Some Insights on Force and Will

Fabricio Pontin

facile videbimus, quid homo, qui solo affectu seu opinione, homini, qui ratione ducitur, intersit. Ille enim, velit nolit, ea quae maxime ignorat, agit; hic autem nemini nisi sibi morem gerit, et ea tantum agit, quae in vita prima esse novit, quaeque propterea maxime cupit; et ideo illum servum, hunc autem liberum voco, de cuius ingenio et vivendi ratione pauca adhuc notare libet. Spinoza, Ethica ordine geometrica demonstrata, IVpLXVIs1

Die “Ausbeutung” gehört nicht einer verderbten oder unvollkommnen und primitiven Gesellschaft an: sie gehört in’s Wesen des Lebendigen, als organische Grundfunktion, sie ist eine Folge des eigentlichen Willens zur Macht, der eben der Wille des Lebens ist. – Gesetzt, dies ist als Theorie eine Neuerung, – als Realität ist es das Ur-Faktum aller Geschichte: man sei doch so weit gegen sich ehrlich!. Nietzsche, Jenseits Von Gut und Bose, aphorism 2592.

Les évaluations, rapportées à leur élément, ne sont pas des valeus, mais des manièrs d’être, des modes d’existence de ceux qui jugent et évaluent, servant précisément de principes aux valeurs par rapport ils jugent. Deleuze, Nietzsche et la Philosophie, p.1-23


Deleuze’s work on Nietzsche is written as a way into philosophy. It also situates the fundamental question of philosophy as the tension between Force and Value, between Necessity and Freedom. The expression of necessity by freedom, by the deep desire of one’s own necessity situates, in Deleuze, the critical moment in Nietzsche. From that moment of decision, meaning is generated into the World. But how is such moment built in Nietzsche? How does one reproduce the path that leads to Genealogy without falling prey to similitude? The leading clue of genealogy, for Deleuze, is to debase the normative critic advanced by Hegel and Kant and to question rather than justify the appearance of values.

At first, in order to understand this appearances, we must first take on what makes such appearances possible to begin with. In Nietzsche, it is by force that appearances come into being. There is an expressionistic feature to the way force is conated, but force is in-itself essential to any possible expression of force – and it is by expression that meaning is generated into the world. So force has a double immanence to it, on one hand it is naturing the possibility of signification, on the other it is natured as signification. And this interplay of forces is nature, as both it gives us the field for creation and is itself created. Force appropriates and is-appropriated. That’s why the history of a thing is a succession of forces that affirm themselves and generate something new out of this process of self-affirmation.

It is important to highlight that Deleuze is not suggesting that Nietzsche is following a Dialectical movement of negation and affirmation as opposite forces of conation. It is rather the opposite that is at stake here: Negation is not present dialectically, it arises out of pure activity, out of conation and expression. Activity is then an act of differentiation, it is an expression of a will that expresses itself in opposition to whatever lies silent in no-conation. Nietzsche predicates existence from acts of self-affirmation, of a difference that introduce concepts – without affirmation of difference essences are left in-silence, they have no existential relevance. This tension of essential and existential features inherit to the whole of affirmation is what Deleuze will later call Absolute Immanence – I will return to this point later.

But for Nietzsche, this tension does not hold an abstract and purely metaphysical importance. It is rather a question of values and creation of values. In Deleuze, Nietzsche suggests a eudaimonia as a pharmakon to the sickness of dialectics. It is by affirming oneself, by embracing ones own history and conditions, that one becomes oneself, and in becoming oneself one then can master the art of telling the truth and desiring the truth. In this sense, we have both Nietzsche’s fatalism and ethics expressed in the notion of Amor Fati.

Perhaps I should say something more about Nietzsche’s problems with dialectics before proceeding further to the notion of Eternal Return and Amor Fati. Why is it that dialectics represent a dead-end to philosophy? Deleuze will hold that the movement of negation of affirmation is only capable of expressing itself. It is not capable of creating anything new. This is because dialectics starts out of resentment, it starts by negating an affirmation rather than establishing something new. Normativization (Kant) and Systematization (Hegel) lost the ground of the tragic when they focused on stable forms of knowledge, they missed the importance of a process of learning that is a learning by suffering and falling pray to the abyss that is force.

