A book on ethics and philosophy of values

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b) The creative subjectivism, as a second disguised form of nihilism

At first glance, we could define the Nietzschean thought as a struggle against nihilism.
Christianity, Buddhism, as well as the doctrine of his master Schopenhauer, are rejected by Nietzsche precisely because he thinks they are disguised forms of nihilism.
This leads him to describe the superman -ideal stage that man, mere transition in the history of his evolution, must try to reach in order to surpass himself – as the one who will overcome nihilism: This man of the future, who in this wise will redeem us from the old ideal, as he will from that ideal's necessary corollary of great nausea, will to nothingness, and Nihilism; this tocsin of noon and of the great verdict, which renders the will again free, who gives back to the world its goal and to man his hope, this Antichrist and Antinihilist, this conqueror of God and of Nothingness — he must one day come 1.

Why could the Nietzschean thought be an antidote to nihilism? In other words, can the creative subjectivism overcome nihilism?
I think we can summarize as follows: the creative subjectivism claims to move beyond nihilism, by integrating it as an essential moment (it is true, nihilism is right, things have no value in themselves), but adding something which ‘resolves the problem’: far from being deprived of value, world is full of values, since it contains a source from which all values come: human being, viz. the subject, as creator of values.
Consequently, we should not say that world is valueless, as nihilism does, but that world is deprived of values ‘subsisting by themselves’, ‘intrinsic’, ‘in things’. But it is full of values ‘given by human being to things’.
We have already seen what Nietzsche means by that.

Now we must ask ourselves whether the creative subjectivism can provide a satisfactory response to the scandalous theory of nihilism.

First, we must determine the exact nature of the values created by man. Are they real or illusory? Objective or subjective? Objective, undoubtedly, since if they were subjective, we would be in the case of a classical subjectivism, holding that human desire generates mere fictitious values, mistakenly projected in the world.

Now we must ask a question that Nietzsche does not raise: how is it possible? That is to say: how can we create real values?
Nietzsche seems to take it for granted that man can create value and give them to things. In fact, we can take it for granted if we speak of subjective value, which man gives to his ideas of things, since he constructs himself these ideas. But if we speak of real values, we consider that real things of the outside world receive value from man. But how is such a phenomenon possible?
Let us use a reductio ad absurdum argument: must we believe that, sitting in front of an object, and meditating, a value will get out of our brain, fly in the air, and become incarnate in things? As we see, this idea of a donation of value is a kind of magical thinking, viz. this tendency – often seen in children and superstitious ages – to think that if we focus on an idea, this one is realized; it is a kind of thought indulging in wishful thinking.

So I raise the question of the very possibility of the donation of value, unlike Nietzsche, who seems to think that this does not pose a problem.

Furthermore, even supposing that this donation were possible, viz. that the creative subjectivism were a meaningful axiological doctrine, I think that it cannot oppose nihilism. The reason is simple: these two theories do not contradict each other.

Indeed, the creative subjectivism integrates nihilism, by conceding that things have no value by themselves. If man must give values, it is because world is deprived of any value whatsoever; but it is precisely what nihilism holds. In effect, if a thing had a value in itself, there would be no reason to give it a value. So the idea of a projection of values necessarily involves that “nothing has a value in itself”.
The only way to face nihilism is to contradict precisely what it holds, viz. to prove that world has a value, in and by itself. By integrating nihilism, the subjectivism believes to move beyond it. On the contrary, it establishes nihilism, gives it an enviable position: a premise, if not a foundation, on which the rest of the system will be built. Nihilism is hidden in the very heart of subjectivism, so the latter cannot refute the former, because using it as a foundation, it would cause its own downfall.


1. Genealogy of morals, 2nd treatise, 21