Nietzsche holds a radical view of morality. He devalues values and maintains a relativist stance on morality. He asks, "what is the value of values?" He attacks moral facts and shows these to be mere results of other existential facts. The presuppositions involved in all moral systems are essentially lies, and the roots of morality are psychological, in response to social existential circumstances. Nietzsche asks us to analyze and bring into awareness these roots of our morals. He describes the genealogy of morals, the logical causes of this phenomena, so that we can correctly view the illusion of maintaining any absolute, objective belief concerning morals. Fundamental to his analysis of morality is his distinction between master morality" and "slave morality", and he shows the intrinsic relatedness of these two opposing prototypes and how they contribute to moral perspectives. Nietzsche also has a vision of what kind of individual emerges from this analysis and self-reflection, and the particular stance this individual would have in view of the thesis here described, which I have taken some liberty in interpretation to explicate.
Nietzsche describes the sovereign individual as the "ripest fruit", liberated from morality and custom. He is autonomous and "supramoral". He is "the man who has an independent and protracted will and the right to make promises" (Solomon 63). As I read this, the sovereign individual is who Nietzsche calls the "Ubermensch". Sometimes translated as "Overman" and sometimes as "Superman", this kind of being is really beyond what we know as a "human being", though biologically he is of the same species. The real difference is in the consciousness and in the power or capacity of the individual. For Nietzsche, the Ubermensch is the universal goal of human evolution or the next step possible for man. This "ripest fruit", this exceptional and higher being has evolved beyond the average man, beyond the herd consciousness. In fact, he is the true sovereign individual, the creator of his own values and morals, and without any need or use for external authority. He is free of society's imposed value system, beyond the distinctions of "good" and "evil", and so he is a guiltless master of his self-expression.
This Ubermensch is the result of a kind of self-awareness and self-transcendence of morality. What I mean by this is that he has realized the logical roots of his morality and consequential identity, so is able to break free of this limitation and become creator of his own valuations and self-expression. This transcendence is what Nietzsche means by "supramoral". It is a morality beyond morality, or a self-determining ordering of one's natural drives. In the usual sense, it is not really a morality, because one is not bound to any set principles or modes of action. One is free of morality as such, and thus able to define values independently of external authorities or a priori assumptions. This is also called transmorality because it transcends the very presuppositions rooted in all moral structures.
The fundamental presupposition is that there categorically are objective morals and true distinctions between good and evil. Transmorality, however, is a perspective beyond good and evil and beyond the false notion of the objectivity of values. It frees one from the bondage of one's moral heritage which stifles personal realization and growth. Transmorality, though, is not immorality, meaning that just because tradition or reason dictates a certain morality the transmoral position would not seek to reverse it -- this would be taking an opposite moral stand. The actual consequence of transmorality, I think, is moral neutrality, that is, a non-biased, open-perspective, relativism of morality. One has cut the roots of one's morality, or value system, and cannot merely follow the dictates of such social conditioning.
So then how are the passions ordered, or are they? I don't think transmorality means that we are to allow ourselves to be swayed chaotically by every immediate passion come to mind, though one might question how this could not happen in such an open sea of freedom without guidelines. The dyonisian approach might be to let chaos reign. But this open chaos approach might not have enough discipline to support the fulfillment of particular desires when others are always taking over or getting in the way. So in practice one might need to develop some ordering and discipline of the passions, or apply some reasonable intelligence to the expression of desires, in order to actually fulfill desires. The will must be guided by some kind of intelligence or reason; otherwise it would not very successful if it only involved power. Thus, as much as I can see, the Ubermensch having transmorality must be a master of ordering the passions and fulfilling them. I do not think Nietzsche's vision or philosophy is without values over other values. He values the Ubermensch and transmorality, self-determination and the fulfillment of natural passions. So even though Nietzsche devalues values, I don't think he is suggesting it is possible for man to be without any values, but his actual intention would be to deflate the presupposition of there being objective values and to devalue the fixed values of our social conditioning. In other words, he is bringing down our values from the false pedestal they sit upon and cutting their chains that bind us to them. In this manner, and from this realization, we are able to create our own values.
This means we are able to make promises, commitments, and keep them, not because we are supposed to according to some objective moral law, but because we have the strength to master ourselves and fulfill what we intend to do. One of the reasons we make promises is, as both Hobbes and Locke pointed out, to secure a peaceful and prosperous society. The Ubermensch would certainly benefit from this basic requirement for social cooperation, since the autonomous man who completely isolates himself from others would not practically fulfill many of the natural passions. But Nietzsche is more concerned with a different reason for valuing promise-making, which is that it is a sign of self-determination and self-commitment. It is a virtuous ability of pre-society, natural man. He is not speaking of a promise-making coerced by civil law or moral law.
