Monday, December 31, 2018

Nietzsche's Notebooks: Part Two

Here are some select quotes from The Will to Power as translated by Walter Kaufmann.  As acknowledged in the previous post, cherry-picking is not the best way to approach Nietzsche, his arguments are often far more subtle.  But, these give a representation of what his notebooks are like.  Kaufmann chose to keep Elizabeth's original four-section organization of the work even though the notes were not originally written this way at all.  It does make it easier to reference and discuss the content of the notebooks.  For context, I have included the approximate dates when these notes were written. 

From Book One – European Nihilism

Essentially, this section reveals that Nietzsche saw nihilism as an inevitable symptom of our times, a necessary reaction to humanity's need to transition from its old culture and manner of understanding to a new "evaluation" of human experience.

Our pessimism: the world does not have the value we thought it had.  Our faith itself has so increased our desire for knowledge that today we have to say this.  Initial results: it seems worth less; that is how it is experienced initially.  It is only in this sense that we are pessimists; i.e., in our determination to admit this revaluation to ourselves without any reservation, and to stop telling ourselves tales – lies – the old way.

“That is precisely how we find the pathos that impels us to seek new values.  In sum: the world might be far more valuable than we used to believe; we must see through the naiveté of our ideals, and while we thought that we accorded it the highest interpretation, we may not even have given our human existence a moderately fair value.” (Aphorism 32, Summer-Fall 1888)

“Waste, decay, elimination, need not be condemned: they are necessary consequences of life, of the growth of life.  The phenomenon of decadence is as necessary as any increase and advance of life: one is in no position to abolish it.  Reason demands, on the contrary, that we do justice to it.” (40, March-June 1888) 

“The multitude and disintegration of impulses and the lack of any systematic order among them result in a ‘weak will’; their coordination under a single predominant impulse results in a ‘strong will’: in the first case it is the oscillation and the lack of gravity;  in the latter, the precision and clarity of direction.” (46, March-June 1888)

“Principle: There is an element of decay in everything that characterizes modern man: but close beside this sickness stand signs of an untested forces and powerfulness of the soul.  The same reasons that produce the increasing smallness of man drive the stronger and rarer individuals to greatness.” (109, 1885)

Overall insight. - Actually, every major growth is accompanied by a tremendous crumbling and passing away: suffering, the symptom of decline belong in the times of tremendous advances; every fruitful and powerful movement of humanity has also created at the same time a nihilistic movement.  It could be a sign of a crucial and most essential growth, of the transition to new conditions of existence, that the most extreme form of pessimism, genuine nihilism, would come into the world.  This I have comprehended.” (112, Spring-Fall 1887)

From Book Two – Critique of Highest Values

Nietzsche felt religion and traditional morality were irrelevant to modern human experience.  Of all the religions, Buddhism was preferable, though nevertheless misguided.  A "higher man" was possible only through a transformation of human values.

“Moralities and religions are the principal means by which one can make whatever one wishes out of man, provided that one possesses a superfluity of creative forces and can assert one’s will over long periods of time – in the form of legislation, religions, and customs.” (144, 1885)

Buddha against the 'Crucified.'  Among the nihilistic religions, one may always clearly distinguish the Christian from the Buddhist.  The Buddhist religion is the expression of a fine evening, a perfect sweetness and mildness – it is gratitude toward all that lies behind, and also to what is lacking: bitterness, disillusionment, rancor; finally, a lofty spiritual love; the subtleties of philosophical contradiction are behind it, even from these it is resting: but from these it still derives its spiritual glory and sunset glow. (- Origin in the highest castes -)” (155, Spring-Fall 1887)

“The higher man is distinguished from the lower by his fearlessness and his readiness to challenge misfortune: it is a sign of degeneration when eudaemonistic valuations begin to prevail (- psychological fatigue, feebleness of will -), Christianity, with its perspective of ‘blessedness,’ is a mode of thought typical of a suffering and feeble species of man.  Abundant strength wants to create, suffer, go under: the Christian salvation-for-bigots is bad music to it, and its hieratic posture an annoyance.” (222, Nov. 1887 – March 1888)

