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Nihilism – definition of nihilism by The Free Dictionary

nihilism (n-lzm, n-) n.

1. Philosophy The doctrine that nothing actually exists or that existence or values are meaningless.

2. Relentless negativity or cynicism suggesting an absence of values or beliefs: nihilism in postwar art.

a. Political belief or action that advocates or commits violence or terrorism without discernible constructive goals.

b. also Nihilism A diffuse, revolutionary movement of mid-19th-century Russia that scorned authority and tradition and believed in reason, materialism, and radical change in society and government through terrorism and assassination.

4. Psychiatry A delusion, experienced in some mental disorders, that the world or one’s mind, body, or self does not exist.

nihilist n.

nihilistic adj.

nihilistically adv.

1. a complete denial of all established authority and institutions

2. (Philosophy) philosophy an extreme form of scepticism that systematically rejects all values, belief in existence, the possibility of communication, etc

3. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) a revolutionary doctrine of destruction for its own sake

4. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) the practice or promulgation of terrorism

[C19: from Latin nihil nothing + -ism, on the model of German Nihilismus]

nihilist n, adj

nihilistic adj

(Historical Terms) (in tsarist Russia) any of several revolutionary doctrines that upheld terrorism

n.

1. total rejection of established laws and institutions.

2. anarchy, terrorism, or other revolutionary activity.

a. the belief that all existence is senseless and that there is no possibility of an objective basis for truth.

b. nothingness or nonexistence.

4. (cap.) a 19th-century Russian political philosophy advocating the violent destruction of social and political institutions to make way for a new society.

nihilist, n., adj.

ni`hilistic, adj.

the belief that existence is not real and that there can be no objective basis of truth, a form of extreme skepticism. Cf. ethical nihilism. nihilist, n., adj.

the principles of a Russian revolutionary movement in the late 19th century, advocating the destruction of government as a means to anarchy and of ten employing terrorism and assassination to assist its program. nihilist, n., adj. nihilistic, adj.

total rejection of established attitudes, practices, and institutions. nihilist, n. nihilistic, adj.

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Nihilism – definition of nihilism by The Free Dictionary

Urban Dictionary: Nihilism

Contrary to popular definitions, Nihilism is not synonymous with cynicism or despair. Instead, Nihilism is a worldview in which one believes only in what one’s observations and experiences seem to prove true, and that which can be otherwise proven true. That said, Nihilism varies according to the nature of the individual nihilist, but there are a few key ideas which are kept by nearly all of them: 1. The beginning of the universe was, within certain parameters, a basically random event, and the same holds for all events occuring since. It follows, then, that final purpose in things is false. Life, then, is an end-in-itself. 2. There exists no absolute truth regarding the value of any deed over another, such as right vs. wrong. Value systems, ethical codes, etc. are thus of no use to the Nihilist, except if they serve his best interests, increase their quality of life, or if they simply fall in line with what behavior would come naturally. 3. From the above it follows that responsibility, obligation, and the like are also falsehoods. Nihilists are thus inclined to ignore or sneer at societal norms and conditioned mentalities. 4. The first priority of every nihilist is his own well-being, satisfaction, and survival, and every action is ultimately done in the name of these things. However, he does not consciously pursue these ends; instead, he acts upon what feels natural and makes sense to him, and these naturally result. However, the above assumes that the Nihilist is in unity with himself, and possesses an undamaged psyche. In reality, some people are self-destructive by nature, and, if they took up a Nihilistic worldview, would seem to have a death-wish as the motive behind their actions. Since self-destructive individuals are common in modern society, this is probably how Nihilism has come to be seen as another word for despair.

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Urban Dictionary: Nihilism

Existential nihilism – Wikipedia

Existential nihilism is the philosophical theory that life has no intrinsic meaning or value. With respect to the universe, existential nihilism suggests that a single human or even the entire human species is insignificant, without purpose and unlikely to change in the totality of existence. According to the theory, each individual is an isolated being born into the universe, barred from knowing “why”, yet compelled to invent meaning.[1] The inherent meaninglessness of life is largely explored in the philosophical school of existentialism, where one can potentially create their own subjective “meaning” or “purpose”. Of all types of nihilism, existential nihilism has received the most literary and philosophical attention.[2]

The idea that meaning and values are without foundation is a form of nihilism, and the existential response to that idea is noting that meaning is not “a matter of contemplative theory,” but instead, “a consequence of engagement and commitment.”

Jean-Paul Sartre, the author of Being and Nothingness, wrote in his essay Existentialism and Humanism, “What do we mean by saying that existence precedes essence? We mean that man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world and defines himself afterwards. If man as the existentialist sees him as not definable, it is because to begin with he is nothing. He will not be anything until later, and then he will be what he makes of himself.” Here it is made clear what is meant by Existentialists when they say meaning is “a consequence of engagement and commitment”.

The theory purports to describe the human situation to create a life outlook and create meaning, which has been summarized as, “Strut, fret, and delude ourselves as we may, our lives are of no significance, and it is futile to seek or to affirm meaning where none can be found.”[3] Existential nihilists claim that, to be honest, one must face the absurdity of existence, that he/she will eventually die, and that both religion and metaphysics are simply results of the fear of death.[2]

According to Donald A. Crosby, “There is no justification for life, but also no reason not to live. Those who claim to find meaning in their lives are either dishonest or deluded. In either case, they fail to face up to the harsh reality of the human situations”.[3]

Existential nihilism has been a part of the Western intellectual tradition since the Cyrenaics, such as Hegesias of Cyrene. During the Renaissance, William Shakespeare eloquently summarized the existential nihilist’s perspective through Macbeth’s mindset in the end of the play. Arthur Schopenhauer, Sren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche further expanded on these ideas, and Nietzsche, particularly, has become a major figure in existential nihilism.

The atheistic existentialist movement spread in 1940s France. Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness and Albert Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus discussed the topic. Camus wrote further works, such as The Stranger, Caligula, The Plague, The Fall and The Rebel.[1] Other figures include Martin Heidegger and Jacques Derrida. In addition, Ernest Becker’s Pulitzer Prize winning life’s work The Denial of Death is a collection of thoughts on existential nihilism.

The common thread in the literature of the existentialists is coping with the emotional anguish arising from our confrontation with nothingness, and they expended great energy responding to the question of whether surviving it was possible. Their answer was a qualified “Yes,” advocating a formula of passionate commitment and impassive stoicism.

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Existential nihilism – Wikipedia

Nihilism | Define Nihilism at Dictionary.com

Contemporary Examples

I think with that generation, so many of their hopes have been so dashed that nihilism is really a natural response.

Its arguably the best film of the 90sa postmodern pop culture smorgasbord awash in nihilism and dripping with retro cool.

To understand better the nihilism of Thiessen’s thinking, I must now quote his column at greater length.

Journey to the End of the Night does not offer readers much more than nihilism as a response to a detestable world.

Or better, and to speak like Nietzsche, art with a hammer that practices, and then reverses and reevaluates, nihilism.

Historical Examples

And once we are driven right on to nihilism we may find a way through.

nihilism was not to be rooted out by the removal of any particular set of men.

A period of reaction has set in: Despotism and nihilism meet face to face.

All (p. 249) these years Alexander had battled with nihilism and revolution.

nihilism is well named, for it means nothing and it ends in nothing.

British Dictionary definitions for nihilism Expand

a complete denial of all established authority and institutions

(philosophy) an extreme form of scepticism that systematically rejects all values, belief in existence, the possibility of communication, etc

a revolutionary doctrine of destruction for its own sake

the practice or promulgation of terrorism

Derived Forms

nihilist, noun, adjectivenihilistic, adjective

Word Origin

C19: from Latin nihil nothing + -ism, on the model of German Nihilismus

(in tsarist Russia) any of several revolutionary doctrines that upheld terrorism

Word Origin and History for nihilism Expand

1817, “the doctrine of negation” (in reference to religion or morals), from German Nihilismus, from Latin nihil “nothing at all” (see nil), coined by German philosopher Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi (1743-1819). In philosophy, an extreme form of skepticism (1836). The political sense was first used by German journalist Joseph von Grres (1776-1848). Turgenev used the Russian form of the word (nigilizm) in “Fathers and Children” (1862) and claimed to have invented it. With a capital N-, it refers to the Russian revolutionary anarchism of the period 1860-1917, supposedly so called because “nothing” that then existed found favor in their eyes.

nihilism in Medicine Expand

nihilism nihilism (n’-lz’m, n’-) n.

The belief that destruction of existing political or social institutions is necessary for future improvement.

A delusion, experienced in some mental disorders, that the world or one’s mind, body, or self does not exist.

nihilism in Culture Expand

An approach to philosophy that holds that human life is meaningless and that all religions, laws, moral codes, and political systems are thoroughly empty and false. The term is from the Latin nihil, meaning nothing.

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Nihilism | Define Nihilism at Dictionary.com

Nihilism r/nihilism – reddit – reddit: the front page …

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Introduction

Nihilism comes from the Latin nihil, meaning “nothing”. As a philosophical position, nihilism involves denying certain existence claims. Two prominent forms of nihilism are existential nihilism, which rejects claims that human life is meaningful, and moral nihilism, which rejects claims that human actions can be right or wrong. Other forms include epistemological nihilism, mereological nihilism, and political nihilism.

As with any other philosophical label, there is diversity within nihilism and disagreement over what counts as nihilism. Labels with some overlap include existentialism, absurdism, fatalism, and pessimism. Some people embrace nihilistic conclusions as a philosophical matter, while other people relate to nihilistic themes more as a matter of intuition, personal experience, or personal expression.

We dont intend to depress you. But if you find nihilism depressing, read through this thread.

