THE WILL TO POWER AS THE ESSENCE OF NIHILISM
In his essay ‘On the Line’, Ernst Jünger proposes a ‘description of the locus of nihilism’, to which there pertains ‘an assessment of the place and the opportunities available to human being in the place described by means of the image of the line’.
This ‘Topography of Nihilism’ lends itself to a discussion with that thoughtful consideration whose most urgent possibility is the determination of the essence and origin of nihilism. As a thoughtful consideration of the essence, what might be called a ‘topology’can be characterised in contrast to the former literary topography. Indeed a consideration of the essence of nihilism belongs in any examination of the crossing through of being+, to the extent that the nihilistic nothingness belongs in general to the essence of being as a historically determined form of nothingness.
Just such an examination of the essence of being+ (in connection with that nothingness+ which belongs to it) has already been proposed in the manner indicated above. In this way, consideration of the essence of nihilism has been brought to the point at which it becomes clear that henceforward this essence and this origin can be determined topologically. For it now becomes evident that this nihilistic nothingness, just like nothingness in general, belongs to the essence of being. However it has still not been shown clearly and unambiguously in what way the nullifying withdrawal of nihilism variously announced in the topographically described reduction of the world and of living being in the world, prevails and holds sway.
To take account of this relationship between the topography and the topology of nihilism means that a philosophical topology has to ‘precede’ a literary topography .
Above all, this means that what the topology brings to light as the essence of nihilism precedes what can be topographically depicted in terms of the reduction. Thoughtful topology is characterised as ‘the exhibiting of that place where being and nothingness are gathered together and which determines the essence of nihilism in such a way that a possible overcoming of nihilism thereby makes itself known’.
This locus, one which validates the topology of nihilism, is an essential place, the place where being and nothingness are so essentially displayed in their belonging together that this belonging together accounts for the way in which the nihilistic nothingness prevails in the manifestation of being. This historically determined essential place is however a placement in en-own-ment, because it determines the mode of appearance of en-own-ment both historically and nihilistically.
The fundamental question for the topology of nihilism reads: Wherein do being and nothingness belong together and how is the essence of nihilism unfolded out of the inter-play between them ? This inter-play between being and nothingness, between turning toward and turning away, names the mode of essencing [Wesungsweise] of nihilism. In the turn of phrase ‘being and nothingness’ the ‘and’ expresses the essential belonging of each to the other. The mode of essencing of nihilism is a particular way in which nullifying withdrawal prevails in the turning-toward of being.
What is sought is the ‘wherein’, the essential place of the nihilistic prevalence of withdrawal in the clarifying turning-toward of being. The answer to this question links up with the topographically designated reduction. For it should be possible to grasp the reductive experience and expression of the life-world and of life in the world out of the essence of nihilism. To the experience of a thorough-going reduction there also belongs the insight that the reduction ‘is an on-going process of ever-increasing power and destructiveness'(65).
The nihilistic reduction in connection with an ever growing empowerment implies the following for thoughtful topology: ‘a process whose depth and originality are ever diminished within the sphere of being in general is not merely accompanied by a growth in the will to power but actually determined by it’.
‘Within being in general’, that is, within the openness and unconcealment of beings, reduction, contraction and withdrawal take place with ever diminishing depth and originality. This ‘ever diminishing’ is nothing ontic but bears an ontological-historical stamp. For the openness or unconcealment of beings is not itself anything ontic. Beings can only be confronted out of their unconcealment. In their very unconcealment, beings confront us as determined with regard to what and how they are. The nihilistic reduction has been installed in this very unconcealment.
The growing empowerment, linked up with a process of ever diminishing depth and originality within the sphere of beings, is envisaged topologically as an increase in the will to power, a process by which the reduction and the contraction and with it the development of power within the sphere of beings is determined.
A distinction is therefore drawn between the growing empowerment within the sphere of beings and the increase in the will to power. That will to power which is identified here under the auspices of topology is not readily contained within the limits of what Nietzsche meant by this phrase; rather will to power here takes on the form of a historical exemplification of the belonging together of being and nothingness, a belonging together from out of which proceeds both the reduction and, in connection therewith, that progressive empowerment within the unconcealment of beings. ‘Being and nothingness’, in the inter-play between which the essence of nihilism is unfolded, belong together in the will to power, in that will ‘that wants itself’.
