The Quantum Nietszche

©Copyright 1998 William G. Plank. All rights reserved


Esoteric and jargon-ridden prefaces may intimidate the reader, but a thing seems difficult only until we understand it. Sometimes when we understand a thing, it does not even seem to be very intelligent any more. If the following seems at first to be cryptic, recondite, and difficult, this essay will strive to make everything quite clear, in language that is either explained or understandable.

Since his death in 1900, the shade of Nietzsche has been summoned to bear witness as Nazi, existentialist, perspectivist, atheist, madman, hermeneut, modernist, post-modernist, artist, post-Kantian, and post-structuralist. But Nietzsche shows us a universe which exhibits a behavior in which recombinative unities maximize their influence locally to become configurations which at any given moment, although they are the result of chance, are of a holistic necessity. Nietzsche calls this universe the Will to Power and it is the primary intuition of his work from beginning to end, from The Birth of Tragedy to The Antichrist, although it may early appear under other holistic aspects and names. Every aspect of Nietzsche's thought is connected to the Will to Power, making it coherent and consistent from beginning to end. Without an understanding of the nature of the cosmic Will to Power, Nietzsche remains incomprehensible.

When the maximizations of these localized configurations contribute to what he considers weakness, stasis (and entropy), Nietzsche calls them decadent, negative, destructive, and sick. When they contribute to what he considers strength (flux), Nietzsche calls them positive, creative, joyful, and dancing. I will later connect this particular type of morality to thermodynamic systems. His approval or disapproval of these localized configurations constitutes the basis for his theory of morality, a theory of morality, which as we shall see, is as Amor Fati at the root of the actual archaeology of morality. In the end, the Will to Power itself is the name given to the non-teleological, non-moral comportment of the stuff of the universe, whatever that stuff is, particles or energy centers, states of that something which there is when Substance has been rejected. From the point of view of the Will to Power, there is no morality which is different from immorality, there is only the local maximization of the Will to Power which we find reasons to call good or evil and which we also habitually explain, for questionable reasons, in terms of cause and effect. Nevertheless, this morality-immorality is at the basis of a superior (read:positive-creative-fluxial) configuration of the Will to Power which we may call the moral and which we shall see exhibited in the product of the evolutionary axiosphere, a product called the Übermensch, the Overman. This latter and perhaps mysterious remark will bear some lengthier exposition to convince the reader. I will make the case for that later.

But the Will to Power has no point of view, because the Will to Power is not something which considers or evaluates the nature of the universe from the outside. Like quantum mechanics, the Will to Power is not something based on local and mechanistic concepts. The Will to Power is not something. The Will to Power is the universe. Thus it is like Darwin's evolution-devolution, like an out-of-equilibrium or dissipative system which operates on every level from the mineral to the moral. Surely we would not be mystified if Darwin had refused to name various aspects of biological evolution good or evil. Evolution is not easily labelled good or evil, even though we find it easy to throw those terms about. No, the Will to Power is not like Darwin's evolution, it is evolution--an overarching evolution which in the absence of Substance includes the moral as well as the inorganic and the biological. The universe is evolution; it is flux. It is thus similar to Schopenhauer's holistic World as Will, except for Nietzsche it is not a thing to be rejected and escaped, but rather a joyous thing to be embraced. Unlike the Buddhist wheel of life and death from whose unhappy rotation one must escape through Nirvana, one embraces joyously time and time again the Will to Power as it manifests itself in the Eternal Recurrence. Thus, he who would reject the Will to Power would reject himself and founder in the ultimate danger of nihilism. In the essay that follows, we shall try to see more clearly how such is the case.

It may be that Nietzsche evolved the notion of the Will to Power by expanding and generalizing the individual psychological will, or by altering and adding to it the notion of Schopenhauer's World as Will, but those interesting surmises are not our concern here. We will look for a new perspective on the Will to Power to see what it tells us about us so-called moderns. To look for a new perspective on the Will to Power and help us better define it, we will consider in some detail the glass bead games of Manfred Eigen and Ruthild Winkler, point out the similarity between the Will to Power and the glass bead games, and then draw some conclusions. We will then see what a clear and useful concept is the Will to Power and how other important thinkers of the 19th and 20th centuries have altered it for their own purposes or used the same idea under other well-known names. The Will to Power will be used as a methodology, a perspective, as a problématique in some sections to show how how it may reassess the past. As a method, the Will to Power is almost limitless, open-ended in its application to the adventures of the mind, to philosophy, literature, science and politics.

In what follows, let us not be put off by the use of the word holistic, which we have come frequently to associate with some homeopathic quackery. After all, Spinoza, Kant, and Leibniz sought a holistic system. A holistic vision is what a lot of philosophy is all about. We want to know what's what, not just what lies inside our middle-class backyard wooden fences.

Be patient with the descriptions of the glass bead games--they provide a wonderful and lucid entry into the problem of the recombination of particles and patterns. If I could say everything and explain myself on the first page, I would do so. It will be necessary, however, to follow the simple descriptions and then everything will become clear later. In a short time, the definition of terms already used will appear and then the opaquenss of jargon will be transformed into the illusion of insight and understanding. It is necessary that such prefaces as this appear to be vague and mysterious, because they are not and cannot be the exposition. Prefaces are a greeting and a promise to the reader. At least, they should be friendly and not overbearing. Let us see if I can keep the promises of this preface.

