Right now I’m in an ethics class, and we’re studying Nietzsche. For those of you who don’t know whom Nietzsche he was a famous German philosopher that has had enormous impact on the philosophy of today and indeed how philosophers and other people alike face philosophical questions. Central to the idea of his philosophy is the very concept of creating a revitalized life, focusing away from self-detrimental doctrines and doctrines that see beyond the world as it is in favor of a spiritual world. He talked of a philosophy based in the pursuit of your highest state of perfection (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). If you read my article called the God Principle you’ll notice I’ve borrowed a lot from Nietzsche and been influenced by his works greatly.
However what we are talking bout at the moment is that in Nietzsche’s book “Beyond Good and Evil” he discusses something that he calls the will to power. It was something that my professor said that makes me focus on this so much, as my father himself is very Nietzschean in his perspectives I am quite familiar with the concept of the will to power, something the professor said intrigued me beyond the norm. What he said was that in his mind what Nietzsche was getting at is that “The project of human experience is to maximize power.”(Jesse Womack, Ethics Professor)
This struck me as a remarkably powerful statement that well…not only included Nietzche’s own will to power but also something deeper, and something slightly different. At least that’s what the concept started to mean to me at least. First before we talk about how the statement “the project of human experience is to maximize power.” We should in turn discuss the very concept that is the will to power itself. In the philosophy of Nietzsche it is stated that all humans are attempting to inflict their will, their desires upon the world and upon others, that all actions stem from a deep-down desire to bring that person under the influence of one’s own power. Whether you agree with his inherent philosophy or not you must admit that it’s an intriguing idea.
Now we get to see the slight extension upon this that my professor accidentally inspired me to jump to. At least I believe it was accidental. As I began to ruminate on it the concept of the “project of human experience is to maximize power” came to mean more and more to me, I sought to expand the concept to applying more than simply a description of the will to power because indeed I think it actually does.
The Project of Human Experience is to maximize power. Think of what this can mean, now think of how it does not apply. I am currently sitting in a Starbucks, everything in the room is designed to influence me. The internet connection here, inspires me to stay so I may write while staying away from home. If I have to stop somewhere to work, stop here. The soft lighting lets me stay here comfortably and in addition to that the establishment can provide for my basic needs to eat and drink. All designed so I’ll return here, establishing the store as a place of comfort for myself, so I will return here and when I am here spend time here. The more time I am in Starbucks, the greater number of products I will purchase. The greater number of products I purchase, the more money I spend and the more money they make. The entire establishment is built around enforcing the will of the employees upon me…they want me to spend money. They want me to feel good so I’ll spend more.
This isn’t the only example I can think of, not by a long shot. By far most examples now have a monetary undertone but that is not always so. Athletes compete in a game to express dominance over the opposing team, for some of them that is the entirety of it, yes many enjoy the benefits of victory but further than that the essence of their confrontation is that they desire to win; to take their gift and use it as an expression of their power, to inflict it upon others.
Now Nietzsche doesn’t necessarily cover this in his book Beyond Good and Evil something that does matter, and that is quite important here is that his concept applies to the free thinking individual and all others. He discourages herd mentality stating that it is the weak willed attempt at power, power through numbers…it isn’t dangerous and isn’t true living, isn’t a full realization of the potential in a human being. However as I find the world advancing around me I find the idea of the project seems to hold more influence and import.
It is not just the will of the individual to obtain and accumulate power it is also integral to the very idea of human experience. The will to power gives empowerment to the individual, to the free thinking and the strong of will. The Project of Human Experience indicates something apart from that, yes it also incorporates the idea that the individual will always pursue power but it also seems to point to the fact that human society itself produces power. The greater the opportunities in the society the more opportunities for power and the manipulation of it exist. So in this essence it seems to incorporate a larger idea of the role of the herd in the individual’s development. If it is the goal of the individual to accumulate power, then it must be associated to some degree with that which produces power, human society and the experience of being human in a herd environment.
I’m not proposing that the free thinking individual succumb to the herd, quite on the contrary in fact. What I suggest is that the free thinking person in fact becomes something of a predator, humanity itself produces power and those with the strongest will seize that power and use it to their own ends, to realize their own individual pursuits of self and of power. In this way I think that that concept of the project of human experience is both complimentary to, and can be incorporated along with Nietzsche’s own will to power, even if it does not exactly fit along his exact theories(Nietzsche’s expressions of power most prevalently existed within the self, not externally however that is also the case in this example, as the greater the influence of humanity the greater the opportunities for power the greater the chances and opportunities for control of the self will be necessary, or at least probable. ).
Lecture on the Nietzschean “Will to Power”
by Professor Jesse Womack
Philosophy 310: Introduction to Ethics
The Philosophy of Nietzsche: Beyond Good and Evil
By Freidreich Nietzsche
Translated by Willard Huntington Wright
Published by the Modern Library Inc. (Published in turn by Random House Inc. )
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Society and the Individual in Nietzsche’s The Will to Power
by Travis J. Denneson
The Secular Web Library