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nihilism | philosophy | Britannica.com

Nihilism, (from Latin nihil, nothing), originally a philosophy of moral and epistemological skepticism that arose in 19th-century Russia during the early years of the reign of Tsar Alexander II. The term was famously used by Friedrich Nietzsche to describe the disintegration of traditional morality in Western society. In the 20th century, nihilism encompassed a variety of philosophical and aesthetic stances that, in one sense or another, denied the existence of genuine moral truths or values, rejected the possibility of knowledge or communication, and asserted the ultimate meaninglessness or purposelessness of life or of the universe.

The term is an old one, applied to certain heretics in the Middle Ages. In Russian literature, nihilism was probably first used by N.I. Nadezhdin, in an 1829 article in the Messenger of Europe, in which he applied it to Aleksandr Pushkin. Nadezhdin, as did V.V. Bervi in 1858, equated nihilism with skepticism. Mikhail Nikiforovich Katkov, a well-known conservative journalist who interpreted nihilism as synonymous with revolution, presented it as a social menace because of its negation of all moral principles.

It was Ivan Turgenev, in his celebrated novel Fathers and Sons (1862), who popularized the term through the figure of Bazarov the nihilist. Eventually, the nihilists of the 1860s and 70s came to be regarded as disheveled, untidy, unruly, ragged men who rebelled against tradition and social order. The philosophy of nihilism then began to be associated erroneously with the regicide of Alexander II (1881) and the political terror that was employed by those active at the time in clandestine organizations opposed to absolutism.

If to the conservative elements the nihilists were the curse of the time, to the liberals such as N.G. Chernyshevsky they represented a mere transitory factor in the development of national thoughta stage in the struggle for individual freedomand a true spirit of the rebellious young generation. In his novel What Is to Be Done? (1863), Chernyshevsky endeavoured to detect positive aspects in the nihilist philosophy. Similarly, in his Memoirs, Prince Peter Kropotkin, the leading Russian anarchist, defined nihilism as the symbol of struggle against all forms of tyranny, hypocrisy, and artificiality and for individual freedom.

Fundamentally, 19th-century nihilism represented a philosophy of negation of all forms of aestheticism; it advocated utilitarianism and scientific rationalism. Classical philosophical systems were rejected entirely. Nihilism represented a crude form of positivism and materialism, a revolt against the established social order; it negated all authority exercised by the state, by the church, or by the family. It based its belief on nothing but scientific truth; science would be the solution of all social problems. All evils, nihilists believed, derived from a single sourceignorancewhich science alone would overcome.

The thinking of 19th-century nihilists was profoundly influenced by philosophers, scientists, and historians such as Ludwig Feuerbach, Charles Darwin, Henry Buckle, and Herbert Spencer. Since nihilists denied the duality of human beings as a combination of body and soul, of spiritual and material substance, they came into violent conflict with ecclesiastical authorities. Since nihilists questioned the doctrine of the divine right of kings, they came into similar conflict with secular authorities. Since they scorned all social bonds and family authority, the conflict between parents and children became equally immanent, and it is this theme that is best reflected in Turgenevs novel.

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Enter the Nihilist Tagline Writer – Digiday

Mark Duffy has written the Copyranter blog for 12 years and is a freelancing copywriter with 25-plus years of experience. His hockey wrist shot is better than yours.

Wherever hopelessness and meaninglessness exist, nihilism breeds. And these days, nearly nothing is as hopeless as the State of the Advertising Tagline. This generations tagline writers arent just writing meaningless taglines. Theyre writing worthless meaningless taglines.

Taglines used to give you real reasons to buy: The One Beer To Have When Youre Having More Than One; Nothing Sucks Like An Electrolux; Let Your Fingers Do The Walking; When It Absolutely Positively Has To Be There Overnight. These taglines didnt just increase sales, they launched and grew companies. They became part of pop culture.

Today? Nothing. And into this creative vacuum has crawled more meaninglessness: ad influencers, sponconners and branded Facebook puzzle posts a 1-year-old can solve.

Also, into this meaningless void comes the Nihilist Tagline Writer (NTW).

What does Be Legacy mean? Arent legacies talked about after someone dies? Therefore, Stellas slogan is, essentially, Be Dead. Pretty nihilistic already. Nietzsche believed to do is to be. But then, he went insane from staring too long into the abyss.

Again, this life insurance sellers motto is already pretty grim, considering the unspoken two words at the end of the line (to death). But the NTW believes the above paraphrasing of a Nietzsche quote makes for a more urgent call to action.

Perfection In Life? Via a ridiculously expensive instrument that pretends to measure time? The NTW posits that perfection in life is when nothing happens. No watch needed, then. (Nihilistic tagline stolen from Thomas Ligotti.)

Impossible is not nothing; it is everything. Athletics is nothing, workouts are nothing, sweat is nothing. You want to wear Adidas while achieving nothingness? Whatever floats your nothing-boat.

Its been said that there is only the self, and the self is always alone. You want to achieve harmony? Dont answer a hundred questions about your self. Just desire nothing, and be nothing.

Open Happiness. That is quite a something-ism. Imagine that: bottling happiness. HA HA HA! Is your name Genie? Maybe Coca-Cola put your name on some of its plastic bottles. But drinking from or rubbing the sugar water receptacle will not make your wishes come true. Unless, you wish for emptiness. (Nihilistic tagline inspired by Fuminori Nakamura.)

The NTW ends with one of the most successful propaganda campaigns in human history: the diamond engagement ring. What power the ring holds. And as every true nihilist knows, the love of power is the demon of mankind (Nietzsche). We also know that we come from darkness, and its where were heading.

Have a nice day.

NOTE: The NTWs sources include this video of 150 Nietzsche quotes and quotes tagged nihilism from Goodreads. The NTW used the font Propaganda for his taglines.

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Enter the Nihilist Tagline Writer – Digiday

Scott Adams’s Nihilistic Defense of Donald Trump – The Atlantic

Sam Harris, the atheist philosopher and neuroscientist, has recently been using his popular Waking Up podcast to discuss Donald Trump, whom he abhors, with an ideologically diverse series of guests, all of whom believe that the president is a vile huckster.

This began to wear on some of his listeners. Wasnt Harris always warning against echo chambers? Didnt he believe in rigorous debate with a positions strongest proponents? At their urging, he extended an invitation to a person that many of those listeners regard as President Trumps most formidable defender: Scott Adams, the creator of the cartoon Dilbert, who believes that Trump is a master persuader.

Their conversation was posted online late last month. It is one of the most peculiar debates about a president I have ever encountered. And it left me marveling that parts of Trumps base think well of Adams when his views imply such negative things about them.

Those implications are most striking with respect to extreme views that Trump expressed during the campaign. Harris and Adams discussed two examples during the podcast: Trumps call to deport 12 million illegal immigrants from the United States, a position that would require vast, roving deportation forces, home raids, and the forced removal even of law-abiding, undocumented single mothers of American children; and Trumps call to murder the family members of al-Qaeda or ISIS terrorists.

Trump took those positions not because he believes them, Adams argued, but to mirror the emotional state of the voters he sought and to open negotiations on policy.

Harris expressed bafflement that such a strategy would work:

Harris: If I’m going to pretend to be so callous as to happily absorb those facts, like send them all back, they don’t belong here, or in the ISIS case, we’ll torture their kids, we’ll kill their kids, it doesn’t matter, whatever worksif that’s my opening negotiation, I am advertising a level of callousness, and a level of unconcern for the reality of human suffering that will follow from my actions, should I get what I ostensibly want, that it’s a nearly psychopathic ethics I am advertising as my strong suit.

So how this becomes attractive to people, how this resonates with their valuesI get what you said, people are worried about immigration and jihadism, I share those concerns. But when you cross the line into this opening overture that has these extreme consequences on its face, things that get pointed out in 30 seconds whenever he opens his mouth on a topic like this, I don’t understand how that works for him with anyone.

Adams: Let me give you a little thought experiment here. We’ve got people who are on the far right. We’ve got people on the far left. In your perfect world, would it be better to move the people on the far right toward the middle or the people on the far left toward the middle? Which would be a preferred world for you?

Harris: Moving everyone toward the middle, certainly on most points, would be a very good thing.

Adams: So what you’ve observed with President Trump through his pacing and emotional compatibility with his base is that prior to Inauguration Day, there were a lot of people in this country who were saying, ‘Yeah yeah, round them all up. Send all 12 million back tomorrow.’

When was the last time you heard anybody on the right complaining about that? Because what happened was, immigration went down 50 to 70 percent, whatever the number was, just based on the fact that we would get tough on immigration. And the right says, Oh, okay, we didn’t get nearly what we asked for, but our leader, who we trust, who we love, has backed off of that, and we’re going to kind of go with that, because he is doing some good things that we like. And we don’t like the alternative either.

So this monster that we elected, this Hitler-dictator-crazy-guy, he managed to be the only guy who could have, and I would argue always intended, to move the far right toward the middle. You saw it, you know, we can observe it with our own eyes. We don’t see the right saying, Oh no, I hate President Trump. He’s got to round up those undocumented people like he said early in the campaign, or else I’m bailing on him. None of that happened. He paced them, and then he led them toward a reasonable situation, which I would say we’re in.

I dont agree with parts of Adamss analysis. But as he tells it, Trump targeted voters whod be attracted rather than repelled by calls for policies that would inflict great suffering; he told those voters things that he didnt really mean to gain their emotional trust; and all along, he probably intended to go to Washington and do something else. That sounds a lot like the way that Trump voters describe the career politicians who they hate: emotionally manipulative liars who will say anything to get elected, get to Washington, and betray their base by moving left on immigration.

Now consider the most extraordinary exchange in the podcast, when Harris attempts to explain his confusion that not everyone regards Trump as a vile huckster:

Harris: Everything you need to know about Trump’s ethics were revealed in the Trump University scandal. This is a guy who is having his employees pressure poor, elderly people to max out their credit cards in exchange for fake knowledge.

