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Imagining and Thinking. Sophie’s Choice and Hallie’s description of the people of Le Chambon enable a reader or viewer to imagine persons acting in ways that might be described as evil or as good, without knowing the motives for their actions.

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imagining and thinking
Imagining and Thinking

Sophie’s Choice and Hallie’s description of the people of Le Chambon enable a reader or viewer to imagine persons acting in ways that might be described as evil or as good, without knowing the motives for their actions.

Unpremeditated impulse or long established habit could be the motive in these cases.

imagining and thinking ii
Imagining and Thinking II

The Nazi doctor could have acted on impulse, in unthinking response to Sophie’s words without wholly conscious reasoning or explicit goals; alcohol tends to lower inhibition.

The people of Le Chambon who said “There was nothing else to do” could have acted from habit - also without conscious thought; about consequences; habit allows persons to act in “ordinary patterns” under extraordinary circumstances.

imagining and thinking iii
Imagining and Thinking III

In both cases, it is results that viewers or readers see as bad (Sophie’s suffering, her daughter’s death) or as good (innocent people saved from death by strangers).

The Nietzsche excerpt on “Beyond Good and Evil” invites thinking about possible motives for action in different moral frameworks.

Nietzsche proposes an either/or standard beyond good and evil, challenging modern ideas about “good and evil” based on equality with “good or bad” based on difference.

nietzsche beyond good and evil
Nietzsche Beyond Good and Evil

Nietzsche’s diagnosis of a modern cultural illness: passive nihilism combines

  • A failure to acknowledge that there is a loss of belief in an absolute source of morality beyond culture or individuals (“God is dead”)


  • The assumption that what is in the interest of the weakest is right – when in reality, this belief destroys the strong and degrades culture - because all people are not of equal value
nietzsche beyond good and evil5
Nietzsche Beyond Good and Evil

Nietzsche’s “cure”

Distinction between noble and slave morality

Critique of man of resentment = reactive vs. active

Argument for a culture based on distinctions of rank, in which nobles act out of reverence for tradition and self-confidence in their goodness.

Such a culture values contests and conflict vs. aiming at the welfare of all.

morality as self vs other regarding
Morality as Self vs. Other Regarding

Many forms of morality assume self-love or acting from self-interest as natural

Yet most assume that morality sets limits on the extent to which self-love or self-interest are permitted as the only motive for action.

Consequentialtheories see promoting the good of all as also in one’s self-interest

Deontologicaltheories see acting for a right principle (doing right because it is right) as an expression of rationality and dignity, while also benefitting others.

Virtue theories see virtuous action as contributing to good character, and ultimately to a happy life in the long-term (and persons of exceptional virtue act as examples for others)

morality as self vs other regarding iii
Morality as Self vs. Other Regarding III

Nietzsche’s nobles act:

Spontaneously in order to release energy and/or out of a sense of competition for honor

While the effectof their acts on others may be cruel, the result is to create a higher culture, with standards and differences in rank.

Nietzsche’s slaves act:

Out of resentment for suffering inflicted on them by nobles, based on an inverted sense of values (what is seen as “good by nobles = “evil” to slaves)

Their aim is to obtain revenge, undermine noble values, and substitute reactive, passive values for active, spontaneous values. According to Nietzsche this creates a decadent, weak culture.

basic concepts in nietzsche master slave morality
Basic Concepts in Nietzsche:Master/Slave Morality

The MASTER determines his own values in relation to himself. He CREATES values.

  • The "will to power" is the central concept.
  • This power is firstly power over himself.
basic concepts in nietzsche master slave morality9
Basic Concepts in Nietzsche: Master/Slave Morality

The SLAVE determines his values in opposition to those of the master; that is. values are determined from OUTSIDE.

  • Those values that alleviate the existence of sufferers come to the forefront.
  • "slave morality" is the morality of "utility."
good bad vs good evil

GOOD/BAD: is the distinction made by the "aristocrat"

  • For the “aristocrat” the "enemy" is a man whose character has nothing to despise and much to honor. [A "worthy adversary."]
  • Image: The beast of prey; the "magnificent blonde brute avidly rampant for the spoils of victory."

camel => lion => child

good bad vs good evil11

GOOD/EVIL: is the "slave" distinction.

  • Unable to act on their own behalf, the slaves find their outlet in "imaginary revenge.“ – “ressentiment”
  • They say NO to what is "outside" them. (that is, they define themselves in terms of others rather than themselves)
  • This “NO” is their creative deed.
  • For the slave EVIL = the good man of the opposite morality.
the creativity of the aristocrat barbarian
The Creativity of the Aristocrat/ Barbarian

Nietzsche equates the aristocrat with the barbarian.

What is he trying to say?

  • What is the value of ferocity?
  • "Unbroken strength of will and desire for power."

The "noble" caste has always been the barbarian caste -- more "complete" men

"All that is new is evil“ – why does he say that?

nietzsche on t he herd morality
Nietzsche on the "Herd Morality"
  • “Herd Morality” [is theslave morality]
    • Altruism = " I am not worth much."
    • Christian version: better to feel a "sinner" than nothing at all.
    • Revenge and Resentment "as a means of enduring life."
  • For Nietzsche the socialist cry for rights & justice only shows that he is oppressed by his inadequate culture. [cf.Marx]
nietzche s critique of morality as life denying
Nietzche’s Critique of Morality as "Life-Denying"
  • According to Nietzsche peace and universal equality are "life-denying" principles.
  • Life IS precisely Will to Power.
  • Against Marx: "exploitation" is not primitive or depraved, it is a primary organic function.
  • Will to Power = Will to Life
nietzsche s critique of judaism christianity
Nietzsche’s Critique of Judaism/Christianity

For Nietzsche: they are “the moralities of paltry people"

  • On one hand the law forbids actions not the attitude of mind.
  • On the other the moral idealist requires the attitude of mind be forbidden also.

"Nature is expelled from morality when it is said 'love your enemies'." WHY?

By protecting the weak and infirm these religions work against the evolutionary struggle for the survival of the fittest.

critique of moral philosophers i
Critique of Moral Philosophers I

Moral philosophers ask: What does man desire?

  • If they start with that question they can only answer "Happiness"
  • And they answer that to acquire happiness we need virtue.
  • Why do they answer in this way? Because this is the most "rational" approach.
critique of moral philosophers ii
Critique of Moral Philosophers II
  • Nietzsche claims we do not desire happiness -we desire power.
    • Pleasure is a sensation of power.
    • Nietzsche says: "The history of philosophy is the story of a secret and made hatred of all the prerequisites of Life."
cruelty and culture
Cruelty and Culture

According to Nietzsche what values will stand up against the brute facts of existence?

  • Cruelty and Deception

All we call "high culture" is based on the spiritualizing and intensifying of cruelty.

  • The "wild beast" has not been slain at all!

In every desire for knowledge there is a drop of cruelty.

  • Or why suffering can only be fully appreciated by the "aristocrat"
nietzsche s transvaluation of values to translate man back into nature
Nietzsche’s "Transvaluation of Values" - To translate Man Back into Nature

His questions:

  • Is one to act spontaneously or react to a stimuli?
  • Is one's problem one's self or is one a solution already?
  • Is one to be perfect through smallness of the task or imperfect through the extraordinary character of the aim?

For Nietzsche it is always a question of power.