In Will to Power, Nietzsche wrote that

joy accompanies, joy does not move

This claim strikes me as false. Behind this seems to be the idea that power rather happiness motivates us. But I think power motivates us insofar as it makes us happy, and joy seems capable of making us happy as well.

Does anyone defend a view like this? Does Nietzsche somewhere provide an argument against this?

  • 3
    There's a lot going on in this question. You seem to both be asking about whether joy can function as a motivator and whether anyone addresses this and whether we should pursue it. I'm going to edit it to just be a Nietzsche question and allow that one.
    – virmaior
    Apr 19 '15 at 2:20
  • @virmaior does the term translate as "gratification" before "pleasure" ?
    – user6917
    Mar 12 '16 at 2:09
  • I don't even know what you're asking me.
    – virmaior
    Mar 12 '16 at 2:30
  • i just mean to ask whether whatever term nietzsche uses for joy means the same thing as gratification, or is more about pleasure
    – user6917
    Mar 13 '16 at 23:47
  • "All creatures drink of joy At nature's breasts. All the Just, all the Evil Follow her trail of roses. Kisses she gave us and grapevines, A friend, proven in death. Ecstasy was given to the worm And the cherub" -Schiller, set to music in Beethoven's 9th. Like a key turning a lock, joy does not distinguish what is through the door, worm or cherub.
    – CriglCragl
    Nov 14 '21 at 13:01

For Nietzche, happiness is a complex thing. Different shades of it have different meanings and can lead us to pursue opposite agendas.

Cheer and gaiety, for instance, lead the opposite direction from contentment. One can will to power or lust after it, and those lead to real differences in strategy.

Your view is close to Plato's. One way of looking at Platonic ethics is that we will for happiness, and that leads us to good.

Schopenhauer took this on from a sort of half-appropriated Buddhist point of view and deconstructed it, deciding that instead, we will for life. Life may be more abundant when we are happy, but it may also be more abundant when we are suffering for a purpose, or when we are made deeply sad by overwhelming empathy. We see people live out those choices, forsaking a big part of their potential happiness for purpose or authenticity.

Nietzsche would like to have gone from there back toward Plato, as he pulled back from the over-sophistication of Schopenhauer and his ilk in general. But he saw how powerful forms of happiness can lead us to become less human. Contentment can lead one to become a slave to a master or to a 'herd'. Satisfied lust can draw one into a limited and constricting master role from which only evil derives. Both are happiness, nonetheless.

So he classified 'happinesses', in an attempt to look deeper into the aspects of happiness that elevate and those that degrade humanity. From there we get to the will to power.

One way to put it is that the happiness that elevates (joy) is special, and is about a particular kind of self-expression, the will to express your deepest will and see its effects. That 'art of self' would be good even without the accompanying happiness. As Schopenhauer had pointed out, we see people who live abundantly by making great offerings of suffering for their conscience or principles, like Jesus of Nazareth, and are fulfilled by it, even if they are in anguish. The right action without the payoff can still be a good life if it expresses one's deepest will and has a chance of changing things.

So joy generally accompanies the will to power, but that will would be there even without the accompanying joy. And if your true will stops leading toward joy, it can still drive you to great purpose. The joy is a clue, and a good guide in general, but it is not the real motivation.

You can relabel the sense of purpose one gets out of following one's will as just a deeper form of happiness. But it is an abstract one that most folks cannot identify with. Stretching the definition of the term that much makes the Platonic argument even less convincing.


Nietzsche does not provide an answer because he does not draw a distinction between joy (Lust - I think 'pleasure' would be a better translation) and happiness (Glück). At least he makes no distinction in the note (German source: NF-188 14[121]) you quote from, as he says a few sentences earlier:

Daß es eine bedeutende Aufklärung giebt, an Stelle des individuellen „Glücks“ nach dem jedes Lebende streben soll, zu setzen Macht

(That it is a notable elucidation, to posit power in place of the individual 'happiness' after which every living being is supposed to strive [my ad hoc translation])

So for Nietzsche, joy or happiness lies in (the feeling of) power.

