Will to power

philosophical concept proposed by Friedrich Nietzsche

Will to power (German: Wille zur Macht) is a prominent concept in the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. The will to power describes what Nietzsche may have believed to be the main driving force in humans – achievement, ambition, and the striving to reach the highest possible position in life.

Quotes from Friedrich NietzscheEdit

  • Diese Welt ist der Wille zur Macht—und nichts ausserdem! Und auch ihr selber seid dieser Wille zur Macht—und nichts ausserdem!
    • This world is the will to power—and nothing besides! And you yourselves are also this will to power—and nothing besides!


  • Everything in our modern substitutes for religion—whether Baconian or Rousseauistic—will be found to converge upon the idea of service. The crucial question is whether one is safe in assuming that the immense machinery of power that has resulted from activity of the utilitarian type can be made, on anything like present lines, to serve disinterested ends; whether it will not rather minister to the egoistic aims either of national groups or of individuals. ...

    To assert that man in a state of nature, or some similar state thus projected, is good, is to discredit the traditional controls in the actual world. Humility, conversion, decorum—all go by the board in favor of free temperamental overflow. Does man thus emancipated exude spontaneously an affection for his fellows that will be an effective counterpoise to the sheer expansion of his egoistic impulses? ...

    Unfortunately, the facts have persistently refused to conform to humanitarian theory. There has been an ever-growing body of evidence from the eighteenth century to the Great War that in the natural man, as he exists in the real world and not in some romantic dreamland, the will to power is, on the whole, more than a match for the will to service. To be sure, many remain unconvinced by this evidence. Stubborn facts, it has been rightly remarked, are as nothing compared with a stubborn theory. Altruistic theory is likely to prove peculiarly stubborn, because, probably more than any other theory ever conceived, it is flattering: it holds out the hope of the highest spiritual benefits—for example, peace and fraternal union—without any corresponding spiritual effort.

    • Irving Babbitt, "What I Believe" (1930), Irving Babbitt: Representative Writings (1981), pp. 7-8

  • Greatness by nature includes a power, but not a will to power.

  • When we see a great man desiring power instead of his real goal we soon recognize that he is sick, or more precisely that his attitude to his work is sick. He overreaches himself, the work denies itself to him, the incarnation of the spirit no longer takes place, and to avoid the threat of senselessness he snatches after empty power. This sickness casts the genius on to the same level as those hysterical figures who, being by nature without power, slave for power, in order that they may enjoy the illusion that they are inwardly powerful, and who in this striving for power cannot let a pause intervene, since a pause would bring with it the possibility of self-reflection and self-reflection would bring collapse.

  • Sade’s success in our day is explained by the dream that he had in common with contemporary thought: the demand for total freedom, and dehumanization coldly planned by the intelligence. The reduction of man to an object of experiment, the rule that specifies the relation between the will to power and man as an object, the sealed laboratory that is the scene of this monstrous experiment, are lessons which the theoreticians of power will discover again when they come to organizing the age of slavery.

  • If beings are grasped as will to power, the “should” which is supposed to hang suspended over them, against which they might be measured, becomes superfluous. If life itself is will to power, it is itself the ground, principium, of valuation. Then a “should” does not determine being. Being determines a “should.” “When we talk of values we are speaking under the inspiration or optics of life: life itself compels us to set up values; life itself values through us whenever we posit values.”

  • Scholars who think that will to power is Nietzsche's metaphysics or cosmology appeal almost exclusively to textual support from the writings that were never authorized for publication by Nietzsche.
    • Linda L. Williams, Nietzsche's Mirror: The World as Will to Power (2001), p. 51

See alsoEdit

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