People can’t escape thinking in terms of good and evil; right and wrong; moral and bad. The question Nietzsche wrestled with, and which I have been reflecting on as a result for a few months, is: are these categories real, or are they socially constructed like so many other cultural phenomena?
Let me back up: How do we summarize Nietzsche’s ethic in a way that he may approve of?
I’ve said before that Sir Friedrich was less of a philosopher and more of a sledgehammer, and when you fully grasp the scope of his project, you realize that anything less would have failed outright and his name would have blown away in the winds of history like most everyone else. So what made him rise up above most other notable philosophers? What causes young men to flock to his writings in droves, still today?
I think it’s the radical liberation from the chains of restraint and moral imperatives.
Nietzsche, upon declaring that there is no God and the idea of Him was no longer necessary, but had begun dying in the human psyche, gave with it a warning. He cautioned people that if they disposed of God, then they would also dispose of all morals, ethics, and codes of order as we had always known them historically. If you removed (or attempted to) all traces of Judeo-Christian ethics from the world, you would face chaos and violence unseen heretofore.
In other words, he warned that a storm was brewing and that the death of God could very likely send humanity into a free-for-all tailspin reminiscent of the book of Judges where “Everyone did as he saw fit.”
Nietzsche outlined this idea in a book fittingly titled Beyond Good and Evil. He rationed that the ideas of good and evil (as deontological concepts, for you nerds) inherently require a deity to define them, or hand them down to humans.
Put even more simply, if there is such a thing as good and evil, there must be a God who dictates them.
So if there is no god, what are you left with? What Nietzsche constructed to replace morals, as simply as I can understand it, is the idea of strength versus weakness.