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Discussing Nietzsche and the Will to Power

Inexorable Username

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@Kormak , @moody

I felt like this conversation was maybe extensive enough to deserve its own thread?

Nietzsche is such a controversial philosopher. I think a lot of people would tend to have opinions on this subject.
I do agree with you, Kormak, that a lot of Nietzsche supporters feel that his philosophies are misinterpreted. Personally, I can kind of get that. He has a very poetic way of writing - he would have been a good novelist. Or maybe he was one, for all I know...but it's hard to always know what he meant by what he said, because the ambiguous way in which he expressed his ideas leaves a lot open for interpretation.

One of the contention points I have with Nietzche's philosophy is that he seems to equate compassion with pity, and pity with contempt. It could be that something was lost in translation here...but to me, compassion and contempt are not mutually exclusive. Your thoughts?
 

Puffy

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I'd agree for me he's one of those philosophers I know more about through what other people have said than his own writing. I might not understand him at all. I've read Birth of Tragedy and a few other things but it's long enough ago that it doesn't have much of an impression on me anymore.

I'd agree that compassion and pity aren't equatable to me. If I say I pity my Dad (I often feel that) it's out of an underlying resentment towards him. There isn't really anything in my pitying him that has any sincere intention of his betterment, it just allows me to justify my resentment and feel above him. Whereas if I'm compassionate to him, I'm acknowledging his suffering with a fundamental intention of setting him free from it out of loving him. It's something I feel for him without self-interest.

For me, whenever someone is able to act from love -- over anger, fear, etc -- that is a marker of true strength. It takes real strength to show compassion to someone you have reason to pity.

Whereas, based on my memory, I wouldn't be surprised if Nietzsche would equate a lot of my own moral values with weakness. He disdains compassion as a sign of weakness by calling it pity, as an example. So I think it's more that I disagree with what his understanding of strength is.
 

Inexorable Username

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I'd agree for me he's one of those philosophers I know more about through what other people have said than his own writing. I might not understand him at all. I've read Birth of Tragedy and a few other things but it's long enough ago that it doesn't have much of an impression on me anymore.

I'd agree that compassion and pity aren't equatable to me. If I say I pity my Dad (I often feel that) it's out of an underlying resentment towards him. There isn't really anything in my pitying him that has any sincere intention of his betterment, it just allows me to justify my resentment and feel above him. Whereas if I'm compassionate to him, I'm acknowledging his suffering with a fundamental intention of setting him free from it out of loving him. It's something I feel for him without self-interest.

For me, whenever someone is able to act from love -- over anger, fear, etc -- that is a marker of true strength. It takes real strength to show compassion to someone you have reason to pity.

Whereas, based on my memory, I wouldn't be surprised if Nietzsche would equate a lot of my own moral values with weakness. He disdains compassion as a sign of weakness by calling it pity, as an example. So I think it's more that I disagree with what his understanding of strength is.
Beautifully worded! I absolutely agree with you in regards to pity. I can think of one person in my life that I pity...but I pity him because I'm disgusted by him - something that is exceedingly rare for me. This person is just so selfish, so childish, so sad and bitter, and so destructive to others, that despite the fact that I would love to have true compassion for him, I find it too hard to overlook his shortcomings as a person. I think the most I can offer that person is sympathy, and I think that sympathy and pity probably go somewhat hand in hand. (Although, I think you can pity someone without offering sympathy, so they're not mutually exclusive, either.)

I often like to use babies or little kids as an example, because they are less prone to the "cultural grooming" argument. If you cry in front of little kids, and they see your face, kids will often cry as well. That, I think, is the reflection of empathy. When I see a hurt animal, I feel hurt in a way - my body tenses, my stomach turns, you get weird semi-biological/psychological feelings akin to "heart wrenching". Following that, the active thought process that leads you to understand the suffering - I feel like that is compassion. Nothing in that process requires you to think less of the thing that is suffering.

I would say that, if we had to feel contempt in addition to compassion, we wouldn't be able to be compassionate for those we regarded as highly superior, for whatever reason. Children wouldn't be able to feel compassion for their parents. Students wouldn't be able to feel compassion for their professors.

