Nihilism Quotes: Quotes To Question the Meaning of Life

So, you’re looking for Nihilism quotes huh?

It’s a word that we’ve all heard but that not all of us understand the meaning of. 

The word nihilism comes from the Latin word ‘nihil’ which translates as nothing. 

To be a nihilist means that you don’t follow a religion or throw yourself into worrying about moral principles. 

To nihilists, life has no main objective, meaning or purpose.

Read on to discover the best Nihilism quotes to navigate life…


Nihilism Explained

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is thought to have bought the beliefs behind nihilism to our attention. 

Nietzsche’s belief was that morals were conjured up in our own heads and that they didn’t actually rule that we needed to live our lives by. 

Nihilists aren’t religious, in fact, they believe that there’s no point in life. They are under the notion that when we die we won’t be judged to get into heaven, hell or other afterlives.

If someone believes that there is no real purpose to life or real moral obligations then in their eyes they are free to do as they please. 

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Can Nihilism Quotes Make You a Better Person?

Nihilism isn’t always viewed in the best light. Those that follow it are generally perceived as negative people that are more doom and gloom than optimistic.

It’s hard to feel positive about life if you believe that life itself is pointless. If you constantly tell yourself ‘what’s the point’ then you will fail to see any point at all.

Whether we class ourselves as a nihilist or not, it’s normal to have these existential thoughts about life. 

While negative thoughts don’t necessarily make us better people, overcoming them and seeing the larger picture on life does. 

See Also: 15 Inspiring Zen Quotes For Inner Peace


Famous Nihilism Quotes and Sayings

There have been many famous nihilist quotes over the years. 

William Shakespeare and Friedrich Nietzsche are amongst some of the famous names who have created some of the most well-known nihilist quotes. 

Below I look at some well-known nihilist quotes and explain what I interpret the meaning behind them to be:

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

William Shakespeare

This is one of the oldest Nihilism quotes on this list:

This quote is taken from Macbeth and is told by a character who always longs for more but is never content. 

The ‘shadow’ represents an actor, who when on stage is seen by all. 

They play out the dramas of life and throw themselves into their role but when the play has finished they no longer serve a purpose.

This quote is basically saying that life is full of empty passion that serves no real meaning. We throw ourselves into things that will never truly fulfill us. 

“Everything in the world displeases me: but, above all, my displeasure in everything displeases me.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

Nihilism quotes sure are fun, eh?

If we view the world in a negative way then we are never going to see the light. 

We don’t like something but we don’t like the fact we don’t like it. This doesn’t mean we want to like it but we want to feel miserable about the fact that we don’t. 

“What are you looking for? There is no Truth. There’s only action, action obeying a million different impulses, ephemeral action, action subjected to every possible and imaginable contingency and contradiction, Life. Life is crime, theft, jealousy, hunger, lies, disgust,stupidity, sickness, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, piles of corpses. what can you do about it, my poor friend?”

Blaise Cendrars

Cendrars is saying that there is no hope in life. It is a pointless drama full of emotion led actions that leave us feeling unfulfilled.

(Nihilism quotes tend to go that way!)

We are in such a hurry to complete our goals because our lives are only short, that we throw ourselves forward without giving it much thought.

Nothing can be changed, we are destined to be this way. It’s a fate that we can’t steer off course from. 

“What can be broken, should be broken.”

Dmitry Pisarev

If something can hurt you then it probably will so don’t give it the option to.

Although this quote carries an element of truth to it, it’s a pessimistic look on the world. Trying and failing is surely better than not trying in the first place?

Broken things are often symbolic, such as feelings, thoughts and so on. We may feel broken but of course, this can’t be seen by others. 

If we stay feeling broken then we protect ourselves from being broken again but the downside is we will remain broken. 

“There is no other world. Nor even this one. What, then, is there? The inner smile provoked in us by the patent nonexistence of both.”

Emile M. Cioran

This quote is saying that this is the only world, there isn’t an afterlife to strive for. This world may be real but at the same time, it isn’t real because it doesn’t matter.

What we do here doesn’t hold any overall meaning. 

We smile because that’s all we can do in this one world that holds no real meaning. 

Nihilism quotes can be light-hearted and teach us not to take life too seriously…

“The modern mind is in complete disarray. Knowledge has stretched itself to the point where neither the world nor our intelligence can find any foot-hold. It is a fact that we are suffering from nihilism.”

Albert Camus

This quote is saying that our nihilist nature comes from knowing too much, or at least in trying to know too much we have found that we don’t know enough. 

We are always trying to learn more and do better but without any meaning behind this. There’s actually no support in our knowledge or intelligence for us to grow from it. 

“There is no one as dangerous as he or she who has nothing to lose.”

Rebecca Solnit

This is one of the most powerful Nihilism quotes on this list:

If you have a well-paid job, a family to support and a loving partner then you have to live in the fear that you are just a few bad moves away from losing everything.

While, if you have an awful job that you hate, have no family at all and no partner then that fear of losing everything isn’t there.

If you have no reason to question your actions them you are more likely to be reckless. 

A person who believes they have nothing to lose is far more likely to take risks, which in turn makes them a dangerous foe to have. 

“The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

Those of us who remain narrow-minded and refuse to take into account the differing opinions of others are unlikely to think freely.

If we are only open to learning from those who think like us and disregard what others say then we are less likely to see the bigger picture. 

To learn from those different to us allows us to learn and grow and not let our own minds and thoughts corrupt us.

The young should be taught to be kind and to listen and learn from others. A generation that is taught to be ignorant will carry these views down from one generation to the next. 

“The point is there ain’t no point.”

Cormac McCarthy

McCarthy’s novels contain plenty of well-known nihilist quotes like this one. Bleak characters are expected to have bleak offerings about the world. 