The sovereign individual does not make promises because he ought to, according to some moral sense or authority, but just because he decides to make such a commitment and has the will power to fulfill what he decides to do. And I assume that the reasons for such commitments are egoistic, as they are for Hobbes, rather than out of a moral sense of duty or allegiance to the group. The one who is able to be self-determining and decisive, which is the distinct value and power of the Ubermensch, will exercise this power through promise-making. And it is because of this power that he executes it.
The reason Nietzsche thinks that individuality is dependent upon promise-making is because self-commitment is necessary for there to be a unified, whole self. Nietzsche views average man as not having real individuality because this average man is not self-determining, not fully self-conscious, and not free of the bonds of his moral heritage, the suppositions of which are lies. Nietzsche theorizes that promise-making is part of what makes a human being communal. It originated out of a common economic need to borrow and be in debted to pay back. Thus, promises and the moral of keeping them had an economic beginning. It was good to "make good" on one's promises and bad to break them. So promise-keeping comes to be thought of as good in itself, a true, objective moral law. Yet, this moral is more like Hobbes' natural law that we should, for our own personal and social survival, make covenants and keep them. Nietzsche, like Hobbes, viewed morality as a logical consequence of humans needing to survive together, given their egoistic psychological state of aggressiveness. The evolvement of morals gets more complex after this.
Basically for Nietzsche, all moral systems are intended to sublimate or repress the heteronomous natural passions, such as aggression, sexuality, and dominance. The roots of morality, then, are not found in divine revelation, moral intuition, nor even a priori reason, but are based upon the needs of communal harmony and equality. All moral systems are sets of beliefs and customs imposed upon persons by the group or herd consciousness, in order to repress anti-social natural drives, those drives not deemed best for the group. Deviation from the social norm in society becomes immoral. Thus, personal autonomy or the separation of individual from the herd consciousness is bad because it is disruptive of communal homogeny.
Nietzsche doesn't attempt to deflate the [false] reasons for any particular morality; he shows how all proclaimed reasons are false, how they are all various forms of manipulation and psychic repression. He is cutting the roots of morality in itself. And from this analysis we can realize the arbitrariness of the different moral forms, since each is but an excuse for keeping the individual within the herd. Now that I know the original presuppositions of my morality to be imaginary, such as divinely ordained or intuited, and see the relativeness of all morality, I can break free of that imposed conscience, and freely choose my own way of self-expression.
This autonomy of self-expression requires the abandonment or deflation of the values and morals we hold dear and true. In this way, personal autonomy is an antithesis to morality. But is Nietzsche really suggesting the absolute uselessness of all morality? -- or that one ought to abandon and stay free of any morality? Certainly he is disgusted with and disillusioned by the Judeo-Christian anti-worldly morality. So, it is safe to assume that he envisions at least an abandonment of this tradition. I think we could go further and suggest an abandonment of all traditions, that is, following them unconsciously for the sake of the tradition itself, because it is tradition which chains us to its false presuppositions of being objective or categorically true.
Yet, it is just these presuppositions which have made man greater than animals, because all of the various moral systems have helped order and discipline the animal passions. Societies have grown, arts have flourished, and science has evolved, all because of some kind of ordering of the desires. And Nietzsche abhors the animal man, like he abhors the herd man. So, morality brought us out of the animal into the human herd, and now, autonomy and transmorality will lead us to what Nietzsche calls the Ubermensch, the next step for human beings.
But this autonomy is not without its own ordering of the passions, not without its own valuing, not without its own commitments and promise-keeping. The Ubermensch is not a back-step to the animal, nor is it a complacent surrender to the traditional morals of the herd consciousness. Instead, the Ubermensch, the goal for Nietzsche, is a will with a self-determination of values. The Ubermensch stands free of any defined morality and neutral to all moral suggestions. He is guiltless and freely joyous in his self-expression and relations with others. This is Nietzsche's "new morality", if I may trans-late morality in this way. But it might be better that we call this transmorality, since morality usually implies some Kantian categorical truthfulness as distinct from mere prudential imperatives. If Nietzsche's vision of a society of Ubermensch having a transmorality is like Hobbes' moral law, which it seems to be, that is, moral acts based upon egoistic motives, then this is not a real morality but mere prudence according to Kant.
