Will to power

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The will to power is a thought by Friedrich Nietzsche , which he presented for the first time in Also sprach Zarathustra and which is mentioned at least in passing in all subsequent books, e.g. B. in the fifth book of the gay science , published in 1882. Its beginnings lie in the psychological analyzes of the human will to power in the collection of aphorisms Dawn . Nietzsche elaborated on it more comprehensively in his left notebooks from around 1885. The term was first mentioned in the estate from 1876/77: "Fear (negative) and the will to power (positive) explain our strong consideration for people's opinions."

The philosophical thought

The interpretation of the idea of ​​the “will to power” is highly controversial. According to Nietzsche, the “will to power” is a Dionysian affirmation of the eternal cycles of life and death, arising and passing away, pleasure and pain, a primal force that keeps the “wheel of being” in motion: “Everything goes, everything comes back; the wheel of being rolls forever. Everything dies, everything blossoms again, the year of being runs forever. ”In a fragment of his estate from 1885, Nietzsche himself suggests how one could understand this complex term:

"... This my Dionysian world of eternal-self-creation, eternal-self-destruction ... this my beyond of good and evil, without a goal, unless there is a goal in the happiness of the circle ... Do you want a name for this world? ... A light for you, you most hidden, strongest, most fearless, most midnight? ... This world is the will to power - and nothing else! And you too are this will to power - and nothing else! "

It was primarily through his reading of Schopenhauer and his will metaphysics that Nietzsche came up with the idea of ​​the will to power. In contrast to Schopenhauer's “will to live”, however, for Nietzsche the will to power is not a phenomenon of life , but of knowing . For Nietzsche, too, the instincts are the foundations of all knowledge, because knowledge first emerges from them, but the issue now is to what extent "a transformation of man occurs when he finally only lives to know ." Knowledge is not there more only in full part of life, but knowledge and truth themselves become a form of life.

"Only where there is life there is will: but not the will to live, but - this is how I teach you - the will to power!"

So the will to power is expressed above all to the extent to which a person succeeds in an interpretation of the world that can locate all events within the personal life as belonging to it. A strong spirit interprets the world towards itself and thus incorporates it. The greatest challenge in this context turns out to be the experience of the terrible, because integrating the experienced terrible into one's own interpretation of life is the hardest. In enduring the terrible and cruel of life, however, the ability to "tragic greatness" is shown. This is equivalent to accepting fate. Nietzsche, however, demands a further step: one should want fate . Only then does the circle come full circle, since one then not only accepts it as an imposed passively, but integrates it into the interpretation of one's own life through the act of volition.

"Will liberates: that is the true doctrine of will and freedom."

Will and will are thus closely interwoven with the interpretation of life. For Nietzsche, the will to power is thus the actual possibility of realizing autarky . Nietzsche sees the pleasure in power in the freedom gained through the integrative interpretation of life. When all fateful experiences are experienced as part of one's own life, they no longer act as a restriction on one's freedom. The associated positive feeling is explained by the conquered bondage, the discarded "a hundredfold experienced displeasure of dependency, of powerlessness." Therefore the freest person has "the greatest feeling of power over himself ."


In the course of Nietzsche's history of philosophical impact, for Martin Heidegger the “will to power” was Nietzsche's answer to the metaphysical question about the “ground of all that is”. Nietzsche and Heidegger in the following, Hannah Arendt discovered positive aspects of Nietzsche's approach by tracing the term power - here, however, as in the case of the founder of individual psychology , Alfred Adler , to people within society - to the fundamental possibility of creating something out of oneself close".

According to Wolfgang Müller-Lauter, however, Nietzsche with the “will to power” in no way restored metaphysics in the sense of Heidegger - Nietzsche was precisely a critic of all metaphysics - but attempted to give a consistent interpretation of all events that followed Nietzsche erroneous assumptions of metaphysical "meaning" as well as an atomistic - materialistic worldview avoided. In order to understand Nietzsche's concept, it is more appropriate to speak of "the" (many) "wills to power" who are in constant conflict, conquer and incorporate one another, form temporary organizations (for example the human body), but do not form any " Form whole "; the world is eternal chaos.

Most of the others move between these two interpretations, whereby today's Nietzsche research is much closer to that of Müller-Lauter.

In contrast to Nietzsche, Alfred Adler - even before the National Socialists came to power in Germany in 1933 - also viewed the will to power critically as a possible overcompensation for an increasingly experienced feeling of inferiority .

Rüdiger Safranski takes Friedrich Nietzsche in his work . Biography of his thinking Heidegger's criticism again.

In the current philosophical interpretation of Nietzsche's work, the term “will to power” is hardly present today. Georg Römpp, for example, points out that Nietzsche cannot use it as an explanatory variable for developments in the world, in human coexistence or in intellectual history, as this contradicts his criticism of “equalization” through science, knowledge and society or politics would. The same applies to attempts to see this as a universal psychological constant.

Römpp ascribes only two meanings to the term “will to power”. On the one hand, Nietzsche uses this term to oppose the idea of ​​a truth that is independent of subject and language. The “will to power” thus has a critical function against the “will to truth” because our knowledge is “made” and does not represent a portrayal of the world itself.

On the other hand, Nietzsche uses this term to denote the fundamentally inconclusive process of interpretative understanding of the world. That is why with Nietzsche there is no power as a state, but only as a process, namely as the active and formative process of knowledge that develops out of itself the tendency towards ever new and changed interpretations of the world. Of course, this “made” knowledge does not remain without consequences, but the “made” terms and theorems in it determine the actions of people in social coexistence and in dealing with the world.

See also


  • Günter Abel : Nietzsche: The dynamic of the will to power and the eternal return . 2nd edition expanded to include a foreword. de Gruyter, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-11-015191-X .
  • Murat Ates: Perspectives on the Will to Power. In: Nietzsche's Zarathustra interpretation. Marburg 2014, ISBN 978-3-8288-3430-9 , pp. 129-146.
  • Günter Figal: Nietzsche. A philosophical introduction . Reclam-Verlag, Stuttgart 1999, ISBN 3-15-009752-5 .
  • Volker Gerhardt : From Will to Power: Anthropology and Metaphysics of Power using the exemplary case of Friedrich Nietzsche . de Gruyter, Berlin 1996, ISBN 3-11-012801-2 . (Habilitation thesis from 1984)
  • Günter Haberkamp: Instinctual events and the will to power: Nietzsche - between philosophy and psychology . Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2000, ISBN 3-8260-1869-9 .
  • Wolfgang Müller-Lauter : About becoming and the will to power. (= Nietzsche interpretations. Volume 1). de Gruyter, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-11-013451-9 .
  • Georg Römpp , Nietzsche made easy. An introduction to his thinking. (= UTB . 3718). Böhlau, Cologne et al. 2013, ISBN 978-3-8252-3718-9 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Critical Study Edition ( KSA ) 8, p. 425.
  2. ^ Friedrich Nietzsche: Thus spoke Zarathustra. third book, the convalescent
  3. KSA 9, p. 495.
  4. KSA 4, p. 149.
  5. KSA 4, p. 111.
  6. KSA 8, p. 425.
  7. KSA 9, p. 488.
  8. Georg Römpp: Nietzsche made easy. An introduction to his thinking. (= UTB. 3718). Böhlau, Cologne et al. 2013.