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'An aphorism, properly stamped and molded, has not been "deciphered" when it has simply been read; rather one has then to begin its interpretation, for which is required an art of interpretation.' -- Nietzsche, 'On the Genealogy of Morals'

Nietzche, vitalism, will to power, Deleuze « Previous | |Next »
May 14, 2006

Vitalism flows through a number of Nietzsche's texts. My understanding is in terms of a reworking of the legacy of Aristotle's understanding of ordered growth and development of organic form. Vitalism in its widest sense holds that living things are specific forms of being. My understanding of Nietzsche's vitalism is roughly along the following lines.

One way to approach vitalism is through Nietzsche's ethics. This is premised on life as good in itself and the enhancement of life is the standard by which the value of everything else is to be measured. It is the enhancement of life that characterises a healthy morality with enhancement of life interpreted as promoting or fostering human flourishing or well-being (as distrinct from mere survival.) An unhealthy morality, in contrast, is one that hinders, prevents, or inhibits human flourishing. It is life-denying. Promoting human flourishing, therefore, is that for the sake of which all other goods are good.

What then is life? In the Will to Power it is a multiplicity of forces organized by a mode of functioning to bring about the enhancement of life. The mode of organic functioning is will to power. Virtue is the integration of the parts of the self, the way one part of the self imposes order on other parts by successfully orientating the subordinate parts to its own ends. These ends are enhancement, flourishing, wellbeing.

Deleuze in his Nietzsche and Philosophy conceptualizes this in terms of a dynamic of forces, namely life enhancing forces and life denying forces as active forces and reactive forces, and as active becoming and reactive becoming. Deleuze says that:

It must not be said that active force becomes reactive because reactive forces triumph; on the contrary, they triumph because, by separating active force from what it can do, they betray it to the will of nothingness, to a becoming reactive deeper than themselves. This is why the figures of the triumph of reactive forces (ressentiment, bad conscience, and the ascetic idea) are primarily forms of nihilism....Is there another becoming? (p. 64)

What is severed from this account is the way that will to power as a mode of functioning is divorced from the enhancement of life. Deleuze says:

The will to power must therefore manifest itself in force as such....But what does "the will to power manifests itself" mean?...It follows that wil to power is manifested as a capacity for being affected. This necesarily fulfilled and actualised at each moment by the other forces to which a given force relates.....the capacity for being affected is not necessarily a passivity but an affectivity, a sensibility, a sensation. ...Before treating power as a matter of will he treated it as a matter of feeling and sensibility.... All sensibility is only a becoming of force. There is a cycle of force in the course of which force "becomes" (for example, active force becomes reactive). Ther are even several becomings of force that can struggle against one another.... The will to power manifests itself, in the first place, as the sensibility of forces and, in the second place, as the becoming sensible of forces: pathos is the most elementary fact from which a becoming arises. (pp.62-63)

What is missing from this account is the connection between active force and will power is Nietzsche's link to the enhancement of life. Deleuze in a latter section, entitled Ambivalence of Sense and of Values, says that ''Becoming-active is affirming and affirmative, just as becoming reactive is negative and nihilistic." (p.68). But affirming and affirmation is related to affirming one's own differences whilst beccoming reactive is negative in the sense of denial of differences.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 03:07 PM | | Comments (1)


Nietzche's views on religion was very similar to the views of Che Guevera (Morality) and, Albert Einstein (Religiousness of Science). Organized religion was viewed as a form of psychological egoism for the weak and incompetent, and Morality was viewed as typical human behavior. Gueverra (Morality) asserted that religion was in fact an external illusion that depended on fear and greed (hell or heaven). Einstein (Religiousness of Science) viewed Morality as Human Behavior with in itself without divine intervention. I do not beleive "The Madman," questioned God's existence, but challenged the views of tyrants, and demi-gods who created the illusion of religion to oppress the minds of citizens through greed, slavery, and other selfish propagandas. Will To Power offered an alternative mean to empower the minds of the oppressed. A keen observer might compare Nietzche's ideals to that of a radical, liberal or political activist, which is contrary to reports linking Nietzche's views to that of Hitler and Nazism.