Can one kill a relationship with hope and certainty? Yes, one can! Better can be worse! How come? People always want more, and that includes relationships. Once they feel socially secure enough, many move on. To know more, to possess more.

Why do people want more always? Well, it’s a survival skill that turned into an evolutionary advantage: expand, augment when the going is good, and the probability of surviving will be greater for the group. The larger the territory, the more to exploit, the more buffer. After all, Homo evolved as a hunter, and social hunters on land have to be highly territorial, they spend a lot of time acquiring a place they will defend to death (wolves, lions, hyenas are example; non territorial hunters like polar bears are sea based). Everything else being equal, having more means such a higher survival capability, that the “Will to Augment” was a strong psychobiological evolutionary advantage.

A subset of this psychobiological “Will to Augment” acquired in turn a spiritual life of its own under the label of “Will to Power” (Nietzsche, etc.). When people have it all, all they wanted, they move on to want even more, and not just landscape, or material goods, it extends to all mental dimensions. Augment as much as can be imagined, and when the going is good, get going some more. The instinct to augment is so ravenous, it’s why so many tyrants never stopped, even when it was clearly wiser to.

In particular, once people have a relationship full of hope and certainty, they tend to want to move on. It’s psychobiological, all about getting maximum territory under control, in this case, social territory. Perhaps the greatest asset for survival has been the quest for power by extension of alliances. Ultimately, most of what people do is to extent these alliances (in particular when it’s called a “career”, from the Old French meaning “horse race”). So if one can depend upon an individual, one tends to move to the next one to extent an alliance with: the bigger the total set of alliances, the stronger. There is always a greener meadow on the other side of the fence, a new spring somewhere, and more interesting (the “Will to Augment” may even be the root of the anti-incest “instinct”: no point augmenting what you already got).

The quest Will to Power spurs one into is unending. Or is it? It’s not just that when astronauts went in orbit, they found nowhere else to go. The Dark ages themselves show that controlling the augmentation instinct is key to ongoing civilizational expansion. Augmentation here may mean diminution out there, somewhere more important.

For the longest time, indiscriminate augmentation was NOT what the Roman republic was about. Just the opposite: the law was Rome meta structure, in overall mental and social control. It prevented augmentation for augmentation’s sake (that naturally occurs most simply along the simplest instinctual lines). Roman secular law as the overlord of Roman psychology  kept for many centuries the Roman republic as the most civilized place on Earth. The People, Populus Romanus, augmented its power as the plutocracy reluctantly relinquished its power.

But then, after Hannibal hanged around Italy defeating and massacring Romans for 15 long, devastating years, indiscriminate augmentation of Roman material power and territorial extension was felt safest (all the more since brute augmentation of the military allowed the plutocracy (the Senate) to beat back the People, into submission). But it was deadly as far as civilizational progress was concerned. “Augustus” means “Augmenter”. It was the title Rome’s first official “Princeps” kindly found for himself. The fascist “augmentation” that great nephew and adoptive son of Caesar provided with, proved to be a disaster for civilization, putting it mostly in reverse, and ending with the Christian theocracy of the Dark Ages, and its apocalyptic drive.

So, for more than two thousand years, the lesson has been that the quality and nature of what one wants to augment is more important than augmentation for augmentation’s sake. Augustus reached that conclusion himself in his testament, tentatively, but without drawing any deep consequence therefrom (except by telling his successors to stay out of Germania, a bad reaction exaggerating the other way, that the Franks corrected as the mistake it was, five centuries later). Precisely for having the wrong concept of augmentation, the Augmenter, “Augustus” single-handedly insured the diminution of Greco-Roman civilization into something only the barbarian Franks could save and refurbish.

The quest “Will to Power” spurs one to is unending, it’s a blind psychobiological instinct. It cannot be stopped, but only be redirected towards internal, mental growth. And what is this growing inside about? Civilization. It starts inside.

If one wants more civilization, one wants to transform relationships between people in ways which augment mental creativity. That’s what the Franks succeeded to do, by freeing women and slaves. When the slave is slave no more, and talk back she will, dumb exploiters of the people are forced to get smarter (or devise smarter schemes to exploit people). Thus that increase of intelligence feedbacks on itself. The entire society is forced to get smarter. That’s how the Franks resurrected Western civilization: by using higher ethics to force down more basic instinctual forms of the “Will to Power”, which had been thoroughly rotting the Greco-Roman edifice.

So maybe material and social comfort is not something one wants to augment too much, in the name of creating a context more friendly to the very highest civilizational principles. An advantage of discomfort, and resisting the call to more simplistic instincts is that one has got to get smarter.

A very prosaic application of all this have been the huge taxes on energy long found in the European Union. The discomfort they induced have forced the Europeans to get smarter. A more subtle application of the psychological mechanisms exhibited here is that easy and cool mental attitudes are not the smartest. Unsurprisingly, both subjects are entangled: US society has learned to love it cool and easy, and general intelligence should have suffered as a result. It did! Hence in particular the spurning of energy taxes, and becoming demonstrably ever more stupid, at least in the domain of energy, or in the incarceration rate, or in the distribution of riches, or in health care, or the sub prime heist, or by going to invade the Middle East, or in letting a country that wants to define itself as being about freedom become the pathetic victim of unbriddled propaganda of the few, the rich, the plutocrats, etc.

Patrice Ayme.


  1. Leah Says:

    What if we orient our augmentation instinct towards being in harmony with the natural universe? Or our augmentation instinct towards being in balance in our mental, social, and civilizational pursuit?

    The “will to power” is not the the root problem of mankind. The “human’s will to power over nature” is.


  2. patriceayme Says:

    The “Will to Augment” is here, always, and it is stronger than nearly everything else, and it is blind. Although its origin is from a carnivorous evolution, it does not spare anyone, not even the young Buddha, who was a victim of it (he said so himself) as he tried to augment himself too much (in an excess of exhibitionist abnegation and ridiculous self denial).

    Now the “Will to Power” is a strict subset (one may want “more”, and use power to do so, but not because one wants more “power” per se, since one is using power to get more of whatever “more” one wants!).

    “Will to Power” at best ends up with “Power”, and that is always above nature, be it “human nature”. “Power” by definition has to do with force, something that imparts acceleration, hence motion. Even emotions require power, and it’s lazy to show none.

    The “Will to Augment” has to be directed by higher strategies producing balance in a suitable ecological niche for our intelligence, true. We have to use it to augment the harmony with our niche, true. No choice.


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