Truth of Will and Value
Part 2 – Zarathustra
~Rand 1929–38~ (continued
“In self-trust, all the virtues are comprehended. . . . / Yes, we are the cowed,—we the trustless. . . . / Men are become of no account. Men in history, men in the world of to-day are bugs, are spawn, and are called ‘the mass’ and ‘the herd’.” –Emerson
It is clear early in We the Living
that Kira and her author stand in favor of much that the Marxists refer to as “bourgeois.” We often associate the bourgeois with the Epicurean, and that
Kira is not. She takes scant notice that “the voice of the flesh cries, ‘Keep me from hunger, thirst, and cold!’” (VS 33). She does not take avoidance of pain as the right limit of pleasure and desire (PD 3, 11). Her appetite for life is great. “If one loses that appetite, why still sit at the table” (WL 55). She is no dray horse, but a racing steed (WL 32).
With her hungry family, sharing their single wick of light, or standing in line for bread ration, Kira’s mind is fixed on her textbooks, particularly on her mathematics problems. At the Petrograd Technological Institute, where she is a first-year student, she does not pay attention to lectures of Bolshevik propaganda.
A student politician on the Communist side tries to enlist Kira in a Marxist Circle for young students “‘to learn the proper proletarian ideology, which we’ll all need when we go out into the world to serve the Proletarian State, since that’s what we’re all studying for, isn’t it?’ / ‘Did it ever occur to you’, asked Kira, ‘that I may be here for the very unusual, unnatural reason of wanting to learn a work I like only because I like it?’” (WL 61).
In her 1938 novella Anthem,
set in a fictitious collectivist community (smaller and simpler than Kira’s historical setting), Rand has her protagonist Equality 7-2521 dare to choose, in the secrecy of his own mind, work he hopes to do when leaving the Home of the Students. He loves the Science of Things. He hopes he will be selected to be a scholar, but the authorities appoint him to be a street sweeper. The technology of his isolated community is very primitive in comparison to an earlier lost civilization. His people have candles, but not electricity. He discovers a subway tunnel from the ancient civilization, and he begins to experiment with electricity in secret at night. In his own community, each refers to himself as we
. Of his secret work, he thinks: “We alone, of the thousands who walk this earth, we alone in this hour are doing a work which has no purpose save that we wish to do it.” In his love of the science of things, he is similar to Kira (and later, Roark and Galt); he is similar to her also in her “wanting to learn a work I like only because I like it;” and he is similar to her in standing against society made collectivist.
Kira is drawn into a student assembly for student elections. A speech from a student Party member barking the right purpose of the Technological Institute concludes: “‘We have outgrown the old bourgeois prejudice about the objective impartiality of science. Science is not impartial. Science is a weapon in the class struggle. We’re not here to further our own petty personal ambitions. We have outgrown the slobbering egoism of the bourgeois who whined for a personal career’”(WL 62; see Josephson 1991, 42, 51–56, 66–67, 77, 86–87, 97, 100, 184–202; Graham 1993, 88–93).
Where is Nietzsche on science in relation to the Red view and Kira’s “bourgeois” view? He would stand apart from either.
“Why do we even assume that ‘true’ and ‘false’ are intrinsically opposed? Isn’t it enough to assume that there are levels of appearance and, as it were, lighter and darker shades and tones of appearance – different valeurs,
to use the language of the painters? Why shouldn’t the world that is relevant to us – be a fiction?” (BGE 34). Nietzsche would be hearing a theme and language close to his own in the words of the Red speech-maker, for Nietzsche writes that belief in “immediate certainties”—such as space, time, form, motion, and consciousness itself—is “a stupidity that does us little credit! In bourgeois life, a suspicious disposition might be a sign of ‘bad character’ and consequently considered unwise. But here with us beyond the bourgeois sphere with its Yeses and Noes, – what is to stop us from being unwise [?] . . .” (34; see also 15). Early Rand, not only late Rand, clearly rejected this radical relativism of Nietzsche.
Nietzsche held “it is no more than a moral prejudice that the truth is worth more than appearance” (BGE 34). We have seen in Part 1 that Nietzsche rejected Kant’s concept of the thing in itself (BGE 2, 16). There is no indication in early Rand that she accepted the Kantian idea that things in themselves are unknowable. In that she was in tune with Nietzsche. But Rand accepted that we can know things as they stand independently of our knowing them. She did not buy Nietzsche’s entire package against the idea of things as they are in themselves.
In the 1936 version of We the Living,
Rand has a line to display the type of mind and interests of protagonist Leo, who is Kira’s beloved. “When his young friends related, in whispers, the latest French stories, Leo quoted Kant and Nietzsche.” This line is included in Robert Mayhew’s study “We the Living
: ’36 and ’59” (2004, 192). In the 1959 edit, Rand replaced Kant
in this line (WL 127). Dr. Mayhew naturally is struck by the clear indication that Rand did not hold her well-known antipathy to Kant in her early years.
I wonder if Rand was not very familiar with Spinoza in her early years, and had she been familiar with him, would have used him instead of Kant. She would have known a smidgen of Spinoza simply from Nietzsche’s BGE. Certainly she would have noticed Nietzsche’s opposition to Kant’s theoretical and practical philosophy. Naturally, one wonders why she did not use Aristotle in Leo’s line in ’36 or in ’59. Perhaps because there is a level of difficulty and sustained, rarified thought widely recognized to be found in Kant and Spinoza, but not so widely associated with Aristotle. She wanted to contrast the shallowness of surrounding people with the serious mind and inner life of Leo, an inner life far away from the crush of the Red boot on their society. Then again, perhaps she used Spinoza rather than Aristotle because the latter is not so strongly egoist in ethics as the former; the polis looms large in the ethics of Aristotle. Another possibility would be that in ’36 her knowledge of Aristotle was significantly less than her knowledge of Spinoza, and that in ’59 she wanted to keep to that knowledge context within which she had created the novel in ’36.
