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XII "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.

The second part of the first book relates to the will to power in nature, and contains the most complete and lucid explanation of Nietzsche's basic theory to be found anywhere in his writings. This section opens with an argument against a purely mechanical interpretation of the world, and a refutation of the physicists' concept of "energy." The chemical and physical laws, the atomic theory and the mechanical concept of movement, he characterises as "inventions" on the part of scientists and[Pg 306] researchers for the purpose of understanding natural phenomena and therefore of increasing their feeling of power. The apparent sequence of phenomena which constitutes "law" is, according to Nietzsche, only a "relation of power between two or more forces"—a matter of interdependence, a process wherein the "procession of moments do not determine each other after the manner of cause and effect." In these observations we see the process of reasoning with which Nietzsche refutes the current methods of ascertaining facts and the manner in which he introduces the principle of will to power into the phenomena of nature.

It is in this section that Nietzsche discusses at length the points of divergence between his life principle and that of Darwin. And it is here also that he treats of the psychology of pleasure and pain in their relation to the will to power. This latter statement is of great importance in an understanding of the instincts of life as he taught them, for it denies both pleasure and pain a place in the determining of acts. They are both, according to him, but accompanying factors, never causes, and are but second-rate valuations derived from a dominating value. He denies that man struggles for happiness. To the contrary, he holds that all expansion and growth and resistance—in short, all movement—is related to states of pain, and that, although the modern man is master of the forces of nature and of himself, he is no happier than the primeval man. Why, then, does man struggle for knowledge and growth, knowing that it does not bring happiness? Not for existence, because existence is already assured him. But for power, for the feeling of increased mastery. Thus Nietzsche answers the two common explanations of man's will to action—the[Pg 307] need for being and the desire for happiness—by his doctrine of the will to power.

The entire teaching of Nietzsche in regard to classes and to the necessity of divergent moral codes to meet the needs of higher and lower castes, is contained in the third part of the first book. Here again he emphasises the need of two codes and makes clear his stand in relation to the superior individual. As I have pointed out in preceding chapters, Nietzsche did not attempt to do away with the morality of the inferior classes. He saw that some such religious belief as Christianity was imperative for them. His fight was against its application to all classes, against its dominance. I mention this point again because it is the basis of the greatest misunderstanding of Nietzsche's philosophy. Part III is written for the higher man, and if this viewpoint is assumed on the part of the reader, there will be no confusion as to doctrines encountered. The statements in this section are in effect similar to those to be found in Nietzsche's previous works, but in every instance in the present case they are directly related to the will to power. Because of this they possess a significance which does not attach to them in antecedent volumes.

The whole of Nietzsche's art theories are to be found in Part IV, "The Will to Power in Art." It is not merely a system of ?sthetics that occupies the pages under this section, for Nietzsche never divorces art from life itself; and the artist, according to him, is the superior type, the creator of values. The concepts of beauty and ugliness are the outgrowths of an overflow of Dionysian power; and it is to the great artists of the past, the instinctive higher men, that we owe our current concepts. The principle here is the dominant one in Nietzsche's[Pg 308] philosophy in relation to valuing:—to the few individuals of the race are we indebted for the world of values. To the student who wishes to go deeply into Nietzsche's ideas of art and his conception of the artist, and to know in just what manner the Dionysian and Apollonian figure in his theories, I unhesitatingly recommend Anthony M. Ludovici's book, "Nietzsche and Art."

The first section of the second book in this volume contains some of Nietzsche's finest writing. Its title, "The Order of Rank," explains in a large measure what material comprises it. It is a description of the various degrees of man, and a statement of the attributes which belong to each. No better definition of the different classes of men is to be found anywhere in this philosopher's writings. One part is devoted to a consideration of the strong and the weak, and the way in which they react on one another; another part deals with "the noble man" and contains (in Aphorism 943) a list of the characteristics of the noble man, unfortunately too long a list to be quoted in the present chapter; another part defines "the lords of the earth"; another part delineates "the great man," and enumerates his specific qualities; and still another part treats of "the highest man as law-giver of the future." This section, however, is not a mere series of detached and isolated definitions, but an important summary of the ethical code which Nietzsche advanced as a result of his application of the doctrine of the will to power to the order of individual rank.

