Law As Westerners Understand It Informed Slave Moralit Philosophy

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Ideally law is the mirror of morality of the society that brings harmonious and just social order, but the problem arises when the concepts of morality does not reflect the true ideals of society. There are those who advocate the Master morality which believes in nobility (Friedrich Nietzsche, 2003). So, the law following such morality classifies the society into rulers and the ruled. There is another concept which is reverse of the Master's morality which is called slave morality (Ibid). The slave morality treats all humans equally irrespective of caste, creed, religion or nobility (Ibid). This essay discusses the statement that the law as contemporary westerners understand it is informed by slave morality. To this end, it discusses the statement in the light of works of Friedrich Nietzsche who supported the Master morality and his criticism on the western concepts of law based upon, as classified by Nietzsche, slave morality. The discussion also covers the various theories of morality from contemporary westerners (Friedrich Nietzsche, 2003).

The word morality is derived from the Latin word 'moralitas' which means manner, character, or behaviour (William, 1993). Morality has three principle meanings. First, it is used to express what is moral or immoral in a society. These beliefs are arbitrarily imposed by religion, society, or individual conscience. This is called arbitrary because at times the society does not give the reasons why a particular thing is moral or immoral. This is also known as morality in descriptive usage (Smith, 1994). Second, it is used in the normative sense to mean an ideal code of conduct which a rational person would prefer (William, 1993). For instance, the code that killing human being is immoral is a choice which such rational person would make. The descriptive morality would put the same thing as many believe that killing is immoral. It would not definitely suggest that the act of killing is immoral. Final, it is used as a synonymous with ethics (Ibid). Ethics is defined as 'the systematic philosophical study of the moral domain (Ibid).' Ethics is classified into applied ethics, normative ethics, descriptive ethics, meta-ethics and morality psychology (William, 1993).

The ideal of contemporary Western morality is human beings irrespective of nobility of birth. Nietzsche strongly believed that ideal of the morality is nobility or the ruling class. Every action that advances the interests of the noble class is an ideal action before him. He criticised that the ideal of morality in Western literature is human being which has roots in the slave morality. This is true as most of the philosophers keep human being as the ideal of law and morality. The Western philosopher Kant believed that human being is an end in itself (Kant, 1998). According to his ideas the centre of all actions is human beings. It is for this reason that he believed that human being is only capable of determining morality. The philosophy of Plato, Aristotle, Bentham, Mill and the Scottish Philosopher David Hume places his human being as the ideal of all actions. Bentham said an action is good action if produces benefits pleasure for human being and it is bad if brings pain for him (Bentham, 2000). So, the ideal of Western philosophy is human being and the morality is the goodness of actions in favour of him (Bentham, 2000).

Morality, in Western literature, can be classified into three categories i.e. deontological, teleological and virtue morality (Smith T. , 2006). The first two categories are also called deontic or action based morality. In the first two categories the focus is upon the action a person performs. In other words, they answer the question 'What should I do?' Whereas; the third category i.e. virtue based morality focuses upon the person to determine the morality (Bentham, 2000). In other words, it focuses upon the question 'What sort of person should I be?' The difference between the two is that first looks into the actions to determine the morality whereas, the second focuses upon the person to determine the morality. In virtue morality a person needs to be pious to perform moral actions (Bentham, 2000).

The deontological moral systems form independent moral rules or duties. The morality, according to this moral system, is one which follows those fixed principles or rules (Darwell, 2002). These principles are unalterable and are absolute per se. The examples of such duties are for example the duty not to speak a lie. The deontology does not follow reasons for performing those actions. According to this moral system the principle is absolute per se and cannot be changed in order to keep the morality. There are several types of deontological moral systems. William of Ockham, Rene Descartes and Calvinists advocated for Divine Command Theory (Cudworth, 1996). It is a meta-ethical theory according to which moral sentences which are true in themselves are divine attitudes. Accordingly, an action is right action if it is sanctioned by God (Harris, 2003). On the other hand, if the action is not decreed by God then it is evil. It is deontology because the action is performed just because it is decreed by God and not by looking at the consequences of an action (Wierenga, 1983). There is another category of Deontology called Duty Theory. It scrutinizes action according to the given law or list of duties (Denis, 2001). The Rights theory is also deontological morality that asserts in taking into account of the rights of all others while performing actions. The rights theory is also termed as Libertarianism (Machie, 1990). Similarly, Contractualism is also another kind of deontological moralism in which an action is moral if it follows the rights and obligations set forth in the contract (Machie, 1990).