Such learning on suffering is Amor Fati, it is by embracing ones destiny and circumstances that one is able to overcome the vicious circle (bad consciousness) of the dialectical movement. We could suggest (and this might be besides the point that Deleuze himself is making, but I would claim it is the very point at stake in both Deleuzian and Nietzsche’s philosophy here) that the contemporary denial and repression of the pathological, for Nietzsche, is a repression of experience itself: we miss the point of rupture between Non-Being and Being, and replace it with a notion that suffering needs to be avoided rather than confronted. That difference must be equalized rather than affirmed. In doing so, we create an asceptic reality of systemic repression of the Real. The imaginary World of ascepticism, however, would be the best of possible Worlds, a World where our love would not need to be haunted by a spiritual despair: an open new world of possibilities of progress, where no one would really die. But Nietzsche, along the lines of Schelling before him, was able to perceive that this same world where no one ever really dies is the same place that makes life impossible, for it is only in the shadow of the pathos that we are able to affirm ourselves: the best of all possible worlds is a world where no life persists. For life to be possible, it must be irresponsible, it must misbehave. The well-ordered dream of the Idealist is dead from the beginning.


Tudo no mundo começou com um sim. Uma molécula disse sim a outra molécula e nasceu a vida. Mas antes da pré-história havia a pré-história da pré história e havia o nunca e havia o sim. Sempre houve. Não sei o quê, mas sei que o universo jamais começou.

Clarice Lispector, A Hora da Estrela, p.114

We create the world by conating into it, by expressing our will into the world, but at the same time, we presuppose a thereness, a locus wherein our predicative acts are inserted. We’ve seen how this act of world creation must surpass the logic of negation inherit to the slave mentality, how the work of the genalogist is one of saying yes to oneself , to the positing of ones own world. But again, we must stress the plays of double-immanence in the process of generation of meaning.

Abstraction is made of from the way of thinking, while at the same time it is necessary to think. The tragic is precisely the joy of discovering the abyss of such abstraction, and throwing oneself into the abyss by letting go of the denial of the pathos, of the tragic. One has to embrace the tragic as a practice, as an act of will. The difference of force appears hierarchically, as one force dominates the other in an organism. We can think of this in terms of emotions and values. And here an aspect of Critic may be more clear: Genealogy expects to identify how these emotions come into being and are more or less relevant. The will-to-power, is the will to be the prevalent force as these emotions strive to be-come. The radical difference of these forces and their opposition is the main point for the Genealogist, for it is because these forces are not identical that they struggle, and it is because of such radical difference that Being is possible. The idea of a recognition and simulacrization of loses the splendor of the relation of differences where ” The reactive is a primordial quality of force but one which can only be interpreted as such in relation to and on the basis of the active.”5

The question of qualitative and quantitative in Genalogy is quite important for Deleuze. This is because it is in the impossibility of the identical in the tension between qualitative and quantitative forces that the Absolute Immanence lies. However, it is rather hard to understand the emergence of the language of the Absolute within Nietzsche. If we follow Deleuze, Nietzsche is the anti-dialeticist par excellence, and yet, the notion of Absolute Immanence is fundamental for Deleuze’s understanding of Nietzsche. How does one then disassociate the language of the Absolute from the resentment of recognition (and dialectics in general)? It seems to me that Deleuze is suggesting a return to a monistic understanding of the continuum that is expressed by the universe. However, such understanding cannot be tamed by the atomistic reflex of Greek philosophy – Heraclitus, as always, is an exception. It must be understood, as Spinoza might have though it, as a permanent appearance that is lived by a conating individual. The field where all these forces relate to each other is the field of Absolute Immanence, it is in the terrain of absolute immanence that the game of becoming (of genesis) is played.

The compromise symbolized by the undifferentiated forms of knowledge is the problem here for Nietzsche, for this compromise enslaves particular new forces that may emerge, it tames the process of becoming that one would find in the expression of singular wills. In this compromise, a atrophy is identified in which the stable forms of force – now established as knowledge or science – equalize each other and proxy their discourses. When this approximation is accomplished, science becomes an instrument of de-subjetification. The forms of expression of will are controlled by the language of similitude, as a consequence, the discourse that emerges in this field is now a discourse of similitude rather than a discourse of differences – the vital force that characterizes a non-enslaved-individual is obliterated by the discourse of similitude.

Is that to say that all scientific forms carry with them the germs of the destruction of subjectivity? Is Nietzsche the precursor of the language of the dispositif? With Deleuze, we can say the answer is yes and no. Science may be only able to understand phenomena in terms of its reactive forces, in terms of negation and recognition. However, there is no need to assume that difference is obliterated when Science reaches a stable form. That which appears as stable might be established as identical, but it does not need to be established as so. Identity is only a consequence of science if we keep it within the bounds of science itself, within the bounds of the simulacrum. However, the new might emerge from the outside, given that the space for the outside is not obliterated by the increase in the scope of sciences: in this we see the eternal return as the expectancy for the generation of something new. For Nietzsche, however, this generation will not come from scientific endeavor, it will be rather the result of the affirmation of forces that are expressed as a will-to-power, a will to ever re-signify and re-express ones place as absolutely different, absolutely unique.

