Nihilism is the belief that all values are unfounded and that nothing can be known or communicated. It is often associated with extreme pessimism and radical skepticism that condemns existence . A true nihilist would believe in nothing, has no loyalties, and has no purpose other than, perhaps, an urge to destroy. It is the denial of any type of principle of religion , social or political aspect. Nihilism is one of the few branches of philosophy that allows the possibility of absolute nothingness, it does this through three assumptions: that there are a finite number of objects in the world; that each of these objects is contingent and that the objects are independent, then the “subtraction argument” arises that tells us that each object can be subtracted from the world, one by one, until it becomes nothing.

What is nihilism?

It is the philosophical position that holds that being , especially past and present human existence , lacks objective meaning , purpose, truth, or essential value. He asserts that there is no reasonable evidence for the existence of a superior creator , that there is no true morality, and that objective secular ethics is impossible.

  • Characteristics of nihilism
  • History of nihilism
  • Types
  • Representatives of nihilism
  • Importance
  • Examples
  • Phrases

Characteristics of nihilism

The most important characteristics that nihilism presents are the following:

  • The word nihilism originated from the Latin word nihil , which means ” nothing .”
  • It shows the lack of faith in which man finds himself and that leads him to the consciousness of nothingness and absurdity .
  • Nihilism is one of the few branches of philosophy that opens up to the possibility of absolute nothingness .
  • For nihilists, the nonexistence of one thing does not require the existence of something else.
  • He profoundly defends critical self-management against the church.
  • He opposes consumerism .
  • Denies all kinds of dogma .
  • It denies everything that implies a superior , objective or deterministic sense of the existence of an element.

History of nihilism

Nihilism emerged during the 19th century and the first person to use the term was the German philosopher Friedrich Jacobi , who used the word to make a series of critiques of the idealistic philosophy of Johann Gottlieb Fichte . Jacobi claimed that, in his philosophy, Fichte gave such importance and absolutism to the ego , to the Self, that in his extreme subjectivism he denied the existence or transcendence of a God . In 1862, the Russian writer Ivan Turgenevpopularized the term to describe one of his characters in his novel: Bazárov, who declares himself a nihilist and his point of view frequently clashes with the rest of the characters. Kierkegaard was the next precursor of nihilism, although he established that there was a state to be avoided in which individuality was suppressed in such a way that uniqueness was relegated and declared non-existent and meaningful existence could not be affirmed in this way. Of something.

During the 20th century, the German philosopher Martin Heidegger studied Nihilism in depth as a current in which nothing remains of being itself. The current was widely explored in the second half of the 20th century by philosophers such as Jacques Derrida , Jean-Francois Lyotard , Jean Baudrillard among others. It is worth mentioning that Nihilism emerged as a social movement in Russia in 1860, when the population dissatisfied with the country’s situation rebelled against the authorities.


  • Metaphysical nihilism or bubble theory:  It explains that there are no objects or that they do not exist , and therefore empirical reality is an illusion . An object is a thing, an entity or a being that can have properties and have relationships with other objects.
  • Mereological Nihilism or Compositional Nihilism: It  explained that objects with the right parts do not exist and that objects that exist in time do not have temporal parts, and only basic building blocks exist . These smaller building blocks are individual elements and are separated and never unified to avoid being individual.
  • Partial Nihilism:  Some philosophers thought that only some types of objects had parts. One of those positions said that living beings are compounds or have parts and that they exist, but that there are no other objects with parts and all other objects that we think are compounds, therefore, they do not exist.
  • Moral nihilism: it  is the view that explained that ethical claims are generally false. It holds that there are no objective moral facts or true propositions , that nothing is morally good, bad, wrong, right, etc., because there are no moral truths.

Representatives of nihilism

Its main representatives were:

  • Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi
  • Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Martin Heidegger


The importance of Nietzsche and nihilism was of great importance because it announced the historical and cultural panorama of the 20th and 21st centuries . From this point we start to say that it has been important for all contemporary philosophy , which were influenced by his thought. The philosophy of art, history , politics, metaphysics , philosophical anthropology , ethics and even the philosophy of science , have reflected on the great problems enunciated by Nietzsche, fundamentally associated with the radical cultural consequences of the meaning of the phrase “God is dead.”


Some examples that we can observe in everyday life are:

  • People who don’t believe in God.
  • The death of Christ .
  • Societies full of skepticism .
  • Loss of faith .


Among the best known phrases we can mention the following:

  • God is dead
  • Man, in his pride, created God in his image and likeness.
  • There are no moral phenomena, but only a moral interpretation of the phenomena.
  • He who has a reason to live can face all the hows.
  • Everything that does not destroy me strengthens me.

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