Nihilism lacks any belief in moral values. Then, if taken to its extreme form, does nihilism prescribe to a belief in no purpose for existence at all?

If nihilism has no objective value system, does it mean that existence itself has no value for a nihilist? If we continue this reasoning, then, will such nihilist deny the value of his/hers life itself? Then, again if we continue on the same road, would this person be forced by his/hers value system itself (or to be more precise-the lack of it) to adopt a worldview where s/he can't defend his/hers own right of existence? Finally, will this mean s/he will be forced to admit there is no point in continuation of his/hers own life?

I'm asking this question to understand better the relationship between 2 concepts I have to admit I'm not very familiar with-that of nihilism and that of the reasons behind suicidal behavior. If someone adopts a fully nihilistic worldview and absolutely prescribes to the claims of nihilism would this makes the person decide to end his/hers life? What is the relationship between the 2-e.g. does the one immediately leads to the other, are they partially interlinked or are completely unrelated when viewed in the context of philosophy? Does the acceptance of nihilism leads to a suicidal behavior on an individual, cultural, social, national and even on Humanity as a whole scale? And is suicidal behavior explained by the adoption of extreme nihilistic views on either philosophy as a whole or only to a particulate part of it present in the life of the suicidal subject?

P.S. I think I can elaborate much more on the issue but for the sake of space this is enough to outline the issue. I think we can say many things about the relationship between extreme nihilism and suicidal behavior but what I'm really interested in is the question are there any serious investigations by philosophers on the issue and to what division of philosophy they belong to, what are their results and do they think nihilism can be a serious problem both for the individual and the society as a whole? I know about Nietzsche being always accused of nihilism and the connotation the decay of traditional moral values has with a predicted "death" of society by many people on the extreme right spectrum of political space, but my point is had some professional philosopher done any investigation on the relationship between the adoption of extreme nihilistic ideas and suicidal tendencies on both individual and social scale? If you could provide references behind your claims made in the answer section I will appreciate it! Otherwise, I fear we might get into yet another empty talk philosophy Q&A entry.

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    I think you might need to be more careful with how you use the term because in most philosophical contexts people are nihilists about a specific thing, possibly more than one. This is explicit in the wikipedia article you linked "the lack of belief in one or more reputedly meaningful aspects of life." For example, there's moral nihilism which is I'm pretty sure what you're talking about. Notice the box on the side of that page that lists other forms of nihilism.
    – Not_Here
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 3:52
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    Someone can be a moral nihilist (denying ethical truths) without being an epistemological nihilist (denying that knowledge exists). You would still describe them as a nihilist, but you couldn’t say “they are nihilist about life” or something similarly vague. So saying “Nihilism lacks any belief in moral values,” is either vague or untrue. If what you mean by “extreme nihilism” is someone who is a nihilist about all things, then you should specify that, because right now you’re being loose with terminology which is pertinent to what you’re asking. Nihilism is not only about ethics or meaning.
    – Not_Here
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 3:52
  • What isn't clear about my question @Not_Here. I make it clear I'm talking about extreme nihilism. It means the denial of value in any virtue. How is that not clear? Such a person doesn't believe in any moral values, has no prejudices against any actions and can accept any behavior no matter how inhumane or cruel it might be. My question is if a person adopts such a view of the world will s/he end up committing suicide or not? Will the lack of any moral compass and values to cling to result in a person judging that life itself has no purpose worth living for? Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 16:24
  • You seem to have not read anything that I said. "Extreme nihilism" does not mean "the denial of value in any virtue". That is the regular, basic definition of "moral nihilism". "Extreme nihilism" would mean something like a complete nihilist about everything, not just morality and ethics. Again, the wikipedia article you linked to says that. Do you understand what an epistemological or a metaphysical nihilist is?
    – Not_Here
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 16:33
  • Under your view, an "extreme" nihilist denies ethical truths; what to you then is a "basic" nihilist? Do they just deny some ethical truths? That is not at all what a nihilist is. Per your own question you said you "have to admit I'm not very familiar with-that of nihilism", and I am trying to help you understand the terminology. You're talking about just ethical or moral nihilism in your question. "Extreme" nihilist would mean a nihilist about everything which includes not believing in knowledge, existence, logic, and everything else. Again, my point was to clarify terminology.
    – Not_Here
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 16:40

6 Answers 6


Well, i didn't commit suicide. But i tried, from my point of view, Nihilism is just a delusion, an attempt to make you feel like a strong person. Because of this point, life is much more painful than death. That if you believe that you don't experience death at all. Now some people toss the "safe belt" to survival instinct, but there's a problem... Survival instinct, just make you feel fear, it doesn't control you. :D Nihilism for me, is pretension. You would be dead, if you found it all meaningless. Now, how i am alive then? I am not a nihilist anymore. But it sure was a great dive, desperation, fear... Now, some will say that i have depression, i think this a cheap shot. Mental illness, isn't just some imbalance of chemicals in your brain, it's the consequence of your own thoughts and actions. Of course, that's just my opinion.


