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Week 2: Nietzsche
 What are the internal motivations for action in
Nietzsche and Kierkegaard’s theories?
 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
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)
 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
 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
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?
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)
 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.
 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)
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).
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)
 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])
 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)
 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.
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)
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