Nietzsche views all morality as essentially self-serving, meaning that moral systems are rooted in the self-serving motives of those who brought them into being. Granted, though, morality was seen as needed for the uniformity and harmony of the group, so in this sense morality is group-serving. But not all persons of the group are necessarily served, and only an elite minority created the moral standards for all to abide by. Thus, Nietzsche describes a prototypic division and opposition of values into "master morality" and "slave morality".
Values are created by those who have gained an upperhand in the group. The stronger and more powerful define the values for the group. These are the masters, while those who are imposed upon are the slaves. The masters distinguish what is good and bad, and they define this according to their own will-to-power, their egoistic motives and their own abilities. What is good for the master is the power and abilities they want and hold. Nietzsche believes that all forms of expression, even all life, is a manifestation of a fundamental will-to-power. Each desire is attempting to gain the upperhand on other desires. Every will is seeking to dominate all other wills. And the wills who have succeeded in the group are the masters and those dominated are the slaves.
What is good is that which is powerful in capacity and excellent in achievement. Good is what is best or superior. What is noble is that which is found in the noble ones, i.e., power and success. Weakness and failure is thus what is bad. A bad person is simply a bad competitor in the struggle of will-to-power. He is simply and descriptively a loser, a weak type, a "bad egg". So, the best (strongest/succesful) define what is best. There is no sense of prescription in this, or "ought to be such", or what we now think of as "morally better". Good and bad are purely descriptive distinctions in terms of what is efficiently successful at fulfilling desires or the will-to-power. And the master perspective does not in any way value others as equal ends or with "rights", or involve a "moral conscience" towards others. It is purely from the perspective of the will-to-power, and from this perspective everything and everyone can only be but a means to one's own ends. And it is the strong who will survive this competition of wills. Thus, the value of persons and actions within the group is defined by the minority of stronger wills within the group, and the majority of the group, who have not gained the upperhand, are subject to those values.
The majority, the "slaves", then develop their own "class consciousness", to use Marxist terms, just as the masters have their own perspective. So another value system develops in opposition to or in reaction to the dominant one, which is termed slave morality. Slave morality develops out of the frustration and resentment of those in a weaker position in the group or in society. Because they are weaker in fulfilling their natural drives and find themselves imposed upon by the masters; envy, hostility and resentment build and need to be expressed in some manner. Because of the constraints or lack of ability to express such emotions, the hostility turns inward upon itself.
The will-to-power, being that it cannot fulfill itself outward in the physical world, attempts to gain power and domination inwardly. This is how the inward "soul" or "conscience" is born and becomes wider and fuller with content. In a sense, the will creates its own imaginary world within the psyche, because it's expression is frustrated in the outer world. Thus, a non-material world with non-material values begins to develop. The will-to-power begins to dominate the only thing it can, given its relative weakness or constraints in the material world, and this means a domination of the self-passions. It finds its success in the inner world or possibly in the hope of an after-life.
Also, the resentment and hostility which built up in reaction to the imposition of master morality find their expression within as well. One begins to have hostility and resentment towards one's body and natural passions. This adds to the general anti-worldliness and anti-bodiliness of the inner world. The resentment also manifests as a revenge against master morality, a fight against those values of strength, excellence and self-fulfillment. So, the will-to-power, being colored by frustration and resentment, turns against itself, against all desires for power and fulfillment in this physical world. It fights and seeks to dominate all of those natural drives which the masters value and which it has failed to fulfill.
The fight is thus against master morality, all that is valued by the stronger and more successful will-to-powers (i.e., the masters). These values become evil and the values of this inner anti-world become the good. Thus, inward aggression is good, sexual repression is good, weakness is good; but outward assertiveness is evil, sex is evil, and fulfillment of all natural drives is evil. This is morality as we tend to think of it today. From this perspective master morality is egoistic and self-serving, and needs to be repressed or transformed into the humble, compassionate, anti-materialistic morality.
An interesting difference between the two opposing, though intrinsically related, moralities is that the slave morality would like to convert the others to its prescriptive morality. It values those who can repress and convert themselves to the opposite of their natural drives. What is natural is evil and needs to be redeemed or transformed into good. In slave morality one is qualified as good by the success at conversion or repression, instead of self-expression or outward success. Therefore, slave morality is fundamentally prescriptive. One is good if one follows the prescription.
