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Nihilism (from the Latin nihil, nothing) is the philosophical doctrine suggesting the negation of one or more meaningful aspects of life. Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism which argues that life[1] is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value. Moral nihilists assert that morality does not inherently exist, and that any established moral values are abstractly contrived. Nihilism can also take epistemological, metaphysical, or ontological forms, meaning respectively that in some aspect knowledge is not possible or that contrary to our belief, some aspect of reality does not exist as such.

The term nihilism is sometimes used in association with anomie to explain the general mood of despair at a perceived pointlessness of existence that one may develop upon realizing there are no necessary norms, rules, or laws.[2] Movements such as Futurism and deconstruction,[3] among others, have been identified by commentators as "nihilistic" at various times in various contexts.

Nihilism is also a characteristic that has been ascribed to time periods: for example, Jean Baudrillard and others have called postmodernity a nihilistic epoch,[4] and some Christian theologians and figures of religious authority have asserted that postmodernity[5] and many aspects of modernity[3] represent a rejection of theism, and that such a rejection entails some form of nihilism.

Contents

History

19th-century

Though the term nihilism was first popularized by the novelist Ivan Turgenev (1818–1883) in his novel Fathers and Sons,[6] it was first introduced into philosophical discourse by Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi (1743–1819). Jacobi used the term to characterize rationalism[7], and in particular Immanuel Kant's "critical" philosophy in order to carry out a reductio ad absurdum according to which all rationalism (philosophy as criticism) reduces to nihilism, and thus it should be avoided and replaced with a return to some type of faith and revelation. Bret W. Davis writes, for example, "The first philosophical development of the idea of nihilism is generally ascribed to Friedrich Jacobi, who in a famous letter criticized Fichte's idealism as falling into nihilism. According to Jacobi, Fichte’s absolutization of the ego (the 'absolute I' that posits the 'not-I') is an inflation of subjectivity that denies the absolute transcendence of God."[8] A related concept is fideism.

With the popularizing of the word nihilism by Turgenev, a new Russian political movement called the Nihilism movement adopted the term. They supposedly called themselves nihilists because nothing "that then existed found favor in their eyes."[9]

Kierkegaard

Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855) posited an early form of nihilism which he referred to as levelling.[10] Levelling was the process of suppressing individuality to a point where the individual's uniqueness becomes non-existent and nothing meaningful in his existence can be affirmed:

Levelling at its maximum is like the stillness of death, where one can hear one's own heartbeat, a stillness like death, into which nothing can penetrate, in which everything sinks, powerless. One person can head a rebellion, but one person cannot head this levelling process, for that would make him a leader and he would avoid being levelled. Each individual can in his little circle participate in this levelling, but it is an abstract process, and levelling is abstraction conquering individuality.
—Søren Kierkegaard, The Present Age, translated by Alexander Dru with Foreword by Walter Kaufmann, p. 51-53'

Kierkegaard, an advocate of a philosophy of life, generally argued against levelling and its nihilist consequence, although he believed it would be "genuinely educative to live in the age of levelling [because] people will be forced to face the judgement of [levelling] alone".[11] George Cotkin asserts Kierkegaard was against "the standardization and levelling of belief, both spiritual and political, in the nineteenth century [and he] opposed tendencies in mass culture to reduce the individual to a cipher of conformity and deference to the dominant opinion".[12] In his day, tabloids (like the Danish Corsaren) and corrupt Christianity were instruments of levelling and contributed to the "reflective apathetic age" of 19th century Europe.[13] Kierkegaard argues that individuals who are able to overcome the levelling process are stronger for it and is a step in the right direction towards "becoming a true self".[11][14] As we must overcome levelling, Hubert Dreyfus and Jane Rubin argue that Kierkegaard's interest, "in an increasingly nihilistic age, is in how we can recover the sense that our lives are meaningful".[15]

It should be noted, however, that Kierkegaard's meaning of nihilism differs from the modern definition in the sense that, for Kierkegaard, levelling led to a life lacking meaning, purpose or value,[13] whereas the modern definition posits that there was never any meaning, purpose or value to begin with.

Nietzsche

Nihilism is often associated with the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who provided a detailed diagnosis of nihilism as a widespread phenomenon of western culture. Though the notion appears frequently throughout Nietzsche's work, he uses the term in a variety of ways, with different meanings and connotations, both positive and negative. One general way in which he describes nihilism is "as a condition of tension, as a disproportion between what we want to value (or need) and how the world appears to operate."[16] When we find out that the world does not possess the objective value or meaning that we want it to have or have long since believed it to have, we find ourselves in a crisis.[17] Nietzsche asserts that with the decline of Christianity and the rise of physiological decadence, nihilism is in fact characteristic of the modern age,[18] though he implies that the rise of nihilism is still incomplete and that it has yet to be overcome.[19] Though the problem of nihilism becomes especially explicit in Nietzsche's notebooks (published posthumously), it is mentioned repeatedly in his published works and is closely connected to many of the problems mentioned there.

Nietzsche characterized nihilism as emptying the world and especially human existence of meaning, purpose, comprehensible truth, or essential value. This observation stems in part from Nietzsche's perspectivism, or his notion that ‘knowledge’ is always by someone of some thing: it is always bound by perspective, and it is never mere fact.[20] Rather, there are interpretations through which we understand the world and give it meaning. Interpreting is something we can not go without; in fact, it is something we need. One way of interpreting the world is through morality, as one of the fundamental ways in which people make sense of the world, especially in regard to their own thoughts and actions. Nietzsche distinguishes a morality that is strong or healthy, meaning that the person in question is aware that he constructs it himself, from weak morality, where the interpretation is projected on to something external. Regardless of its strength, morality presents us with meaning, whether this is created or 'implanted', which helps us get through life.[21] This is exactly why Nietzsche states that nihilism as "absolute valuelessness" or "nothing has meaning"[22] is dangerous, or even "the danger of dangers"[23]: it is through valuation that people survive and endure the danger, pain and hardships they face in life. The complete destruction of all meaning and all values would be tantamount to suicide or mass-murder.[24]