“Through the long succession of millennia, man has not known himself physiologically:  he does not know himself even today.  To know, e.g., that one has a nervous system (- but not ‘soul’ -) is still the privilege of the best informed.  But man is not content not to know in this case.  One must be very humane to say ‘I don’t know that,’ to afford ignorance.” (229, March-June 1888) 

Nietzsche's late philosophy believed that modernity fundamentally a psychological problem.  Human beings assign meaning to life, either as individuals or, more likely, as cultures.  Because humans are the source of all meaning, all meaning is relative and completely fragmented.

My purpose: to demonstrate the absolute homogeneity of all events and the application of moral distinctions as conditioned by perspective; to demonstrate how everything praised as moral is identical in essence with everything immoral and was made possible, as in every development of morality, with immoral means and for immoral ends - ; how, on the one hand, everything decried as immoral is, economically considered, higher and more essential, and how a development toward a greater fullness of life necessarily also demands the advance of immorality.  ‘Truth’ the extent to which we permit ourselves to understand this fact.” (272, Spring-Fall 1887) 

“The great crimes of psychology:

“1. That all displeasure, all misfortune had been falsified with the idea of wrong (guilt).  (Pain has been robbed of innocence);

‘2. That all strong feelings of pleasure (wild spirits, voluptuousness, triumph, pride, audacity, knowledge, self-assurance and happiness as such) have been branded as sinful, as a seduction, as suspicious;

“3. That feelings of weakness, inward acts of cowardice, lack of courage for oneself has been overlaid with sanctifying names and taught as being desirable in the highest degree;

“4. That everything great in man has been reinterpreted as selflessness, as self-sacrifice for the sake of something else, someone else, that even in the man of knowledge, even in the artist, depersonalization has been presented as the cause of the greatest knowledge and ability;

“5. That love has been falsified as surrender (and altruism), while it is an appropriation or a bestowal following from a superabundance of personality.  Only the most complete persons can love; the depersonalized, the ‘objective,’ are the worst lovers 9- one has only to ask the girls!)  This applies also to love of God or of ‘fatherland’; and one must be firmly rooted in oneself.  (Egoism as ego-morphism, altruism as alter-ation.

“6. Life as punishment (happiness as temptation); the passions as devilish, confidence in oneself as godless.
“This whole psychology is a psychology of prevention, a kind of immuring out of fear;  on one hand the great masses (the underprivileged and mediocre) seek to defend themselves by means of it against the stronger (- and to destroy them in their development -), on the other all the drives through which they best prosper, sanctified and alone held in honor.  Compare the Jewish priesthood.” (296, Spring - Fall 1887) 

“It seems to me important that one should get rid of the all, the unity, some force, something unconditioned; otherwise one will never cease regarding it as the highest court of appeal and baptizing it ‘God.’  One must shatter the all; unlearn respect for the all;  take what we have given to the unknown and the whole and give it back to what is nearest, what is ours.” (331, 1883-1888)

“”No egoism at all exists that remains within itself and does not encroach – consequently, that ‘allowable,’ ‘morally indifferent’ egoism of which you speak does not exist at all.  ‘One furthers one’s ego always at the expense of others;’ ‘Life always lives at the expense of other life’ – he who does not grasp this has not taken even the first step toward honesty with himself.” (369, 1885 - 1886)

From Book Three – Principles of a New Evaluation 

A new evaluation requires an entirely new way to think about things.  Physical biology, including human sexuality, should be honored above metaphysical hope and wishful thinking.  Even science itself is not a privileged system.  It is another form of human interpretation and should be subject to the same critique as religion.