Also, the concept of evil here implies the potential and moral imperative to convert to good. Evil is not something that one is accepting of. Contrary to this perspective, master morality does not seek to convert the other to its value system. The master does not seek to make the other like himself. Why should he? He is powerful, excellent and successful, and this is what defines the good. Here, good and bad are purely descriptive concepts. And neither implies the need to change what `is' into something else. There are good players and bad players, good bodies and bad bodies, good performances and bad performances.
The good and the bad, as opposite poles, are just what is. It is not to my advantage (and advantage is good in master morality) that I convert the weak into strong. Why would I want to help others acquire power to dominate me? So here, bad is not something one is attempting to make good. And good does not necessitate a compassionate stand or action in relation to what is bad. Good does not necessitate a prescriptive obligation; it is purely descriptive. There is no imperative to be other than what I am, which is damn good! And the bad is left to remain as it is, that is, purely a descriptive judgement.
The differences of the two perspectives is also analogous to the opposing perspectives of those animals preyed upon and those preying upon. The fox wants to eat the little chicken but the chicken only wants peace with the fox. From the fox's perspective the chicken is either good or bad, depending upon how plump and tasty it is. And the fox certainly does not wish to convert the chicken into its own species - another fox! But the chicken views the fox as evil because of its actions, and it would wish that the fox become good or non-threatening, which means that it would need to be converted to another species, preferably another chicken.
The slave morality asks for equality and adjustment back to herd mentality. Remember that the masters sought excellence beyond the averageness of the herd, and in doing this they attained a dominance over the others, who then became as the slaves. Now, a logical consequence of this is that the slaves find a way to bring back the masters to its herd equality. What has occurred, according to Nietzsche, is that the slave morality found its own deviant way to success in this world. Ironically, as it turns out, the weaker will-to-power of the dominated group turned inward against itself to create a value structure and morality based upon repression of physical desires, weakness of self-assertiveness, and inner-worldly success, and then, because of the necessity of this morality to proselytize and convert, it somehow gained the upperhand on the master morality.
Instead of asserting the will in a physically competitive way, as the master group would do, the will of the slave group asserts itself by rhetoric and persuasion, convincing the power elite that they are inwardly deficient and morally corrupt. It is power over, via prescriptive moral persuasion and the imposition of guilt. The priests of this slave morality have been able to create a bad conscience in those who were dominant and successful. In other words, a conscience began to take over in the master group and finally defeat those in power, a conscience born out of the frustration and resentment of those defeated in life, a conscience based upon prescriptive values of repression of desire and guilt over self-fulfillment. Thus, this conscience, this repression and guilt (being deviant forms of resentment and hostility), this slave morality is the power which has defeated the physically strong and creatively superior master group. So that now the slave morality defines and imposes the values of the overall group and brings all into its averageness. It becomes, then, the new master, except that it remains a morality of prescription and repression.
Society's values have inverted. What was once viewed as good is now evil and what was once bad is now good. And along with this inversion of values comes a reversal of the master's self-identity. Since what was once virtuous is now a vice, one begins to build a bad conscience about oneself. I was good but now I am evil and need to change. I now feel guilty about my fulfilling self-desires and will-to-power. So I turn against myself, just as the slave had done out of frustration, and thus I become identified with slave morality. The moral will-to-power with its anti-life quality has defeated the passion will-to-power, the "spiritual will" defeats the "body will".
This defeat of the passions is remedied by the analysis of the described genealogy of morals and the resulting devaluation of one's moral assumptions. Through the realization of these roots we have the possibility of breaking the chains of all morality, and thus we are free to determine our own system of values and promises and express ourselves without any imposed or conditioned restraints. Our true destiny is to be free, decisive and self-determining. Still, we might usefully order and regulate our natural passions in order to efficiently fulfill them, and this might be a fundamental goal of the will-to-power. Certainly, the will-to-power is a struggle to fulfill needs or passions, so the goal of man is to be free of restraints, especially inward, moral ones, and be powerfully able to express oneself and determine one's own life according to one's self-determined values.
In essence this kind of man is parallel to master morality, except that he is conscious of his chosen value structure. Self-expression and excellence (though not determined by any other) is valued, but this choice is founded in a nihilistic void of objectivity, where one may have preferences but cannot stand as judge of any other choices. If there is contempt and negative judgement, which there appears to for Nietzsche, it is toward those who are unconscious of the roots of their morality and complacent in being part of the average herd. Nietzsche is essentially attempting to discover what is an individual and how to create authentic individuality.