Rand’s use of Kant in her original 1936 version does not necessarily signal absence of serious disagreement with Kant at that time, but it surely does indicate an intensification of her contempt for Kant’s ideas as she learned more through the years. By the time of the reissue, in revision, Rand regarded Kant’s as the antipode of her philosophy in every fundamental. Under her later assessment of Kant’s system, she would not have used him in the line about Leo, however shy of perfection she took to be the character Leo in his original, undefeated state.
I mentioned in Part 1 that Nietzsche learned what he knew of Kant mainly through secondary sources. It is my understanding that Rand likewise learned what she knew of Kant’s theoretical philosophy mainly through secondary sources, rather than through sustained study of Kant’s often-turgid Critique of Pure Reason, Prolegomena,
and so forth. (Kant’s ethical writings are more amenable to reading by the general educated public, especially Groundwork
.) I conjecture that Rand’s knowledge of Kant’s theoretical philosophy was a lot thinner in 1936 than in 1959. There were competent English commentaries available by ’59, such as Kant’s Metaphysics of Experience
by H. J. Paton (1936). As I recall, that is the commentary on the first critique that Leonard Peikoff recommended in the Kant portion of his History of Philosophy
taped lectures in the early 70’s. Naturally, in her philosophically mature period, one expects Rand had extensive discussions about Kant with her younger studious friends, such and Peikoff and B. Branden
Near the conclusion of We the Living,
Leo is arrested by Andrei, who is truest and best of Communists. Andrei is Red hero of the battle for Melitopol (1920) and son of Red father exiled to death in Siberia in the failed revolution of 1905. He is Kira’s second-lover and main philosophical interlocutor. (Andrei is my favorite male principal in the novel; he reminds me of Cimourdain, my favorite character in Hugo’s Ninety-Three.) In the arrest scene, Andrei throws this line at Leo: “A tendency for transcendental thinking is apt to obscure our perception of reality” (quoted in Mayhew 2004, 192). Rand cut this line in the 1959 edit. I do not think early Rand would have intended this use of transcendental
to be an allusion to its full meaning in Kant’s transcendental idealism. It might be in parallel to Kant or to the American transcendentalists, such as Emerson, in meaning only that the ideals of Leo are on a plane that have become in fact impossible in their society. At the same time, Andrei’s charge of “transcendental thinking” definitely means thinking that penetrates truth not conformed to present social reality and the warped reality to which the Communist state would coerce all thought.
Early Rand and her Kira stand solid for objectivity, which is attacked in the Red student speech. Rand’s 1938 protagonist in Anthem
is given these lines: “All things come to my judgment, and I weigh all things, and I seal upon them my ‘Yes’ or my ‘No’. Thus is truth born. Such is the root of all Truth and the leaf, such is the fount of all Truth and the ocean, such is the base of all Truth and the summit. I am the beginning of all Truth. I am its end” (quoted in Mayhew 2005a, 39; see also Milgram 2005, 17–18).
This sounds subjectivist, like the ancient God-sayings it echoes and would replace. It might seem that Rand was climbing down, between 1936 and 1938, into the Nietzschean cavern of subjectivity or at least was stepping down into the Kantian ravine. I think, rather, she is only affirming in this passage that all judgment of truth is individual and that all truth we render from the world is for our own final value. Those lines in Anthem
(in 1938; excised in ’46) are preceded by these: “It is my eyes which see, and the sight of my eyes grants beauty to the earth. It is my ears which hear, and the hearing of my ears gives its song to the world.” Something is seen, and with the subject, it is rendered beautiful. Something is heard, and with the subject, it is rendered song of existence. Something is given, and with its recognition, it is rendered truth.
Near the end of the fable Anthem,
our true searcher announces: “And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men have come into being, the god who will grant them joy and peace and pride. / This god, this one word: / ‘I’.”
In We the Living,
Rand has Kira and Andrei converse on atheism. They each easily say they do not believe in God. Kira goes on to say belief in God means lack of belief in life. Furthermore, “God—whatever anyone chooses to call God—is one’s highest conception of the highest possible. And whoever places his highest conception above his own possibility thinks very little of himself and his life. It’s a rare gift, you know, to feel reverence for your own life and to want the best, the greatest, the highest possible, here, now, for your very own” (WL 107). At the root of their selves, Kira and Andrei share belief in life.
In this atheist perspective, Rand had some in common with Nietzsche. “The Christian idea of God – . . . is one of the most corrupt conceptions of God the world has ever seen . . . . God having degenerated into a contradiction of life
instead of its transfiguration and eternal yes
! God as declared aversion to life, to nature, to the will to life! God as every slander against the ‘here and now’ . . .” (AC 18).
Nietzsche can concur with the Red student speech in the idea that the objective impartiality of science is a delusion (GS 107; cf. BT 15, 18; D 423, 431; contrast HH I 6, 264; AOM 206). He would deny, however, that the delusion of the objective impartiality of science is a delusion and error confined to a bourgeois outlook; it is wider and more deeply entrenched than that. “We simply have no organ for knowing,
for ‘truth’: we ‘know’ (or believe or imagine) exactly as much as is useful
to the human herd, to the species. . .” (GS 354; further 344, 112, 12). Science arises from the will to know, but this is a refinement of “the will to not know, to uncertainty, to untruth! . . . It is precisely the best science that will best know how to keep us in this simplified,
utterly artificial, well-invented, well-falsified world, how unwillingly willing science loves error because, being alive, – it loves life!” (BGE 24; also 230; GS 110, 344).
