It’s not typically a compliment when someone calls you a nihilist. Nihilism is typically associated with violence and destructiveness. Literally, nihilism is “an ideology of nothing. Then, is nihilism a belief in nothing? Or is it the idea that there is nothing to live? Or the conviction that our convictions are meaningless? Nolen Gertz claims that if we can learn to identify the various forms of nihilism, we can learn to tell what is meaningful from what is meaningless. Gertz explores the development of nihilism in Western philosophy from Socrates to Hannah Arendt and Jean-Paul Sartre in this addition to the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series.
Although Friedrich Jacobi used the term “nihilism” to disparage Immanuel Kant’s philosophy, Gertz demonstrates how it might shed light on the ideas of Socrates, Descartes, and others. However, Nietzsche is the author most closely linked to nihilism, and Gertz concentrates on Nietzsche’s ideas. Pessimism, cynicism, and apathy are discussed as examples of what is not nihilism. Gertz then explores nihilism theories, including those connected to Existentialism and Postmodernism. He also considers nihilism to understand aspects of daily life, drawing on Adorno, Arendt, Marx, and prestige television, among other sources. Finally, he muses on the future of n Gertz advises us to consider nihilism from both a political and an individual perspective in order to fully comprehend it.