Usually, during a philosophy lecture, I am drifting in and out of consciousness and am generally half asleep. But on one particular day I was lucky enough to be alert, and on that particular day, the lecture was on Nietzsche.
Now the lecture was only a quick summary, and I have not read any of his works as of yet, but I hope to read Thus spoke Zarathustra. Anyway, one part of his theory of morality really made me think.
He claims that the Judaeo-Christian tradition has dominated the Western world since its beginnings. Among the traditions is their theory of morality. He questions why the moral philosophers of the West seem to take this morality for granted. He accuses Kant and his “morality of reason” of using Christian morals and furnishing it with reason, without examining the content of morality itself, for example. For him, even Marx seems to have a Judaeo-Christian influence, now I was confused by this since Marx claims that all of religion is a means of control and an “opiate to the masses”. But there is one crucial element that influences him and all others. By Judaeo-Christian, Nietzsche doesn’t seem to simply mean Christianity or Judaism, but a way of thinking.
The “slave mentality” of Judaeo-Christian thought
The judaeo-christian tradition is an example of slave mentality. The way of its thinking is tailored to support the weak and feeble. Christians, for example, preach ideas such as “the meek shall inherit the Earth”. Another well known example is the parable in which Jesus explains that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. The slave mentality typically hates the material pleasures, reflected by its hostility to adultery, gluttony and greed. And favours the immaterial, such as goodness of the soul, salvation and agape, a divine and non-sexual love.
The master mentality
Prior to the rise of Judaeo-Christian tradition, most of the world was, in a sense, paganistic or polytheistic. They had a very different way of thinking, a master mentality, that was the polar opposite. They favoured the material things of this world, such as honour and bravery in war, wealth and riches, the pleasures of the body itself, beauty and so on. They did not help the slave but used him to their advantage, and they, according to Nietzsche, achieved many glorious things.
Now the question that Nietzsche asks is, why do all the moral philosophers, from St Augustine to Karl Marx, take this slave mentality for granted. Why do they not look back in history and see “the other side of the story” as it were. A totally different spectrum and way of thought.
What it made me think…
Now the reason that “slave mentality” arose instead of “master mentality” was obvious to me. It was simply a reactionary force, just like Karl Marx’s theorized proletariat revolution is reactionary to industrial capitalism. But as I walked out of the lecture at the end, and went back to my room, I thought that this “reaction” of ideologies did not just happen between this so called “slave mentality” and “master mentality”. In fact, it happens all the time.
Just think of it, everything you see is a product of history and its motions. From the language you hear, the architecture, the attitudes, subcultures, music. This is not just in the Western world, but a universal thing amongst humans. Everything we have today is the culmination of thousands of years, of ideologies that produced reactions, and these reactions produced ideologies themselves. According to a lecturer, Hegel once said that “Africa has no history because it has not been written”, but I say no. The history of Africa is written within its faiths, political parties and tribes. It is written within their culture, traditions, borders and customs. It is written within their tongue with which they speak, just like any other part of the world.