What Are Some Aspects Of Master Morality?

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated April 24, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Are you struggling with some aspect of your morality?

Aspects of master morality

Morality, such as subjective and objective morality, is an important topic in philosophy. It enables us to think critically and become better people. Within the fields of philosophy and psychology, there is a concept often referred to as master morality. This concept derives from the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, known for his critiques of morality, religion, and other schools of thought.

Some aspects of master morality include:

  • Capability
  • Nobility
  • Strength
  • Power
  • Confidence
  • Independence
  • Pride

Master morality is one way you can choose to view morality; it is not necessarily right or wrong or good or bad. Individuals may decide how they want to direct their lives according to their beliefs and personal moral codes.

Master morality and slave morality

Nietzsche wrote a couple of pieces of literature during his lifetime: "On the Genealogy of Morality" and "Beyond Good and Evil." In these works, he discusses two types of morality— slave morality and master morality

Nietzsche's philosophy and arguments around these concepts may help us better discern our stances on morality and form a more well-rounded understanding of what it may or may not mean to be a "good person."

Grasping the idea of master morality begins by understanding how it differs from its counterpart, slave morality. Under Nietzsche's school of thought, the two concepts go together. According to Nietzsche, master morality values include strength, capability, boldness, truthfulness, ambition, trustworthiness, and open-mindedness. Only those claiming nobility may be said to abide by master morality.

The concept may extend beyond good and evil, which people commonly use to define their moral code. Under Nietzsche's theory, however, "good" things are pursued because of their benefits to the individual. It is said to be worth pursuing and is good if it will make them stronger. Evil, therefore, would be anything that goes against this self-actualization. A person may decide to take action based on whether it helps them grow or makes them look weak.

On the other hand, slave morality values often include kindness, empathy, humility, passivity, and altruism. Unlike master morality, those who practice slave morality may take action to benefit others or the community. Master moralists, on the other hand, would find a way to justify taking action for the self at the expense of other human beings' happiness or well-being. Those who fall under slave morality may care more about whether an action is empathetic or kind rather than if it makes them more powerful or able to achieve something more efficiently.

Nietzsche based his morality theory on an old society of two classes: the "masters" and the "slaves." The masters may have been seen as strong, wealthy, powerful, and creative and could do whatever they wanted without any consequences. The enslaved people, however, were oppressed by their masters and may have taken on traits like resentment or humility while living in poverty. The slaves may have sided with the masters in viewing themselves as "bad" because they didn't know any other narrative.

Eventually, however, there was a "slave revolt" in this ancient society. It was a moral rather than a physical revolt. What did this look like? Essentially, the enslaved people changed their thinking and decided that their captivity was a free choice and a good thing. This thought process may have allowed them to carry on through their struggles with more strength and clarified that the masters were evil.

The theory states that since the enslaved people chose to be meek, kind, and cooperative, the masters decided to be wealthy, powerful, and overbearing. This choice makes the enslaved people "good" in the eyes of the theory because they represent the opposite of the masters, which are evil. 

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The characteristics of master morality

Those who consider themselves master moralists may have some or all of the following characteristics:

  • Strength of the mind and body
  • High self-esteem or egoism 
  • Values of wealth, ambition, glory, and excellence
  • Hard work toward self-actualization
  • Affirmations of life and everything about it
  • Open-mindedness and acceptance when their mindset changes
  • A belief that they should take more risks to be successful
  • A desire for others to trust them since that is how they create power
  • High levels of self-worth and a sense of self-defined personal excellence
  • Nobility, prestige, self-importance, pride, and confidence

Master moralists often have complete confidence that their perspective on life and moral values are correct. They are the type who may believe that having pride and power is how you gain success. Those who disagree, arguing that life is about kindness and sympathy, may be regarded as the "bad" or "wrong" ones by these self-assured individuals. Master moralists may believe these people lack an accurate sense of life’s true purpose.

Both master morality and slave morality are concerned with character. Still, slave moralists may care about the perception and genuineness of their actions, while master moralists may care about how their efforts advance their individual goals and worth.

A noble morality that’s few and far between

Since people associated with strength and power tend to favor master morality, there may not be many followers of those principles. However, master moralists may not require approval or disapproval from other people. It's often the opposite: they desire to stand out from most people in some unique way. 

Master moralists may be creative individuals who don't follow one type of life plan but instead want the freedom to pursue whatever they wish to without concerning themselves with the opinions of others. They may mainly care about the results of their efforts and what they bring them more than they care about what someone might think of them.

