In this list, Nietzsche nowhere mentions the development of "bad conscience," and suggests that even today, punishment does not awaken a feeling of guilt. Punishment arouses the sense of "something has gone unexpectedly wrong" not of "I should not have done that." Punishment is treated as a misfortune, and serves to make us more prudent and tame.


Section 12 contains the first mention in the Genealogy of Morals of the famous Nietzschean term "will to power." Since it is not immediately obvious what is meant by either "will" or "power," this term can be a bit obscure. All we can be sure of is that Nietzsche considers it very important: at the end of section 12, he calls it the "essence of life." Another clue is provided in section 18, where he uses the term synonymously with "instinct for freedom."

A superficial understanding of the will to power can easily be gained when we recognize that we all see it in our everyday dealings: everyone wants power over everyone else. For instance, the bully at school bullies weaker students for the feeling of power he gets over them. The nerd studies hard so as to get better grades and be smarter than his classmates, giving him a different kind of power. Anyone who has survived (or is surviving) adolescence is well aware of the power struggles that take place even between friends. The popular kids form a clique that excludes other kids and they feel more powerful by virtue of their exclusivity. Men and women both engage in sexual exploits largely for the feeling of power it gives them over the person they seduce. Nietzsche even suggests that acts of generosity are ultimately motivated by a will to power. If I do you a favor, I am essentially showing you that I have the power to help you, to put you in my debt.

Nietzsche suggests that the will to power is the fundamental drive that motivates all things. This suggestion might contrast with the suggestion that our fundamental drive is the will to life; that is, the suggestion that above all we pursue self-preservation. There are a number of reasons for seeing power as more important to us than life. For instance, the martyr who is willing to die for a cause is essentially saying "you can kill me, you can do anything to my body, but you cannot touch my principles because I am powerful enough to resist all your threats." This martyr clearly values that power of independence more than life itself.

This example might help us understand why Nietzsche identifies the will to power with the instinct for freedom. A powerful will is essentially one that cannot be dominated or controlled by any other. If I do whatever my friends tell me, I am not powerful because my will is subject to their whims. If not even the threat of torture and death can't change my behavior, I must have a very strong will that resists domination at all costs.

Nietzsche also identifies willing quite closely with meaning and interpretation. That something is meaningful to us means that some will or force is dominating it. For example, my harming you might be an act of bullying or an act of self- defense. In the first case, there is a very crude will to power acting, where I harm you for the feeling of power it gives me. In the second case, I am acting out of an instinct of self-preservation. In both cases, the deed itself might be the same, but the will that drives me to act interprets the deed in very different ways. Wherever we find a meaning or an interpretation, there is a will acting to give a deed or a thing that meaning or interpretation.