Nihilism (pronounced: /ˈnaɪ.ɨlɪzəm/ or /ˈniː.ɨlɪzəm/; 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.
- What is most needed today is a fundamental theological thinking, one centered upon the Godhead itself, and centered upon that which is most challenging or most offensive in the Godhead, one which has truly been veiled in the modern world, except by our most revolutionary thinkers and visionaries. If we allow Blake and Nietzsche to be paradigmatic of those revolutionaries, nowhere else does such a centering upon God or the Godhead occur, although a full parallel to this occurs in Spinoza and Hegel; but the language of Hegel and Spinoza is not actually offensive, or not in its immediate impact, whereas the language of Nietzsche and Blake is the most purely offensive language which has ever been inscribed. Above all this is true of the theological language of Blake and Nietzsche, but here a theological language is a truly universal language, one occurring in every domain, and occurring as that absolute No which is the origin of every repression and every darkness, and a darkness which is finally the darkness of God, or the darkness of that Godhead which is beyond “God.” Only Nietzsche and Blake know a wholly fallen Godhead, a Godhead which is an absolutely alien Nihil, but the full reversal of that Nihil is apocalypse itself, an apocalypse which is an absolute joy, and Blake and Nietzsche are those very writers who have most evoked that joy.
- Thomas J. J. Altizer, in Godhead and the Nothing (2003), Preface
- The apocalypse is finished, today it is the precession of the neutral, of forms of the neutral and of indifference. I will leave it to be considered whether there can be a romanticism, an aesthetic of the neutral therein. I don't think so — all that remains, is the fascination for desertlike and indifferent forms, for the very operation of the system that annihilates us. Now, fascination (in contrast to seduction, which was attached to appearances, and to dialectical reason, which was attached to meaning) is a nihilistic passion par excellence, it is the passion proper to the mode of disappearance. We are fascinated by all forms of disappearance, of our disappearance. Melancholic and fascinated, such is our general situation in an era of involuntary transparency.
I am a nihilist.
I observe, I accept, I assume the immense process of the destruction of appearances (and of the seduction of appearances) in the service of meaning (representation, history, criticism, etc.) that is the fundamental fact of the nineteenth century.
- Jean Baudrillard, in Simulacra and Simulation (1981), Ch. 18 : On Nihilism, translation by Sheila Faria Glaser.
- Orthodoxy gave away the earth into the hands of the state because of its own non-belief in man and mankind, because of its nihilistic attitude towards the world. Orthodoxy does not believe in the religious ordering of human life upon the earth, and it compensates for its own hopeless pessimism by a call for the forceful ordering of it by state authority.
- The new religious consciousness rises up against the nihilistic attitude towards the world and mankind. If a religious rebirth be possible, only then on this soil will there be the revealing of the religious meaning of secular culture and earthly liberation, the revealing of the truth about mankind. For the new religious consciousness the declaration of the will of God is together with this a declaration of the rights of man, a revealing of the Divine within mankind.
- Nikolai Berdyaev, in "Nihilism On A Religious Soil" (6 May 1907)
- al-Qaeda and its allies have no clear demands for the middle east. The only common thread in their approach is a violent and destructive opposition to democracy in any form. … al-Qaeda's methods, too, are different. It recognises no common bonds with people who have different beliefs and its members are prepared to kill indiscriminately. Indeed, mass murder is their explicit objective — the measure of success in their terms. Their methods of recruitment bear more comparison to self-destructive cults than political movements. However, we must acknowledge that their modern nihilism is innovative, flexible and cunning. al-Qaeda and the networks that are inspired by it approach the task with all the resources of modern technology and all the focus of modern zealotry. The most important conclusion to draw from this analysis is that there is no particular Government policy decision, or even an overall policy stance, which we could change in order somehow to remove our society from the al-Qaeda firing line. Its nihilism means that our societies would cease to be a target only if we were to renounce all the values of freedom and liberty that we have fought to extend over so many years.
- Charles Clarke, Home Secretary, British Government, in debate in the House of Commons (26 October 2005)
- Nihilists! Fuck me. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos.
- The Coen brothers, in lines for Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski (1998)
Nihilists are not kind;
They believe in nothing.
The Stranger is not kind,
He drifts where the wind catches him.
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.
- The Dude De Ching (2010) · A Dudeist Holy Book inspired by the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu and The Big Lebowski of Joel and Ethan Coen, Ch. 5 : Nihilists
- Spielberg has been ridiculed for shooting his actors from below against impossibly Spielbergian skies and a denouement that lays the love on copiously. But there’s nothing simpleminded about how he uses movie magic, as a spell to dispel nihilism, to save us from the worst of ourselves by summoning up the best.