It is not an extreme form of nihilism to believe that there is no purpose for existence, that is just what nihilism is. Yes, it may be hard to believe, but nihilists really believe that there is absolutely no purpose or meaning to life.

It does not logically follow from this belief that suicide is the only thing for a nihilist to do. In the same way that there is no reason to live, there is also no reason to die.

There is little difference between nihilists and the ancient skeptics, who claimed to find solace in not believing anything. One could find in nihilism an absolute freedom that is lacking, by definition, from every other philosophy. From the nihilist viewpoint, everyone else is either deluded or content to live in a world that is a lie, and at the very least they have the courage to see life as it really is.

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    I always found nihilism self-defeating. Buddha had a very good riposte to nihilism; he concluded that it is itself a (self) view of the lack of meaning or purpose of existence, which is itself a meaningful belief; thus paradoxical. Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 22:41
  • @bodhihammer: Just because nihilism that any existence itself is meaningful does not mean there is no any other meaning. For example, nihilism would not deny that the word "dog" has a meaning to an individual person, because that person gives that word (a symbol) a meaning (the reference to the thing that the symbols point to). In this sense "meaning exists", but not in the sense that the existence of the dog has a meaning. It just exists and that is it.
    – Make42
    Commented Nov 26, 2022 at 16:14
  • So, nihilism as a belief exists and it means something in the sense that it is saying something, but believing in it or not, is inconsequential, thus meaningless. Also, there is not meaning in the fact itself that the theory of nihilism exists. So, no Buddha - as you lay it out - is conflating to different meanings regarding the belief nihilism. There is not contradiction - at least not here. (And even with all that being said, I am not convinced in nihilism. This is just about getting an argument right.)
    – Make42
    Commented Nov 26, 2022 at 16:17
  • "From the nihilist viewpoint, everyone else is either deluded or content to live in a world that is a lie, and at the very least they have the courage to see life as it really is." yes, this is also one of the main points of cynicism. However, this feeling of righteousness ("courage") is pointless. Literally, because nihilism says its pointless/meaningless. It is not admirable to be right (according to nihilism) and thinking it is "nice" to be right is also nonsensical. Being right might be something one might want to be, but ultimately there is not point in it.
    – Make42
    Commented Nov 26, 2022 at 16:22
  • This is not to say that this is self-defeating, as this is not an ontological argument! Nihilism might say this, while still being completely true. There is just no meaning in it. Should then someone not look for the truth if one is a nihilist? Also no, because one might be wrong; not for any aforementioned reason, but other reasons. And if one is wrong, then it might make a difference whether one believes in nihilism. So, one if you discover that nihilism MUST be true, you know you could have saved yourself the search. But without the search you don't know.
    – Make42
    Commented Nov 26, 2022 at 16:25

"Only optimists commit suicide, optimists who no longer succeed at being optimists, the rest with no reason to live, why would they have any to die?" (Emil Cioran)

Nihilism doesn't always deprive the individual of virtues. Many personal truths survive the existential acknowledgement of nihilists, while your perception of life changes, all the aspects that you have experienced in it are personal and relative. It is the individual's perception that determines whether they sustain beyond this. I like this quote by Cioran as I believe it clears up the misconception that suicide is directly caused by lack of virtue, suicide occurs when the individual believes death is a better position than life. It may be fueled by the deprivation of understood truth, but in the end it's whether you believe you would be able to continue life happily.

A few books for research...

-"The Problem With Being Born",Emil Cioran

-"The Myth of Sisyphus", Albert Camus

-"The Will to Power", Friedrich Nieztche

While nihilism played a major role Nietzsche’s existential philosophies I don’t believe he accepted the idea that a transcendental ego exists, and with this acknowledgement comes a certain tether to life that understands our incapability and thus embraces the “irrational” side of human action and endeavor.

Camus absurdism is an existential belief that interrogating the world will never create a response, whether concerning the nature of being or order, it is absurd to question existence, as, to our inherent ability, we won’t find an answer. This extended along with the quote by Cioran, Camus argues that if life lacks personal virtues, what makes it less meaningful than death?

