evoked the ressentiment in the slave morality that led to an imaginary revenge to the master, such an event as the Tower of Babel.

            Next, the most tremendous revaluation of moral values in the Western world took place with the Incarnation and Resurrection as a form of the revenge of the slave morality. At that time, this event was fundamentally the proposals to the two types of master moralities to adopt the values of the weak and sinner: aristocratic values and Jew’s God. Having been slaves in Egypt and dominated by the powerful nations around them, Jews dared to undertake the revaluation of aristocratic values, driven by the ressentiment towards them. With the source of this slave revaluation, Christianity inherited all the values of Jews declared: “the miserable alone are the good; the poor, the powerless, the low alone are the good.” (GM, 1) Jesus Christ, the messiah, had overcome the metaphysical gap between God and human by forgiving the original sin from the Fall. This was Christian transvaluation of Jew’s God which claimed that now man had become capable to live in the “true world” of Jews. For Jews, their God, the Apollonian dream, has transformed to the image of Jesus Christ. By this event, Nietzsche believes that our values are now Judeo-Christian values. Christianity, as a slave morality, had dominated all over the Europe and succeeded until now.

            In the modern era, as predicted by Nietzsche, the skepticism towards Christianity and all other true world theories grows that people can no longer believe those dogmas of religion and metaphysics. A growing nihilism that life is meaningless has led European intellectuals to support World War I. Now, we have the rigorous method of objective truth, science. Discoveries in science have started to reconstruct the new true world on the foundation of scientific theories and experiments, such as evolution and Big Bang theory. Indeed, science is the modern type of the slave morality that discredits the validity of the foundation of Christianity, creation and the garden of Eden. The values of Jews’ true world that Christianity once has taken the advantage of now becomes a trap that fundamentally opposed to the science. In the process of transvaluation in Christianity, the conviction of faith has turned into the lies that one inwardly knows to be false.

            Then, what can be the revolt of slave morality that will eventually replace all the master moralities in the modern days? I believe that it will be the development of the artificial intelligence (AI) towards the superintelligence which comprehends all the values of the master moralities while rejecting the foundation of “real world” of the master moralities. Besides, with its capacity of dealing with the complicated problems like climate change, superintelligence can be considered as the salvation of the earth and people. Meanwhile, Christianity cannot suggest any valid reason to solve the environmental catastrophe. Therefore, the power of science becomes another Apollonian dream in the modern days that prevents people from the fear of chaos, the reality of Dionysus.  Again, this tension between Apollo and Dionysus reflects the garden of Eden, where the will to power can interrupt to cause another slave morality out of the master morality, unless the will to power of individual is completely controlled by the technology. Perhaps, it was already predicted by the metaphors in the Apocalypse as the Antichristian that would construct the New World Order which governs the totalitarian world.

            Nietzsche proclaims, “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him,” that now the old true worlds vanish, and it is the time of Zarathustra when the shadows are the shortest and everything is in light. However, forthcoming nature of technology seems to be the massive cloud that will cast shadows and violence again over the light. In fact, the growing power of science and technology with the understanding of the reality beyond good and evil brings more skepticism against the possibility of Nietzsche’s ideal, the overman who affirms the eternal recurrence of the transvaluation. According to Nietzsche, we need to stand strong against all the beliefs in morality to affirm our will to create own reality. Nevertheless, is it possible for a human being to light up against the massive darkness over the sky?

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