ES2302: EDUCATION: SOCIAL AND POLITICAL THOUGHT 2 Week 2: Nietzsche
Essay Question • What are the internal motivations for action in Nietzsche and Kierkegaard’s theories?
Friedrich Nietzsche, 1844-1900 • Nietzsche was a German philosopher whose ideas have not ceased to be controversial since their initial publication in his most famous texts: • The Birth of Tragedy, 1872 • Human, All Too Human, 1878 • Daybreak, 1881 • The Gay Science, 1882 • Thus Spake Zarathustra, 1885 (seen by many as his magnum opus) • Beyond Good and Evil, 1886 • The Genealogy of Morals, 1887 • Twilight of the Idols, 1888 • The Anti-Christ, 1888 • And Ecce Homo, 1888 (a kind of autobiography)
The Texts • Perhaps given the short time between publishing the majority of his major texts, there are a large number of intersections and connections drawn between the concepts outlined and problems explored in these texts. • However, Beyond Good and Evil is the text which most rigorously and systematically outlines his concept of the ‘will to power’ (the later text, The Will to Power, is a collection edited by his sister from his late notebooks and has received strong criticism for a variety of reasons). • This week we will explore secondary readings of Nietzsche’s ideas surrounding the ‘will to power’, so as to better ground our own readings for next week, where we will get to the text itself. • Before we do so, we can remind ourselves of some of the characteristics of the ‘will’ and the ‘will to power’ outlined last week:
The Will to Power: Not Free Will • The ‘will’ that Nietzsche argues as being a motivation for action is not the ‘free will’ as in Kant • Rather the will is comprised of conflicting forces which construct us as individuals • We are always subject to other forces and so there is no ‘pure subjectivity’, autonomy, or free will • The ‘will’ for Nietzsche is precisely not free • Part of Nietzsche’s project is to understand and, more significantly, affirm, the forces which affect on us and direct our ‘will’. • That affirmation is an act of ‘power’. • He asks the question of whether or not we are strong enough to affirm our ‘will’ if it takes us against herd morality. • Are we strong enough to let our actions be dictated by our will or are we rather subject to hard rationality and morality?
Will as Standard of Evaluation James Winchester interprets Nietzsche’s will to power as opposed to individual or subject ‘will’: ‘Within the system of will to power from Beyond Good and Evil there is a theory of subjectivity. Nietzsche uses the word “will” in two ways. He argues that the inorganic world and all living things, including humans, are comprised of forces. These forces of his antiatomistic world are called wills. In addition, the word also represents a common prejudice: many people believe that humans have a will that serves as the author of their voluntary actions.’ (Winchester: 1994, 45) ‘…Nietzsche uses the will to power as a basis for a system of evaluation. As a standard of evaluation Nietzsche employs it to measure the worth of, among other things, individuals, moral systems, cultural phenomena, and entire cultures. Often it is used to argue that the evaluation has a physiological base.’ (Winchester: 1994, 53)
What is the Will to Power challenging? • Nietzsche’s ‘will to power’ was a concept which was explicitly challenging a history of philosophical enquiry into what the primary motivation for human action is or should be. • Its most direct challenge was levelled at Schopenhauer (a great influence on Nietzsche’s early thought), whose concept of the ‘will to live’ could perhaps best be understood as a simple desire for living beings to survive – this may remind us of Hobbes’ basis for political action as well as Darwin. • The first aphorism of Beyond Good and Evil not only undermines Schopenhauer but also any ‘will to truth’ or philosophy which seeks objective, unquestionable truths . • For Nietzsche, perception and the ‘apparent world’ was made up of a relation of wills and the ‘power’ which controlled or is controlled by them.
