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Nihilism (IPA pronunciation: "ˈnaɪ.əlɪzəm") is the belief that life is, overall, meaningless. A true nihilist would have no loyalties, and no purpose. The atheist Friedrich Nietzsche, before he went insane, argued that moral, religious, and metaphysical convictions lead to nihilism's corrosive effects; cause the collapse of meaning, relevance, purpose, and precipitate the greatest crisis in human history.[1] An example of nihilism would be the question reportedly posed by Jared Loughner to a congresswoman whom he allegedly later shot:[2]

What is government if words have no meaning?

German political philosopher Leo Strauss argued that modern liberalism has within it a tendency towards nihilism. Faith in God is the opposite of nihilism. In government and politics, another example of the opposite of nihilism is the concept of natural rights, as formulated in the Declaration of Independence.

Major types of nihilism include:

  • Epistemological nihilism which denies the possibility of knowledge and truth; this form of nihilism is identified with postmodernism. One famous example of epistemological nihilism is the words Socrates said before his death: "I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing."
  • Existential nihilism is the notion that life has no meaning or purpose.[3] See also: Atheism and meaninglessness
  • Mereological nihilism is the view that objects with parts do not exist, it's a human illusion; this view has been identified with some aspects of Buddhist philosophy and Immanuel Kant's transcendental idealism.
  • Moral nihilism rejects all moral or ethical values; this form of nihilism is identified with moral relativism.[Citation Needed]
  • Political Nihilism is the belief that the destruction of all existing political, social, and religious order is a prerequisite for any future improvement; this form of nihilism is identified with anarchism.
  • Pragmatism is the belief that rejects philosophical principles, and that ideas should be measured not if they are right or wrong, but by whether they work. [4]

In his book, The Decline of the West, German philosopher Oswald Spengler observes that pattern of nihilism was a feature shared by all civilizations on the verge of collapse.

Beyond Nihilism

Friedrich Nietzsche saw two kinds of nihilism in the world; pessimistic and joyous. Pessimistic nihilism was that created by the death of God in the minds of men, and corresponds to the idea that life is without meaning or value. Joyous nihilism was that experienced by those few who, like him, experienced the loss of an externally created and imposed moral structure as a liberation and not a great loss, and was the seed that let the herald Nietzsche proclaim the coming of the Übermensch.



See also