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Section 346 of the Book Five of The Gay Science by Nietzsche must belong to some of the most interesting passages in all of Nietzsche’s philosophy. Here Nietzsche talks about the role of value in human life. He also talks about the total loss of value and disenchantment of the world, and not only that we find ourselves in opposition to certain traditional values. The ‘Question Mark’ is mentioned at the beginning is a kind of topic for the Section, and toward the end Nietzsche mentions the Question Mark again: Human beings seem to face a dilemma — either accept the values or face nihilism, but Nietzsche’s point is that the values themselves can be nihilistic too. And this is perhaps the real meaning of the Question Mark. He does not explicitly provide a way out of this very debilitating dilemma. Furthermore, he also mentions that the teaching of the Buddha is an expression of self-denying, world-renouncing values that we ‘have turned our backs on.’

It is the contention of this paper that even though Nietzsche does appear to be advocating nihilism, he in fact does affirm life in a very interesting way. Through denying the traditional values as well as any attempt to negotiate those values on their terms, Nietzsche opens up a new vista which hitherto has not been possible. One must not miss the irony in the tone of his writing here. Hence the Question Mark—whether we must go down the traditional route of revering invented values, or face nihilism, or whether everything is nihilistic—is answered in the affirmative, or better in the ironic form. It is through nihilism that nihilism is destroyed, so opening up new vistas of possibilities. The Overhuman blazes a trail for himself through brandishing the nihilistic fire.

In this paper, I will examine the Section thoroughly; my assumption is that we can gain a glimpse of Nietzsche’s thought better if we look at one aspect of his works very closely. This is so because Nietzsche’s thoughts are highly complicated, and more importantly are not presented in a structured, linear manner typical of most philosophers. On the contrary, Nietzsche presents a huge jigsaw of thoughts and ideas, all connected to one another is a vast web of interconnected statements. This presents a challenge to anyone who tries to understand what he is up to, but perhaps a way to unravel these complexities could be found in a very close look at one small passage of his writing. If his thoughts are there in a vast interconnected network, then chances are that one node in the network could ‘mirror’ and ‘be mirrored by’ other aspects. Since his thoughts have no clear place where they begin and since the progress (if such a word can be used at all with how his ideas are developed and presented) of his thoughts is not linear at all, if we then focus upon one place very carefully, then there is a good chance that this close look could illuminate most of his thoughts. This is the technique I will be employing in this paper.

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