Pat's Ethics Homework

My younger brother, Patrick Barletta, has some ethics homework he wanted to share with us... Enjoy!
I recently had to do a paper for ethics class that was supposed to answer the question "Is Nietzsche's nobleman a psychopath?" I think since my brother is actually a diagnosed sociopath(reforming) and his page is all about destigmatization through education, the essay I came up with might be relevant. I hope you like it: 

To define whether or not Nietzsche’s nobleman was a psychopath I first needed to understand what a psychopath was. To do that I searched for antisocial personality disorder in the DSM-V. ASPD is the diagnostic term for psychopathy and sociopathy. Next I had to conceptualize what the character of Nietzsche’s nobleman was. This involved reading the 9th chapter of Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil. I found that Nietzsche’s nobleman has a few traits that are consistent with ASPD, however, the noble man lacks a few of the most important criteria to be diagnosed with ASPD. As such, Nietzsche’s nobleman cannot be described as a psychopath.

In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche describes the society that his noble man exists in while also describing what a noble man is. The structure of the society he describes is split between a feudal ruling class, Aristocrats or Masters, and a subservient working class, Slaves. His views were consistent with his contemporaries, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud, given the sociological state of Germany in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. Nietzsche uses the terms Master Morality and Slave Morality to describe how this sociological split extends into the realm of ethics and morality. 

Master Morality is a very complex subject. It involves someone using the process of self mastery to determine the goals and values that they personally subscribe to. He also adds that they would be honest, trustworthy, and wise in determining their own beliefs. This introspective ideology could be described as the noble man being disconnected from the world around them. By elaborating on these concepts, Nietzsche may have hoped to subvert the cycle of radical ideological change created by Slave Morality.

Nietzsche describes Slave Morality as a herd mentality of resentment towards those in power. The resentment would lead towards a demonizing of the ruling class. The slaves would find the behaviors of the ruling class so repulsive that they would internalize the opposite values of what is good and what is bad. Nietzsche viewed Slave Morality as repulsive because the slave derived meaning from life from an outside source. He felt that this would lead different cultures experience a massive reversal. This can be observed in how Russia became communist or Germany moved towards Naziism. 

He describes the “man” who follows Master Morality as someone separate from the cycle of ideological change. He is relentless in his pursuit of self mastery and knowledge. The path he takes to achieve his self mastery is the revolutionary idea of the “Will to Power”. This is one of Nietzsche’s most misunderstood concepts. It is the idea of the “Will to Power” that lead to the creation of Nazi Fascism. However, Nietzsche never fully explained what the Will to Power is. His sister took the unpublished notes he had written for his book on the topic and twisted it in a way that would be consistent with the national socialist party. She did this to help legitimize their rise to power.

Psychopathy in the field of Psychology has a very different meaning than how it is used in common conversation. The ideas that are commonly associated with Psychopathy stem from a misunderstanding about what a psychopath is. Generally, people will use the word psychopath to describe someone who acts and behaves in a negative manner. This comes from Hare’s psychopathy checklist. People will generally analyze others and tick off the different boxes to “diagnose” someone who they didn’t get along with. However, the DSM-V uses Hare’s checklist in a different way. 

The DSM-V uses the items on Hare’s checklist to aid in determining if someone can be diagnosed with Anti-Social Personality Disorder. The key difference between the DSM-V and Hare’s checklist is that to be diagnosed with ASPD the symptoms must negatively interfere with a someone’s ability to function in society. The most prevalent trait in diagnosing ASPD is a lack of empathy paired with excessive manipulation. A person with ASPD will generally trend towards having difficulty maintaining long term relationships, difficulty holding a job, and repeatedly run into issues with law enforcement. 

It is important to note that a lack of empathy alone does not qualify someone for ASPD. Empathy is a measure of sociability and agreeableness, as such the ability to balance rational decision making with one’s emotional tendencies can lead to an increased quality of life for that person. The ability to quickly switch between tasks that require empathy and tasks that require a rational approach allows for more fulfilling relationships, better job satisfaction, and a more satisfying and productive life.

If we use the criteria of the DSM and analyze Nietzsche’s nobleman through the lens of modern society the rational implication is that Nietzsche’s nobleman is a psychopath. Nietzsche’s noble man would be described as misogynistic, racist, and anti-semitic. Today, these traits would hinder someone’s ability to function. If a person had the specific traits that Nietzsche proposed today they would be diagnosed with ASPD. However, Psychologists agree that mental diagnoses can only be done within the context of the society the person exists in. Nietzsche’s noble man would have been able to function fairly well within the society he described.

Nietzsche was only using his interpretation of his culture to describe a man that was separate from the moral questions of his day. He advocated for an analysis of the social and ethical constructs of the persons time to determine the self. Because of this the most important aspect of Nietzsche’s noble man is an unwillingness to be dictated morality from an outside source. He determines his own path, within the confines of the culture he lives in. This rational analysis combined with emotional analysis forms the basis of modern Psychology by which someone would diagnose ASPD. As such, he would not have been diagnosed with ASPD.

Nietzsche’s noble man shows many traits of antisocial and asocial behavior when viewed through the lens of modern society. However, because of the inability to project a mental diagnoses based on modern society Nietzsche’s nobleman cannot be considered a psychopath. He would have functioned well enough in the society he described to be successful. He would have been able to manage his relationships, earn income, and separate himself from what Nietzsche considered to be the banalities of his time.

Patrick Barletta