[b]What is ressentiment?[/b]

The French term [i]ressentiment [/i]burst into the philosophy and literature scene when German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche wrote his critiques of morality in [i]Dawn, The Gay Science [/i]and [i]On the Genealogy of Morality[/i] - these texts are referred to as Nietzsche's [i]free spirit period.[/i]

[i]Ressentiment [/i]is an expression used to denote suppressed feelings of envy and hatred which cannot be satisfied. It is often translated as [i]resentment [/i]which describes a bitterness from being treated unfairly. While the two have hatred at their core, Nietzsche intends for both terms to have their own separate meanings while being interchangeable.

In [i]On the Genealogy of Morality [/i]in the first essay, section 10, he describes [i]ressentiment/resentment [/i]as 'creating values' from the 'slave revolt in morality'. This point has been expressed many times in other literature, but I will briefly go over it here before evolving the focus on [i]ressentiment.[/i]

Nietzsche describes what he calls 'the dark workshop of the soul' that is at work in Christian morality, as the relational identities of masters and slaves sets up a play of perspectives. The slaves are repressed and envy their masters, they adopt a kind of 'sour grapes' attitude towards success and nobility, looking at the masters as being inherently evil for being aspirational, but this is due to long term suppression of their own desires and drives. It's a kind of protective mechanism of sorts, if you don't try, you wont get hurt, but instead of being honest about that, the slave morality 'revolts' in a way that says weakness is strength and success, autonomy and nobility is ungodly, evil and bad. Of course, the masters have a different perspective, they prefer to keep their distance from failure as it relents their aspirations and ability to act, so they dismiss the slaves as base and immoral.

So all in all, Nietzsche paints a pretty grim picture and doesn't explain a way out of this relationship, what he describes is lots of underhanded, non-confrontational spite that stems from the dark workshop of the soul that is stirred with revenge that cannot fully be expressed due to domination.

What we can say however, in a more neutral way, is that '[i]ressentiment [/i]gives birth to values'. Later writers like Albert Camus used the Myth of Sisyphus to describe [i]ressentiment. [/i]It is the way of the absurd, we put ourselves through hardship only to start all over again, but we do it anyway, we resent our responsibilities. Nietzsches' core theory of drives speaks of how some drives don't 'hit their targets', but instead of vanishing, they hit something else, they are like ricocheting projectiles that sometimes turn inwards, what he calls [i]internalisation of man[/i].

The master-slave relation isn't just on the outside in the play of society, it is an internal performance where we put pressure on ourselves and we resent ourselves, our projects towards the future, but this is more like a [i]care. [/i]Seen as a passion, it is the source of creative values that can be artistic, the source of rebellion and resistance, a kind of [i]power-of-the-body.[/i]

So [i]ressentiment [/i]is a kind of sickness as Nietzsche describes, but it is a sickness in the same sense that pregnancy is a sickness, instead of it being diverted into vengeance and spite from envy towards others, it can be the source of great protest, resistance and other kinds of artistic projects that work within a two-way street dynamic of power. So I disagree with Nietzsche that everything to do with [i]ressentiment [/i]is vulgar and vile, it can be a great source of comedy and music, from a sense of absurdity and cynicism about our everyday interactions with ourselves and others.