Nietzsche discusses Christianity, one of the major topics in his work, at length in the context of the problem of nihilism in his notebooks, in a chapter entitled 'European Nihilism'.[25] Here he states that the Christian moral doctrine provides people with intrinsic value, belief in God (which justifies the evil in the world) and a basis for objective knowledge. In this sense, in constructing a world where objective knowledge is possible, Christianity is an antidote against a primal form of nihilism, against the despair of meaninglessness. However, it is exactly the element of truthfulness in Christian doctrine that is its undoing: in its drive towards truth, Christianity eventually finds itself to be a construct, which leads to its own dissolution. It is therefore that Nietzsche states that we have outgrown Christianity "not because we lived too far from it, rather because we lived too close."[26] As such, the self-dissolution of Christianity constitutes yet another form of nihilism. Because Christianity was an interpretation that posited itself as the interpretation, Nietzsche states that this dissolution leads beyond skepticism to a distrust of all meaning.[27][28]

Stanley Rosen identifies Nietzsche's concept of nihilism with this situation of meaninglessness, where "everything is permitted". According to him, the loss of higher metaphysical values which existed in contrast with the base reality of the world or merely human ideas give rise to the idea that all human ideas are therefore valueless. Rejection of idealism thus results in nihilism, because only similarly transcendent ideals would live up to the previous standards that the nihilist still implicitly holds.[29] The inability for Christianity to serve as a source of valuating the world is reflected in Nietzsche's famous aphorism of the madman in the Gay Science.[30] The death of God, in particular the statement that "we killed him", is similar to the self-dissolution of Christian doctrine: due to the advances of the sciences, which for Nietzsche show that man is the product of evolution, that earth has no special place among the stars and that history is not progressive, the Christian notion of God can no longer serve as a basis for a morality.

One such reaction to the loss of meaning is what Nietzsche calls 'passive nihilism', which he recognises in the pessimistic philosophy of Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer's doctrine, which Nietzsche also refers to as Western Buddhism, advocates a separating oneself of will and desires in order to reduce suffering. Nietzsche characterises this ascetic attitude as a "will to nothingness", whereby life turns away from itself, as there is nothing of value to be found in the world. This mowing away of all value in the world is characteristic of the nihilist, although in this, the nihilist appears to be inconsistent[31]:

A nihilist is a man who judges of the world as it is that it ought not to be, and of the world as it ought to be that it does not exist. According to this view, our existence (action, suffering, willing, feeling) has no meaning: the pathos of 'in vain' is the nihilists' pathos — at the same time, as pathos, an inconsistency on the part of the nihilists.
—Friedrich Nietzsche, KSA 12:9 [60], taken from The Will to Power, section 585, translated by Walter Kaufmann

Nietzsche's relation to the problem of nihilism is a complex one. He approaches the problem of nihilism as a deeply personal one, stating that this problem of the modern world is a problem that has "become conscious" in him.[32] Furthermore, he emphasises both the danger of nihilism and the possibilities it offers, as seen in his statement that "I praise, I do not reproach, [nihilism's] arrival. I believe it is one of the greatest crises, a moment of the deepest self-reflection of humanity. Whether man recovers from it, whether he becomes master of this crisis, is a question of his strength!"[33] According to Nietzsche, it is only once nihilism is overcome that a culture can have a true foundation upon which to thrive. He wished to hasten its coming only so that he could also hasten its ultimate departure.[18]

He states that there is at least the possibility of another type of nihilist in the wake of Christianity's self-dissolution, one that does not stop after the destruction of all value and meaning and succumbs to the following nothingness. This alternate, 'active' nihilism on the other hand destroys to level the field for constructing something new. This form of nihilism is characterised by Nietzsche as "a sign of strength,"[34] a willful destruction of the old values to wipe the slate clean and lay down ones own beliefs and interpretations, contrary to the passive nihilism that resigns itself with the decomposition of the old values. This willful destruction of values and the overcoming of the condition nihilism by the constructing of new meaning, this active nihilism could be related to what Nietzsche elsewhere calls a 'free spirit'[35] or the Übermensch from Thus Spoke Zarathustra and the Antichrist, the model of the strong individual who posits his own values and lives his life as if it were a work of art.

Heidegger's interpretation of Nietzsche

Many postmodern thinkers who investigated the problem of nihilism as put forward by Nietzsche, were influenced by Martin Heidegger’s interpretation of Nietzsche. It is only recently that Heidegger’s influence on nihilism research by Nietzsche has faded.[36] As early as the 1930s, Heidegger was giving lectures on Nietzsche’s thought.[37] Given the importance of Nietzsche’s contribution to the topic of nihilism, Heidegger's influential interpretation of Nietzsche is important for the historical development of the term nihilism.

Heidegger's method of researching and teaching Nietzsche is explicitly his own. He does not specifically try to present Nietzsche as Nietzsche. Rather he tries to incorporate Nietzsche's thoughts into his own philosophical system of Being, Time and Dasein.[38] In his Nihilism as Determined by the History of Being (1944–46)[39] Heidegger tries to understand Nietzsche’s nihilism as trying to achieve a victory through the devaluation of the, until then, highest values. The principle of this devaluation is, according to Heidegger, the Will to Power. The Will to Power is also the principle of every earlier valuation of values.[40] How does this devaluation occur and why is this nihilistic? One of Heidegger’s main critiques on philosophy is that philosophy, and more specifically metaphysics, has forgotten to discriminate between investigating the notion of a Being (Seiende) and Being (Sein). According to Heidegger, the history of Western thought, can be seen as the history of metaphysics. And because metaphysics has forgotten to ask about the notion of Being (what Heidegger calls Seinsvergessenheit), it is a history about the destruction of Being. That is why Heidegger calls metaphysics nihilistic.[41] This makes Nietzsche’s metaphysics not a victory over nihilism, but a perfection of it.[42]

Heidegger, in his interpretation of Nietzsche, has been inspired by Ernst Jünger. Many references to Jünger can be found in Heidegger’s lectures on Nietzsche. For example, in a letter to the rector of Freiburg University of November 4, 1945, Heidegger, inspired by Jünger, tries to explain the notion of “God is dead” as the “reality of the Will to Power”. Heidegger also praises Jünger for defending Nietzsche against a too biological or anthropological reading during the Third Reich.[43]

