Value of Nietzsche’s ‘The Will to Power’ Manuscript


It is often remarked that Nietzsche’s collection of notes (‘Nachlass’) from 1883 to 1888, bound as the book named ‘The Will to Power’, is without value because it was fabricated by his sister, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, head of the Nietzsche-Archiv in Weimar, after her brother’s death.
However, on the contrary, the book is undoubtedly of value. The following elementary points seek to highlight this fact.
1. The ORDER of Nietzsche’s notes was originally directed by Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche (et al.), but the note TEXT itself was written by Friedrich Nietzsche. In fact, the fourfold division of the manuscript was suggested by Nietzsche himself, and the name ‘The Will to Power’ was planned by him (e.g. in Genealogy, T3, §27; and in a note from 17th march 1887) as a then-forthcoming book title.

2. In the 1960s, philologists Mazzino Montinari and Georgio Colli called the book a 'historic forgery' because its specific order was not created as a book by Friedrich Nietzsche himself. But, the value of the book, as a collection of Friedrich Nietzsche's thoughts, remains despite this affront at its order.

3. It was in fact Friedrich Nietzsche's friend, Heinrich Köselitz ('Peter Gast'), who suggested to Elisabeth the idea of publishing the notes as the book.

4. It was also Köselitz who then became chief 'decipherer' of Friedrich Nietzsche's near-illegible scribblings for the book (he offered his services as such in a letter to Elisabeth dated 6th October 1893). Thus it was Köselitz (and others such as Fritz Koegel and Arthur Seidl) who chiefly transcribed The Will to Power, rather than Elisabeth alone.

5. There is no evidence and little reason to believe that Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche (or others) wrote the actual note text within the book. The expanded version of The Will to Power, with its 1067 sections, was expressly edited by Elisabeth and Köselitz/Gast (in 1906), making any forgery by Elisabeth less plausible.

6. The educationalist Rudolf Steiner was employed by Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche at the Nietzsche Archives in 1896. Steiner there gave her introductory lessons in philosophy, but had a very low opinion of her philosophical capabilities (see H. F. Peters' 'Zarathustra's Sister', 173). He left a year later. Thus Elisabeth was certainly no philosopher, and thus it is implausible that she contributed passages to pass as her brother's.

7. There is no question that the writings in The Will to Power are genuine. It was always the order and omissions of the book which were disliked by some. As Mazzino Montinari stated: "That Frau Förster-Nietzsche and Peter Gast chose to publish these notes in precisely this way, which is neither correct nor appropriate for the Nachlass is, however, the really decisive and serious objection to the whole compilation, much more so than the possible suppression of notes' (The Malahat Review, no. 24, Oct 1972).

8. The rejection of the book’s value is often a counteraction to early claims that the book was Nietzsche’s magnum opus (e.g. by the National Socialist sympathisers Alfred Bäumler and especially Heidegger).

9. From R. Kevin Hill (tranlator of the new Penguin edition of The Will to Power):'the appearance of unrepresentativeness is due to the fact that the criterion of selection in the [Nachlass was] to exclude every note which has a close counterpart in the published writings (to avoid repetition) while Gast's criteria for inclusion in the WTP was something otherwise unavailable (mostly). So it's not so much that Gast or Elisabeth are trying to create a different Nietzsche with specific ideological contours, but rather to supplement what we already have with what we don't already have. As an anthology of the Nachlass it is arguably, a very well chosen selection. This makes the claims of its misleadingness quite disingenuous'.

10. Many, if not most, of the notes were quite obviously used in Nietzsche’s published works.

11. Ultimately, whether or not Friedrich Nietzsche stood by these notes, unpublished in his lifetime, is academic (in both senses): the value (or lack thereof) of the text upholds itself regardless of who wrote or published it. Would Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’ or Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ become valueless if we suddenly doubted the authors?

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