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Friedrich Nietzsche

German Philosopher


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Narrated by Alan Sklar

Download mp3 file: Beyond Good and Evil

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On the Will to Power

Physiologists should think before putting down the instinct of self-preservation as the cardinal instinct of an organic being. A living thing seeks above all to discharge its strength - life itself is will to power; self-preservation is only one of the indirect and most frequent results. In short, here as everywhere else, let us beware of superfluous teleological principles - one of which is the instinct of self preservation (we owe it to Spinoza's inconsistency). Thus method, which must be essentially economy of principles, demands it.

All psychology so far has got stuck in moral prejudices and fears; it has not dared to descend into the depths. To understand it as morphology and the doctrine of the development of the will to power, as I do - nobody has yet come close to doing this even in thought - insofar as it is permissible to recognize in what has been written so far a symptom of what has so far been kept silent. The power of moral prejudices has penetrated deeply into the most spiritual world, which would seem to be the coldest and most devoid of presuppositions, and has obviously operated in an injurious, inhibiting, blinding, and distorting manner.

Philosophers are accustomed to speak of the will as if it were the best-known thing in the world; indeed, Schopenhauer has given us to understand that the will alone is really known to us, absolutely and completely known, without subtraction or addition. But again and again it seems to me that in this case, too, Schopenhauer only did what philosophers are in the habit of doing - he adopted a popular prejudice and exaggerated it. Willing seems to me to be above all something complicated, something that is a unit only as a word - and it is precisely in this one word that the popular prejudice lurks, which has defeated the always inadequate caution of philosophers. So let us for once be more cautious, let us be "unphilosophical": let us say that in all willing there is, first, a plurality of sensations, namely, the sensation of the state "away from which" the sensation of the state "towards which," the sensation of this "from and towards" themselves, and then also an accompanying muscular sensation, which, even without our putting into motion "arms and legs," begins its action by force of habit as soon as we "will" anything.

Therefore just as sensations (and indeed many kinds of sensation) are to be recognized as ingredients of the will, so, secondly, should thinking also: in every act of the will there is a ruling thought - let us not imagine it possible to sever this thought from the "willing," as if any will would then remain over!

Third, the will is not only a complex of sensation and thinking, but it is above all an affect, and specifically the affect of the command. That which is termed "freedom of the will" is essentially the affect of superiority in relation to him who must obey: "I am free, 'he' must obey" - this consciousness is inherent in every will; and equally so the straining of the attention, the straight look that fixes itself exclusively on one aim, the unconditional evaluation that "this and nothing else is necessary now," the inward certainty that obedience will be rendered - and whatever else belongs to the position of the commander. A man who wills commands something within himself that renders obedience, or that he believes renders obedience.

But now let us notice what is strangest about the will - this manifold thing for which the people have only one word: inasmuch as in the given circumstances we are at the same time the commanding and the obeying parties, and as the obeying party we know the sensations of constraint, impulsion, pressure, resistance and motion, which usually begin immediately after the act of will, inasmuch as, on the other hand, we are accustomed to disregard this duality, and to deceive ourselves about it by means of the synthetic concept "I," a whole series of erroneous conclusions, and consequently of false evaluations of the will itself, has become attached to the act of willing - to such a degree that he who wills believes sincerely that willing suffices for action. Since in the great majority of cases there has been exercise of will only when the effect of the command - that is, obedience; that is, the action - was to be expected, the appearance has translated itself into the feeling, as if there were a necessity of effect. In short, he who wills believes with a fair amount of certainty that will and action are somehow one; he ascribes the success, the carrying out of the willing, to the will itself, and thereby enjoys an increase of the sensation of power which accompanies all success.

"Freedom of the will" - that is the expression for the complex state of delight of the person exercising volition, who commands and at the same time identifies himself with the executor of the order - who, as such, enjoys also the triumph over obstacles, but thinks within himself that it was really his will itself that overcame them. In this way the person exercising volition adds the feeling of delight of his successful executive instruments, the useful "under-wills" or under-souls - indeed, our body is but a social structure composed of many souls - to his feelings of delight as commander L'effet c'est moi: what happens here is what happens in every well-constructed and happy commonwealth; namely, the governing class identifies itself with the successes of the commonwealth. In all willing it is absolutely a question of commanding and obeying, on the basis, as already said, of a social structure composed of many "souls." Hence a philosopher should claim the right to include willimg as such within the sphere of morals - morals being understood as the doctrine of the relations of supremacy under which the phenomenon of "life" comes to be.

Suppose nothing else were "given" as real except our world of desires and passions, and we could not get down, or up, to any other "reality" besides the reality of our drives - for thinking is merely a relations of these drives to each other; is it not permitted to make the experiment and to ask the question whether this "given" would not be sufficient for also understanding on the basis of this kind of thing the so-called mechanistic (or "material") world? 1, mean, not as a deception, as "mere appearance," an "idea" (in the sense of Berkeley and Schopenhauer) but as holding the same rank of reality as our affect - as a more primitive form of the world of affects in which everything still lies contained in a powerful unity before it undergoes ramifications and developments in the organic process (and, as is only fair, also becomes tenderer and weaker) - as a kind of instinctive life in which all organic functions are still synthetically intertwined along with self-regulation, assimilation, nourishment, excretion, and metabolism - as a pre-form of life. In the end not only is it permitted to make this experiment; the conscience of method demands it. Not to assume several kinds of causality until the experiment of making do with a single one has been pushed to its utmost limit (to the point of nonsense, if I may say so) - that is a moral of method which one may not shirk today - it follows "from its definition," as a mathematician would say. The question is in the end whether we really recognize the will as efficient, whether we believe in the causality of the will: if we do - and at bottom our faith in this is nothing less than our faith in causality itself - then we have to make the experiment of positing the causality of the will hypothetically as the only one. "Will," of course, can affect only "will" - and not "matter" (not "nerves," for example). In short, one has to risk the hypothesis whether will does not affect will wherever "effects" are recognized - and whether all mechanical occurrences are not, insofar as a force is active in them, will force, effects of will. Suppose, finally, we succeeded in explaining our entire instinctive life as the development and ramification of one basic form of the will - namely, of the will to power, as my proposition has it; suppose all organic functions could be traced back to this will to power and one could also find in it the solution of the problem of procreation and nourishment - it is one problem - then one would have gained the right to determine all efficient force univocally as - will to power. The world viewed from inside, the world defined and determined according to its "intelligible character" - it would be "will to power" and nothing else.

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