These two thinkers, Thales and Cioran, show us what an authentic nihilism looks like. Thereby, a puzzling problem is raised: how does a nihilist live? What kind of praxis derives from the theory “nothing has really a value”?
This is a mystery, because, as he is not a pessimist, and attributes no value to death, the nihilist does not want to die, is not suicidal. On the other hand, as he is not a skeptic, the ataraxia, or impassibility due to the epoché, is not his authentic way of being.
We understand why this Nietzschean sentence is meaningless:
pity is the practice of nihilism 1, and how impossible is the reduction of Christianity to a kind of nihilism (if anything, it is reducible to a sort of pessimism).
The real issue of the Nietzschean doctrine appears now as an attempt to fight against pessimism, more than nihilism:
It makes me happy to see that people do not at all want to thank the thought of death! I would very much like to do something that would make the thought of life even one hundred times more worth being thought to them 2.
But the refutation of nihilism cannot be identical to the malicious one which Nietzsche proposes of pessimism:
Finally, some advice for our dear pessimists and other decadents. It is not in our hands to prevent our birth; but we can correct this mistake — for in some cases it is a mistake. […] Pessimism, pur, vert, is proved only by the self-refutation of our dear pessimists: one must advance a step further in its logic 3, since nihilism refuses to give a value to death.
In any case, Thales and Cioran enable us to raise the question: how does a man who refuses both life and death as “objects of value” act?
We will answer this question later only. For the moment, we have just determined that nihilism is a consistent axiological doctrine, irreducible to related doctrines with which it is often confused. So we understand that most of the movements or doctrines considered as some kinds of nihilism (Russian nihilists, Schopenhauer, Christianity, bouddhism…) are not real ones, and even we may doubt whether this axiological position has been already adopted – in its radical form- by any author.
In this, there is no paradox. If we assume that the authentic sense of nihilism is not its historical one, it is normal that we critically examine those who consider themselves as nihilists, to see if they are right to do so. Now that we have determined logically, and not historically, the meaning of this line of thought, we can achieve this task. In the same way that one can believe to be a poet, without being really one, or to be a painter, while one is just a scrawler, one can claim to be a nihilist, while attributing a value to some actions, like planting bombs and committing an attack against the czar, a behavior which is the sign of the search of an ideal.
Anyway, now that this extreme axiological position is better understood, the axiological researcher is better able to listen to this scandalous idea: “in reality, nothing has a value”.
1. Antichrist, §7
2. The Gay science, IV, §278
3. Twilight of the Idols, 36