On Deriving and Defending an Axiology of the Will to Power

Daniel Adam Fincke, Fordham University


Nietzsche's severe attacks on morality and his self-identification as an "immoralist" give many readers the impression that he would oppose all constructive normative ethical theorizing. I show that, on the contrary, Nietzsche frequently intends to make normative value judgments and to promote particular ways of life as better than others, and that he is able to do this in a way that is consistent with his critical attacks on "morality" and moralism. When he attacks morality he is attacking a powerful and influential set of conceptions and implementations of it that we can formalize as Absolutist Morality. Absolutist Morality ironically undermines itself by demanding an Absolute Honesty which scrutinizes its own formal and practical contradictions and indicates that, by its own standards, it must be abandoned as false and illegitimate. In the place of Absolutist Morality, Nietzsche advocates a revaluation of values. I explicate Nietzsche's insights into how we can determine the standards and methods by which such revaluing can be done. Then I develop and defend my own constructive, contemporary Nietzschean ethics which centralizes his key insights while nonetheless sometimes modifying and outright diverging from his specific views. I argue for a naturalistic, perfectionistic, realist account of value, wherein personal well being and maximal thriving are intrinsic goods. I argue that we should judge any number of culturally or personally constructed 1st-order moral and non-moral practices according to the will to power as a universal indirect consequentialist standard. Particular practices prove their worth to the extent to which they successfully maximize the will to power (defined as the perpetual pursuit of self-overcoming and of the challenges that occasion it) in the maximum number of people. The will to power is integral to all our particular powers and to the implicit (or, ideally, explicit) motivation to grow and to the structural realization of our maximum overall power. Even the value of various moral goods such as dutifulness, moral virtue, interpersonal love, and altruism, is dependent on the extent to which they both manifest will to power within ourselves and further its development in others.

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Recommended Citation

Fincke, Daniel Adam, "On Deriving and Defending an Axiology of the Will to Power" (2010). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3431913.