What does Nietzsche mean by morality?
Nietzsche means something different from ethics when using the term morality
- He presents himself as a “critic of morality”
- Although also talks about “higher moralities” as things he approves of, using the same German word.
- Leitner distinguishes these senses by introducing the term “morality in the pejorative sense”
- What characterizes the types of morality Nietzsche’s opposed to?
- Has particular assumptions about human nature that Nietzsche takes to be
- E.g. assuming there is “free/autonomous agency” of the sort Nietzsche thinks doesn’t exist.
- Has certain normative content he doesn’t like (big disjunctive list)
- High value on pity / altruism
- Especially high value on happiness / low value on suffering
- E.g. Nietzsche is a critic of utilitarianism, which might have some but not all of these features
- Has particular assumptions about human nature that Nietzsche takes to be false.
Naturalism about morality
- Leitner calls Nietzsche a naturalist thinker about morality
- Thinking of him in line with Hume and Freud, rather than the popular view of thinking of him as a precursor to postmodernism
- “Naturalist” is a fraught term. Need to distinguish:
- a certain ontological view (no ‘supernatural’ things exist)
- an idea of how one does philosophy
- There aren’t any distinctive philosophical practices, no difference in kind with other sciences (primarily psychology)
- No reliance purely on a priori
- Nietzsche is at least the latter. Calls himself the ‘first psychologist’
- He is a ‘speculative methodological naturalist’ like Hume.
- Same kind of structure of argument that is characteristic of Hume:
- Take some class of beliefs (e.g. beliefs of morality)
- Be skeptical that the beliefs can be rationally arrived at
- Construct a psychological narrative for how we could have arrived at those beliefs / why they are attractive to human beings as they are.
- E.g. in geneology of morals: how did the acetic ideal come to dominate the human mind / major religions.
What is the argument?
- How would Nietzsche try to convince someone who believes in morality (in the
- Leitner believes Nietzsche’s goal is not to get everyone to give up on
- “Herd morality for the herd”
- There are different types of people
- But there are (potential) creative geniuses like Goethe, Napoleon, Nietzsche himself, etc., whose flourishing is hindered by morality.
- Lots of techniques to convince those people.
- Nietzsche acknowledges that belief isn’t an entirely (or even mostly) rational deliberative process, so his methods of convincing are unusual compared to other philosophers.
- Writes to ‘get you in the gut’ - is crude/rude/joking/hyperbolic.
- “We don’t even notice the slave morality because it’s been victorious” He knows his readership isn’t even skeptical of morality, so he needs to be provocative to loosen them up / open them up to critical reflection.
- Makes arguments
- E.g. Naturalistic picture debunks common picture of human agency (his readership is becoming more committed to science, which allows him to draw up a tension)
- But you can’t argue someone out of their morality, so rhetoric is important.
- Leitner believes Nietzsche’s goal is not to get everyone to give up on morality.
Is different types of good for different people self-contradictory?
- Nietzsche wants different moralities for different types of people, but maybe he’s implicitly arguing for a universal principle “what is good for people is good for their individual fluorishing as the type of person they are”
- Distinguish two kinds of goodness
- prudential goodness, what is good for an individual (e.g. their well-being)
- moral goodness (all other types of goodness) (e.g. “morality in the pejorative sense ought be rejected because it prevents higher beings from flourishing”)
- Nietzsche doesn’t believe these claims are ‘moral facts’ (he’s not a moral realist)
- If a herd animal read Nietzsche’s book and understood it perfectly but reacted poorly (“but this criticism of herd morality isn’t good for the rest of of us”) … N would not think this person has made any error.
- Nietzsche thinks it’s a matter of taste whether flourishing of higher beings is more important than well-being of the herd.
- So he is not aiming for a universal principle that is in the best interest of everyone.
Relevance to contemporary analytic moral philosophy
- Leitner: I don’t think “analytic philosophy” exists, beyond some general stylistic concerns like attempting to be clear.
- There is a current strand of moral philosophy intersecting with psychology that he would fit in with.
- Nietzsche was a speculative naturalist, it’s possible that his beliefs that
had empircal content are not psychological facts, but Leitner thinks after a
century of psychological research that Nietzsche was right often.
- E.g. he centred the role of the subconscious
- Among the three dominant paradigms of moral psychology, Aristotle / Kant / Nietzsche, Nietzsche has the most plausible underlying assumptions given what we now know about psychology.