Vol. 43 No. 2 (2023): War: Another Form of Nihilism?

Nihilism in Times of War. In Dialogue with Nietzsche

Werner Stegmaier
Universität Greifswald

Published 2023-12-19


  • Nietzsche,
  • means to real peace,
  • normal nihilism,
  • desorientation,
  • reevaluation of all values

How to Cite

Stegmaier, W. (2023). Nihilism in Times of War. In Dialogue with Nietzsche. Teoria. Rivista Di Filosofia, 43(2), 65–77. https://doi.org/10.4454/teoria.v43i2.230


Whether war is a form of nihilism makes one ask Nietzsche what nihilism is and how it is related to war. In conversation with Nietzsche, it becomes clear that nihilism in today‘s terms means an abysmal disorientation, and the Russian war against Ukraine, which threatens the existence of the democratic West, irritates it to the extreme: this war is completely incomprehensible to us. Nietzsche further noted that nihilism could trigger a „blind rage“ in those who consider themselves „gone badly astray“. Thus they can initiatedestructive and even self-destructive wars. But Nietzsche wrote earlier, too, that it is „the means to real peace“ if the superior puts down the weapons, in
order to prove his own sense of peace. This seems to continue the „evangelical practice“ that Nietzsche attested in The Antichrist to the „type Jesus“ in order to contrast it against dogmatic Christianity. Nobody might think of such a magnanimous transgression of common values today, neither in Christian Russia nor in the so-called Christian Occident. But for Nietzsche war was above all the intellectual struggle for values, and positively he understood nihilism as liberation to own new value setting. Nihilism as a continuous reevaluation of all values was for him „normal state“ or process. It includes that the value setting of others in their situation become incomprehensible for one‘s own value orientation. If this results in a war like the current Russian one against Ukraine, it can be a form of nihilism.