Morality Concept In Philosophy

Posted: April 05, 2017

Nietzsche’s Point of Approaching Critique of Morality

The author’s point of approaching morality from a critique of it through genealogy is for us to understand how the old conception of morality does not fit into its present perspectives.  By tracing the idea of morality from its traditional and early forms, the author intends to show how the moral status that of morality itself is flawed and does not fit into its contemporary conception.  One of the notions of morality which he criticizes by way of genealogy is its assertion and traditional belief or claim on objective truths.  He also criticizes the earlier moral conception and argues that people are responsible for what they do due to their possession of free will and achievement of human excellence (Robertson, 2011, p. 563). To him, these claims concerning truths and objectivity from the moral perspective are not only false but also baseless, at least today.  According to his point of view, morality is invaluable as it hinders individuals from living their full potential in life.  This approach to the critique of morality also enables us to see the limitations inherent in the idea of moral thinking or philosophy of the earliest centuries of Locke and Hume.  For instance, he challenges the moral demand of compliance with the societal values, duties, ideas, and norms without a consideration of whether these are in one’s personal ideal. Hence, through this approach, the author shows us that full compliance with morality can hinder one from achieving their highest human flourishing or excellence (Robertson, 2011). 

Moreover, this type of approach to the concept of morality is important since it enables us to see at which point we can agree or disagree with Nietzsche’s statements and assertions.  This approach used by Nietzsche also helps the reader of his work to see the primitivism that existed concerning the perceptions of morality and its conception in the old society of, for example, the Greeks whose moral understanding was based purely on the gods.  It also shows us the need to have a modern understanding of morality and the related ideas of punishment since according to him, the concept of guilt and individual obligation upon which morality and punishment are based originated from the discredited and primitive ideas of debtor-creditor relationships. He further points out that there have not been major civilization forms. Also, by using this approach to a critique of morality, the author seeks to distinguish himself from other scholars whom he refers to as “English philosophers” and whom he thinks are wrong when it comes to the interpretation of what is right and evil, that is, morality (Guess & Skinner, 2007).  Moreover, this approach appeals to our conscience and its origin. It shows the reader how the conceptions of conscience and morality began through promises to religion and later to the idea of debts and punishment.

The Role of Debt in Nietzsche’s Account

Debt in Nietzsche’s Account plays the role of showing us the moral relationship between a debtor and a creditor and the legal or moral obligations that arise out of this.  According to him, the concept of debt is a moral concept that denotes a sacred duty and conscience. Also, when it comes to payment of debt, it plays the role of showing us the cruelty that may exist when the debtor fails to honour their moral and legal obligations, and the creditor enforces his or her rights.  Thus, debt according to this author serves to show us the connection between a moral obligation and suffering through punishment.  The author seeks, through the concept of debt, to determine the extent to which pain can compensate debts.  Based on the utilitarian moral principle, debt plays the role of helping us understand the morality that exists when one has to suffer as a counter measure for an injury caused to another party.  This is mainly regarding the social position and ranks that exist between a debtor and a creditor.  It is from the concept of debt that the related concepts of guilt and therefore punishment are derived.  Through the concept of debt, the author has been able to use the relationship between the debtor and creditor to show us the legal andmoral, philosophical obligation, and relationship that exists between people in the society. 

Also, given that the buyer-seller or debtor-creditor is one of the oldest relationships, the author’s debt ideology serves to show us how morality has developed from primitive society to the modern society.  Debt in his second essay also shows us his critique on the fact the humans are indebted to God through religious dogma.  According to May (2011), Nietzsche brings out the idea of debt to explain the evolution of guilt, guilty conscience, punishment, and promises. For, he argues that initially, the sentence was based on reprisal for failure to pay one’s debt or fulfill one’s obligations.  Debt in Nietzsche’s work also plays the role of helping him critique the idea that humanity is indebted to God. It helps him find answers to the question of whether the emergence of the Christian God and ancient Greek gods relates directly to the relationship between a debtor and a creditor.

