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Nietzsche on Nihilism

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This paper covers the description and analysis of a philosophy feature called nihilism. Friedrich Nietzsche has devoted a lot of his works to it, so just his view and theory about nihilism will be considered in a paper. First, the main concept of Nietzsche’s nihilism is viewed here. Then the difference between the active and passive nihilism are discussed. Finally, nihilism examples are provided and analyzed to see what nihilism means in real life, not only in theory.


Friedrich Nietzsche is considered to be one of the most famous nihilists in the history. The German philosopher wrote a lot of works about nihilism; however, this fact does not make him a nihilist. A common misconception about Nietzsche is that he was a nihilist but it is not a real exact portrayal of his work. The philosopher studied and wrote a lot about nihilism, but he made it because he was extremely interested in the effects of nihilism on the culture and society, and not because he proclaimed nihilism. This paper covers the description of the Nietzsche’s concept on nihilism as well as explaining the difference between the active and passive nihilism. It also provides examples of nihilism and gives a conclusion of the processed information.

Nietzsche’s Concept on Nihilism

Nietzsche considered nihilism as one of the most widespread phenomenon at the West. Despite the constant usage of this term, he applies it in many different ways with various connotations and meanings, most of which are negative. Karen Carr says that the nihilism’s characterization of Nietzsche is “a condition of tension, a disproportion between what we want to value and how the world appears to operate” (Metzger 59). At that moment when a person understands that the world does not have an objective value or does not fit person’s worldview, he or she finds him/herself in a deep crisis and disappointment. Nietzsche emphasizes that nihilism is just a reflection of the present-day society and features of the modern century. Such conclusions were made because of the rise of physiological decadence and the decline of Christianity, and he also states that the peak of nihilism remains still incomplete and when it happens, it will be another societal problem to overcome. To philosopher’s mind, nihilism covers the majority of people’s problems that are extremely hard to solve. He explains nihilism as emptiness of the world and the meaningless of human existence. Such an idea partially comes from Nietzsche’s perspective theory according to which he believes that any knowledge is made in the interest of somebody and it is never a mere fact (Hales 62). Nihilism is usually considered as a meaninglessness situation where everything can be permitted. The deprivation of higher values provides a common idea that all the people’s ideas are valueless. On this basis, it can be also concluded that if a man is a product of evolution (as it was proved by science), so the God is only the product of people’s imagination and can serve as a basis for a morality.

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Active and Passive Nihilism

Nietzsche divides nihilism on active and passive. The first one is passive that supposes a senseless life and meaningless living of humans on the planet. This kind of nihilism is a form of complete pessimism that claims no meaning remained in the world. The thing which people consider as universal depicts that the only probable universal is that no universals exist and man always loses belief in his own value. The credo of this kind of nihilism is “becoming aims at nothing and achieves nothing” (Schutte 27). It means that under people’s becoming there is no howling integrity, getting itself is just the reality. It considers aimlessness as well as spirit’s recession and decline, provoking full inversion of old values turning a person against life. According to this theory, commonplace persons prosper while noblemen are oppressed. The courage leaves people and they are becoming the mediocre resigning to the society. Christian belief that God is the truth inverts into the idea that everything is false (Reginster 41).

Another kind of nihilism is the active one. It is considered as the sign of the spirit power rise and claims that transition exists. Giving a green light to the life, active nihilism does not refuse the existence of the devaluation. However, it accounts the devaluation as a transitional stage until old values will not be replaced by the new ones. New values should not be wanted in this case and used as a driving force because active nihilists are looking for the completely different things. They esteem the devaluation as a way of clearing away person’s old values and freeing a space for the new ones. After the devaluation stage the revaluation one always comes. The aim of revaluation is to rebuild and affirm life. Two types of active nihilism exist, they are incomplete and complete. Incomplete active nihilism means the try of a person to avoid nihilism without revaluating the values to that extent. In a case when the revaluation was not completed, old values would invert and turn over. Complete nihilism considers the devaluation of old values, leaving them aside. Complete active nihilists throw out the concept of values itself and view this concept as a form of a new dawning creation.


Examples of Nihilism

A great deal of theory about nihilism has been introduced; however, the best way to get something is to investigate it with the examples. A good illustration of nihilism can be the following dialog:

Person A: It is morally good to save a person’s life.
Nihilist: According to nihilism it is neither good nor bad to save someone’s life.
Person A: It is morally good to kill a person.
Nihilist: It is neither good nor bad to kill someone.

Such an example clearly shows extremely indifferent attitude to the life of nihilists. They do not have strong moral principles so, according to their theory everything can be good or bad as they do not judge any people’s actions. No one can tell what is good and what is bad, there are no rules and only a person can judge if something can be considered to be positive or negative action. Nihilists are so disappointed in life that they do not pay any attention at the things that are happening around. People’s ideas are valueless, to their mind and certainly, a thought of any person is viewed as the only objective and absolutely unimportant thing to spend time for.

Another significant example of nihilism can be a phrase: ‘We do not need to take care of our planet because it has no value’. As it was stated before, nihilists consider everything in the world as only a figment of imagination that has no value and meaning not only for people but for the world on the whole. As people have created all the rules and dogmas only for themselves, then there is no point to do something for the world because it will still exist with or without them.

The third great example of nihilism is a famous phrase of Confucius: ‘who knows nothing, doubts nothing’. It depreciates the meaning of knowledge at all, stating that life without it is easier. In other words, it can be said – no knowledge, no problems, as when you know nothing, you have no reason or idea to worry about something, to think about the meaning of life and the goal of human existence. Without knowledge a person just exists, but not lives at a full speed. He or she has no wishes, principles, rules or aims, there is no need to be educated or developed as still the whole being has no meaning.


To sum up, having analyzed all the information above, it can be concluded that nihilism is a philosophy aroused from the world’s outrage, rejection and disappointment. At best, after complete disillusion in the world, a person can discover the real power of it and understand the world as it is. At worst, a person who finds himself or herself to be a nihilist becomes totally disenchanted with the world and human beings on the planet, he/she does not know what is good and what is bad according to the moral principles, he/she does not see any reason to be educated and set goals in life as everything is considered to be only his imagination, fabled world with spoof rules, principles and values. This person is completely disappointed and, what is the worst, nihilism supposes everyone to come on it sooner or later. Provided examples depict in the best manner the real nihilism in a real world. Someone can find that this philosophy is shocking, someone will follow it, it is up to everyone, but the existence of nihilism theory in the philosophy cannot be denied and should be studied carefully.

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