When nihilism appears in the worldPetra Brown (Deakin University)
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Nihilism, understood as the annihilation of existing order, often appears where there is a crisis of truth or shared meaning that enables the ordering of human relations in a political world. And yet nihilism also signifies a moment, or place, where existing relationship are reconsidered and re-evaluated, heralding a moment of creative freedom and the possibility that something new can emerge in the world.
This paper considers different perspectives on nihilism by two German philosophers who came of age during a time of turmoil and crisis: Carl Schmitt and Hannah Arendt. As contemporaries, both responded to their own political world in different ways. Schmitt appears to emphasize the danger nihilism presents to established order and advocates for the intervention of a strong sovereign. Arendt rejects the notion of sovereignty as an adequate response and rather acknowledges the open, creative moment that nihilism can bring to the world through her concept of natality.