“There exists neither ‘spirit,’ nor reason, nor thinking, nor consciousness, nor soul, now will, nor truth: all are fictions that are of no use.  There is no question of ‘subject and object,’ but of a particular species of animal that can prosper only through a certain relative rightness; above all, regularity of its perceptions (so that it can accumulate experience) –

“Knowledge works as a tool of power.  Hence it is plain that it increases with every increase in power –

“The meaning of ‘knowledge’: here, as in the case of ‘good’ or ‘beautiful,’ the concept is to be regarded in a strict and narrow anthropocentric and biological sense.  In order for a particular species to maintain itself and increase its power, its conception of reality must comprehend enough of the calculable and constant for it to base a scheme of behavior on it.  The utility of preservation – not some abstract-theoretical need not to be deceived – stands as the motive behind the development of the organs of knowledge – they develop in such a way that their observations suffice for our preservation.  In other words: the measure of the desire for knowledge depends upon the measure to which the will to power grows within a species: a species grasps a certain amount of reality in order to become master of it, in order to press it into service.” (480, March-June 1888)

“A world In a state of becoming could not, in the strict sense, be ‘comprehended’ or ‘known’; only to the extent that that the ‘comprehending’ and ‘knowing’ intellect encounters a coarse, already-created world, fabricated out of mere appearances but become firm to the extent that this kind of appearance has preserved life – only to this extent is there anything like ‘knowledge’; i.e., a measuring of earlier and later errors by one another.” (520, 1885)

“That which becomes conscious is involved in casual relations which are entirely withheld from us – the sequence of thoughts, feelings, ideas in consciousness does not signify that this sequence is a casual sequence; but apparently it is so, to the highest degree.  Upon this appearance we have founded our whole idea id spirit, reason, logic, etc. (- none of these exist: they are fictitious synthesis and unities), and projected these into things and behind things!

“Usually, one takes consciousness itself as the general sensorium and supreme court; nonetheless, it is only means of communication: it is evolved through social intercourse and with a view to the interests of social intercourse – ‘Intercourse’ here understood to include the influences of the outer world and the reactions they compel on our side; also our effect upon the outer world.  It is not the directing agent, but an organ of the directing agent.” (524, Nov. 1887 – March 1888)

“Essential: to start from the body and employ it as guide.  It is the much richer phenomenon, which allows of clearer observation.  Belief in the body is better established than belief in the spirit.  ‘No matter how strongly a thing may be believed, strength of belief is no criterion of truth.’  But what is truth?  Perhaps a kind of belief that has become a condition of life?  In that case, to be sure, strength could be a criterion; e.g., in regard to causality.” (532, 1885)

“The ascertaining of ‘truth’ and ‘untruth,’ the ascertaining of facts in general, is fundamentally different from creative positing, from forming, shaping, overcoming, willing, such as is of the essence of philosophy.  To introduce a meaning – this task still remains to be done, assuming there is no meaning yet.  Thus it is with sounds, but also with the fate of peoples: they are capable of the most different interpretations and direction toward different goals.  On a yet higher level is to posit a goal and mold facts according to it; that is, active interpretation and not merely conceptual interpretation.  Ultimately, man finds in things nothing but what he himself has imported into them – the finding is called science, the importing – art religion, love, pride.  Even if this should be a piece of childishness, one should carry on with both and be well disposed toward both – some should find; others - we others! – should import!” (605-606, Spring-Fall 1887, 1885-1886)

“…the value of the world lies in our interpretation…every elevation of man brings with it an overcoming of narrower interpretations; that every strengthening and increase of power opens up new perspectives and means believing in new horizons – this idea permeates my writings.” (616, 1885-1886)

“The will to power can manifest itself only against resistances; therefore it seeks that which resists it – this is the primeval tendency of the protoplasm when it extends pseudopodia and feels about.  Appropriation and assimilation are above all a desire to overwhelm, a forming, shaping and reshaping, until at length that which has been overwhelmed has entirely gone over into the power domain of the aggressor and has increased the same.” (656, Spring-Fall 1887)

“The fundamental mistake is simply that, instead of understanding consciousness as a tool and particular aspect of the total life, we posit it is as the standard and the condition of life that is of supreme value: it is the erroneous perspective of a parte ad totum (From a part to a whole) - which is why all philosophers are instinctively trying to imagine a total consciousness, a consciousness involved in all life and will, in all that occurs, a ‘spirit,’ ‘God’.” (707, Spring-Fall 1887)