The deontology is not without criticism. The main criticism arises when situation makes two principles in direct conflict with one another leaving the person in a choice to break one at the cost of the other (Machie, 1990). For instance the duty to speak truth may come in conflict when a Nazi asks whereabouts of a Jew to a person. The person knows that the Nazi would kill the Jew if he discloses his whereabouts. There is a moral duty to save life of other persons. Now both duties come in direct conflict with one another. The person must break one to obey the other. Although the proponents of the deontological theory suggest that in such a situation the principle is to choose minimum of evil even then it would be looking at the consequences of the action rather than basing the behaviour on any principles which is absolute per se. The other criticism challenges the deontological nature of the theory itself. It says that the principles or duties are derived by looking into the consequences of actions (Ibid, p150). Taking the example of duty to speak truth, it seems that a lie leads to many evils such as deception, fraud, cheating, and misrepresentation and so on so forth. So the principle is derived from long experiences or customs rather it is any kind of direct innovation and enforced on human beings. There is also criticism against those who believe that religious beliefs are based upon deontological moral system. They argue that if religious beliefs are from God then why there are differences between the scholars of the same religion (Ibid, p105). The Scottish philosopher David Hume said that one 'is statement' doesn't necessary follow one 'ought statement' (Ibid, p64) In other words, the object cannot be achieved by following same principle as it does not have same consequences at all times. For instance, taking the same example of the duty to speak truth; it appears that the breach of the duty may result in fraud and other harmful and undesired consequences but the breach, under certain circumstances as discussed above, saves the life of a Jew. This shows that one 'action' does not bring the desired utility of good in all times. This means that the principles are to be applied on the facts or situations by measuring their consequences (Machie, 1990).

The Western philosophers believe that there is an end of all actions and that end is the utilitarianism. There is also teleological concept of morality in the contemporary western literature. The word 'teleological' is derived from Greek word 'telos' which means an end, purpose or goal and 'logy' means the study (William, 1993). Hence, it is the study of morality by looking at the end or purpose of an action for determining its moral status. Accordingly, an act is a moral act if it brings a state of good affairs for human beings. The theory considers morality in increasing the happiness of human beings. In this theory, utility refers to the question what is the good for human being. According to this theory, morality is the selection of an action which brings maximum happiness for human being. In this theory, the welfare of human being is the fundamental human good. The utilitarian theory has its origin in discourses of Plato and ancient Greek eudemonia. However, this theory is substantially developed by Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), and later on, Henry Sedgwick (1838-1900) (Ibid). The utilitarianism philosophy strived to achieve social reforms of the time. It eschewed references of morality to God or religion. The basic principle of the theory was to achieve 'greatest good for the greatest number' (Koons, 2000). The utilitarians define 'good' as happiness or pleasure. It is opposite of pain or suffering. The utilitarians believe that morality is the pursuit of good and avoidance of pain or suffering (Bentham, 2000). The approach of the utilitarians is quantitative and reductionanist in nature. The approach is to maximize pleasure and reduce pain which is a quantitative approach rather than being qualitative one. In the words of Jeremy Bentham, 'nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure' (Ibid). In this way, Bentham called it the 'utility' as the principle of nature. Bentham's two masters i.e. pain and pleasures are the definitive factors in his theory for moral judgments. Accordingly, an act is a moral act if it pursues pleasure and stays away from pain (Bentham, 2000).

