Nietzsche- Good V. Evil

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Friederich Nietzsche’s first essay in his work “On the Genealogy of Morals” is a piece titled, “Good and Evil, Good and Bad.” The essay seeks to trace the origin of morals, specifically the distinction made between good and bad and the subjective difference separating evil and bad. He elaborates that in the modern world the way we define good and bad is never questioned since we assume those definitions were reasonably created. Over time, Nietzsche argues, we lost sight of the origin of these words, pinpointing this moment as “when aristocratic value judgments declined” (Nietzsche 26). Nietzsche holds the ruling aristocratic class responsible for originally defining good and bad, while the common lower class followed with their own definition of good and its antithesis, evil.

The focus of Nietzsche’s essay is the search to define good, bad, and evil, and the response of the weak class to classifications of good and bad made by the powerful class. It is the resentment or as he calls the ressentiment of the commoners or the “slaves” to the noble class that creates the opposing idea of what constitutes good and what is bad or evil.

The original definition of good given by the powerful aristocratic class caused resentment among the lower classes. This weaker lower class turned the tables, claiming the actions of the nobles were not simply bad, a clear turn from good, but evil, and instead the inaction and weakness inherent in the lower classes was in fact good. Nietzsche argues that the commoner’s resentment of the powerful is more aggressive than the aristocratic contempt for the weak. This deep resentment further enslaves the weak into a downcast role since the weak only define their goodness by the evil nature of the powerful. The powerful noble class maintains their definition of good without going as far to say that the weak are evil; instead they are pitiable. The weak are unable to challenge the strong and therefore define their position as good despite their inaction, while the strong and powerful noble class is free to live in a world of activity void of constant comparisons to their counter part, the weak.

Nietzsche believes time has distanced and blinded man from the original conceptions of morality that are good and bad. The modern conceptions of good and bad come from a practical and believable story where “one approved unegoistic actions and called them good from the point of view of those to whom they were done, that is to say, those to whom they were useful…” (Nietzsche 25). Nietzsche continues that “…later one forgot how this approval originated and, simply because unegoistic actions were always habitually praised as good, one also felt them to be good- as if they were something good in themselves” (Nietzsche 25). This is how we define good in the modern day, Nietzsche says, because once the true origin of good was ditched along the path of history, man invented a definition that seemed appropriate. He continues stating, “ The judgment ‘good’ did not originate with those to whom ‘goodness’ was shown! Rather it was ‘the good’ themselves, that is to say, the noble, powerful, high-stationed and high-minded, who felt and established themselves and their actions as good, that is, of the first rank, in contradistinction to all the low, low-minded, common and plebeian” (Nietzsche 25). The definitions of good and bad were constructed by the noble class who looked to themselves for examples of goodness and then invented a casual explanation of bad as only a contrasting necessity. Nietzsche strengthens his argument that the moral values of good and bad were defined by the noble class in a discussion of the origin of the words good and bad in multiple languages. He asks the question, “What was the real etymological significance of the designations of ‘good’ coined in the various languages? I found they all led back to the same conceptual transformation- that everywhere ‘noble,’ ‘aristocratic’...
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