Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
[flagged] Master–Slave Morality (wikipedia.org)
47 points by 0db532a0 on Nov 26, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 62 comments



The SEP[1] is probably a better reference than Wikipedia for most philosophical topics, especially for individuals like Nietzsche (who, for various reasons, tends to find himself in the intersection of vaguely reactionary thinkers and people who want to read philosophy without seriously engaging with the rest of the canon).

In particular, this Wikipedia article gives the incorrect impression that Nietzsche is especially cynical about divine command and deontological ethics and implies that the MS divide is in some ways constructive. Neither is the case: Nietzsche's moral cynicism is universal and the MS divide is meant to be descriptive, not prescriptive or constructive.

[1]: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/nietzsche-moral-political...


I finally found the time to read the SEP article and all in all I feel the Wikipedia article is a good summary.

Quoting SEP:

"""

Thus, what unifies Nietzsche's seemingly disparate critical remarks — about altruism, happiness, pity, equality, Kantian respect for persons, utilitarianism, etc. — is that he thinks a culture in which such norms prevail as morality will be a culture which eliminates the conditions for the realization of human excellence — the latter requiring, on Nietzsche's view, concern with the self, suffering, a certain stoic indifference, a sense of hierarchy and difference, and the like.

"""

That goes a lot further than just being descriptive, there's a clear value judgement in there.


> Nietzsche's moral cynicism is universal and the MS divide is meant to be descriptive, not prescriptive or constructive.

Could you elaborate? Nietzsche's usage of slave morality seems pejorative to me, and I wouldn't characterise Nietzsche's stance as an universal moral cynicism; his method does not aim at an universal conclusion.

Funny enough, this illustrates well why it is difficult to find good reads on Nietzsche, it is not easy to summarise his positions briefly and without equivocation.


To dramatically over-simplify: N. thinks that slave morality was inferior to master morality, however he doesn’t think we should return to a master morality system. He also thinks that slave morality did have some benefits in the sense that it turned humanity's creative instincts inward. He mostly has a problem with slave morality because it is life-denying (which is essentially his criticism of Christianity).

It should also be said that he doesn’t use these terms in a scientific or extremely specific way (“this is how it was, factually”) but rather as a sort of myth-like pattern. They are broad repeating trends, so to speak, not scientific observations.

The overman (Übermensch) should transcend both moral systems and create a new life-affirming one. Unfortunately some reactionaries seem to think that he was advocating for a return to master morality.


Yeah, my read of the SEP is that they are delicately saying ("metaethically") that Nietzsche was an A-hole.


Thanks for posting. I posted the Wikipedia page mainly as a basis for discussion. I am going to have a read. I didn't find such a prescriptive or constructive element in the Wikipedia page, though. See final paragraph in the "Society" section.


I've only read a bit of the SEP but more websites like that would be amazing. Well structured, clear and easy to read.


Reminded of this quote from Cannery Row:

"It has always seemed strange to me, the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second."


I think the biggest issue is that for the system to succeed, most participants need to display the first list of traits. But for any individual within the system, personal success may be easier to obtain by displaying the second set (though that is not necessarily true, in my experience).


It's like the person in the sportscar weaving through traffic on the highway. He can only do it because everyone else drives carefully and predictably. He gets to his destination faster, and thinks he is a much better driver than everyone else, but if everyone drove like him the traffic "system" would fall apart. The master mindset is sacrificing the well working system for personal gain. If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far go together. What's not good for the hive is not good for the bee.


A few years ago, I did a bit of research into how social programs in Scandinavia were able to take root. My initial hypothesis was - they must be more selfless than a traditional American, so let me find what makes that so.

However, after doing my anecdotal reading, I came away with the belief they are just as, if not more, selfish than Americans, but Swedes for example, are able to support programs because they understand they might need them at some point.

That took me back to another common quote, that Americans see themselves not as poor but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

Again, all anecdotal.


>most participants need to display the first list of traits

That's exactly how it is. Those with a slave morality are controlled, guided, and protected by those with a master morality to keep society running.

A society of masters moralities will eventually develop a pecking order and will recalibrate itself.


Egoism frames this in such a way where the second set of "bad" traits are the authentic human traits, namely self-interest. The "good" traits are then secondary, a means to an end. E.g. we are honest and don't steal because the legal and social consequences are not worth it. We see the path to a life where we best get what we want as the one where we cooperate with others. This could explain Adam Smith's "invisible hand" of markets, where everyone acts in their own self-interest, but the whole prospers as a result.


Maybe a reason why so many are so fond of mafia movies.


I dont think so. The mafia movies go out of their way to show mafia men relatable, courageous, smart, overcoming adversity, having good motivation initially. Their victims are either not shown, deserve it, weak (instead of principled), or are just not relatable cartoon characters with no real backstory. The consequences of their acts are not really shown.