Adams: Well, hold on. You understood that to be a license deal, right?

Harris: Yeah, but I understand that to be the kind of thing that he would have to know enough about to know what he was doing. If he only found out about it after the fact, that’s not the kind of thing you’d defend, it’s the kind of thing you’d be mortified about. And you would apologize for and pay reparations for if you’re this rich guy who has all the money you claim to have.

Adams: Unless you were a master persuader who knew that if you ever backed down from anything, people would expect you to back down in the future from other things.

Note that Adams hypothesizes that Trump would not back down even if he were in the wrong and innocents were hurt as a consequence, because it might hurt him personally. A person who wrongs innocents, then hides it because he puts a higher priority on preserving his public persona than justice, is not a person to be trusted with power!

Harris: But what you’re describing is a totally unethical person. This is the problem for me. So let me just give you a couple more points here. People will say that all politicians are liars, or all politicians have something weird in their backstory. But there are very few politicians walking around with something that ugly in their backstory that they haven’t repaired.

Adams: Let me just clarify. When I said that it was a license deal, as opposed to a business that he was actively runningin the Dilbert world, I do a lot of license deals. And have in the past. The nature of those is that you’re giving your brand and your name and then you’re not really paying attention to the management of the company. So there are two possibilities here. One is what you described, that he knew the details and he was okay with it, which would be problematic for me, and I’m positive it would be problematic for 100 percent of Trump’s supporters if that was the case. Now, if it was a typical license deal where you don’t really know exactly what people are doing and you’re not paying attention because you’ve got, in this case, 400 companies with his name on them

Harris: His whole life is a license deal for the most parteven his real estate empire is a license deal.

Adams: So if it were the case that he were treating it like every other license deal there’s a high likelihood that he didn’t know about the details until it was too late. Now once he found out the details, how he handled it in court is yet another separate case.

Lets pause here. What Harris understandably didnt know off the top of his head is that Trump University was not a typical licensing deal. According to The Washington Post, court documents revealed that the Trump Organization owned 93 percent of Trump University. As well, beginning in 2005, New York State Education Department officials told the company to change its name because they deemed it misleading. And Trump appeared in ads for the enterprise, where he said, I can turn anyone into a successful real estate investor, including you. Obviously, Trump did not believe that anyone who saw the advertisement could be turned into a success in real estate, and the ad represented that Trump would be doing the turning.

Harris: But even granting you that, it’s another separate case that says everything about the man’s ethics.

Adams: It says everything about his ethics if he was aware of it at the time.

Harris: No, no, if you’re aware of it in the aftermath. If I created some deal, you know, The Sam Harris Waking Up Podcast UniversityI mean, first of all, the fact that he would license it out to other conmen who were unscrupulous, and not do proper vetting but claim he had, I mean there’s a whole commercial with him talking about how these are the geniuses who will be instructing you in this incredibly expensive but profitable enterprise.

If you did all that you’re already a schmuck.

But imagine I had done that, and I’m so busy, I’ve got 400 different businesses, and I just didn’t really understand, I got conned, and got lured into doing this with people I didn’t totally vet. In the aftermath, I would be horrified! If I found out that someone had their life savings ripped from them by conmen who I had licensed, right, and I’m this billionaire, I would atone for that as much as could possibly be done. I mean, you have to do that!

Adams: Now Sam, when you say you would atone for it, let’s talk about the financial part of that atonement. Would you then negotiate with the people who were complaining to figure out what was an appropriate payment?

Harris: It would be obviously indefensible, and I would immediately pay back everything that was lost, and probably more, because there’s all the pain and suffering associated with it. You have to make people whole.

Adams: But would you give them whatever they asked for? Like hey, give me 10 million dollars

Harris: Well no, there has to be some rational consideration of what the cost is. But again, you know the spirit in which he defended this, right? He hasn’t admitted that this was a sham. It’s of a piece with everything else he has represented about himself. He’s a genius whose done nothing but help the world and the world is ungrateful because they can’t recognize it. And all the rest is fake news.

Adams: But let me ask you againand by the way, I want to be very clear that there’s nothing about Trump University that I defend.

Harris: But that should mean something to you!

There were, in fact, things about Trump University that Adams was defending. In an effort to persuade, he was portraying himself as an expert on licensing deals, and suggesting that Trump may well have been innocent of any wrongdoing beyond not knowing what the folks who licensed his name were getting up to. Because Adams is not a master persuader, Harris was able to knock down that argument, even without knowing some of the facts that made it obviously wrong.

Thats when the conversation arrived at a place Adams often inhabits: claiming he doesnt defend vile or hucksterish behavior from Trump, but continuing to act as Trumps booster.

Adams: But I also think it needs to be put into its clearest context. And the clearest context is, there were people who used the legal system for his complaints, and Trump used the legal system the way it was used, to negotiate, and part of that negotiation is, ‘Hey, I’m taking you to court.’ ‘Well, go ahead, I’ll take you to court.’ So that’s how you negotiate in the legal context. When it was done he paid them back as the legal process probably was going to come out that way whether he was elected president or not.

Harris: It shouldn’t have had to go to court. The fact that it had to go to court is a sign of his litigiousness, his defensiveness, his not owning the problem. And who knows how many other scandals like this are in his past where the people couldn’t afford to go to court? We actually know a lot about the way he built buildings, insofar as he actually built themand he screwed hundreds if not thousands of people, and these are people who couldn’t afford to take them to court. This guy’s reputation is so well known.

At this point Adams repeats a persuasive tactic he had already usedon Trump University, he mentioned his own experience of licensing Dilbert, as if it gave his opinions special weight; in this next part, he casts himself as a construction expert. Factual context for the following part of the conversation can be found in this USA Today investigation.

Adams: Have you ever been involved in a big construction project? Because I’ve done a few. And what do you do when a subcontractor doesn’t perform the way that you want them to perform?

Harris: That’s one description of what has happened, but again, you’re ignoring the fact that he has a unique reputation for screwing people. And this is something, journalism didn’t do its job before the election to get this out

Adams: Well, I would agree he has a reputation. But what is the source of that reputation? It’s the people that didn’t get paid, right?

Harris: But again, the fact that Trump University exists, and the fact that he handled it the way he did, tells me everything I need to know about him. Everything. Literally everything Scott.

Adams: Did you just change the subject?

Harris: No. I can see his real estate career through the lens of Trump University. If you give me Trump University, I can tell you what kind of developer he’s going to be. And how he’s going to treat his subs.

Adams: Well, that’s another analogy problem, that Trump University is an analogy

Harris: No, it’s because people’s ethics tend to cohere. If you think you can screw someone mercilessly when they’re under your power in one context, you are the kind of person, I will predict, who will be screwing people under your power in other contexts, unless you’ve got some kind of multiple personality disorder.

Adams: Are there no stories you’re aware of in which President Trump has done things which he was not required to do which were considered a kindness?

Harris: Well, I’ll give you two other points which I think aren’t entangled with these wrinkles, which kind of make the same point So take his career as a beauty pageant host and owner, and the stories well attested of him being the creep who keeps barging into the dressing room so he can look at the beauty pageant contestants, these 18-year-old girls who are essentially his employees, so he can catch them naked. So there’s doing that over and over again.

And then add his career as a pseudo-philanthropist. So here’s a great example. There’s this ribbon-cutting ceremony for a children’s school that was serving kids with AIDS. This was back in the 90s. And hes pretending to be one of the big donors, and just to get a photo op with the mayor of New York and I think the former mayor of New York, and the real donors to this charity, he jumps on stage, pretends that he belongs there at the ribbon cutting. He never gave a dime to this charity! No one knew he was coming, he literally crashed this party to pretend that he was this big-time philanthropist. Well you may say, this is brilliant PR, right?

It’s completely immoral PR.

If I had done this you wouldn’t be on this podcast. If you found out these things about me, Sam Harris pretends he gives to charity when he doesn’t, he barges into the dressing rooms of his teenage employees so he can catch them naked, and he’s got this thing called Harris University that he had to get sued to apologize for, in fact he never apologized for, those three things about me, you wouldn’t be on this podcast, and for good reason. But yet you’re saying you would elect me president of the United States.

Adams: Yeah I would go even further and say that if you even knew the secret life of any of our politicians we would impeach all of them.

Harris: That’s not true.

Adams: The problem is that people tend to be fairly despicable when you drill down.

Harris: Do you think Obama is trailing things of this magnitude? Manifest character flaws of this magnitude?

Adams: Well, I won’t name names, but I would say it would be more common than not common, for especially males to have sketchy behavior with the opposite sex.

Harris: Not this level of sketchy behavior. I mean, I’m not going to go to the Billy Bush groping tape which I think is

Adams: Keep in mind that President Trump’s past is far more public than other people. So you’re going to see the warts as well as the good stuff. But let me stop acting as if I disagree with the general claim that you’re making, that he has done things that you and I might not do in the same situation, and would disapprove of. That is common and would be shared by Trump supporters as well.

Notice the pattern here.

Harris offers an indictment of Trump; Adams tries to undercut it; Adams fails; Adams asserts that he has been misleading us about his real views in the course of doing so; then Adams grants the original indictment, but insists there are mitigating factors:

Harris: But then you seem to give it no ethical weight.

Adams: Here’s the proposition. He came in and he said in these very words, I’m no angel. But I’m going to do these things for you. Now he created a situation where for his self-interest, if you imagine he’s the most selfish, narcissistic, egotistical human who ever lived, he only cares about himself, he put himself in the position where there was exactly one way for any of those things to go right for him, which is to do a really, really frickin’ good job, and to imagine that he wants to do anything but the best job for the country now, now that he’s in the position, and probably even when he was running, is beyond ludicrous.

