Let’s talk about an idea from Professor Michael Hauskeller. He says that nothing in the world has an objective value (See note 2*) . If we think about this as everything having a neutral objective value, it means we live in a fair world. No one has to deal with bad things like pain. It also gives us the freedom (that is not worthless) to create our own meaning of life. This idea helps us see the world differently.

But if we take his words literally, meaning that things really have no value, then it means nothing to us. This is the main point of our discussion. We will explore what it means for the world to have no objective value, and whether this lack of value is the same as having a neutral or zero value. Let’s dive into this interesting topic.

In philosophical forums (Nihilism doesn't imply that humans have zero value: it implies humans are, literally, invaluable. : r/nihilism (reddit.com)) and scientific works (

“It’s not that these possibilities [of evaluative nihilism] have zero value—they are, we might say, beyond good and evil.”, p.20, If Nothing Matters, Guy Kahane, Oxford University)

evaluative nihilism is often interpreted as the belief that everything has no value at all, rather than zero value. I am not challenging this understanding. However, I wonder if it's true that if everything in the world has no objective value, it will have the meaning of having an objective value of zero.

The poet Thomas Hardy and the philosophers Parfit, Nietzsche, and Hägerström share the view that the truth of nihilism can make things better. (See note 3)

The proposition that everything has no objective value serves the role of the proposition that “everything has an objective value of zero.”

In a system where all variables are devoid of objective value (null or undefined), adding null to null results in null (we cannot get any value because this mathematical operation is not defined; in other words, we get no value). In simple terms, ‘null’ is like nothing or empty. So, if you add nothing to nothing, you still have nothing. And in a system where all the variables have the value of zero, adding, subtracting, multiplying, and even dividing (see note 4) zero by zero results in zero. Don’t you spot this similarity? If we could only operate with zeros, wouldn’t it be indifferent to operating with no value? Wouldn’t “no value” be just another word to describe the concept of zero?

All mathematical operations are reduced to these four basic ones. No mathematical operation using number 0 as input and having something other than 0 on the output can be proven using four basic mathematical operations and number 0 alone. For example, the statement 0! = 1 is a definition, not something that can be proven using basic arithmetic operations. It is widely accepted because it is consistent with many mathematical formulas and makes them work smoothly. But you cannot spot this while operating with values in a world with only zero objective values. This is because you cannot spot any difference while doing basic arithmetic operations in the absence of values and 0, to which all the mathematical operations are reduced.

Prof. Michael Hauskeller says that

“nihilism itself is supposed to be not only not harmful; it does not make the slightest difference for how we experience the world. If things did matter objectively and suddenly stopped mattering objectively, or did not matter and then suddenly started to matter, in neither case would we be able to tell the difference. The world as we know it would remain unchanged. (This alone should be sufficient to reject the notion of objective value: following William James’s excellent pragmatist principle that there can be no difference anywhere that doesn’t make a difference elsewhere (note 2), the claim that certain things matter objectively is simply meaningless.)” (Italics original)

I propose that saying that everything in the whole of reality has no objective value means saying that it has a neutral one. Now consider the function f(x) = (x2-1)/(x-1). If you try to plug in x=1, you get an undefined expression because you’re dividing by zero. But if you simplify the function, you get f(x)=x+1, which is defined for x=1. So, in this case, we say that the limit of f(x) as x approaches 1 is 2, even though f(1) is technically undefined in the original function. The logical point I’m trying to make is that if something is originally undefined but can be shown to be equal to a certain number, then it is still defined. That’s why if everything in the world has no objective value, it may have the meaning of having an objective value of zero.

In everyday terms, ‘zero’ is like having an empty bag, while ‘the missing value’ is like not having a bag at all. An empty bag has zero apples, whereas a missing bag doesn’t have a defined number of apples because it doesn’t exist.

When we talk about bags without pockets, both the empty bag and the non-existent bag have zero pockets. This is because pockets can only exist inside a bag. If there are no bags, there can’t be any pockets.