How Punishment Fits into Nietzsche’s Story

Punishment fits into Nietzsche’s story when he talks about elements of a crime such as intention, negligence, accidental and sound mind.  According to him, these are the items that need to be taken into account with regards to punishment.  He explains that the concept of justice which is related to punishment came into existence because “the criminal deserves to be punished because he could have acted otherwise” (Guess & Skinner, 2007, p. 5).  Further, the punishment fits into his story in that it stems from the historical belief that since a criminal wrong causes pain to the victim, the only way for reparation is for the wrongdoer to be punished so as to act as a gain on the part of the victim.  Punishment, he argues, is like the compensation for the criminal’s wrongdoing that ensures that the person who has been injured gains.  However, he also holds the view that we should not always assume that the guilty person alone needs to be punished.  For, even when a parent disciplines their child, they do that out of anger concerning the wrong committed and that this anger is usually directed at the person who has perpetrated the wrong.   This is supported by Koritansky’s (2012) work where this writer argues that the analysis of the purpose and nature of punishment by Nietzsche is akin to that of Thomas Aquinas. According to Koritansky (2012), punishing crime is merely a pretext by one individual or the society to take pleasure to inflict pain and suffering on another person to deter others (p.2).   He argues that just like Aquinas, Nietzsche’s account of punishment is that is not justifiable at all. Moreover, the idea of punishment fits into the author’s story since morality and law are two related concepts. However, it is not always the case that moral wrongs should be subjected to punishment.

Further, Nietzsche argues that the society’s feeling and idea of guilty and individual obligation has its origins in the old personal relationships of debtor and creditor or seller and buyer.  Punishment according to him is thus a copy of the manner in which one party who is aggrieved behaves towards another person who is seen as an enemy, in this case, the debtor.  Punishment also finds a place in Nietzsche’s conception of morality because through it; he has been able to explain and at the same time criticize justice when one party, usually the creditor, exerts their power and resentment over the debtor. Besides, the author explores the purpose and origin of punishment and how good genealogy conceives of the same issue. To him, punishment is helpful in explaining the honest relationship and obligations between the debtor and creditor since it acts as a form of payment of debts by the debtor through, say, and emotional compensation.

The Upshot of Nietzsche Account

The upshot of the account and critique of morality by Nietzsche is that modern morality supersedes the traditional one and how it was initially conceived.  Further, the author attempts to tell us that modern morality is a product of genealogy in that it has had to pass through different periods such as promises, memory, obligation, justice, conscience, and punishment to be what is it currently.  He also wants us to understand that modern morality is based merely on religious dogmas and not on realities of life outside the debtor-creditor relationship.  Further, according to Acampora (2006), Nietzsche’s work is a pointer to some future in the modern morality’s development. For, he talks about “the bad conscience” thus evoking images of “the man of the future who will redeem us” from Christian morality’s mess (Guess & Skinner, 2007, p. 66). Moreover, as Hatab (2008) points out, the upshot of Nietzsche account is that it is no longer possible to sustain the traditional philosophical views of morality in the face pf modern developments taking place and informing new moral concepts.  

According to Hitab (2008), the author tries to demonstrate how contemporary morality is made up of old or primitive values of the slave era but have been converted into modern secular moral norms.  He also intends to tell us that our current appreciation of morality is based on guilty conscience since our thoughts and actions are plagued by guilt hence our less cheerful nature.  Pearson (2006) also believes that Nietzsche’s is not merely a value-laden tale, but an account of the developments that have genealogically occurred regarding the attainment of human spirituality and psychological reality.  He points out that these maternities in the conception of morals as brought out by Nietzsche are not just a reflection of morals but rather have gradually been entrenched and reinforced in our institutions.  To this writer, Nietzsche’s initial upshot concerning these modern cultural developments is that there have also developed resentment and reaction as instincts that shape human life (Pearson, 2006, p. 123). 

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