A number of important postmodernist thinkers were influenced by Heidegger's interpretation of Nietzsche. Gianni Vattimo points at a back and forth movement in European thought, between Nietzsche and Heidegger. During the 1960s, a Nietzschean 'renaissance' began, culminating in the work of Mazzino Montinari and Giorgio Colli. They began work on a new and complete edition of Nietzsche's collected works, making Nietzsche more accessible for scholarly research. Vattimo explains that with this new edition of Colli and Montinari, a critical reception of Heidegger's interpretation of Nietzsche began to take shape. Like other contemporary French and Italian philosophers, Vattimo does not want, or only partially wants, to rely on Heidegger for understanding Nietzsche. On the other hand, Vattimo judges Heidegger's intentions authentic enough to keep pursuing them.[44] Philosophers who Vattimo exemplifies as a part of this back and forth movement are French philosophers Deleuze, Foucault and Derrida. Italian philosophers of this same movement are Cacciari, Severino and himself.[45] Habermas, Lyotard and Rorty are also philosophers who are influenced by Heidegger’s interpretation of Nietzsche.[46]

Postmodernism

Postmodern and poststructuralist thought question the very grounds on which Western cultures have based their 'truths': absolute knowledge and meaning, a 'decentralization' of authorship, the accumulation of positive knowledge, historical progress, and certain ideals and practices of humanism and the Enlightenment. Jacques Derrida, whose deconstruction is perhaps most commonly labeled nihilistic, did not himself make the nihilistic move that others have claimed. Derridean deconstructionists argue that this approach rather frees texts, individuals or organizations from a restrictive truth, and that deconstruction opens up the possibility of other ways of being.[47] Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, for example, uses deconstruction to create an ethics of opening up Western scholarship to the voice of the subaltern and to philosophies outside of the canon of western texts.[48] Derrida himself built a philosophy based upon a 'responsibility to the other'[49] Deconstruction can thus be seen not as a denial of truth, but as a denial of our ability to know truth (it makes an epistemological claim compared to nihilism's ontological claim).

Lyotard argues that, rather than relying on an objective truth or method to prove their claims, philosophers legitimize their truths by reference to a story about the world which is inseparable from the age and system the stories belong to, referred to by Lyotard as meta-narratives. He then goes on to define the postmodern condition as one characterized by a rejection both of these meta-narratives and of the process of legitimation by meta-narratives. "In lieu of meta-narratives we have created new language-games in order to legitimize our claims which rely on changing relationships and mutable truths, none of which is privileged over the other to speak to ultimate truth." This concept of the instability of truth and meaning leads in the direction of nihilism, though Lyotard stops short of embracing the latter.

Postmodern theorist Jean Baudrillard wrote briefly of nihilism from the postmodern viewpoint in Simulacra and Simulation. He stuck mainly to topics of interpretations of the real world over the simulations of which the real world is composed. The uses of meaning was an important subject in Baudrillard's discussion of nihilism:

The apocalypse is finished, today it is the precession of the neutral, of forms of the neutral and of indifference…all that remains, is the fascination for desertlike and indifferent forms, for the very operation of the system that annihilates us. Now, fascination (in contrast to seduction, which was attached to appearances, and to dialectical reason, which was attached to meaning) is a nihilistic passion par excellence, it is the passion proper to the mode of disappearance. We are fascinated by all forms of disappearance, of our disappearance. Melancholic and fascinated, such is our general situation in an era of involuntary transparency.
—Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, "On Nihilism", trans. 1995

Forms of nihilism

Nihilism has many definitions and is thus used to describe arguably independent philosophical positions.

Moral nihilism

Moral nihilism, also known as ethical nihilism, is the meta-ethical view that morality does not exist as something inherent to objective reality; therefore no action is necessarily preferable to any other. For example, a moral nihilist would say that killing someone, for whatever reason, is not inherently right or wrong. Some nihilists argue not that there is no morality at all, but that if it does exist, it is a human and thus artificial construction, wherein any and all meaning is relative for different possible outcomes. As an example, if someone kills someone else, such a nihilist might argue that killing is not inherently a bad thing, bad independently from our moral beliefs, only that because of the way morality is constructed as some rudimentary dichotomy, what is said to be a bad thing is given a higher negative weighting than what is called good: as a result, killing the individual was bad because it did not let the individual live, which was arbitrarily given a positive weighting. In this way a moral nihilist believes that all moral claims are false.

Existential nihilism

Existential nihilism is the belief that life has no intrinsic meaning or value. It can stem from scientific analysis showing that only the physical laws contributed to our existence. With respect to the universe, a single human or even the entire human species is insignificant, without purpose and is not likely to change in the totality of existence. Quite simply, nihilists in this respect believe that the only purpose in life is to live it.

Epistemological nihilism

Nihilism of an epistemological form can be seen as an extreme form of skepticism in which all knowledge is denied.[50]

Metaphysical nihilism

Metaphysical nihilism is the philosophical theory that there might be no objects at all, i.e. that there is a possible world in which there are no objects at all; or at least that there might be no concrete objects at all, so even if every possible world contains some objects, there is at least one that contains only abstract objects.

An extreme form of metaphysical nihilism is commonly defined as the belief that existence itself does not exist.[51][52] One way of interpreting such a statement would be: It is impossible to distinguish 'existence' from 'non-existence' as there are no objective qualities, and thus a reality, that one state could possess in order to discern between the two. If one cannot discern existence from its negation, then the concept of existence has no meaning; or in other words, does not 'exist' in any meaningful way. 'Meaning' in this sense is used to argue that as existence has no higher state of reality, which is arguably its necessary and defining quality, existence itself means nothing. It could be argued that this belief, once combined with epistemological nihilism, leaves one with an all-encompassing nihilism in which nothing can be said to be real or true as such values do not exist. A similar position can be found in solipsism; however, in this viewpoint the solipsist affirms whereas the nihilist would deny the self. Both these positions are forms of anti-realism.[citation needed] But to say existence and truth do not exist, however, is to make a statement about existence and truth in general.

Mereological nihilism

Mereological nihilism (also called compositional nihilism) is the position that objects with proper parts do not exist (not only objects in space, but also objects existing in time do not have any temporal parts), and only basic building blocks without parts exist, and thus the world we see and experience full of objects with parts is a product of human misperception (i.e., if we could see clearly, we would not perceive compositive objects).

Political nihilism

Political nihilism, a branch of nihilism, following the characteristic nihilist's rejection of non-rationalized or non-proven assertions, in this case the necessity of the most fundamental social and political structures, such as government, family or even law and law enforcement. The Nihilist movement in 19th century Russia espoused a similar doctrine.