Master moralists might influence other people in a variety of ways. They might impart their thoughts about morality, leadership, human behavior, or philosophy to others. While Nietzsche never offered up any exact names of people he considered master moralists, there may be examples in popular media and government throughout history or today. 

Are you struggling with some aspect of your morality?

Real-world examples

In Nietzsche's essay, the primary example of master morality is the wealthy society with rich people. However, the nobility is another potential example of people who may display characteristics of master morality. Nobles may feel that they alone control their actions and the outcomes of those actions. 

Often, the "noble" focus is rooted in self-interest and the ways that life choices may benefit them. They may avoid those who could cause harm. The nobility is often concerned with what they already have while growing to be even better and accumulating more.

Another prime example of master morality comes from the ancient Greeks. Take the philosopher Aristotle, who developed many popular tenets in various ethics texts today. Aristotle was the type who didn't pay mind to others' thoughts about him and praised those who could live life fully. Those that were strong had solid character and could make those wills a reality no matter what. They were the type that he praised.

Today, there are potential examples of celebrities, influential figures, artists, prophets, philosophers, and world leaders who exhibit traits of master morality. These are the types who may live without worrying about public rapport. So long as they can pursue their own goals and dreams, they don't care what others think of them.

So, are master moralists bad people?

It may feel easy to assume that master moralists are self-centered, entitled, oppressive individuals. While that may be true for some, master moralists encompass a wide range of people. As mentioned before, philosophers, artists, prophets, and more can all fall under the master moralist category, and so can everyday people. 

In some cases, someone is regarded negatively in their day and age for their revolutionary ideas, just to be made a hero centuries later. If someone identifies as a master moralist or fits the traits of the description, it may not mean they're necessarily a bad person. It may depend on other moral behaviors and practices. 

People sometimes put down others to lift themselves up or find fame. They could do whatever it takes to be on top, regardless of moral consequences. In these instances, you may make your own judgments on whether someone is a good person. However, "good" can be subjective, so it may be up to each individual to weigh questions of morality on their own.

Learning more about morality 

If you're wondering what this means for your life, you may want to spend more time researching morality. You don't have to subscribe to master or slave morality if you don't want to or disagree with Nietzsche's ideas. If anything, it may be helpful to understand these two concepts as you navigate various moral issues throughout your life.

As you dig deeper into the ramifications of each concept, it may be insightful to explore the criticisms for each type. Nietzsche heavily opposed slave morality, arguing that it is another way of describing "herd morality." He saw this as a threat to healthy society in which no one could be powerful. 

When everything powerful, thoughtful, and life-affirming is rebranded as being "bad," Nietzsche argues that society weakens and ultimately worsens. Fear, authoritarianism, and mob mentality may play a part in slave morality, a criticism that Nietzsche has. Slave morality is often described as being "good," though, because it may help with man's inner life. With master morality, there can be less reflection.

Modern psychology claims that characteristics within the "slave morality" school of thought may benefit relationships, moral structures, and society as a whole, however. Empathy is essential to connecting with others and caring about the struggles and trauma in the world. Studies also show that social connectedness is critical for physical health. 

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

Some individuals may walk the line between master morality and slave morality. Philosophers may believe that you can change your will and moral ideals at will. In Übermensch, the definitive text Nietzsche wrote, he says that we're not fully committed to one moral ground. We may take on characteristics of both schools of thought in many ways. 

Therapy as a moral tool 

You may wonder how to be more assertive, confident, and helpful to others. Or you might struggle with self-assurance, confidence, or chasing the desires of your heart. If you regularly have these thoughts and want help from another person, therapy could be beneficial.  

Online therapy may be a valuable option for those struggling with feelings of shame from past decisions and beyond. One study explored the effects of internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy (ICBT) on shame proneness. Researchers found that ICBT alleviated participants' anxiety symptoms by first reducing the levels of shame they were experiencing.

If you are having a hard time with your past choices or feel like you want more control over your decisions, you may benefit from reaching out to a counselor on platforms such as BetterHelp. Becoming the person you want to be may not always be a linear journey. You may need an unbiased, objective person to help you sort things out. A therapist could be that option for you. 


When it comes to morality, many philosophers believe that what is most important is becoming who you want to be. Nietzsche's theory of ethics is one school of thought you may find yourself aligning with. However, there are many others. 

Hundreds of philosophers came before and after him and offered their compelling thoughts about morality. You may decide what defines your morals. If you want support on your journey of discovery, consider reaching out to a professional counselor.

Explore the topic of morality
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