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Notebook 36, June - July 1885 36
The triumphant concept of ‘force’, with which our physicists have created God and the world, needs supplementing: it must be ascribed an inner world which I call ‘will to power’, i.e., an insatiable craving to manifest power; or to employ, exercise power, as a creative drive, etc. The physicists cannot eliminate ‘action at a distance’ from their principles, nor a force of repulsion (or attraction). There is no help for it: one must understand all motion, all ‘appearances’, all ‘laws’ as mere symptoms of inner events, and use the human analogy consistently to the end. In the case of an animal, all its drives can be traced back to the will to power: likewise all the functions of organic life to this one source.
In its way, this note states as concisely as anywhere in Nietzsche what is really involved in ‘will to power’. As Nietzsche himself states, the will-to-power concept is simply force ‘supplemented’ with a vision of an ‘inner’ world in ‘human analogy’. It is the ascription of a subjective dimension to an objective state of affairs. Unlike Leibniz, who might give to the smallest (logical) particles an ‘inner’ world with an additional objective dimension, Nietzsche invites us to imagine each point of force as a subjective center. Each atom of force has a dim awareness and exists as a blind striving, a sort of irreducible moment of willing and feeling. Really, what is at stake in Nietzsche and his ontology is this question: why not suppose the world is truly subjective rather than objective? This question must not be misunderstood, however. The question is not asked simply to point to a worldview in which the ‘objective’ is lost in indeterminacy in favor of subjective impressions, or to topple everything but a sort of original fact of subjective perspective. Rather, Nietzsche’s subjective principle is more sophisticated and elaborate: subjectivity is distributed throughout the world as an objective principle. Subjectivity is an objective, even materialist fact. It is an act of imagination more than anything else. The appeal here is to imagine the objective facts discovered by physics (the physics of
his time) as subjective events. But the point is not to add anything that would change the physical description(s). Rather, to keep as nearly as possible to the physical facts as known, but to imagine them as ‘symptoms’ or manifestations of the subjective reality. A kind of identity is being asserted. And a kind of perfect identity is aspired to in order for the view not to devolve into pure animism. The continuum of subjectivity eliminates the problem of the ‘emergence’ of consciousness out of non-conscious physical materials. In Nietzsche’s view, there is a continuum of consciousness sustaining all matter. Everything that exists in time and space has a perspective on account of being in that time and space, however limited. An atom of force may not have self-consciousness or the ability to represent things to itself; it may not even have memory. But it exists as a particle of will and of feeling. This basic reality sustains itself through higher orders of organization into bodily organs, etc., up through into organisms such as animals and human beings. Always and in every case, according to Nietzsche, the behavior of developed organisms is consistent with the lower principle of subjectivity. This is to say, anything in motion or possessing force — and in keeping with the Heraclitean model of becoming which Nietzsche employs — for also possessing some degree of subjectivity, can therefore be said to be possessing ‘will’. It is almost a technical fait accompli: if you possess subjectivity, and you are engaged in some action, then you are ‘willing’ that action — by default. This produces a number of interesting questions, such as the extent to which something that is in motion can be said to be ‘willing’ that motion: if one particle bounces off of another and its momentum is carrying it in a certain direction, is that movement ‘intentional’? Could the particle stop at any time under its own volition? If we were to examine these questions in any depth we would pass out of Nietzsche altogether. The only way Nietzsche’s vision can be salvaged is with an even deeper appeal to will, in which just as it is said God is creating the world with each passing moment, particles of force are ‘willing’ their way through the world in a way that is identical to their material helplessness. That is, if some particle is, for example, bounced around and is absolutely unable to stop, this is somehow identical with its ‘will’ on some other level, in just the same way that if God stopped creating the world with each passing instant, it would simply stop and/or vanish. Interestingly, the same type of ‘infinite judgment’ or non-identity
identity appears under certain circumstances when one considers the laws of physics. That is, similar odd conundrums present themselves when subjectivity is introduced, even metaphorically, in other contexts. For example, in quantum theory when a sub-atomic particle is said to ‘choose’ a path either because it is adhering to statistics or a principle of least action, the fact is that, on the one hand, an objective constraint is placed upon it in the form of some abstract ‘law’ or framework; and on the other, it ‘chooses’ always to obey that principle. Could it simply ‘choose’ to do otherwise? Could a particle simply stop and refuse to participate in a double-slit experiment? Could a dropped bowling ball ‘choose’ to fly upward? The notion of ‘choice’ appears most strongly at the quantum or non-deterministic level. In the bowling ball example, scientists would quickly state that (deterministically) there is no way to ‘choose’ to fly skyward because of gravity, the lack of energy required, etc. At the smaller non-deterministic level where a