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Nietzsche’s morality

by Dr Roy Jackson

For Nietzsche, the term ‘morality’ does not refer to a specific set of values that are out there to be ‘discovered’. Rather, morality has a genealogy, a history, and this differs depending upon a particular time, culture and its traditions.

Nietzsche is an ‘immoralist’ in that he rejects the idea of morality as having any objective existence, whether this derives from a divine authority (Christianity, for example), or reason (Plato and Kant, for example). However, this does not mean that we can therefore do whatever we please. We still have a moral responsibility, and Nietzsche’s ultimate aim is to achieve a revaluation of values, not to get rid of values altogether.

What kind of virtues Nietzsche’s new philosophers would possess is more difficult to determine, as there can be no table of values they would subscribe to. Perhaps, to at least some extent like Aristotle’s ethics, what is more important is the development of a virtuous character, rather than adhering to a set of values or obligations.

Ultimately, Nietzsche’s concern is not whether moral values are ‘true’ or not, but whether a morality has value in terms of the striving for the Superman. Does it help or hinder?

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