So, I might be misunderstanding Nietzsche in this regard...but if I'm not, I feel like this philosophy regarding pity and compassion is highly flawed.
 

Kormak

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Will to power defined by 4 aspects:
Ontological
Organic
Psychological
Societal

1. ontological

Nietzsche argued that matter is representation of force or energy. All is force against force, nothing more. Physics only considers the objective aspect of matter-energy, relational properties. Nietzsche asserted that there is a subjective aspect of energy, a subjectivity.. a drive.. a will. (not consciousness). All forces in their subjective aspect are this will. Nietzsche advances Shoppenhauer's will to survive into "the will to power", it is effectively based on it. He argued that this subjective element of energy strives to assimilate more energy to it's porpose (telos). Again this is not conscious. This makes the will to power a teleological principle that underlies everything.

Nietzsche here is not advocating free will. There is no choice as far as the will to poer is concerned, it is not conscious. He argued that consciousness does not cause actions, but merely acompanies them, so he rejects free will. All is force, force has a subjectivity, that subjectivity is a striving for development, a will to power. The world defined and described internally by it's intelligible character is simply the will to power.

2. organic - "Life is merely a special case of the will to power"

For Nietzsche the will to survive is merely the lowest degree of the will to power.
If an organism is left by itself, it will seek to develop, to grow and become more complex. It will defend itself because it's end would halt it's development. The will to power does not aply merely to animals such as humans, but also to plants and everything else. Plants grow and seek resources just like you and me, we seek to develop our intelect, health, wealth, status, resources and so on. It is not mere greed, but growth.

Simbiosis is a strategy available to organisms. The power of the whole increases the power of the constituants therein. A very good example are the coral reefs. Humans may gain adavantage by being part of a group, religion, nation, ideology and so on. It is in these settings that characteristics such as compasion, generosity, altruism have their place. We have evolved these in order to maintain and increase the power of the group and through that our own individual power.

Nietzsche considered complex organisms such as humans to be agregates of wills to power, not merely one will. An organism is a higherarchy of systems. He disagreed with Darwin on evolution and considered that organisms are not merely reactive, but proactive. This means they do not merely adapt to the environment, but seek to dominate it. Again the coral reef is a very good example of this, but man is the ultimate example. He also advocated for soft enheritance, what we know today as epigenetics.


3. psychological

The will to power is not some spiritual principle.. It is ontologically one with the body, but epistemically distinct. We derive pleasure from overcoming obstacles, anything that stands in our way, so this means our telos is not mere pleasure (happyness), but power. Knowlege is power, because it aids us in overcoming problems. Think about the invention of penicilin for example or acing an exam, defeating your enemy, finally succeeding at writing that program. The joy you feel is a byproduct. You consciously asume that you act in order to get this byproduct, but in reality subconsciously the will to power is what drives you, keeps you alive and pushes you to overcome limitations.

Nietzsche argued that obstacles to our power cause pain and suffering, so by overcoming them we advance and grow, gain happyness. This makes suffering and pain valuable. Without obsacles and pain we would have not evolved this level of complexity.
This is what he means by "What doesen't kill you makes you stronger", well not you specifically, but the species.


4. societal

Sometimes falsities allow us to gain power. A religious leader and it's members may benefit from the lies they spread, thus gaining power for themselves. It is not always the case that knowlege and honesty nets you more power. Sometimes denial and delusion does. We merely believe in things that bely our interests. Our consciousness presents us with distorted presentations of reality, our senses are biased. Beliefs are based on perspectives of power (subconsciously). Slaves will value freedom for example, people who already posess some power will value justice and the trutly powerful may value the love of humanity. Such a person may be friendly and genuinely love his enemies, because they are obstacles through which he/she may grow (imagine Jesus Christ).