So they end up being adventure movies essentially where main character shows smarts.


I'm not entirely sure, there's a lot of basic crime mindset in the most famous titles. It's not will hunting or shawshank redemption smart, far from that.


I'm just too nice to be one of those jerk CEOs that society wants. That's why I'm not successful. /s This sounds a lot like "nice guy" syndrome, to be honest.

Edit: Added /s just to be clear.


you can be firm and forward without being a jerk.

Jerk: this looks like shit, do it again.

Not Jerk: almost there. let's do another iteration.


Yeah exactly, that's part of what I'm getting at. The post I replied to sounds wise because it appeals to negative stereotypes about successful people while giving non-successful people a way to feel superior about their non-success. The truth is a lot of successful people are nice, have good people skills, are generous etc.


I can't be the only one thinking this would be an article on drive replication.


I was thinking of 2 drives on an IDE cable[1], until I read "Morality".

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parallel_ATA#Multiple_devices_...

(kind of wondering if that use of Master-Slave is so old that I really needed to cite it...)


Yep, had flashbacks of PATA configuration problems, as well :D


An example why German philosophy of late 19th century is considered deranged by many... Cherry picking some facts, dissecting them in detail, reassembling them in some convincing fashion, pretending conclusions are true without any proof of causality and then just observing how that philosophy spreads like wildfire among people that want to look trendy, contributing to two world wars later.


Nietzsche's philosophy had a profound influence on the colonial wars that Europe fought, and the world wars that were fought in Europe.

What an absolute humanitarian travesty that era was.


Yeah, just like Einstein and nuclear weapons.


Einstein pulled out.


Nietzsche pulled his books from his publisher after finding that it published anti-semitic books.


Classroom morality: the behaviors that make the teacher's day easier and get good grades.

Playground morality: the behaviors that make a kid popular and respected by the other children.

...

This Nietzsche is interesting and it hit me like a slap in the face when I first encountered it, but the most fleshed out and vivid form of this type of thinking is Ribbonfarm Gervaise Principle articles.


The Premium Mediocre Life of Maya Millennial (https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2017/08/17/the-premium-mediocre-l...) was a favourite from Ribbonfarm.


That post cracked me up. Thank you.


Similarly-named (I mistook OP for this) but much, much more interesting:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Master%E2%80%93slave_dialectic



Shouldn't we rename this wikipedia page into Leader-Follower morality?


Primary-Secondary Morality


Why should we?


To follow the trend.


Hypothesis: In a liberal democracy, when leaders adopts a persona of master morality, the slaves are threatened. If leaders instead project a slave morality, the slaves are peaceable and content.

But behind the scenes, it seems like a state needs to rule with master morality, but for peaceableness, promote the adoption of slave morality among the slaves.

Controversial view: Christianity is a perfect ruling tool because it incentivizes slave morality which keeps people peaceful.

Caveat: I'm not saying Christ wasn't real nor an amazing person. Just noting how the religion could be co-opted for ruling purpose.


Hypothesis: In a liberal democracy, when leaders adopts a persona of master morality, the slaves are threatened. If leaders instead project a slave morality, the slaves are peaceable and content. But behind the scenes, it seems like a state needs to rule with master morality, but for peaceableness, promote the adoption of slave morality among the slaves.

Controversial view: Christianity is a perfect ruling tool because it incentivizes slave morality which keeps people peaceful.

Caveat: I'm not saying Christ wasn't real nor an amazing person. Just noting how the religion could be co-opted for ruling purpose.


Why is it a controversial view? I thought it was a general view that this was exactly why monotheism of this sort got enthusiastically adopted and enforced by monarchies -- one true god, one true king, sheeple and all that.


The trigger for controversy on HN is quite fine.


What's the point of replying to your comment with a copy of your comment? Did you want to edit something and didn't know how to do that?


I came away with a feeling that the article was not representative. It felt creepy, even.

It's frankly a disgusting argument.


Maybe you should look at the book Moral Psychology with Nietzsche: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/moral-psychology-wit....


Thanks for the reference, it looks good. What's the takeaway?


Validation of Nietzsche's ideas in more of a modern, scientific context. Thinking about a person's morality as originating from a person's psychology.


What does it mean to scientifically validate Nietzsche's ideas? What invalidated the ideas in the first place? I'm assuming the association with Nazis and Mussolini.


Validating them in the sense of using the ideas as a model to understand our own psychology, and the origins of our moralities. Showing that certain ideas that Nietzsche held around free will and the nature/nurture debate hold up to scientific scrutiny.


