The Journal of Nietzsche Studies 31 (2006) 66-68
Linda Williams provides a valuable aid to the reader who wishes to explore the concept of "will to power" in Nietzsche. She hopes to "write the kind of book that I would have wanted to read when I first was taken with Nietzsche's famous phrase." Her book also takes a position in the continuing debates over this concept, and over some others as well. Williams traces the development of "will to power" to Nietzsche's early discussions both of "will" and of various manifestations of power. For Schopenhauer, the ultimate nature of the world (Will) is chaotic, and Mind imposes order on it. Nietzsche agrees that the world is chaotic and that the mind imposes order. However, for Nietzsche, it is this imposing of order that really manifests will to power, not the underlying flux. In The Birth of Tragedy, the Dionysian corresponds to Schopenhauer's chaotic noumena and the Apollonian to the ordered phenomenal realm. In his middle period, Nietzsche increasingly refers to "power" (Macht) in a variety of contexts, although he mainly uses it to refer to government. By 1880, he is making references to "lust for power" as a psychological motivation. The second edition of The Gay Science and Thus Spoke Zarathustra see the first appearances of "Wille zur Macht." Williams thinks Nietzsche may have turned to this formulation partly because of his coming to question the effectiveness of psychological motivation.
Williams provisionally defines will to power as "striving for superiority." This applies especially to the appearance of will to power in humans, but it extends also to animals, and even to unconscious, nonhuman life. However, the theory that will to power is a metaphysical or cosmological principle assumes that it applies also to inorganic matter. Williams observes that, in the published writings, only Beyond Good and Evil §36 makes this extension explicit, for it claims that there is no matter, only will, and that the inorganic is only a preform of the organic. Yet, since this aphorism begins with the word "suppose," and seems to be offered only as an experiment, it is too problematic to determine whether Nietzsche extends will to power beyond the organic.
The Nachlass writings provide us with a distinctly different view of will to power. On the Nachlass view, things are actually quanta of fluctuating forces constantly struggling to maintain their natures (or not) amid surrounding forces. Williams rejects both the interpreters classically called "lumpers" and those "splitters" who favor the Nachlass over the published works. Yet, she argues, we need not entirely ignore the Nachlass. Bottom line: any interpretation of Nietzsche's "final position" requires "ample support" from his published materials.
Williams then reviews Nietzsche on truth. It is often said that Nietzsche's epistemological antifoundationalism engenders a self-referential problem, for his perspectivism could itself be only one interpretation, no better than any other. Nietzsche is aware of this, referring, for instance, to a group of statements about women in Beyond Good and Evil as "my truths." It matters less to Nietzsche whether he holds a correspondence or other theory of truth than that the truths are his. Nietzsche is a perspectivist, but he does not hold that all competing perspectives must be tolerated. Scientists mistakenly believe that they are not engaged in interpretation, and that there is such a thing as objective observation. By contrast, Nietzsche does not consider his "will to power" theory to be True (capital T). This is no problem for him since he does not consider it an objection to a judgment that it is not True.
Contra Kaufmann, Williams argues that, rather than thinking of the sentence "the world is will to power" as an empirical truth, we should think of it as getting us to say "Nietzsche believes the world is will to power. I wonder why he sees it this way?" The answer is: because he thinks doing so will engender healthier human beings and nourish greatness. In this, Nietzsche is basically a consequentialist (though not a utilitarian).
Williams thinks that, for Nietzsche...