So what is this force? I think Nietzsche identifies it well:
"[the] world is the will to power -- and nothing besides!"The self-organizing systems and extended orders we see are then the results of the interactions of competing entities, each with their own will-to-power:
"My idea is that every specific body strives to become master over all space and to extend its force (—its will to power) and to thrust back all that resists its extension. But it continually encounters similar efforts on the part of other bodies and ends by coming to an arrangement ("union") with those of them that are sufficiently related to it: thus they then conspire together for power. And the process goes on."One of the critical things that will-to-power "thrusts back" is the natural pull towards randomness. Will-to-power is the basis for self-organizing systems and the extended order. The end of will-to-power means the end of the world and the acceleration (at least locally) of the trend towards randomness.
I find Nietzche somewhat impenetrable, so let's switch to an author/philosopher and story that's easier to relate to. Here's the key Nietzche-like quote from the story I have in mind:
There is no good or evil, only power and those too weak to seek it.That is, of course, Lord Voldemort from "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" by J.K. Rowling. This single quote encompasses a vast amount of Nietzche's work: Nietzche wrote a books called "Beyond Good and Evil" and "Will to Power" and also created the concept of the "Übermensch" who is someone clearly not "too weak to seek" power. If J.K. Rowling didn't intentionally create a character encompassing much of Nietzche's philosophy, it's a remarkable coincidence that such a key character is central in her 4,000 page epic tale.
Voldemort is terribly evil and is ultimately defeated. That might be seen as Rowling refuting Nietzche's philosophical constructs. However, Voldemort is not defeated because he is wrong about good, evil, and power. He is defeated because he doesn't understand where real power comes from in the wizarding world and he is too weak to seek that understanding. As Albus Dumbledore explains in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows":
And his knowledge remained woefully incomplete, Harry! That which Voldemort does not value, he takes no trouble to comprehend. Of house-elves and children's tales, of love, loyalty, and innocence, Voldemort knows and understands nothing. Nothing. That they all have a power beyond his own, a power beyond the reach of any magic, is a truth he has never grasped.So the complication is that Voldemort thought he knew where power comes from, but it turned out he was wrong and he ended up paying dearly (with all of his lives) for being wrong.
That's very important in our non-wizarding world as well. It's very difficult to know in our extremely complex world what actually creates power and how much power can be derived from any given source. Sources of power can only be discovered and tested through a process of trial and error over the millennia. This is true whether the source of power is economic, political, religious, etc.
Let's examine Voldemort's claims that there is no good an evil. On the surface, I disagree with that, but I suspect Voldemort would still agree with my outlook regarding good and evil. Something that increases the ability to exert and extend the power of the entity is good. Anything that dissipates that power is evil.
That's the basis for all morality. It's more fundamental than the golden rule or religion. If a self-organizing system violates this basic morality it will cease to exist in fairly short order and continue its journey toward chaos.
There are two different ways to extend power: cooperation and competition.
People or entities that cooperate usually each end up with more power than those that don't. Perhaps some of the entities end up with less relative power but since the power pie is bigger each still ends up with more power in an absolute sense. Many things are required for cooperation: trust, reliability, loyalty, etc. These things are universally recognized as good. Some other things by themselves are evil but as part of the extended order are actually beneficial. Greed in a free-market system is an example of this and this means that greed is good.
When thinking about extending power, competition in the form of domination and subjugation probably quickly comes to mind for many people. The alpha-male warrior, stopping at nothing, ruthlessly brutalizes and intimidates those around him until he emerges as the undisputed leader. That is certainly a form of exerting power and in some circumstances it does extend the leader's power through dominating others. In days of old dominating others was often a great way for an individual to extend power.
However, the overall power of the group is diminished by this arrangement. The additional power gained by the ruler is more than offset by the power lost by the rest of the members of the group. This weakens the group and makes it susceptible to domination by other groups. Thus, using power morality calculus, especially in the modern age, subjugation and domination is immoral. It was not, however, at an earlier point in the development of the extended order.
Humans are wonderful story tellers and masters of narrative so we weave stories about history and power to make things that historically increased power sound good and those which dissipated power sound bad. We rewrite history as needed to make those narratives fit the current knowledge regarding power. That's why the saying is "History is written by the winners".
For a somewhat more concrete definition for power, let's start with physics. Power in a mechanical system is work per unit time (P = W/t). Power in an economic system is similar: work (or output) per time which is annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Power in politics is the control of and/or ability to redirect economic power. Even military power is a subset of economic power. There are other forms of power as well. However, for self-organizing human systems, which inherently strive to exert and extend their power, most power can be related to economic power.
I believe that both the current state of, and every change to, the extended order over time can be explained by the extended order striving to exert and extend its power. The development of religion, trade, politics, diplomacy, war, slavery, human rights, self-sacrifice, altruism, etc. can all be traced to what worked to increase the power of one or more entities of the extended order, and, most importantly, the overall power of the extended order itself.
In Part 3 of this Pontifications series, I already gave a glimpse of this by looking at the fact that "Rights Make Might". In further Pontifications, I'm going to examine non-obvious examples of power driving events. For example, in one of the next essays in this series, I'm going to describe how the abolition of slavery in the United States was power enhancing and that it was inevitable that slavery would end for that reason. Many essays after that will be dedicated to creating a convincing argument that power is the central motivator of all self-organizing systems in our extended order.
Because the process of maximizing power requires trial and error and vast amounts of time, many of our current "trials" will turn out to be errors. Because the extended order is so complex, some of these current errors may be with us for centuries before they are rectified since nobody can really be sure whether various institutions and policies extend and enhance power or dissipate power. However, I think that from the perspective of maximizing power, certain institutions and policies are clearly negatives and could be rectified immediately. Future essays in this series will identify those policies and describe why they are counter productive.
The one thing I won't delve into is why will-to-power exists. I'm personally uninterested in what causes will-to-power and I'll leave it to the theists and atheists to explain it.