The philosophical doctrine suggesting the negation of one or more putatively 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.
Moral nihilists assert that morality does not inherently exist, and that any established moral values are abstractly contrived. Nihilism can also take epistemological, metaphysical, or ontological forms, meaning respectively that, in some aspect, knowledge is not possible, or that contrary to popular belief, some aspect of reality does not exist as such.
A. An extreme form of skepticism: the denial of all real existence or the possibility of an objective basis for truth.
B. Nothingness or nonexistence.
Rejection of all distinctions in moral or religious value and a willingness to repudiate all previous theories of morality or religious belief.
To simplify, Nihilism is the belief that values are falsely invented. The term nihilism can also be used to describe the idea that life, or the world, has no distinct meaning or purpose. Nihilists believe that there are no true morals.
Forms of Nihilism
Moral nihilism, also known as ethical nihilism, is the meta-ethical view that morality does not exist as something inherent to objective reality; therefore no action is necessarily preferable to any other.
Eg: 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 and thus artificial construction, wherein any and all meaning is relative for different possible outcomes. A moral nihilist believes that all moral claims are false.
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.
Nihilism of an epistemological form can be seen as an extreme form of skepticism in which all knowledge is denied.
Metaphysical nihilism is the philosophical theory that there might be no objects at all, i.e. that there is a possible world in which there are no objects at all; or at least that there might be no concrete objects at all, so even if every possible world contains some objects, there is at least one that contains only abstract objects.
An extreme form of metaphysical nihilism is commonly defined as the belief that existence itself does not exist. One way of interpreting such a statement would be: It is impossible to distinguish 'existence' from 'non-existence' as there are no objective qualities, and thus a reality, that one state could possess in order to discern between the two. If one cannot discern existence from its negation, then the concept of existence has no meaning; or in other words, does not 'exist' in any meaningful way. 'Meaning' in this sense is used to argue that as existence has no higher state of reality, which is arguably its necessary and defining quality, existence itself means nothing.
Mereological nihilism (also called compositional nihilism) is the position that objects with proper parts do not exist (not only objects in space, but also objects existing in time do not have any temporal parts), and only basic building blocks without parts exist, and thus the world we see and experience full of objects with parts is a product of human misperception (i.e., if we could see clearly, we would not perceive compositive objects).
Political nihilism, 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, law and law enforcement. The Nihilist movement in 19th century Russia espoused a similar doctrine. Political nihilism is rather different from other forms of nihilism, and is actually more like a form of Utilitarianism.
Radical nihilism is the belief that there, in the last instance, is not given a foundation for knowledge, ethics nor justice, and not even this lack of foundation can serve as a starting point for (or rejection of) knowledge, ethics or justice. Radical nihilism turns in the light of the missing universal, objective, and ahistorical certainties, towards the historically and culturally transmitted possibilities of cognition and moral/political action, well aware that the true and the good are in the last instants based on faith.
Nihilism is often associated with the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who provided a detailed diagnosis of nihilism as a widespread phenomenon of Western culture. Though the notion appears frequently throughout Nietzsche's work, he uses the term in a variety of ways, with different meanings and connotations, both positive and negative.
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.
Rather, there are interpretations through which we understand the world and give it meaning. Interpreting is something we can not go without; in fact, it is something we need. One way of interpreting the world is through morality, as one of the fundamental ways in which people make sense of the world, especially in regard to their own thoughts and actions.
Nietzsche distinguishes a morality that is strong or healthy, meaning that the person in question is aware that he constructs it himself, from weak morality, where the interpretation is projected on to something external. Regardless of its strength, morality presents us with meaning, whether this is created or 'implanted,' which helps us get through life. This is exactly why Nietzsche states that nihilism as "absolute valuelessness" or "nothing has meaning" is dangerous, or even "the danger of dangers" it is through valuation that people survive and endure the danger, pain and hardships they face in life. The complete destruction of all meaning and all values would lead to an existence of apathy and stillness, where positive actions, affirmative actions, would be replaced by a state of reaction and destruction.
This is the prophecy of the last man, the most despicable man, devoid of values, incapable of self-realization through creation of his own good and evil, devoid of any "will to power.''
''Crime and Punishment'' by Fyodor Dostoevsky
''Fathers and Sons'' by Ivan Turgenev
The workings of Friedrich Nietzsche