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What is Human Flourishing in Perspectives of Marx, Mill and Nietzsche

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Words: 2396 |

Pages: 5|

12 min read

Published: Feb 11, 2023

Words: 2396|Pages: 5|12 min read

Published: Feb 11, 2023

 Why neither Marx, nor Mill, nor Neitzsche find the present condition of society to be advantageous to human flourishing? In “What is human flourishing?' essay is stated that Marx calls this condition “alienation”, Mill calls it “conformity” and Neitzsche calls it “slave morality”. I will compare and contrast each in terms of what they think is the source of this development. I will also critically engage with the essay and continuously link back to the question.

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After the French revolution, Rousseau’s discovery of inequality was put into a much larger structure. After the defeat of Napoleon and the restoration of Monarchies around 1820s, Europe entered a period of backlashing. Since there was a lot of threats to democracy and social stability, governments passed laws with the purpose of containing the poor through unwanted social reforms and repression. The people had never had lower living standards and they just could not cope. It is because of this that revolutionary and activist movements started up all around Europe. It was time for change. This is where they all come into scene.

Marx believed that work is what makes us humans and what fulfils our human essence by allowing us to be creative, live and flourish. Nevertheless, this was certainly not the case back in 1848. We used to live in a world that was morally wrong, one that denied us and hid us from our true human essence. That which was real or true was hidden or repressed. Marx called this phenomenon alienation. Alienation is a sense of disorientation and exclusion, it is the “transformation of people’s own labour into a power which rules them as if by a kind of natural or supra-human law.” Factory labour under capitalism alienated the workers from the product of their labour. They worked long and tedious hours of work under horrible working standards just to earn very little amount of money which would not even be enough to buy the products that they were making at work. This was awful and unacceptable, I totally agree that a lot needed to change in the social and economic scenery at the time as I try to empathise with the working people of the time and I cannot even begin to imagine how hard life must have been.

In order to break from that condition of human affairs that was reducing beings to something less than fully human, in order to escape that alienated world, a revolution was needed. The mode of understanding one’s situation had to change. According to Marx, the only good way out of this was for the workers to organize and coordinate a revolution, seizing the means of production and nationalising every institution that provided a universal service. The working class had a new leader, his name was Karl Marx and his slogan was: “Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains”. This is his most famous and most remembered phrase since it sends a very good and concise message that the working people were able to get behind. Knowing their condition, they truly had nothing to lose but their chains.

The development and advancement of capitalism proved to be inevitable and it brought alienation on a big scale. In the economic and philosophic manuscripts Marx identifies four aspects of alienation under capitalism. The first aspect of alienation is between the worker and his labour. Under capitalism, the worker has no control over the process of production, which is very tedious and repetitive and usually very unfulfilling. Furthermore, the “process of work is not only beyond the control of the workers, it is in the control of forces hostile to them because capitalists and their managers are driven to make the workers work harder, faster and for longer stints” for the same amount of money, this is very alienating. The next kind of alienation is between the worker and the products. The worker puts in long hours of tedious work in manufacturing a product that neither him nor any member of his family or friends are going to be able to buy or use since they will not be able to afford it. Moreover, it will be the owners of the methods of production earning good money for such products and not the workers. This widens the alienation between worker and product since the product is owned and used by others but him. The third aspect of alienation is between the worker and species being, also known as alienation from the self or from the human essence. This comes from a very poorly managed system that puts a limit to the growth and creativity of workers and it is very frustrating since there is not a lot they can do if they want to feed their families. The worker is forced to sell his time as a commodity to the market for survival, losing life and becoming someone else. The last aspect of alienation is between the workers themselves. Labour has become a market commodity. This only benefits the buyer of this commodity, the capitalists, because not everyone will be able to work, since there is not an unlimited amount of jobs, therefore, competition will arise between workers because everyone wants to survive, instead of working in a cooperative and constructing working environment where everyone helps everyone.

John Stuart Mill lived in the 1800s, during this time the west was being very prosperous where loads of technological advancements were being made, individuals had more freedom and society was moving forwards improving morally, economically and socially. Mill is the image of utilitarianism, a movement that looks for the maximization of happiness in every decision a person makes. Mill was a very progressive writer for his time, he was an advocate for individual liberty, free trade and freedom of expression, furthermore he advocated for some controversial things such as separation of church from the state, equal rights for women and abolition of slavery. Mill was convinced that something was preventing human flourishing and this was conformity. Human flourishing, according to Mill, is becoming who you truly are without having anything restrict you, in other words, stepping out of the comfort zone.

In Mill’s mind the biggest threat to human flourishing was conformity. This is the action of being happy with what you have and not having that feeling of wanting more. Mill spotted two bad things in regard with conformity. The first one is that once conformed, people start to assume that their own judgement is infallible, like the word of god, going around saying what is right and good or bad and wrong. The second bad aspect of conformity is that then people go on to spread their views and thoughts onto others, making them believe such views are the only acceptable and right ones because they say so. One of the biggest examples of what conformity can do in this world is religion. Such practice demands a commitment to themselves at the expense of all the other practices, since in the religious world you cannot be half cristian and half muslim, and it predicates a message that themselves assure to be the only right an good one, therefore indicating that the other religions are wrong. It is because of this that Mill was an advocate of the separation of the church from the state since he sincerely believed that choices of religion should be left to the individual and not to the sovereign representing the state.