“In Dionysian intoxication there is sexuality and voluptuousness: they are not lacking in the Apollinian.  There must also be a difference in tempto in the two conditions.  The extreme calm in certain sensations of intoxication (more strictly: the retardation of the feelings of time and space) likes to be reflected in a vision of the calmest gestures and types of soul.  The classical style is essentially a representation of this calm, simplification, abbreviation, concentration - the highest feeling of power is concentrated in the classical type.  To react slowly; a great consciousness; no feeling of struggle.” (799, March-June 1888)

“The feeling of intoxication, in fact corresponding to an increase in strength;  strongest in the mating season; new organs, new accomplishments, colors, forms; ‘becoming more beautiful’ is a consequence of enhanced strength.  Becoming more beautiful as the expression of a victorious will, of increased co-ordination, of a harmonizing of all the strong desires, of an infallibility perpendicular stress.  Logical and geometrical simplification is a consequence of enhancement of strength: conversely the apprehension of such a simplification again enhances the feeling of strength.” (800, March-June 1888)

We have need of lies in order to conquer this reality, this ‘truth,’ that is, in order to live - That lies are necessary in order to live is itself part of the terrifying and questionable character of existence….man must be a liar by nature, he must be above all an artist.  And is as one: metaphysics, religion, morality, science – all of them only products of his will to art, to lie, to flight from ‘truth,’ to negation of ‘truth.’  This ability itself, thanks to which he violates reality by means of lies, this artistic ability of man par excellence - he has it in common with everything that is.  He himself is after all a piece of reality, truth, nature: how should he not also be a piece of genius in lying!

“Art…the great means of making life possible…the great stimulant of life…the only superior counterforce to all will to denial of life…the terrifying and questionable character of existence, who want to see it…but live it, want to live it…suffering is willed, transfigured, deified, where suffering is a form of great delight.

“But truth does not count as the supreme value, even less as the supreme power.  The will to appearance, to illusion, to deception, to becoming and change (to objectified deception) here counts as more profound, primeval, ‘metaphysical’ than the will to truth, to reality, to mere appearance,: - the last is itself merely a form of the will to illusion.  In the same way, pleasure counts as being more primeval than pain: pain only as conditioned, as a consequence of the will to pleasure of the will to become, grow, shape, i.e., to create: in creation, however, destruction is included).  A highest state of affirmation of existence is conceived from which the highest degree of pain cannot be excluded: the tragic-Dionysian state.” (853, 1886)

From Book Four: Discipline and Breeding

The "higher" human being will express specific attributes of nobility and greatness as opposed to the understandings of the "decadent" masses.  Inner strength or character and resilience in the face of the utter decay and loss of meaning of humanity's "original systems of value" is essential.  The will to power is both the force creating this change and that which grows as an influence on the earth as more people harness it.  We must become who we genuinely are as individuals and work toward a transcendence of  traditional human society and norms. 

“What is noble?  Care for most external things…guards against confusion…a stoic severity and self-constraint…slowness of gesture and of glance…endurance of poverty and want, also of sickness…Avoidance of petty honors and mistrust of all who praise readily…doubt as to the communicability of the heart…solitude not as chose but as given…duties only to one’s equals…experience oneself as one who bestows honor…always disguised…pleasure in forms…mistrust of letting oneself go in any way…ability to keep silent…lack of east reconcilability…disgust for…’being cozy’...collection of precious things…slow to generalize.  The individual case…we love the naïve…as spectators…one has constant need of poses…one leaves happiness to the great majority…one instinctively seeks heavy responsibilities…one knows how to make enemies everywhere…one constantly contradicts the great majority no through words but through deeds.” (943-944, 1885, Jan.-Fall 1888)

“A great man…a long logic in all his activity…being able to extent his will across great stretches of his life…he is colder, harder, less hesitating, and without fear of ‘opinion’…if he cannot lead, he goes alone…he wants no ‘sympathetic’ heart, but servants, tools…a solitude within him that is inaccessible to praise and blame, his own justice that is beyond appeal.” (962, 1885)

