Summary: Comparing and Contrast Nietzsche’s and Scheler on Ressentiment

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Fredrich Nietche was a German Philosopher, he lived a very influential life, from his writings. He was born in 1844 and died in 1900, for the last decade of his life he suffered with insanity. Nietche was very influential on the writers and thinkers of the twentieth century, however not everyone enjoyed his writings especially when the Nazi Party of the 1930s and 1940s used Nietches writings as justification for some of their activates, ‘Less beneficially, certain aspects of Nietzsche’s work were used by the Nazi Party of the 1930s–’40s as justification for its activities; this selective and misleading use of his work has somewhat darkened his reputation for later audiences.’ (Biography, 2018). Max Scheler was also a German philosopher, he was born in 1874 and dies in 1928, his work too was considered very influential and he also has many writings. What these have in common is they both have writings on the idea of resentment, but both philosophers take very different approaches. Schelers philosophy focused around the ideas of ethics, metaphysics, epistemology and religion, and the modern philosophical anthropology which he actually founded, as a phenomenologist, he investigated the constitution of the structures of consciousness, which included mental acts, feelings and emotions, thinking and willing which also results in values and concepts and projects, ‘Scheler’s philosophy encompassed ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, religion, the sociology of knowledge, and modern philosophical anthropology, which he founded. As a phenomenologist, he sought to investigate the constitution of the structures of consciousness, including the structures of mental acts—such as feeling, thinking, and willing—and of their inherent objects or correlates—such as (in this case) values, concepts, and projects.’ (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2018). 

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Nietches critique on resentment

Nietzsche’s look on ressentiment was at what he believed to be at the core of Christian and Judaic thought and was at the central facet of the western thought. Nietzsche’s defined it as slave morality, ‘Nietzsche, who defined it as a slave morality. Nietzsche sees ressentiment as the core of Christian and Judaic thought and, consequently, the central facet of western thought more generally.’ (, 2018). Nietzsche’s writing Genealogy of morals is examined through three essays which questions and examines the value of our moral judgement, in good and evil, he suggests that slave revolt in morality starts when ressentiment becomes a creative force. Nietzsche’s slave morality gives a strong difference and distinctive difference between the strong and the weak. Nietzsche’s writing about good and evil shows the concept of resentment, it is seen as an emotion based on representation, which is seen when Nietzsche distinguishes between master morality and slave morality. Master morality is seen as the strong and healthy and free and there happiness is good contrasting to this slave morality is seen as weak, unhealthy and because of these they are seen as undesirable, as a result the slaves called themselves the good and the masters evil, this is because of the emotion they felt oppressed by the masters happiness and wealth. Ressentiment according to Nietzsche can cause a long lasting psychological hatred and ignorance, ‘Nietzsche defines ressentiment in the absence of a consistent theory of desire’ (Siebers, 2018). The next essay in Genealogy of morals which Nietzsche wrote was the Guilt bad conscience and the like, through his writing he examines the original concept of punishment and guilt, these two actions he believed were not based on any moral transgression in the beginning. He notes that we see ourselves as sinners due to the idea of bad conscience, he also looks at the development of society and due to the development how our natural animal instincts for aggression and cruelty can turn upward on ourselves. In the final essay which is part of the genealogy morals is what the meaning of ascetic ideas is, this part of the writing focuses on asceticism which looks at the powerful and paradoxical force which Nietzsche thinks dominates contemporary life, he believes it as an expression of a weak, sick will unable to cope with the struggle against itself, again in this essay Nietzsche looks at the animal instinct that this expression can bring out of us. Nietzsche’s look on the concept of ressentiment is not considered to be a normal one, he focuses around the idea of Christian and Judaic, he says that we need to revaluate our moral ideas to enable us to see past good and evil and will and power. Through-out his writings he also says the Christianity is enduring moral decline and he named the decline Nihilism, which is defines this decline as the death of god. When Nietzsche’s defined a difference between slave morality and master morality this saw that the slaves resented the master because they saw them as healthy and had wealth whereas the slaves did not. Ressentiment is an emotion which can affect ones judgement on them-selves and also there opinion of another. The problem is how we see others and how we see ourselves and this constant reaction to representation.