Philosopher as ‘Creator’ of own Values • Nietzsche also opposes ‘philosophical labourers’ (like Kant and Hegel) who ‘subdue’ to ‘philosophers’ who ‘create’. - read Para 211. • Deleuze and Guattari suggest that: ‘…Nietzsche succeeded in making us understand, thought is creation, not will to truth. But if, contrary to what seemed to be the case in the classical image, there is no will to truth, this is because thought constitutes a simple “possibility” of thinking without yet defining a thinker “capable” of it and able to say “I”: what violence of an infinite movement must be exerted on thought for us to become capable of thinking; what violence of an infinite movement thus, at the same time, takes from us our power to say “I”?’ (Deleuze & Guattari: 2011, 54-55)
‘A Paltry Subject..’? Georges Bataille, a famous philosopher in his own right, provides an intriguing reading of Nietzsche’s thought: ‘What is odd in Nietzsche’s doctrines is that they cannot be followed. Ahead of you are unfocused, at times dazzling radiances. Though the way to them remains untraceable. Nietzsche the prophet of new paths? But superman and eternal return are empty as motives of excitement or action, are inadequate compared to Christian and Buddhist motives. The will to power is in fact a paltry subject for consideration. Having it is one thing – but this doesn’t mean you should give it your attention.’ (Bataille: 2008, 85) What is important in the will to power is its basis as system; it is what is being evaluated and the evaluation itself which is of importance (and both end up being the same thing).
Deleuze on Nietzsche: Creating and Giving One of Nietzsche’s most respected readers was the philosopher Gilles Deleuze, who argued strongly that: • ‘The relation of force to force is called “will.” That is why we must avoid at all costs the misinterpretations of the Nietzschean principle of the will to power. This principle doesn’t mean (or at least doesn’t primarily mean that the will wants power or wishes to dominate. ..The will to power, says Nietzsche, consists not in coveting or even in taking but in creating and giving.’ (Deleuze: 2001, 73)
Deleuze on Nietzsche: Capacity for being affected • Our will and our power constitutes and is constituted by a variety of wills and powers – at the basis of all this is ‘the will to power’. ‘We should not be surprised by the double aspect of the will to power: from the standpoint of the genesis or production of forces it determines that relation between forces but , from the standpoint of its own manifestations, it is determined by relating forces. This is why the will to power is always determined at the same time as it determines, qualified at the same time as it qualifies. In the first place, therefore, the will to power is manifested as the capacity for being affected, as the determinate capacity of force for being affected.’ (Deleuze: 1983, 62 [my emphasis])
If we are our thoughts, then who are we who think them? • A will seeks power and overflow of power strengthens will. David Walsh unravels how the two complement each other: ‘We do not have thoughts; it is rather thoughts that have us. Nietzsche’s own philosophical symbols must be read in this way as efforts to identify what lies beyond the boundary of consciousness because it provides the fecundity of what emerges in consciousness. The “will to power” is thus neither a will nor a power but the source of both.’ (Walsh: 2008, 219-220)
What is the Will to Power? • It is not will that roots that individual engagement with other wills but power. It is a power to evaluate wills and create new values and interpretations as well as action. • Herd determined morality and values are principles imposed on life, not determined from it. They are weak and reactive rather than active and creative. • The will to power affirms life and re-evaluates all value in terms of living experience. • Different wills (or ‘forces’) are in constant conflict and can not simply be reduced to one aim or understanding. This is why there is no end to philosophical understanding and no system which can incorporate everything • Philosophical evaluation of experience (which is an evaluation of wills) must also take into account the instincts, desires and passions of the evaluator.
Read together • Paras: • 6 (philosophy as autobiography) • 13 (the venting of strength) • 19 (from ‘Willing seems to me…) • 36(internal motivations for action: desire and passions), • 43 (subjective interpretations of good – friend of truth, not owning truth), Derrida interprets this as follows: • The friends of truth are without the truth, even if friends cannot function without truth. The truth – that of the thinkers to come – it is impossible to be it, to be there, to have it; one must only be its friend.’ (Derrida:2005, 43) • 51 (the subversive ‘will to power’ of saints), • 134 (truth of the sense) • 187 (morality as sign language of the emotions), • 259 (exploitation and using as primordial fact)
References • Bataille, G. (2008) On Nietzsche London: Continuum • Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. (2011) What is Philosophy London: Verso • Deleuze, G. (2001) Pure Immanence New York: Zone • Deleuze, G. (1983) Nietzsche and Philosophy London: Athlone • Derrida, J. (2005) The Politics of Friendship London: Verso • Llewelyn, J. (2009) Margins of Religion Bloomington: Indiana Unviersity Press • Nietzsche, F. (2003) Beyond Good and Evil, London: Penguin • Raffoul, F. (2010) The Origins of Responsibility Bloomington: Indiana University Press • Walsh, D. (2008) The Modern Philosophical Revolution Cambridge: Cambridge University Press • Winchester, J. (1994) Nietzsche’s Aesthetic Turn New York: SUNY Press