Saturday, October 20, 2012

Nietzsche II: The Will to Power

Scott Bradley


One thing that has always put me off of Nietzsche is his emphasis on "the will to power". One immediately thinks of fascism, a phenomenon for which he has sometimes been wrongfully accused as having laid a foundation. Being of Daoist persuasion in matters of the use of power, the concept seems even more alien. But then, I've never understood what the concept means. Nor, to be honest, do I now; but no matter, I'm going to forge on here and say what it means to me, based on one mere mention (thus far) of the concept in Ge's Affirmation as Liberation.

The first thing we need to say of the will to power, and the thing which immediately clears the field of a great deal of misunderstanding, is that it is about gaining power in one's own life; it has nothing to do with power over others.

I began this project of growing a philosophy of personal liberation about five years ago principally because I realized I was most definitely not in control of myself; I did not like who I was; I did not like how I behaved. I was full of anger and miserable. I cannot claim that I have experienced complete liberation since then, but I have, I think, made significant progress. Here again is an opportunity to say that despite perhaps sometimes coming across (in word) as someone of spiritual achievement, I remain very much a work in progress. Don't let me fool you!

The will to power, like the will to live, fits under the rubric of life itself. It is what life is and does. It is the desire to be in control of one's own life, specifically in the self-world interface, that is, in one's response to the world. If one sees the greatest freedom in giving up the manipulative power of self in favor of allowing life to flow freely and be what it is, as I do, still this is an exercise of the will to power. We have the power to surrender. We have the power to release our white-knuckled grip on life and all the artificial, life-negating beliefs that that entails. True power is the power to let it go.

For Nietzsche, the exercise of the will to power, was first and foremost an act of “supreme self-examination” by which he sought to eradicate in himself every false, inherited value so as to be able to recreate new and honest values for himself. Honest values are those which accord with life as it is actually experienced. This is the existentialists’ ‘authenticity’; Sartre’s “good faith”; Confucius’ ‘sincerity’; Zhuangzi’s ‘genuineness’.

As a whole, humanity remains in incredible bondage. We are victims of millennia of harmful interpretations of the world. We are victims of our own emotional demons. But mostly we are victims of having evolved as we have, which is to say we are really not victims at all; we simply are as we are. The recognition of the will to power as an expression of life allows a renewed effort to take control of who we are and to find liberation in precisely that. Take control.

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