The two remaining sections—"Dionysus" and "Eternal Recurrence"—are short, and fail to touch on new ground. There are a few robust and heroic passages in the former section which summarise Nietzsche's definitions of Apollonian and Dionysian; but in the latter[Pg 309] section there is nothing not found in the pamphlet called "The Eternal Recurrence" and in "Thus Spake Zarathustra." I do not doubt that Nietzsche had every intention of elaborating this last section, for he considered the principle of recurrence a most important one in his philosophy. But, as it stands, it is but a few pages in length and in no way touches upon his other philosophical doctrines. If importance it had in the philosophy of the superman, that importance was never shown either by Nietzsche or by his critics.

However, let us not overlook the importance of the doctrine of the will to power either in its relation to Nietzsche's writings or in its application to ourselves. By this doctrine the philosopher wished to make mankind realise its great dormant power. The insistence on the human basis of all things was no more than a call to arms—an attempt to instil courage in men who had attributed all great phenomena to supernatural forces and had therefore acquiesced before them instead of having endeavoured to conquer them. Nietzsche's object was to make man surer of himself, to infuse him with pride, to imbue him with more daring, to awaken him to a full realisation of his possibilities. This, in brief, is the teaching of the will to power reduced to its immediate influences. In this doctrine is preached a new virility. Not the sedentary virility of compromise, but the virility which is born of struggle and suffering, which is a sign of one's great love of living. Nietzsche offered a new set of vital ideals to supplant the decadent ones which now govern us. Resolute faith, the power of affirmation, initiative, pride, courage and fearlessness—these are the rewards in the exercise of the will to power. The strength of great love and the vitality of great deeds, as[Pg 310] well as the possibility of rare and vigorous growth, lie within this doctrine of will. Its object is to give back to us the life we have lost—the life of beauty and plenitude, of strength and exuberance.


For hundreds of years, pleasure and pain have been represented as the motives for every action. Upon reflection, however, we are bound to concede that everything would have proceeded in exactly the same way, according to precisely the same sequence of cause and effect, if the states "pleasure" and "pain" had been entirely absent. 8-9

The measure of the desire for knowledge depends upon the extent to which the Will to Power grows in a certain species: a species gets a grasp of a given amount of reality, in order to master it, in order to enlist that amount in its service. 12

It is our needs that interpret the world; our instincts and their impulses for and against. Every instinct is a sort of thirst for power.... 13

That a belief, however useful it may be for the preservation of a species, has nothing to do with the truth, may be seen from the fact that we must believe in time, space, and motion, without feeling ourselves compelled to regard them as absolute realities. 16

Truth is that hind of error without which a certain species of living being cannot exist. 20

In the formation of reason, logic, and the categories, it was a need in us that was the determining power: not the need "to know," but to classify, to schematise, for the purpose of intelligibility and calculation. 29

Logic is the attempt on our part to understand the[Pg 311] actual world according to a scheme of Being devised by ourselves; or, more exactly, it is our attempt at making the actual world more calculable and more susceptible to formulation, for our own purposes.... 33

"Truth" is the will to be master over the manifold sensations that reach consciousness; it is the will to classify phenomena according to definite categories. In this way we start out with a belief in the "true nature" of things (we regard phenomena as real).

The character of the world in the process of Becoming is not susceptible of formulation; it is "false" and "contradicts itself." Knowledge and the process of evolution exclude each other. Consequently, knowledge must be something else; it must be preceded by a will to make things knowable, a kind of Becoming in itself must create the impression of Being. 33-34

The chief error of psychologists: they regard the indistinct idea as of a lower kind than the distinct; but that which keeps at a distance from our consciousness and which is therefore obscure, may on that very account be quite clear in itself. The fact that a thing becomes obscure is a question of the perspective of consciousness. 42

The criterion of truth lies in the enhancement of the feeling of power. 49

Logic was intended to be a method of facilitating thought: a means of expression,—not truth.... Later on it got to act like truth.... 50

In a world which was essentially false, truthfulness would be an anti-natural tendency: its only purpose would be to provide a means of attaining to a higher degree of falsity. 51

We have absolutely no experience concerning cause; viewed psychologically we derive the whole concept[Pg 312] from the subjective conviction, that we ourselves are causes. 55

"Truth" is not something which is present and which has to be found and discovered; it is something which has to be created and which gives its name to a process, or, better still, to the Will to overpower, which in itself has no purpose.... 60

The absolute is even an absurd concept: an "absolute mode of existence" is nonsense, the concept "being," "thing," is always relative to us.