“In contrast to the animals, man has cultivated an abundance of contrary drives and impulses within himself: thanks to this synthesis, he is master of the earth. – Moralities are the expression of locally limited orders of rank in his multifarious world of drives, so man should not perish through their contradictions.  Thus a drive as master, its opposite weakened, refined, as the impulse that provides the stimulus for the inactivity of the chief drive.  The highest man would have the greatest multiplicity of drives in the relatively greatest strength that can be endured.” (966, 1884)

“This world: a monster of energy, without beginning, without end;…does not expend itself but only transforms itself; …a play of forces…eternally changing…with tremendous years or recurrence…the simplest forms striving toward the most complex…turbulent…self-contradictory…the play of contradictions back to the joy of concord…self-creating…self-destroying, this mystery world of the twofold voluptuous delight, my ‘beyond good and evil,’ without goal, unless the joy of the circle is itself a goal; …This world is the will to power – and nothing besides!  And you yourselves are also this will to power – and nothing besides!” (1067, 1885)

It is precisely thoughts like this one that Julian Young contends changed in Nietzsche's mind.  Although The Will to Power ends forcefully with this selected note, Nietzsche had come to moderate this definitive tone in favor of other considerations as indicated in my previous post.  The world as "a monster of energy" is probably an idea he continued to uphold and is an excellent phrase representing the powerful yet chaotic nature of human existence.  This is a fine example of how the notebooks are definitely Nietzsche's writings (and they can be insightful into Nietzsche's philosophy) but they are more his experimental musings than his final judgment. 

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Nietzsche's Notebooks: Part One

As I have mentioned in previous posts, Nietzsche devoted much time during the last years of his sanity to writing multiple outlines and drafts for a project roughly titled The Will to Power, which he originally conceived of as the pinnacle of his life’s work.  Beginning in 1885 he experimented with various ideas for a work with shifting titles, beginning with an “Attempt at a new Explanation of all Events.”  Later this evolved into “A Reevaluation of All Values” although there were other conceptual approaches considered in addition to these.  All of his work for the project was contained in his notebooks from 1883-1888.  The only aspect of this project to be published was The Antichrist, a fragment of the original concepts.
According to Julian Young, Nietzsche was driven by the realization that he had yet to write a book to rival philosophers whom he respected.  “That Nietzsche had to an extraordinary degree a yearning for greatness is beyond doubt.  Ambition verging in megalomania that became a central feature of his madness was already present in 1884: Zarathustra, he said – yearning disguising itself as prophecy – would ‘split history into two halves’.

“To become ‘great’ in the nineteenth century Germany was to write a ‘big’ book.  None of Nietzsche’s publications prior to the projected ‘masterwork’ fitted the bill – brevity alone disqualified them.  So the task which came to absorb all his energies after the completion of the Genealogy of Morals in August, 1887 was to produce something which would equal, indeed surpass, the Critique of Pure Reason, the Phenomenology of Spirit, and – particularly - The World as Will and Representation.” (page 536)

Yet his attempts to flesh out and shape the basic ideas for The Will to Power proved a dead end.  Ultimately, he stated with some resignation that it was all contained in The Antichrist, which was only an introduction to what he originally intended.  Why did Nietzsche abandon The Will to Power?  Was it a precursor to his onset of madness, only a few weeks away?  Young suggests that it was primarily due to a fundamental internal conflict.

“What we see, then, is that, at the beginning of 1888, Nietzsche was in a state of spiritual turmoil caused by a clash between, on the one hand, his will to greatness, greatness in the traditional mould, and, on the other, his intellectual integrity, which was in danger of being compromised.