This is similar to saying ‘there are no objective values anywhere’. If we don’t have any pockets (objective values), then there are zero pockets (objective values) in our bag (reality).

To wrap up, we’ve looked at an important idea: even if nothing has an objective value, it may still mean that everything has a value of zero. This thought can help us see the world in a new way, where everything is fair and we have the freedom to make our own meaning in life that is not worthless. It’s a powerful idea that can change how we see our place in the world.

What are your thoughts on this? I look forward to hearing your perspectives.

Notes: (1) In his paper, “If Nothing Matters” (2016), Guy Kahane discusses evaluative nihilism, which is plainly described by him as:

“Nothing is good or bad. All evaluative propositions are false.”

(2*) “Objective value” is a fancy term for how important something really is, not just how important we think it is. Michael Hauskeller says about objective value:

“This is, then, what people mean when they say that nothing matters: that nothing matters objectively. Things may still matter subjectively (i.e., we find something worth doing), but if they don’t matter objectively (i.e., it really is worth doing), then they don’t really matter at all. That nothing matters objectively, Kahane takes to mean that the universe is “devoid of value." The view that nothing matters can therefore be understood as a form of evaluative nihilism.“ (Italics original)

(2) William James, Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking, New York, Bombay, and Calcutta: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1907, p. 50. (Original note)

(3) In one version of “If Nothing Matters,” Kahane mentions that there is such a point of view.

“Similar remarks apply, by the way, to the view that the truth of nihilism would make things better. I quoted Hardy’s Tess saying that ‘if all were only vanity, who would mind it?’. But Tess immediately adds that ‘[a]ll was, alas, worse than vanity—injustice, punishment, exaction, death.’ Derek Parfit tells me that, if the amount of evil in the world outweighed any actual or forthcoming good, as Hardy and Schopenhauer held, then he would prefer it to be the case that nothing matters.” (Italics original).

One of the research projects at Stockholm University says,

“From this point of view, nihilism may appear liberating. There are precedents for this kind of optimistic attitude toward nihilism (Nietzsche 1887; Hägerström 1911).”

Indeed, there Dr. Olson and Dr. Olsson-Yaouzis discuss nihilism as something that can actually be good or bad.

(4) If real numbers could describe the objective values, x=0/0 would be able to take on every real number value because it would follow that 0*x=0. So, 0/0 would be indeterminate. But as was said, in a world with only neutral objective values, all numbers and variables that describe objective values can only take on the value of 0. In such a system, it is true that x=0.

  • 1
    This is a site for questions, not blog posts.
    – Conifold
    Commented Apr 1 at 9:47
  • How much money is in your bank account? 1. "I'm not going to say." 2. "Zero" - See the difference? The point of Nihilism (if it has one) is to stop thinking about useless things and get on with life. Thinking about Nihilism is like trying to eat the restaurant instead of the food.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Apr 1 at 10:23
  • 1
    If "no value", then there is nothing to be quantified. Commented Apr 1 at 12:23

1 Answer 1


What are your thoughts on this? I look forward to hearing your perspectives.

I guess I would take "evaluative nihilism" to mean "anti-realism with regards to ethics and aesthetics", in the sense that propositions of ethics and aesthetics do not posses truth values: they are neither true nor false (nor anything else, in case one uses a non-classical logic). One could take it a bit further and add they do not posses metaphysical values - in that they are not 'possible', 'impossible', or 'necessary' - nor some epistemic values: while of course they can be 'beliefs'/'believed', they cannot be 'known', 'plausible', 'implausible', etc.

This seems to adequately correspond to the idea that propositions of this sort do not have any 'objective character/aspect' whatsoever, much less an 'objective value' subject to algebraic/arithmetic manipulation: to suppose there is some (single!) value inside some algebraic/numerical scale in which (all!) these propositions were to be mapped to seems to directly contradict them 'having no objective value'

  • Right, Null seems to be necessary even though no one likes it.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Apr 1 at 13:45

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