Nietzsche’s concept of the Will to Power is fundamental to his philosophy and yet often misunderstood. It is also constantly discussed by commentators but they seem to state the history of its interpretation rather than interpreting the idea itself. Indeed, Nietzsche warned against this view of ideas – of collecting and cataloging them:

Everything that philosophers handled over the past thousands of years turned into concept mummies; nothing real escaped their grasp alive. Whenever these venerable concept idolators revere something, they kill it and stuff it […] (Twilight)

Another mistake of commentators is to say what the will to power isn’t – most typically in relation to the will to existence. I will try not to use this method and positively define the Will to Power. Most of the ideas are Nietzsche’s own but I am contemporized them in places.

1) The Will to Power is the force that determines good and evil. (Read in a footnote but I forget where.)

If I may assume for a moment that morality has an earthly origin, what else can we say of its source? The source by definition must be outside morality. Or more directly, the source of morality is immorality. For example if we say “it is always good to tell the truth”, we are in fact lying since we are just inventing a false objective truth.

My chief proposition: there are no moral phenomena, there is only a moral interpretation of these phenomena. This interpretation itself is of extra-moral origin. WtP 258

Personally, I am greatly influenced by the “it-ought” problem. I have not yet seen a satisfactory solution and I provisionally conclude there is no external source of ought statements. I do accept that “ought” statements are necessary. “Ought” statements provided by society may be tolerated but are not truth. I conclude that morality is completely discretionary. If course I would still suffer the consequences if I was caught breaking the law but there is no truth at work here.

Another theme in Nietzsche is the how much primitive superstition is loaded into language. Morality is not justified by language, rather language is shaped by moral judgments. A linguistic argument for morality is, by definition and by virtue of needing outside definition, not objective and therefore not truth. This foreshadows Wittgenstein’s concept of language games. The Will to Power’s voice is the language game.

Values did man only assign to things in order to maintain himself — he created only the significance of things, a human significance! Therefore, calleth he himself “man,” that is, the valuator. (Zarathustra, The Thousand and One Goals)

2) The Will to Power is the force that determines knowledge.

Truth is the kind of error without which a species could not survive. (WtP?)

All philosophers love to argue “logically”. Why logic? Why not rather illogical argument? That accusation we can put to all a-priori discussions. The reason for accepting logic is that it seems to be reflecting in the testimony of our senses (a posterior experience). For example, we generally don’t see things as simultaneously X and not X. Therefore any tendency to argue logically is, in fact, an acceptance of the natural world. To disprove naturalism by logic is self contradictory.

Inductive reasoning has the problem of potential over generalization. We may always discover a counter example to a given rule. As Shaw once said “The golden rule is that there are no golden rules”. But we still hold that concepts such as time, space, causality, substance, properties really exist. The ability to do this has no objective basis but we must impose a schema on sensory experience to understand it. To accept that these concepts are real, we must effectively ignore the problem with inductive reasoning – this is an exercise of the Will to Power. We assign value to sensory phenomena and call them arbitrary things: words, language, computer, screen, blog, etc. Note that none of these concepts have any reality except in our minds. But act as if they do – that is valuation.

Science cannot escape the flaw in inductive reasoning but it attempts to mitigate its effect. So called scientific “dogma” is all conditional knowledge and not objectively true – this is an acceptance of the limitation of induction. Also to use valuations of things but to be economical as possible with valuations is an interesting guideline (also known as Occam’s Razor). But since some valuation is necessary to do any science, objective truth via science is unachievable. But ignore the impossibility of the task and do it anyway – that is Will to Power. This economy of valuation causes science to find a description of reality rather than an explanation of reality. The “explanation” could only exist in our minds.

3) The Will to Power is the abstraction of all other drives e.g. Will to Existence, Will to Knowledge, Will to Virtue, Will to Wealth, Will to Political Influence, etc.

4) Will to Power is a discharge of gathered potential for action. The Will to Power is an abstraction of the source of happiness.

What is happiness? The feeling that power increases, that a resistance is overcome. (The Anti-Christ)

This means we should not seek to abolish resistance to our will since it is necessary for exercise of the will. It is therefore a freedom from ressentiment and slave morality (which states what harmful agents are “bad” and should be eliminated). (Note: happiness is not a proof of truth.)

I assess the power of a will by how much resistance, pain, torture it endures and knows how to turn to its advantage; I do not account the evil and painful character of existence a reproach to it, but hope rather that it will one day be more evil and painful than hitherto— WtP 382 Emphasis mine.

5) Existentially, the Will to Power is a rejection of nihilism.

Ironically, Nihilism claims “life is meaningless” or more accurately “life should be meaningless”. That is itself a valuation of life and therefore a use of the Will to Power. The flaw in nihilism is it is a valuation of life that says there is no “true” valuation. There fore it is a self contradiction.
6) All life has the Will to Power. Throughout history, only a few individuals have ever exercised it on a grand scale.

People always get worried when there is mention of imposition of views from one charismatic leader. The comparison is always of a totalitarian leader and guilt by association. This is not logical. Let me state: “you may not impose ideas on others” is this not ITSELF an idea? And it is value imposed on modern society? This is a self contradiction!

All art and all creating is a value judgment “The world lacks X and should have X. I will create it.”

If I may talk for a moment beyond Good and Evil, we have to be more questioning of our ideals. And yes I am questioning of my tendency to be questioning!

Most influential sources of western culture: Equality (Christianity), The soul (Plato), Right to divorce (Henry VIII), Pursuit of branded goods (Marketing departments), Environmentalism (???)…

7) In some ways, the act of defining the Will to Power IS the Will to Power – since it is act of valuation.

As Brian was accused in the Life of Brian, I am also guilty: “He’s making it up as he goes along!” That is almost the point of The Will to Power. Also a bit like the Wizard of Oz himself: the will to lie to maintain so called “truth” as true. It also reminds me of the justification used by parents though the ages: “Why? Because I said so.”

The one who exercises the Will to Power is closely related to the concept of the superman.

Innocence is the child, and forgetfulness, a new beginning, a game, a self–rolling wheel, a first movement, a holy Yea. (Zarathustra)

Anti Citizen One

PS I am half way though Nietzsche’s book called, confusingly, “The Will to Power”. I will explain why sometime later.