In the case of Spinoza it even seems impossible to account for such a negative element in the frame of his system. If everything follows by necessity from the nature of the eternal substance, no being would have the power to threaten the self-preservation of another being. Everything would be as it is and self-affirmation would be an exaggerated word for the simple identity of a thing with itself. But this certainly is not Spinoza’s opinion. He speaks of a real threat and even of his experience that most people succumb to this threat. He speaks of conatus, the striving for, and of potentia, the power of self-realization. These words, though they cannot be taken literally cannot be dismissed as meaningless either. They must be taken analogously.
From Plato and Aristotle on, the concept of power plays an important role in ontological thought. Terms like dynamis, potentia (Leibnitz) as characterizations of the true nature of being prepare the way for Nietzsche’s “will to power.” So does the term “will” used for ultimate reality from Augustine and Duns Scotus on to Boehme, Schelling, and Schopenhauer. Nietzsche’s will to power unites both terms and must be understood in the light of their ontological meaning. One could say paradoxically that Nietzsche’s will to power is neither will nor power, that is, is neither will in the psychological sense nor power in the sociological sense. It designates the self-affirmation of life as life, including self-preservation and growth.