Epistemological Nihilism (2022)

Can someone explain in 25 words or less what epistemological nihilism is all about?

I'll be able to give you a better definition later on, but how about this? "The position that nothing can be known with certainty" or "The position that nothing can be justified beyond doubt".

I suppose it depends on how you, in turn, define "know" and "certain". For instance, if you're going to define "know" in physiological terms (as Quine might have), there's probably no problem. But if you're going to do a Descartes and try to trace all knowledge to self-evident propositions, or certain sources, you might find that you run into circles, or that all beliefs disappear into thin air.

The Rorty and Nietzsche quotes might be misleading, because (I suspect) they're talking about the justification of culturally-specific beliefs and practices, or about something like moral nihilism, not epistemological.
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VI
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Can someone explain in 25 words or less what epistemological nihilism is all about?

The first snippet you quote isn't that bad:

'epistemological nihilism which denies the possibility of knowledge and truth; this form of nihilism is currently identified with postmodern antifoundationalism.'

This last part in hardly fair. Antifondationalists are not, despite the quotation from Rorty below, necessarily nihilists. In fact, Rorty himself is antifoundationalist and not nihilist. For a strong antifoundational and antinihilist position, see Hilary Putnam's Ethics wihout Ontology (Harvard University Press, 2004).

Nihilism is the view that there is no justification for values.

(Video) Philosophy Lexicon: 5 Types of Nihilism

Epistemological nihilism is the view that there is no justification for claims of knowledge. It is an extreme version of relativism. Donald Crosby writes (in a long run-on sentence):
"(E)pistemological nihilism denies the possibility of justifying or criticizing claims to knowledge,
because it assumes that a foundation of infallible, universal truths would be required for such assessments, and that no such thing is available;
because it views all claims to knowleged as entirely relative to historical epochs, cultural contexts or the vagaries of individual thought and experiences, and therefore as ultimately arbitrary and incommensurable;
because it sees all attempts at justification as useless, given centuries of unresolved disagreement about disputed basic beliefs even among the most intelligent thinkers;
or because it notes that numerous widely accepted, unquestioned beliefs of the past are dismissed out of hand today and expects a similar date in the future for many, if not all, of the most confident beliefs."
Note that the above description is self-refuting.
Foundationalism is a name used for theories that incorporate an 'indubitable' foundation upon which other truths can be buit.

Antifoundationalist is the denial that such an 'indubitable' foundation exists. This is not* the same thing as epistimological nihilism. Antifoundationalists do *not typically deny that justification or criticizing claims require an infallible foundation. Their project is finding justification and criticizing without such a foundation.

Antifoundationalism is most strongly associated with Wilfrid Sellars (who is responsible for the phrase 'myth of the given'), Hilary Putnam, and Richard Rorty. It is linked with critical realism (from Weilfrid's father, Roy Wood Sellars) and with the modern pragmatic movement (Rorty, Putnam, Donald Davidson, Steven Knapp, Walter Benn Michaels, Richard J Bernstein, Cornel West, Richard A Posner, Richard Poirier, Joyce Appleby, Louis Menand, et. al.).

It is often claimed that Nietzsche was a nihilist because of his rejection of ideals of truth and morality. He does so from a foundation of values which he claims to be more important. In fact, he attacks the 'other-worldliness' of Judeo-Christian morality as being itself nihilistic because of its denial of the world we know.

Nietzsche was a perspectivist, someone who believes that all truth is truth from or within a particular perspective. Perspectivism is not epistimological nihilism, because it can claim a foundation. That foundation may be a claimed general human view or it can be completely ego-based. As we knwo, Nietzsche himself denied that nihilism is an impossible stance to maintain. The hypostasis of the will is foundational in Nietzsche.

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I was surprised to discover that nihilism was invented by Turgenev.

No, Laura. The word has been in English since at least 1817, and the Russian activists Turgenev described (in 1862) were there before Turgenev needed a word to label Bazarov and his friends. Neither nihilism nor 'nihilism' were invented by Turgenev. This canard has been repeated so long, and by so many (see Robert C. Solomon's entry on 'nihilism' in The Oxford Companion to Philosophy , for example) that the truth may yet be buried.

Can someone explain in 25 words or less what epistemological nihilism is all about?

We can't know anything.

Mike Nitabacker

(Video) Optimistic Nihilism

Laura F. Spira wrote on 19 Mar 2005:

Descriptivism in its Ray-Wisean extreme form is, ironically, linguistic nihilism. ... and if you're a prescriptivist, you should've been an orthodonist.

