Being rational means to use logic and reason. This is one trait that sets humans apart animals. Our ability to be rational creatures has propelled us to the top of the animal kingdom. We have the ability to decide for ourselves and as a society what is good and what is bad, but this is where rationality can take a plunge. What is rational to one individual or society, can be completely irrational and illogical for another.
Science aims to provide truths, but is flawed because it cannot discern what is right or moral. Although it can reach immutable truths, such as gravity, it cannot provide the answers to the human quest of knowing what is right and what is wrong. One must look no further than Nietzsche on science and absolute truth. Friedrich Nietzsche, a 19th century German cultural critic and philosopher, believed that science and religion were false foundations on which to resolve political and philosophical issues because he denies that there is any absolute truth.
In the rapidly changing world, the interconnectedness of nations, and the overlapping of cultures, Nietzsche may have been correct in some respects. Upon further analysis, however, Nietzsche falls short in believing that individual power is the true nature and will of man. How does one reach such a conclusion, while at the same time toting the idea that there is no absolute truth?
Nietzsche’s idea of a slave morality and master morality is one such paradox. The master morality, according to Donald Tannenbaum and David Schultz in Inventors of Ideas, is the “product of a strong, free, life-affirming ruling class. It is a morality of those in power, those who wish to honor human nature, and represents the values of the warrior.”(282) On the other hand, the slave morality is referred to as weak, and is seen as inferior.
Nietzsche believed that liberalism and democracy were apart of this slave morality and that they represent the weak and deny the values of human nature. The problem with this is that if the master morality and individual power are the true nature of man, then democracy and liberalism would be as well. Both of these concepts put forth the idea of individual freedoms. This flips the idea of transvaluation of values, or the slave morality toppling the master morality, on its head. The transvaluation of values, according to Nietzsche, produced what he called the “crisis of modernity.”
Crisis of modernity is the idea that modernity has created nihilism and is wrong in seeking a rational foundation for morality. By using science, as described earlier, one must still seek what is right and wrong. By using religion, you get immutable truth. The Stoics believed that you must come to an absolute certainty, a sort of “perfect plan,” and then one must live in accordance with that plan. In Meditations by Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, he believes that there is only one order for all things and that all have the same god and the same law. Nietzsche may be right in dismissing this, but by using the idea that there are no absolute truths, it makes a tough argument for his slave and master moralities because the former is viewed as bad or wrong, and the latter is seen as good or right.
For Nietzsche on science and absolute truth, it is the bourgeois that has created the loss of values and no eternal truths, and is ultimately steering man away from his natural path. Nietzsche calls for a set of new values and ones that are not formulated by philosophers, but by commanders and legislators proclaiming it through their “will to power” according to Donald Tannenbaum and David Schultz in Inventors of Ideas.(283) This idea is not only utterly reckless and dangerous, but it goes against his belief again that there are no absolute truths.
In calling for a new set of values, created by a superior, ruling class, Nietzsche creates a utopia that can have horrific outcomes. One need only to look as far as the Nazi regime. They took Nietzsche ideas, although contorted to fit their own needs, and went on a genocidal rage. At its core, it was the idea that there are superior people (“pure” Germans) and inferiors (Jews and anyone not “pure.”) This simply must not be allowed by a ruling class and the very idea of reason that Nietzsche staunchly opposes can cut through this instantaneously.
It is quite hard to look at Friedrich Nietzsche and not call him a relativist or a nihilist. His ideas not only set the human race back, although his views were distorted for a set agenda, as with the case of the Nazis and World War II, leading to world chaos. Nietzsche was quite correct in arguing that science cannot be the basis for morality, but it can be a foundational start. For someone who is adamantly opposed to absolute truths, he sure does offer quite a bit of absolutes himself.