As before, suicide is believing that death is better than life and how we observe the nature of death to be uneventful, this suggests despair in the individual’s life beyond their existential view. But such ideas may be overwhelming, it’s not easy to accept an un-conformed chaos into your life, yet in the end the individual’s life focuses around their most prominent ideas, religion, which in this case would be destroyed, is a path to further one’s position, like heaven, while furthering the individual’s spiritual content due to their adherence to theology. Our life is to satisfy ourselves, the idea alone doesn’t make life not worth living, we live as long as we have find that equal, or greater than death. In most cases joy is enough to sustain the individual, for some death is out of immediate reach and thus more troublesome to die, than to live.

  • I have read "The Myth of Sisyphus" and "The Will to Power" but couldn't find clear answers to the question in either of them. I wish to know does the denial of any values dooms the soul to wishing its death and the answer I found in Nietzsche is yes, while Camus seems to me to be in a position of-I don't know. There isn't anyone who states the problem clearly in my mind. I'm reading on Cioran now but I don't find a response either. My question is what happens when we deny any value in anything be it life, truth, virtue, happiness, etc., not to what if we give value to the mere continuation Commented Oct 7, 2017 at 6:56
  • of life. What if we deny the value of even that? What happens if we say even the mere process of continuing living has no value in it on its own? Will then, any continuation of life make any sense at all and should a person continues on living? What's the stance of philosophy on that? Commented Oct 7, 2017 at 6:59
  • good answer, with a strong lead paragraph. thanks, i upvoted
    – user28660
    Commented Oct 7, 2017 at 11:53
  • "What's the stance of philosophy on that?" I'm not sure that "philosophy" has a stance on issues. Philosophers have varying opinions and responses to things, some that have a widespread level of agreement, but that does not make it The "stance of philosophy." Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 21:26
  • "value" -- value to whom? That aspect of the discussion of value often seems missing. I think there can be values that vary from person to person. There may not be value in the objective sense outside of the realm of valuers, but it doesn't follow that because of that there is nothing of value. What would it mean for something to have a value "on its own," independent of valuers? Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 21:39

I’m gonna talk about my own experience. I think nihilism can lead to suicide. But I think we can make a better link between nihilism and depression. Not having any reasons to live for or anything you believe in can make you sad. In can probably lead you to depression. As long as you keep doing something and keep yourself entertained, nothing can go wrong. You just need to not think about it by any means. The moment it all get fucked is when you are alone and not doing anything. I thought about "Would it be better if I just committed suicide?". And I came up with the answer that no. I don’t have any reasons to live but I don’t have any reasons to die neither. There’s even someone else who said the exact same thing in another comment. I think nihilism can lead to suicide but not by itself. Your life has to go wrong in a lot of sphere so you end up like someone else’s said thinking that death is a better choice than life. To conclude, I don’t wish anyone to be nihilist. You are happier when you are not

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    "I don’t have any reasons to live but I don’t have any reasons to die neither" is probably one of the most important insights a person can have. I'd like to tag on that being dead would restrict one from ever finding any reason... So, choose choice. - And welcome to Philosophy SE!
    – christo183
    Commented Jun 24, 2019 at 6:04

Nihilism is not a behavior, it is the perspective of nothing. Relative to all other perspectives Nihilism is automatically "extreme" as it does not affirm anything unless you consider the affirmation of nothing, something. A person can act in an extreme way and be contextually nihilistic. For example, a man spends his whole life ignoring politics because his experience has allowed him to determine it is meaningless. Some might call him a political nihilist. This is contextual. The most extreme "form" of Nihilism I am aware of is that "I am not real, you are not real, nothing is real" or "There is no me, there is no you, there is only nothing." This from my appreciation of Nihilism is meta-Nihilsim. Most people do not suffer enough to consider there is nothing real going on in this simulated light show called reality. The need to believe the ego is connected to something real causes insanity if it is challenged too much or the mind is serene enough to get out of the way of Awareness. Nothing contains Awareness. Or, Awareness is contained by Nothing.

  • You don't distinguish clearly between say moral nihilism & existential nihilism. Nihilism is compatible with various individual meanings, just not with absolute or objective sources or determinants of meaning. Egolessness = insanity? Many systems of thought train for & advocate egolessness, without the latter. Also no references.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 19:19

We are made for order and purpose a life of disorder will destroy us a life without a purpose will too. We want to be loved and we all like beauty. There is not reason in trying to go insane in denying ourselves.

  • As requested in the post, please provide references.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 19:14
  • High. We try to provide some measure of detail and references. Please be aware that questions and answers are subject to editing and closure, and that reflects the site's policies on acceptable questions and NOT a personal attack. What to avoid in questions. Questions, including those that are closed, can be edited to bring them within guidelines. Keeping questions on-topic. Additional clarification at the meta site.
    – J D
    Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 2:45

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