Maybe there is no point in anything and this is indeed what the point is? 

Carrying on in a world where the belief is that there is no point makes us stronger as we don’t need false beliefs to motivate us. 

Just as McCarthy’s characters continue in their often strenuous fictional worlds, we continue to live in reality regardless of there being a point or not. 

“Destroy or be destroyed-there is no middle way! Let us then be the destroyers!”

Mikhail Bakunin

Bakunin is saying that there is no middle ground. We can either be the hunters or the hunted. We can’t hideaway in the middle, as the middle doesn’t truly exist.

For us ‘to be’ we need to destroy before we are destroyed. 

To believe this is to believe that there is no ground for discussion or reasoning. It’s to jump to conclusions and foresee the worst before the worst has a chance to end us. 

“All good things were formerly bad things; every original sin has turned into an original virtue.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

Morals, we all have them but it stands to reason that over the years these morals have changed. 

A long marriage was once viewed as sinful to the community while it’s now viewed as a strong sense of commitment and companionship that should be praised.

Not starting a family before your mid-twenties was once frowned upon, while now working on careers first and securing finances before beginning a family is seen as wise. 

Our virtues and modern-day values do stem from past sins. This doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t now be viewed as virtuous just because they once had different meanings.

“Those who believe in nothing are very, very jealous and angry at those who believe in something.”

Dennis Prager

It’s our beliefs that give us morals and that makes us want to move forward and succeed. 

Without those beliefs then we have nothing to drive us to succeed. If we constantly feel like we aren’t going anywhere and there’s no point to anything then we’re likely to let anger overrule us.

If we don’t have a longing to succeed then we are more likely to look with contempt at those who let their beliefs guide them to find fulfillment. 

Those who don’t see a point to existence will blame how they feel on those who see a point to everything. 

“The problem is not suffering itself or oblivion itself but the depraved”

John Green

We can fear the unknown and cause ourselves to worry about this pain or we can try not to worry about something that’s inevitable. 

If we don’t live our lives by morals then we are open to being wicked. We need to be careful not to let our fears about pain, loss, and suffering lead us to feel deprived. 

Our beliefs should not be lost because of our uncertain futures, else we could become a version of ourselves that we don’t truly long to be.

“All roads are blocked to a philosophy which reduces everything to the word “no.” To “no” there is only one answer and that is “yes.” Nihilism has no substance. There is no such thing as nothingness, and zero does not exist. Everything is something. Nothing is nothing. Man lives more by affirmation than by bread.”

Victor Hugo

If we live our lives constantly saying ‘no’ to everything then we won’t see the point of anything. While saying ‘yes’ is to grasp at life and embrace the challenges and experiences it brings with it. 

To believe in nihilism is to believe in nothing and that holds no true merit, as it’s believing in something that doesn’t truly exist. Zero is nothing while everything holds value. 

If we encourage and praise each other then we’re more likely to succeed than if we just see life as pointless.

Those that see that life as a purpose are more likely to succeed than those who see life as an unnecessary chore. 

“The powerful feed ideology to the masses like fast food while they dine on that most rarefied delicacy: impunity.”

Naomi Klein

Those in power make sure that their beliefs and viewpoints are heard by everyone else. They feed them this information repeatedly. 

They do this safe in the knowledge that their power makes them immune from blame, punishment or any real consequences.

If the fear of consequence isn’t there then morals are more likely to be ignored for personal gain. Getting what is wanted is becoming more important than the method in which it’s achieved. 

We shouldn’t let those in power manipulate us from the sidelines. We are not puppets and should therefore not let others control us with their craftily placed words. 

“Why do we argue? Life’s so fragile, a successful virus clinging to a speck of mud, suspended in endless nothing.”

Alan Moore

We argue to get our point across and when emotion gets the better of us. If we believe that life is indeed pointless then why do we waste our time arguing at all?

If we are suspended in nothing then is feeling nothing acceptable? Are we a disease or are we the cure?

Some would see clinging to a speck of mud as a bad thing while others would view it as remarkable. Surviving means overcoming anything. 

Moore is seeing a positive in what some people see as a negative but he tells it in such a way that it lacks positivity. 


Can Nihilism be Positive?

Something can only be deemed as negative if we give it the power to be so. 

Maybe our destiny is already mapped out? Maybe there is an afterlife? Maybe all our actions in this life will be judged in the next? 

The truth is that whatever our beliefs there is no underlying proof about anything. Yes, we could sit in the corner and be miserable because we believe life serves no real purpose.

Not everyone that doesn’t believe in a clear life path chooses to do as they please with little moral obligation. Someone with nihilistic beliefs can lead a positive and moral life if they so choose too. 


Overcoming Nihilism

Life is a choice in which we make the decision of which path to take. 

As humans, we create a life far more than we take it away. We build more than we tear down and we accomplish more than we fail.

Whether life has a greater purpose or not doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth living and that fulfillment can’t be found if we are open to letting ourselves find it. 

If you want something they stop making excuses and go and get it. After all, life is too short and in some people’s viewpoints ‘too pointless’ not to at least try. 


My Final Thoughts On Nihilism Quotes

Maybe there is an overriding point to life or maybe there isn’t. To me, not living life to our fullest because of what may or may not seem futile.

A writer whose work is never praised is still a writer. An artist who only paints the same thing is still an artist. We are what we believe we can be, regardless of whether the world holds further meaning or not. 

Experiencing bleak outlooks on life but learning to overcome them and see the light is likely to make someone a stronger person in the end. 

Embrace your outlooks and beliefs because they make you, you. But remember that regardless of moral purpose life is there to be lived.

“There is no one as dangerous as he or she who has nothing to lose.”

Rebecca Solnit

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