From this point we now recognize the final misstep, to which we are still liable, in grasping and supposedly battling against nihilism. Since we do not experience nihilism as a historical movement which is already of long duration and whose essential ground lies in metaphysics itself, we fall victim to the pernicious desire to take the phenomena, which are in fact only the consequences of nihilism, for nihilism itself, or to represent consequences and effects as the cause of nihilism. In thoughtlessly accommodating ourselves to this manner of representation, we have for decades been used to adducing the dominance of technology or the revolt of the masses as the causes of the historical condition of our age; we tirelessly analyze the spiritual situation of the time in these respect'>. Yet every analysis, however knowledgeable and clever, of man and his position among beings remains thoughtless and produces only the semblance of reflection, so long as it refrains from thinking about a settlement for man's essence and from experiencing that place in the truth of being.

As long as the mere phenomena of nihilism are taken for nihilism itself, any opinion about it will remain superficial. And it does not help in the least when out of discontentment at the condition of the world, or from a half-avowed despair, or from moralistic outrage, or from devout and self-righteous superiority, opinions take on a degree of frantic resistance.

In contrast to this, it is above all essential that we reflect. That is why we will now ask Nietzsche himself what he understands by nihilism; to begin with, we will leave it an open question whether with this understanding Nietzsche has already caught the essence of nihilism or whether he can catch it.

In a note from 1 887, Nietzsche poses the question (The Will to Power, aphorism no. 2): "What docs nihilism mean?" He gives the answer: "That the highest values devalue themselves."

This answer is emphasized and a supplementary explanation is provided: "The goal is missing; the answer to 'why?' is missing."

Nietzsche, accordingly, comprehends nihilism as a historical process. He interprets this process as the devaluation of the hitherto highest values. God, the supersensory world as the world that truly is and that determines everything, ideals and ideas, the goals and grounds that determine and support all beings and human life in particular: all these are represented here in the meaning of the "highest values." According to a view current even now, what one understands by that term is truth, goodness, and beauty: truth, i.e., that which truly is; goodness, i.e., what everything is everywhere dependent upon; beauty, i.e., the order and unity of beings in their entirety. The


Nietzsche's Word: “God Is Dead”