In the Will To Power Nietzsche has a brief note mentioning the concept of an incomplete nihilism:
“Incomplete nihilism; its forms: we live in the midst of it.”[i]
We are in the midst of it, but what does that mean? Does our condition reconfirm what Nietzsche says or has contemporary society evolved out of the incomplete nihilistic state? Our civilisation certainly possesses a dynamic in which the big questions are played down and made flimsy whilst the old values are maintained in order to give us something to hold on to whilst we blindly stagger through the void – is this what Nietzsche was referring to? A nihilism that hides itself in religions and ideologies? We live in a nihilism but it doesn’t actually feel nihilistic. Is this what Nietzsche sensed as well?
What is civilisation driven by if not a flimsy will to acquire more wealth, or to improve our personal image as we measure ourselves against the acquisitions of all the others. We are in awe at the novelties of technology rather than creating a technology that will free our human gifts of real invention and allow us real freedom from the obligations of mindless, soulless labour. We are immersed and trapped in the money system and the anti-human behaviour it engenders in our lives like violence, poverty, crime, hunger and war. The only justification for any of this are flimsy ones: weak-willed arguments that our weaknesses are ingrained in our human nature, stamped in our genes. The real Sapiens’ potentials are not encouraged unless they can promote egoistic acquisitions. Even medical research is only carried out when potential profits are seen.
And through all this weak-willed pessimism and egoism the system is bolstered up by the values of the family, God and the nation. The nihilism is incomplete, but it is there, and, paradoxically, all its weak-willed nihilism is, because of this incompleteness, enormously powerful.
This condition is of real benefit only to a select few, although, absurdly enough, it seems perfectly rational to the majority. They see it, not as a flimsy superficial existence but quite simply as the way things are. Which is also the way things have always been, and this collapses into the submission to the way things have to be – until we die.
The system is our oxygen. The majority believe and can only imagine anything different to be an utter disaster.
Nietzsche believed that the only way to escape our nihilism was to revalue the values we have held so far. This is obviously very difficult to do, but, as Heidegger says:
“Revaluing becomes the overturning of the nature and manner of valuing.”[ii]
However, it is the uncertainty in this overturning that frightens us. A fear of opening a hole in the wall of the dam; of creating a deluge by inventing a way of making it rain.
Nevertheless, perhaps the answer to the problem of our incomplete nihilism is also an incomplete revaluation. I.e., not to revaluate everything but to revalue with real values: values that all human beings can call authentic because they are authentic human values; that a strong humanism is the answer to a weak and incomplete nihilism.
[i] Friedrich Nietzsche, WILL TO POWER, #28
[ii] Martin Heidegger, THE QUESTION CONCERNING TECHNOLOGY, p.70