Monday, August 23, 2010

Nietzsche and "Christian Morality"

And how, wait for it, some of what he labels as "Christian Morality" has nothing to do with Christianity but was and is just some of the common morality in the Western world. It's always interesting to read philosophy, especially the classics, because it always sheds light on unexpected problems and issues. Right now I'm working my way through the "Nicomachean Ethics" of Aristotle, and the funny thing is that though it was written 500 years before the birth of Christ it contains lots of sentiments that Nietzschean people have since identified with "Christian Morality". Aristotle likes charity, thinks it's good to be kind to people, thinks that rising above petty conflict with reason is a good thing, and that self control and the restraint of the passions is a positive discipline. He also approves of some things that Christianity is harsh on, like being okay with a semi-martial attitude towards life and the idea that the pursuit of pleasure is ok when done in the proper way, but there are more obvious commonalities between what Aristotle thinks of as basically good morality and ethics and our modern ideas of "Christian morality" than there are serious differences. Which means that much of Nietzsche's argument, that it was just Christianity that messed everything up, isn't necessarily valid. These values predated Christianity, and Nietzsche uses Christianity as a straw man onto which he can project everything that he dislikes, and then uses it as a reference point to formulate his "Anti-Christian" alternative. The only problem is that it's not just "Anti-Christian", it's anti-human, unless your idea of the only alternative to Christianity is one that resembles the social philosophy of people in the Roman Legion. For everyone else, this sort of harshness is most likely not viewed as a good thing.

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