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In order that we may understand how to set forth upon this inquiry, let us first form a mental image of the two codes as they must have been evolved by their originators.
Nietzsche reminds us before we start, however, that in most communities the two moralities have become so confused and mingled, in order to establish that compromise which is so dear to the hearts of the peaceful, that it would be almost a hopeless task to seek any society on earth in which they are now to be seen juxtaposed in sharp contrast. Be this as it may, in order to recognise the blood of each when we come across it, we have only to think of what must have occurred when the ruling caste and the ruled class took to moralising.
Taking the ruling caste first, it is clear that in their morality, all is good which proceeds from strength, power, health, well-constitutedness, happiness, and awfulness; for the motive force behind the people who evolved it was simply the will to discharge a plenitude, a superabundance, of spiritual and physical wealth. A consciousness of high tension, of a treasure that would fain give and bestow,—this is the mental attitude of the nobles. The antithesis "good" and "bad" to this first class means the same as "noble" and "despicable." "Bad" in the master morality must be applied to the coward, to all acts that spring from weakness, to the man with "an eye to the main chance," who would forsake everything in order to live.
The creator of the master morality was he who, out of the very fulness of his soul, transfigured all he saw and heard, and declared it better, greater, more beautiful than it appeared to the creator of the slave morality. Great artists, great legislators, and great warriors belong to the class that created master morality.
Turning now to the second class, we must bear in mind that it is the product of a community in which the struggle for existence is the prime life-motor. There, inasmuch as oppression, suffering, weariness, and servitude are the general rule, all will be regarded as good that tends to alleviate pain. Pity, the obliging hand, the warm heart, patience, industry, and humility,—these are undoubtedly the virtues we shall here find elevated to the highest places; because they are useful virtues; they make life endurable; they are helpful in the struggle for existence. To this class, all that proceeds from strength, superabundance of spiritual or bodily power, or great health, is looked upon with loathing and mistrust, while that which is awful is the worst and greatest evil. He is good who is amenable, kind, unselfish, meek, and submissive; that is why, in all communities where slave morality is in the ascendant, a "good fellow" always suggests a man in possession of a fair modicum of foolishness and sentimentality.
The creator of slave-morality was one who, out of the poverty of his soul, transfigured all he saw and heard, and declared it smaller, meaner, and less beautiful than it appeared to the creator of the master values. Great misanthropists, pessimists, demagogues, tasteless artists, nihilists, spiteful authors and dramatists, and resentful saints belong to the class that created slave-morality.
The first order of values are active, creative, Dionysiac. The second are passive, defensive, venomous, subterranean; to them belong "Adaptation," "adjustment," and "utilitarian relationship to environment."
Now, seeing that mankind is undoubtedly moulded by the nature of the values which prevail over it, it is manifestly of paramount importance to the philosopher to know which order of values conduces to rear the most desirable species of man, and then to advocate that order, with all the art and science at his disposal.
Nietzsche saw two lines of life: an ascending and a descending line. At the end of the one he pictured an ideal type, robust in mind and body, rich enough in spirit and vigour to make giving and bestowing a necessary condition of its existence; at the end of the other line he already perceived degeneracy, poverty of blood and spirit, and a sufficiently low degree of vitality to make parasitism a biological need.
He believed that the first, or noble morality, when it prevailed, made for an ascending line of life and therefore favoured the multiplication of a desirable type of man; and he was now equally convinced that whenever ignoble or slave morality was supreme, life not only tended to follow the descending line, but that the very men whose existence it favoured were the least likely to stem the declining tide. Hence it seemed to him that the most essential of all tasks was to ascertain what kind of morality now prevailed, in order that we might immediately transvalue our values, while there was still time, if we believed this change to be necessary.
What then are our present values? Nietzsche replies most emphatically —they are Christian values.
In the last chapter we saw that although Christian dogma was very rapidly becoming mere wreckage, its most earnest opposers and destroyers nevertheless clung with fanatical faith to Christian morality. Thus, in addition to the vast multitude of those professing the old religion, there was also a host of atheists, agnostics, rationalists, and materialists, who, as far as Nietzsche was concerned, could quite logically be classed with those who were avowedly Christian. And, as for the remainder—a few indifferent and perhaps nameless people,—what could they matter? Even they, perhaps, if hard pressed, would have betrayed a sneaking, cowardly trust in Christian ethics, if only out of a sense of security; and with these the total sum of the civilised world was fully made up.
Perhaps to some this may appear a somewhat sweeping conclusion. To such as doubt its justice, the best advice that can be given is to urge them to consult the literature, ethical, philosophical, and otherwise, of those writers whom they would consider most opposed to Christianity before the publication of Nietzsche's works; and they will then realise that, with very few exceptions, mostly to be found among uninfluential and uncreative iconoclasts, the whole of the Western civilised world in Nietzsche's time was firmly Christian in morals, and most firmly so, perhaps, in those very quarters where the dogma of the religion of pity was most honestly disclaimed.
It had therefore become in the highest degree necessary to put these values under the philosophical microscope, and to discover to which order they belonged. Was Christianity the purveyor of a noble or of a slave morality? The reply to this question would reveal the whole tendency of the modern world, and would also answer Nietzsche's searching inquiry: "Are we on the right track?"
Pursuing Nietzsche's method as closely as we can, let us now turn to Christianity, as we find it to-day, and see whether it is possible to bring its values into line with one of the two broad classes spoken of in this chapter.
In the first place, Nietzsche discovers that Christianity is not a world-approving faith. The very pivot upon which it revolves seems to be the slandering and depreciating of this world, together with the praise and exaltation of a hypothetical world to come. To his mind it seems to draw odious comparisons between the things of this earth and the blessings of heaven. Finally, it gushes in a very unsportsmanlike manner over an imaginary beyond, to the detriment and disadvantage of a "here," of this earth, of this life, and posits another region—a nether region—for the accommodation of its enemies.
What, now, is the mental attitude of these "backworldsmen," as Nietzsche calls them, who can see only the world's filth? Who is likely to need the thought of a beyond, where he will live in bliss while those he hates will writhe in hell? Such ideas occur only to certain minds. Do they occur to the minds of those who, by the very health, strength, and happiness that is in them, transfigure all the world —even the ugliness in it—and declare it to be beautiful? Do they occur to the powerful who can chastise their enemies while their blood is still up? Admitting that the world may be surveyed from a hundred different standpoints, is this particular standpoint which we now have under our notice, that of a contented, optimistic, sanguine type, or that of a discontented, pessimistic, anmic one?