I was surprised to discover that nihilism was invented by Turgenev.

It wasn't invented* by Turgenev, merely *popularized in his novel.

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"Oh yeah? Who told you that was true?" The ultimate question from an epistemological nihilist.

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Father Ignatius wrote on 20 Mar 2005:

Can someone explain in 25 words or less what epistemological nihilism is all about?

A theory of knowledge that rejects all religious and moral principles.

Too easy, Father, and not true. It merely rejects the notion that any such principles are based on what we subjectively refer to as "reality".

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voice imitator wrote on 20 Mar 2005:

Can someone explain in 25 words or less what epistemological nihilism is all about?

I'll be able to give you a better definition later on, but how about this? "The position that nothing can be known with certainty" or "The position that nothing can be justified beyond doubt".

This is no different from what David Hume said, but I wasn't aware that he'd been classified an epistemological nihilist.

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Laura F. Spira wrote on 19 Mar 2005:

I was surprised to discover that nihilism was invented by Turgenev.

It wasn't invented* by Turgenev, merely *popularized in his novel.

Besides, why would Turgenev have been going around inventing English words? He was Russian.
\\P. Schultz

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I'll be able to give you a better definition later ... or "The position that nothing can be justified beyond doubt".

This is no different from what David Hume said, but I wasn't aware that he'd been classified an epistemological nihilist.

Well, three replies to that.
Firstly, I think your correction is apt. I shouldn't have added "with certainty" and should have left it as "that nothing can be known".

Secondly, I'm unsure that Hume did believe "nothing knowable with certainty". I know next to nothing about Hume, but my understanding is that he did make knowledge claims, such as "you can't derive an is from an ought" or "the idea of causality involves the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy".
Thirdly... I think there are two general sorts of ideas about what counts as knowledge one is that it's "justified true belief", and another is that it's "true belief". "Epistemological nihilist" (it seems to me) is generally used for people who believe that nothing can be "true and believed"; for some reason, I've never seen it used of people whose only gripe is with the "justified" part such people tend instead to be called extreme skeptics. The Pyrrhonists are the traditional extreme skeptics of philosophy, and Hume was partly writing in response to them.
And who does believe that nothing can be "true and believed". Well, it seems to me (others may disagree) that no one is, and that it's a sort of derogatory term used when you want to strawman your opponent or make fun of poststructuralists. I say this not only because the idea is apparently self-refuting if taken to encompass any knowledge claim whatsoever, but because (I'd claim) a lot of what gets attacked as epistemological nihlism is, instead, either claims about language or texts or structures, rather than claims about beliefs per se, or is simply skepticism in various degrees of extremeness.

==
Regards,
VI
http://kenm.mydeardiary.com /

(Video) PHILOSOPHY - Epistemology: The Problem of Skepticism [HD]

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Epistemological Nihilism (1)

FAQs

What is epistemological nihilism? ›

Epistemological nihilism is a form of philosophical skepticism according to which knowledge does not exist, or, if it does exist, it is unattainable for human beings. It should not be confused with epistemological fallibilism, according to which all knowledge is uncertain.

Is it possible to be a true nihilist? ›

To be with a pessimist is to know that you are with a pessimist. But you can be with a nihilist and have no idea. Indeed you could yourself be a nihilist and have no idea. Such a lack of awareness is the point of nihilism, as nihilism is all about hiding from despair rather than dwelling on it.

What is the answer to nihilism? ›

Nihilism doesn't have much an answer for the individual who finds their life worthwhile. In a sense, becoming ourselves involves the idea that we die symbolically, over and over again, always in the process of creating and challenging the values we form in the face of nihilism.

Do nihilists think life is meaningless? ›

While nihilism is often discussed in terms of extreme skepticism and relativism, for most of the 20th century it has been associated with the belief that life is meaningless. Existential nihilism begins with the notion that the world is without meaning or purpose.

How do you beat nihilism? ›

A good way to deal with nihilism would be to contrast it with the diametrically opposite possibility. A situation where there is perfect meaning to life, with perfect happiness, no sorrow or injustice, and where the progress of nature ensures this in every way.

What is the opposite of nihilism? ›

So Existentialism is the opposite of nihilism: the nihilist says "There is no god, no heaven or hell, so screw it: there can be no right or wrong.

Is nihilism a paradox? ›

The paradox of nihilism is a family of paradoxes regarding the philosophical implications of nihilism, particularly situations contesting nihilist perspectives on the nature and extent of subjectivity within a nihilist framework. There are a number of variations of this paradox.