The trouble is that, owing to the old antithesis "apparent" and "real," the correlative valuations "little value" and "absolute value" have been spread abroad. 83

Man seeks "the truth": a world that does not contradict itself, that does not deceive, that does not change, a real world—a world in which there is no suffering: contradiction, deception, variability—the causes of suffering. He does not doubt that there is such a thing as a world as it ought to be; he would fain find a road to it.... Obviously, the will to truth is merely the longing for a stable world.

The senses deceive; reason corrects the errors: therefore, it was concluded, reason is the road to a static state; the most spiritual ideas must be nearest to the "real world." 88

The degree of a man's will-power may be measured from the extent to which he can dispense with the meaning in things, from the extent to which he is able to endure a world without meaning: because he himself arranges a small portion of it. 90

There is no such thing as an established fact, everything fluctuates, everything is intangible, yielding; after all, the most lasting of all things are our opinions. 103

[Pg 313]

That the worth of the world lies in our interpretations (that perhaps yet other interpretations are possible somewhere, besides mankind's); that the interpretations made hitherto were perspective valuations, by means of which we were able to survive in life, i. e. in the Will to Power and in the growth of power; that every elevation of man involves the overcoming of narrower interpretations; that every higher degree of strength or power attained, brings new views in its train, and teaches a belief in new horizons—these doctrines lie scattered through all my works. 107

The triumphant concept "energy" with which our physicists created God and the world, needs yet to be completer: it must be given an inner will which I characterise as the "Will to Power"—that is to say, as an insatiable desire to manifest power; or the application and exercise of power as a creative instinct, etc.... 110

The unalterable sequence of certain phenomena does not prove any "law," but a relation of power between two or more forces. 115

A quantum of power is characterised by the effect it produces and the influence it resists. The adiaphoric state which would be thinkable in itself, is entirely lacking. It is essentially a will to violence and a will to defend one's self against violence. It is not self-preservation: every atom exercises its influence over the whole of existence—it is thought out of existence if one thinks this radiation of will-power away. That is why I call it a quantum of "Will to Power." ... 117-118

My idea is that every specific body strives to become master of all space, and to extend its power (its will to power), and to thrust back everything that resists it. But inasmuch as it is continually meeting the same[Pg 314] endeavours on the part of other bodies, it concludes by coming to terms with those (by "combining" with those) which are sufficiently related to it—and thus they conspire together for power. And the process continues. 121

The influence of "environment" is nonsensically over-rated in Darwin: the essential factor in the process of life is precisely the tremendous inner power to shape and to create forms, which merely uses, exploits "environment." 127

The feeling of being surcharged, the feeling accompanying an increase in strength, quite apart from the utility of the struggle, is the actual progress: from these feelings the will to war is first derived. 128

A living thing seeks above all to discharge its strength: "self-preservation" is only one of the results thereof.... 128

The most fundamental and most primeval activity of a protoplasm cannot be ascribed to a will to self-preservation, for it absorbs an amount of material which is absurdly out of proportion with the needs of its preservation: and what is more, it does not "preserve itself" in the process, but actually falls to pieces .... The instinct which rules here, must account for this total absence in the organism of a desire to preserve itself.

The will to power can manifest itself only against obstacles: it therefore goes in search of what resists it—this is the primitive tendency of the protoplasm when it extends its pseudopodia and feels about it. The act of appropriation and assimilation is, above all, the result of an additional building and rebuilding, until at last the subjected creature has become completely a part of the[Pg 315] superior creature's sphere of power, and has increased the latter.... 130

Why is all activity, even that of a sense, associated with pleasure? Because, before the activity was possible, an obstacle or a burden was done away with. Or, rather, because all action is a process of overcoming, of becoming master of, and of increasing the feeling of power? 135

Man is not only an individual, but the continuation of collective organic life in one definite line. The fact that man survives, proves that a certain species of interpretations (even though it still be added to) has also survived; that, as a system, this method of interpreting has not changed. 152

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