Nihilism is a belief that nothing is known. Nothing can be communicated and all values are baseless. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is associated with this theory of philosophy. He argued that nihilism’s corrosive effects would eventually destroy all religious, and moral convictions. Also, it will bring in the greatest crisis in human history. Moreover, a true nihilist believes in nothing, has no loyalties, and no purpose. But the only purpose, perhaps, is an impulse to destroy. Various different philosophies use nihilism as an applied study. Also, it is a distinct historical concept. A concept arising out of skepticism, nominalism, philosophical pessimism, and possibly out of Christianity itself.
The word ‘nihilism’ arises from a Latin word nihil meaning nothing. It means the thing which does not exist or means not anything. Also, it appears in the verb ‘annihilate’ meaning to destroy everything or to bring nothing. In the early nineteenth century, Friedrich Jacobi used the word to characterize transcendental idealism negatively. Nihilism is an old term. In the Middle Ages, it is an application to certain heretics.
It was probably first used in Russian literature, by N.I. Nadezhdin, in 1829. He used it in the article in the Messenger of Europe, which was applied to Aleksandr Pushkin. However, it gained popularity after its appearance in Ivan Turgenev’s novel Fathers and Sons in 1862. Turgenev used the concept of nihilism to describe the crude scientism supported by his character Bazarov. Bazarov’s character was someone who preaches total negation. Eventually, the nihilists of the 1860s and ’70s were known to be disheveled, untidy, unruly, ragged men. They became rebels against tradition and social order.
As recorded and written in the Theravada and Mahayana Tripiṭaka respectively, Buddha also discussed the concept of nihilism around 563 B.C. to 483 B.C. Nihilism is known as natthikavāda and the nihilist view as micchādiṭṭhi in the Tripiṭaka. Pali is the original script of it. In the “Doctrine of Nihilism” in the Apannaka Sutta, the Buddha describes moral nihilists having various views. Also Buddha states, “those who hold these views will fail to see the virtue in good mental, verbal, and bodily conduct and the corresponding dangers in misconduct, and will therefore tend towards the latter.” The philosophy of nihilism also began to be associated incorrectly with the killing of Alexander II in 1881. Also, those active at the time in covert organizations associated it with the political terror opposing absolutism.
Association with others
Nirvana and Nihilism
The teachings of Buddha are about achieving Nirvana. Nirvana is the stage where you break the circle of life and attain moksha. It is the state of non-possession, nothingness, and non-attachment. Ajahn Amaro, a Buddhist monk of more than 40 years, states that in English nothingness can sound like nihilism. However, its emphasis can be different. Therefore it becomes no-thingness, indicating that nirvana is not a thing you can find, but rather a state where you experience the reality of non-grasping.
Atheism and Nihilism
Atheism is non-belief in the existence of deities. The atheist rejects the existence of deities. In contrast with atheism, theism is the belief that at least one deity exists. Whereas nihilism is the non-existence of belief in life itself. Nihilism is a form of atheism. But Nihilists believe in absolutely nothing. For them, the world is not real and there are no moral values present.
One of the finest depictions of a nihilist is “the Joker” in DC comics. In The Dark Knight, his portrayal is of a moral nihilist. He describes himself as “an Agent of Chaos”. At one point he burned a gigantic pile of money. He made a statement that the crime is not about money. It is about sending a message that everything burns and can be easily burned. Alfred Pennyworth states, “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money—they can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with—some men just want to watch the world burn”, regarding the Joker.
Nietzsche explored nihilism and its implications for civilization for over a century now. He predicted that nihilism’s impact on the culture and values of the 20th century has been prevalent. It is indeed originating a mood of gloom and a good deal of anger, anxiety, and terror. Surprisingly, Nietzsche himself was a radical skeptic preoccupied with language, knowledge, and truth. But he anticipated many of the themes of postmodernity. Furthermore, it is important to note that he believed we could eventually work through nihilism but with a terrible price. Moreover, if we survived the process of destroying all interpretations of the world. Perhaps then we can discover the correct course for humankind.
For more such articles, click here.