What are the three types of nihilism? ›

Based on this passage one can see that the first three types of nihilism; moral, epistemological, and cosmic, each negate meaning from an important area of life where human beings have traditionally searched for it.

Do nihilists believe in science? ›

It based its belief on nothing but scientific truth; science would be the solution of all social problems. All evils, nihilists believed, derived from a single source—ignorance—which science alone would overcome.

How is nihilism wrong? ›

Nihilism matters because meaning matters, and the best-known alternative ways of relating to meaning are also wrong. Fear of nihilism is a main reason people commit to other stances, such as eternalism and existentialism, that are also harmful and mistaken.

Was Nietzsche against nihilism? ›

Summary. Nietzsche is a self-professed nihilist, although, if we are to believe him, it took him until 1887 to admit it (he makes the admission in a Nachlass note from that year). No philosopher's nihilism is more radical than Nietzsche's and only Kierkegaard's and Sartre's are as radical.

Do nihilists have morals? ›

Nihilism comes from the Latin word "nihil" -- which means, nothing. Nihilists assert that there are no moral values, principles, truths.

Do nihilists believe in love? ›

In the late 1800s, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had a lot to say about love. Arguing that society was heading toward nihilism – that is, a world without meaning, morals and values – Nietzsche thought that romantic love was frivolous, with friendship acting as a much stronger foundation for relationships.

What is positive nihilism? ›

Optimistic nihilism views the belief that there is no underlying meaning to life from a perspective of hope. It's not that we're doomed to live in a meaningless universe–it's that we get the chance to experience ourselves and the universe we share.

Are Buddhists nihilists? ›

In The Will to Power, Buddhism is described as passively nihilistic with the purpose of acting as a temporary salve for those suffering (1968, 18).

Is nihilism a symptom of depression? ›

Nihilistic depression suppresses the feelings (positive and negative) that go with recognition of meaning. Depression can be thought of as rage turned inward. It tries to kill your passionate response to reality. Depression copes with loss by lowering the stakes.

What comes after nihilism? ›

It is therefore tempting to answer that what comes after nihilism is sadness. The transcendental nature of norms and values has been scorched; our rationality has been shown to be ridden with biases, systemic errors, and, as is beginning to be made painfully clear, is probably a functional delusion.

Can nihilists be religious? ›

Nihilism is almost always considered to be a secular and atheistic phenomenon. Traditionally, the nihilistic loss of meaning is associated with Nietzsche's death of God. Nonetheless, this project aims to show that there can also be religious reasons for being nihilistic.

Is stoicism similar to nihilism? ›

Key Differences. The obvious key difference between the two philosophies is that stoicism promotes the values in life, going so far as to believe they give meaning and happiness to exist in life while nihilism entirely rejects them, deeming them devoid of any meaning at all.

Is Kafka a nihilist? ›

Answer and Explanation: Franz Kafka's literary work is often described as negative, absurdist and intentionally bizarre, drawing heavily from the existentialist and nihilist movements in philosophy and literature.

Do nihilists believe in free will? ›

Not at all. It makes no sense. Free will implies we are more special than we are. We are not special at all in a mystic sense.

Is Nietzsche a nihilist or existentialist? ›

Unlike Dostoevsky, however, Nietzsche sees a complicity between morality and the Christian God that perpetuates a life-denying, and so ultimately nihilistic, stance.

Who invented nihilism? ›

Nihilism has existed in one form or another for hundreds of years, but is usually associated with Friedrich Nietzsche, the 19th century German philosopher (and pessimist of choice for high school kids with undercuts) who proposed that existence is meaningless, moral codes worthless, and God is dead.

Is the Joker nihilistic? ›

Joker has a unique character and he is different from other villains in movies. While they committed crime based on personal revenge, economic fulfillment, Joker does it his own way. He does not obey rules, laws, or even morals. Based on those ideas, the writer includes Joker as a nihilist.

Is Absurdism a form of nihilism? ›

On this view, absurdism brings with it a highly controversial form of moral nihilism. This means that there is a lack, not just of a higher purpose in life, but also of moral values. These two sides can be linked by the idea that without a higher purpose, nothing is worth pursuing that could give one's life meaning.

What is a nihilist lifestyle? ›

Nihilism means rejecting objective truth, moral values, and meaning in life. It is the belief that nothing has any inherent meaning or purpose. Nihilists do not believe in God and think life is meaningless. They also think that humans are animals and that we cannot know anything.

