Can someone give me a cue for Nietzsche's views on morality? I'm sorry, I haven't read any of his works completely yet, but 'Beyond Good and Evil', and his Darwinian context make me curious.

  • 2
    What does the title of this question mean? I feel as though something like “What are Nietzsche’s views on morality” is way more descriptive and functional than what you have now.
    – Not_Here
    Jun 4, 2018 at 23:38
  • Well, personally the question of morality is complicated to me, and Nietzsche has been largely responsible for it. Yes, I agree it does absolutely nothing to functionally summarise my question. Jun 5, 2018 at 3:32

3 Answers 3


It is impossible to compress Nietzsche's views on morality into a short answer, let alone one that will find universal assent. However, here is an extract from a review of two Nietzsche experts, Ken Gemes and Christopher Janaway, of another Nietzsche expert, Brian Leiter. It gives a reliable first pass at Nietzsche's overall views on morality :

According to Leiter Nietzsche's central project is one with a crucial normative dimension: he regards the values of Judaeo-Christian morality, which we still fundamentally uphold, as being seriously inimical to the flourishing of the best in us and of us. He seeks to liberate us from the hold of those values by exposing and giving a trenchant critique of their metaphysical, moral, social and political bases. On Leiter's reading the "us" to be liberated here is of a rather limited domain, what he calls "nascent higher types" (159). The vast majority of humans are regarded as being capable of nothing better than the mediocre existence endorsed in and promoted by Judaeo-Christian values. The idea of Nietzsche as liberator from pre-existing ideas was at the centre of Karl Jaspers 's now rather neglected Nietzsche. Besides having a more focused idea on exactly who Nietzsche is trying to liberate, Leiter, unlike Jaspers, rightly sees Nietzsche as taking on many positive commitments in the course of his critique of received morality. A crucial commitment, which frames Leiter's whole interpretation of Nietzsche, is to philosophical naturalism. Since this is the key to Leiter's interpretation, in the rest of this review we shall largely concentrate on a critical discussion of the naturalism Leiter attributes to Nietzsche, though there are many other things worthy of discussion in this work.

Recent works by, for instance, Clark, Schacht, and Richardson have also emphasized Nietzsche's naturalism. This aspect of Nietzsche's philosophy is gaining wider recognition as more work is done on the actual historical milieu in which Nietzsche worked, and in his second chapter Leiter provides an excellent account of some important elements of this influence on Nietzsche (Schopenhauer, Lange, Moleschott and others). Naturalism has often been presented simply as the doctrine that there are no supernatural entities, and no transcendental entitles; typically this means no gods, ghosts or things in themselves. But naturalism needs a more robust account than is contained in this merely negative claim. Leiter provides the most concerted and sophisticated attempt yet by a Nietzsche scholar to provide one. He distinguishes between substantive naturalism, the claim that all entities are natural, possibly physical, things, or that all concepts are amenable to empirical enquiry; and methodological naturalism, the view that philosophical theories should be supported by results in the sciences (results continuity) or that they should emulate the methods of the successful sciences (methods continuity). While signalling that Nietzsche is at times attracted to substantive naturalism, though not to any crude physicalist reductionism, Leiter argues convincingly that Nietzsche's naturalism is fundamentally of the methodological variety.

For Leiter the core of Nietzsche's methodological naturalism is that he is engaged in giving causal explanations of various human phenomena, particularly the psychological states and processes at work in creating and maintaining values. These causal explanations typically have a certain deflationary flavour which runs counter to various rationalistic competitors. As Leiter rightly observes, it is this that puts Nietzsche in the naturalist camp with thinkers such as Freud and Hume. However, one may argue that there is something askew in calling this emphasis on causal explanation a continuity of methods with science, first, because there is much in science that does not involve causal accounts, as for instance Kepler's three laws of planetary motion; and further because "method", when used in conjunction with "science", typically has connotations of the means for generating and/or testing scientific theories (thus Popper talks of the scientific method of making bold conjectures and then seeking refutations). Just because astrology seeks to give causal explanations we would not say it shares a continuity of methods with the sciences. Nevertheless, Leiter is clearly correct in his identification of the importance of casual explanations for Nietzsche.(Ken Gemes and Christopher Janaway, 'Naturalism and Value in Nietzsche Reviewed Work(s): Nietzsche on Morality by Brian Leiter', Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 71, No. 3 (Nov., 2005), pp. 729-740 : 730-1.


Brian Leiter, Nietzsche on Morality. Published by Routledge (2002) ISBN 10: 0415152852 ISBN 13: 9780415152853. [Note 2nd revised edition : Published by Taylor Francis Ltd, United Kingdom (2015) ISBN 10: 0415856809 ISBN 13: 9780415856805.]

Ken Gemes and Christopher Janaway, 'Naturalism and Value in Nietzsche Reviewed Work(s): Nietzsche on Morality by Brian Leiter', Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 71, No. 3 (Nov., 2005), pp. 729-740.


Another good philosopher on this subject is Stephen Hicks, who has written a bit about Nietzsche and Postmodernism. Here is his digested summary of Nietzsche argument in the first essay of his book, On the Genealogy of Moralilty:

  1. Evolution and psycho-biology: Humans are an evolved bundle of inbuilt drives that assert themselves.
  2. The most basic drive is the will to power.
  3. Humans divide into two basic types: those whose drives are strong, and those whose are weak.
  4. Humans also divide into those who drives are focused, and those whose drives are diffuse.
  5. The strong/focused types exhibit master psychology. The weak/diffuse type exhibit slave psychology.
  6. Masters are energetic, adventurous, fearless, delight in self-expression, etc.
  7. Slaves are passive, fearful, envious, etc.
  8. Moral codes are conscious formulations of one’s needs and interests.
  9. So one’s morality is an expression of one’s psycho-biological type.
  10. So there are two basic types of morality.
  11. Master morality affirms pride, ambition, independence, assertiveness, danger.
  12. Slave morality affirms dependence, safety, passivity, humility.
  13. Life is essentially conflict and expropriation.
  14. Masters are confident in the face of conflict, so the master morality embraces using others for one’s own ends.
  15. The slave morality is fearful of conflict and expropriation, so it condemns them.
  16. The battle between the master and slave moral codes is of long genealogy.
  17. Historically, the master morality dominated first.
  18. But the master morality declined and slave morality ascended.
  19. Currently the slave morality is winning.
  20. The major symptoms of this are the cultural dominance of socialists, democrats, Judeo-Christian priests, egalitarians, and the like.
  21. The slave morality’s dominance is a threat to the advancement of man.
  22. So master morality or a new form of it must be rejuvenated.

Hicks criticises Nietzsche's master morality in his writings, but he also gives some useful summaries of this argument, and contrasts it with alternatives (e.g., Hicks 2009).


I am prevented from commenting, but would just like to say that an obvious source would be Nietzsche's "On the Genealogy of Morals".

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .