The Death of God and the Death of Morality

Forthcoming in a special issue of THE MONIST on Nietzsche

25 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2015 Last revised: 5 Feb 2019

Date Written: February 3, 2019


Nietzsche famously proclaimed the "death of God," but in so doing it was not God's death that was really notable -- Nietzsche assumes that most reflective, modern readers realize that "the belief in the Christian god has become unbelievable" (GS 343) -- but the implications of that belief becoming unbelievable, namely, "how much must collapse now that this faith has been undermined," in particular, "the whole of our European morality" (GS 343). What is the connection between the death of God and the death of morality?

I argue that Nietzsche thinks the death of God will undermine the "moral egalitarianism" that is central to modern morality, in both its deontological and utilitarian forms. I offer an account of how Nietzsche sees the connection, arguing that no one has yet offered a non-theistic defense of moral egalitarianism (I focus, in particular but not only, on Rawls). I conclude with some skeptical considerations about whether Nietzsche was right that atheism would, in fact, undermine morality.

Keywords: Nietzsche, theism, morality

Suggested Citation

Leiter, Brian, The Death of God and the Death of Morality (February 3, 2019). Forthcoming in a special issue of THE MONIST on Nietzsche, Available at SSRN: or

Brian Leiter (Contact Author)

University of Chicago ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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