What is the link with nihilism and hypocrisy? I know that Nietzsche mentions hypocrisy. I think to the effect that the old values helped it flourish, that it is now debased, with at least the suggestion that his overman would develop the idea.

Also, there seems hypocrisy involved in much nihilism. If you really believed the world did not exist, or there were no real values, then surely that would have wild and far-reaching changes to your behaviour (or even presence of any behaviour).

I'm especially interested about the link between value (both of the act and the the actor) and hypocrisy, in what sense it is a valuable behaviour or style.

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    Usually when Nietzsche says 'nihilism' he is not referring to the philosophical position that asserts that the world is meaningless; rather, he typically means something more like a cultural malaise that has come from deficient modes of valuation. So I'm not sure the Nietzsche connection is relevant. Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 6:01
  • dunno what you mean by "the world is meaningless" @transitionsynthesis there is a link there anyway
    – user38026
    Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 9:38
  • how is this opinion based?
    – user38026
    Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 15:04
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    Nihilism as a philosophical position says there is no meaning... That is not what NIetzsche means by nihilism. That's all I was saying. There may be a link between Nietzsche's discussions of nihilism and hypocrisy, but, again, it's not what you are asking about in the rest of your question. Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 16:48
  • @transitionsynthesis no i'm asking about nietzsche and hypocricy, i just opened the term up to consider other 'nihilisms'
    – user38026
    Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 16:58

5 Answers 5


Also, there seems hypocrisy involved in much nihilism. If you really believed the world did not exist, or there were no real values, then surely that would have wild and far-reaching changes to your behaviour (or even presence of any behaviour).

You raise a number of questions, not just one. I'll tackle this part of your post.

'Nihilism' has no single, clear meaning but if you take it to involve a belief that the world does not exist, or that there are no real values, I can't see that either belief has any necessary implications for behaviour. My experience is exactly the same whether I believe the world to exist or not to exist. If the desk on which I write is real or non-existent, my experience of feeling resistance is just the same.

And if there are no real values - values existing objectively, wholly or partly independently of my own mind - there are no implications for behaviour. If there are no values, then nothing matters and 'wild and far-reaching changes' to my behaviour would be as pointless as anything else.


Be careful with the world 'nihilism', which has at different usages in different contexts:

  1. Colloquially (as in the dictionary), nihilism means an express rejection of religious and moral principles, stemming from a belief that life is intrinsically meaningless.

  2. Philosophically, nihilism is a form of extreme skepticism which maintains that nothing in the world has existence, and that (thus) no meaning or value can be assigned to any object or action.

  3. In Nietzsche's works, nihilism points at a condition in which traditional religious and moral positions are rendered substance-less, so that they are at best vapid parroting and at worst forms of social oppression.

You'll notice that usage #1 is the polar opposite of usage #3: that people who are called nihilistic reject what Nietzsche refers to as nihilism. It can be quite confusing.

In Nietzsche's sense, nihilism always has an implicit hypocrisy, the kind of hypocrisy we all know and love in religious and secular moral philosophy: religious fanatics who shout about God's divine love in the same breath that they call for the destruction of sinners and apostates; conservatives who get so worked up about law and order that they actively try to destroy liberty... But Nietzsche never rejected moral reasoning out of hand; he called for a higher level of moral reasoning that transcended the empty dictates of the social and religious worlds.

  • i'm not sure i'm confused, but thanks :)
    – user38026
    Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 15:04
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    You may not be, but a lot of people are... 😀 Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 15:07

Nihilism debases hypocrisy because our hypocrisy makes us, the herd, stronger. What difference is there with the noble?

The hypocrite who always plays one and the same role finally ceases to be a hypocrite; for example priests, who as young men are usually conscious or unconscious hypocrites, finally become natural and then really are priests without any affectation.

Perhaps that they cannot be convinced by the unreality of it.


OK in no way am I qualified to reply; we are all at war with nihilism in some way.

I think the difference between the priestly hypocrite and Nietzsche is that the former tricks himself until he is no longer merely playing a role, while Nietzsche allows himself to be deceived by others, without thereby distorting his values (in the awfulness of what is hidden, e.g.).

When your own will to truth - not the truth itself but how to uncover it, would

lead to nausea and suicide. But now there is a counterforce against our honesty that helps us to avoid such consequences: art as the good will to appearance

So instead of hypocrisy that ends in self deception, there is a kind of hypocrisy, of allowing lies but not what is lied about. It seems prudent, anyway.


I think it's pretty simple: the herd animal is a hypocrite becasue they claim to have values that individuate them, but they are the same as everyone else.

The great and dreadful storm that will smash all the structures of the conventional lies, that will unhinge the walls of all hypocrisy, that will reduce the old world to a heap of ruins and smoking rubble!

(an anarchist aphorism)

SO I think that the ubermensch, anti-christ, is not hiding true beliefs due to fear of reprisal, in hypocricy, but is able to exist despite, perhaps even against, all the hypcoricies of the herd.

Higher hypocricy

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