Conclusion 1. Early in the nineteenth century, Friedrich Jacobi used the word to negatively characterize transcendental idealism. In Russia, nihilism became identified with a loosely organized revolutionary movement C. The movement advocated a social arrangement based on rationalism and materialism as the sole source of knowledge and individual freedom as the highest goal. The movement eventually deteriorated into an ethos of subversion, destruction, and anarchy, and by the late s, a nihilist was anyone associated with clandestine political groups advocating terrorism and assassination.

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Far more troublesome is the fact that along with the loss of the crisis connotations of nihilism comes the loss of its potentially salvific power. When one accepts nihilism as "just the way things are," it ceases to be a potential weapon against corrupt and deca When one accepts nihilism as "just the way things are," it ceases to be a potential weapon against corrupt and decaying modes of thought.

The possibility of any kind of ethical, religious, or political transformation is de facto ruled out and the perpetuation of the status quo is covertly promoted. Any disagreements that do exist deteriorate, ultimately, into contests of power.

The aesthetic revaluation of nihilism makes truth a matter of taste, of individual and cultural preferences. Religious and ethical questions are reinterpreted to be matters of personal choice, for there exist no criteria beyond private decision by which to evaluate them. It may appear that such a move promotes toleration, for it immplies that, just as few people would argue to the death about the merits of Springsteen versus Dylan, so too should we not argue violently about the existence or non-existence of God, or the superiority of Confucianism over Christianity.

Civilized disputes,- to be sure, are welcome, operating within the boundaries of what a well-educated person deems acceptable, but we should not expect or seek to find final resolution in such matters, for we have no access to a criterion that would provide such resolution.

Undergirding this air of bemused toleration, however, is a dogmatism which belies its apparent openmindedness, a dogmatism of the most frightening kind. Since no justification is possible, none can be required. This dogmatism is linked to the lack of any sense of concern over the absence of some standard to which we can appeal. The sense of crisis -described by the dialectical theologians, for example, that the loss of God engendered did more than sanctify misery by providing it with meaning— it also provided the space and leverage necessary for any kind of criticism and any kind of self-conscious, self-directed change.

The gap between what is and what we hope for is what motivates us to try to change our present surroundings and prevents us from succumbing to the all too pervasive power of inertia.


The Banalization of Nihilism: Twentieth-Century Responses to Meaninglessness

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche Nihilism is often associated with the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche , who provided a detailed diagnosis of nihilism as a widespread phenomenon of Western culture. Karen L. Nietzsche characterized nihilism as emptying the world and especially human existence of meaning, purpose, comprehensible truth, or essential value. 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 that 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. Nietzsche discusses Christianity, one of the major topics in his work, at length in the context of the problem of nihilism in his notebooks, in a chapter entitled "European Nihilism".





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