This post concludes my discussion on Nietzsche’s ‘Will to Power’ in light of its possible reductionist appearance. What I have said in the last posts still holds for this one, so no need to repeat myself! 🙂
In order to ‘rescue’ Nietzsche from Reductionism, I believe we must look at his works in context of why they were written. Let us look at his attacks on the moralization of the will, or the use of ‘freedom’ to make people responsible for their actions. I feel confident in saying that one effect of constructing a moral theory and subjecting a society to the rules that follow from them acts to ‘tame’ the members of society. Nietzsche writes that justice was practiced and maintained as an effort to “regulate the senseless raging of rancor among [persons],” or better put it attempt to regulate a person to keep them from acting in unharmonious ways that would destabilize the social order. (GM: II, XI) Think of a society in which there were no laws and one may have trouble maintaining the idea that the society is just that and not an assortment of people living together and acting with little fear of “the man.” It could be said that this ‘taming’ was for the better and one can point to the goods which justice has bestowed upon societies practicing it, but Nietzsche saw otherwise.
To call the taming of an animal its ‘improvement’ is to our ears almost a joke. Anyone who knows what goes on in menageries will doubt that a beast is ‘improved’ there. It is weakened, it is made less harmful, it is turned into a diseased beast … It is no different with the tamed human being whom the priest has ‘improved.’ (TI: “Improvers,” 2)
He saw morality, at least that which was practiced and promoted by the priests, as a means of “breeding” a specific type of humankind, one who is submissive to their doctrines. Since Nietzsche saw the priestly morality as a pervasive theory that had soaked into society since the Jews subverted the Romans to Jewish morality, he saw this as an epidemic. The reason being was that the priests were ascetics, and as written above, the ascetic life was contrary to life itself to Nietzsche. For him, life was to be rejoiced in a Dionysus-like atmosphere, in which humans live to affirm life, to accept their desires and partake of them to lead a life of pleasure. In a sense, Nietzsche calls one to live life. He writes that many things, such as “hardness,” “danger in the ally and the heart,” “the art of experiment and devilry of every kind,” so forth and even their opposites can serve “the enhancement of the species ‘man.’” (BGE: 44) In being ‘intoxicated’ by life’s plentitude of desires, we can see life as something grander and more swollen of goodness; with humankind sensing a life “charged with energy” they begin to transform, in their minds, life into something more perfect. (TI: “Untimely,” 8 ) Against this, the ascetic ideals drive one to go against life. As Nietzsche writes, “The kind of inner split we have found in the ascetic, who pits ‘life against life,’ is nonsense.” (GM: III, XIII) While the ideal may have arisen in need of man to find meaning in his life, as Nietzsche sees it, its end result or continuous use has lead persons to a “will to nothingness, a revulsion from life, a rebellion against the principle conditions for living.” (GM: III, XXVIII) The ascetic tells us to deny certain things in life, but Nietzsche instead tells us to affirm those things, to embrace life instead of turning from it. However, such a life affirming view of living is castrated in societies and people’s desires are subjugated to morality, where one may come to feel ‘guilty’ for, perhaps, feasting on great food instead of nibbling on bread and drinking only water. For these reasons, Nietzsche adds in the very same section where he deems persons as “fated” beings
That no one is made responsible any more, that a kind of Being cannot be traced back to a causa prima, that the world is no unity, either as sensorium or as ‘mind’, this alone is the great liberation – this alone re-establishes the innocence of becoming. (TI: “Errors,” 8 )
Perhaps the great importance of this is that the “fated” passage comes into a different context than it appears in the section above. Nietzsche saw life as something that is always becoming through growth, exercise of volition – through the WTP. Also note that when Nietzsche saw everyone was necessary and fated, he never said what we are necessarily nor what we are fated to be. Since he was responding to the claim that one is responsible for being who they are, what I believe Nietzsche is telling us here is that we are fated to be ourselves, that we are necessarily who we are; who I am is something unique and not driven by haphazard forces such as my surroundings, etc. While tautologous, Nietzsche is perhaps simply saying that “I am who I am.” We are constantly becoming, and yet who we become is being attacked by moralities, and to gain a sense of “great liberation” one must champion the calls Nietzsche makes above.
