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What Is The Philosophy Of Nihilism?

Feelosofi –  Nihilism is a school of philosophy that promotes the idea that life and reality have no inherent meaning or fixed value. This thinking emerged as a reaction to various value and belief systems that have existed for centuries. In simple terms, nihilism states that everything, including moral values, religion, and truth, is relative or even does not exist at all.

One well-known form of nihilism is existential nihilism, which was promoted by figures such as Friedrich Nietzsche . Existential nihilism rejects the idea of ​​absolute values ​​or predetermined goals in life. It recognizes the uncertainty and freedom of individuals in determining the meaning of their own lives. Nietzsche stated that with the death of God, that is, the destruction of traditional religious beliefs, humans were faced with an existential emptiness and the task of creating their own meaning in life.

History Of The Development Of Nihilism

The history of the development of nihilism is a long and complex story, involving various social changes, politics, and philosophical thought . Nihilism has strong historical roots, and its development was influenced by a number of important events and ideas.

The origins of nihilism can be traced to the thoughts of 18th century French philosophers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Denis Diderot, who challenged the social and religious structures that existed at that time. However, the most significant development of nihilism occurred in the 19th century, especially through the thought of Friedrich Nietzsche . Nietzsche argued that with the “death of God,” namely the reduction of the influence of religion and traditional morals in European society, absolute meaning and values ​​were also lost. This creates an existential nihilism framework of thought that emphasizes uncertainty and freedom in determining the meaning of life.

Nihilism also developed in social and political contexts, especially in Russia in the 19th century. The Russian nihilist movement rejected monarchical authority and social traditions, supported revolution, and pursued radical change in society. However, this socio-political nihilism is not always directly connected to Nietzsche’s philosophical thought .

During the 20th century, the idea of ​​nihilism continued to develop and impact various fields of art, including literature, fine art, and music. Some artists and writers express nihilism through their work, creating works that reflect the uncertainty and emptiness of values ​​in the modern world.

The history of the development of nihilism is a reflection of the complexity of cultural and thought changes that have occurred over the last few centuries. Although often considered a pessimistic view, nihilism remains a topic that influences the development of philosophical thought , art, and culture, and continues to encourage questions about the meaning of life and human values.

Figures In The Philosophy Of Nihilism

Nihilism is a philosophical school that has given rise to various thoughts and views held by various famous figures in history. Some philosophical figures associated with nihilism include:

  • Friedrich Nietzsche : Friedrich Nietzsche is one of the most famous figures closely associated with existential nihilism. In his works such as “Genealogy of Morals” and “Except Except,” he explores the idea that traditional values ​​have lost their meaning and that humans must create their own meaning in life.
  • Jean-Paul Sartre : Sartre, a famous existentialist philosopher , also had nihilist influences in his thinking. He emphasized the concept of absolute freedom and uncertainty in determining the meaning of human existence.
  • Arthur Schopenhauer : Although not explicitly a nihilist, Schopenhauer developed pessimistic thoughts about the nature of reality. He states that life is full of suffering and unsatisfied desires, and this creates a view similar to nihilism.
  • Albert Camus : Camus, an existentialist writer and philosopher , is known for his ideas about “absurdism.” He claims that human life is absurd due to our inability to find absolute meaning, and this creates a sense of emptiness associated with nihilism.
  • Jean-François Lyotard : Lyotard was a postmodern philosopher who developed the idea of ​​“meta-narratives” related to nihilism. He argues that pre-existing grand stories are losing meaning and that we are in a “post-truth” era where no grand narrative can be trusted.

These are just a few examples of philosophical figures associated with nihilism. Each figure has different nuances and approaches to this idea, and their thoughts have contributed to the development and understanding of this school of philosophy .