“Well-meaning, helpful, good-natured attitudes of mind have not come to be honored on account of their usefulness, but because they are states of richer souls that are capable of bestowing and have their value in the feeling of the plenitude of life.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power

Nietzsche sees Christianity for example as the perspective of the weak. It offers mataphysical punismnet to our enemies, as real physical punishment is not possible. It offers an afterlife of eternal happyness, which is only of value to someone who suffers from life. Escapism. He called it "slave morality" as it offers values that only serve the power interests of the weak and presents them as objective absolutes (which they are not). He considered that no morality is absolute or objective. He considered slave morality to be dangerous, because it only considers the power interests of the weak, it values the meak and mediocre over the great and capable and so it has halted humanity's power progress. Peterson calls this the "crab mentality". The prime example ofc is communism, forced equality. The tallest blade of grass gets cut.

Christianity's values are so engrained in society as culture, that even atheists unwittingly value this perspective. For nietzsche socialism is Christianity without the God, but without God, there is no sanctioning of the slave morality. "God is dead" means that if one does not believe in God, one has no logical right to believe in a morality which this deity ushered in.

To surrender yourself, to make yourself a slave to a teaching or belief, that makes it so that belief will always rule you.

\o/ song time! (related to subject)


When I was born the seed was sown
I will not obey, my life is my own
Battled those, who wish to enslave me
Exposed the lies that enrage me
I don't believe in heaven, I don't believe in hell
Never joined the herd, could not adjust well
Slave and master, it's not for me
I choose my own path, set myself free

I, I go my own way
I swim against the stream
Forever I will fight the powers that be
I, I go my own way
I swim against the stream
Forever I will fight the pοwers that be
The eagle flies alone

Reject the system that dictates the norm
This world is full of lies and deceit
I have felt betrayal, cut so deep
Suffered defeat only to rise again

I, I go my own way
I swim against the stream
Forever I will fight the powers that be
I, I go my own way
I swim against the stream
Forever I will fight the powers that be
The eagle flies alone

Alone!

I, I go my own way
I swim against the stream
Forever I will fight the powers that be
I, I go my own way
I swim against the stream
Forever I will fight the powers that be
The eagle flies alone
 

Cognisant

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As I understand it Nietzsche is an anti-nihilist or nihilistic optimist, in my own words existential meaning is a contrivance however given that we are living entities we have to choose what to make of our existence, even refusing to choose (committing suicide) is itself a choice.

The Schopenhauer/Buddhist choice is to minimize suffering by way of minimizing desire and I think committing suicide is the logical extreme of this, if life isn't worth living and you're going to die eventually anyway why put off the inevitable?

On the other end of the scale are the egotists like myself who say by if having a sense of self makes us inherently insane then why not embrace the insanity? I want to live forever, I want to undergo cybernetic apotheosis, I want to remake the universe around me as nothing less than a monument to myself and I see no reason why I need any more justification than "because I want to".

Morality is inherently egotistical, no matter what code or philosophy (or lack thereof) you choose to live by the fact remains that it was your choice and you chose whatever was most appealing to you, every moral choice you make is ultimately decided by nothing more than your desire to appeal to yourself.
 

Animekitty

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Morality is inherently egotistical, no matter what code or philosophy (or lack thereof) you choose to live by the fact remains that it was your choice and you chose whatever was most appealing to you, every moral choice you make is ultimately decided by nothing more than your desire to appeal to yourself.
I don't know where but I think a person here once said that all moral choices are a matter of aesthetics. Making the world into the form of which appeals to me means I make the world into the art I desire most. We are all artists in how we change the world.

But where do these preferences come from? Teleology was mentioned. The way I define it is selective attention. Eye saccades. Reflection of the world in us. Beautiful things reflect our inner selves. From birth to death, reflection of my life into the world. That is where the control problem resides in motivation.

Motivation is more complicated than 1 goal. We have thousands of goals rolling into each other in a snowball effect. Will to power is too complex not to give it multiple dimensions of desired goals. Art is the same. How do we solve the control problem? We make A.I. that creates art that will not destroy the human spirit. Not goals but aesthetics. Aesthetics in will to power. The subject and the world reflected in each other.
 

