Der europäische Nihilismus

European Nihilism

In this 1940 lecture course, published in Nietzsche II, Heidegger confronts Friedrich Nietzsche’s interpretation of nihilism. This course unfolds in three stages. Heidegger first offers an account of nihilism, the will to power, and valuation in Nietzsche’s thought. Nietzsche understands nihilism as the collapse of all valuation. The revaluation of values must revert to the eternal recurrence of the same, because the will to power is essentially enhancement. Only the overman (Übermensch) is able to affirm the eternal recurrence. Nietzsche tries to overcome nihilism by the will to power’s revaluation of all values. His philosophy is a metaphysics of the will to power. He answers the guiding question of metaphysics, “What is being?,” by grounding the being of entities in the will to power.

In the middle section, Heidegger explains the convergence of the will to power and valuative thought. Value thinking is the essence and fulfillment of the metaphysics of subjectivity. Nietzsche’s humanization of metaphysics and morals is the consummation of the tradition from Protagoras to René Descartes. For Descartes, the human being is the subjectum as the ground of the representation of entities in terms of truth as certitude. The “quest for certitude” is determined by the goal of unconditional dominion over the earth. Nietzsche’s metaphysics of the will to power is dependent on Descartes’ fundamental metaphysical position. The being of entities remains for Nietzsche representedness. Modern value-philosophy conceals the collapse of the meaning of being and truth.