Comparison Of Nihilism With Other Philosophical Schools

Nihilism is a philosophical school that has fundamental differences from several other philosophical schools. Here is a comparison of nihilism with several significant philosophical schools:

  • Nihilism vs. Existentialism : Nihilism emphasizes that absolute meaning and values ​​do not exist, and humans must create their own meaning in life. Existentialism , meanwhile, recognizes the uncertainty and freedom of individuals in determining the meaning of their lives, but still attempts to find personal, existential meaning.
  • Nihilism vs. Absurdism : While nihilism claims that meaning does not exist, absurdism, as advocated by Albert Camus , recognizes the state of absurdity in human life, but points to the importance of pursuing meaning despite our inability to find it.
  • Nihilism vs. Positivism : Positivism, in philosophy , supports the view that valid knowledge can only be obtained through scientific methods and empirical observation. Nihilism rejects the idea that there are absolute values ​​or certain knowledge, and therefore, is not necessarily compatible with the views of positivism .
  • Nihilism vs. Realism : Realism is a philosophical school that considers that the real world has an independent and objective existence, which can be known and understood. Nihilism, on the other hand, can lead to skepticism towards ideas such as realism , because it questions the existence of objective values ​​and meaning in the world.
  • Nihilism vs. Utilitarianism : Utilitarianism is an ethical school that emphasizes achieving as much happiness and well-being as possible. Nihilism challenges this idea by stating that the concept of happiness and moral values ​​are relative and subjective.

This comparison shows how nihilism may differ from other philosophical schools in their view of meaning, values, and reality. Even though nihilism may seem pessimistic in some ways, it remains a philosophical school that influences philosophical thinking and human understanding of existence.

Aspects Of Nihilism

Nihilism In Literary Works

Nihilism is a theme that often appears in literary works and has influenced the development of modern literature. Writers often use nihilism as a tool to explore uncertainty, emptiness, and conflicting values ​​in society and human existence. Some famous literary works that raise the theme of nihilism are as follows:

  • Thus Spoke Zarathustra ” by Friedrich Nietzsche : This work is not only in the form of philosophy, but also contains strong literary elements. Nietzsche through his main character, Zarathustra, depicts man’s struggle to find the meaning of his life in the world he faces.
  • The Rebel ” by Albert Camus : In his book, Camus reviews the idea of ​​absurdism and explores the existential uncertainty that triggers thoughts of nihilism. His work creates narratives that question moral values ​​and creates characters faced with a void of meaning.
  • “ Death in Venice ” by Thomas Mann: This novel depicts the journey of a writer who falls into spiritual and existential emptiness as he pursues a hollow ideal of beauty.
  • H.G. Wells’s “ Russia in the Shadows ”: In his book on Russia, Wells described the country as ravaged by socio-political nihilism, where traditional values ​​were crumbling and society faced chaos.
  • “ The Old Man and the Sea ” by Ernest Hemingway: While not explicitly exploring the concept of nihilism, this novel explores the human struggle in the face of life’s uncertainties and suffering, creating a sense of emptiness often associated with the theme of nihilism.

These literary works create a platform for contemplating the existential uncertainty, emptiness, and value conflicts that plague humans in the modern world. Through narrative and characters, literature allows readers to explore and reflect on the challenges associated with nihilism in human life.

Nihilism In Art And Culture

Nihilism has had a significant impact in art and culture, influencing various aspects of human expression. Here are ways nihilism is present in art and culture:

  • Fine Art and Painting : Some artists, especially in the avant-garde art movement, have created works of art that reflect uncertainty, emptiness, and distrust of traditional values. Abstract paintings, conceptualism, and modern works of art often depict nuances of nihilism in their expression.
  • Literature : Many literary writers have used nihilism as a theme in their works. They often create characters who reflect on the emptiness and conflict of values ​​in human life. An example is Albert Camus in his work “Rebel” which explores the theme of absurdism.
  • Music : Music also influences and is affected by nihilism. Several genres of music, such as punk rock and industrial, often carry lyrics and tunes that reflect feelings of nihilism, dissatisfaction with society, and resistance to social norms.
  • Cinema : Experimental and independent films often try to formulate uncertainty and emptiness of values ​​through unconventional narratives and visuals. Several films such as “Blade Runner” and “Fight Club” present elements of nihilism in their stories.
  • Fashion : Even in the world of fashion, nihilism can be reflected through designs that question traditional concepts of beauty, aesthetics and norms. Certain fashion designers create clothing and accessories that express dissatisfaction with existing social values.
  • Popular Culture : Nihilism also appears in popular culture through film, television, and social media. Some fictional characters such as “The Joker” in comics and films also create narratives that reflect nihilism, exploring the chaos and emptiness in society.

In many ways, nihilism can be considered a reaction to rapid social and cultural change, as well as the existential questions that arise in the modern world. Art and culture provide a platform that allows humans to reflect on, absorb, and respond to these challenges, creating works that depict humanity’s struggle with the uncertainty and emptiness of existence.