Cultural manifestations

Television

Thomas Hibbs, professor and chair of philosophy at Boston College, suggested that the show Seinfeld is a manifestation of nihilism in television. The very basis of the sitcom is that it is a "show about nothing". The majority of the episodes focused on minutiae. The view presented in Seinfeld is arguably consistent with the philosophy of nihilism, the idea that life is pointless, and from which arises a feeling of the absurd that characterizes the show's ironic humour.[53]

Dada

The term Dada was first used by Tristan Tzara in 1916.[54] The movement, which lasted from approximately 1916 to 1922, arose during World War I, an event that influenced the artists.[55] The Dada Movement began in Zürich, Switzerland -known as the "Niederdorf" or "Niederdörfli"- in the Café Voltaire.[56] The Dadaists claimed that Dada was not an art movement, but an anti-art movement, sometimes using found objects in a manner similar to found poetry. The "anti-art" drive is thought to have stemmed from a post-war emptiness. This tendency toward devaluation of art has led many to claim that Dada was an essentially nihilistic movement. Given that Dada created its own means for interpreting its products, it is difficult to classify alongside most other contemporary art expressions. Hence, due to its ambiguity, it is sometimes classified as a nihilistic modus vivendi.[55]

Music

A 2007 article in The Guardian noted that "...in the summer of 1977, ...punk's nihilistic swagger was the most thrilling thing in England."[57] The Sex Pistols' "God Save The Queen", with its chant-like refrain of "no future", became a slogan for unemployed and disaffected youth during the late 1970s.[58]

Nihilism is also expressed in some gangsta rap, as part of a "street code", but it is only one of many viewpoints or perspectives presented in such music.[59]

Black metal and death metal music often emphasize nihilistic themes.[60][61] [62]

