Comparing Beyond Good and Evil, and Letter from Birmingham Jail
Both Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil and Martin Luther’s Letter from Birmingham Jail are important readings that delve the concept of ethics. However, both authors illustrate different ethical systems in their writing. Martin Luther King wrote the letter while incarcerated at Birmingham in 1963. King’s letter was meant for diverse groups of people including the clergymen who were against King’s violent campaigns against human rights violations and civil rights sympathizers who were inactive (King 1). Nietzsche wrote Beyond Good and Evil in 1886 as the challenge for past philosophers acceptance of morality based on dogmatic premises (Nietzsche 5). Therefore, this paper will explore the similarities and differences between ethical systems in King and Nietzsche’s writings.
In his book, Nietzsche blames Plato as the chief inventor of the dogmatic notion of the good itself and pure spirit. Nietzsche does not believe in the concepts of spirits and uses the initial chapters in his book to illustrate the idea. He does not believe in the notion that there is right and wrong but rather good varies in degrees (Nietzsche 40). However, Nietzsche claims that untruth and evil are necessities to the society, “a condition for life.” Nietzsche is not empathetic to the notion of freedom and will, and terms them as wrong ideas. In addition to the Western Philosophers, Nietzsche also criticizes religion, especially Christianity as propaganda of fear and denial. He is critical of the Old Testament and believes it is the propagator of morality in Europe. Nietzsche is critical of Academics and Europe as the leading factions of immorality.
Nietzsche supports his system of ethics by emphasizing on the conditions of Europe. Nietzsche’s insights on Christianity are compelling and make a strong case for the degree of morality in society. He demonstrates how Christianity has been eroded by society through the embracement of concepts like those developed by Plato. Nietzsche uses a hologram to express his view of the world. The world is not a two-dimensional picture of good and evil but rather a hologram that represents two-dimensional aphorisms. Other than these expressions, Nietzsche uses the concepts of Christianity, education, and morality in Europe to illustrate how freedom and will are related to good and evil as both sets of ideas are non-existent(Nietzsche 80).
In the letter, Martin Luther is in Jail for breaking the law in the south fighting for civil rights. King’s systems of ethics are based on morality. Justice and equality are the bases of the ethics. The treatment of black folks is not right legally or biblically. King’s system of ethics emphasizes that the use of violent or evil deeds as others consider them is right if they are used to eradicate a bigger evil. Unlike Nietzsche who believes that the Bible and the Old Testament are the pioneers of immorality and evil, King uses the Bible as his foundation for his ethics system (King 1).
Martin Luther King supports his system of ethics through the use of different aspects. He uses the example of the apostles in the Bible that left their residences to spread the gospels in distant places. King believes that his presence at the center of injustice in the United States, Birmingham, is a sign of his ethical stand. King believes that injustice carried out in any particular part of the country, or the world is an injustice in the world and should be eradicated. King uses the civil rights sympathizers to illustrate the lack of ethics or morality. He emphasizes morality of the mind is not applicable if people cannot take action against injustices.
Martin Luther King’s system of values is superior to Nietzsche’s. Nietzsche’s ethical system was derived at a time when the concepts of religion and morality were not understood fully. Although his ethical systems provide a lot of solid points, it lacks the basis at which it can be applied. On the other hand, King’s concept of ethics is being implemented to the civil rights movement and experience success.
King, Martin Luther. “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” 16 April 1963. King Encyclopedia. 5 December 2015. <http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/documentsentry/annotated_letter_from_birmingham/>.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. Beyond Good and Evil. London: Cambridge University Press, 1886. Print.