What does Nietzsche Think about Power?

Nietzsche is a famous philosopher who lived in the 1800’s. He is known for his critique and alternative explanation for Christian morality, as well as his prediction of, and affirmative response to, nihilism.

Why Should You Care?

Nietzsche holds a place on this blog because of what necessarily happens when people accept his way of seeing the world.

Much of his writings are in reaction to a pessimist. Pessimists rightfully point to inevitable suffering contained in life. But Nietzsche reframes suffering. He sees the inevitable suffering in life as a challenge to be overcome, not an excuse to withdraw.

Since humans are the ones who give things value, we choose what to focus on and what to ignore. By focusing on seeing suffering as an invitation or challenge, we take back our power. We assert ourselves in the world. We affirm life as something worthwhile.

This key concept matches the purpose of this blog. People can look at suffering, failure, and weakness and run away, or they can confront it.

Something important follows when you accept this concept. It leads to a stark sense of self responsibility, which undercuts any possibility of victim mentality. If something is happening in your life that you aren’t happy with, it is your fault. If you feel controlled by ideas, concepts, or social pressure, take responsibility. Take action. Humans choose to give things value. So choose to give things value in a way that gives you more power.

This blog seeks to give people tools for taking action.

A Key Concept

One of Nietzsche’s key doctrines is the concept of a will to power. The will to power is a tool for explaining human behavior. It is superior to other explanations, like those that explain behavior based on survival or adaptation. Nietzsche’s conception of the will to power does change through out his writings, and there isn’t a fully agreed upon interpretation.

Living beings have an inner desire to expand their power. In the pursuit of that expansion, humans create. They step into a valueless and pointless universe and arbitrarily choose to give value and purpose to some things over others.

Values did man only assign to things in order to maintain himself… He created only the significance of things, a human significance. Therefore, calleth he himself “man,” that is, the valuator. Valuing is creating: hear it, ye creating ones! Through valuation only is there value; and without valuation the nut of existence would be hollow.

Thus Spoke Zarathustra

There is also a moral based interpretation of the will to power. Nietzsche argues that the original meaning of the term “good,” is that which expands our power. Likewise “evil” is that which leads to or comes out of weakness. These original meanings were subverted when the powerless sought to become powerful.

Everywhere I found a living thing, there found I will to power; and even in the will of the servant found I the will to be master.

Thus Spoke Zarathustra

What is good? Whatever augments the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself, in man. What is evil? Whatever springs from weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power increases, that resistance is overcome.

Life appears to me as an instinct for growth, for survival, for the accumulation of forces, for power: whenever the will to power fails there is disaster.

The Antichrist

A final evolution in the will to power concept is that of a metaphysical system. Though there is debate on this point, as he clearly attacks metaphysical systems. But Nietzsche seems to shift towards a metaphysical approach at the end of his life. He argues that the concept of God isn’t necessary to explain the world. All you need is the concept of the will to power.

Contra Suffering

The will to power helps Nietzsche combat nihilism and Schopenhauerian pessimism. Instead of seeing resistance as a force leading to suffering or boredom, he sees it as a necessary element of life. We shouldn’t react to the existence of suffering in life by withdrawing, but by asserting ourselves.

I want to learn to see more and more as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who makes things beautiful… Someday I wish to be only a yes-sayer.

The Gay Science

Resistance gives the will to power something to “fight against,” almost like a yin and yang. Nietzsche chooses to see suffering as a challenge to be overcome. Following the will to power, and thereby overcoming resistance, leads to the feeling of increasing power, or happiness.

Practical Ways to Reframe Suffering

  • Practice cognitive behavioral reframing and learn to spot weak thought patterns. Read more here.
  • Add meditation to your daily routine.
  • Figure out why you choose to get out of bed every day buy studying your personality.

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