Industrial music and the Rivethead subculture is highly nihilistic in nature.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Alan Pratt defines existential nihilism as "the notion that life has no intrinsic meaning or value, and it is, no doubt, the most commonly used and understood sense of the word today" Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  2. ^ Bazarov, the protagonist in the classic work Fathers and Sons written in the early 1860s by Ivan Turgenev, is quoted as saying nihilism is "just cursing", cited in Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Macmillan, 1967) Vol. 5, "Nihilism", 514 ff. This source states as follows: "On the one hand, the term is widely used to denote the doctrine that moral norms or standards cannot be justified by rational argument. On the other hand, it is widely used to denote a mood of despair over the emptiness or triviality of human existence. This double meaning appears to derive from the fact that the term was often employed in the nineteenth century by the religiously oriented as a club against atheists, atheists being regarded as ipso facto nihilists in both senses. The atheist, it was held [by the religiously oriented], would not feel bound by moral norms; consequently, he would tend to be callous or selfish, even criminal" (at p. 515).
  3. ^ a b Phillips, Robert (1999). "Deconstructing the Mass". Latin Mass Magazine (Winter). http://www.latinmassmagazine.com/articles/articles_1999_WI_Phillips.html. "For deconstructionists, not only is there no truth to know, there is no self to know it and so there is no soul to save or lose." and "In following the Enlightenment to its logical end, deconstruction reaches nihilism. The meaning of human life is reduced to whatever happens to interest us at the moment…". 
  4. ^ For some examples of the view that postmodernity is a nihilistic epoch see Toynbee, Arnold (1963) A Study of History vols. VIII and IX; Mills, C. Wright (1959) The Sociological Imagination; Bell, Daniel (1976) The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism; and Baudrillard, Jean (1993) "Game with Vestiges" in Baudrillard Live, ed. Mike Gane and (1994) "On Nihilism" in Simulacra and Simulation, trans. Sheila Faria Glasser. For examples of the view that postmodernism is a nihilistic mode of thought, see Rose, Gillian (1984) Dialectic of Nihilism; Carr, Karen L. (1988) The Banalization of Nihilism; and Pope John-Paul II (1995), Evangelium vitae: Il valore e l’inviolabilita delta vita umana. Milan: Paoline Editoriale Libri.", all cited in Woodward, Ashley: Nihilism and the Postmodern in Vattimo's Nietzsche, ISSN 1393-614X Minerva - An Internet Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 6, 2002, fn 1.
  5. ^ For example, Leffel, Jim; Dennis McCallum. "The Postmodern Challenge: Facing the Spirit of the Age". Christian Research Institute. http://www.equip.org/free/DP321.htm. "…the nihilism and loneliness of postmodern culture..." 
  6. ^ Kornilov, Alexander. Modern Russian History: From the age of Catherine the Great to the end of the nineteenth century. translated by John S. Curtiss. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 1917, 1924, 1943. Vol. II, p.69.
  7. ^ George di Giovanni, "Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2008/entries/friedrich-jacobi/>.
  8. ^ Davis, Bret W. - "Zen After Zarathustra: The Problem of the Will in the Confrontation Between Nietzsche and Buddhism" Journal of Nietzsche Studies Issue 28 (2004):89-138 (here 107)
  9. ^ Douglas Harper, "Nihilism", in: Online Etymology Dictionary, retrieved at December 2, 2009.
  10. ^ Dreyfus, Hubert. Kierkegaard on the Internet: Anonymity vs. Commitment in the Present Age. [1]
  11. ^ a b Hannay, Alastair. Kierkegaard, p. 289
  12. ^ Cotkin, George. Existential America, p. 59
  13. ^ a b Kierkegaard, Søren. The Present Age, translated by Alexander Dru with Foreword by Walter Kaufmann
  14. ^ Kierkegaard, Søren. The Sickness Unto Death
  15. ^ Wrathall, Mark et al. Heidegger, Authenticity, and Modernity. p. 107
  16. ^ Carr, K., The Banalisation of Nihilism, State University of New York Press, 1992, p. 25
  17. ^ F. Nietzsche, KSA 12:6 [25]
  18. ^ a b Steven Michels - Nietzsche, Nihilism, and the Virtue of Nature, Dogma,2004,[2]
  19. ^ F. Nietzsche, KSA 12:10 [142]
  20. ^ F. Nietzsche, KSA 13:14 [22]
  21. ^ Carr, K., The Banalisation of Nihilism, State University of New York University Press, 1992 p. 38
  22. ^ F. Nietzsche, KSA 12:2 [1]
  23. ^ F. Nietzsche, KGW VIII:2[100]
  24. ^ Nietzsche characterises the 'act of nihilism' as suicide, see KSA 13:14 [9]
  25. ^ F. Nietzsche, KSA 12:5 [71]
  26. ^ F. Nietzsche, KSA 12:2 [200]
  27. ^ F. Nietzsche, KSA 12:2 [127]
  28. ^ Carr, K., The Banalisation of Nihilism (1992), p. 41-42
  29. ^ Rosen, Stanley. Nihilism: A Philosophical Essay. New Haven: Yale University Press. 1969. p. xiii.
  30. ^ F. Nietzsche, the Gay Science: 125
  31. ^ This "will to nothingness" is still a willing of some sort, because it is exactly as as pessimist that Schopenhauer clings to life. See F. Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, III:7
  32. ^ F. Nietzsche, KSA 12:7 [8]
  33. ^ Friedrich Nietzsche, Complete Works Vol. 13.
  34. ^ F. Nietzsche, KSA 12:9 [35]
  35. ^ K. Carr, The Banalisation of Nihilism, State University of New York Press, 1992, pp. 43-50
  36. ^ “Heideggers ,Aus-einander-setzung’ mit Nietzsches hat mannigfache Resonanz gefunden. Das Verhältnis der beiden Philosophen zueinander ist dabei von unterschiedlichen Positionen aus diskutiert worden. Inzwischen ist es nicht mehr ungewöhnlich, daß Heidegger, entgegen seinem Anspruch auf ,Verwindung’ der Metaphysik und des ihr zugehörigen Nihilismus, in jenen Nihilismus zurückgestellt wird, als dessen Vollender er Nietzsche angesehen hat.” Müller-Lauter, Heidegger und Nietzsche. Nietzsche-Interpretationen III, Berlin-New York 2000, p. 303.
  37. ^ Cf. both by Heidegger: Vol. I, Nietzsche I (1936-39). Translated as Nietzsche I: The Will to Power as Art by David F. Krell (New York: Harper & Row, 1979); Vol. II, Nietzsche II (1939-46). Translated as “The Eternal Recurrence of the Same” by David F. Krell in Nietzsche II: The Eternal Recurrence of the Same (New York, Harper & Row, 1984).
  38. ^ “Indem Heidegger das von Nietzsche Ungesagte im Hinblick auf die Seinsfrage zur Sprache zu bringen sucht, wird das von Nietzsche Gesagte in ein diesem selber fremdes Licht gerückt.”, Müller-Lauter, Heidegger und Nietzsche, p. 267.
  39. ^ Original German: Die seinsgeschichtliche Bestimmung des Nihilismus. Found in the second volume of his lectures: Vol. II, Nietzsche II (1939-46). Translated as “The Eternal Recurrence of the Same” by David F. Krell in Nietzsche II: The Eternal Recurrence of the Same (New York, Harper & Row, 1984)
  40. ^ “Heidegger geht davon aus, daß Nietzsche den Nihilismus als Entwertung der bisherigen obersten Werte versteht; seine Überwindung soll durch die Umwertung der Werte erfolgen. Das Prinzip der Umwertung wie auch jeder früheren Wertsetzung ist der Wille zur Macht.”, Müller-Lauter, Heidegger und Nietzsche, p. 268.
  41. ^ “What remains unquestioned and forgotten in metaphysics is being; and hence, it is nihilistic.”, www.iep.utm.edu/heidegge/, visited on November 24, 2009.
  42. ^ Müller-Lauter, Heidegger und Nietzsche, p. 268.
  43. ^ Müller-Lauter, Heidegger und Nietzsche, pp. 272-275.
  44. ^ Müller-Lauter, Heidegger und Nietzsche, pp. 301-303.
  45. ^ “Er (Vattimo) konstatiert ,,in vielen europäischen Philosophien eine Hin- und Herbewegung zwischen Heidegger und Nietzsche”. Dabei denkt er, wie seine späteren Ausführungen zeigen, z.B. an Deleuze, Foucault und Derrida auf französischer Seite, an Cacciari, Severino und an sich selbst auf italienischer Seite.”, Müller-Lauter, Heidegger und Nietzsche, p. 302.
  46. ^ Müller-Lauter, Heidegger und Nietzsche, pp. 303-304.
  47. ^ Borginho, Jose 1999; Nihilism and Affirmation. Retrieved 05-12-07.
  48. ^ Spivak, Chakravorty Gayatri; 1988; Can The Subaltern Speak?; in Nelson, Cary and Grossberg, Lawrence (eds); 1988; Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture; Macmillan Education, Basingstoke.
  49. ^ Reynolds, Jack; 2001; The Other of Derridean Deconstruction: Levinas, Phenomenology and the Question of Responsibility; Minerva - An Internet Journal of Philosophy 5: 31–62. Retrieved 05-12-07.
  50. ^ Alan Pratt defines nihilism as "the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated"Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  51. ^ Oxford dictionary defines one form of nihilism as "extreme scepticism, maintaining that nothing has a real existence"Oxford Dictionary
  52. ^ Answers dictionary defines one form of nihilism as "an extreme form of skepticism that denies all existence"answers
  53. ^ "Observer Newspaper - News". Nd.edu. 1999-12-03. http://www.nd.edu/~observer/12031999/News/5.html. Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  54. ^ de Micheli, Mario (2006). Las vanguardias artísticas del siglo XX. Alianza Forma. p.135-137
  55. ^ a b Tzara, Tristan (December 2005). Trans/ed. Mary Ann Caws "Approximate Man" & Other Writings. Black Widow Press, p. 3.
  56. ^ de Micheli, Mario (2006). Las vanguardias artísticas del siglo XX. Alianza Forma, p. 137.
  57. ^ Stuart Jeffries. "A right royal knees-up." The Guardian. 20 July 2007.
  58. ^ Robb, John (2006). Punk Rock: An Oral History (London: Elbury Press). ISBN 0-09-190511-7. From the foreword by Mike Bracewell. Nihilism is strongly associated with many styles of metal music. Death Metal is specifically defined by its nihilistic subject matter.
  59. ^ "Charis E. Kubrin, "“I SEE DEATH AROUND THE CORNER”: NIHILISM IN RAP MUSIC", ''Sociological Perspectives'', Vol. 48, No. 4, pp. 433–459, Winter (2005)". Caliber.ucpress.net. http://caliber.ucpress.net/doi/abs/10.1525/sop.2005.48.4.433. Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  60. ^ Reddick, Brad H.; Beresin, Eugene V. (March 2002). "Rebellious Rhapsody: Metal, Rap, Community, and Individuation". Academic Psychiatry (American Psychiatric Publishing) 26 (1): 51–59. doi:10.1176/appi.ap.26.1.51. ISSN 1042-9670. PMID 11867430. http://www.ap.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/26/1/51. Retrieved 2010-01-04. 
  61. ^ Jack Levin; Jack McDevitt (2002). Hate Crimes Revisited: America's war against those who are different. Westview Press. p. 41. ISBN 0813339227. http://books.google.ca/books?id=Da0OyfWDCncC&pg=PA41#v=onepage&q=&f=false. Retrieved 2010-01-04. "Known widely as Black metal or the Satanic Metal Underground, this latest genre represents the hardest strain of heavy metal, emphasizing cold-blooded murder, hate and prejudice, nihilism, and the unbridled expression of masculine lust." 
  62. ^ Ardet, Natalie (2004) (PDF). Teenagers, Internet and Black Metal. Proceedings of the Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicology. http://www-gewi.uni-graz.at/staff/parncutt/cim04/CIM04_paper_pdf/Ardet_CIM04_proceedings.pdf. Retrieved 2010-01-04. 

