I am new to the field of philosophy and am trying presently to read and understand Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals. In the first essay, he talks about the popular morality and ressentiment; Which I think I tend to relatively grasp the meaning. Where I encounter problems however, is with the meaning of the strong man of ressentiment being free to choose strength:

"our entire science still lies under the misleading influence of language and has not disposed of that little changeling, the 'subject'...no wonder if the submerged, darkly glowering emotions of vengefulness and hatred exploit this belief for their own ends and in fact maintain no belief more ardently than the belief that the strong man is free to be weak and the bird of prey to be a lamb--for thus they gain the right to make the bird of prey accountable for being a bird of prey" (GM I §13).

Does this mean that the slave morality re-invents nobility? Is the slave-moralist the new 'noble' under a different banner? More importantly, if this strong man is not the cause or substratum of the will's strength, then who is?...Are there two strong men one of the slave and the other of master morality? In which case which one is really overcoming oneself? The former by withholding strength--being labeled weak--or the latter by spontaneously expressing strength by the force of its nature?! Any help with these notions will be greatly appreciated.

  • I never saw that phrase "the strong man of ressentiment" and there are no google hits to it, at all. i think i understand the question, but not if it's one i personally feel is a good one. if the strong man is free to choose bondage and (conventional?) accountability, then freedom can be a poison. if that's an untruth, then every noble man that is so poisoned is powerless to do anything about it. i would be more inclined to the former, if only because i see conventional morality as an all or nothing thing... my apologies for the rush
    – user6917
    Commented Feb 16, 2015 at 8:47
  • oh your actual question lol... i'd say that nietzsche is less interested in human types more in human morals. so, no to your questions. hth, tho obviously i know nothin
    – user6917
    Commented Feb 16, 2015 at 8:58
  • Could you add some relevant quotes?
    – jeroenk
    Commented Feb 16, 2015 at 11:17
  • @jeroenk: Quote has been added and the post edited, sorry for the initial lack of insight.
    – O.A.
    Commented Feb 17, 2015 at 6:59

1 Answer 1


For those who read German:

... — unsre ganze Wissenschaft steht noch, trotz aller ihrer Kühle, ihrer Freiheit vom Affekt, unter der Verführung der Sprache und ist die untergeschobenen Wechselbälge, die „Subjekte“ nicht losgeworden (das Atom ist zum Beispiel ein solcher Wechselbalg, insgleichen das Kantische „Ding an sich“): was Wunder, wenn die zurückgetretenen, versteckt glimmenden Affekte Rache und Hass diesen Glauben für sich ausnützen und im Grunde sogar keinen Glauben inbrünstiger aufrecht erhalten als den, es stehe dem Starken frei, schwach, und dem Raubvogel, Lamm zu sein: — damit gewinnen sie ja bei sich das Recht, dem Raubvogel es zuzurechnen, Raubvogel zu sein…

Basically there is no 'strong man of ressentiment', that would be a contradiction. (Christian) Morality for Nietzsche is a way of the weak to take revenge on the strong by reversing the strong's values. It is not Nietzsche, but rather morality (= of the weak) that cherishes the belief that the strong are free to choose to be weak. This means: the strong can choose to become Christian, to restrain from their will to power and to be meek, kind, submissive (turn the other cheek), neighbour-loving. According to morality, the strong can be weak and, more importantly, should be, because morality paints the weak as superior to the strong.

This is what Nietzsche means with the last part of the sentence: morality blames the strong ('bird of prey') of being strong. Strong means overpowering, struggling, dominating and is therefore in the eyes of morality 'bad', weak by contrast is submission, peace, love and therefore 'good'.

There is however some ambiguity. This reversal of values by the weak is a way of saving themselves: they are weak but still want to live and take revenge on the strong. This is a weak form of will power, but a will to power nonetheless. This creates a form of nobility, but a 'sick' one: dominance of the priest caste. They rule, they keep the weak from self-destruction but by way of ressentiment and other weak values (peace, love), rather than the values of the strong (strength, struggle, domination).

  • Is 'resentiment' the term used by Nietzsche; or how its usually translated into English? Commented Feb 17, 2015 at 21:21
  • @MoziburUllah It is a term used by Nietzsche and it is usually translated as 'resentment'
    – jeroenk
    Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 8:11
  • Thks. Do you happen to know what the term is in the original German? Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 15:26
  • @MoziburUllah It's 'Ressentiment', a loanword from French de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ressentiment.
    – jeroenk
    Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 15:42

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