Nietzsche is also attacking with ‘freedom’ the concept of responsibility. In his discussion of the priestly morals, it appears the he is discussing a moralized sense of “freedom” as opposed to a qualification of action. We know that one is punished based on the acts they are said to ‘freely’ do, as mentioned in passages from The Genealogy of Morals. However, what this instantiates is an ideology in which person are only responsible for their actions. This, for Nietzsche, is a narrow use of responsibility; we are responsible for more than we merely intend and voluntarily do. The Bird of Prey is not responsible for just acting as a Bird of Prey, but is responsible for being a Bird of Prey, or having the essence of one. To shift to persons, I wish to use myself. I consider myself a homosexual male because of my sexual attraction to other men and a lack of attraction to women. Based on the priestly system, I am condemned and coerced to feel guilty for acting as a homosexual since it goes against their ‘sexual purity’ views. The problem is that I should not just feel responsible for acting, but for being. Within myself I find drives that lead me to look at members of the same sex in a different light than the opposite; I find within myself the ‘will to homosexuality.’ To throw out our inner world, to focus responsibility just on actions, negates this important factor of the person, and Nietzsche’s critiques illuminate us to this fact. One is responsible for their will and drives, though instead of being covered in the blanket of ‘guilt’ or ‘bad consciousness,’ Nietzsche’s writings have a joy in them that tells the reader “Don’t moralize, accept!”
One can envision a battlefield from the above passages, in which on one side are the priests moralizing and subjecting society, on the other Nietzsche in full armor and mace. The hatred with which Nietzsche saw moralizing of the will, of human beings, according to the priests is not to be doubted in his writings. Therefore, I believe that an explanation for the attacks made on freedom come from this deep seated despise of Nietzsche’s and his wanting to champion a philosophy of life affirmation. The problem he faced, though, was that the priestly morality had been absorbed by the European cultures and practically laid fasten in the crevices of his society’s culture. In order to ‘shake up’ this institution, Nietzsche needed to attack as a doctor who attempts to remove a cancerous tumor – with precision and strength. The concept of ‘freedom’ was being used to deem society’s members as ‘good’ or ‘evil’ according to a system which Nietzsche saw as being against life; society was being pressured to feel guilty in affirming life and to follow ascetic ideals. In a sense, it was being abused. Nietzsche instead saw freedom in a light that was beyond the moralizing priest’s perception. Instead of ‘freedom’ being used to condemn, it was in turn used to celebrate one’s volition, their ability to live life according to their desires. It is here that I believe Nietzsche’s idea off ‘freedom’ takes on the meaning that we associate most with it – to live according to one’s will. He says most elegantly, in fact
Independence is for the very few; it is a privilege of the strong. And whoever attempts it even with the best right but without inner constraint proved that he is not only strong, but also daring… (BGE: 29)
Here he speaks of independence from inner constraint, which can be interpreted as the pangs of guilt and bad consciousness that arise when one begins to moralize their desires.
Remember that the WTP has with it, being a will in Nietzsche’s writings, an element of ‘command’ and ‘obedience.’ Within the person, their desires demand to be satisfied, and the person obeys these desires. However, if the fundamental drive of the willing being is growth, overcoming, and exercise of power, there are numerous ways in which one can achieve this drive; for one command, say “overcome,” there are numerous ways in which to obey. For Nietzsche, he called for us to celebrate this, not to become bogged down in concepts of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ divined by life-denying priests. In fact, if the priests, or ascetics, actually began to admit that they are actually affirming their WTP or life, he perhaps would embrace them. He states the “I have great respect for the ascetic ideal so long as it really believes in itself and is not merely a masquerade.” (GM: III, XXVI) The ascetic embraces power, but instead of externalizing it, they internalize it and attain a sense of “power over oneself.” I feel hungry, but instead of dining on a plethora of food I simply eat a small portion, denying myself greater satisfaction though my hunger desire may be strong – I exert strength over myself. Yet, to Nietzsche, the ascetic, instead of admitting to such a lifestyle, they attempt to claim what they do as pious, as acts done for the good; though he envisions such claims as “fake idealism, fake heroism, and fake eloquence.” (GM: III, XXVI)
It is here I believe I have ‘rescued’ Nietzsche and have shown that in light of other writings and thoughts, he is not a Reductionist and nor does the WTP suffer from such a theory. True, in Nietzsche’s mythological story of explaining willing beings, he states that they are all driven by the WTP. Yet, in his writings Nietzsche sets forth to not admonish ‘freedom’ or ‘responsibility,’ but to expand them. Nietzsche does have a sense of liberation and freedom, but instead of being ‘chained down’ by morality and justice, Nietzsche attempts to move such concepts “beyond good and evil.”