“In Nietzsche’s published works intellectual integrity – ‘honesty’, the ‘intellectual conscience’, ‘intellectual cleanliness’, the ‘will to knowledge’ – is presented time after time as the highest personal virtue of both himself and thinkers he admires.  And in the end – a fact greatly to his credit – after a long and agonizing struggle, it is his will to intellectual integrity, his will to truth, that wins out over his will to greatness and causes him to abandon the original project.” (page 543)

Young points out that Nietzsche’s primary areas of inquiry for The Will to Power were cosmological, biological, and psychological. During the course of working through various issues on these general topics Nietzsche met more problems than he originally anticipated.  He grew uninspired about the work, especially in the light of successfully completing Twilight of the Idols and Ecce Homo, among other works at the time.  He decided whatever he found most successful about The Will to Power project was sufficiently contained in The Antichrist, from this same period.

According to Young, Nietzsche’s late works do not express any of the would-be underpinnings of The Will to Power notebooks simply because Nietzsche had already abandoned the work in favor of a wider perspective of human impulses.  “Intellectual integrity, then forced Nietzsche to abandon both the cosmological and the biological doctrines.  Neither is even mentioned, let alone endorsed, in the published works of 1888….he becomes open to the rich variety of human motivations and no longer tries to force them all onto the procrustean bed of the will to power.  In discussing ‘the psychology of the artist’, for instance, Twilight of the Idols recognizes three fundamental impulses:  Apollonian ‘intoxication’, which excites the eyes and inspires great visual art, Dionysian ‘intoxication’, which inspires music and dance and ‘the highest feeling of power’, which inspires great architecture – but, it seems, none of the other arts.  Throughout 1888, moreover, sexual intoxication (as distinct from marriage which is viewed as a power struggle) is viewed as a cause of perception and action alongside, and not reducible to, will to power: a note from the spring of the year, for instance, itemizes the ‘yes-saying affects’ as ‘pride, joy, health, sexual love, enmity and war, reverence…the strong will’ as well as ‘the will to power’ as affects which transfigure things, make them golden, eternal and divine.’” (page 546) 

He simply could not work out some fundamental underpinnings for his projected ‘revaluation’.  “The late works abandon the reductive psychological doctrine and allow human motivation to blossom into the richness it actually has.  Yet beneath this richness Nietzsche detects an underlying pattern.  This pattern, however, abandons the monism of ‘will to power and nothing besides’ in favor of a dualism between two kinds of human life, a dualism which, I think, is intended to gather human motives into two camps.  On the one hand, there is healthy of ‘ascending’ life, the governing ‘principle’ of which is the will to power.  Healthy life, says The Antichrist, is ‘an instinct for growth, for accumulation of force, of power’.  But as a counterbalance to the will to power, there now appears what Freud would later call the ‘death instinct’. ‘Where there is no will to power’, The Antichrist tells us – note the explicit rejection of the psychological doctrine – ‘there is decline’, ’decadence’.  ‘Decadence’ makes its first appearance as a significant philosophical term in Nietzsche’s published works in 1888.” (page 547)

“In the late works, Nietzsche abandons each of the three elements that had constituted the grand vision of the world as ‘will to power and nothing besides’.  This should not, however, be understood as returning the will to power to the modesty of its role in the works of the 1870’s – no more than a useful tool for uncovering the depth psychology of selected kinds of human behavior.  For the will to power remains, to the end, the governing ‘principle’ of healthy life.  What really happens to it in the final works is that it is transformed from a principle of universal explanation into a principle of demarcation, demarcation between the healthy life and decadent life.  Healthy life, that is, remains the insatiable quest for power – or ‘growth’ – remains ‘that which must always overcome itself’.  Moreover, Nietzsche assumes, health is the highest desideratum.  Even the decadent would prefer to be healthy, and only become decadent when the capacity for health deserts them.” (page 548)

Young calls attention to the fact that a lot of what Nietzsche was working out in his notebooks for The Will to Power is not advocated in his published works.  Nietzsche’s late works are dissimilar to the notebooks in much of their content.  This fact should serve as guidance to anyone considering the notebooks.  They were Nietzsche’s tinker shop, where he could express himself extravagantly and contradict himself and explore both ideas that are included in his published works and, importantly, ideas that appear nowhere in his written works.  

