What is herd morality? Herd morality is one of Friedrich Nietzsche’s main philosophical ideas. This article looks into the reasons for herd morality and conformity while adding other relevant psychological explanations into the mix. It also looks into modern day examples of this psychological phenomena.
What is herd morality?
Herd morality is a collective value system that is gained or defined by common social norms/societal standards. It is in essence social and group programming that defines what is good and bad, that is reinforced by the desire for conformity.
Herd morality is what happens when you combine various different psychological factors. These psychological factors include, the desire for conformity, the motivation and desire to be a good person, or moral person, the unconscious mind and the persona, the persona is the social mask we use to better conform or fit in. In Jungian psychology the Persona is the (conformity archetype).
The desire for conformity and herd morality can be incredibly powerful motivators. The trouble with herd morality is that the value system that defines what is good and bad is rarely questioned. If someone does question any of these values, they run the risk of being attacked by the herd or cast out.
Fear of being alienated
Most people have a huge fear of being cast out or alienated by the herd or group, so mostly they don’t question the values or go against the majority. As Nietzsche would say, they choose comfort and contentment. Also to question these values requires some effort and deep level thinking, which most people are either too lazy, or unable to do.
We have some people on the far or radical left of the political spectrum, including the social justice warriors that fall into the realms of herd morality. Believing they are moral and good in their beliefs, without ever questioning these beliefs.
Some of these people on the far left also confuse or mask their weakness, or inability to cause harm as morality. This is a self deception or delusion that brings them comfort and a sense of superiority, however it’s only weakness masquerading as morality.
Development of the Persona
Group and societal beliefs often become the standards for the development of the persona/social mask. This social mask is influenced by these often lazy and quick thinking views of morality. The desire for conformity and the fear of alienation (defense instinct) only further set certain beliefs in stone. This sense of morality makes up part of their identity, which becomes difficult to change. It’s a tangled web of psychological motivations, fears and the desire for conformity.
Herd morality is still very real and obvious in our current age. Herd morality and conformity can help to create a stable society. However if the common beliefs of the herd are wrong or misguided, it can take us down a very dangerous path, and the herd can be very hostile to those that challenge the common beliefs, or criticize the direction that the herd is going in.
Sometimes herds are heading in the right direction, but sometimes they’re heading straight towards a cliff edge.
“Herd morality is a powerful beast, with the force of the majority behind it.” Friedrich Nietzsche.
Recommended reading from Academy of Ideas. Nietzsche and morality: the higher man and the herd.