The subsequent philosophers who advocated theory of utility added a principle of quality in it. The prominent philosophers who advocated principle of quality were James Mill and John Start Mill. The work of the Bentham focussed upon pursuit of happiness or pleasure. He used the pursuit interchangeably as a utility. This was developed and distinguished by John Stuart Mill and James Mill. They distinguished happiness from pleasure (Mill, 2002). They argued that an action which produces pleasure is not necessarily a good action. The good here means the one which obeys the fundamental principle of utilitarians i.e. the greatest good for greatest human being. He quoted an example of bullying a child may produce pleasure for a person but it is not a good action. This is because it frightens a child that may be producing amusement for number of people but it adversely affects the interests of the child. Accordingly, James Mill, in his work, Utilitarianism, introduced the principle of quality in the philosophy of Utilitarianism. In his famous quote he expressed the importance of quality that 'it is better to be a human dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied' (Bentham, 2000, p19). He means in this quote that if a person would prefer to be a human being without provision of fulfilment of his necessities rather than becoming a pig with full provision of satisfaction of his necessities. Similarly, a person would prefer to become a Socrates without the provision of satisfaction of his needs rather than becoming a fool with the provision of satisfaction of all his needs. He uses the symbolic expression of using two opposite identities to signify his point. He compares the choice of human without necessities with pig with necessities. Similarly, he compares a choice of becoming a Socrates who is the intellectual of his time with a fool person. The expression conveys the message of quality in the pursuit of happiness.

There is another theory of morality which is also based upon teleological model. This theory is called hedonistic-act-consequentialism theory. The classic utilitarianism is classified as hedonistic act consequentialism. The word hedonistic is derived from Greek word 'hedone' which means pleasure. The theory was developed by Democritus, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle (William, 1993). According to this theory pursuit of pleasure is a primary element of life. The theory strives to achieve the greatest pleasure as a consequence of an action. So, those actions which bring pleasure as a consequence are treated as moral actions; on the other hand, those actions which bring pain for human beings are to be treated as against morality. There is one group of philosophers believe that utility lies in minimizing pain rather than maximizing happiness or pleasure. This theory is also based upon teleological model of morality known as negative utilitarianism. The proponents of negative utilitarianism believe that the focus of the morality lies in acting against those activities which cause suffering. It is stated that utilitarianism believes that the morality of an action is to be judged by looking at the fundamental principle of producing greatest good for the greatest number of people. On the other hand, the focus of the negative utilitarians is on minimizing the evil rather than multiplying the good. Taking for instance, instead of working on action which multiplies wealth, an action should be directed to alleviate poverty. For instance, if one has the choice to help either a happy man or to an unhappy; the morality requires helping the unhappy man. So, those actions which are directed at minimizing pain are moral actions. Accordingly, it would be moral to invest on reduction of poverty in comparison to investing for maximizing wealth of privileged classes of society. Similarly, it justifies safeguards available in the Constitution of Pakistan in favour of minority against majority when it comes to the protection of their rights. Similarly, in corporate law, the prevention of oppression of minority share holders at the hands of majority share holders would be considered as moral.

In virtue morality, this approach of the morality focuses upon the moral agent instead of rules as in deontological or consequences as in teleological morality (Mill, 2002). The philosophers of virtue morality advocate that morality should focus upon the person who performs an action rather than the action itself. The rationale behind this approach, according to the proponents of this approach, is that once a person is virtuous his actions are all moral actions. So, according to this concept all those actions which are directed towards improving character of a person are moral actions. The distinction between the deontological, consequential and virtue models of morality is that the deontological and consequential model focus upon doing an action whereas the focus in virtue model is upon being.


This essay is an effort to support the view that the contemporary western philosophers understand the law as that code of conduct that is based upon slave morality. The discussion revealed that there morality is described in three ways in the Western literature. First, it is described on the deontological model. It is this model that Nietzsche's concept of Master morality can be fixed. But as the discussion revealed that this is also interpreted by contemporary philosophers as producing 'good' for all human beings. In other words, it is also interpreted on the basis of 'slave morality' which believes in utilitarianism. The other concept of morality in the literature is teleological model of morality. This is already interpreted in terms of 'good' it produces for all the society. Lastly, the discussion revealed that virtue model of morality is also focussed upon the utilitarianism as its ultimate end.

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