Beyond Pleasure and Power

Through this analysis of asceticism in terms of power, Nietzsche attempts to remove the paradoxes that arise from the standard hedonistic accounts of this phenomenon. To the extent that his accounts of both cruelty and asceticism as motivated by a will to power are more satisfying than those that try to account for them as motivated by a drive to maximize pleasure and minimize pain, he supports his case for a psychology of power against the prevalent view of psychological hedonism. Since his On the Genealogy of Morals presents the fullest discussion of these two pivotal topics, it must be viewed as an essential part not only of Nietzsche's theory of value but also of his psychology, which, as I have argued, constitutes the basis for his "revaluation of all values." Nietzsche's psychology of power is arguably the richest and most profound expression ever produced of one of the most fruitful hypotheses concerning the ultimate motivations of human behavior.

Nietzsche's argument that a better account of cruelty and asceticism can be given in terms of power than in terms of pleasure, if sound, would remain of interest and value even if his general hypothesis, that all behavior is motivated by a will to power, finally proves to be unacceptable. His argument would still reveal notable deficiencies of the competing and prevailing hypothesis of psychological hedonism. Even if it does not convince us to follow Nietsche's in denying all motivational efficacy to the seeking of pleasure and the avoidance of pain, his argument might still point the way to the abandonment of both psychological hedonism and the will to power as monistic theories of motivation. It might incline us to favor pluralistic theories that allow for more than one irreducible motivation, and that go beyond both pleasure and power considered as singly sufficient and exclusive alternatives.

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