onesteptwostep

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Meh. His moral philosophy is sort of self-defeating in my opinion. Not everyone can be a Nietzschean, and if they were, society would not function. Some part of society has to be subservient to the ubermesh, just by consequence. I think he just had a very elementary view of life, because of his poor stature. They say philosophy is a leisure activity- for Nietzsche it looked like it was more of an expression of himself at whatever context he was in. Take his renunciation of Schopenhauer for one: he goes to some beach house and suddenly doesn't feel depressed anymore, so he discards Schopenhauer's philosophy. He calls women a various amount of things: the irony is that he never married and was almost always taken care of by women. His entire legacy is just trying to come to grips with losing his teleological assumptions and trying to replace it. He never throws away his teleological framework, but actively seeks to refill it with something else. He was trying to be a minister, but read Feuerbach, causing him to lose faith. He tries to replace Christianity with Schopenhauer, but then decides he doesn't believe that either because it's too depressing. IDK. That's a more analytical objection, but I think Duxwing here explains the psychological aspect of it well: https://www.intpforum.com/threads/getting-into-philosophy-early.17532/#post-386535

Existential crisis and existential despair are not philosophical conclusions but irrational, emotional reactions to unsolvable philosophical problems that arise because of insufficient intrapersonal skills. Existential problems generally begin with a pathological misapplication of reductionism wherein the inexperienced philosopher explains phenomena or entities as 'just' arrangements of their component parts in order to calm themselves during emotional turmoil--implicitly and unwittingly assuming that any thing that isn't a gestalt should elicit no emotion--for while so doing elicits a slight ache, it gives a sense of control, detachment, and understanding; the further assumption that every thing is made of smaller parts emotionally starves him or her, who, being used to the ache of same, interprets it and any other unpleasant conclusion as good and likely true.

Yet they, being human, yearn for emotion and security, which 'objective meaning' and 'truth' respectively provide without requiring an end to detachment. But as we all know, 'objective meaning' and 'truth' cannot be demonstrated to exist. The aforementioned philosopher subsequently falls into total emotional starvation and uncertainty and despairs their existence--sometimes ending it. But the universe is not absurd: the universe is the universe, while the concept of objective meaning is absurd because the word "meaning" refers to a subjective phenomenon wherein one qualia evokes others. And if knowledge is unachievable in this universe, then what can we achieve, and how much less than ideal is it? And why did we need ideal knowledge? Unfortunately, for a philosopher who is wholly caught up in the mindset of 'logic, and nothing but,' such ideas are out of the question.

Practicing philosophy with a good knowledge of psychology and self can therefore help ensure that the philosopher's emotions remain cared for and their logic thereby uncorrupted. I see no problem with someone of any age reading about philosophy provided either those aforementioned conditions or a very understanding mentor.

-Duxwing

I think Camus is a much more clear and honest thinker in regards to teleology- that there isn't any, and lived a decent life based on his philosophy. Died ironically though.

And another thing to mention is that readers and followers of Schopenhauer usually faced dead ends philosophically. Mainlander.. Nietzsche..
 

Puffy

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Morality is inherently egotistical, no matter what code or philosophy (or lack thereof) you choose to live by the fact remains that it was your choice and you chose whatever was most appealing to you, every moral choice you make is ultimately decided by nothing more than your desire to appeal to yourself.
The way I'd initially try to distinguish this, is that if someone is being egotistical they are being self-absorbed or self-centred. The egotistical person only factors themselves ultimately into their decisions, and if it helps someone else that's consequential, they cannot make choices without self-interest.

To me, morality is anchored in one's capacity to feel & express love which extends beyond self-absorption to also factor other relations. Real love holds both yourself and what is loved in a single embrace (a single identification or union.) It acts from a perspective of WE rather than a perspective of ME.

For example, if I were to love the Dad I pity what I would do is forgive him and make peace with him. I love myself so I feel remorse & compassion for the pain I'm made to feel by us being separate. I love him so I feel remorse & compassion for the pain he's made to feel by being separate to me. Love holds both of these statements at the same time. So love expresses itself through forgiveness & peace in order to bring a mutual end to our suffering and bring us together.

Expressions of love benefit the person expressing it as much as the person it's expressed to. Love is mutually healing & beneficent: it achieves happiness, and from this perspective happiness is something inseparable to your relationship to others. It's only an expression of love if it helps someone else as fundamental, rather than consequential, to it. It wouldn't be love otherwise. The highest moral conclusion is to learn to love not just those you resent but absolutely everything.

