Toward the end of his active years, Nietzsche realised that he spent most of his life ‘annihilating’ values he thought were worthless. It turns out, they weren’t worthless, they just couldn’t provide a satisfactory answer as to why they should exist. This is because they’d been taken for granted for generations, and the reasons for their existence were replaced with habits. When confronted with the Western intellect, which is voracious in dismantling previously-held-beliefs, our values didn’t stand a chance.
Nietzsche later realised that the logical consequence of his own dismantling — his ‘philosophising with a hammer’ — is Nihilism, leading him to admit that, despite his antipathy toward Nihilism, he was ‘the quintessential nihilist all along’.
For Nietzsche, ‘Nihilism is the condition of strong minds and wills’, and as such, ‘it is not possible to stop at negative ‘judgements’; for the Nihilist’s nature demands negative actions. Annihilation by judgement is accompanied by annihilation by hand’.
Independent thinkers are especially prone to this sort of wanton destruction, but the pattern of young revolutionary → old conservative is almost ubiquitous (including Nietzsche). He found himself, toward the end, attempting to provide reasons to stop potential-Nietzsches from destroying our inheritances from the past.
The mature Nietzsche thus laments the loss of values (which he himself contributed to). In his posthumously published notebook, he writes that, without ‘purpose’, ‘unity’, and ‘being’ — the categories which invested the world with value — ‘the world now seems worthless’; concluding that, ‘instead of condemning everything as an illusion, we must see if it is not possible to suspend our belief in them’.