What are the 2 types of nihilism? ›

Today we are going to narrow our focus down to two different branches of nihilism: existential nihilism, and cosmic nihilism (also known as cosmic pessimism).

What do nihilists believe about death? ›

The most classic figure of nihilism is the statement that everything is devalued, de-symbolised and untenable in the face of death. It is an equalisation of the totality of everything that could be valued, faced with the radical ontological finitude that death represents.

Is Rick and Morty nihilistic? ›

From the very first season, Rick and Morty has pursued the idea about nihilism that seems to reject all meaning to life. The titular characters seem to jump from universe to alternate universe as often as someone fills up their gas tank. However, it does leave a scar on them both.

Why moral nihilism is wrong? ›

Rather than seeking to provide some account of what morality might actually be, moral nihilists reject the concept of morality entirely. Moral nihilists think there is no credible basis on which to think one's behaviour is guided by moral considerations.

Is nihilism necessarily negative? ›

Summary. Nihilists just don't believe there's meaning in the world, but they can take that belief into positive or negative directions.

What is the difference between nihilism and absurdism? ›

Nihilists, specifically passive nihilists, believe that there's no intrinsic meaning in life and “it is futile to seek or to affirm meaning where none can be found”. That's where the philosophy essentially ends. Absurdists, on the other hand, hesitantly allow the possibility for some meaning or value in life.

Is Sartre a nihilist? ›

Like Buddha, Jean-Paul Sartre cannot be properly be categorized as a nihilist, but did call his system of philosophy "Existentialism." He defined his system as predicated on the idea that "existence precedes essence."

Is Nietzsche a stoic? ›

The truth is that Nietzsche himself, in his later years, became highly critical of Stoic and Epicurean philosophy. After some ambivalence in his middle years, he also rekindled his early hostility to Socrates, the Stoics' idol. Socrates, the young Nietzsche argued, represented a turning point in world history.

What school of thought does Nietzsche fall? ›

Friedrich Nietzsche
SchoolContinental philosophy Nietzscheanism Other schools Anti-foundationalism Anti-nihilism / nihilism (disputed) Atheism Dionysianism Dionysian pessimism Existentialism German Romanticism (disputed) Immoralism Metaphysical voluntarism Naturalism Perspectivism Philosophical realism Political realism
14 more rows

Do nihilists believe in the law? ›

The nihilists charge that the legitimacy of law rests on claims that law is objective, determinate, and neutral and that all of these claims are false. As a result, the nihilists deny the legitimacy of any existing or any possible law or legal system.

What is cosmic nihilism? ›

It's the view that human life is meaningless because we are 'insignificant' in relation to the universe (it's size, age). It assumes life is meaningless because we are not a product of intelligent design.

Is nihilism an ethical theory? ›

Moral nihilism (also known as ethical nihilism) is the meta-ethical view that nothing is morally right or wrong. Moral nihilism is distinct from moral relativism, which allows for actions to be wrong relative to a particular culture or individual.

Was Nietzsche a romantic? ›

Nietzsche was frequently associated with the Romantic movement. The assumption is correct inasmuch as many motives of Romantic anti-capitalism — e.g., the struggle against the capitalist division of labour and its consequences for bourgeois culture and morals — played a considerable part in his thinking.

What did Nietzsche think about love? ›

Nietzsche believed that romantic love was fleeting, and the highest form of human bond was friendship. So if you marry someone just for their looks, what happens when they get old, grey and wrinkly.

What is a romantic nihilist? ›

Romantic Nihilism (p. 361) From chapter "Romantic Nihilism" One needs something to believe in, something for which one can have whole-hearted enthusiasm. One needs to feel that one's life has meaning, that one is needed in this world.

Why is nihilism comforting? ›

Nihilism promises evasion of all responsibility. You don't have to do anything, because nothing matters. Nihilism promises simplicity: an escape from the wearying complexity of intertwining nebulosity and pattern. Nihilism promises cold comfort: you may be miserable, but nothing better than misery is possible.

Is everything everywhere all at once nihilist? ›

In its core, Daniels' film explores the liberation of nihilism. It is a film that embraces the sheer meaninglessness of human existence. This is not in an existential 'let's give up' way; quite the opposite. Everything is a rousing cry to let go of 'what ifs', to live and to love freely.