It is fascinating that Adams counts the pronouncement, Im no angel, as a point in Trumps favor, as if unapologetically acknowledging moral depravity lessens its weight.

And that isnt even the most ludicrous part of his argument.

Upon being elected, it is in the interest of every president to do a really, really good job. As Harris put it, I will grant you that he cares about his reputation to some degree, and his reputation would be enhanced if at the end of four years or the end of eight years more likely, he was described as the greatest president we ever had. I think he would like that. If you could give him a magic wand and he could wave it in any direction, he would want to leave being spoken of as the next Lincoln or the next Jefferson. In that sense, his interests and the country’s interests would be aligned.

So Trump shares that incentive with every president. And as Harris added, there are other ways in which Trumps interests depart from Americas interests far more than other presidents: the profits and overseas dealings of the Trump organization, for one thing, and Trumps murky relationship with Russian oligarchs, for another.

All that aside, even perfectly aligned incentives are worthless if a politician lacks the moral compass and practical skills to govern well. The strongest anti-Trump argument is that he is unfit, regardless of what he wants for Americansthat he is governing about as well as he managed the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, a property that he wanted to succeed but that ended in ruin.

Stripped of all the evasive rhetorical tactics, Adamss case for Trump amounts to this: Trump is a master persuader, as evidenced by his success manipulating voters with morally odious positions that he didnt believe and never intended to executebut Americans shouldnt be bothered by the vileness or the hucksterism, which Adams regards as mostly harmless, because its in Trumps personal interests to be successful, and as Adams later argued, Americans should want a guy who will succeed in the White House more than a guy who is moral or honest.

Now, personally, I dont believe that Trump is a master persuader. I think hes a guy who started out with unusual amounts of money, name recognition, and media coverage, three hugely important factors for a pol; ran against an unusually disliked opponent; and still managed to lose the popular vote by a margin of almost three million. But whether or not Trump is a master persuader is really beside my point here.

My point is that Harris had been using his podcast to discuss Trump with an ideologically diverse series of anti-Trump guests who believe the president is a vile hucksterand then, when he agreed to host the pro-Trump guest who his pro-Trump listeners flagged as Trumps most formidable defender, that guest essentially conceded that Trump has done all sorts of vile things and rose to power via lies, but that its all for the best because he has an incentive to do a really good job. To accept all that would be to cede any grounds for objecting to future politicians who behave immorally, inject cruel policy proposals into the national debate, and lie to get elected. If Adams truly is the most formidable defender of the Trump presidency, then the best defense of the president is grounded in corrosive moral nihilism.

Read more:

Scott Adams’s Nihilistic Defense of Donald Trump – The Atlantic

Nihilism – Wikipedia

Nihilism ( or ; from the Latin nihil, nothing) is a philosophical doctrine that suggests the lack of belief in one or more reputedly meaningful aspects of life. Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism, which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value.[1]Moral nihilists assert that there is no inherent morality, and that accepted moral values are abstractly contrived. Nihilism may also take epistemological, ontological, or metaphysical forms, meaning respectively that, in some aspect, knowledge is not possible, or reality does not actually exist.

The term 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 realising there are no necessary norms, rules, or laws.[2] Movements such as futurism and deconstruction,[3] among others, have been identified by commentators[4] as “nihilistic”.

Nihilism has also been described as conspicuous in or constitutive of certain historical periods: for example, Jean Baudrillard and others have called postmodernity a nihilistic epoch;[5] and some religious theologians and figures of religious authority have asserted that postmodernity[6] and many aspects of modernity[3] represent a rejection of theism, and that such rejection of theistic doctrine entails nihilism.

Nihilism has many definitions, and thus can describe multiple arguably independent philosophical positions.

Metaphysical nihilism is the philosophical theory that posits that concrete objects and physical constructs might not exist in the possible world, or that even if there exist possible worlds that contain some concrete objects, there is at least one that contains only abstract objects.

Extreme metaphysical nihilism is commonly defined as the belief that nothing exists as a correspondent component of the self-efficient world.[7] The American Heritage Medical Dictionary defines one form of nihilism as “an extreme form of skepticism that denies all existence.”[8] A similar skepticism concerning the concrete world can be found in solipsism. However, despite the fact that both deny the certainty of objects’ true existence, the nihilist would deny the existence of self whereas the solipsist would affirm it.[9] Both these positions are considered forms of anti-realism.[10]

Epistemological nihilism is a form of skepticism in which all knowledge is accepted as being possibly untrue or as being unable to be confirmed true.

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).

This interpretation of existence must be based on resolution. The resolution with which humans see and perceive the “improper parts” of the world is not an objective fact of reality, but is rather an implicit trait that can only be qualitatively explored and expressed. Therefore, there is no arguable way to surmise or measure the validity of mereological nihilism. Example: An ant can get lost on a large cylindrical object because the circumference of the object is so large with respect to the ant that the ant effectively feels as though the object has no curvature. Thus, the resolution with which the ant views the world it exists “within” is a very important determining factor in how the ant experiences this “within the world” feeling.

Existential nihilism is the belief that life has no intrinsic meaning or value. With respect to the universe, existential nihilism posits that a single human or even the entire human species is insignificant, without purpose and unlikely to change in the totality of existence. The meaninglessness of life is largely explored in the philosophical school of existentialism.

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.

Other nihilists may argue not that there is no morality at all, but that if it does exist, it is a human construction and thus artificial, 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, or bad independently from our moral beliefs, 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 void of any truth value. An alternative scholarly perspective is that moral nihilism is a morality in itself. Cooper writes, “In the widest sense of the word ‘morality’, moral nihilism is a morality.”[11]

Political nihilism, a branch of nihilism, follows 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, and law. An influential analysis of political nihilism is presented by Leo Strauss.[12]

The Russian Nihilist movement was a Russian trend in the 1860s that rejected all authority.[13] Their name derives from the Latin nihil, meaning “nothing”. After the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881, the Nihilists gained a reputation throughout Europe as proponents of the use of violence for political change.[citation needed] The Nihilists expressed anger at what they described as the abusive nature of the Eastern Orthodox Church and of the tsarist monarchy, and at the domination of the Russian economy by the aristocracy. Although the term Nihilism was coined by the German theologian Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi (17431818), its widespread usage began with the 1862 novel Fathers and Sons by the Russian author Ivan Turgenev. The main character of the novel, Eugene Bazarov, who describes himself as a Nihilist, wants to educate the people. The “go to the people be the people” campaign reached its height in the 1870s, during which underground groups such as the Circle of Tchaikovsky, the People’s Will, and Land and Liberty formed. It became known as the Narodnik movement, whose members believed that the newly freed serfs were merely being sold into wage slavery in the onset of the Industrial Revolution, and that the middle and upper classes had effectively replaced landowners. The Russian state attempted to suppress the nihilist movement. In actions described by the Nihilists as propaganda of the deed many government officials were assassinated. In 1881 Alexander II was killed on the very day he had approved a proposal to call a representative assembly to consider new reforms.

The term nihilism was first used by Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi (17431819). Jacobi used the term to characterize rationalism[14] and in particular Immanuel Kant’s “critical” philosophy to carry out a reductio ad absurdum according to which all rationalism (philosophy as criticism) reduces to nihilismand 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, Fichtes absolutization of the ego (the ‘absolute I’ that posits the ‘not-I’) is an inflation of subjectivity that denies the absolute transcendence of God.”[15] A related but oppositional concept is fideism, which sees reason as hostile and inferior to faith.

With the popularizing of the word nihilism by Ivan Turgenev, a new Russian political movement called the Nihilist movement adopted the term. They supposedly called themselves nihilists because nothing “that then existed found favor in their eyes”.[16]

Sren Kierkegaard (18131855) posited an early form of nihilism, which he referred to as leveling.[17] He saw levelling as 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.

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.”[18] 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.”[19] In his day, tabloids (like the Danish magazine Corsaren) and apostate Christianity were instruments of levelling and contributed to the “reflective apathetic age” of 19th century Europe.[20] Kierkegaard argues that individuals who can overcome the levelling process are stronger for it and that it represents a step in the right direction towards “becoming a true self.”[18][21] As we must overcome levelling,[22]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”.[23]

Note 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,[20] whereas the modern interpretation of nihilism posits that there was never any meaning, purpose or value to begin with.

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. Karen Carr describes Nietzsche’s characterization of nihilism “as a condition of tension, as a disproportion between what we want to value (or need) and how the world appears to operate.”[24] 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.[25] Nietzsche asserts that with the decline of Christianity and the rise of physiological decadence,[clarification needed] nihilism is in fact characteristic of the modern age,[26] though he implies that the rise of nihilism is still incomplete and that it has yet to be overcome.[27] 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.[28] 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 that 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.[29]

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”.[30] 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”.[31] 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.[32][33]

Stanley Rosen identifies Nietzsche’s concept of nihilism with a situation of meaninglessness, in which “everything is permitted.” According to him, the loss of higher metaphysical values that exist in contrast to the base reality of the world, or merely human ideas, gives rise to the idea that all human ideas are therefore valueless. Rejecting idealism thus results in nihilism, because only similarly transcendent ideals live up to the previous standards that the nihilist still implicitly holds.[34] 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.[35] 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 of oneself from 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 inconsistent:[36]

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.