Though science is ultimately error, Nietzsche concedes that, surprisingly, science has been able to discover things that stand up to examination by all investigators (GS 46). Science has proven capable of undercutting traditional moral values, and it may be able to deliver new ones (GS 7, 123; D 453). Nietzsche would see the Red goals as old ones in new robes. “The aristocratism of mind has been undermined at its depths by the lie of the equality of souls; and when the belief in the ‘privileges of the majority’ creates (and it will create
) revolutions, do not doubt for a minute that it is Christianity, that it is Christian
value judgments these revolutions are translating into blood and crimes!” (AC 43; also 57; BGE 202; BT 18).
As to Rand’s unity of personal ambition and egoism with pursuit of objective science, a unity parried in the Red student speech, Nietzsche would allow that pleasure in scientific knowledge is at least covertly tied to the pleasure of honor and bread (GS 123; BGE 6, 230; cf. D 195). Vanity is a promoter of the conviction of the scientist that all other values are secondary to truth, but unlike Rand, Nietzsche sees such conviction as self-abnegation, as self-alienation (GS 344; AC 54; BGE 206–7; cf. WS 179; D 547).
Nietzsche has science as removing value as something given by nature (GS 301; D 108). Rand’s Kira has science to her personal end of material construction, as value surpassing nature. In a line straight from Oscar Wilde, Kira comments, looking at a natural landscape, “How beautiful! It’s almost artificial” (WL 39).
Early in their relationship, Leo asks “‘Is it worthwhile, Kira?’ / ‘What?’ / ‘Effort. Creation. Your glass skyscraper . . .’.” Kira does not answer in her immediate response. Leo continues “‘What is worth it? What do you expect from the world for your glass skyscraper?’ / ‘I don’t know. Perhaps—admiration’. / ‘Well, I’m too conceited to want admiration . . .’” Leo replies (WL 74).
Notice that Kira replied tentatively “admiration” (Nietzsche’s “honor”), but not “bread” or “gold.” Rand is not out to glorify the capitalist economic system at this stage of her development, and in that, her vision expressed is not so far from Nietzsche as it will be later. In this novel, Rand portrays the narrower circumstance that private business and exchange free of government suppression make it possible for people to live. (See also Mayhew 2004a, 203–5.)
The excerpt I quoted from the Red student speech (WL 62) is nearly congruent with the rhetoric of extreme Left proponents of proletarian culture who were, in historical fact, campaigning to bend the overwhelmingly not-Red (“bourgeois”) Petrograd Polytechnical Institute to their political vision. The important difference is that Rand has the speaker decry “egoism of the bourgeois.” The proletarian-culture movement would have gotten “bourgeois” into names of their enemy, but in place of egoism,
they would have capitalism
with its profit-taking.
Rand’s entry of egoism
and the issue of choosing a career whose allure is not its service to the masses are artifice folded into the speech for expression of the novelist’s deeper fathom of the characters and their historical situation.
Nietzsche would find bizarre Rand’s linkage of noble egoism to the bourgeois. What egoism he sees in the bourgeoisie is small-minded. They are opposite what is of great and noble soul. They are among the little people, however much money they might make. Moreover, taking bourgeoisie
in the inflated sense of anyone not Red, Nietzsche would regard few as of noble soul. It is unlikely he would count a young person aiming to become an engineer as of noble quality (BGE 254, 264; D 203–4, 206).
“Noble morality . . . is not the morality of ‘modern ideas’, the morality of ‘progress’ and ‘the future’.” Morality of noble souls is not the morality of slaves, and the latter morality includes the virtue of industriousness
(BGE 260). “Slave morality is essentially a morality of utility. . . . The desire for freedom,
necessarily belong to slave morals and morality. . .” (BGE 260; cf. Z IV “On the Higher Man”).
Nietzsche is not opposed to happiness, but for the noble soul and for the overman, happiness is not to be a modest happiness. It is to be “associated with a high state of tension” (BGE 260). It is to be so great as “to justify existence itself” (Z I “Zarathustra’s Prologue” 3). Nietzsche is not indifferent to dedication to one’s vocation. At least he thinks it not contemptible to have a vocation if it entails danger. Further, he thinks it commendable to have died of one’s dangerous vocation (6; see also Z IV “On Science”). He might have some affection for Kira by her passion for her career, although he does not think treasure for the higher sort of human being is to be found in the market place (Z IV “On the Higher Man” 1). Still, he has some respect for “a man who can conduct business, carry out a resolution, [or] be faithful to a thought.” He would warm to Kira’s attitude “I like that, I’ll take it for my own and protect it and defend it against everyone” (BGE 293).
The following exchange occurs between Kira and Andrei. The 1959 version (79) is the same as this 1936 version (92), except for omitting “of right or wrong, for no reason at all” (quoted in Milgram 2004, 39–40). (I am showing the two italics Rand added in ’59 because it makes the original meaning clearer.) Kira says to Andrei:
“I thought that Communists never did anything except what they had to do . . . .”
“That’s strange,” he smiled, “I must be a very poor Communist. I’ve always done only what I wanted to do.”
“Your revolutionary duty?”
“There is no such thing as duty. If you know a thing is right, you want to do it. If you don’t want to do it—it isn’t right. If it’s right and you don’t want to do it—you don’t know what right is—and you’re not a man.”
“Haven’t you ever wanted a thing for no reason of right or wrong, for no reason at all, save one: that you wanted it?”
“Certainly. That’s always been my only reason. I’ve never wanted things unless they could help my cause. For, you see, it is my cause.”
“And your cause is to deny yourself for the sake of millions?”
“No. To bring the millions up to where I want them—for my sake.” (WL 1936, 92)
In this exchange, Kira is speaking Nietzsche, though only so far. As her own philosophy matured, Rand halted this line of Nietzschean thought in her own philosophy even farther from Nietzsche. It is not only Nietzsche that Kira is here speaking, but Nietzsche’s life-long, more innocent book-companion Emerson, who writes: “He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. . . . Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to this or that; the only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong what is against it” (“Self-Reliance”).
Andrei’s words on his congruence of right, knowing it, and wanting to do it, is not Nietzsche, but Socrates. This was probably Rand’s own view in 1936. In her mature philosophy, she stays close to this position, but adds a feature that enables her to avoid traditional problems with it.
Andrei’s wanting to bring the millions up to his vision of their potential, for his own sake,
is idiosyncratic for a Communist. Here the author enters marks into the character atypical of his historical situation in order to set the character as a spiritual peer of Kira and to set the stage for playing out what the author sees as the irreconcilable profound conflict of human values in that society. There is an eventual poignant irony to the initial seeming seamlessness in the soul of Andrei.
In this novel, Kira champions wanting something in a self-authored way, not as a means to some further end and not to satisfy some standard beyond itself. Her wanting to be an engineer and her wanting to have Leo are in this category. In her developed philosophy two decades later, Rand will have, for all human beings, only one such wanting, which will be at the level of meta-values.
Having Kira speak of her values standing “beyond right or wrong” is a nod to Nietzsche. Kira’s self-standing values are down-to-earth, not anything near Nietzsche’s transvaluation of values (BGE 260; GS 301; cf. D 102). Kira says: “I don’t want to fight for the people, I don’t want to fight against the people, I don’t want to hear of the people. I want to be left alone—to live” (WL 81). She does not strive to create new values beyond all previous ones; she seeks to create bridges and skyscrapers and a relationship with Leo.
I should mention that Kira does not attack notions of right and wrong per se. She embraces certain things as right and condemns certain things as wrong. “Who—in this damned universe—can tell me why I should live for anything but for that which I want” (WL 388). Come round to the view of Rand’s Kira, Andrei says “no one can tell men what they must live for. No one can take that right . . .” (WL 391). In a draft for Anthem
1938, Rand includes, in the protagonist’s paean to his new world of freedom to look on and touch the woman he loves, these lines: “We know we had no right to this. But our heart laughed at all rights” (quoted in Milgram 2005, 15). This utterance was under shadow of the rights and right and wrong he had known so far, but such a statement could be construed as endorsing the immoralist school if the setting were ignored. Rand lined it out in the draft.
Nietzsche had written: “The Ultimate Noblemindedness
– So what makes a person noble? . . . The passion that overcomes the noble one is a singularity, . . . the use of a rare and singular standard and almost a madness; the feeling of heat in things that feel cold to everyone else; a hitting upon values for which the scale has not yet been invented; a sacrifice on altars for an unknown god . . .” (GS 55). I mentioned in Claiming Nobility
that Kira is one who feels heat in things that everyone else feels cold. Rand’s protagonist of Anthem
in 1938 says: “This moment is a sacrament which calls us and dedicates our body to the service of some unknown duty we shall know. Old laws are dead. Old tablets have been broken [by me]. A clear, unwritten slate is now lying before our hands [my hands]. Our fingers are to write” (quoted in Mayhew 2005a, 38). The talk of breaking old tablets is an echo of Nietzsche’s “On Old and New Tablets” (Z III). However, the moral principles Equality 7-2521 would replace are the only ones he had known in his society, not the only ones ever known. He is not on the brink of writing principles entirely different from ones known in the ancient times, the times of the reader. His task of moral philosophy is not the task of the God of Moses nor the task of radical and continual transvaluation and self-overcoming that Zarathustra gives to human creators.
“Over and beyond yourselves you must someday love! Thus learn
first to love! And therefore you must drink the bitter cup of your love. / There is bitterness in the cup of even the best love: thus it causes longing for the overman, thus it causes your thirst, you creator! / Thirst for the creator, arrow and longing for the overman: speak, my brother, is this your will to marriage? / Holy I pronounce such a will and such a marriage. – / Thus spoke Zarathustra” (Z I “On Child and Marriage”)
Kira speaks of wanting, not willing. Nietzsche had moved from “feeling
of power” to “will
to power” as secret of life and value by the time of Zarathustra
, below). Kira does not speak of will to power. She does not speak of will. Rand’s 1938 protagonist in Anthem
speaks of will. Rand gives him these lines: “And so I guard my will before I guard my life. Let no man covet my will and the freedom of my will” (quoted in Mayhew 2005a, 39).
(“Rand 1929–38” to be continued
Emerson, R. W. 1837 & 1841. The American Scholar & Self-Reliance. In Emerson – Essays and Lectures.
Library of America.
Epicurus 341–271 B.C. Principal Doctrines & Vatican Sayings. In The Essential Epicurus.
E. O’Connor, trans. Prometheus.
Graham, L. R. 1993. Science in Russia and the Soviet Union.
Mayhew, R. 2004a. We the Living
: ’36 and ’59. In Mayhew 2004b.
——., editor. 2004b. Essays on Ayn Rand’s
We the Living. Lexington.
——. 2005a. Anthem
’38 & ’46. In Mayhew 2005b.
——., editor. 2005b. Essays on Ayn Rand’s Anthem
Milgram, S. 2004. From Airtight
to We the Living
: The Drafts of Ayn Rand’s First Novel. In Mayhew 2004b.
——. 2005. Anthem
in Manuscript: Finding the Words. In Mayhew 2005b.
Josephson, P. R. 1991. Physics and Politics in Revolutionary Russia
Nietzsche, F. 1873. The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings
. R. Geuss and R. Speirs, trans. 1999. Cambridge.
——. 1878–80. Human, All Too Human
. (Includes “Assorted Opinions and Maxims” and “The Wanderer and His Shadow.”) R.J. Hollingdale, trans. 1986. Cambridge.
——. 1881. Daybreak
. Hollingdale, trans. 1997. Cambridge.
——. 1882 & 1887. The Gay Science
I–IV & V. J. Nauckhoff, trans. 2001. Cambridge.
——. 1883–85. Thus Spoke Zarathustra
. A. Del Caro, trans. 2006. Cambridge.
——. 1886. Beyond Good and Evil
. J. Norman, trans. 2002. Cambridge.
——. 1888. The Anti-Christ
. J. Norman, trans. 2005. Cambridge.
Rand, A. 1959 (1936). We the Living
——. 1946 (1938). Anthem
. In The Freeman 3(1).
– From “Feeling of Power” to “Will to Power”
In 1878 Nietzsche wrote: “That in which men and women of the nobility excel others and which gives them an undoubted right to be rated higher consists in two arts ever more enhanced by inheritance: the art of commanding and the art of proud obedience” (HH I 440). These arts together, Nietzsche finds noble.
He writes in 1881 that where happiness is, there is “the feeling of power
: this wants to express itself,
either to us ourselves, or to other men, or to ideas or imaginary beings. The most common modes of expression are: to bestow, to mock, to destroy—all three out of a common basic drive” (D 356; see also 146).
The drive for the feeling of power, like all drives, has no moral valence. In itself it is neither good nor evil. It acquires moral rating “only when it enters into relations with drives already baptized as good or evil or is noted as a quality of beings the people has already evaluated and determined in a moral sense” (D 38).
When it comes to morally permitting oneself a new desire, for a newly discovered pleasure, Nietzsche’s criteria are liberal. If what is opposed to the desire are merely practical obstacles or merely “people for whom we feel little respect—then the goal of the new desire dresses itself [and admirably so] in the sensation ‘noble, good, praiseworthy, worthy of sacrifice’, the entire moral disposition we have inherited thenceforth takes it into itself, adds it to the goals it already possesses which it feels to be moral” (D 110).
In The Gay Science
(first four books – 1882), Nietzsche continued to craft an ideal of character called nobility,
disdaining and mocking much of what is called moral character
. Virtues are drives (GS 21). All our conscious understanding that seems sovereign over our competing drives is in truth only “the ultimate reconciliation scenes and final accounts” of unconscious warring, of unconscious dominations and submissions, among various drives (GS 333).
Once you had passions and named them evil. But now you have only your virtues; they grew out of your passions.
. . .
It is distinguishing to have many virtues, but it is a hard lot. And many went into the desert and killed themselves because they were weary of being the battle and battlefield of virtues. . . .
. . .
Look, how each of your virtues is greediest for the highest. It wants your entire spirit to be its herald . . . . (Z I “On the Passions of Pleasure and Pain”)
Upward flies our sense; thus it is a parable of our body, a parable of elevation. Such elevation parables are the names of the virtues.
Thus the body goes through history, becoming and fighting. And the spirit—what is it to the body? The herald of its fights and victories, companion and echo. (Z I “On the Bestowing Virtue”)1
Nietzsche had emphasized a feeling of power
in human beings, a feeling that “has evolved to such a degree of subtlety that in this respect man is now a match for the most delicate gold-balance. It has become his strongest propensity; the means for creating this feeling almost constitutes the history of culture” (23). The feeling of power and its lack is the cipher of religions (65), of praising or blaming after wars won or lost (140), of the pleasantness of being a banker (205), of ecstatic self-sacrifice (215). The feeling of power is a factor beyond utility and vanity in national decisions for war (189, 360). The feeling of power is an inducement to look to distant goals beyond direct consequences to others or to oneself (146). The feeling of power is the first effect of happiness (356, 146).
Will to power is announced in Zarathustra,
one year after Gay Science
(I–IV). The role of feeling of power
is taken over by will to power
. “A tablet of the good hangs over every people. Observe, it is the tablet of their overcomings; observe, it is the voice of the will to power” (Z I “On a Thousand and One Goals”). Why the shift from feeling to will? One cluster of reasons might be as follows: Nietzsche may have been trying to increase the coherence and the depth of his basis for egoism and for rejection of altruism. To have a heavyweight theory of ethics in contention with Schopenhauer2
1859 ; Basis
1871), and Spencer4
1879), Nietzsche needed to get down to biology, the biology beneath psychology and back of human evolution.
Nietzsche had written that our experience of pleasure or pain and our feeling of will are results of an interpreting intellect, with most of this interpretation occurring subconsciously (GS 127; see also HH II, AOM 5). Beneath consciousness are drives competing against one another for dominance (GS 333). Would feeling
for power be a plausible characterization of blind unconscious
drives? Nietzsche had contended, contradicting Schopenhauer, that only intellectual animals can experience pleasure or pain (GS 127). What then of the blind animal vitalities composing our bodies and their resulting blind drives? Shall they be animated by a feeling
of power? (Cf. Williams 2001, 15–16; Soll 1998, 101–2.)
I mentioned in Part 1 that Nietzsche had read favorably, in 1867, Julius Bahnsen’s Contribution to Characterology: With Special Regard to Educational Questions
. In this work Bahnsen “followed Schopenhauer closely but at the same time developed his philosophy in a more individual direction by emphasizing that true reality is not one general will as Schopenhauer claimed but instead was many contradicting wills that constitute human beings whose inner life therefore is always in turmoil” (Brobjer 2008, 48).
Nietzsche had read, in 1876 and 1883, a renovation of Schopenhauer’s system that made it less metaphysical. That was Philipp Mainländer’s Philosophy of Redemption
in which the author claimed that throughout nature “instead of one metaphysical will, there are many individual (and immanent) wills that continually struggle with one another” (Brobjer 2008, 69). That is an opening for an individualistic theoretical employment of will in nature, in nature more widely than in intellectual animals such as man.
In 1881 and 1883, Nietzsche studied Wilhelm Roux’s The Struggle of the Parts in the Organism
(1881), in which it is proposed that “organs, tissues, cells, and even molecules of organic matter are found in an unceasing struggle for existence with one another for food, space, and in the utilization of external stimulation” (Moore 2002, 37). Life is here characterized by continual excessive growth of parts and by self-regulation which checks, orders, and selects excesses for the functional requirements of the whole. Nietzsche transmutes self-regulation into mastery over subservient parts in the organism (ibid. 43–44, 81; Gayon 1999, 169–70). (See Brobjer 2008, 85–87, for other possible sources or triggers for Nietzsche’s fastening upon the will-to-power idea in 1880–83.)
From their will to power, the wisest men make valuations, then seat them “solemn and cloaked” on a skiff which is launched upon the river that is the people. Now, wisest ones, “the river carries your skiff along . . . .
The river is not your danger and the end of your good and evil, you wisest ones; but this will itself, the will to power—the unexhausted begetting will of life.
But in order that you might understand my words on good and evil, I also want to tell you my words on life and the nature of all that lives.
I pursued the living, I walked the greatest and smallest paths in order to know its nature.
With a hundredfold mirror I captured even its glance, when its mouth was closed, so that its eyes could speak to me. And its eyes spoke to me.
. . .
Wherever I found the living, there I found the will to power; and even in the will of the serving I found the will to be master.
. . .
And this secret life itself spoke to me: “Behold,” it said, "I am that which must always overcome itself.
To be sure, you will call it will to beget or drive to a purpose, to something higher, more distant, more manifold: but all this is one, the one secret.
. . .
[Schopenhauer] who shot at truth with the words ‘will to existence’ did not hit it . . . .
. . .
Only where life is, is there also will; but not will to life, instead—thus I teach you—will to power!
Much is esteemed more highly by life than life itself; yet out of esteeming itself speaks—the will to power!”—
Thus life once taught me, and from this I shall yet solve the riddle of your heart, you wisest ones.
Truly, I say to you: good and evil that would be everlasting—there is no such thing! They must overcome themselves out of themselves again and again. (Z II “On Self-Overcoming”)6
For Nietzsche valuing is an expression of organic will to power. Organisms operate by the principle of will to power. Correct valuing for human beings is continual experimental overcoming of present expressions of will to power (held up and cloaked as correct, temporarily accepted as morally right), superseding them with new expressions of will to power. Virtue is an ascent of this sort of self-overcoming. For Nietzsche life is the pursuit that is will to power. By the time of Zarathustra,
human life is a definite version of that pursuit. Nonetheless, as always, Nietzsche will not have it that the character of human life is sufficiently fixed to specify values and virtues valid for all men across all the days of the species (GS 335, 120; D 560).
A few years earlier (1879) Nietzsche had criticized Schopenhauer for taking will
to designate a simple, single human state and for imputing will, in a blind form, to nature more generally (HH II, AOM 5). Nietzsche is now ready to make such a wider imputation of will, at least to all of organic
nature, provided we see this will not as will to life, but as will to power. Also unlike Schopenhauer, we are to take each organism to have its own isolated will; it is not the case that apparently individual wills are only phenomenal images of a single noumenal will in nature.
Section 61 of the fourth book of Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Presentation
(I) is titled “The Egoism Inherent in Every Being.” Each person naturally
wants everything for himself, wants to possess everything, at least to hold sway over it, and would annihilate whatever opposes him. . . . The whole of nature beyond him, thus also all other individuals, exist only in presentation to him, he is always conscious of them only as presentation to him, thus merely indirectly and as something dependent on his own essence and existence; for with the loss of his consciousness the world is necessarily lost for him as well . . . . Every cognizant individual is thus in truth, and finds himself to be, the entire will for life, or the very in-itself of the world . . . . Every individual . . . has regard for his own existence and well-being before any other, indeed, in the natural standpoint, is ready to sacrifice all else to it, is ready to annihilate the world, just to maintain its own self . . . . This disposition is the egoism that is essential to everything in nature. (391–92)
The one world-will which is in oneself wholly and completely is also in countless other individuals in the same manner. Conflict abounds. Egoism so conceived has brought about the great tyrants and evildoers, and it brings about always the war of all against all “as soon as any mass of people is released from all law and order” (393).
