Faversham Stoa is a philosophy discussion group meeting on the 3rd Tuesday of every month from 7.30 to 9.30pm in the The Bull in Tanners Street. We cover a large range of topics. If you have an idea for a topic that you would like us to cover why not drop us a line? There's no charge for membership and everyone is welcome to drop in. Just bring your brain and some beer money!

Will to power

A basic element in Nietzsche’s philosophical outlook is the will to power (der Wille zur Macht), which provides a basis for understanding human behaviour—more so than competing explanations, such as the ones based on pressure for adaptation or survival. As such, according to Nietzsche, the drive for conservation appears as the major motivator of human or animal behaviour only in exceptions, as the general condition of life is not one of emergency, of ‘struggle for existence’. More often than not, self-conservation is but a consequence of a creature’s will to exert its strength on the outside world.

In presenting his theory of human behaviour, Nietzsche also addressed, and attacked, concepts from philosophies popularly embraced in his days, such as Schopenhauer’s notion of an aimless will or that of utilitarianism. Utilitarians claim that what moves people is mainly the desire to be happy, to accumulate pleasure in their lives. But such a conception of happiness Nietzsche rejected as something limited to, and characteristic of, the bourgeois lifestyle of the English society, and instead put forth the idea that happiness is not an aim per se—it is instead a consequence of a successful pursuit of one’s aims, of the overcoming of hurdles to one’s actions—in other words, of the fulfillment of the will.

Related to his theory of the will to power, is his speculation, which he did not deem final, regarding the reality of the physical world, including inorganic matter—that, like man’s affections and impulses, the material world is also set by the dynamics of a form of the will to power. At the core of his theory is a rejection of atomism—the idea that matter is composed of stable, indivisible units (atoms). Instead, he seems to have accepted the conclusions of Ruðer Boskovi, who explained the qualities of matter as a result of an interplay of forces. One study of Nietzsche defines his fully developed concept of the will to power as “the element from which derive both the quantitative difference of related forces and the quality that devolves into each force in this relation” revealing the will to power as “the principle of the synthesis of forces.” Of such forces Nietzsche said they could perhaps be viewed as a primitive form of the will. Likewise he rejected as a mere interpretation the view that the movement of bodies is ruled by inexorable laws of nature, positing instead that movement was governed by the power relations between bodies and forces. Other scholars disagree that Nietzsche considered the material world to be a form of the will to power. Nietzsche thoroughly criticized metaphysics, and by including the will to power in the material world, he would simply be setting up a new metaphysics. Other than aphorism 36 in Beyond Good and Evil, where he raised a question regarding will to power as being in the material world, it was only in his notes (unpublished by himself), where he wrote about a metaphysical will to power. Nietzsche directed his landlord to burn those notes in 1888 when he left Sils Maria for the last time.

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