Nietzsche’s relation to the problem of nihilism is a complex one. He approaches the problem of nihilism as deeply personal, stating that this predicament of the modern world is a problem that has “become conscious” in him.[37] 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!”[38] According to Nietzsche, it is only when 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.[26]

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 succumb 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 characterized by Nietzsche as “a sign of strength,”[39] a wilful destruction of the old values to wipe the slate clean and lay down one’s own beliefs and interpretations, contrary to the passive nihilism that resigns itself with the decomposition of the old values. This wilful destruction of values and the overcoming of the condition of nihilism by the constructing of new meaning, this active nihilism, could be related to what Nietzsche elsewhere calls a ‘free spirit'[40] or the bermensch 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 his own work of art. It may be questioned, though, whether “active nihilism” is indeed the correct term for this stance, and some question whether Nietzsche takes the problems nihilism poses seriously enough.[41]

Martin Heidegger’s interpretation of Nietzsche influenced many postmodern thinkers who investigated the problem of nihilism as put forward by Nietzsche. Only recently has Heidegger’s influence on Nietzschean nihilism research faded.[42] As early as the 1930s, Heidegger was giving lectures on Nietzsches thought.[43] Given the importance of Nietzsches 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. He rather tries to incorporate Nietzsche’s thoughts into his own philosophical system of Being, Time and Dasein.[44] In his Nihilism as Determined by the History of Being (194446),[45] Heidegger tries to understand Nietzsches 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.[46] 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.[47] This makes Nietzsches metaphysics not a victory over nihilism, but a perfection of it.[48]

Heidegger, in his interpretation of Nietzsche, has been inspired by Ernst Jnger. Many references to Jnger 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 Jnger, tries to explain the notion of God is dead as the reality of the Will to Power. Heidegger also praises Jnger for defending Nietzsche against a too biological or anthropological reading during the Third Reich.[49]

Heidegger’s interpretation of Nietzsche influenced a number of important postmodernist thinkers. 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.[50] 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.[51]Jrgen Habermas, Jean-Franois Lyotard and Richard Rorty are also philosophers who are influenced by Heidegger’s interpretation of Nietzsche.[52]

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.[53]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.[54] Derrida himself built a philosophy based upon a ‘responsibility to the other’.[55] 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 that can’t be separated from the age and system the stories belong toreferred to by Lyotard as meta-narratives. He then goes on to define the postmodern condition as 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.”[citation needed] 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 indifferenceall 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.

In Nihil Unbound: Extinction and Enlightenment, Ray Brassier maintains that philosophy has avoided the traumatic idea of extinction, instead attempting to find meaning in a world conditioned by the very idea of its own annihilation. Thus Brassier critiques both the phenomenological and hermeneutic strands of Continental philosophy as well as the vitality of thinkers like Gilles Deleuze, who work to ingrain meaning in the world and stave off the threat of nihilism. Instead, drawing on thinkers such as Alain Badiou, Franois Laruelle, Paul Churchland, and Thomas Metzinger, Brassier defends a view of the world as inherently devoid of meaning. That is, rather than avoiding nihilism, Brassier embraces it as the truth of reality. Brassier concludes from his readings of Badiou and Laruelle that the universe is founded on the nothing,[56] but also that philosophy is the “organon of extinction,” that it is only because life is conditioned by its own extinction that there is thought at all.[57] Brassier then defends a radically anti-correlationist philosophy proposing that Thought is conjoined not with Being, but with Non-Being.

The term Dada was first used by Richard Huelsenbeck and Tristan Tzara in 1916.[58] The movement, which lasted from approximately 1916 to 1922, arose during World War I, an event that influenced the artists.[59] The Dada Movement began in the old town of Zrich, Switzerland known as the “Niederdorf” or “Niederdrfli” in the Caf Voltaire.[60] 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.[59]

The term “nihilism” was actually popularized by Ivan Turgenev in his novel Fathers and Sons, whose hero, Bazarov, was a nihilist and recruited several followers to the philosophy. He found his nihilistic ways challenged upon falling in love.[61]

Anton Chekhov portrayed nihilism when writing Three Sisters. The phrase “what does it matter” or such variants is often spoken by several characters in response to events; the significance of some of these events suggests a subscription to nihilism by said characters as a type of coping strategy.

Ayn Rand vehemently denounced nihilism as an abdication of rationality and the pursuit of happiness which she regarded as life’s moral purpose. As such, most villains are depicted as moral nihilists including Ellsworth Monckton Toohey in The Fountainhead who is a self-aware nihilist and the corrupt government in Atlas Shrugged who are unconsciously driven by nihilism which has taken root in the book’s depiction of American society with the fictional slang phrase “Who is John Galt?” being used as a defeatist way of saying “Who knows?” or “What does it matter?” by characters in the book who have essentially given up on life.[citation needed]

The philosophical ideas of the French author, the Marquis de Sade, are often noted as early examples of nihilistic principles.[citation needed]

Three of the antagonists in the 1998 movie The Big Lebowski are explicitly described as “nihilists,” but are not shown exhibiting any explicitly nihilistic traits during the film. Regarding the nihilists, the character Walter Sobchak comments “Nihilists! Fuck me. I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.” The 1999 film The Matrix portrays the character Thomas A. Anderson with a hollowed out copy of Baudrillard’s treatise, Simulacra and Simulation, in which he stores contraband data files under the chapter “On Nihilism.” The main antagonist Agent Smith is also depicted frequently as a nihilist, with him ranting about how all of peace, justice and love were meaningless in The Matrix Revolutions.[62] The 1999 film Fight Club also features concepts relating to Nihilism by exploring the contrasts between the artificial values imposed by consumerism in relation to the more meaningful pursuit of spiritual happiness.

In keeping with his comic book depiction, The Joker is portrayed as a nihilist in The Dark Knight, describing himself as “an Agent of Chaos” and at one point burning a gigantic pile of money stating that crime is “not about money, it’s about sending a message: everything burns.” Alfred Pennyworth states, regarding the Joker, “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like moneythey can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated withsome men just want to watch the world burn.”[63]

The video-game Nier: Automata contains allusions to Nietzsche and nihilism as a whole. Many interpret the final sequence of the game, Ending E, as a rejection of Nihilist existentialism, with the player rejecting the notion of a meaningless world in order to save the game’s main characters.

Read the original here:

Nihilism – Wikipedia

Nihilism | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated. It is often associated with extreme pessimism and a radical skepticism that condemns existence. A true nihilist would believe in nothing, have no loyalties, and no purpose other than, perhaps, an impulse to destroy. While few philosophers would claim to be nihilists, nihilism is most often associated with Friedrich Nietzsche who argued that its corrosive effects would eventually destroy all moral, religious, and metaphysical convictions and precipitate the greatest crisis in human history. In the 20th century, nihilistic themes–epistemological failure, value destruction, and cosmic purposelessness–have preoccupied artists, social critics, and philosophers. Mid-century, for example, the existentialists helped popularize tenets of nihilism in their attempts to blunt its destructive potential. By the end of the century, existential despair as a response to nihilism gave way to an attitude of indifference, often associated with antifoundationalism.

It has been over a century now since Nietzsche explored nihilism and its implications for civilization. As he predicted, nihilism’s impact on the culture and values of the 20th century has been pervasive, its apocalyptic tenor spawning a mood of gloom and a good deal of anxiety, anger, and terror. Interestingly, Nietzsche himself, a radical skeptic preoccupied with language, knowledge, and truth, anticipated many of the themes of postmodernity. It’s helpful to note, then, that he believed we could–at a terrible price–eventually work through nihilism. If we survived the process of destroying all interpretations of the world, we could then perhaps discover the correct course for humankind.

“Nihilism” comes from the Latin nihil, or nothing, which means not anything, that which does not exist. It appears in the verb “annihilate,” meaning to bring to nothing, to destroy completely. Early in the nineteenth century, Friedrich Jacobi used the word to negatively characterize transcendental idealism. It only became popularized, however, after its appearance in Ivan Turgenev’s novel Fathers and Sons (1862) where he used “nihilism” to describe the crude scientism espoused by his character Bazarov who preaches a creed of total negation.

In Russia, nihilism became identified with a loosely organized revolutionary movement (C.1860-1917) that rejected the authority of the state, church, and family. In his early writing, anarchist leader Mikhael Bakunin (1814-1876) composed the notorious entreaty still identified with nihilism: “Let us put our trust in the eternal spirit which destroys and annihilates only because it is the unsearchable and eternally creative source of all life–the passion for destruction is also a creative passion!” (Reaction in Germany, 1842). The movement advocated a social arrangement based on rationalism and materialism as the sole source of knowledge and individual freedom as the highest goal. By rejecting man’s spiritual essence in favor of a solely materialistic one, nihilists denounced God and religious authority as antithetical to freedom. The movement eventually deteriorated into an ethos of subversion, destruction, and anarchy, and by the late 1870s, a nihilist was anyone associated with clandestine political groups advocating terrorism and assassination.

The earliest philosophical positions associated with what could be characterized as a nihilistic outlook are those of the Skeptics. Because they denied the possibility of certainty, Skeptics could denounce traditional truths as unjustifiable opinions. When Demosthenes (c.371-322 BC), for example, observes that “What he wished to believe, that is what each man believes” (Olynthiac), he posits the relational nature of knowledge. Extreme skepticism, then, is linked to epistemological nihilism which denies the possibility of knowledge and truth; this form of nihilism is currently identified with postmodern antifoundationalism. Nihilism, in fact, can be understood in several different ways. Political Nihilism, as noted, is associated with the belief that the destruction of all existing political, social, and religious order is a prerequisite for any future improvement. Ethical nihilism or moral nihilism rejects the possibility of absolute moral or ethical values. Instead, good and evil are nebulous, and values addressing such are the product of nothing more than social and emotive pressures. Existential nihilism is 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.

Max Stirner’s (1806-1856) attacks on systematic philosophy, his denial of absolutes, and his rejection of abstract concepts of any kind often places him among the first philosophical nihilists. For Stirner, achieving individual freedom is the only law; and the state, which necessarily imperils freedom, must be destroyed. Even beyond the oppression of the state, though, are the constraints imposed by others because their very existence is an obstacle compromising individual freedom. Thus Stirner argues that existence is an endless “war of each against all” (The Ego and its Own, trans. 1907).