In Schopenhauer’s view, the will for life is affirmed in the primary, simple way when one’s own body maintains itself. The sex drive, too, is an affirmation of one’s will for life, although, the consequent propagation is not.
The will of one person “encroaches upon the boundary of another’s affirmation of will in that the individual either destroys or injures the very body of the other or compels the forces belonging to the other’s body to serve its will instead of the will making its appearance in the other’s body” (394). These conflicts are known by the word wrong and they are felt as wrongdoing
(394–95). Examples: cannibalism, murder, “intentional mutilation, or mere injury to another’s body, indeed any blow, . . . subjugation of other individuals, in forcing them into slavery, and in attack upon the property of others, which, so far as the latter is regarded as the fruit of their labor, is in essentials the same in kind as the former wrong [slavery] and relates to it in the way mere injury relates to murder” (395–96).
Nietzsche, his new and distinctive concept of life now set, has Zarathustra muse, among some old broken tablets, formerly held holy:
“Thou shalt not rob! Thou shalt not kill!” . . .
But I ask you: where in the world have there ever been better robbers and killers than such holy words?
Is there not in all life itself—robbing and killing? And for such words to have been called holy, was truth itself not—killed?
Or was it a sermon of death that pronounced holy what contradicted and contravened all life? —Yes my brothers, break, break for me the old tablets! (Z III “On Old and New Tablets”)
Nietzsche completed the final part of Zarathustra
(Part IV) in early 1885. He had lately been studying Biological Problems
(1884) by the Anglo-German zoologist William Henry Rolph, here writing on evolution and associated ethics. When nutritional resources are abundant,
the life-struggle is no longer waged for existence, it is no struggle for self-preservation, . . . rather, a struggle for an increase in one’s acquisitions. . . . It is constant, it is eternal; it can never be extinguished, for there can be no adaptation to insatiability. . . . Furthermore, the life-struggle is then no defensive struggle, but rather a war of aggression. . . . But growth and reproduction and perfection are the consequences of that successful war of aggression. . . .While the Darwinists hold that no struggle for existence takes place where the survival of the creature is not threatened, I believe the life-struggle to be ubiquitous; it is first and foremost precisely such a life-struggle, a struggle for the increase of life, but not a struggle for life! (97; quoted in Moore 2002, 53)
For Rolph’s principle of insatiability Nietzsche substitutes his own principle, will to power. “The wish to preserve oneself is a sign of distress, of limitation of the truly basic life-instinct, which aims at the expansion of power
and in so doing often enough risks and sacrifices self-preservation. . . . / . . . . The struggle for survival is only an exception, a temporary restriction of the will to life; the great and small struggle revolves everywhere around preponderance, around growth and expansion, around power and in accordance with the will to power, which is simply the will to life.” (GS V 349; also BGE 13, 259)
I mentioned in Parallels and Influence
that Nietzsche read Guyau’s A Sketch of Morality without Obligation or Sanction
in 1885, the year it was published. There were remarkable affinities between their ideas. In common background, they had knowledge of certain authors and currents in contemporary psychology, biology, and philosophy. In this 1885 work, Guyau was setting aside morality from religious faith, from Kantian duty, and from utilitarianism. He was investigating how far morality could be determined from a purely scientific view of the nature of life. There were differences between the two thinkers. Guyau had some training in and love for science; he prized modern, capitalistic life; and although his was a thoroughly individualistic vision, it was not an egoistic vision. Guyau’s life-philosophy exerted some influence on Nietzsche’s (unacknowledged) and a considerable influence on Bergson’s (acknowledged).
Concerning morality based on faith, Guyau writes that “the believer wants to believe without knowing.” Faith is a
renunciation of all personal initiative . . . . This kind of intellectual suicide is inexcusable, and that which is still more strange is the pretension to justify it, as is constantly done, by invoking moral reasons. Morality should command the mind to search without resting—that is to say, precisely to guard itself against faith. . . . In the domain of thought there is nothing more moral than truth; and when truth cannot be secured through positive knowledge, nothing is more moral than doubt. . . . We must therefore drive out of ourselves the blind respect for certain principles, for certain beliefs. We must be able to question, scrutinize, penetrate everything. (S 62–63; cf. BGE 46, 186; GS V 344, 347)
Concerning Kant’s precept
“Act in such a way that your maxim may become a universal law,” no sentiment of obligation whatever will attach itself, so long as there is no question of social life and the deep inclinations awakened by it. . . . / . . . . Will it be said that the universal law itself contains at bottom will—pure will? The reduction of duty to the will of law, which itself would still be a purely formal will, far from building up morality, seems to us to produce a dissolvent effect on the will itself. The will to do a certain deed cannot be based on any law which is not founded on the practical and logical value of the deed itself. (S 50)
There must be a specific valued object for pursuit to be morally praiseworthy. Without a specific object valued for its actual or potential uses, “we should no longer have courage to will and to merit;
we do not use our will for the mere sake of willing” (S 32).
Guyau proceeds to lay out his positive moral theory with a preamble: “Scientific morality, in order not to include from its very beginning an inverifiable postulate, must be first individualistic.
It should preoccupy itself with the destiny of society only in so far as it more or less includes that of the individual” (S 71–72).