  • The logic here is bad. To posit something in place of something else does not imply a relationship between the two. You are basically saying "N says we should use A instead of B, and that means he thinks A causes B."
    – user9166
    Apr 20 '15 at 20:33
  • what sort of analysis is he using to arrive at joy always being only ever a feeling of power ? @jobermark, hmm.
    – user6917
    Apr 21 '15 at 14:11
  • Joy is what you feel when things go your way -- when your deepest will is expressed in reality. Power is well-based faith that things will go your way. So power is continual joy. But the reverse is not true, joy can happen incidentally without power. Bear in mind that power need not be power-over, power can power-with -- such good adaptation to your situation or choice of situations that you know that you want what is going to happen, and it can be power-within -- such confidence in your ability to cope with whatever happens that you do not need to have a preference.
    – user9166
    Apr 21 '15 at 14:35
  • @MATHEMATICIAN (So I overshot and missed the question. There is no such deduction, and the answer is therefor flawed.)
    – user9166
    Apr 21 '15 at 14:40
  • are you sure "supposed to" is not irony?
    – user38026
    Jan 25 '20 at 3:40

I'm going to answer this with another aphorism from Human, all too Human:

Always at home - One day we reach our goal - and now we point with pride to the long journey we took to get there. In truth we did not realise we were travelling. But we got so far because at each point we believed we were at home.

And why were we at home? Because there is a joy at being at home; joy is then our neccessary accompaniment; and when enjoying we didn't notice the time pass, or the distance gone; or even the goal was unreachable, and being unreachable - reached.

And a little Nietzschian irony that explains itself:

after-effects of the oldest religiousity - Every thoughtless person believes the will alone is effective; that willing is simple.

There are other motivations; amongst them I'd suggest that it's apposite given Nietzsches reputation as an anti-religous thinker, and a thinker of the will - the religous:

  1. Moral Scepticism in Christianity - When we now, educated in this Christian school of scepticism, read the moral books of antiquity ie Seneca or Epictetus, we feel an amusing superiority and are full of secret insights and overviews...We know what virtue is!

So much for those heathens!

In the end we have applied this same scepticism to all religous states and procedures such as sin, repentance, grace;

They are ghosts, apparitions and hallucinations of the (weak womanly christianly) mind!

and we have allowed the worm to dig so deeply that even when reading Christian books we now have the same feeling of refined superiority and insight: We know the religous feeling better!

We are moderns!

And it is time to know them well, for even the pious of the old faith are dying out: let us save their image and type at least for knowledge.

And put them into museums alongside all those curios from Easter Island!


If it's not clear to anyone who has read this post, I consider Nietzsche to be the worst philosopher that I've read. I consider him to be the Nazi philosopher par excellance who on his own admission would exact a great deal of joy from exterminating 'unfit peoples'. Consider the following quote from The Anti-Christ: "the weak and the failures shall perish: first principle of our love of man. And they shall be given every possible assistance". Like gas-chambers and concentration camps.

  • 1
    I don't see how this constitutes an argument. Or how it bears on 'joy' in particular.
    – user9166
    Apr 19 '15 at 15:41
  • The way you introduce it to your argument contradicts my (rather basic and limited) experience as a therapist. To feel at home is not clearly 'joy' -- many flee home in horror. "I gotta get outa this place, if its the last thing I ever do." (One can say this is much of the impulse that got us to slave morality, fleeing places where masters live until we had no masters, only layers of slaves.) We can fail to notice we are travelling because home pursues us wherever we go, we are changing, but do not see the change, and despair, despite succeeding. AA has many inside jokes on this subject.
    – user9166
    Apr 19 '15 at 15:44
  • Well, I'd argue that's home in one sense; and it's not in that sense that I'm arguing for; there is another sense, at least in the English Language - 'make yourself at home'; ie be at your ease; but you're right - the argument isn't developed and I'm not tying it into a secondary literature where these different senses of joy, gaiety, contentment are anchored. Apr 19 '15 at 23:56
  • Perhaps that's an artifact of the English Language and not of German... Apr 20 '15 at 0:28
  • 1
    @user3293056: plenty of people are moved by Beethovens Ode to Joy, which is an expression of Beethovens feeling of joy; so yes, people can be moved by other peoples joy. Apr 24 '17 at 16:46

A short answer to test the water / voting system.

I think that aphorism means that my own joy is meaningless, and in fact what we strive after is to move others to joy, because that, unlike my own feelings, is a manifestation of the will to power.

  • That doesn't sound like Nietzsche. I think he'd describe joy as a poor compass
    – CriglCragl
    Nov 14 '21 at 11:08
  • I'd say it was more like a pole than a compass in my "answer" @CriglCragl
    – new_idea
    Nov 14 '21 at 15:15
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