Among philosophers, Friedrich Nietzsche is most often associated with nihilism. For Nietzsche, there is no objective order or structure in the world except what we give it. Penetrating the faades buttressing convictions, the nihilist discovers that all values are baseless and that reason is impotent. “Every belief, every considering something-true,” Nietzsche writes, “is necessarily false because there is simply no true world” (Will to Power [notes from 1883-1888]). For him, nihilism requires a radical repudiation of all imposed values and meaning: “Nihilism is . . . not only the belief that everything deserves to perish; but one actually puts one’s shoulder to the plough; one destroys” (Will to Power).

The caustic strength of nihilism is absolute, Nietzsche argues, and under its withering scrutiny “the highest values devalue themselves. The aim is lacking, and ‘Why’ finds no answer” (Will to Power). Inevitably, nihilism will expose all cherished beliefs and sacrosanct truths as symptoms of a defective Western mythos. This collapse of meaning, relevance, and purpose will be the most destructive force in history, constituting a total assault on reality and nothing less than the greatest crisis of humanity:

What I relate is the history of the next two centuries. I describe what is coming, what can no longer come differently: the advent of nihilism. . . . For some time now our whole European culture has been moving as toward a catastrophe, with a tortured tension that is growing from decade to decade: restlessly, violently, headlong, like a river that wants to reach the end. . . . (Will to Power)

Since Nietzsche’s compelling critique, nihilistic themes–epistemological failure, value destruction, and cosmic purposelessness–have preoccupied artists, social critics, and philosophers. Convinced that Nietzsche’s analysis was accurate, for example, Oswald Spengler in The Decline of the West (1926) studied several cultures to confirm that patterns of nihilism were indeed a conspicuous feature of collapsing civilizations. In each of the failed cultures he examines, Spengler noticed that centuries-old religious, artistic, and political traditions were weakened and finally toppled by the insidious workings of several distinct nihilistic postures: the Faustian nihilist “shatters the ideals”; the Apollinian nihilist “watches them crumble before his eyes”; and the Indian nihilist “withdraws from their presence into himself.” Withdrawal, for instance, often identified with the negation of reality and resignation advocated by Eastern religions, is in the West associated with various versions of epicureanism and stoicism. In his study, Spengler concludes that Western civilization is already in the advanced stages of decay with all three forms of nihilism working to undermine epistemological authority and ontological grounding.

In 1927, Martin Heidegger, to cite another example, observed that nihilism in various and hidden forms was already “the normal state of man” (The Question of Being). Other philosophers’ predictions about nihilism’s impact have been dire. Outlining the symptoms of nihilism in the 20th century, Helmut Thielicke wrote that “Nihilism literally has only one truth to declare, namely, that ultimately Nothingness prevails and the world is meaningless” (Nihilism: Its Origin and Nature, with a Christian Answer, 1969). From the nihilist’s perspective, one can conclude that life is completely amoral, a conclusion, Thielicke believes, that motivates such monstrosities as the Nazi reign of terror. Gloomy predictions of nihilism’s impact are also charted in Eugene Rose’s Nihilism: The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age (1994). If nihilism proves victorious–and it’s well on its way, he argues–our world will become “a cold, inhuman world” where “nothingness, incoherence, and absurdity” will triumph.

While nihilism is often discussed in terms of extreme skepticism and relativism, for most of the 20th century it has been associated with the belief that life is meaningless. Existential nihilism begins with the notion that the world is without meaning or purpose. Given this circumstance, existence itself–all action, suffering, and feeling–is ultimately senseless and empty.

In The Dark Side: Thoughts on the Futility of Life (1994), Alan Pratt demonstrates that existential nihilism, in one form or another, has been a part of the Western intellectual tradition from the beginning. The Skeptic Empedocles’ observation that “the life of mortals is so mean a thing as to be virtually un-life,” for instance, embodies the same kind of extreme pessimism associated with existential nihilism. In antiquity, such profound pessimism may have reached its apex with Hegesias of Cyrene. Because miseries vastly outnumber pleasures, happiness is impossible, the philosopher argues, and subsequently advocates suicide. Centuries later during the Renaissance, William Shakespeare eloquently summarized the existential nihilist’s perspective when, in this famous passage near the end of Macbeth, he has Macbeth pour out his disgust for life:

Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more; it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.

In the twentieth century, it’s the atheistic existentialist movement, popularized in France in the 1940s and 50s, that is responsible for the currency of existential nihilism in the popular consciousness. Jean-Paul Sartre’s (1905-1980) defining preposition for the movement, “existence precedes essence,” rules out any ground or foundation for establishing an essential self or a human nature. When we abandon illusions, life is revealed as nothing; and for the existentialists, nothingness is the source of not only absolute freedom but also existential horror and emotional anguish. Nothingness reveals each individual as an isolated being “thrown” into an alien and unresponsive universe, barred forever from knowing why yet required to invent meaning. It’s a situation that’s nothing short of absurd. Writing from the enlightened perspective of the absurd, Albert Camus (1913-1960) observed that Sisyphus’ plight, condemned to eternal, useless struggle, was a superb metaphor for human existence (The Myth of Sisyphus, 1942).

The common thread in the literature of the existentialists is coping with the emotional anguish arising from our confrontation with nothingness, and they expended great energy responding to the question of whether surviving it was possible. Their answer was a qualified “Yes,” advocating a formula of passionate commitment and impassive stoicism. In retrospect, it was an anecdote tinged with desperation because in an absurd world there are absolutely no guidelines, and any course of action is problematic. Passionate commitment, be it to conquest, creation, or whatever, is itself meaningless. Enter nihilism.

Camus, like the other existentialists, was convinced that nihilism was the most vexing problem of the twentieth century. Although he argues passionately that individuals could endure its corrosive effects, his most famous works betray the extraordinary difficulty he faced building a convincing case. In The Stranger (1942), for example, Meursault has rejected the existential suppositions on which the uninitiated and weak rely. Just moments before his execution for a gratuitous murder, he discovers that life alone is reason enough for living, a raison d’tre, however, that in context seems scarcely convincing. In Caligula (1944), the mad emperor tries to escape the human predicament by dehumanizing himself with acts of senseless violence, fails, and surreptitiously arranges his own assassination. The Plague (1947) shows the futility of doing one’s best in an absurd world. And in his last novel, the short and sardonic, The Fall (1956), Camus posits that everyone has bloody hands because we are all responsible for making a sorry state worse by our inane action and inaction alike. In these works and other works by the existentialists, one is often left with the impression that living authentically with the meaninglessness of life is impossible.

Camus was fully aware of the pitfalls of defining existence without meaning, and in his philosophical essay The Rebel (1951) he faces the problem of nihilism head-on. In it, he describes at length how metaphysical collapse often ends in total negation and the victory of nihilism, characterized by profound hatred, pathological destruction, and incalculable violence and death.

By the late 20th century, “nihilism” had assumed two different castes. In one form, “nihilist” is used to characterize the postmodern person, a dehumanized conformist, alienated, indifferent, and baffled, directing psychological energy into hedonistic narcissism or into a deep ressentiment that often explodes in violence. This perspective is derived from the existentialists’ reflections on nihilism stripped of any hopeful expectations, leaving only the experience of sickness, decay, and disintegration.

In his study of meaninglessness, Donald Crosby writes that the source of modern nihilism paradoxically stems from a commitment to honest intellectual openness. “Once set in motion, the process of questioning could come to but one end, the erosion of conviction and certitude and collapse into despair” (The Specter of the Absurd, 1988). When sincere inquiry is extended to moral convictions and social consensus, it can prove deadly, Crosby continues, promoting forces that ultimately destroy civilizations. Michael Novak’s recently revised The Experience of Nothingness (1968, 1998) tells a similar story. Both studies are responses to the existentialists’ gloomy findings from earlier in the century. And both optimistically discuss ways out of the abyss by focusing of the positive implications nothingness reveals, such as liberty, freedom, and creative possibilities. Novak, for example, describes how since WWII we have been working to “climb out of nihilism” on the way to building a new civilization.

In contrast to the efforts to overcome nihilism noted above is the uniquely postmodern response associated with the current antifoundationalists. The philosophical, ethical, and intellectual crisis of nihilism that has tormented modern philosophers for over a century has given way to mild annoyance or, more interestingly, an upbeat acceptance of meaninglessness.

French philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard characterizes postmodernism as an “incredulity toward metanarratives,” those all-embracing foundations that we have relied on to make sense of the world. This extreme skepticism has undermined intellectual and moral hierarchies and made “truth” claims, transcendental or transcultural, problematic. Postmodern antifoundationalists, paradoxically grounded in relativism, dismiss knowledge as relational and “truth” as transitory, genuine only until something more palatable replaces it (reminiscent of William James’ notion of “cash value”). The critic Jacques Derrida, for example, asserts that one can never be sure that what one knows corresponds with what is. Since human beings participate in only an infinitesimal part of the whole, they are unable to grasp anything with certainty, and absolutes are merely “fictional forms.”

American antifoundationalist Richard Rorty makes a similar point: “Nothing grounds our practices, nothing legitimizes them, nothing shows them to be in touch with the way things are” (“From Logic to Language to Play,” 1986). This epistemological cul-de-sac, Rorty concludes, leads inevitably to nihilism. “Faced with the nonhuman, the nonlinguistic, we no longer have the ability to overcome contingency and pain by appropriation and transformation, but only the ability to recognize contingency and pain” (Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, 1989). In contrast to Nietzsche’s fears and the angst of the existentialists, nihilism becomes for the antifoundationalists just another aspect of our contemporary milieu, one best endured with sang-froid.

