Nihilism (from the Latin nihil – nothing) – in a broad sense – the mentality associated with the establishment of a denial of universally accepted values, ideals, moral norms, culture. The term “nihilism” is found in European religious literature already in the Middle Ages. In the 12th century, one of the church heresies, speaking from the standpoint of denying the dogma of the God-human nature of Christ, was called the heresy of “nihilism.” In the 18th century, the concept of “nihilism” as an analog of the denial of generally accepted norms and values was fixed in European languages (in particular, this interpretation of the term “nihilism” is recorded in the Dictionary of New Words of the French Language, published in 1801).
In Western philosophy, the term “nihilism” appeared in the second half of the 19th century and was widely disseminated thanks to the conceptual constructions of A. Schopenhauer, F. Nietzsche, O. Spengler and several other thinkers and philosophers. Schopenhauer created a nihilistically colored doctrine of “Buddhist” indifference to the world. Spengler views nihilism as a distinctive feature of the modern era, characterized by the decline of European culture, experiencing a period of its decline, transforming it into a standardized, impersonal civilization. In Nietzsche’s philosophy, the notion of nihilism grows into a comprehensive concept that sums up all European historical and cultural development, beginning with Socrates, who advanced the notion of the values of reason, which, according to the philosopher, was the first cause of nihilism, which then developed on the basis of “moral and Christian interpretation peace “. “The most dangerous attempt on life” Nietzsche considers all the basic principles of reason, formulated in the European philosophical tradition – unity, purpose, truth, etc. Under the “slander of life” he brings both Christianity and his entire history leading to his self-denial through development a kind of cult of intellectual honesty. A stable nihilistic situation in the culture of Europe is formed because the “true world” of traditional religions, philosophy and morality loses its vitality, but life itself and the earthly world do not find their values, their true justification. Nihilism, responding to this global situation, is not, according to Nietzsche, an empirical phenomenon of culture and civilization, even if very stable.
Nihilism is the deep logic of the whole history of Europe, a kind of fateful “anti-life” that has become a paradoxical way in the life of its culture, starting with its rational Hellenic and Judeo-Christian roots. The incredible loss of the dignity and creative power of the individual in the modern mechanized era only radicalizes the operation of this logic and makes it necessary to raise the cardinal question of overcoming nihilism. Nietzsche emphasizes that “the death of the Christian God” nihilism is not limited, for all attempts to replace Him with conscience, rationality, the cult of the public good and the happiness of the majority or the interpretation of history as an absolute end in itself, etc. only strengthen the alarming symptomatology of nihilism, “this eeriest of all guests.” Trying to escape from the “collapse” of higher values, restoring their secularized imitations, Nietzsche decisively exposes, pointing to the “physiological” and vital-anthropological roots of nihilism. In connection with this, modern socialism, according to Nietzsche, is only the apogee of this milling and falling type of man, leading the nihilistic tendency to its extreme forms.
In Nietzsche’s notion of nihilism, one can distinguish between the features of his formal similarity to Marx’s idea of communism (even the metaphors of the “ghost” wandering around Europe), as well as the meaningful roll-call of Heidegger’s “oblivion of being”, which gave his interpretation of Nietzsche’s concept of nihilism . Both the “forgetfulness of being” (Heidegger) and the decadence of the life force (Nietzsche) begin in the same way with Socrates and develop in parallel in Platonism and the tradition of metaphysics in general. In both cases, the common marker for overcoming this “fate of Europe” is the prophetically preached return to mystic-Dionysian and pre-Socratic Greece. Heidegger’s originality in the treatment of nihilism, this frightening “destiny of Western nations,” is that he views it in the light of the problem of nothingness as “the veil of the truth of the being of what exists.” According to Heidegger, the inadequacy of Nietzsche’s interpretation of nihilism is that he is “unable to think of the essence of Nothingness” (European nihilism). Therefore, rationalism and secularization, together with unbelief, are not the cause of nihilism, Heidegger believes, and his consequences. Nietzsche can not understand nihilism, regardless of the metaphysics that he is criticized, because he proceeds in his analysis from the idea of value, thinking “the essence of being … in its failure.” As a result, he remains within nihilism and metaphysics, being, however, “the last metaphysician”. Unlike Nietzsche, Heidegger connects nihilism with the New Time project with his idea of an autonomous self-governing subject leading to the Cartesian mechanism necessary for asserting the domination of a nihilistic person over the Earth.
According to Camus, the history of modern nihilism begins with the words of Ivan Karamazov “everything is allowed”, since there is no God. The concept of nihilism is analyzed by him in connection with the theme of “metaphysical revolt” (la revolte), with milestones in her history being romanticists, Stirner, Nietzsche, Dostoevsky. “Nihilism,” Camus emphasizes, “is not only despair and denial, but above all the will to them” (L’homme revolte. – “Essais”).
A new stage in the interpretation of the concept of “nihilism” in the social and political thought of the West was opened in the 1960s and is associated with the names of G. Marcuse, T. Adorno and other followers of the Frankfurt school. In Western philosophy, in the outlook of the “new left” and artistic avant-garde of the 1960s and 1970s, the concept of nihilism turned out to be closely related to the idea of the potential independence of the natural “I” from the overwhelming culture, with the anarchist protest of left radical and avant-garde circles against “repressive culture “And” one-dimensionality “of the person. Nowadays the concept of nihilism is widely used by critics of modern civilization as a whole or its separate parties, for example, the Austrian philosopher and publicist V.Kraus distinguishing between socio-political, psycho-neurotic and philosophical nihilism, all of which mutually support each other, strengthening their negative consequences and thereby creating something like a vicious circle of nihilism. Different forms of nihilism, according to Kraus, are associated with the decline of feelings of guilt and personal responsibility in the age of domination of the scientific and technical picture of the world, and also with the fact that in the structure of the inner world of modern man the influence of the super- “I” as a counterweight to the unrestrained lust of the individual . Modern nihilism, according to Kraus, is traditional nihilism, described in philosophy and literature of the 19th century, plus its neurotic manifestations, which are largely characteristic for today. A new idolatry, for example, the market, also leads to the strengthening of various nihilistic tendencies, which threaten freedom, dignity and human survival.