This is why notwithstanding the possibility of the expression of will-to-power within the realm of scientific endeavor, whatever it generates will be situated outside this realm. The cyclical mechanic reproduction of science will only generate itself and its own similar differences, whichever generations might arise that are not comprehended within this domain are immediately situated outside- not in direct opposition to scientific language, but absolute other to that language. Such genetic endeavor is will-to-power.

La force est ce qui peut, la volonte de puissane est ce qui veut.6 Force, as a singular, is the absolute, it is always necessary as naturing. What will emerge out of force is a matter of affirmation by conating and conflicting individuals, and here we are able to finally describe the critic and generative element in Nietszche fully: These forces that generate existence into the world are actually generating moral facts. Individuals are inserting their own will into the world, and in doing so they construct the framework of values that one is able to identify as ” moral” , this critical movement of identifying one’s own individual will as absolutely different and asserting this will into the world is the task of the Genealogy of Morals. In Deleuzes’s Nietzche, like in Deleuze’s Spinoza, authenticity is not about throwing oneself into passivity, but rather embracing one’s finitude and limits – and in doing so discovering (or maybe inventing) the reality of ones expressions and desires. Once one discovers these expressions and desires by such mundane practice of oneself, then the quest is one of pursuing this will-to-power in relation to others, where unlike Kant’s morality, the quest is not one of synthetising and increasing the scope of ones moral practice, but rather to maintain the difference of opinions and multiplicity of moral claims. The genetic element is the critical one, not the synthetic.

Finally, Deleuze puts it so well: ” a value always has a genealogy on which the nobility or baseness of what it invite us to believe, feel and think depends. Only a genealogist is able to discover what sort of baseness can find its expression in one value, what sort of nobility in another, because only he knows how to handle the differential element: he is the master of the critique of values. The notion of values loses all meaning if values are not seen as receptcales to be pierced, statues to be broken open to find what they contain, whether it is the most noble or the most base.”

1[w]e shall easily see what the difference is between a man who is led only by an affect, or by opinion, and one who is led by reason. For the former, whether he will or no, does those things he is most ignorant of, whereas the latter complies with no one’s wishes but his own, and does only those things he knows to be the most important in life, and thereforme desires very greatly. Hence, I call the former a slave, but the latter a freeman. [CURLEY translation, p. 584]

2The “exploitation” is not part of a depraved or incomplete and primitive society: it belongs in the essential nature of what is living, as a basic organic function; it is a consequence of the real will to power, which is simply the will to live.—Assuming that this is something new as a theory—it is, nonetheless, in reality the fundamental fact of all history: we should at least be honest with ourselves to this extent! [JOHNSTON translation, available at

3“Evaluations, in essence, are not values, but ways of being, modes of existence of those who judge and evaluate, serving as principles for the values on the basis of which they judge” [TOMLINSON translation, p.1]

4Everything in the world started with a yes. A molecule said yes to another molecule and life was born. But before pre-history there was the pre-history of pre-history and there was the never and there was the yes. There has always been. I don’t know what, but I know that the universe has never started.[my translation]

5NaP, p. 43

6NeP: 57 . The force is that which can, the will to power is that which volites. [my translation]


3 comentários

  1. […] Passem lá, comentem, critiquem e tudo mais. […]

  2. marcosfanton · · Responder

    O teu último parágrafo, pra mim, é decisivo pra entender melhor o método do Nietzsche deleuziano. Quer dizer: por trás de toda teoria há a tentativa de estabelecer determinado valor a partir de uma vontade (subjetiva)? A tarefa do filósofo, então, seria desconstruir, constantemente, tais valores e, além disso, “impor” seus próprios?

  3. Impor é uma palavra complicada pro Deleuze, creio eu.
    Porque se tu pensares, uma imposição é um “não”, ela é uma oposição direta. Isso soaria um tanto dialético, e a dialética é o inimigo.

    O problema pro Nietzsche do Deleuze é o seguinte: criaç!ão de conhecimento ESTÁVEL implica em uma estagnação do processo vital de afirmação individual. Então o negócio é evitar o estabelecimento de MORTE que o Deleuze identifica na Dialética.

    Desconstruir, também, me parece que seria uma estratégia da leitura do Heidegger para o Nietzsche, nao para o Deleuze. Para o Deleuze, o Nietzsche tá situado no âmbito do monismo, enquanto um individualista radical e um filósofo da imanência de expressões – daí esta não é uma leitura compatível com a idéia de destruição ou mesmo desconstrução.

    Sobre a tarefa da filosofia. No Nietzsche do Deleuze (sempre do deleuze), parece que a tarefa é de criar expressões próprias – únicas – de valor, e nesta explosão de expressões descobrir uma espécie de multiplicidades de imanências que criam um Absoluto.

    É um bixo complicado, e dá mais voltas do que eu gostaria de dar. Mas foi o que consegui tirar da coisa.

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