In The Banalization of Nihilism (1992) Karen Carr discusses the antifoundationalist response to nihilism. Although it still inflames a paralyzing relativism and subverts critical tools, “cheerful nihilism” carries the day, she notes, distinguished by an easy-going acceptance of meaninglessness. Such a development, Carr concludes, is alarming. If we accept that all perspectives are equally non-binding, then intellectual or moral arrogance will determine which perspective has precedence. Worse still, the banalization of nihilism creates an environment where ideas can be imposed forcibly with little resistance, raw power alone determining intellectual and moral hierarchies. It’s a conclusion that dovetails nicely with Nietzsche’s, who pointed out that all interpretations of the world are simply manifestations of will-to-power.

It has been over a century now since Nietzsche explored nihilism and its implications for civilization. As he predicted, nihilism’s impact on the culture and values of the 20th century has been pervasive, its apocalyptic tenor spawning a mood of gloom and a good deal of anxiety, anger, and terror. Interestingly, Nietzsche himself, a radical skeptic preoccupied with language, knowledge, and truth, anticipated many of the themes of postmodernity. It’s helpful to note, then, that he believed we could–at a terrible price–eventually work through nihilism. If we survived the process of destroying all interpretations of the world, we could then perhaps discover the correct course for humankind:

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. It is possible. . . . (Complete Works Vol. 13)

Alan Pratt Email: pratta@db.erau.edu Embry-Riddle University U. S. A.

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Nihilism | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Nihilism | Define Nihilism at Dictionary.com

Contemporary Examples

I think with that generation, so many of their hopes have been so dashed that nihilism is really a natural response.

Its arguably the best film of the 90sa postmodern pop culture smorgasbord awash in nihilism and dripping with retro cool.

To understand better the nihilism of Thiessen’s thinking, I must now quote his column at greater length.

Journey to the End of the Night does not offer readers much more than nihilism as a response to a detestable world.

Or better, and to speak like Nietzsche, art with a hammer that practices, and then reverses and reevaluates, nihilism.

Historical Examples

And once we are driven right on to nihilism we may find a way through.

nihilism was not to be rooted out by the removal of any particular set of men.

A period of reaction has set in: Despotism and nihilism meet face to face.

All (p. 249) these years Alexander had battled with nihilism and revolution.

nihilism is well named, for it means nothing and it ends in nothing.

British Dictionary definitions for nihilism Expand

a complete denial of all established authority and institutions

(philosophy) an extreme form of scepticism that systematically rejects all values, belief in existence, the possibility of communication, etc

a revolutionary doctrine of destruction for its own sake

the practice or promulgation of terrorism

Derived Forms

nihilist, noun, adjectivenihilistic, adjective

Word Origin

C19: from Latin nihil nothing + -ism, on the model of German Nihilismus

(in tsarist Russia) any of several revolutionary doctrines that upheld terrorism

Word Origin and History for nihilism Expand

1817, “the doctrine of negation” (in reference to religion or morals), from German Nihilismus, from Latin nihil “nothing at all” (see nil), coined by German philosopher Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi (1743-1819). In philosophy, an extreme form of skepticism (1836). The political sense was first used by German journalist Joseph von Grres (1776-1848). Turgenev used the Russian form of the word (nigilizm) in “Fathers and Children” (1862) and claimed to have invented it. With a capital N-, it refers to the Russian revolutionary anarchism of the period 1860-1917, supposedly so called because “nothing” that then existed found favor in their eyes.

nihilism in Medicine Expand

nihilism nihilism (n’-lz’m, n’-) n.

The belief that destruction of existing political or social institutions is necessary for future improvement.

A delusion, experienced in some mental disorders, that the world or one’s mind, body, or self does not exist.

nihilism in Culture Expand

An approach to philosophy that holds that human life is meaningless and that all religions, laws, moral codes, and political systems are thoroughly empty and false. The term is from the Latin nihil, meaning nothing.

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Urban Dictionary: Nihilism

Contrary to popular definitions, Nihilism is not synonymous with cynicism or despair. Instead, Nihilism is a worldview in which one believes only in what one’s observations and experiences seem to prove true, and that which can be otherwise proven true. That said, Nihilism varies according to the nature of the individual nihilist, but there are a few key ideas which are kept by nearly all of them: 1. The beginning of the universe was, within certain parameters, a basically random event, and the same holds for all events occuring since. It follows, then, that final purpose in things is false. Life, then, is an end-in-itself. 2. There exists no absolute truth regarding the value of any deed over another, such as right vs. wrong. Value systems, ethical codes, etc. are thus of no use to the Nihilist, except if they serve his best interests, increase their quality of life, or if they simply fall in line with what behavior would come naturally. 3. From the above it follows that responsibility, obligation, and the like are also falsehoods. Nihilists are thus inclined to ignore or sneer at societal norms and conditioned mentalities. 4. The first priority of every nihilist is his own well-being, satisfaction, and survival, and every action is ultimately done in the name of these things. However, he does not consciously pursue these ends; instead, he acts upon what feels natural and makes sense to him, and these naturally result. However, the above assumes that the Nihilist is in unity with himself, and possesses an undamaged psyche. In reality, some people are self-destructive by nature, and, if they took up a Nihilistic worldview, would seem to have a death-wish as the motive behind their actions. Since self-destructive individuals are common in modern society, this is probably how Nihilism has come to be seen as another word for despair.

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Urban Dictionary: Nihilism

Nihilism – definition of nihilism by The Free Dictionary

nihilism (n-lzm, n-) n.

1. Philosophy The doctrine that nothing actually exists or that existence or values are meaningless.

2. Relentless negativity or cynicism suggesting an absence of values or beliefs: nihilism in postwar art.

a. Political belief or action that advocates or commits violence or terrorism without discernible constructive goals.

b. also Nihilism A diffuse, revolutionary movement of mid-19th-century Russia that scorned authority and tradition and believed in reason, materialism, and radical change in society and government through terrorism and assassination.

4. Psychiatry A delusion, experienced in some mental disorders, that the world or one’s mind, body, or self does not exist.

nihilist n.

nihilistic adj.

nihilistically adv.

1. a complete denial of all established authority and institutions

2. (Philosophy) philosophy an extreme form of scepticism that systematically rejects all values, belief in existence, the possibility of communication, etc

3. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) a revolutionary doctrine of destruction for its own sake

4. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) the practice or promulgation of terrorism

[C19: from Latin nihil nothing + -ism, on the model of German Nihilismus]

nihilist n, adj

nihilistic adj

(Historical Terms) (in tsarist Russia) any of several revolutionary doctrines that upheld terrorism

n.

1. total rejection of established laws and institutions.

2. anarchy, terrorism, or other revolutionary activity.

a. the belief that all existence is senseless and that there is no possibility of an objective basis for truth.

b. nothingness or nonexistence.

4. (cap.) a 19th-century Russian political philosophy advocating the violent destruction of social and political institutions to make way for a new society.

nihilist, n., adj.

ni`hilistic, adj.

the belief that existence is not real and that there can be no objective basis of truth, a form of extreme skepticism. Cf. ethical nihilism. nihilist, n., adj.

the principles of a Russian revolutionary movement in the late 19th century, advocating the destruction of government as a means to anarchy and of ten employing terrorism and assassination to assist its program. nihilist, n., adj. nihilistic, adj.

total rejection of established attitudes, practices, and institutions. nihilist, n. nihilistic, adj.

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Nihilism – definition of nihilism by The Free Dictionary

Nihilist | Define Nihilist at Dictionary.com

Historical Examples

You guessed rightly when you said that I am not a nihilist at heart.

I have already mentioned it as often given by a nihilist to one whom he believes may be one with him.

Then you never had such a thought until you knew I was a nihilist?

If I should become a nihilist, it would be to protect the emperor, not to betray your friends.

Was it the princess who informed you that Durnief was a nihilist?

Concerning the woman for whose sake he became a nihilist, he never spoke.

From a distance, and as an observer only, I have studied nihilism and the nihilist.

I have not yet told you why I am a nihilist, and that is what this story is for.

I am not now and have never been a nihilist in spirit, but it is true that I am one in fact.

British Dictionary definitions for nihilist Expand

a complete denial of all established authority and institutions

(philosophy) an extreme form of scepticism that systematically rejects all values, belief in existence, the possibility of communication, etc

a revolutionary doctrine of destruction for its own sake

the practice or promulgation of terrorism

Derived Forms

nihilist, noun, adjectivenihilistic, adjective

Word Origin

C19: from Latin nihil nothing + -ism, on the model of German Nihilismus

(in tsarist Russia) any of several revolutionary doctrines that upheld terrorism

Word Origin and History for nihilist Expand

1836 in the religious or philosophical sense, from French nihiliste, from Latin nihil (see nihilism). In the Russian political sense, it is recorded from 1871. Related: Nihilistic.

1817, “the doctrine of negation” (in reference to religion or morals), from German Nihilismus, from Latin nihil “nothing at all” (see nil), coined by German philosopher Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi (1743-1819). In philosophy, an extreme form of skepticism (1836). The political sense was first used by German journalist Joseph von Grres (1776-1848). Turgenev used the Russian form of the word (nigilizm) in “Fathers and Children” (1862) and claimed to have invented it. With a capital N-, it refers to the Russian revolutionary anarchism of the period 1860-1917, supposedly so called because “nothing” that then existed found favor in their eyes.

nihilist in Medicine Expand

nihilism nihilism (n’-lz’m, n’-) n.

The belief that destruction of existing political or social institutions is necessary for future improvement.

A delusion, experienced in some mental disorders, that the world or one’s mind, body, or self does not exist.

nihilist in Culture Expand

An approach to philosophy that holds that human life is meaningless and that all religions, laws, moral codes, and political systems are thoroughly empty and false. The term is from the Latin nihil, meaning nothing.

