Nietzsche and a Pastor: The Will to Power


This is part two of a new series–to read the introduction click here.

“What is good? — All that heightens the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself in man.
What is bad? — All that proceeds from weakness.
What is happiness? — The feeling that power increases — that a resistance is overcome.
Not contentment, but more power; not peace at all, but war; not virtue, but proficiency (virtue in the Renaissance style, virtu, virtue free of moralic acid).
The weak and ill-constituted shall perish:  first principle of our philanthropy.  And one shall help them to do so.
What is more harmful than any vice? — Active sympathy for the ill-constituted and weak — Christianity . . .”

It’s important to remember that any definition of the good or of happiness proceeding from a naturalistic framework, such as Nietzsche’s, is completely arbitrary and, if I dare say, totally farcical — that is to say, it is a rather deceptive act in which moralistic language is ascribed to fundamentally neutral, amoral, categories.  So, when Nietzsche speaks about the good as being, “the will to power, power itself in man,” it’s important to remember that he is not outlining a system of morality; rather, he is simply describing a brute process of nature using moralistic terminology.

Any student of Biology can tell you that life is a power struggle — those organisms with the strongest will to survive and the power to do so will inevitably outlast other organisms with a weaker constitution.  In evolutionary terms, this is commonly described as the survival of the fittest.  Consequentially, a brute physical process, such as this, can hardly be described as “the good” in any objective moral sense on naturalism.  For this would imply teleology within nature — which is precisely the thing that a naturalistic view of reality denies.  Hence, to assign the, “feeling of power, the will to power, power itself in man,” or, “all that proceeds from weakness,” the terms “good” or “bad” says absolutely nothing about the true goodness or badness of such things — it is merely to state a brute fact about reality.

According to naturalism, values are completely dependent upon the observer and therefore totally subjective.  In other words, they have very little to do with reality and everything to do with one’s personal opinions or feelings.  What we are left with, under this  scheme, are merely objects and events.  How we interpret the objects and events we find in nature is purely a matter of personal taste.  This mindset explains  why we often hear the term “meaning-making” used to describe values.  What this heart warming little term is actually communicating is that nature, in and of itself, has no intrinsic meaning; you, the observer, must make meaning.

The reason I’ve gone through great pains to express the above point is that many, these days, mistakenly believe it is possible to have objective morality within the naturalistic framework.  This belief, however, is entirely incompatible with the naturalistic worldview.  For there is nothing, objective, to ground values in under this framework–and this is something that Nietzsche understood all too well.  This is precisely why he speaks of the desire for power and the will to power–because this is, essentially, what life boils down to in a world without God and without objective  moral standards or purpose.  So, do not be confused by Nietzsche’s use of the terms “good” or “bad” and suppose that he is speaking of morality; on the contrary, what he is proposing is the complete antithesis of morality.  He is proposing that those who believe God to be dead embrace the implications of this belief and recognize what life truly is:  a cold, and fundamentally meaningless, struggle for power; the brutal battle for survival.

It is no wonder that Nietzsche viewed Christianity with such contempt; for Christianity stands in complete contrast to this view of reality.  It teaches that there is an overarching meaning and purpose to reality and that values are grounded in the source of existence Himself.  It asserts that man is made in the very image and likeness of the source of his existence and is, therefore, intrinsically valuable and important.  It further insists that, as creatures made in the image of their Creator, man is accountable to Him and obligated to care for all the things which He has made–even the lowly.  Hence, Psalm 41 implores us to, “consider the poor,” and Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it for me” (Matt. 25:40).

As  you can see, the Christians attitude towards the “ill-constituted and weak” and his mindset that our existence is rooted in notions like love, service, and self-sacrifice, stands in total contrast to the naturalistic worldview which explains human existence in terms of a desire for and will to power.  Under the naturalistic view such care for the weak is truly absurd: for, “the weak and ill-constituted shall perish:  first principle of our philanthropy.  And one shall help them to do so.”  This is simply a brute fact about reality that one must accept, or else, continue to live in a delusional state and be subject to the control and power of those few human beings who do accept it.

Now, you must ask yourself, at this moment, what view of reality you are prepared to accept.  If you truly believe that “God is dead” and that the physical world is all there is then you must be willing to embrace Nietzsche’s assertions with all of your being–for this is the only honest position to take.  However, if Nietzsche makes you uncomfortable, if you sense that love must somehow enter the picture, that the acquisition of power is somehow shallow and ultimately meaningless, that there is intrinsic value to all human beings–and, in fact, in every organism–that somehow morality must be objective and grounded in something, and that somehow you were made for a purpose, then you must come to terms with the fact that God may not be as dead as you had originally thought.