American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. Philosophy An extreme form of skepticism that denies all existence.
- n. Philosophy A doctrine holding that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated.
- n. Rejection of all distinctions in moral or religious value and a willingness to repudiate all previous theories of morality or religious belief.
- n. The belief that destruction of existing political or social institutions is necessary for future improvement.
- n. A diffuse, revolutionary movement of mid 19th-century Russia that scorned authority and tradition and believed in reason, materialism, and radical change in society and government through terrorism and assassination.
- n. Psychiatry A delusion, experienced in some mental disorders, that the world or one's mind, body, or self does not exist.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. In metaphysics, the doctrine that nothing can really be known, because nothing exists; the denial of all real existence, and consequently of all knowledge of existences or real things.
- n. In theology, same as nihilianism.
- n. Total disbelief in religion, morality, law, and order.
- n. Originally, a social (not a political) movement in Russia, in opposition to the customary forms of matrimony, the parental authority, and the tyranny of custom. In this sense the word was introduced by Turgeneff in 1862. See nihilist, 3.
- n. Later, a more or less organized secret effort on the part of a large body of malcontents to overturn the established order of things, both social and political. Nihilism comprises several Russian parties, differing in the means of action employed and in the immediate results aimed at, some leaning more toward political radicalism and violence, and others toward economic reorganization and socialism. The movement originated about 1840, and is due largely to the influence of the universities. About 1855–62 it became increasingly democratic, socialistic, and revolutionary under the leadership of Herzen and the magazine “Contemporary.” About 1870 revolutionary ideas became the subject of a propaganda among workmen, peasants, and students. The adherents of this movement formed a “people's party” (“Land and Freedom”), purposing the complete overthrow of the existing order of things and the establishment of a socialistic and democratic order in its stead. Under the influence of Bakunin (died 1876)and the persecution of peaceful propagandists by the government the people's party divided into two factions, the “democratization of land” and the “will of the people,” the latter being the stronger. This party was by government persecutions driven to a political contest, and the idea of demoralizing the forces of the government by terror originated and became popular: the adherents of this system called themselves “terrorists.” After several unsuccessful attempts they effected the death of the Czar Alexander II. in 1881.
- n. philosophy Extreme skepticism, maintaining that nothing has a real existence.
- n. ethics The rejection of all moral principles.
- n. politics (capitalized by protagonist Turgenev) A Russian anarchistic revolutionary doctrine (1860-1917) holding that conditions in the social organization are so bad as to make destruction desirable for its own sake, independent of any constructive program or possibility.
- n. The belief that all endeavors are ultimately futile and devoid of meaning.
- n. Contradiction (not always deliberate) between behavior and espoused principle, to such a degree that all possible espoused principle is voided.
- n. The deliberate refusal of belief, to the point that belief itself is rejected as untenable.
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. Nothingness; nihility.
- n. The doctrine that nothing can be known; scepticism as to all knowledge and all reality.
- n. (Politics) The theories and practices of the Nihilists.
- n. the delusion that things (or everything, including the self) do not exist; a sense that everything is unreal
- n. a revolutionary doctrine that advocates destruction of the social system for its own sake
- n. complete denial of all established authority and institutions
- From German Nihilismus, itself from Latin nihil ("nil, nothing") + German -ismus '-ism', coined in 1817 by German philosopher Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, but repeatedly 'reinvented'. (Wiktionary)
- Latin nihil, nothing; see ne in Indo-European roots + -ism. (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
““The term nihilism is sometimes used … to denote a general mood of despair at the pointlessness of existence.””
“But stunney clearly admitted that moral anti-realism, in fact moral nihilism, is logically indefeasible strictu sensu since, inter alia one cannot demonstrate strictu sensu that there are conscious beings other than oneself.”
“The old canard that lack of religion leads directly to nihilism is as cheap and insulting as my remarks above.”
“To most people, the notion that an apocalyptic nihilism is taking root in this nation's children will seem alarmist.”
“For all the bleating of the strident that this makes for "moral relativism" or, in the weighty but sadly empty words of Stephen Harper, "nihilism" - nothing turns on it.”
“ROFL — nihilism is the doctrine that all values are baseless, so Abb1 bitches that there is no difference between Republicans and Democrats “it’s either the sanctity of this, or the sanctity of that …””
“They've come up against reality, or the president has come up against reality, and so now they're just looking for another outlet for that sort of, you know, vague youthful--they would call idealism, I would call it nihilism.”
“Shakespeare, grandest of entertainers, also is the wisest of teachers, though the burden of his teaching may be nihilism, which is the lesson of King Lear.”
““And that is called nihilism,” Bazarov repeated again, this time in a particularly insolent tone.”
“The absurd and dangerous doctrine of nihilism, that is, the destruction of everything that constitutes society, penetrated into Russia by way of Germany.”
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