That, to me, is a truly moral choice that arrives at mutual happiness, over resentment & pity, for example, that's essentially only self-serving and self-justifying and arrives at unhappiness for both. It just allows that person to continue fuelling their own egotistical (i.e. self-serving) emotions, which is actually the cause of their suffering. It doesn't really have any love for the other person which would alleviate their suffering.

There is an even deeper form of love (imo) which is able to act purely for another's happiness without self-interest or regard for consequence to yourself. In my personal experience, it's one of the happiest things I've felt which has naturally brought me to the conclusion that being egotistical is the root of suffering (the antithesis of happiness) and isn't moral.
 

Cognisant

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We're debating semantics here, the word "egotistical" is often used to describe people who act selfishly out of some false sense of superiority or justification and I totally agree that is self defeating. The short term benefits of being selfish don't outweigh the long term disadvantages of having a reputation for selfishness so when I meet someone like this I don't make a moral judgement of them (i.e. good & evil) instead I think they're a bit of a slow learner.

I'm using the word "egotistical" to denote that all morality pertains to the ego, I'm twisting the definition because I don't have the words I need to convey what I'm trying to convey. For example you talk about love and how that makes you feel, that you make your moral decisions based on what feels right and what I'm saying is that therefore your moral decisions pertain to you, your ego, what make YOU happy.

You cannot remove yourself from the decision making process because if you did (say you wrote a decision making algorithm) it would no longer be a moral decision making process, it would just be a process, because the morality comes from you and your understanding of right and wrong, an understanding that comes having experienced the human condition first hand.

I can tell a computer what pain is and to avoid causing it but I can't explain "pain is bad" to it because it has no frame of reference, only once the computer (i.e. an AI) has the ability to feel pain will it have the ability understand.
 

Animekitty

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Nietzsche had severe migraines. (from his father treatment of him)
And said without music life would be a mistake.
He once embraced a horse that was being beaten.

All we can do it go forward.
To live life as one can.
To say yes to external recurrence.
To face one's struggles.
The death of the idea of God.
The abyss.
All that is wrong.
And rise from one's personal hell like a phoenix.
Victory over the self, not to let one's circumstances defeat you.
 

Kormak

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Nietzsche had severe migraines. (from his father treatment of him)
And said without music life would be a mistake.
He once embraced a horse that was being beaten.

All we can do it go forward.
To live life as one can.
To say yes to external recurrence.
To face one's struggles.
The death of the idea of God.
The abyss.
All that is wrong.
And rise from one's personal hell like a phoenix.
Victory over the self, not to let one's circumstances defeat you.
Yeah, how Nietzsche saw esistance is.. Heroic.

There is one anime that embodies this heroic will to power in it's essence :P, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (Heaven Piercing Gurren Lagann), it makes it so much easyer to understand how Nietzsche isn't this callous heartless guy who preaches supremacy:

 

redbaron

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people take Nietzsche seriously in 2019?
 

Puffy

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Admittedly, I was drinking that night and I could probably find a more concise way to say what I'm trying to say.

To me statements like "all morality pertains to the ego" would be examples of what I would mean by self-absorption or self-centredness. As it essentially treats the ego as the only real factor and everything as inescapably self-referential. Like you say, the ego's happiness is all that matters and anything else is consequential to that.

I don't mean that as a judgement of you. When I honestly assess myself, I believe that egotism and self-absorption are my core issues that I'm consciously working with. To me, this isn't an uncommon issue in modern times which are defined by increasing social fragmentation, disconnection, and loneliness. Self-centredness is a natural by-product, or sickness, of that. (Imo) It's more a mirror of sickness than it is a mirror of reality.

What I was saying isn't so much about removing yourself from the decision making process. As you say, that's not possible or desirable. We will always have an ego, and we will always be a factor in whatever situation we're in. What I'm trying to describe is the process of integrating ego into a larger interdependent sense of self, in which reciprocity and two-way relationship is fundamental (not consequential) to one's actions. I'm proposing that love as a moral practice is a way by which we do that.

To me this isn't a semantic difference, it's an ontological one, but I appreciate it's difficult to convey through a purely semantic medium.
 
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