This is not a meaningful or interesting article for Hacker News, and in the world of Philosophy this is not a slam dunk of a concept.


Counterargument: it was meaningful and interesting to me.


Counterargument: This does not make it newsworthy or even discussion-worthy within the venue of this site. There are many, many venues where you could discuss or learn about philosophy.


What did you find meaningful or interesting?


Contextualise, under Nietzsche's master-slave moralities, the following topics over which there is an abundance of articles and discussions on HN, posted by people who frequent HN:

Gender/racial equality, language games over gender, rights to be called one name or another, the elusive one percent, supposed rights to privacy and free speech, the right not to incriminate oneself, the pornification/glorification of work, the hustle, start-up culture, premium mediocrity etc.


So do many philosophical systems. They've been shot down many times before as irrelevant. Because Nietzsche is popular with certain vocal minorities on HN who are eager to make him look more credible than he has ever actually been on this topic is the only reason it's gotten this far, whereas other philosophical frameworks that have been floated here have been moderated away as immaterial.

And behold, the mods seem to have agreed to remove this from the front page. So at least we are being consistent.

> language games over gender

Don't think I didn't catch this, lil NRx buddy.


Easiest trick in the book: Associate any idea you disagree with, with "certain vocal minorities". Works wonders on here and Twitbook. I put this in the same bag as I put book reviews which go along the lines of "characters have no depth", and "no plot".

Is the fact that Nietzsche is still studied and cited in a positive light, that books are written on his works by academics at leading universities including Oxford still not sufficient for you, or is it only Frankfurt types you'll openly associate with?

I suppose really though that this isn't important enough for you to look into; rather you'd prefer to run the party line and maintain your job at Googsoft.

You're right in one respect. I wouldn't expect any different from the mods.


> Easiest trick in the book: Associate any idea you disagree with, with "certain vocal minorities". Works wonders on here and Twitbook. I put this in the same bag as I put book reviews which go along the lines of "characters have no depth", and "no plot".

I'm not sure who's literary critique in particular hurt you, but it's irrelevant.

> Is the fact that Nietzsche is still studied and cited in a positive light, that books are written on his works by academics at leading universities including Oxford still not sufficient for you, or is it only Frankfurt types you'll openly associate with?

Ah yes. Yes. The Frankfurt School. Allegiance to that group is always at the root of these problems, isnt it? You are not a "social marxism" conspiracy theorist at all.

> I suppose really though that this isn't important enough for you to look into; rather you'd prefer to run the party line and maintain your job at Googsoft

If you were trying to pretend you weren't in the NRx family of thought, you did a bad job here slipping a Damore reference in.

> You're right in one respect. I wouldn't expect any different from the mods.

Maybe post things that are meaningful about technology and science rather than the crackpot edge of Nietzche's widely rebutted social economics? Next you're going to tell me Burke was right. If you need someone to tell you it's all right, no fear! You've got a lot of other options. Maybe, go to a site like SSC.


On the book reviews comment: If you read a few books and also a few book reviews, you'll find two things: These two types of review are most common, and they are written when the author has nothing positive or negative to actually add on the subject of the book. The author just can't be arsed.

The commonality is that these cheap jibes really add no information, they are aimed at derailing a discussion someone doesn't like. You know that, though.


I had never heard of NRx until you mentioned it. I generally try to stay away from selling my identity to a single word, or a set of words.

Yes, I am not a social marxism conspiracy theorist at all. Right and left, it's all the same. You've missed the whole point I have tried to make.

I will rephrase in a more literal way for you to understand, in a way more difficult to avoid: Without resorting to claims of crackpotness, conspiracy theory, sympathising with vocal minorities and Nietzsche's ideas' supposed negative consequences on society, what exactly do you disagree with about using Nietzsche to understand our moral psychology, and specifically about the sources I have given in this post and in my other submissions?

I envy you like I envy god-believers. It must be nice to believe and fit in.


> I envy you like I envy god-believers. It must be nice to believe and fit in.

Yeah it must be really difficult being so smart. This is a compelling and powerful argument that is not only relevant, but also persuasive.

> Right and left, it's all the same. You've missed the whole point I have tried to make.

You've not made one, nor will you. I hope you have a happy evening.


How insensitive and solipsistic of you to assume my time zone. It’s morning here.

McCarthy and the pinkos then, your lot and the alt-right now. Same shit, different bucket. Enjoy it while it serves you.


Actually I just realised that you avoided the question again, and pulled another of those “no character depth” and “no plot” tricks. I guess it’s a lost cause at this point.


What the fuck is NRx, mate? Do you even Wittgenstein [1]? Check you nextly!

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_game_(philosophy)


I don't understand why you think I believe in coincidences of that magnitude.




Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: