“‘Good and Evil,’ ‘Good and Bad’” examines the evolution of two distinctive moral codes. The first, “knightly-aristocratic” or “master” morality, comes from the early rulers and conquerors, who judged their own power, wealth, and success to be “good” and the poverty and wretchedness of those they ruled over to be “bad.” Nietzsche associates the second, “priestly” or “slave” morality, primarily with the Jews. This morality originates with priests, who despise the warrior caste and condemn their lustful power as evil, while calling their own state of poverty and self-denial good. This slave morality turns master morality on its head.

Driven by a feeling of ressentiment, or resentment, slave morality is much deeper and more refined than master morality. Its crowning achievement is Christianity: Christian love is born from hatred. While slave morality is deeper and more interesting than the casual self-confidence of the masters, Nietzsche worries that it has rendered us all mediocre. Modern humans, who have inherited the mantle of slave morality, prefer safety and comfort to conquest and risk. The slave morality of the priestly caste focuses the attention on the evil of others and on the afterlife, distracting people from enjoying the present and improving themselves.

Nietzsche illustrates the contrast between the two kinds of morality by reference to a bird of prey and a lamb. Nietzsche imagines that the lambs may judge the birds of prey to be evil for killing and consider themselves good for not killing. These judgments are meaningless, since lambs do not refrain from killing out of some kind of moral loftiness but simply because they are unable to kill. Similarly, we can only condemn birds of prey for killing if we assume that the “doer,” the bird of prey, is somehow detachable from the “deed,” the killing.

Nietzsche argues that there is no doer behind the deed, taking as an example the sentence, “lightning flashes.” There is no such thing as lightning separate from the flash. Our assumption that there are doers who are somehow distinct from deeds is simply a prejudice inspired by the subject–predicate form of grammar. Slave morality detaches subject from predicate, doer from deed, and identifies the subject with a “soul,” which is then liable to judgment. While slave morality is definitely dominant in the modern world, Nietzsche hopes that master morality will have a resurgence.

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