particle is thought to be interacting with nothing, not air resistance, not other particles or forces, the tendency in the scientific description is to automatically start referring to it in terms of ‘choice’ (when it is not described purely mathematically). This alone makes one wonder (and raises the old argument) whether the subjective is merely the name we give the region covering the gaps in our deterministic models. In that regard, however, we come back to Nietzsche’s insistence on error being at the heart of knowledge or truth, error being their basic nature. If we take the issue of momentum of a particle, and we suppose that the particle is in some sense ‘aware’ of its momentum and movement, we might say that the nature of the will is a misidentification with the purely causal or deterministic dimension. The particle has no arms, no legs, no way to stop itself, no way by which to ‘choose’ any moment given to it other than from the perpetual collisions that define its existence. Nonetheless, in the very act of awareness, an error is introduced whereby the movement (here of the particle) is considered ‘me’ or ‘my’ movement. This misidentification with something that is otherwise purely causal and deterministic is supplemental: which is to say, the causal explanation is sufficient to explain the movement; the ‘awareness’ or subjective dimension is supplemental which is in some way a departure from what is objectively required for the movement to occur. It suggests that consciousness in general is somehow supplemental, non-required, a viola-
tion of some principle of economy organizing the objective universe (and there are many; in fact, most principles in physics from the principle of least action to the various conservation principles are all about economy). If that is so, what does that mean for consciousness? Might this mean that rather than consciousness or subjectivity being fundamental to the universe as with Nietzsche, or even those who hold that God is a subject, a non-object, some ‘one’ characterized chiefly by thought or awareness — rather than all this, might consciousness be some kind of objective error akin to what is usually meant by entropy? Entropy, as normally understood, is related to chaos, is likened to disorder and destruction, etc. It is often called the tendency toward disorder. When one looks more closely at entropy, however, what one finds it that entropy is simply a tendency toward pure randomness. This is in itself to say, entropy is the tendency to space things out evenly across space and time. This is an important insight. When I take a standard six-sided die and roll it six times, I might roll a pair of twos. However, we know that ‘over time’ the tendency of the die rolls as they approach infinity is to spread themselves out evenly. Each face should come up 1/6 of the time. What must be understood here, first of all, is that time is a form of space. So when my die rolls spread out evenly across the temporal space, it is essentially no different than when I empty a bottle of water out onto the floor and the water immediately seeks to spread out evenly across the flat floor. In this regard, the whole concept of entropy has been misconstrued in the public imagination. Randomness is not ‘disorder’. Randomness is actually perfect order. Which is to say, randomness is perfectly orderly. It seeks the full representation of all possible constituents in a system. But there we find the difference between the ‘orderly’ and mathematical nature of entropy and what is considered order. Order relates to organized systems. An organized system is a defiance of the principle of perfect randomness (or entropy). An organized system means that particles have been pulled into a different sort of order than one that seeks a perfect even distribution. They are held up, waylaid on their journey, so to speak, forced to act as components of DNA molecules, etc. The point here is that in the popular imagination, order is the more primary state, entropy a deviation from that state, just as it is assumed that ‘good’ is the basic nature of things, and ‘evil’ a dark and occasional
departure. However, the opposite is the case. Entropy, or the tendency to perfectly even distribution — a non-ordered state of simple constituents — is the rule, and order is a deviation from that tendency toward balance and symmetry. Randomness and entropy, in their own way, are the only basis in physical nature for the notion of undifferentiated wholeness. It is only with higher levels of order to we find separateness; when constituents organize themselves into a system, now we have inside and outside, system and non-system. In perfect randomness, however, we have no distinctions, just total wholeness. The constant tendency of the universe is toward this simple differentiatedness, i.e. entropy. It is therefore the more natural fact. The fact that ordered systems are constantly pulled back into entropy as if by a kind of gravitational force causes one to consider that ordered systems may be unnatural states. The fullest sense is implied. It is not simply that ordered states are uncommon; rather there is something wrong with them and about them. Of course, from here emerges the question: why order at all? Why is there order at all and not pure disorder? We set that question aside however to ask in the context of Nietzsche: doesn’t the distinction between order and entropy itself destroy the idea of a continuum of consciousness? The insight that truth and knowledge are based in error may, in fact, reflect the more primary insight that awareness or consciousness is by definition error. That consciousness’ basic truth is error may link to the fact that ordered systems, those that give rise to consciousness, are not the universe’s natural state of affairs; they are deviant, unnatural, and separate.
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