Nietzsche Studien 47 (1):100-139 (2018)

Paul S. Loeb
University of Puget Sound
In this essay I evaluate a new and influential interpretation of Nietzsche’s idea of the slave revolt in morality. This interpretation was first proposed by Bernard Reginster and has since been extended by R. Lanier Anderson and Avery Snelson. Citing textual evidence from Beyond Good and Evil and On the Genealogy of Morality, these scholars have argued for the counterintuitive view that nobles, not slaves, instigated the slave revolt in morality. This is because Nietzsche says that nobles create new values, introduces priests as nobles, and claims that priests began the slave revolt. However, against this new approach I argue that these scholars neglect important evidence from these same texts in which Nietzsche claims that the psychologically slavish can also create values, assumes that politically subordinated nobles can lose their psychological nobility, and asserts that the slave revolt was instigated by psychologically slavish priests. I also argue that these scholars ignore Nietzsche’s related claims that the priestly peasant Luther renewed the Jewish slave revolt against re-ascendant Roman nobles and that the plebeian philosopher Socrates led a slave revolt in morality against the Athenian nobles. Thus, it turns out that none of the leaders of the slave revolt were noble and that one of them was not even priestly. I conclude with a defense of the traditional and straightforward view that Nietzsche always conceived of the slave revolt in morality as an act of revenge by oppressed people who are politically and psychologically ignoble.
Keywords Genealogy  Luther  Nobility  Plato  Priests  Ressentiment  Revenge  Self-deception  Slave-morality  Socrates  Value-creation
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DOI 10.1515/nietzstu-2018-0005
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