The notebooks were published by Nietzsche’s sister after his death, edited and arranged with her commentary, under the title The Will to Power.  Elizabeth pitched it as her brother’s masterwork when it is, in fact, a hodge-podge of notes on similar topics, a lot of which contains strands of thought that he never intended to publish, intellectual dead ends.  While these notebooks are still very much Nietzsche’s writings, they are more like his playground.  There is some profundity here.  But nothing in these notebooks should be read out of context compared with his published works; that is, where the notebooks expound and even contradict his published works, the latter should always prevail.  He simply never intended much of the notebooks for anyone other than himself.  He, in fact, abandoned the very act of fleshing out The Will to Power in favor of The Antichrist and his other late works.  So, one should keep that in mind when placing importance on what one reads in the notebooks.

Walter Kaufmann, in the introduction to his updated translation of The Will to Power offers insights as to its history.  “Two false views of The Will to Power have had their day, in turn.  The first was propagated by Elisabeth Forster-Nietzsche, the philosopher’s sister, when she first published the book after his death: for a long time, it was widely held to represent Nietzsche’s crowning systematic achievement, to which one had to turn for his final views.” (page xiii)

Young’s contention that Nietzsche ideologically abandoned The Will to Power (or at least changed his original emphasis) is supported by Kaufmann’s specifics as to which aspects of the notebooks had no parallel with his published works from this same time period.  “…the book contains a good deal that has no close parallel in the works Nietzsche finished; for example, but no means the only, much of the material on nihilism in Book I, some of the epistemological reflections in Book III, and the attempts at proofs of the doctrine of eternal recurrence of the same events – and scores of brilliant formulations.” (page xiv)  These “formulations” are to a large degree what make the notebooks worth reading, but, in most cases, they nevertheless do not find specific connection with the ideas he presents in his published works.

“Nietzsche himself had contemplated a book under the title The Will to Power.  His notebooks contain a great many drafts of title pages for this and other projected works, and some of the drafts for this book suggest the subtitle: Attempt at a Revaluation of All Values.  Later on Nietzsche considered writing a book of a somewhat different nature (less aphoristic, more continuous) under the title Revaluation of All Values, and for time he conceived of The Antichrist, written in the fall of 1888, as the first of four books comprising the Revaluation of All Values.

“In 1901, the year after Nietzsche’s death, his sister published her version of The Will to Power in volume 15 of her edition of his collected works, arranging 483 notes under topical headings.  In 1904 she included 200 pages of additional notes ‘from The Will to Power’ in the last volume of her biography of Nietzsche, to help its sales.  And in 1906 another edition of collected works offered a new version of The Will to Power in two volumes: the new material was mixed in with the old, and the total number notes now came to 1,067.” (page xvii)

“To arrange the material, Frau Forster-Nietzsche chose a four-line draft left by her brother, and distributed the notes under its four headings.  Nietzsche himself had discarded this draft, and there were a dozen later ones, about twenty-five in all; but none of these were briefer than this one which listed only the titles of the four projected parts and thus gave the editor the greatest possible freedom.”  (page xviii)

Still, Young points out, Elizabeth’s arrangement and presentation of her brother’s notebooks reflected her personal agenda to control and direct Nietzsche’s philosophy.  She selected which notes to include and, perhaps more importantly, which ones not to include.  The commentary she offered in the first editions of the work reflected her prejudices about Nietzsche’s thought, including interjecting her own anti-Semitism as if it were her brother’s perspective. In doing so, she not only directed the reader into ideas that Nietzsche demonstrably did not share, but she also promoted the inaccurate idea that The Will to Power was a unified intellectual work. 

