Nihilism and the Meaning of Life

Julian Young

in The Oxford Handbook of Continental Philosophy

Published in print November 2007 | ISBN: 9780199234097
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:


 Nihilism and the Meaning of Life

Show Summary Details


In this article, Nietzsche's point is that the medieval world-view, taken over from Plato and modified by Christian theology, was not merely astronomy and physics. It was, rather, a completely integrated account of astronomy, physics, metaphysics, and the meaning of life. As with Nietzsche, a decisive role in George Eliot's loss of faith was played by David Strauss's deconstruction of the authority of the Bible in his Life of Jesus (1835–6). Heidegger also makes a related point. ‘No one’, he says, ‘dies for mere values’. Historical epochs contain anticipations of the future and relics of the past. Western people still sometimes sacrifice themselves for ‘God and freedom’. Nietzsche was right to predict that Western values would slowly lose their power to commit, their power to provide direction and meaning to one's life. He was right to predict the arrival of nihilism.

Keywords: Nietzsche; Plato; Christian theology; astronomy; physics; nihilism

Article.  12743 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Moral Philosophy

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.