To aim at a target is not to hit it, but the distribution of hits about it can show the center. “Where is the centre of the universal effort of beings towards which the strokes of the great hazard of things have been directed?” (S 73). Hedonists would say the aim is to minimize pain and maximize pleasure. That is certainly a typical direction of our desire, but it can be applied only
to the conscious and more or less voluntary acts . . . . Even those acts achieved in full consciousness have generally their beginning and first origin in dumb instincts and reflex movements. . . . The natural spring of action, before appearing in consciousness, must have already acted from underneath in the obscure region of the instincts. The constant end of action must primarily have been a constant cause of more or less unconscious movements. In reality, the ends are but habitual motive causes become conscious of themselves. . . . Every conscious desire, therefore, has first been an instinct [in the broad sense]. The sphere of finality coincides, at least in its centre, with the sphere of causality . . . . The problem: What is the end, the constant target, of action? becomes therefore, from another point of view, this problem: What is the constant cause of action? In the circle of life, the point aimed at blends with the very point from which the action springs. (S 74)
An exclusively scientific morality must, to be complete, admit that the pursuit of pleasure is only itself the consequence of the instinctive effort to maintain and enlarge life. The aim which, in fact, determines every conscious action is also the cause which produces every unconscious action. It is, then, life itself—life most intense and, at the same time, its most varied forms. From the first bound of the embryo in the womb of its mother, to the last convulsion of old age, every movement of the creature has, as cause, life in its evolution. The universal cause of our acts is, from another point of view, its constant effect and end. (S 75)
So far as the discipline of ethics can be a science, its task will be to articulate “the means of preserving and enlarging material and intellectual life,” and its laws “will be identical with the deepest laws of life itself” (S 75–76; further, 80–81). There is in us a cause which “operates as an aim, even before any attraction of pleasure; this cause is life,
tending by its nature to grow and to diffuse itself, thus finding pleasure as consequence, but not necessarily taking it as an end in itself” (210–11). Life in its “aspiration towards incessant development . . . makes its own obligation to act by its very power of action” (211). Life makes also “its sanction by its very action; for, in acting, it takes joy in its own capacity” (213).
For Nietzsche we know that there is a deepest law of life, and that is will to power. Growth he sees as expansion of power (BGE 230, 259; GS V 349).
For Guyau the deepest laws of life are that it is nutritive and self-preservative and that it is fecundity (S 70, 75, 79, 209–10). Beyond nutrition and appropriation necessary for self-maintenance, there may accumulate superabundance capable of the expansion of life that is reproduction. This is a good for humans, as it is for all other life forms. Generation is an elevated intensity of life. Without sexual reproduction, the good that is man, with family and society, would not exist (82–83). “Individual life is expansive for others because it is fruitful, and it is fruitful
by the very reason that it is life” (209–10).
Guyau does not think that scientific morality can disparage the tendency of modern higher classes to have fewer children (S 114), and he realizes that having children is in tension with creating intellectual works (83), but he thinks there is a “need of each individual to beget another individual; so much so that this other becomes a necessary condition of our being. Life, like fire, only maintains itself by communicating itself” (210). We find the same force of expansion with intelligence: “It exists in order to radiate” (210). Likewise with sensibility: We need to share our joys and sorrows. “It is our whole nature which is sociable
. . . . [Life] cannot be entirely selfish,
even if it wished to be. . . . Life is not only nutrition;
it is production and fecundity
” (210). “The purely selfish happiness of certain epicureans is an idle fancy, an abstraction, an impossibility. . . . Pure selfishness, . . . instead of being a real affirmation of self, is a mutilation of self
In this period (1885–86), Nietzsche made a few doodles in his notebooks concerning procreation and how it might be portrayed in terms of will to power, but these were not ideas sufficiently developed and secure for him commit to publication. Some of these jottings are included in the posthumous collection of his notes called The Will to Power
. Nietzsche remarks in Beyond Good and Evil
§36 that procreation and nutrition are “a single problem.” He seems to be following Ernst Haeckel or following Guyau following Haeckel: “‘Reproduction’, says Haeckel, ‘is an excess of nutrition and growth in consequence of which a part of the individual is created [as becoming another individual] independent in everything’” (S 82). Nietzsche’s single solution (explanation) for this “single” problem (phenomenon) is his ubiquitous efficacious force, the will to power.
Guyau included biological fecundity in his basic characterization of all life. For human life, this encompassed not only procreation, but intellectual fecundity and practical productivity (S 76, 183–84, 214).
In his career, Nietzsche moved from “feeling of power” as the driver of human psychology and behavior to “will to power” as driver of not only those realms, but of the biology beneath them. I think Nietzsche’s attempt to characterize all living activities as occasions of a will to power, a commanding-and-obeying, is false and highly contrived (BGE 13, 19, 22, 23, 36, 44, 226, 230, 259; GS V 349).Notes
1. Lester Hunt (1991) has perceptively, gracefully, and critically treated Nietzsche’s idea of enmity of the virtues (pp. 81–89).
2. Cartwright 1998, 134–40; Higgins 1998, 158–68.
3. Gayon 1999, 158–73; Moore 2002, 21–34, 57–58; Small 2005, 181–94.
4. Moore 2002, 62–72; Small 2005, 163–80
5. In this title, I have translated Erlösung
because that is how the term is rendered by translators of Schopenhauer. However, it would also be reasonable to translate Erlösung
. Schopenhauer and Mainländer were atheists and thought that death is the end of the individual. They thought of death as deliverance from the suffering pervasive in life.
6. There are helpful comments on this passage from Robert Pippin in the Introduction, pp. xxv–ix, of Z.References
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(“Rand 1929–38” to be continued.
Edited by Stephen Boydstun, 17 March 2010 - 06:08 AM.