Nihilism
   A philosophical doctrine most prodigiously articulated by German philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) first and foremost and then Martin Heidegger (1889–1976). Nihilists were also followers and sympathizers of the Nihilist movement, a cultural and political movement that emerged in 1860s Russia. Etymologically “nihilism” comes from the Latin nihil, meaning “nothing.” The earliest documented mention is that of the French nihiliste, in a 1787 French dictionary that references the use of the term in 1761 in a context where it meant “heretic.” The term was used by the German philosopher Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi (1743–1819) in his critique of Immanuel Kant’s concept of speculative reason, instead of which Jacobi favored faith and revelation as instruments of understanding.
   The fundamental position of nihilism is that the world and human existence in particular have no meaning, which renders superfluous the notions of purpose, truth, or value. This Nietzsche applied to Christianity, which, according to him, had removed meaning from earthly existence and transferred it to a hypothetical afterlife. He saw the materiality of lived experience as the only means of recuperating meaning and nihilism as the ethical reaction to the realization that “God is dead.” Heidegger’s claim was that lived experience, “being in the world” as such, is no longer possible because all that is left, all that humans have left to operate with, is the illusion of value and the sense of life has been reduced to its exchange and appreciation.
   In literature nihilism was made popular by the Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev (1818–1883) who used the term in Fathers and Sons, published in 1882 to characterize the attitude of the contemporary intelligentsia in Russian society. These intellectuals protested the social stagnation base of tsarist Russia and demanded reforms. Their social activism peaked in the 1870s with the creation of several secret organizations like the Circle of Tchaikovsky, Land and Liberty, and the People’s Revenge. From Land and Liberty emerged Narodnaia Volia, People’s Will, the first organized revolutionary party in Russia, from which the name of the movement, Narodik, and the philosophy of Narodism were derived. Eventually they did embrace terrorism as a revolutionary resource. Early in 1881, a group of young nihilists organized a plot to assassinate Tsar Alexander II who had already known several attempts on his life. The plot was carried out on March 13, near the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, when he was attacked with hand grenades and killed by Ignacy Hryniewiecki (1856–1881), a Polish mathematics student from Lithuania. The Poles, living in various areas occupied by Russia since the fourth Partition of Poland in 1795, were at the being subjected to Russification. Hryniewiecki was wounded and died in the attack. Following this incident nihilism was classified as a destructive ideology and associated with terrorism in a manner similar to anarchism.
   See also <>; <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Cunningham, Conor. Genealogy of Nihilism: Philosophies of Nothing and the Difference of Theology . London: Routledge, 2002;
    Wilshire, Bruce. Fashionable Nihilism: A Critique of Analytic Philosophy . Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002.
   GEORGIA TRES

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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  • Nihilism — • One who bows to no authority and accepts no doctrine, however widespread, that is not supported by proof. Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Nihilism     Nihilism      …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • nihilism — NIHILÍSM s.n. Atitudine, tendinţă, concepţie sau manifestare care neagă rânduielile, instituţiile, morala, tradiţiile culturale existente într o societate dată, fără să le opună, în schimb, altele superioare; atitudine de negare absolută. – Din… …   Dicționar Român

  • nihilism —    Nihilism is literally the belief in nothing, that is, the rejection of everything. Few Western philosophers believe that nothing exists at all, though this view is attributed to some Eastern philosophers; nihilism is usually used to denote the …   Christian Philosophy

  • nihilism — [nī′ə liz΄əm, nē′ə liz΄əm; nī′hi liz΄əm, nē′hiliz΄əm] n. [< L nihil (see NIHIL) + ISM] 1. Philos. a) the denial of the existence of any basis for knowledge or truth b) the general rejection of customary beliefs in morality, religion, etc.:… …   English World dictionary

  • Nihilism — Ni hil*ism, n. [L. nihil nothing: cf. F. nihilisme. See {Annihilate}.] 1. Nothingness; nihility. [1913 Webster] 2. The doctrine that nothing can be known; scepticism as to all knowledge and all reality. [1913 Webster] 3. (Politics) The theories… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • nihilism — index anarchy, lynch law Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • nihilism — (n.) 1817, the doctrine of negation (in reference to religion or morals), from Ger. Nihilismus, from L. nihil nothing at all (see NIL (Cf. nil)), coined by German philosopher Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi (1743 1819). In philosophy, an extreme form… …   Etymology dictionary

  • nihilism — [n] refusal to believe abnegation, agnosticism, anarchy, atheism, denial, disbelief, disorder, lawlessness, mob rule*, nonbelief, rejection, renunciation, repudiation, skepticism, terrorism; concept 689 Ant. belief, faith, obedience, optimism …   New thesaurus

  • nihilism — ► NOUN 1) the rejection of all religious and moral principles. 2) Philosophy extreme scepticism, maintaining that nothing has a real existence. DERIVATIVES nihilist noun nihilistic adjective. ORIGIN from Latin nihil nothing …   English terms dictionary

  • Nihilism — This article is about the philosophical doctrines. For other uses, see Nihilism (disambiguation). Certainty series Agnosticism Belief Certainty Doubt Determini …   Wikipedia

  • nihilism —    by Rex Butler   Nietzsche is one of Baudrillard s defining influences. He is one of the few thinkers whose presumptions are not turned against them as Baudrillard was to do with Marx in The Mirror of Production (1975 [1973]) and Saussure in… …   The Baudrillard dictionary

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