Slave Morality and Modern Conceptions of Human Nature

The main reason why there is so much political disagreement in the world is because there are many different conceptions of human nature. As this column has discussed previously, a person’s politics follow directly from their conception of human nature. This essay will look specifically at how slave morality conceives of human nature, and the effect this has on public discourse.

To understand how slave morality conceives of human nature, it’s first necessary to understand the difference between the Hobbesian and the Rousseauean conceptions of it.

Hobbes’s conception, as discussed in Leviathan, is that human life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” The state of nature, for humans, is the same as the state of nature for other animals – a zero-sum game characterised by violence and cruelty. Because life is naturally miserable, enlightened elites are justified in defying nature in various ways, such as building a giant state apparatus to watch over people.

Rousseau’s conception is best described as that of the “noble savage”. The essential idea here is that humanity was better before it was corrupted by civilisation. In a state of nature, Rousseau contends, humans are gregarious, wealthy, kind etc. – the opposite of Hobbes’s conception. Rousseau’s idea belongs to a school of thought broadly described as Romanticism.

The idea that humans are intrinsically good is far from a new one. Confucian philosopher Mencius made the argument, some 2,400 years ago, that humans were inherently good because all humans would instinctively act if they saw a baby crawling towards a well. Confucius himself, however, argued that men had to be bound by laws imposed upon them from above by their betters.

The reality is better understood today, thanks to advances in biological science and ethology. Observational fieldwork of other primate species has shown us that Hobbes and Rousseau were both right and wrong. Humans are more than capable of being either good or evil, both at an individual and at a collective level, and are really more opportunistic than they are moral.

Slave morality blends these two conceptions together and combines them in a single idea girded by unalloyed resentment. Slave morality expresses itself as a belief that the weaker party is automatically the morally superior party. Therefore, whenever there is a conflict, picking a side is as simple as determining who is the weaker party.

What this has led to is a conception of human nature that claims strong people are nasty and Hobbesian, and weak people kind and Rousseauean.

Anyone with high social status is assumed to have achieved it by viciousness, aggression, skulduggery and violence. Nastiness is, to the slave mindset, the only way that one can distinguish oneself from the masses – there is no such thing as excellence. Even the desire to distinguish oneself is evil.

Anyone with low social status, by contrast, is assumed to have received it because they were too kind and loving. Either they got exploited by a nasty Hobbesian, or they gave so much of their wealth away that they were left with nothing themselves. Kindness is, to the slave mindset, the highest moral value, because it avoids confrontation.

Another way that slave morality expresses itself is a refusal to concede that any one person or group of people are superior to any other, in any way. This mentality will deny that the great variety of different environments on this planet resulted in a commensurate variety of different adaptations. To admit this would be to concede that some were better adapted to others. Slave mentality is too resentful to admit this.

At its most dogmatic, slave morality denies any inherent difference between population groups full stop. All differences in outcome are therefore considered to be cultural in nature. This mentality was satirised by StoneToss when he pointed out the contrast between how willing people are to concede that genes explain physical differences on the one hand, with how willing people are to concede that genes explain mental or behavioural differences on the other.

This reaches its greatest absurdity when slave moralists insist that the difference in physical strength between men and women is due to environmental causes. This comically naive logic would be laughable if it was held by a child. When held by a fully serious adult it’s monstrous, and the shadows of the gulags become apparent.

Anyone who has travelled and observed the world (and many people who haven’t) will, of course, have noticed that there are many people who have laboured their entire lives without building up much strength (such as Indians), whereas others don’t need to exercise at all to become strong (such as Polynesians). The other population groups are all somewhere in between.

Moreover, anyone who has travelled will have observed that there are a vast range of different environments on Planet Earth, and therefore a vast range of different survival pressures. This range of survival pressures has necessarily led to a multiplicity of genetic variation.

The genetic basis for the differences in physical strength between populations is obvious. Therefore, it stands to reason that there will be a large variation in mental, intellectual and behavioural tendencies because of genetics.

To disagree is to deny reality, but this is the real horror of slave morality – it rejects life and even reality itself.

Unfortunately, slave morality has started to become normalised on account of the fact that populations are so large now that the vast majority of people have no chance of ever achieving a leadership position. This means that resentment-based narratives will become ever more popular, and accurate scientific information will become ever harder to find.


If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

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