‘What does nihilism mean? That the highest values have devaluated themselves. The aim is lacking; “why?” finds no answer.’
–Nietzsche, The Will to Power
Can nihilism be overcome? Must all of our highest values devaluate themselves? If not, the aim would not be lacking since the “why?” would indeed find an answer.
1. The self is born out of its separation from the Good. Thus, with the birth of the self comes desire: its aversions and its hungers.
2. If one is to remain a human being, then there is no getting beyond desire, in some ultimate sense. In Eastern philosophy, one gets beyond desire by getting beyond being a human being. But I doubt you and I wish to go that far. If we don’t, then we, as human beings, are stuck with thinking through our human predicament.
3. Desire is not ‘within me’ but, so to speak, ‘between’ me and the desideratum.
4. The desideratum, of course, is the Good. The Good may be knowledge, self-knowledge, pleasure, wealth, freedom, ataraxia, justice, etc. The Good is primordial, desire derivative.
5. My pursuit of the Good, accordingly, need not be volitional for it could be cognitive. Mine could be the pursuit of theoretical knowledge found in theoretical physics.
6. What is my life for? Clearly, a well-specified Good, which is of the highest value, and a well-laid-out path which is constitutive of that Good. The aim is there.
7. Nietzsche’s reply: ‘But is there such a candidate for the highest value today?’ Of course, I would reply. Perhaps too many. Ecologists alone believe it to be the biosphere. In another post, I have, in a vague way, spoken of The Big Thing. In my philosophical life, it is wisdom. We need not expect there to be one highest value, but we shouldn’t flinch at the possibility that there is a bunch.