Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Joshua Foa Dienstag
Nihilism has always been a term of abuse. Almost no one in the history of philosophy claims the title of nihilist for his- or herself; rather, from the first use of the term in philosophical disputes of the eighteenth century, nihilism has been a charge by one school of thinkers against another. Although many groups have been accused of nihilism, the accusation generally is taken to mean that a thinker, or thinkers, denies the existence of any natural values and, hence, denies the possibility of any moral scheme whatsoever. Alternatively, it can mean that philosophy renders life meaningless in some fashion or deprives human action of any intelligible purpose. Here we shall be concerned to understand the two most common uses of nihilism: 1. As an accusation against rationalists and materialists, typified at first by Baruch Spinoza, but later by science in general and especially Darwin 2. As an The ...