What Nietzsche Taught

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Under "Spiritual freedom" I understand something very definite: it is a state in which one is a hundred times superior to philosophers and other disciples of "truth" in one's severity towards one's self, in one's uprightness, in one's courage, and in one's absolute will to say nay even when it is dangerous to say nay. I regard the philosophers that have appeared heretofore as contemptible libertines hiding behind the petticoats of the female "Truth." 384

[Pg 301]


"The Will to Power"

Volume II

The second volume of "The Will to Power," even in its present fragmentary form, is the most important of Nietzsche's works. It draws together under one cover many of the leading doctrines voiced in his principal constructive books, and in addition states them in terms of his fundamental postulate—the will to power. In Volume I of this work we had the application of this doctrine to morality, religion and philosophy. In the present book it is applied to science, nature, society, breeding and art. The notes are more analytical than in the former volume; and the subject-matter is in itself of greater importance, being more directly concerned with the exposition of Nietzsche's main theory. Volume II is also fuller and more homogeneous, and contains much new material. So compact is its organisation that one is able to gain a very adequate idea of the purpose which animated Nietzsche at the time of making these notes.

The will to power, the principle which Nietzsche held to be the elementary expression of life, must be understood in order for one to comprehend the Nietzschean system of ethics. Throughout all the books which followed "The Joyful Wisdom" we have indirect references to it and conclusions based on its assumption as a[Pg 302] hypothesis. And, although it was never definitely and finally defined until the publication of the notes comprising "The Will to Power," it nevertheless was the actuating motive in all Nietzsche's constructive writings. Simply stated, the will to power is the biological instinct to maintenance, persistence and development. Nietzsche holds that Darwin's universal law of the instinct to mere survival is a misinterpretation of the forces at work in life. He points out that existence is a condition—a medium of action—and by no means an end. It is true that only the fittest survive in nature as a result of the tendency to exist; but this theory does not account for the activities which take place after existence has been assured. In order to explain these activities Nietzsche advances the theory of the will to power and tests all actions by it. It will be seen that by this theory the universal law of Darwin is by no means abrogated, but rather is it explained and developed.

In the operation of Darwin's biological law there are many forces at work. That is to say, once the fact of existence is established, numerous forces can be found at work within the limits of existence. We know that the forces of nature—acting within the medium of existence which is an a priori condition—are rarely unified and directed toward the same result. In short, they are not reciprocal. To the contrary, they work more often against each other—they are antagonistic. Immediately a war of forces takes place; and it is this war that constitutes all action in nature. A force in nature directed at another force calls forth a resistance and counter-force; and this instinct to act and to resist is in itself a will to act. Otherwise, inertia would be the condition of life, once mere existence was assured by the fittest.[Pg 303] But life is not inert. Even when certain organisms have accomplished the victory for existence, and are no longer moved by a necessity to struggle for mere being, the will to action persists; and this will to action, according to Nietzsche, is the will for power, for in every clash of forces, there is an attempt on the part of each force to overcome and resist the antagonistic one. The greater the action, the greater the antagonism. Hence, this tendency in all forces to persist is at bottom a tendency of self-assertion, of overcoming counter-forces, of augmenting individual power. Wherever this will to persist is found, Nietzsche argues that the will to act is present; and there can be no will to act without a will to power, because the very desire for existence and development is a desire for power.

This, in brief, is Nietzsche's doctrine applied to the organic and inorganic world. In its application to the ideological world, the reasoning is not changed. In ideas Nietzsche finds this same will to power. But in them it is the reflection of the principle inherent in the material world. There is no will inherent in ideas. This assumption of a reflected will to power in the ideological world is one of Nietzsche's most important concepts, for it makes all ideas the outgrowth of ourselves, and therefore dependent on natural laws. It does away with the conception of supernatural power and with the old philosophical belief that ideas are superior forces to those of the organic and inorganic world. Nietzsche once and for all disposes of the theory that there is anything more powerful than force, and by thus doing away with this belief, he rationalises all ideas and puts thought on a tangible and stable basis. In the opening section of the present book where he applies the will to power to[Pg 304] scientific research, the whole of this new theory is made clear, and I advise the student to read well this section, for I have been unable to present as clear and complete an expositional statement of it in Nietzsche's own words as I would have liked to do, owing to the close and interrelated manner in which these notes were written.

Volume II of "The Will to Power" is in two books. The first is called "The Principles of a New Valuation"; the second, "Discipline and Breeding." The first book is divided into four sections—"The Will to Power in Science," "The Will to Power in Nature," "The Will to Power as Exemplified in Society and in the Individual" and "The Will to Power in Art." The second book has three divisions—"The Order of Rank," "Dionysus" and "Eternal Recurrence." Of the first section of Book One, "The Will to Power in Science," I have already spoken. In this section Nietzsche shows how arbitrary a thing science is, and how closely related are its conclusions to the instinct of the scientists, namely: the instinct of the will to power. Scientists, he holds, are confronted by the necessity of translating all phenomena into terms compatible with the struggle for persistence and maintenance. A fact in nature unaccounted for is a danger, an obstacle to the complete mastery of natural conditions. Consequently the scientist, directed and influenced by his will to power, invents explanations which will bring all facts under his jurisdiction and control, and will thereby increase his feeling of power. As a result, the great facts of life are looked upon as of secondary importance to their explanations, and science becomes, not an intelligent search for knowledge, but a system of interpretations tending to increase the feeling of mastery in the men directly connected with it. Thus the law of the will to[Pg 305] power, as manifest in the organic and inorganic world, becomes the dominating instinct in the ideological world as well.

It is well to speak here of truth as Nietzsche conceived it. We have seen how he denied its absolutism and declared it to be relative. But in his present work he goes further and contends that the feeling of the increase of power is the determining factor in truth. If, as we have seen, the "truths" of science are merely those interpretations which grow out of the scientists' will to power, then truth itself must be the outgrowth of this instinct. That which makes for the growth and development of the individual—or in other words, that which increases the feeling of strength—is necessarily the truth. From this it is easy to deduce the conclusion that in many instances truth is a reversal of facts, for preservation very often consists in an adherence to actual falsity. Thus, the false causality of certain phenomena—the outcome of logic engendered by a will to power—has not infrequently masqueraded as truth. Nietzsche holds that this doctrine contains the only possible definition of truth; and in this doctrine we find an explanation for many of the apparent paradoxes in his teachings when the matter of truth and falsity are under discussion.

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