The will to power as the will to will thereby shows itself to be the essence of nihilism. The will to power is the withholding mode of essencing of that nothingness which belongs to being and which as such makes up the essence of nihilism. In how nullifying a way does this self affirming will to power prevail?
If the reduction and that progressive empowerment which prevails within the sphere of beings belong to the essence of the will to power and its unending growth it could be said: ‘that reduction which manifests itself within the sphere of beings is grounded in a production of being, namely, in the development of the will to power as an unconditional will to will’.
This ‘production of being’ is a historical manifestation of the turning-toward of being but of such a kind that there also belongs thereto an overwhelmingly dominant turning-away in the sense of the nullifying withdrawal. In the first instance, this withdrawal within the sphere of beings is characterised by ever diminishing depth and originality. But that withdrawal which takes root in a nullifying mode of being of the will to power is not to be restricted to the above.
Since the reduction within the sphere of being rests upon a peculiar production on the part of being, one could say: ‘The contraction, the ab-sence is determined out of and through a pre-sence’. It is the pre-sence of the nullifying mode of being of the will to power which ‘precedes every decline’.
There where the sphere of beings declines it is not therefore this sphere itself which prevails but precisely something else . This decline within the sphere of beings does not means its disappearance and diminishment. On the contrary the ontic sphere can be augmented and exalted as never before, and even then it declines from the standpoint of unconcealment.
In what way however does that ever increasing will to power that wants itself nullify? How can this nihilistic nullification of the will-ful and power-ful be set out as an essential characteristic of being? The will to power as historical, indeed as the most modern and newest mode of essencing of being belongs to the conceptually fabricated historicality of being. As a historically determined ontological concept this word does not name what in everyday language is known as a human machination but ‘an essence of being’, that essence of being that is decisive for the fabrication of all beings.
The mode of essencing of being as fabrication means that here, within the process of unconcealment, making comes to the fore. The makeability of being as the will to power is exhibited in the basic makeability of all beings and, correlatively, in the artificiality of the modern subject, a subject whose entire being is centred in this mechanistic conception of everything. The makeability of beings means: everything that is, including human being itself, can be disclosed as constructible. Correlatively, the artificiality of the subject is shown in this, that all of its modes of disclosure are characterised by the artifice of making.
That makeability and artificiality which is exhibited in fabrication ‘empowers the power which lies at its root’. The most up to date way in which the artificiality of being is displayed empowers itself to the extent that it allows power to emerge in its essence as ‘overpowering'(75). The essence of power stems from the will to power as overpowering. Herein what is truly negative shows itself as that wherein the essence of nihilism resides. For overpowering is in itself a ‘casting down and destroying’.
This de-stroying (Ver-nichten) is, like everything else that has to be thought here, not meant in an ontic fashion. It is not a setting aside and clearing away of what is present at hand, not even a ‘demolition and fragmentation in the sense of a radical disintegration of what presents itself’.
The casting down and destroying in question is a much more ontological happening, one that takes place in the very process of uncovering as the ‘trans-ition into nullity’. The destruction out of the overpowering power bears upon the what and the how of the realm brought to light and therewith the mode of unconcealment that corresponds to it. As utter destruction, the overpowering has more of an ‘essential than a cumulative’ character .
The nihilistic negation as destruction does not in the first instance fasten upon whatever beings there might just happen to be, and precisely because it is not an ontic destruction, but rather ‘first fastens upon being itself'(80) and this because the destruction proceeds from being itself.
The destruction that proceeds forth out of the overpowering power ‘is the ‘desertification’ [Verwüstung]’. But even this is not an ontic waste and wasting of whatever is but an ontological ‘undermining’ of each and every possibility of deciding. This means that beings can no longer be determined in their former modes of being what and how they are inasmuch as the latter have been drawn back into the nullifying destruction. Desertification is ‘no longer being able to go back’, because it can only go forward toward the extinction of every possibility of bringing beings as such in touch with their being .
The will to power negates every ontological possibility of that very being which has been objectified by modern science and technology ever being able to enter into the historically determined illumination of being+ as the fourfold, and this because it is itself uncovered through a covering over of its former way of being what and how it is.