What Is Morality

Nietzsche provided groundbreaking philosophical contributions, though the majority of his contributions were not in terms of technical advances, but rather, influences over cultural and academic developments throughout the twentieth century. His focus involved ethics and morality, which, when presented, shifted many paradigms which had previously guided how ethical questions in the West were approached. As one of many important nineteenth century philosophers, Nietzsche was a vital part of the foundation of the existential movement. The term “existentialism” was never found in his work, but his moral relativism offered the foundation for what would later define the philosophical systems. His focus on morality has led to the development and improvement behind many truth commissions for post-conflict societies.

One of Nietzsche’s largest contributions was the rejection of previously assumed moral stances. He asserted that the most important quality of an individual was the conscious selfhood which was not tied to a predetermined definition of the individual. In fact, Nietzsche posited that defining the individual limited their potential. He asserted that by adhering to the apprehension felt by the “herd” toward morality and categorizing good versus evil did nothing to the individual but force them to sacrifice their uniqueness as well as their capacity for greatness.

Nietzsche’s theory that individuals needed to shed the moral good and evil views held by the “herd” directly relates to the foundation of the truth commissions around the world which offered things such as amnesty. These commissions brought with them the opportunity to reject the “herds” ideas of moral good and evil and allowed those who might have otherwise been viewed as “evil” an opportunity to individually reconcile with victims. In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche openly accuses previous philosophers of blindly accepting moral stances on good and evil which were established by Judeo-Christianity. He then begins to reconstruct the ideas of morality based on the individual. Nietzsche explains how there was a “pre-moral” period wherein people were judged based upon the consequences of their actions. However, that has developed into a judgment of the origins of the actions rather than the consequences, a moral stance which has taken over the last ten thousand years.

His criticism of such a moral stance posits that every culture must instead recognize the religious influence on such a thought process. He explains how religion has demanded sacrifice which has corrupted the idea of morality and left individuals to join the “herd”. In his writing On the Genealogy of Morality, Nietzsche stated that "Morality is in Europe today herd-animal morality". Because of his ideals on morality, Nietzsche offered the foundation for answering ethical questions arising in all facets of international tribunals and truth commissions around the world. He posited that strong individuals must master that which characterized a world free of gods if they sought to rise to power.

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