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On the Will to Power

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Originally posted: http://bendench.blogspot.com/2009/06/on-will-to-power.html

 

“This world is the will to power and nothing besides. And you yourself are also this will to power and nothing besides.”

--Nietzsche

To be is to be power. To will is to will power. Everything that exists is power—a positive, an extension into being—and thus any underlying metaphysical principle which manifests itself can be described as the will to power. The world can be expressed as a play of forces—the common feature between them being that they all are forces. The process of natural selection exemplifies how life continually refines and adapts itself producing more complex and particular beings, extending in new directions and thus discovering new powers. The desire for freedom/power is the motivation behind every action and decision. Every decision made is determined by a desire to maximize self, influence—power.

The will to power is everything that exists. Everything that exists seeks to exert itself. The Universe is a play of forces—-this one force in different forms—exerting themselves. There are many different types of matter, and yet they are all matter. There are many different types of energy, and yet they are all energy. And matter is itself energy. Energy is everything and everything is energy. There are not solid, static things. Everything is will to power. Even on the most basic level, even that which we would not normally consider living or willing, is this exertion. A table is the will to power. It exists. It is pushing against us, against gravity, against light, against the very air, and the air is pushing against it. It is an extension into being and it extends itself throughout time unless overcome by other forces. Biological life as we know it is merely this will to power having “learned” to accumulate and exert itself more particularly, more specifically. Animal life has adapted even more, adapts even its adaptation, adapts on the individual level by learning through conditioning. Human beings even more—using culture and reason to master their circumstances and reshape their world to their liking. All of this is the will to power.

An individual is will to power and nothing besides. One’s body is the will to power, with each force asserting itself and extending itself against all others. One’s mind is the will to power, devouring the world and extending its influence upon it to further and more specifically push itself against all else. Violence is the will to power, pushing directly against that which is in one’s way. Peace is the will to power, pushing indirectly upon circumstances to clear the way for one’s movement. Hatred is the will to power, willing against (or perhaps more accurately, through) one’s blockades. Love is the will to power, extending oneself and one’s influence to others, taking them as ends for which one’s exertion can be used. Love is self-extension. The tyrant and the martyr are the will to power, seeking to feel themselves as strength either by giving blows or by taking them, respectively. And what is virtue? If we look, do we not find that virtue in its original sense has always meant—ability? The virtues of a certain plant or action—the advantages that these things provide? What does it mean to be good in common parlance today? Does it not mean to be loved and to be worthy of love? This is the will to power and nothing besides!

To see the world as will to power is to see everything as fundamentally positive (idealism) and fundamentally flexible (pragmatism). Everything is fundamentally the same, even if it is significantly different, and anything can be potentially transformed into anything else. Nothing has to be or do anything, but everything seeks to exert its influence over everything else. The Universe is making love to itself. There is only life living—being being. Everything is just trying to do its thing. Is this an empty truism? It is certainly a truism, but I think it is far from empty. If people really appreciated it, I think most of them would act differently than they actually do.

You have heard it said of old “might makes right,” but I say to you “right makes might.” When we speak of something being right, we speak of it being effective for achieving some goal. The powerful, through error, may come to despair, but those that know how to play the game effectively, itself a power, come to ever greater power.

Power is the sole virtue. Why? Two reasons:

1) All concepts of virtue are derived from the desire for power.

Consider Aristotle’s virtues found as means. What determines the mean? Ability. Power. Aristotle calls it beauty, but beauty too is power. It is the power to subdue others through their perception of you alone. It is the power to be loved and to love oneself. But why does something appear beautiful? Why does it have such ability? That something appears beautiful and harmonious to us is indicative of its structural integrity. Just as too much heat or too much cold will ruin a plant, and the mean is where it is successful, where it grows, where it thrives—that is to say, where it is powerful—so too do each of Aristotle’s virtues focus on that point at which the individual becomes successful in and beloved by society.

And Hume! What is the useful but that which allows one to succeed, to be powerful? And the agreeable, what is this? Those things we find pleasurable enrich our lives. They make us feel nourished, strong, in love with life. They coincide with some aspect of ourselves and allow for self-extension—that is to say: power. Why is anything agreeable to us? Is it not that it signifies to us some power to which we imagine gaining access? Some success? Every feeling of power is a feeling of pleasure, and every feeling of limitation is a feeling of pain. Love is self-extension and self-enrichment. Beauty signifies structural integrity and often has the ability to subdue. Aesthetic pleasure is the opening up of the heart, the freeing of energies, and the nourishment of the individual. And is not pleasure always tied to some feeling of power? Some connection made, some influence over something felt, some energy achieved?

Kant, what reasons do you give for turning to morality as you conceive it? How do you describe it? Rationality? Autonomy? Freedom? Is this not an appeal to power? That one will only be truly powerful, truly free, if one is a moral entity? But Kant, you devil, you sly dog: Your rationality is irrational, your autonomy is vicarious, and your freedom is slavery. Your Categorical Imperative itself uses individuals as merely means to an end, and, in that it is condemning of life, one could never consistently will it as a universal law. But your objective is clear. You want power. You would let anything happen to the individual, or even life itself, if only your iron laws could live forever. If only you could feel secure that you are doing what is right. And these laws you picked because each itself signified power to you. “Let rational entities (by my standard of what constitutes rationality) be worshiped! Let actions that could support my goals be the only actions permissible!” So do you proclaim.

Why is truth considered better than falsehood? Because truth, ceteris paribus (all other things being equal), is more powerful than falsehood (truth is a complete circuit (a closed circuit: one) and falsehood is a broken circuit (an open circuit: zero)). If falsehood were more powerful, falsehood would be considered better. And when falsehood has been thought to be more powerful, falsehood has been considered better. That is why people lie—even to themselves. That is why “faith” is proclaimed a virtue. That is why blind obedience to authority exists.

Why is love considered better than hatred? Because love, ceteris paribus, is more powerful than hatred (love is a complete circuit (1) and hatred is a broken circuit (0)). If hatred were more powerful, hatred would be considered better. And when hatred has been thought to be more powerful, hatred has been considered better. That is why people commit crimes. That is why criminals are punished. That is why countries go to war. That is why opposition of any kind exists.

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http://bendench.blogspot.com/
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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