Wednesday, January 9, 2008


Nihilism derives its name from the Latin root nihil, meaning nothing, that which does not exist. This same root is found in the verb “annihilate” -- to bring to nothing, to destroy completely. Nihilism is the belief which:

* labels all values as worthless, therefore, nothing can be known or communicated.
* associates itself with extreme pessimism and a radical skepticism, having no loyalties.

The German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), is most often associated with nihilism. In Will to Power [notes 1883-1888], he writes, “Every belief, every considering something true, is necessarily false because there is simply no true world.” For Nietzsche, there is no objective order or structure in the world except what we give it. The objective of nihilism manifests itself in several perspectives:

* Epistemological nihilism denies the possibility of knowledge and truth, and is linked to extreme skepticism.
* Political nihilism advocates the prior destruction of all existing political, social, and religious orders as a prerequisite for any future improvement.
* Ethical nihilism (moral nihilism) rejects the possibility of absolute moral or ethical values. Good and evil are vague, and related values are simply the result of social and emotional pressures.
* Existential nihilism, the most well-known view, affirms that life has no intrinsic meaning or value.


Scott Hughes said...

I consider myself an ethical nihilist, and your description of that is good. I wrote a short article about ethical nihilism: The Philosophy of Amorality