What Nietzsche Taught

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"The Will to Power"

Volume I

All the evidences of what was to be Nietzsche's final and complete philosophical work in four volumes, are contained in two volumes of desultory and often highly condensed notes which were recently issued under the single caption of "The Will to Power" ("Die Wille zur Macht"). On this culminating work Nietzsche had laboured from 1883 until his final breakdown. He made two plans for "The Will to Power"—one in 1886 and the other in 1887. As the 1887 plan was the one ultimately adhered to, there seems no reason to hesitate about accepting it as the right one. The titles of the four books which comprised this final work as it stands to-day are "European Nihilism," "A Criticism of the Highest Values that Have Prevailed Hitherto," "The Principles of a New Valuation" and "Discipline and Breeding." These headings are according to the last plan made at Nice in 1887, and although, as I stated in the preceding chapter, there was some hesitation between the general title of "The Will to Power" and "The Transvaluation of All Values," "The Antichrist," which fell under the latter heading, must not be considered as forming a part of "The Will to Power." However, "The Antichrist" and also "Beyond Good and Evil," "The Genealogy of Morals" and "The Twilight[Pg 276] of the Idols," are closely related in thought to "The Will to Power." This fact is borne out not only by internal evidence, by the manner in which the books overlap, and by the constant redistribution of titles which sometimes prove the unity of the last phase of his thought, but also by the testimony of those who had Nietzsche's confidence and could watch him at close quarters.

Nietzsche intended to embody in the four books of "The Will to Power" the entire sweep of his philosophical teachings. This work was to be a summary, not only in statement but also in analysis, of his ethical system. His preceding books had been replete in repetitions, and lacked both organisation and sequence. His health was such that he could work only sporadically and in short shifts, with the result that he was constantly trying to crowd an enormous amount of material into a short space. He was able to deal with but one point at a time, and, as his working period was frequently too short to develop that point as fully as he desired, we find him constantly going back over old ground, altering his syllogisms, making addenda, interpolating analogies, and in numerous other ways changing and clarifying what he had previously written. "The Will to Power" was to be, then, a colossal organisation of all his writings, with every step intact, and every conclusion in its place. And throughout the four volumes emphasis was to be put on his motivating doctrine, the will to power, an oppositional theory to Darwin's theory of struggle for mere existence. But although we have two large volumes of notes, these jottings lack in a large degree the co-ordination which would have characterised them had Nietzsche been able to carry out his plan.

The notes of these two books are the work of many[Pg 277] years, and the putting together of them for publication has been done without any attempt to alter their original text. They are just as Nietzsche left them—in some cases completed and closely argued paragraphs, in others mere notations and memoranda, elliptic and unelaborated. It is possible, however, to gain a very adequate idea of what was to be the contents of this final work, due to the copiousness of the material at hand. From the time of finishing "Thus Spake Zarathustra" to 1889, Nietzsche was constantly making notes for his great work, and there is no phase of his thought which is not touched upon in these two remaining volumes. By following their pages closely, in the light of his foregoing works, one gets a very definite impression of the synthesis of his thoughts. Especially true is this of the second volume of "The Will to Power," for it is here that his cardinal doctrine is most strongly and consistently emphasised and its relationship to all human relationships most concisely drawn. Because of this fact I have chosen to consider the two volumes separately. The first volume is full of material more or less familiar to those who have followed Nietzsche in his earlier works. The notes are, in the majority of cases, elaborations and explanations of doctrines contained in those books which followed "Thus Spake Zarathustra." As such they are important.

The first volume is divided into two sections—"European Nihilism" and "A Criticism of the Highest Values that Have Prevailed Hitherto." Two subdivisions are found under section one—"Nihilism" and "Concerning the History of European Nihilism." In this first subdivision Nietzsche defines Nihilism and attempts to trace its origin. He states that it is an outcome of the valuations[Pg 278] and interpretations of existence which have formerly prevailed, namely: the result of the doctrines of Christianity. For our adherence to Christian morality, Nietzsche says, we must pay dearly: by this adherence we are losing our equilibrium and are on the verge of adopting opposite valuations—those consisting of Nihilistic elements. He defines the Nihilistic movement as an expression of decadence, and declares that this decadence is spreading throughout all our modern institutions. Under his second subdivision, he explains that modern gloominess is a result of the "slow advance and rise of the middle and lower classes," and asserts that this gloominess is accompanied by moral hypocrisy and the decadent virtues of sympathy and pity. In this connection he denies that the nineteenth century shows an improvement over the sixteenth. No better analysis of the effects of Christian morality on modern man is to be found in any of Nietzsche's writings than in this treatise of Nihilism; and a close study of this analysis will greatly help one in grasping the full significance of the doctrine of the will to power. Although the notes in this book are the least satisfactory of all the portions of "The Will to Power," being both tentative and incomplete, I have been able to select enough definite statements from them to give an adequate idea of both Nietzsche's theories and conclusions in regard to Nihilism.

In the second section of Volume I, "A Criticism of the Highest Values That Have Prevailed Hitherto," the notes are fuller and more closely organised. This is due to the fact that the ground covered by them is in the main the same ground covered by "The Antichrist," "The Genealogy of Morals" and "Beyond Good and Evil." In fact, there is in these notes much repetition[Pg 279] of passages to be found in the three previous volumes. The first subdivision of this second section is called "Criticism of Religion," and there is little material in it which does not appear in "The Antichrist." Even in the manner of expression there exists so strong a similarity that I am inclined to think Nietzsche used these notes in composing his famous philippic against Christianity. Consequently I have made but few quotations from this division, choosing in each instance only such passages as do not possess a direct parallel in his earlier work. We find here the same inquiry into the origin of religions, the same analysis of Christian ideals, the same history of Christian doctrines, and the same argument against the dissemination of Christian faiths as are contained in "The Antichrist." However, these present notes are sufficiently different from this previous book to interest the thorough student, and there are occasional speculations advanced which are not to be encountered elsewhere in Nietzsche's writings. For the casual reader, however, there is little of new interest in this subdivision.

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