19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche coined the phrase “will to power” to describe the motivating force that animates all life. He was not the first philosopher to identify this lust for power as a fundamental motivating force. Aristotle wrote that “all men aspire to ascendancy.” And Thomas Hobbes wrote that “a perpetual and restless desire of power, that ceaseth only in death, is a general inclination of all mankind.” In this video, we will discuss 20th century English philosopher Anthony Ludovici’s interpretation of the will to power, and we will also discuss its relevance to the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe.
In the modern Darwinian age, many people assume that a fundamental will to live is the underlying motivation of organisms’ actions. In other words, life is a struggle for existence, nothing more. But Ludovici argues that mere existence is not the aim of life. If we observe any organism for a little while, then we will discover that it strives for supremacy over other lives, even those belonging to its own species. “What soon strikes us — chiefly in contemplating animals, even quite young ones — is that they feel the need to discharge their strength. Their first concern, as soon as they stir, is to enjoy using and expressing energy – that is to say, in overpowering, subduing or merely intimidating and scaring other creatures. The unleashed dog rouses the neighbourhood with his bark, seizes a fallen branch and shakes it, growling angrily the while. He charges other dogs on his path, fights them and chases every creature within sight. He will even chase and try to bully the fast-revolving wheels of a passing car. He revels in his strength and fleetness.”
Presuming that the will to power is the fundamental motivating force in nature, Ludovici examines the consequences of such a world. He argues that idealists, who believe that men can, if they choose, “love one another and live in perfect amity and harmony together, are blind to the true character of life;” and therefore, they risk genetic death at the hands of more violent organisms. “As for those numbskulls who begin to see and think of the will to power only when figures like Napoleon, Stalin or Hitler appear, and who overlook it wholly in themselves, their wives, their children and their cat, they are even more dangerous than the idealists aforesaid, because they are like people who are not aware of the volcano at the end of their garden before they and their home are smothered in tons of burning lava.”
Even if Ludovici is correct in concluding that organisms naturally strive for supremacy and power over other lives, there is no moral imperative that we ought to strive for such ascendancy. 18th century Scottish philosopher David Hume explained that there is a significant difference between what is and what ought to be, and that one cannot derive an ought-statement merely from an is-statement. For example, exercising promotes health and well-being, but this does not imply that we ought to exercise. We ought to exercise only if our goal is to promote health and well-being. In light of this notion, one ought to strive for ascendancy only if such actions do not conflict with one’s morality.
Nevertheless, modern Europe should heed Ludovici’s warning about the dangers of believing that men, especially men from vastly different cultures, can live together in perfect harmony. The Syrian refugee crisis is the volcano in Europe’s garden. Europe cannot impose Christian morality on radical Muslim immigrants. The Christian imperatives – “turn the other cheek” and “love your enemies” – will ruin Europe. The Christian moral system cannot survive an encounter with the stronger and more vigorous morality of Islam.
Therefore, Europeans must either abandon Christian morality so that they can combat Islamic morality or accept cultural annihilation. Both options are troubling. Abandoning Christian morality will leave a vacuum that eloquent demagogues can exploit to satisfy their personal lusts for power, and accepting cultural annihilation is undesirable for obvious reasons. What should Europe do?