Implications Of Nihilism In Everyday Life

Nihilism has several implications that can affect a person’s daily life. Following are some of the implications of nihilism in everyday life:

  • Uncertainty of the Meaning of Life : Nihilism teaches that there is no absolute meaning or value in life. This can leave individuals feeling confused or lost in their search for their life purpose. However, it can also be seen as an opportunity to determine the meaning of life personally and autonomously.
  • Skepticism of Traditional Values : Nihilism often shakes belief in existing moral, religious and social values. This can result in a skeptical attitude towards the authorities and conventions that exist in society.
  • Search for Personal Meaning : The nihilist life encourages individuals to search for meaning in their own lives. This can motivate people to determine values ​​and goals that suit their lives.
  • Individualism Tendency : Nihilism encourages the view that individuals are the ones responsible for determining the meaning and values ​​in their lives. This can result in a tendency towards individualism and a focus on personal development.
  • Existential Questions : Nihilism triggers existential questions about existence, identity, and self-worth. It can encourage a person to delve deeper into themselves and explore important issues in life.
  • Dissatisfaction with Social Norms : Nihilism often brings dissatisfaction with existing social norms. This could mean rejecting social norms or even contributing to radical social change.
  • Feeling of Emptiness : Nihilism can create a feeling of emptiness or dissatisfaction with existing reality. People may feel dissatisfied with the existing social order or institutions.
  • Creativity and Meaning Creation : For some individuals, nihilism can be a driving force to explore their own creativity in art, literature, or intellectual exploration. This can mean creating meaning and value in their own work.

It is important to note that individual reactions to nihilism can vary. Some may feel anxious or trapped in a void, while others see it as an opportunity for intellectual liberation and the creation of personal meaning. The implications of nihilism in everyday life depend largely on how individuals interpret it and how they decide to respond to the existential challenges posed by this philosophical school .


The conclusion regarding nihilism is that this philosophical school offers a very skeptical and critical view of the meaning, values ​​and beliefs that exist in human life. Nihilism asserts that there is no inherent meaning or absolute value in existence, and this creates an existential vacuum that the individual must personally fill. This view can shake traditional beliefs, including religion, morality and social norms.

However, nihilism also brings deep existential challenges and questions, which can push humans to explore the meaning of their lives in greater depth. Some people see in nihilism an opportunity for creativity and the creation of personal meaning, while others may feel anxious and thrown off guard by the uncertainty it expresses.

In everyday life, the implications of nihilism depend on how individuals respond to it. Although it can be considered a pessimistic view, nihilism can also be seen as an opportunity to understand oneself better, determine one’s values ​​and life goals autonomously, and reflect on deep existential issues. In many cases, understanding and dealing with nihilism is a very personal process and varies from individual to individual.


What Is Nihilism?

Nihilism is a philosophical school that emphasizes that life and reality have no inherent meaning or fixed value. It teaches that traditional values, morality, and beliefs are often just social constructs and have no solid foundation.

Who Influences Nihilist Thought?

Friedrich Nietzsche is one of the most famous figures in the development of nihilism. His thoughts about the “death of God” and the emptiness of the meaning of life had a significant influence. However, this school was also influenced by philosophers such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus , and Arthur Schopenhauer.

Is Nihilism A Pessimistic View?

Nihilism is often understood as a pessimistic view because it emphasizes uncertainty and emptiness of meaning. However, some individuals see it as an opportunity to create personal and autonomous meaning in life, which could be considered on the more optimistic side.

How Does Nihilism Affect Art And Culture?

Nihilism has influenced art and culture by inspiring works that reflect uncertainty, emptiness, and conflicting values. Fine art, literature, music, and even fashion often create works depicting themes of nihilism.

Is There A Way To Overcome Nihilism?

Overcoming nihilism can be a complex challenge. Some people respond by seeking personal meaning in life, creative exploration, or through an existentialist philosophy that emphasizes the search for meaning in individual freedom. For those feeling lost, it may be helpful to consult with an expert in psychology or philosophy to help reflect on and deal with existential uncertainty.


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Raymond Kelvin Nando, "Nihilism," Feelosofi, 1 November 2023,
Raymond Kelvin Nando
Writer, Researcher, & Philosophy Enthusiast