Martin Heidegger’s Nietzsche is considered one of the twentieth century’s most important and influential work among both Nietzschean scholars and philosophers. Here Heidegger writes:

“First, nihilism, as Nietzsche thinks it, is the history of the devaluation of the highest values hitherto, as the transition to the revaluation of all prior values, a revaluation that comes to pass in the discovery of a principle for a new valuation, a principle Nietzsche recognizes as the will to power.”


For Heidegger, Nietzsche is especially important because he is not only representing “a constitutive sense of the end of Western philosophy”, but also a new and bold transition into a stage of overcoming nihilism and surpassing into something different, such as the future of ‘higher man’ (or ubermensche). In addition to that, he too describes “the twilight of the end of Western thinking … which end means the running out and the running astray of the confusion of the various basic positions, valuations, concepts, and systems”, which have been proposed, formed, or both, today and throughout past history.


Nietzsche was very important to the development of Heidegger’s philosophy, especially during the mid 1930s. During this period Heidegger gave a lecture on Nietzsche and focused a large part on the question of Nihilism. From my position, Heidegger’s interpretation is very much in line with Nietzsche. He always placed a good deal of emphasis on the physical world, human experience, and the senses just as would Nietzsche when reflecting upon the concept of nihilism.


He also furthered the interpretation on nihilism in the sense of striving to emphasize on the nothingness or valuelessness itself that surrounds one’s own existence, and which renders everything ‘meaningless’; that values and meanings can be described by means of oneself.


And relative to the process of devaluation of the “uppermost values” (or highest) thus far , Heidegger insists: if these highest or “uppermost values” are to be devalued, then, logically speaking every being for which all values “were grounded” too would become valueless (or nonvalue) relative to this process.


In Being and Time , among Heidegger’s major writings, he continued to give an account of his own analysis of human existence. Here he regarded the analysis as “the pathway” to understanding of Being, and which also “often served” as foundation relative to his thought and interpretation on nihilism. With reference to nihilism, now he too writes of “human encountering” of the world and of our mood in which we experience it as placing or judging a value and meaning on the world.


Next we then find ourselves occupying or as such ‘existing’ in this world, specifically in the sense of inhibiting our own perspectives on life and using whatever we (can) find (or that “surrounds us”): the “thrown possibility through and through. Dasein is the possibility of Being-free for its own most potentiality-for-Being … and this is also our facticity … as factical Dasein, any Dasein has already diverted its potentiality-for-Being into a possibility of understanding”. Essentially speaking, while Dasein means “Being-in-the-world,” hence, to be conceived of as “the Being possible” or “the potentiality-for-Being;” in the same manner Being-there is, therefore, also “Being-in” and inclusive of all our perspectives of the world whether or not nihilistic ones.


Consequently, this is important because “beings as a whole remain, and the need to establish a truth concerning beings simply grows more pronounced” . This way, again the positing of a new value, meaning, or both, is thus needed and announced. In comparison, this is also similar to what Nietzsche had in mind relative to his concept of nihilism as it is not being seen as a complete or negative downfall; on the contrary, as something positive to begin our new life with (in terms of re-valuing values).

And like Nietzsche, Heidegger also insists that it is about time (presumably beginning with Nietzsche as a forerunner of the ‘advent of nihilism’) to start thinking anew and looking for alternatives. After all, a new era has begun, which, according to him, has taken us away from the “usual path” man has taken for over two thousand years of Christendom. Relative to Nietzsche, here he remarks:


“The devaluation of the highest values hitherto first of all makes the world seem valueless. These values are indeed devalued, but beings as a whole remain, and the need to establish a truth concerning beings simply grows more pronounced.

The indispensability of new values becomes obvious. The positing of new values is announced … even though the presence of a new world of values has been detected and – albeit unwillingly – already acknowledged. This

intermediate state, in which the historical peoples of the earth must decide on their destruction or on a new beginning….”




On the whole, while Nietzsche is better known for his emphasis and critique on the ‘historical movement’ of mankind or a ‘justification of history’; for instance, relative to our desire and will, of self-overcoming (selbstuberwin-dung), the conscious and the unconscious forces (whether or not from the ‘herd instinct’ that relates or traverses the social field: “To give men back the courage to their natural drives–”); in other words, “the history of a becoming-reactive” .