Religion is just a good example though, the point is that for pretty much everyone, conformity is the first thing thought of as if the mind itself is bowed to thinking this way. We can never be 100% right about anything, therefore acting as if you are is self-defeating and the contrary of what we are in search of. Human flourishing consists of a constant improvement in oneself by learning about one and others “Knowing that we cannot get shoes or clothes to fit us perfectly, unless we have them tailored to ourselves” , Mill asked, “are human beings more alike one another in the whole physical and spiritual confirmation than in the shape of their feet?” He certainly believed so. If society is unable to produce a t-shirt that fits everyone perfectly nor even get close to such thing then how is it going to be decided what everyone should do with their life? In Mill’s opinion, we should be left to our own choices, especially with things that the state no more has the right to meddle with such as our free time. All Mill wanted was a formal answer to the question of when or in what situation the state or society were justified with intervening with an individuals actions. It would be this freedom that would help everyone to become their best version of themselves, allowing them to flourish in all kinds of ways.

Nietzsche begins by saying that there are only two types of morality: slave morality and master morality. He believes these were formed at the beginning of civilization where society was separated between slaves and masters. This is not the actual situation in society anymore since there are no masters and slaves, however, Nietzsche believes that both kinds of morality have carried on and are still within us in our present days. I will now talk about how master and slave morality took off and continue by giving reasons for which we should adopt in order to lead the good life. The master has always been perceived as a strong, leading, noble and intelligent character that is free to do whatever they desire as they hold all power. On the other hand slaves have always been seen as weak, uneducated, poor and not very intelligent, in other words, perceived at the mercy of their master. Masters do what they want and slaves do what they are told. Master morality comes from everything masters do, such as being noble, strong and courageous, nevertheless, in this moral situation, good things are not good in themselves but instead they are good because the master approves of it. For example if the master approves rape then it would e considered a good action. In a world like this, goodness refers to the character of the master himself and the same goes for badness. Badness for a master, which can do whatever he desires, is the opposite of him, therefore it is things such as poverty, stupidity, and weakness. In summary, the master morality does not have to do with what something is but what it is not. Badness becomes the lack of goodness.

Since slaves are only allowed to do as they told, then it is interesting to think about how did slaves start to think about morality, since masters definitely did not tell them to do so. In Nietzsche’s point of view, it comes from evil and slavery. Being a slave to a master is a hard life and throughout this life feelings arise towards the master. Nietzsche believed that slaves came to resent their master so much that they started to think of them as evil and therefore everything that was associated with them was thought of as evil as well. It is here that slave morality is born. The master in effect says: “My God, am I good! How beautiful, strong and powerful am I! You offer no possible contest for me and would be a waste of my time. You are not match for me and are bad.” To which the slave replies: “My goodness, do I suffer! You make me suffer, you are evil and I am the opposite of you and therefore I am good.” Slaves want to become everything that their master is not and therefore come to the conclusion that since their master is arrogant, powerful and evil then they want to be blindly obedient and weak slaves, but at least in their mind they are good slaves. Masters are my enemy and they oppress me which is evil, therefore since I am the opposite I am good. In slave morality, “the self is obtained by a differentiation of one’s self from others.” This means that the identity achieved in slave morality is due to oppression from others. The slavely moral person requires an enemy in order to exist itself. This master and slave morality is still present amongst us, not as masters and slaves but as social, religious and political institutions and its members. It is hard to decide which morality is the best since everyone wants to be strong, smart and a leader but no one wants to be evil and arrogant and the same goes for the good and bas aspects of slave morality. However, Nietzsche concluded that we need to break from this and start fulfilling the purpose of ethics which is to live a good life and we can only do so by eliminating the oppressions of master and living our own life.

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I will now compare and contrast each in terms of what they think is the source of the development of the present condition of society. All three philosophers fight for equality and liberty. They all want to help the weaker side get stronger so that life becomes less of a struggle for them and they get equal opportunities. All three agree that during their time, there is an element in society that it is stopping humans from flourishing and advancing. Marx calls it alienation and he refers to the phenomenon of distancing oneself from its true human essence and blames it on capitalism and its methods which make capitalists richer and workers poorer and alienated from everything in their lives. Mill calls it conformity and he refers to the attitude of being happy with a life routine and not wanting anymore, not wanting to step out of the comfort zone and discovering and learning new things that would flourish the person. Very similarly to Marx, Mill blames this on the state and its harsh measures and control on the people and asks for more individual freedom that would allow the people to become their best selves. Lastly, Nietzsche calls it slave morality and he refers to people having a ‘slavely’ mind and attitude in their life and unlike Marx and Mill, he blames this on the bases of civilization where there was only two groups of people, slaves and masters.  

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What is Human Flourishing in Perspectives of Marx, Mill and Nietzsche. (2023, February 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 30, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/what-is-human-flourishing-in-perspectives-of-marx-mill-and-nietzsche/
“What is Human Flourishing in Perspectives of Marx, Mill and Nietzsche.” GradesFixer, 11 Feb. 2023, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/what-is-human-flourishing-in-perspectives-of-marx-mill-and-nietzsche/
What is Human Flourishing in Perspectives of Marx, Mill and Nietzsche. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/what-is-human-flourishing-in-perspectives-of-marx-mill-and-nietzsche/> [Accessed 30 May 2024].
What is Human Flourishing in Perspectives of Marx, Mill and Nietzsche [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2023 Feb 11 [cited 2024 May 30]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/what-is-human-flourishing-in-perspectives-of-marx-mill-and-nietzsche/
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