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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?
    1. Has particular assumptions about human nature that Nietzsche takes to be false.
      • E.g. assuming there is “free/autonomous agency” of the sort Nietzsche thinks doesn’t exist.
    2. Has certain normative content he doesn’t like (big disjunctive list)
      • Egalitarianism
      • 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

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:
    • “substantive”
      • a certain ontological view (no ‘supernatural’ things exist)
    • “methodological”
      • 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 pejorative sense)?
    • Leitner believes Nietzsche’s goal is not to get everyone to give up on morality.
      • “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.

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
    1. prudential goodness, what is good for an individual (e.g. their well-being)
    2. 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.