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Nietschze criticised Christianity for espousing slave morality. How true is this? Given that Christianity became the religion of the ruling classes, isn't it more correct to say that slave morality is espoused by the ruling classes, not for themselves, but for the ruled?

After all, if Nietschze was correct, then in todays post-christian & secular western europe slave-morality should have withered away, but though it is no longer culturally espoused, the rebel being an iconic figure, as opposed to the saint, it seems to me practically this is still the real morality, for example, espoused by governments & corporations.

According to Wikipedias entry on master-slave morality, master-morality is the morality of the strong-willed, and slave-morality is the response of the slaves. Whereas I'm asking isn't slave-morality foisted on the slaves by the masters to keep them in a state of submissiveness.

A quote by William Blake might be of relevance here:

"The Enquiry in England is not whether a Man has Talents and Genius, but whether he is Passive and Polite and a Virtuous Ass and obedient to Noblemen’s Opinions in Art and Science. If he is, he is a Good Man. If not, he must be starved."

  • Can you provide a bit more context? Is there a particular text or work you're talking about in particular? – Joseph Weissman Mar 5 '12 at 2:44
  • @weissman:I haven't got a particular text in mind, so I may have just a handle on a popular conception on what Nietszche had to say. I may have to go away and read the genealogy of morals if you want me to make this question clearer than it is at present. – Mozibur Ullah Mar 5 '12 at 4:13
  • I can specificly reference that the a large topic of the first essay of the Genealogy of Morals is the comparison of slave morality vs. the morality of the noble. – Renegade Mar 5 '12 at 23:13
  • Well, right, but those terms are all over his work @Renegade -- in different contexts and senses -- I am just wondering if it's not possible for OP to share the particular passage that exemplifies the concern (or ideally might have prompted it) – Joseph Weissman Mar 6 '12 at 3:54
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Nietschze criticised Christianity for espousing slave morality. How true is this?

The fact that Nietzsche proposed such an analysis is very true. Whether or not you subscribe to Nietzsche's analysis is another matter; in any event, you'll have to read it carefully before choosing to accept or reject it.

Given that Christianity became the religion of the ruling classes, isn't it more correct to say that slave morality is espoused by the ruling classes, not for themselves, but for the ruled?

Nietzsche is critiquing the morality of the ruling classes of his time, who are, indeed, Christian. It's not therefore "more correct" or "less correct" to say this; it is a fundamental part of Nietzsche's argument.

After all, if Nietschze was correct, then in todays post-christian & secular western europe slave-morality should have withered away

Not in the slightest. Nietzsche calling Christianity a "slave morality" does not mean it is the only form of "slave morality", and there is absolutely no reason he would have us believe that today's (allegedly) "post-Christian and secular Western Europe" would be any less a slave morality; the fact that it is committed to the notion of "democracy" should be indication enough (as, for Nietzsche, the democratic impulse is slave morality par excellence.)

but though it is no longer culturally espoused, the rebel being an iconic figure, as opposed to the saint, it seems to me practically this is still the real morality, for example, espoused by governments & corporations.

Again, you seem to think you are arguing with Nietzsche when you are merely recapitulating a small part of his argument (although I think he'd say that you are being capricious if you think that Christian morality is no longer culturally espoused...)

According to Wikipedias entry on master-slave morality, master-morality is the morality of the strong-willed, and slave-morality is the response of the slaves.

That's a bit reductionist (as one would expect of Wikipedia), but not too far off the mark.

Whereas I'm asking isn't slave-morality foisted on the slaves by the masters to keep them in a state of submissiveness.

No, the other way around. Slave morality, Nietzsche argues, was foisted on the masters by the slaves, in order to keep them in state of submissiveness, and that's what Nietzsche finds so wrong; the strong-willed are absent, or in hiding, and need to awaken and seize back what should be theirs. (And that's more than a bit reductionist, as one would expect of a brief answer here.)

To summarize: if you're interested in Nietzsche on slave morality, read some Nietzsche, or some of the (voluminous) secondary literature on Nietzsche; Wikipedia is barely a start.

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