Nihilism and Nietzsche

Topics: Nihilism, Friedrich Nietzsche, Existentialism Pages: 6 (2074 words) Published: April 12, 2011
Nihilism: Encyclopedia II - Nihilism - Nihilism in Philosophy

Nihilism - Nihilism in Philosophy
Though the term nihilism was first popularized by Ivan Turgenev (see below), it was first introduced into philosophical discourse by Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi (1743–1819), who used the term to characterize rationalism, and in particular Immanuel Kant's "critical" philosophy in order to carry out a reductio ad absurdum according to which all rationalism (philosophy as criticism) reduces to nihilism, and thus it should be avoided and replaced with a return to some type of faith and revelation. (See also fideism.)

Friedrich Nietzsche's later work displays a preoccupation with nihilism. Book One of the posthumous collection The Will to Power (a highly selective arrangement of jottings from various notebooks and from a surceased project began by Nietzsche himself, then released by his sister, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche) is entitled "European Nihilism" which he calls "the problem of the nineteenth century." Nietzsche characterized nihilism as emptying the world and especially human existence of meaning, purpose, comprehensible truth, or essential value. Though some deride it as nihilistic, postmodernism can be contrasted with the above formulation of nihilism in that nihilism tends toward defeatism or fatalism, while postmodern philosophers tend to find strength and reason for celebration in the varied and unique human relationships it explores. Nihilism can also readily be compared to skepticism as both reject claims to knowledge and truth, though skepticism does not necessarily come to any conclusions about the reality of moral concepts nor does it deal so intimately with questions about the meaning of an existence without knowable truth. In a very different vein than just given, contemporary analytic philosophers have been engaged in a very active discussion over the past few years about what is called Mereological Nihilism (but it is nowadays usually just called nihilism). This is the position that objects with parts do not exist (not only objects in space, but also objects existing in time do not have any temporal parts, and thus only exist in the present moment), and only basic building blocks without parts exist (e.g., electrons, quarks), and thus the world we see and experience full of objects with parts is a product of human misperception (if we could see clearly, we'd not see compositive objects). Most contemporary analytic philosophers, such as Hud Hudson of Western Washington University [1], who is a leading critic of mereological nilhiism, reject this position due to the conflict with empirical knowledge involved. But many other philosophers accept partial or complete nihliism, and the position seems to be be gaining popularity for a variety of reasons. What would be called the partial nihilists include Trenton Merricks of the University of Virginia [2], and Peter van Inwagen of Notre Dame--both of who argue that the only objects that exist are basic building blocks (which they call simples) and persons. According to them, things like chairs do not exist. Complete nihilism is more rarely held in the contemporary philosophical landscape. But at least one philosopher, Jeffrey Grupp of Purdue University [3], argues for this position, maintaining that there are no objects whatsoever which have parts. He mainly relies on experimental quantum physics and a few philosophical arguments he has developed to support his position. Grupp argues that nihilism is the standard position of many ancient atomists, such as Democritus of ancient Greece, Dharmakirti of ancient India, and that it is the position held by Kant in his transcendental idealism, and that it is the position actually found in quantum observational physics.[4]. Nihilism - Nihilism in Ethics and Morality

In the world of ethics, nihilist or nihilistic is often used as a derogatory term referring to a complete rejection of all systems of authority, morality, and...
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