Nietzsche’s Will to Power: Overview

In the coming weeks The Autarkist will feature a series of essays evaluating aspects of the collections of notes taken by Nietzsche as his philosophy matured over the years, which were later compiled by his sister and published posthumously. Throughout the blog series I will cite from the compilation of notes Nietzsche took which were collected after his death into Will to Power. Because it is a compilation of sometimes unedited thoughts, and because Nietzsche’s thought evolved through the years, there is no over-arching theme in this literary project. It is mainly used to help students of his philosophy to understand the progression from one set of opinions to another, and to help illuminate how Nietzsche thought, how his political and philosophical ideas evolved, and some of the ruminations that helped to form his worldview.

One of my main impressions that one gets from reading the work was that N seemed obsessed with social status. Perhaps this is more a feature of European society than of American society, but I suspect there is also a historical reason for this. N lived shortly after Darwinian evolution via natural selection had been expounded publicly and had begun to generate huge controversy, discrediting the Christian mythical origin story and being frequently misinterpreted by people with a feeble grasp on biology. Nietzsche was no biologist. Evolution via natural selection does not favor “the superior”, or necessarily the most intelligent. It favors the best adapted members of a species, who are then better able and more likely to survive, and to pass on their genes.

For instance, a naked mole rat may live underground and be blind. Its ancestors may have enjoyed greater ability of sight and other (seemingly) desirable or “superior” traits, but a burrowing creature does not need those traits. Blindness makes sense in a world where all is dark and where an encounter with light might be more a source of discomfort and confusion than anything else. In this sense, the mole is “superior” in its adaptability and its ability to live in its environment, and any other use of the word “superior” can be confusing.

While the conception of an Overman, and the encouragement to think of our human identity not as set in stone, but in terms of evolving from ape to post-human, can be useful tools that can inspire and inform our long-term existential projects, Nietzsche sometimes seems to confuse adaptability with (not clearly defined) superiority, and even aristocracy. Furthermore, there are many contradictions and much incoherence in what he writes, in part because nature and humans are complex and full of contradictions, and in part because he seems comfortable writing in obscure language. Needless to say, he has been shockingly misunderstood and misinterpreted time and again by many.

As the notes in Will to Power are organized numerically, in the upcoming blog series the cites will look like “WtP 15”, etc.

About hiramcrespo

Hiram Crespo is the author of 'Tending the Epicurean Garden' (Humanist Press, 2014) and 'How to Live a Good Life' (Penguin Random House, 2020), and founder of He's also written for The Humanist, Eidolon, Occupy, The New Humanism, The Secular Web, Europa Laica, AteístasPR, and many other outlets.
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11 Responses to Nietzsche’s Will to Power: Overview

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