“One of the many bad things about Elizabeth’s Will to Power is that, by arranging her brother’s aphorisms thematically rather than chronologically, she disguises the fact that the notebooks are notebooks, a confused and often contradictory jumble of experiments in the laboratory of thought, not ex cathedra pronouncements of final doctrine.  Like most philosophers, Nietzsche jots down an idea but then sets it aside for a period of time while haring off a different, often opposing, direction.” (page 544)

For his part, Kaufmann has no qualms about how the notebooks were reorganized.  “…for all its faults, this arrangement has the virtue of making it easy for the reader to locate passages and to read straight through a lot of notes dealing with art or religion or the theory of knowledge.  Provided one realizes that one is pursuing notes and not a carefully wrought systematic work, the advantages of such an arrangement outweigh the disadvantages.” (page xv)

Elizabeth’s excesses have long-since been unmasked and today we understand her motivations largely thanks to the excellent research of such classic Nietzsche scholars as Kaufmann.  “One wonders how her success was possible and why the many learned men who produced monographs on various aspects of Nietzsche’s thought deferred so humbly to this woman.  Of course, she reaped the belated sympathy which many people suddenly felt for her brother, but it was her handling of Nietzsche’s Nachlass that constitutes the decisive factor.  She jealously established and guarded her authority by first gaining exclusive rights to all her brother’s literary remains and then refusing to publish some of the most important among them, while insisting doubly on their significance.  Nobody could challenge her interpretations with any authority, since she was guardian of yet unpublished material – and developed an increasingly precise memory for what her brother had said to her in conversation.  Finally, she blended all these considerations with a shrewd business sense.” (page 5)

“All this may seem academic.  Yet it is significant that The Will to Power was not, as is so often supposed, Nietzsche’s last work; and that it was abandoned by him before The Antichrist was written; and that this, like most of Nietzsche’s later books, was based in part on notes which were later included, uncritically, in the posthumous edition of The Will to Power.  Moreover, The Antichrist, however provocative, represents a more single-minded and sustained inquiry than any of Nietzsche’s other books and thus suggests that the major work for which it constitutes Part I was not meant to consist of that maze of incoherent, if extremely interesting, observations which have since been represented as his crowning achievement.  While he intended to use some of this material, he evidently meant to mold it into a coherent and continuous whole; and the manner in which he utilized his notes in his other finished books makes it clear that many notes would have been given an entirely new and unexpected meaning.” (page 7)

In the introduction to his (far more accurate) translation, Kaufman not only corrects the misconceptions fostered by Elizabeth’s misappropriation of Nietzsche’s philosophy, but he offers some sage advice for reading Nietzsche in general.  This applies to any of his printed works but even more so to his posthumously published notebooks: 

“On the surface, Nietzsche seems easy to read, at least by comparison with other philosophers.  In fact, however, his style poses unusual difficulties, and anyone who has taken the trouble to compare most of the existing translations with the originals must realize how easy it is to miss Nietzsche’s meaning, not merely occasionally but in section upon section.  The reasons are not difficult to find.

“Nietzsche loved brevity to the point of ellipsis and often attached exceptional weight to the nuances of words he did put down.  Without an ear for the subtlest connotations of his brilliant, sparkling German, one is bound to misunderstand him.  Nietzsche is German’s greatest prose stylist, and his language is a delight at every turn like a poet’s – more than that of all but the greatest poets.

“At the same time Nietzsche deals with intricate philosophical questions, especially but not only in The Will to Power, and whoever lacks either a feeling for poetry or some knowledge of these problems and their terminology is sure to come to grief in trying to fathom Nietzsche, sentence for sentence, as a translator must.” (pp. xx – xxi)

The Will to Power, then, is Nietzsche’s private notes and writings edited and rearranged by his sister Elizabeth, originally with additional commentary provided by her with which Nietzsche would not have agreed.  The first editions from 1901 – 1906 cannot be taken very seriously and will lead to misconceptions about Nietzsche, including that he was a proto-fascist philosopher.  More recent translations show The Will to Power as filled with robust and diverse thought-experiments and sketches; ideas Nietzsche considered, but did not necessarily finalize.  His notes are filled with thoughts in various stages of appropriation, discourse, or dismissal. 
Having mentioned all that as a cautionary tale, The Will to Power has some wonderful passages. And I’ll share some of my favorites in my year-end post.