It is not my primary project to provide an exegesis of Nietzsche's thought, but rather to see how various aspects of the world and of history look when seen through the perspective of his major intuitions, the Will to Power, the Overman, the Eternal Recurrence and the Amor Fati --and how modern developments such as quantum mechanics and post-Darwinian biology can complement the elucidation of Nietzsche's sometimes cryptic thought. It is a terrific adventure to watch the quantum mechanist edge toward an intuition that is almost identical to the Will to Power. As the physicist d’Espagnat remarked on the most significant of the implications of physics, "some of them were obliterated to some extent by the considerable development of the quantum formalism" (Highley and Peat, p. 152). The elegance of mathemathics is its own reward and may obstruct for some the philosophical implications. The mathematical demonstration is important, even necessary, but I have kept it almost invisible except in the discussion of Planck’s constant and Bell’s Inequality, where it is rather easy to follow.

Although the sections of this essay are numbered and titled and there are frequent cross-references to other sections in the text, I insist that the sympathetic reader should read them in order because they accumulate terminology and concepts as they go along--so that later sections should be easier to understand when one has read those which have gone before. The titles of the sections are not exhaustive of the content of the sections but supply a reference point for review and an intimation of what is to come. I insist likewise that you not look through the contents to find an interesting section which you will read first, as one might dog-ear the pages of a steamy paperback. Allow me to make my points in the order I have presented them so that they will be more convincing and do not judge the first sections until you have read them all. Occasionally, I will repeat a definition, or remind the reader of what I have already said, in the manner of a monolingual who shouts at a foreigner in the expectation that volume insures comprehension and conviction.

Tolerate my use of the first person singular pronoun. It has been made very clear to me over the years that it carries enormous metaphysical baggage--yet I grew so accustomed to it when I was just a boy. Moreover, since I have spent so much time reading Nietzsche, it would take a stern and unsympathetic person to expect me to express myself in a dry, sober and professorial manner.

It is only the decent thing to do to tell the readers what you are about at the very beginning and then remind them of what you did at the end. Here then is the summary of this book and the summary of the import of Nietzsche as I see it One particle in the universe would be the only possible true chaos. Two particles in the universe would be the necessary origin of Relation. From Relation, Power and Value are born. Power and Value are synonyms. From this Value arises Morality, the only true Morality. Religions, ideologies, and nationalisms falsify this Morality by their perverse agendas and thus contribute to the very decay of Value, which means the decay of Relation and virtue and the very fabric of the universe, making possible and even creating Nihilism. This equation of Power and Value will be seen to solve the problem of mind and body, of spirit and substance, of biology and ethics, of morality and thermodynamics. When I refer to this paragraph at the end of the book, I expect it to make more sense.

This essay is about the relations between states of dissipative systems. Nietzsche's Will to Power is the description of how states are related. The glassbead games of Manfred Eigen likewise describe how states are related. We have come to see that Darwin's theory is a description of how states are related in that great squandering of forms we call evolution, an evolution in which the concept of linearly causal adaptability is meaningless. Species do not exist and cannot exist as absolute entites. What we call a species is actually individuals in flux. The individuals themselves are genetic configurations in flux and the individual is thus, while real, illusory. Nietzsche knew that reality is an illusion but that illusion is real. However, that is a manner of speaking in reaction to our ancient metaphysic of idealism and by the Nietzschean illusion, we must understand the valorization of the indeterminate apparent. The epistemologist and the quantum mechanist may call these Nietzschean illusions "partial truths" in contradistinction to the old truths, which we may call counterfactual a prioris. The relations among the states of the Will to Power, of the states of the glassbead games, and of the states of biological evolution are non-linear, non-teleological but necessary and cyclical, and can exist and come into being only as a result of the reality of change. They call into question the nature of our perception, the reality of space and time and location, and as they do they raise the same questions as quantum mechanics, i.e., quantum mechanics as "experimental metaphysics" as Shimony called it (Cushing and McMullin, p. 27), if only we are able to liberate ourselves from the Socratic Judaeo-Christian metaphysic as Nietzsche did in the Will to Power and as the quantum mechanists such as Heisenberg and Bell sometimes succeed in doing. Thus Nietzsche is not a post-Kantian and Hegel's proposals become repugnant. And of the group of Nietzsche, Darwin, Heisenberg, Eigen, and Bell, Nietzsche was the first to see, without mathematics, the implications of the flux which results from the rejection of traditional ontology, an ontology which became irrevocably bound to a morality and local reality. This ontology and this morality deeply infected the sciences, even physics. The real is not rational and the rational is not the real. The illusion is real and the real is an illusion. Thus illusion is necessary, a necessary partial truth.

The universe is a great, curved gaming table on which the galaxies of dice are endlessly in motion, colliding, rolling, forming currents and streams, affecting one another in varying ways, in patterns of chance that some call chaotic and others call orderly. Scientists, philosophers, prophets and common vagrants sometimes thrust a hand into this flux and sieze a handful of dice, arresting their trajectory, slapping them down on the mahogany bar of human preconceptions, like a Montana cowboy rolling for drinks and hoping for a quintet of sixes. Then they read the numbers a pair of eights, a six, a trio of fours. The numbers they read on these dice they call data, but their interference in the nature of the flux has created data by their very actions, which have arrested and thus falsified the nature of the dice, and from the falisifed data they have created they try to determine the nature of the universe. Thus they inject various types of cause, of unitization, of location, of relation among these dice, among these particles, among these tumbling and restless energy centers and currents. But the scientists and philosophers and the vagabonds themselves are dice and conglomerations of dice rolling along in the currents of dice, arresting the flux and making claims about reality. The fictions and lies they create are the necessary fictions with which we must work, with a certain prudence and a certain humility and a certain joy and a terrible care not to redefine the ontology and the "partial truths" of these pieces as a morality. God does indeed play at dice with the universe and, win or lose, He’s got the funds and He’s got the time.

Now let us get underway with Nietzsche’s immodest remark "I am by far the most terrible human being that has existed so far...and the most beneficial" (EH XIV 2).