References

Primary texts

Secondary texts

  • Carr, Karen (1992), The Banalisation of Nihilism, State University of New York Press.
  • Cunningham, Conor (2002), Genealogy of Nihilism: Philosophies of Nothing & the Difference of Theology, New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Dreyfus, Hubert L. (2004), Kierkegaard on the Internet: Anonymity vs. Commitment in the Present Age. Retrieved at December 1, 2009.
  • Fraser, John (2001), "Nihilism, Modernisn and Value", retrieved at December 2, 2009.
  • Gillespie, Michael Allen (1996), Nihilism Before Nietzsche, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
  • Giovanni, George di (2008), "Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Edward N. Zalta (ed.). Retrieved on December 1, 2009.
  • Harper, Douglas, "Nihilism", in: Online Etymology Dictionary, retrieved at December 2, 2009.
  • Hibbs, Thomas S. (2000), Shows About Nothing: Nihilism in Popular Culture from The Exorcist to Seinfeld, Dallas, TX: Spence Publishing Company.
  • Korab-Karpowicz, W. J. (2005), "Martin Heidegger (1889—1976)", in: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, retrieved at December 2, 2009.
  • Kuhn, Elisabeth (1992), Friedrich Nietzsches Philosophie des europäischen Nihilismus, Walter de Gruyter.
  • Löwith, Karl (1995), Martin Heidegger and European Nihilism, New York, NY: Columbia UP.
  • Marmysz, John (2003), Laughing at Nothing: Humor as a Response to Nihilism, Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
  • Müller-Lauter, Wolfgang (2000), Heidegger und Nietzsche. Nietzsche-Interpretationen III, Berlin-New York.
  • Parvez Manzoor, S. (2003), "Modernity and Nihilism. Secular History and Loss of Meaning", retrieved at December 2, 2009.
  • Rose, Eugene Fr. Seraphim (1995), Nihilism, The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age, Forestville, CA: Fr. Seraphim Rose Foundation.
  • Rosen, Stanley (2000), Nihilism: A Philosophical Essay, South Bend, Indiana: St. Augustine's Press (2nd Edition).
  • Slocombe, Will (2006), Nihilism and the Sublime Postmodern: The (Hi)Story of a Difficult Relationship, New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Villet, Charles (2009), Towards Ethical Nihilism: The Possibility of Nietzschean Hope, Saarbrücken: Verlag Dr. Müller.
  • Williams, Peter S. (2005), I Wish I Could Believe in Meaning: A Response to Nihilism, Damaris Publishing.

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

NIHILISM, the name commonly given to the Russian form of revolutionary Socialism, which had at first an academical character, and rapidly developed into an anarchist revolutionary movement. It originated in the early years of the reign of Alexander II., and the term was first used by Turgueniev in his celebrated novel, Fathers and Children, published in 1862. Among the students of the universities and the higher technical schools Turgueniev had noticed a new and strikingly original type - young men and women in slovenly attire, who called in question and ridiculed the generally received convictions and respectable conventionalities of social life, and who talked of reorganizing society on strictly scientific principles. They reversed the traditional order of things even in trivial matters of external appearance, the males allowing the hair to grow long and the female adepts cutting it short, and adding sometimes the 2 FIG. I. - Bittersweet (Solanum Dulcamara), nat. size. 1, Flower; 2, fruits, z nat. size; 3, berry, cut across, enlarged; 4, seed, much enlarged.

the the Dulcamara contains a bitter principle yielding by decomposition a sugar dextrose and the alkaloid solanine. It also contains another glucoside dulcamarin, which when boiled with dilute acid splits up into sugar and dulcamaretin. Solanine appears to exert a depressant action on the vagus nerve and FIG. 2. - Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belles- an excitant action donna) Flowering branch 3 nat size I on the medulla ob additional badge of blue spectacles. Their appearance, manners and conversation were apt to shock ordinary people, but to this they were profoundly indifferent, for they had raised themselves above the level of so-called public opinion, despised Philistine respectability, and rather liked to scandalize people still under the influence of what they considered antiquated prejudices. For aesthetic culture, sentimentalism and refinement of every kind they had a profound and undisguised contempt. Professing extreme utilitarianism and delighting in paradox, they were ready to declare that a shoemaker who distinguished himself in his craft was a greater man than a Shakespeare or a Goethe, because humanity had more need of shoes than of poetry. Thanks to Turgueniev, these young persons came to be known in common parlance as "Nihilists," though they never ceased to protest against the term as a caluminous nickname. According to their own account, they were simply earnest students who desired reasonable reforms, and the peculiarities in their appearance and manner arose simply from an excusable neglect of trivialities in view of graver interests. In reality, whatever name we may apply to them, they were the extreme representatives of a curious moral awakening and an important intellectual movement among the Russian educated classes (see Alexander II of Russia).

In material and moral progress Russia had remained behind the other European nations, and the educated classes felt, after the humiliation of the Crimean War, that the reactionary regime of the emperor Nicholas must be replaced by a series of drastic reforms. With the impulsiveness of youth and the recklessness of inexperience, the students went in this direction much farther than their elders, and their reforming zeal naturally took an academic, pseudo-scientific form. Having learned the rudiments of positivism, they conceived the idea that Russia had outlived the religious and metaphysical stages of human development, and was ready to enter on the positivist stage. She ought, therefore, to throw aside all religious and metaphysical conceptions, and to regulate her intellectual, social and political life by the pure light of natural science. Among the antiquated institutions which had to be abolished as obstructions to real progress, were religion, family life, private property and centralized administration. Religion was to be replaced by the exact sciences, family life by free love, private property by collectivism, and centralized administration by a federation of independent communes. Such doctrines could not, of course, be preached openly under a paternal, despotic government, but the press censure had become so permeated with the prevailing spirit of enthusiastic liberalism, that they could be artfully disseminated under the disguise of literary criticism and fiction, and the public very soon learned the art of reading between the lines. The work which had perhaps the greatest influence in popularizing the doctrines was a novel called Shto Dyelati? (What is to be done?), written in prison by Tchernishevski, one of the academic leaders of the movement, and published with the sanction of the authorities!

