A recurring element in the thinking of Nietzsche is a fundamental reassessment of moral concepts. He makes a decisive contrast between two sorts of morality in ‘Humans, All Too Human.’ One of these theories is the development of governing groups and persons. ‘Good and bad is for a long time the same thing as noble and base, master and slave. On the other hand, one does not regard the enemy as evil: he can requite. In Homer the Trojan and Greek are both good. It is not he who does us harm but who is contemptible who counts as bad’ (Human, All Too Human, section 45). The second sort is the set of moral ideas which streamline their powerlessness, the submitted and the impotent. Nietzsche returns to this issue in Beyond Good and Evil, but the theory is completely articulated in The Genealogy of Morals, the last work he wrote, and one of his most audacious. Each of his three major articles discusses a key moral subject with regard to the concept of the power will. There are two types of morality, ‘master morality’ and ‘slave morality’, though Nietzsche adds that ‘at times they occur directly alongside each other—even in the same human being, within a single soul’ (Beyond Good and Evil, section 260).
In the first example, a governing group presents itself as a valued and good sense of nobility and superiority. “good” here signifies “noble,” whereas “bad” means “common.” In the second situation, the weak construct their own values, the strength of which is considered ‘bad.’ At the most basic level, the contrast is a “physiological one,” between active impulses, spontaneous expressions of one’s own power and the “reactive” impulse directed at something, external hazard. Indeed, the noble isn’t truly interested in the ignoble; but the weak are concerned about the powerful. For their attitude, Nietzsche uses the French word ressentiment. “The morality slave revolt occurs when ressentiment itself becomes creative and gives birth to values: the ressentiment of nature which denies actual reaction, that of action and compensates itself for an imagination of vengeance.” Christian morality is such a system’s most successful example. However, as the weak lack direct retaliation power, their revenge must be mediated via a prolonged indirect process of misleading conceptual manipulation that encourages the strong to value respect and compassion for the weak, and to despise their own virtues.
After this scheme has been laid down, Nietzsche discusses the conception of duty and proposes a prehistory of tough discipline, from which people have become able to remain committed. Moral awareness is an internalised social custom product. But like so much of the moral, this works against itself—the individual whose autonomy extends to the choosing of objectives is the final outcome. A further study of asceticism highlights the ambiguity so often seen in the explanation of moral occurrences by Nietzsche. Asceticism might mean either of two things that are extremely distinct. In the lives of the great creative spirits you can find poverty, humility and chastity, but here they are not valued for themselves only in terms of terms that allow their work to thrive most advantageously. This is far different from the ‘ascetic priest’ approach, which is truly opposed to life itself.
Nietzsche’s social theory actually extends his attack on morality. He always stresses disparities and “rank order.” He is antagonistic to socialism, as he knows, regarded as a resentment-based levelling process. It should be recalled that not Karl Marx, but instead Eugen Dühring was his prototype of the socialist sarcastically, later only recalled as the object of Friedrich Engels’ polémic essay Anti-Dühring. Dühring retraces the concept of justice to the incentive for vengeance. He contends that vengeance is given by society to an impersonal and universal form that creates its own monopolies and takes retribution from the hands of people. Dühring was also a strong anti-Semite and this ideology (‘the socialism of the foolish,’ as August Bebel called it) is significantly attributed by Nietzsche to that same basic impulses. In one regard Nietzsche agrees with Dühring: the concept of justice cannot be taken into account by a formalistic approach. But Dühring protests that he ignored another sort of drives: active and creative impulses. Legal systems are not established by the weak in order to protect them from the strong or to satisfy their reactionary impulses. Instead, they are implemented by ‘active, forceful, spontaneous, aggressive’ individuals or groups.