This revaluation of values effected by the Jews has happened so slowly that it has not been noticed. Its crowning achievement was the development of Christianity: Christian love, created by this burning hatred. Nietzsche sees Jesus as the ultimate embodiment of these Jewish ideals, and his crucifixion as the ultimate bait. All the opponents of the Jews might side with Jesus against them, thereby adopting his and their Judeo-Christian moral code. With the advent and success of Christianity, Nietzsche suggests, the reversal of the moral code became complete: what was once "good" became "evil" and what was once "bad" became "good."


This section introduces the contrast between what Nietzsche calls elsewhere "master morality" and "slave morality." Master morality is the morality of the masters, the nobles, the warriors, who see themselves and their actions as good. Thus, strength, power, health, wealth, and happiness are all considered "good." These masters then perceive what Nietzsche calls a pathos of distance between themselves and those who are poor, unhealthy, weak, or impotent. These are all undesirable qualities, and so the masters dub them as "bad." This is the contrast between "good" and "bad" that defines master morality.

Those opposed to the masters develop slave morality. In this passage, Nietzsche identifies slave morality with a priestly caste, though he identifies it elsewhere with the plebs or the slaves. These people are the poor, the unhealthy, the weak, and the impotent, and they learn to hate and resent the power and health of the masters. They dub their masters "evil" and call themselves "good" by contrast. Thus, slave morality is characterized by a contrast between "good" and "evil."

This brief sketch is over-simplified, but is meant mostly to get some of the terms clarified and out in the open. A great deal of what follows in later sections will help to refine these crude definitions. The contrast between master morality and slave morality is one of the more well known aspects of Nietzsche's thought, but also one more liable to mislead. It is easy, though naive, to see Nietzsche as setting up this contrast so as to praise master morality and disparage the Judeo-Christian slave morality that dominates his (and our own) time. Careless readings of Nietzsche have also led to his being understood as an anti-Semite or a Nazi who encourages the Aryan "master" races to do away with Jewish slave morality.

Let us begin trying to unpack this section by recalling Nietzsche's criticism of the English psychologists as lacking a historical spirit. Because contemporary English moral philosophy was dominated by utilitarianism, these psychologists interpreted the entire history of morality in terms of utility: the "good" and the "useful" were originally one and the same in their reading. Nietzsche is disappointed with their lack of a historical sense because they are unable to rise above the moral biases of their time: they see history through the lens of their own morality. This lack of perspective can be problematic when doing history, but when trying to decipher the history of morals itself it can be disastrous.

Nietzsche encourages a reading of history that detaches itself as much as possible from moral valuations. This claim will have to be refined in the commentary on the following section, as we shall see Nietzsche come down very harshly against the ressentiment of slave morality, but it should be sufficient for the present discussion. So, for instance, simply because Nietzsche sees slave morality as born out of Jewish hatred, we should not necessarily see him as speaking out against slave morality, the Jews, or even hatred. With Nietzsche, the matter is rarely as simple as "this is good and this is bad": after all, he is attempting a critique of what we should call "good" and "bad" in the first place. The same intensity that creates a burning hatred in the priestly caste is also the one thing that Nietzsche claims makes humans "interesting." It gives us a depth not found in master morality, and it develops the concept of evil, a concept not found in any animals. For the most part, Nietzsche seems to be exhibiting a great deal of preference for master morality, but it seems he would also argue that these masters are not "interesting."