Since the time of Peter the Great, Russia had been subjected to a wonderful series of administrative and social transformations, and it seemed to many people quite natural that another great transformation might be effected with the consent and cooperation of the autocratic power. The doctrines spread, therefore, with marvellous rapidity. In the winter of1861-1862a high official wrote to a friend who had been absent from Russia for a few months: "If you returned now you would be astonished at the progress which the opposition - one might say, the revolutionary party - has made.. .. The revolutionary ideas have taken possession of all classes, all ages, all professions, and they are publicly expressed in the streets, in the barracks, and in the government offices. I believe the police itself is carried away by them." Certainly the government was under the influence of the prevailing enthusiasm for reform, for it liberated all the serfs, endowed them liberally with arable land, and made their democratic communal institutions independent of the landed proprietors; and it was preparing other important reforms in a similar spirit, including the extension of self-government in the rural districts and the towns, and the reorganization of the antiquated judicial system and procedure according to the modern principles adopted in western Europe.

The programme of the government was extensive enough and liberal enough to satisfy, for the moment at least, all reasonable reformers, but the well-intentioned, self-confident young people to whom the term Nihilists was applied were not reasonable. They wanted an immediate, thorough-going transformation of the existing order of things according to the most advanced socialistic principles, and in their youthful, reckless impatience they determined to undertake the work themselves, independently of and in opposition to the government. As they had no means of seizing the central power, they adopted the method of endeavouring to bring about the desired political, social and economic changes by converting the masses to their views. They began, therefore, a propaganda among the working population of the towns and the rural population in the villages. The propagandists were recruited chiefly from the faculty of physical science in the universities, from the Technological Institute, and from the. medical schools, and a female contingent was supplied by the midwifery classes of the Medico-Surgical Academy. Those of each locality were personally known to each other, but there was no attempt to establish among them hierarchical distinctions or discipline. Each individual had entire freedom as to the kind and means of propaganda to be employed. Some disguised themselves as artisans or ordinary labourers, and sought to convert their uneducated fellowworkmen in the industrial centres, whilst others settled in the villages as school-teachers, and endeavoured to stir up disaffection among the recently emancipated peasantry by telling them that the tsar intended they should have all the land, and that his benevolent intentions had been frustrated by the selfish landed proprietors and the dishonest officials. Landed proprietors and officials, it was suggested, should be got rid of, and then the peasants would have arable, pastoral and forest land in abundance, and would not require to pay any taxes. To persons of a certain education the agitators sought to prove that the general economic situation was desperate, that it was the duty of every conscientious citizen to help the people in such a dilemma, and that the first step towards the attainment of this devoutly to be wished consummation was the limitation or destruction of the uncontrolled supreme power. On the whole the agitators had very little success, and not a few of them fell into the hands of the police, several of them being denounced to the authorities by the persons in whose interest they professed to be acting; but the great majority were so obstinate and so ready to make any personal sacrifices, that the arrest and punishment of some of their number did not deter others from continuing the work. Between 1861 and 1864 there were no less than twenty political trials, with the result that most of the accused were condemned to imprisonment, or to compulsory residence in small provincial towns under police supervision.

The activity of the police naturally produced an ever-increasing hostility to the government, and in 1866 this feeling took a practical form in an attempt on the part of an obscure individual called Karakozov to assassinate the emperor. The attempt failed, and the judicial inquiry proved that it was the work of merely a few individuals, but it showed the dangerous character of the movement, and it induced the authorities to take more energetic measures. For the next four years there was an apparent lull, during which only one political trial took place, but it was subsequently proved that the Nihilists during this time were by no means inactive. An energetic agitator called Netchaiev organized in 1869 a secret association under the title of the Society for the Liberation of the People, and when he suspected of treachery one of the members he caused him to be assassinated. This crime led to the arrest of some members of the society, but their punishment had very little deterrent effect on the Nihilists in general, for during the next few years there was a recrudescence of the propaganda among the labouring classes. Independent circles were created and provided with secret printing-presses in many of the leading provincial towns - notably in Moscow, Nijni-Novgorod, Penza, Samara, Saratov, Kharkof, Kiev, Odessa, Rostov-on-the-Don and Taganrog; and closer relations were established with the revolutionary Socialists in western Europe, especially with the followers of Bakunin, who considered that a great popular rising should be brought about in Russia as soon as possible. Bakunin's views did not, it is true, obtain unanimous acceptance. Some of the Nihilists maintained that things were not yet ripe for a rising of the masses, that the pacific propaganda must be continued for a considerable time, and that before attempting to overthrow the existing social organization some idea should be formed as to the order of things which should take its place. The majority, however, were too impatient for action to listen to such counsels of prudence, and when they encountered opposition on the part of the government they urged the necessity of retaliating by acts of terrorism. In a brochure issued in 1874 one of the most influential leaders (Tkatchev) explained that the object of the revolutionary party should be, not the preparation of revolution in general, but the realization of it at the earliest possible moment, that it was a mistake to attach great importance to questions of future social organization, and that all the energies of the party should be devoted to "a struggle with the government and the established order of things, a struggle to the last drop of blood and to the last breath." In accordance with the fashionable doctrine of evolution, the reconstruction of society on the tabula rasa might be left, it was thought, to the spontaneous action of natural forces, or, to use a Baconian phrase, to natura naturans. To this and similar declarations of irreconcilable hostility the government replied by numerous arrests, and in the winter of1877-1878no less than 193 agitators, selected from 2000 arrested on suspicion, were tried publicly in St Petersburg by a tribunal specially constituted for the purpose. Nearly all of them were condemned to imprisonment or exile, and the revolutionary organization in the northern provinces was thereby momentarily paralysed, but a few energetic leaders who had escaped arrest reorganized their scattered forces and began the work anew. They constituted themselves into a secret executive committee, which endeavoured to keep in touch with, and partially direct, the independent groups in the provincial towns. Though they never succeeded in creating an efficient centralized administration, they contrived to give to the movement the appearance of united action by assuming the responsibility for terrorist crimes committed by persons who were in reality not acting under their orders. During the years 1878, 1879 and 1880 these terrorist crimes were of frequent occurrence. General Trepov, prefect of St Petersburg, was shot by Vera Zasulitch under pretence of presenting a petition to him; General Mezentsov, chief of the political police, was assassinated in broad daylight in one of the principal streets of St Petersburg, and an attempt was afterwards made on the ' life of his successor, General Drenteln; Prince Krapotkin, governor of the province of Kharkof, was assassinated for having introduced stricter prison discipline with regard to political prisoners; a murderous attack was made on the emperor in front of the Winter Palace by an ex-student called Soloviev; repeated attempts were made to blow up the train conveying the Imperial family from the Crimea to St Petersburg; and a dynamite explosion, by which ten people were killed and thirty-four wounded, took place in the Winter Palace, the Imperial family owing their escape to the accident of not sitting down to dinner punctually at the usual hour. Assassination was used also by the agitators against confederates suspected of giving information to the police, and a number of gendarmes were murdered when effecting arrests. After each of these crimes a proclamation was issued by the executive committee explaining the motives and accepting the responsibility.

