What is the most powerful (according to most philosophers) argument against moral nihilism in Western philosophy?

SEP and googling are of no help.

  • See philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl, Exactly 56.4% of philosophers questioned associated with Moral Realism (the opposite of Moral Nihilism). There are arguments for and against Moral Realism (or Moral Nihilism which ever way you look at it), but the persuasiveness of each is ultimately a personal belief. there is not a position which "most philosophers" adhere to by any meaningful definition of "most".
    – Isaacson
    Nov 2, 2016 at 12:29
  • Moral realism has many contrasts, only one of which is moral nihilism philosophybasics.com/branch_moral_anti-realism.html real moral nihilism is, in fact, relatively rare, given the almost universal existence of moral codes in societies.
    – user9166
    Nov 2, 2016 at 13:32
  • In such a state, you are left only with pastimes, passing the time until you die, like the characters in Samuel Beckett's plays. Philosopher Stanley Rosen wrote a book on nihilism. He is well known, now deceased, I can't remember what his arguments against were right now.
    – Gordon
    Jul 26, 2017 at 20:38

1 Answer 1


Moral nihilism only works in an abstract sense. If someone practiced it absolutely in their life and fully "believed" unto the idea, they should not have a problem with being killed, as their life is "meaningless".

The main argument is that it is not a practical philosophy and that there are no "genuine" nihilists out there.

  • According to the SEP this is not that self-evident. Mackie is named as an example of moral nihilism. While he thinks that all moral statements are wrong, iirc he also tries to somehow argue for normative ethics still being useful in one way or another. As for your second sentence, you're sort of conflating moral nihilism with existential nihilism. One could be a moral nihilist and value his own life.
    – Marc H.
    Jul 27, 2017 at 21:51
  • That's an existential moral nihilist that believes life is meaningless. A moral nihilist still has a purpose in life, but does not believe there is right or wrong. Mar 27, 2018 at 21:32

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