Here in particular, Heidegger now takes this further than Nietzsche in the sense that “Nihilism is history … Nihilism determines the historicity of this history” (Heidegger, 199, Vol. IV, p. 53) and as such the pattern of thought or “ressentiment” (GM ‘I’ 10; also ‘III’ 13) in which man has inscribed into his own culture – the ‘European’ culture (and together with the “misguided representation” or the manipulation of the churchly order as  according to him). From these types of underlying thoughts behind the essence of historicity, realization that “God is dead” or the ‘death of God,’ as well as upon finding new strength for humanity to live life as “it is.”

These are all, essentially speaking, not only contributive, but I suggest, an essential interpretation of Heidegger’s concept of nihilism and how it affects our lives and belief systems. Moreover, I also believe it then integrates into other significant concepts such as that of ‘overman’ (ubermensch) or ‘the will to power,’ which is again the crown of Nietzsche’s key conception and philosophy of power: “Life itself is not a means to something; it is merely a growth-form of power”.



Anyhow, towards the end of Heidegger’s work on nihilism, he still maintains that the idea of nihilism itself is a kind of situation (often more like “a movement”), which occurs well beyond a “depreciative state” or our general perception. It is not merely the weariness of the world and the human will, or even of humanity as previously explored by Nietzsche. According to Heidegger: “nihilism points to a historical movement that extends far behind us and reaches forward far beyond us”.


Here, to simplify Heidegger’s view in relation to Nietzsche; in sum we argue: the main difference that distinguishes Heidegger’s interpretation from that of Nietzsche could be understood in the “essential disclosing” of nihilism is (or as) the “default of Being.” And so in an attempt to “stay away” – not only does it engages, but also promises to itself in its “own un concealment” in different forms and levels of ‘intensity.’ (cf. “schizophrenic realities” in Anti-Oedipus).


For Heidegger, his interpretation frequently revolves around this stance relative to nihilism. After all, as those who are familiar with him would consent to this that his importance lies in the persistent vision and concept of the history of Being (or ‘beings’) and philosophy. Now consider the following excerpt, which from my position not only integrates, but also crystallizes Heidegger’s view on nihilism in relation to his concept and explanation via Being, the history of Being, or ‘beings’ thus far, which are taken to epitomize as he would now assert – “phenomena of nihilism” or “nihilistic phenomena”:



…Granted that the unconditioned appearance of the will to power in the whole of beings is not nothing, is the essence of nihilism in the history of Being, an essence that reigns concealed in this appearance, merely a product of thought or even something utterly fantastic? …taking these appearances as what alone is actual,and throwing to the winds what occurs essentially in the actual, as though it were nothing at all? …

The essence of nihilism in the history of Being is not something produced in thought, nor does it hover rootlessly above actual nihilism. Rather … ‘the real’ … comes to be only on the basis of the essential history of Being itself … through a complete orderingof all beings.”



In short, as we have seen earlier that Heidegger is more concerned with the central theme of the history of Being or ‘beings.’ Conversely, Nietzsche’s overcoming, on the other hand, if thought in terms of the essence of nihilism itself, is simply the ‘fulfillment’ of nihilism and in it, the better (or fuller) essence of nihilism is announced “more clearly” than in any other ‘fundamental position’ of the metaphysics, which is but concealing the sharper view of the world. Now, what is important here is this: this is also where the will to power eventually departs with the history of Being relative to nihilism altogether.


While Nietzsche apprehends the course of ‘Western philosophy’ as a kind of reflecting or the thinking in value: “revaluating values”. Or, in other words, “…a reckoning with values, as value positing … In a covert yet utterly comprehensible way, the history of metaphysics appears in the light of valuative thought in most of Nietzsche’s writings and not. Again unlike Heidegger, Nietzsche valuations have more emphasis or ‘groundwork’ and their necessity in the will to power as well as the creativity, passion, and desire in human. Therefore, another main difference could also lie in his underlying thought that the will to power must have also been “a definitive” for the initial “positing of” the ‘highest values hitherto’; that is, for the actual beginning of the metaphysics as seen in his critiques of “Subjectivity in Nietzsche’s Interpretation of History”. Furthermore, relative to such aspect, thinkers like

Alexandre Kojeve, an influential twentieth-century Russian Hegelian-Marxist philosopher, also remarks in his Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit that:

“The very being of man, the self-conscious being, therefore, implies and presupposes Desire … In contrast to the knowledge that keeps man in a passive quietude, Desire dis-quiets him and moves him to action. Born of Desire, action tends to satisfy it, and can do so only by the negation, the destruction, or at least the transformation, of the desired object: to satisfy hunger, for example, the food must be destroyed or, in any case, transformed. Thus, all action is negating.”






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