When repressive measures and the efforts of the police were found insufficient to cope with the evil, Alexander II. determined to try a new system. Count Loris Melikof was entrusted with semi-dictatorial powers, relaxed the severity of the police regime, and endeavoured to obtain the support of all loyal Liberals by holding out the prospect of a series of reforms in a liberal sense. His conciliatory methods failed signally, and were repaid by an attack on his life. A semblance of parliamentary institutions was not what the Anarchists wanted. They simply redoubled their activity, and hatched a plot for the assassination of the emperor. In March 1881 the plot was successful. Alexander II., when driving in St Petersburg, was mortally wounded by the explosion of small bombs, and died almost as soon as he had reached the Winter Palace. On the following day the executive committee issued a bombastic proclamation, in which it declared triumphantly that the tsar had been condemned to death by a secret tribunal on 26th August 1879, and that two years of effort and painful losses had at last been crowned with success. These facts put an end to the policy of killing Anarchism by kindness, and one of the first acts of the new reign was a manifesto in which Alexander III. announced very plainly that he had no intention of limiting the autocratic power, or making concessions of any kind to the revolutionary party. The subsequent history of the movement presents little that is interesting or original, merely a continual but gradually subsiding effort to provoke local disturbances with a view to bringing about sooner or later a general rising of the masses and the overthrow not only of the government, but also of the existing social and economic regime. A serious manifestation on the part of the terrorists, took the shape of a plot to assassinate the emperor by bombs in the streets of St Petersburg in March 1887. It was the work of a very small group, the members of which were being watched by the police, and were all arrested on the day when the crime was to be perpetrated. The movement afterwards showed occasionally signs of revival. In 1901, for example, there were troubles in the universities, and in 1902 there were serious. disturbances among the peasantry in some of the central rural districts; and the assassination of M. Sipiaguine, the minister of the interior, was a disquieting incident; but the illusions and enthusiasm which produced Nihilism in the young generation during the early years of the reign of Alexander II. had been largely shattered and dispelled by experience. The revolutionary propaganda temporarily led to a serious situation in the early years of the reign of Tsar Nicholas II., but a new era opened for Russia with the inauguration of parliamentary government.

categories: -

Death

20

Penal servitude

128

Exile in Siberia.. .

681

Exile under police supervision in European Russia .

1500

Lesser punishments

717

The following criminal statistics of the movement during six and a half years of its greatest activity (from 1st July 1881 to 1st January 1888) are taken from unpublished official records: Number of affairs examined in the police department 1500 Number of persons punished.. 3046 These 3046 punishments may be divided into the following 3046 From the beginning of the movement up to 1902 the number of Anarchists condemned to death and executed was forty-eight, and the number of persons assassinated by the Anarchists was thirty-nine. There is no reason to suspect the accuracy of these statistics, for they were not intended for publication. They are taken from a confidential memorandum presented to the emperor.

(D. M. W.)


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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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Contents

English

Etymology

From German Nihilismus, itself from Latin nihil (nil, nothing) + German -ismus '-ism', coined in 1817 by German philosopher Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, but repeatedly 'reinvented'.

Pronunciation

  • IPA: Brit. /ˈnʌɪ(h)ɨ̞lɪz(ə)m/, /ˈnɪhɨ̞lɪz(ə)m/, /ˈniː(h)ɨ̞lɪz(ə)m/ U.S. /ˈnaɪəˌlɪz(ə)m/, /ˈniəˌlɪz(ə)m/
  •  Audio (US)help, file

Noun

Singular
nihilism

Plural
uncountable

nihilism (uncountable)

  1. (philosophy) Extreme skepticism, maintaining that nothing has a real existence.
  2. (ethics) The rejection of all moral principles.
  3. (politics) (capitalized by protagonist Turgenev) A Russian anarchistic revolutionary doctrine (1860-1917) holding that conditions in the social organization are so bad as to make destruction desirable for its own sake, independent of any constructive program or possibility.
  4. The belief that all endeavors are ultimately futile and devoid of meaning.
    "...the band members sweat hard enough to earn their pretensions, and maybe even their nihilism" (rock critic Dave Marsh, reviewing the band XTC's album Go)
  5. Contradiction (not always deliberate) between behavior and espoused principle, to such a degree that all possible espoused principle is voided.
  6. The deliberate refusal of belief, to the point that belief itself is rejected as untenable.

Derived terms

Related terms

Synonyms

  • (belief all endeavours are void) fatalism

Translations

The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.

External links

  • nihilism in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913
  • nihilism in The Century Dictionary, The Century Co., New York, 1911

Simple English

Nihilism is the belief that values are falsely invented. The term nihilism can also be used to describe the idea that life, or the world, has no distinct meaning or purpose. Nihilists believe that there are no true morals.

Most people think of Nietzsche when they think about nihilism, because he said that morals were invented. Even people who know about Nietzsche call him a nihilist (someone who likes nihilism.) But in his books, Nietzsche said that people needed to create their own morals to get over nihilism. Other than him, not many famous philosophers are considered (thought to be) nihilists. However, it is still an important belief for philosophy.









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