- David Edelstein, in a review of War Horse, in "Many Happy Returns" in New York Magazine (23 December 2011)
- The human race isn't worth fighting for, only worth killing. Give the Earth back to the animals. They deserve it infinitely more than we do. Nothing means anything anymore.
- Eric Harris, as quoted in 12 Rules for Life, an Antidote to Chaos (2018), by Jordan B. Peterson, Random House Canada, p. 147
- Quite apart from the fact that it conflicts with the demands and the content of the word of God, nihilism is a denial of the humanity and of the very identity of the human being. It should never be forgotten that the neglect of being inevitably leads to losing touch with objective truth and therefore with the very ground of human dignity.
- Pope John Paul II in Encyclical Fides et Ratio, Ch. 90 (14 September 1998)
- 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. This history can be related even now; for necessity itself is at work here. This future speaks even now in a hundred signs, this destiny announces itself everywhere; for this music of the future all ears are cocked even now. 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, that no longer reflects, that is afraid to reflect.
He that speaks here, conversely, has done nothing so far but reflect … the first perfect nihilist of Europe who, however, has even now lived through the whole of nihilism, to the end, leaving it behind, outside himself.
For one should make no mistake about the meaning of the title that this gospel of the future wants to bear. "The Will to Power: Attempt at a Revaluation of All Values" — in this formulation a countermovement finds expression, regarding both principle and task; a movement that in some future will take the place of this perfect nihilism — but presupposes it, logically and psychologically, and certainly can come only after and out of it. For why has the advent of nihilism become necessary? Because the values we have had hitherto thus draw their final consequence; because nihilism represents the ultimate logical conclusion of our great values and ideals — because we must experience nihilism before we can find out what value these "values" really had. — We require, sometime, new values.
- Friedrich Nietzsche, in The Will to Power, Preface (1888)
- Diogenes, in his mud-covered sandals, tramps over the carpets of Aristippus. The cynic pullulated at every corner, and in the highest places. This cynic did nothing but saboter the civilisation of the time. He was the nihilist of Hellenism. He created nothing, he made nothing. His role was to undo — or rather to attempt to undo, for he did not succeed in his purpose. The cynic, a parasite of civilisation, lives by denying it, for the very reason that he is convinced that it will not fail. What would become of the cynic among a savage people where everyone, naturally and quite seriously, fulfils what the cynic farcically considers to be his personal role?
- José Ortega y Gasset, in The Revolt of the Masses (1929), Ch. XI: The Self-Satisfied Age
- Anarchy had been here all the nineteenth century, with its sinister offspring Nihilism, and it is a simple truth that the human mind can face better the most oppressive government, the most rigid restrictions, than the awful prospect of a lawless, frontierless world. Freedom is a dangerous intoxicant and very few people can tolerate it in any quantity; it brings out the old raiding, oppressing, murderous instincts; the rage for revenge, for power, the lust for bloodshed.
- Katherine Anne Porter, in The Never-Ending Wrong (1977)
- The Universe will now be set right. Made over to fit my unique view of what should be. Let Nihilism reign supreme!
- Jim Starlin, in lines for the villain Thanos, in The Infinity Gauntlet (1991) Issue 2 : From Bad to Worse
- I attacked those Western playwrights who use their influence and affluence to preach to the world the nihilistic doctrine that life is pointless and irrationally destructive, and that there is nothing we can do about it. Until everyone is fed, clothed, housed and taught, until human beings have equal leisure to contemplate the overwhelming fact of mortality, we should not (I argued) indulge in the luxury of "privileged despair."
- Kenneth Tynan, in "Conference at Edinburgh" (1963), later published in Tynan Right and Left (1967), p. 146
- Satan: There is no God, no universe, no human race, no earthly life, no heaven, no hell. It is all a Dream, a grotesque and foolish dream. Nothing exists but you. And You are but a Thought — a vagrant Thought, a useless Thought, a homeless Thought, wandering forlorn among the empty eternities.
- Mark Twain The Mysterious Stranger (1916), Ch.11.
- Rubbing a seal’s stomach is the opposite of nihilism.
- Catherynne M. Valente, The Future is Blue (2016), in Jonathan Strahan (ed.) Drowned Worlds (e-book edition, ISBN 978-1-84997-930-6)