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Time magazine cover, April 8, 1966


Nihilism as a philosophical position argues that the world, and especially human existence, is without objective meaning, purpose, comprehensible truth, or essential value. Nihilists generally believe all of the following: God doesn't exist, traditional morality is false, and secular ethics are impossible; therefore, life has no meaning, and no action is preferable to any other.

Nihilism is often more of a charge leveled against a particular idea than a position to which someone overtly subscribes. Movements such as Dadaism, Deconstructionism, and punk have been described by various observers as "nihilist". Usually this simply means or is meant to imply that the beliefs of the accuser are more "substantial" or "truthful", whereas the beliefs of the accused are nihilistic, and thereby comparatively amount to "nothing".

Nihilism is also a characteristic that has been ascribed to time periods: for example, Baudrillard has called postmodernity a nihilistic epoch, and some Christian theologians and figures of authority assert that modernity and postmodernity represent the rejection of God, and therefore are nihilist.

Prominent philosophers who have written on the subject of nihilism include Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger. Nietzsche described Christianity as a nihilistic religion because it evaded the challenge of finding meaning in earthly life, creating instead a spiritual projection where mortality and suffering were removed instead of transcended. He believed nihilism resulted from the "death of God", and insisted that it was something to be overcome, by returning meaning to a monistic reality (he sought instead a "pragmatic idealism," in contrast to the prominent influence of Schopenhauer's "cosmic idealism"). Heidegger described nihilism as the state where "there is nothing left of Being as such," and argued that nihilism rested on the reduction of Being to mere value. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nihilism [Mar 2006]

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