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Nihilist | Define Nihilist at Dictionary.com

Nihilism | Article about nihilism by The Free Dictionary

nihilism (n`lzm), theory of revolution popular among Russian extremists until the fall of the czarist government (1917); the theory was given its name by Ivan Turgenev in his novel Fathers and Sons (1861). Nihilism stressed the need to destroy existing economic and social institutions, whatever the projected nature of the better order for which the destruction was to prepare. Nihilists were not without constructive programs, but agreement on these was not essential to the immediate objective, destruction. Direct action, such as assassination and arson, was characteristic. Such acts were not necessarily directed by any central authority. Small groups and even individuals were encouraged to plan and execute terroristic acts independently. The assassination of Czar Alexander II was one result of such terrorist activities. The constructive programs published by nihilists include the establishing of a parliamentary government; the programs were on the whole moderate in comparison with the revolutionary measures of 1917. Nihilism was too diffuse and negative to persist as a movement and gradually gave way to other philosophies of revolt; it remained, however, an element in later Russian thought. Bibliography

See S. Rosen, Nihilism (1969); M. Novak, The Experience of Nothingness (1970); C. Glicksberg, The Literature of Nihilism (1975); D. A. Crosby, The Specter of the Absurd: Sources and Criticisms of Modern Nihilism (1988); D. M. Levin, The Opening of Vision: Nihilism and the Postmodern Situation (1988).

in Russia, a term describing the frame of mind and social attitudes of the progressive raznochintsy (intellectuals of no definite class) of the 1860s, expressed by a resolute rejection of existing ideology, morality, and behavioral norms.

Nihilism emerged during the revolutionary atmosphere of 185961. A progressive phenomenon, it reflected the crisis in the system of serfdom and represented an important stage in the development of revolutionary-democratic ideology.

Nihilism rejected religious prejudices, idealist philosophy, dictatorial attitudes in social and family life, the liberal denunciation of society, art for arts sake, and knowledge for the sake of knowledge and demanded freedom for the individual and equality for women. It propagandized a rational egoism and utilitarianism and advocated the study of natural science. Owing to the vagueness of their positive program, however, the nihilists tended toward oversimplification, bluntness, and excessive polemics. Nihilism had no coherent world view; the factor that united its adherents was the rejection of existing reality. As a result, both revolutionary-democratic activists and moderate liberals abandoned nihilism by the end of the 1860s.

The ideas of nihilism were reflected in the journal Russkoe slovo (The Russian Word), in which D. I. Pisarev played a leading role. In the broad sense, the term nihilist is applied to the entire revolutionary-democratic camp of the 1860s headed by N. G. Chernyshevskii and N. A. Dobroliubovs journal Sovremennik (The Contemporary).

The term nihilism became popular after the publication of I. S. Turgenevs novel Fathers and Sons (1862), in which the protagonist, Bazarov, is called a nihilist. Before this, nihilistic ideas were referred to in polemical journalism as the negative tendency, and their exponents as svistuny (from Svistok, a satirical journal affiliated with Sovremennik). Reactionary publicistic writers seized upon the term during a lull in the revolutionary situation and used it as a derisive epithet. As such, it was extensively employed in publicistic articles, official government documents, and antinihilistic novels, notably A. F. Pisemskiis Troubled Seas, N. S. Leskovs Nowhere to Go, and V. P. Kliushnikovs The Mirage, in order to discredit revolutionary ideology and the democratic movement. Its opponents ascribed to nihilism the negation of all spiritual values, amoralism, and a desire to destroy the foundations of civilization.

Although the term nihilism had nearly disappeared from polemical literature by the end of the 1860s, it reappeared later in reactionary social and political writing at a time when the class struggle had become more intense; it was applied to all revolutionaries. Some contemporary foreign bourgeois authors have falsely extended the term to include those groups in the Russian liberation movement that were inherited by the Bolsheviks.

Pessimism in regard to the efficacy of treatment, particularly the use of drugs.

The content of delusions encountered in depressed or melancholic states; the patient insists that his inner organs no longer exist, and that his relatives have passed away.

university students who have developed a nihilistic philosophy. [Russ. Lit.: Turgenev Fathers and Sons]

depicts political nihilism and genuine spiritual nihilism of Stavrogin. [Russ. Lit.: Bent, 809]

1.Philosophy an extreme form of scepticism that systematically rejects all values, belief in existence, the possibility of communication, etc.

2.a revolutionary doctrine of destruction for its own sake

3.the practice or promulgation of terrorism

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Introduction

Nihilism comes from the Latin nihil, meaning “nothing”. As a philosophical position, nihilism involves denying certain existence claims. Two prominent forms of nihilism are existential nihilism, which rejects claims that human life is meaningful, and moral nihilism, which rejects claims that human actions can be right or wrong. Other forms include epistemological nihilism, mereological nihilism, and political nihilism.

As with any other philosophical label, there is diversity within nihilism and disagreement over what counts as nihilism. Labels with some overlap include existentialism, absurdism, fatalism, and pessimism. Some people embrace nihilistic conclusions as a philosophical matter, while other people relate to nihilistic themes more as a matter of intuition, personal experience, or personal expression.

We dont intend to depress you. But if you find nihilism depressing, read through this thread.

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nihilism | philosophy | Britannica.com

Nihilism, (from Latin nihil, nothing), originally a philosophy of moral and epistemological skepticism that arose in 19th-century Russia during the early years of the reign of Tsar Alexander II. The term was famously used by Friedrich Nietzsche to describe the disintegration of traditional morality in Western society. In the 20th century, nihilism encompassed a variety of philosophical and aesthetic stances that, in one sense or another, denied the existence of genuine moral truths or values, rejected the possibility of knowledge or communication, and asserted the ultimate meaninglessness or purposelessness of life or of the universe.

The term is an old one, applied to certain heretics in the Middle Ages. In Russian literature, nihilism was probably first used by N.I. Nadezhdin, in an 1829 article in the Messenger of Europe, in which he applied it to Aleksandr Pushkin. Nadezhdin, as did V.V. Bervi in 1858, equated nihilism with skepticism. Mikhail Nikiforovich Katkov, a well-known conservative journalist who interpreted nihilism as synonymous with revolution, presented it as a social menace because of its negation of all moral principles.

It was Ivan Turgenev, in his celebrated novel Fathers and Sons (1862), who popularized the term through the figure of Bazarov the nihilist. Eventually, the nihilists of the 1860s and 70s came to be regarded as disheveled, untidy, unruly, ragged men who rebelled against tradition and social order. The philosophy of nihilism then began to be associated erroneously with the regicide of Alexander II (1881) and the political terror that was employed by those active at the time in clandestine organizations opposed to absolutism.

If to the conservative elements the nihilists were the curse of the time, to the liberals such as N.G. Chernyshevsky they represented a mere transitory factor in the development of national thoughta stage in the struggle for individual freedomand a true spirit of the rebellious young generation. In his novel What Is to Be Done? (1863), Chernyshevsky endeavoured to detect positive aspects in the nihilist philosophy. Similarly, in his Memoirs, Prince Peter Kropotkin, the leading Russian anarchist, defined nihilism as the symbol of struggle against all forms of tyranny, hypocrisy, and artificiality and for individual freedom.

Fundamentally, 19th-century nihilism represented a philosophy of negation of all forms of aestheticism; it advocated utilitarianism and scientific rationalism. Classical philosophical systems were rejected entirely. Nihilism represented a crude form of positivism and materialism, a revolt against the established social order; it negated all authority exercised by the state, by the church, or by the family. It based its belief on nothing but scientific truth; science would be the solution of all social problems. All evils, nihilists believed, derived from a single sourceignorancewhich science alone would overcome.

The thinking of 19th-century nihilists was profoundly influenced by philosophers, scientists, and historians such as Ludwig Feuerbach, Charles Darwin, Henry Buckle, and Herbert Spencer. Since nihilists denied the duality of human beings as a combination of body and soul, of spiritual and material substance, they came into violent conflict with ecclesiastical authorities. Since nihilists questioned the doctrine of the divine right of kings, they came into similar conflict with secular authorities. Since they scorned all social bonds and family authority, the conflict between parents and children became equally immanent, and it is this theme that is best reflected in Turgenevs novel.

…who exalted life in its most irrational and cruel features and made such exaltation the proper task of the higher man, who exists beyond good and evil. Still another source is the nihilism of the Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who, in his novels, presented human beings as continually defeated as a result of their choices and as continually placed before the insoluble…

Nihilism was the term Nietzsche used to describe the devaluation of the highest values posited by the ascetic ideal. He thought of the age in which he lived as one of passive nihilism, that is, as an age that was not yet aware that religious and philosophical absolutes had dissolved in the emergence of 19th-century positivism. With the collapse of metaphysical and theological…

Such dialectical futility had been anticipated by the nihilism of Gorgias, presented in a work ironically entitled Peri tou m ontos peri physes (On That Which Is Not, or On Nature), in which he said (1) that nothing exists; (2) that if anything exists, it is incomprehensible; and (3) that if it is comprehensible, it is…

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nihilism | philosophy | Britannica.com

Nihilism – Wikiquote

Nihilism (pronounced: /na.lzm/ or /ni.lzm/; from the Latin nihil, nothing) refers to sets of beliefs which negate one or more apparently meaningful aspects of Reality. Some are forms of existential nihilism, which argue that life 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. More extreme forms can insist that knowledge is not possible, and that truth, beauty or reality do not actually exist. The term nihilism often relates to anomie in indicating general moods of despair at a perceived pointlessness of existence which can develop with beliefs that there are no necessary norms, rules, or laws.

Nihilists are like a bellows Empty, yet full of hot air, The more they threaten, the more cowardly they seem; The Stranger also rambles and loses his train of thought But tells a purty good story.

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