Schelers critique on resentment

Scheler looks at ressentiment from a more phenomenology perspective, Scheler’s phenomenological description of Ressentiment is ‘Ressentiment is a self-poisoning of the mind, which has quite definite causes and consequences. It is a lasting mental attitude, caused by the systematic repression of certain emotions and affects which, as such, are normal components of human nature. Their repression leads to the constant tendency to indulge in certain kinds of value delusions and corresponding value judgments. The emotions and affects primarily concerned are revenge, hatred, malice, envy, the impulse to detract, and spite.’ (, 2018). Schelers idea of ressentiment comes from two main emotions envy and revenge which he believes can be triggered from an event or a certain circumstance which arises. Envy can arise from the idea of wanting what someone else poses, envy can arise from wanting the good that someone else has or from the fact that you simply do not own the good. Scheler compares two types of people the vulgar man and the man of resentment, with the vulgar man the arriviste spends there life increasing their wealth comparing this to the man of ressentiment who is characterised as impotence, they have a negative outlook they compare what they have to others and don’t believe that they will be able to obtain anything they want, instead they constantly de-value what others have, he doesn’t believe in himself to be able to gain any of the values that others have, they also just act as if the values don’t exist as a way to make themselves feel better. There are certain types of people who are more likely to have the emotion of ressentiment for example mother in laws who see their son or daughter marrying someone starting a new life and seeing their child move on and start a new life which can cause an emotion of ressentiment to appear because they see it as ungratefulness as their child is moving on and what they believe to be their child no longer needing there assistance. The concept of ressentiment can cause this idea to create an delusional idea, what I mean by this that Scheler using the example that people will look at the value of a good as being of a higher worth than what it is actually worth, this is a result of people not being able to have the good or believing they will never be able to get the good which is due to their idea of their own self-worth. Scheler not only talks about envy being a part of the emotion triggered by ressentiment but he also talks about revenge being part of resentment, this can be caused due to someone doing something to other person and they resent them for and they want to get their own back on them and they do not successfully do this, but revenge doesn’t always have to turn into ressentiment because the person who has done the action has paid for said action, or the person can forgive the person for the action which has caused the hostile feeling towards them. Scheler believes to be a big issue with ressentiment is how people value something.

Comparing and contrasting Scheler and Nietzsche

Nietzsche and Scheler have different opinions on the understanding of ressentiment and what it is cause from. Nietzsche believes it comes from our moral judgements being impaired and also Christianity whereas Scheler believes it comes from one’s own self-doubt. Scheler uses the value of an object to create an understanding for his theory of resentment, whereas Nietzsche uses the idea of slave and master morality to best describe the understanding. Comparing and contrasting these two philosophers on the concept of Christian love. They have two very different ideas about Christian love, Nietzsche believes that Christian love is a means to better your chances in the afterlife judges whereas Scheler believes that if true love is to happen it is not to better ones chances in the afterlife but it is because of one’s true self-fulfilment, ‘While Nietzsche thinks that Christian love is a means to better one’s chances in afterlife’s judgment, Scheler believes that true love happens because of true self-fulfilment.’ (Blum, 2018). Love in the normal sense is believed to be a need and desire however Christian love is completely different. Scheler looks at everyone as being able to be loved but he looks at people’s strengths, security and power when looking at the ability for love, he uses the example of being able to put aside one’s own interest in order to make someone else happy, it is the power to see when someone else needs to be put ahead of you desire, however love can bring up difficult emotions especially resentment, he can see why the ressentiment man loves the poor because they are not perfect, weak and why he hates the rich because of their perfectness and wealth. Schelers idea of love contrasts to Nietzsche’s idea of love he believes that in order to succeed in the afterlife you need love, his idea is based about his believing that ressentiment steams from Christianity, ‘Nietzsche is of the opinion that Christianity prescribes objective morals, thus stealing believers’ autonomy. And by believing in afterlife’s judgment, Christians are rendered to passivity because they do not have to actively confront their weaknesses’ (Blum, 2018). Scheler argues in one of his writings that Nietzsche’s misunderstood the full meaning behind Christian love and he interpreted wrongly because he was looking at through the vision of socialism. The two Philosophers have very different out looks on the idea behind ressentiment Scheler looks at it from a more open minded view and realistic view whereas Nietzsche looks at it solely through believing that it main origin is from Christianity, he challenges some of the most deeply held beliefs about what is valuable, his ressentiment establishes a comparison between master and slave which deliberately misinterprets the differences between the strong and the week. Nietzsche introduces ressentiment in On The Genealogy of Morals, when he is contrasting the (historically situated, though not actually historical) replacement of the dichotomy of ‘good and bad’ with that of ‘good and evil.’ (, 2018). Scheler uses the value of goods through-out his writings and the need we desire to obtain such good, it can come from self-doubt of never believing we will be able to achieve the good which we desire or that we are just not worthy enough to have that good.




  1. Biography. (2018). Friedrich Nietzsche. [Online] Available at:
  2. Blum, M. (2018). Democracy and Resentment: Testing Scheler’s and Nietzsche’s Christian Resentment Theories on the Case of Protestantism. MaRBLe, 3.
  3. Encyclopedia Britannica. (2018). Max Scheler | German philosopher. [Online] Available at:
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  6. (2018). Ressentiment – Oxford Reference. [Online] Available at:
  7. Siebers, T. (2018). The Ethics of Criticism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, pp.124-158.

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