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Life Arts    H3'ed 6/18/09

On the Will to Power

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Why is beauty considered better than ugliness? Because beauty, ceteris paribus, is more powerful than ugliness (beauty is a complete circuit (1) and ugliness is a broken circuit (0)). If ugliness were more powerful, ugliness would be considered better. And when ugliness has been thought to be more powerful, ugliness has been considered better. That is why children dress up as ghouls for Halloween. That is why individuals dress down to avoid attention.

Why is freedom considered better than slavery? Because freedom, ceteris paribus, is more powerful than slavery (freedom is a complete circuit (1) and slavery is a broken circuit (0)). If slavery were more powerful, slavery would be considered better. And when slavery has been more powerful, slavery has been considered better. Individuals do not seek to put themselves in chains, unless they think there is a greater freedom within those chains.

Why happiness over unhappiness? Why pleasure over pain? Why joy over sorrow? Why health over sickness? Why nurturance over abuse? Why cooperation over competition? Why integration over purification? Why delicate precision over blind force? Why eating over starving? Why children over the end of the species? Why intelligence over stupidity? Why justice over injustice? Why meaning over meaninglessness? Why rationality over irrationality? Why knowledge over ignorance? Why life over death? Why diligence over sloth? Why glory over shame? Why wealth over poverty? Ad infinitum. Power, power, power.

Imagine any virtue you like. Anything that is loved. And ask yourself where that virtue came from. Who pronounced it a virtue? And why? Was it not tied to their pursuit of power? Imagine any vice you like. Anything that is hated. And ask yourself where that vice came from. Who pronounced it a vice? And why? Was it not tied to their pursuit of power? The things you love you love because they represent power to which you have access. The things you hate you hate because they represent blockades or threats to the actualization of your will. This is will to power and nothing besides.

2) Without ability, all derivative virtues are meaningless, sterile, and useless.

Do we not find that the difference between the individual that means well and the individual that does well is power? This person did a great thing: ability (of the body). This person wanted to do a great thing, though was unable to bring it to fruition: ability (of the mind). This person wanted to do something good, though confused what was good for what was bad: ability (of the spirit). Being is power, willing is power, knowing is power, doing is power. Power, broadly defined. Power, as in that which is positive, which is more. More life! Ability. So you wish me well? That does not help me. I need those that can actually do something for me. Even if you are to say that letting someone know that others care is good even if they cannot do anything, you still are invoking the power of the word. Power is needed to achieve anything, to do anything. In a sense, power is always good and never bad.

Wherever power has been thought bad it has really been because of some weakness (inability—not so much a thing as a non-thing) that was hated and because that hatred was displaced. Being never hates being, except through displacement. We hate weakness. We hate murderers only because we hate death and pain. We hate liars only because they interrupt our functioning and prevent our own self-extension—into truth, into community with others. We hate rapists only because we hate having the will, which is necessarily loved, broken. In each of these instances, our hatred is tied to an inability, a limit to our expression of power or a breaking of our power. In short, to non-things or lack. Another way of saying this is that while every power is fundamentally positive, in and of itself, the value of power from any particular point of view is relational in nature. Power is a positive for those forces that are maximized by it, is neutral for those forces not effected by it, and is negative for those forces contradicted by it.

This is not to reduce virtue, but to elucidate it. It is not to say that power, narrowly defined, is the worth of love, pleasure, etc. It is not to say that love is good because it is instrumental to power in some gross sense—but rather that love is good because it is itself power. It is self-extension. Through love you become more. To speak of virtue as power is to focus upon the positive. Why do this? Because all too often conceptions about morality have been based on the dishonesty of the negative—trying to take away from you and use you as an instrument rather than give to you and help you more effectively achieve your goals.1 Of course society wants you to be selfless, to courageously and happily die for it. That is merely the selfishness of society. They want you meek, hardworking, chaste, humble, honest, peaceful, loyal, etc—regardless of what this means for you in the pursuit of your highest ideals. This is their assertion of power. These attributes they call beautiful, and you agree to this. Why? Their acceptance of you is power for you. Their love of you is power for you. Feeling pleasure rather than pain, feeling good about yourself rather than bad about yourself, this is power for you. You always act to maximize your influence to the best of your ability. And to the degree to which you are insecure or unaware, other forces may seek to exploit these qualities in you in an attempt to utilize your power for their own means, regardless of whether or not their goals are in line with your own.

The enslaved seek to be free. The free seek—to experience themselves! To enjoy life. To find meaning in life. To create. Am I saying that you have to become as powerful as you possibly can? No. There is nothing you have to do.2 I am just saying that whatever you are trying to do, you are seeking to extend yourself as a field of influence—to experience yourself as powerful—and everything else is seeking to do likewise. Any disparate energy patterns can be theoretically integrated into a unified will to power. So what do you want to do? The world is fundamentally open. What would you like it to be? How would you like to live?

Will to power explains both the unity and the diversity in all conceptions of morality and all value systems. Depending on what you are trying to do, different virtues (types of power) are more or less important. It explains every moral principle ever proposed and every deviation of any moral principle ever made. It explains everything that is valued and why it is valued.

In some ways power is an unfortunate word in that it has been so vilified by our current speech. The word is taken in its most narrow and instrumental sense, and it is corrupted by negative connotations. People think of figures like Darth Vader. But Darth Vader is not powerful—he lost everything that he cared about. He became a crippled and blistering husk who had only the power to exert his influence in the most coarse and violent of ways. But no word seems better. Freedom is often expressed as a negative rather than a positive—freedom from something. Happiness is often taken in the sense of affect—that someone feels a certain way. Love is so bastardized and tied to ideas of need, for the individual loving, and submission, to the one loved. Beauty is constrictive in its character—people set up strict, subjective standards for what is or is not beautiful. Peace can be taken as being negative (not-war), as being submissive (avoid all confrontation to keep peace), as a matter of affect (that one feels at peace), or even in a deep sort of nihilistic sense (shut everything down for the ultimate peace). Power seems the most universal and flexible word—it can incorporate best all of being rather than just human beings. The narrow sense in which it is taken is troubling, but let anyone tell you why someone who is “powerful” is living a life they would find undesirable and the reasons always seem to come back to powers the “powerful” individual is missing.

1 Negative moralities issue commandments, and if you do not follow them you are condemned. Positive moralities offer advice based on 1) a tentative understanding of reality and 2) a tentative understanding of what you want. If a positive morality proposes something to the individual that the individual does not want to do, the individual wins (which is, of course, in keeping with the actual reality of the situation).

2 There is nothing you have to do, other than what you want to do. There is nothing you can’t do, other than what is beyond your power. This is a factual description of the reality of the situation. May it cut through every lie.

If you identify with the message of this article, please email it to people, tell your friends, even print out copies to pass around. Together we can raise awareness. Thank you.

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Ben Dench graduated valedictorian of his class from The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in the Spring Semester of 2007 with a B.A. in philosophy (his graduation speech, which received high praise, is available on YouTube). He is currently (more...)
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