WHEN I SORT MORAL perspectives in terms of quality, the lowest of them all is the slave morality of Christianity. Christianity caught on first among the slaves of the late Roman Empire. Because they were too cowardly to pursue what they really wanted, they turned self-denial, self-abasement, and self-rejection into virtues.

Christianity made a virtue of timidity. It was a cult of sour grapes and hypocrisy, whereby incompetents convinced themselves that they should glory in their weakness and ineptitude, whereby feelings of guiltiness and a willingness to suffer were signals of righteousness, and whereby a life of turning one’s back on pleasure and material wealth was repackaged as “purity.”

Christianity transvalued the values that had previously prevailed among the peoples of antiquity, but it did so in the wrong direction.

Higher and better than Christian morality is the kind of moral outlook championed by Immanuel Kant, with his categorical imperative. It was a kind of generalization of the Golden Rule: “Act only according to that maxim by which you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.” Kant thus made a moral system more advanced than of that of Christianity, but he did not go so far as he might have.

The problem with Kant’s view is that fairness and humanitarian consideration might be good things, but they are not the best things, and so they should not be valued the most highly. There are even better things, and foremost among them is survival. Those who are unjust can learn to be just; and those who suffer injustice can overcome it. But a people who have become extinct will never again have any chance to improve themselves.

Higher still than Kant’s is the moral philosophy of αρετή, recommended by Friedrich Nietzsche in his writings about the Superman — not the comic book hero, but a sort of possible future kind of human that is truer to his own nature, or to the best that is in his nature — which teach us that a better culture awaits only the rise of this better kind of Man.

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