Is optimistic nihilism just absurdism? ›

If you see yourself as an optimistic nihilist, perhaps you're really an absurdist. Of course, you're always entitled to your own viewpoint, and if you truly feel that optimistic nihilism encompasses your worldview, then go for it. The world is one's (meaningless) oyster, after all!

Is life meaningless in Buddhism? ›

The following interpretation of Buddhism suggests itself as a plausible alternative: Buddhists believe that life is meaningless; and it is this last realization that grounds the positive value of life–the fact that life is worth living.

What is political nihilism? ›

Political nihilism is the position holding no political goals whatsoever, except for the complete destruction of all existing political institutions—along with the principles, values, and social institutions that uphold them.

What's the difference between fatalism and nihilism? ›

The difference between nihilism and fatalism is chaotic. The two are basically the exact opposite of each other. Depression is an illness. Nihilism and fatalism are philosophical viewpoints.

What are the different types of nihilism? ›

Based on this passage one can see that the first three types of nihilism; moral, epistemological, and cosmic, each negate meaning from an important area of life where human beings have traditionally searched for it.

What is an example of nihilism? ›

A desire for the complete rejection of the established order or social system and religious principles is an example of nihilism. The belief that there is no meaning or purpose in existence.

What is a nihilistic view of knowledge? ›

8 Epistemological nihilism, therefore, can be defined as a form of philosophy that states firstly that knowledge doesn't exist. And secondly, if it did, it is unobtainable to human beings, so its existence is redundant. Therefore, it is associated with extreme skepticism.

What is the difference between nihilism and absurdism? ›

Nihilists, specifically passive nihilists, believe that there's no intrinsic meaning in life and “it is futile to seek or to affirm meaning where none can be found”. That's where the philosophy essentially ends. Absurdists, on the other hand, hesitantly allow the possibility for some meaning or value in life.

Is there a positive nihilism? ›

The optimistic nihilist looks at a world lacking meaning and purpose and sees the opportunity to create their own. Optimistic nihilism can be an incredibly empowering belief. In embracing it, you have the power to change your experience from a negative one to a positive one.

Who was the father of nihilism? ›

It was Ivan Turgenev, in his celebrated novel Fathers and Sons (1862), who popularized the term through the figure of Bazarov the nihilist.

Who is the creator of nihilism? ›

Nihilism has existed in one form or another for hundreds of years, but is usually associated with Friedrich Nietzsche, the 19th century German philosopher (and pessimist of choice for high school kids with undercuts) who proposed that existence is meaningless, moral codes worthless, and God is dead.

What is an example of nihilism in the world today? ›

Nihilism as Liberation

Some people see a lack of objective meaning as freedom. An example: transgender and non-binary folks may look at the construct of gender and, with a healthy dose of nihilism, determine that there is no inherent meaning to the concept. Thus, they are free to define themselves how they please.

What is nihilism simple words? ›

Nihilism is a way of thinking which rejects meaning, concepts, or life. It can be a philosophical position or a condition. Nihility means "nothingness", and "nihil" is the Latin word for "nothing". Nihilism can mean the belief that values are meaningless ideas.

Do nihilists have morals? ›

Nihilism comes from the Latin word "nihil" -- which means, nothing. Nihilists assert that there are no moral values, principles, truths.

Do nihilists believe in free will? ›

Not at all. It makes no sense. Free will implies we are more special than we are. We are not special at all in a mystic sense.

Do nihilists believe in love? ›

In the late 1800s, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had a lot to say about love. Arguing that society was heading toward nihilism – that is, a world without meaning, morals and values – Nietzsche thought that romantic love was frivolous, with friendship acting as a much stronger foundation for relationships.

What is cosmic nihilism? ›

It's the view that human life is meaningless because we are 'insignificant' in relation to the universe (it's size, age). It assumes life is meaningless because we are not a product of intelligent design.

Is stoicism similar to nihilism? ›

Key Differences. The obvious key difference between the two philosophies is that stoicism promotes the values in life, going so far as to believe they give meaning and happiness to exist in life while nihilism entirely rejects them, deeming them devoid of any meaning at all.

Was Nietzsche a nihilist or existentialist? ›

Arthur Schopenhauer, Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche further expanded on these ideas, and Nietzsche, particularly, has become a major figure in existential nihilism. The atheistic existentialist movement spread in 1940s France.

Is existentialism a type of nihilism? ›

Existentialism differs from nihilism because individuals can create meaning in their lives, which is impossible under nihilism. Both meaning and morality can be constructed in existentialism, primarily in conjunction with the acceptance of existential anxiety and the use of free will.

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