Nietzsche’s Will to Power

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, January 17, 2018 0 comments

by David Odegard

Nietzsche is famous for saying, “God is dead.” What he meant by that was that society no longer considered God to be there and hence they were on their own. Nietzsche did not believe in God, but he recognized that without a Good God to order the universe, two things would happen.

First, no one could ultimately say what was true. Truth as a universal, rational principle to organize all of life around was an impossibility. Nietzsche was one of the first to admit this. Truth was impossible. One could only hope to find something true for oneself. This became your own narrative of meaning. So instead of Truth with a capital T, there is only truth—truth to your individual story. However, there is no larger story “out there” by which to judge your individual story or your individual truth. Truth is entirely relative. One can only hope to live “authentically” to your particular community’s standard. So if you belong to a community of cannibals, well—live authentically.

Nietzsche was not the first one to believe this. The ancient Sophists, the pre-Socratic travelling philosophers, also believed that all truth was relative. For the most part they didn’t believe in universal truth, so they had only rhetoric or persuasion. What was true or just was up to the people who could persuade others—persuasion to your truth rather than using reason to discover universal truth, see the difference? This closely resembles Nietzsche’s position.

Socrates and Plato hammered the Sophists for this. They believed that truth could be known by using reason; they could come up with a system of belief that was anchored in universal truth and would bring forth the Good Life. Neither Socrates, Plato, nor Aristotle did achieve this universal system, but they believed that by concentrated efforts of reason and working through the data, universal truth would eventually be arrived at.

Christianity obviously holds this position as well. We claim that universal truth is found in the Bible and especially in the person and work of Jesus Christ. One can achieve a universal system of knowledge that will give ultimate meaning to our existence. Christian knowledge is utterly reasonable. One must believe that the prophets are speaking truthfully and that Jesus is speaking truthfully. If one accepts them as truthful, it is entirely reasonable to conclude that Christianity is a universal truth around which all of society can be upheld. It worked for about 1500 years in Europe and then America.

The Nietzschean philosophy, on the contrary, is doomed from the outset. Francis Schaeffer said that it plunges below the “line of despair.” The despair comes from giving up on the idea that universal truth can be known.

A second implication Nietzsche foresaw in a world that rejects God is that without a Good God governing the universe, without a universal moral objective, right and wrong are in the eye of the beholder. Morality is created from thin air by convention. There is no universal agreement of right and wrong.

You might immediately think that is great, now you can binge watch Netflix and live off of the government without a pang to your conscience. But sorry, it means that anyone’s sense of right and wrong can be put in place. Well, anyone with enough power to enforce it. That is what Nietzsche meant by “will to power.” Might makes right. That is all that is left in a world where there is no objective standard of good and no universal judge to hold people accountable at some point.

Morality is decided by those with power. And in most cases since there is no God or gods to govern, morality is decided by the government. Furthermore, there is no objective standard for them to be judged. If the government decides, like the 1930-45 German government did, that Jews ought to be dehumanized and ultimately destroyed, they just did it. No one operating by modern morality can say that they were wrong by objective moral standards, because there are none. Modern thinkers below the line of despair can only say that they don’t like it. But morality is decided by those with power and in the 1940’s in Germany that was the Nazi, the National Socialist Party.

The Nazi connection is an important one, because they used Nietzsche’s idea of “will to power” and it became the operational philosophy of the Third Reich. Also, the justification for ethnic cleansing was also adopted from Nietzsche’s Übermensch, or Superman. This superman would operate for his own best good, pushing forward his own set of ideals without regard to traditional moral norms. He would decide for himself what was right and wrong.

Hitler blamed the Jews for putting Germany in moral bondage to their sense of right and wrong. He felt it was time to cleanse their conscience of Jewish morality. He adopted the final solution. You can say that he was wrong, as genuine Christianity certainly does, but without God there is no ultimate moral law, so you must make your appeal to a higher-than-human moral law. There is no universal standard of right and wrong by which to judge the Nazis outside of God’s authority. There is only power to enforce your own viewpoint. There is no Truth, only rhetoric. That is what Nietzsche understood.

The heartrending reality is today in Europe and America, we are in the same spot. Think about that next time a Christian is forced to bake a cake for someone, anyone, whom they don’t want to. It is a naked grasp for moral power through force.

IT IS WRONG because God says so.

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