“Nihilism as Axiological Illness” (Nicolae Râmbu)

Journal of Human Values, 21(1) 64–71 © 2015 Management Centre for Human Values. SAGE Publications.

Abstract: The presentation of nihilism as a phenomenon integrated in the category of illnesses is very common in the scientific literature. This paper is centered on the fact that nihilism is a major disease of the axiological conscience, an illness that can be diagnosed and treated by the philosopher like a ‘physician of culture’.

Keywords: nihilism, axiological illness, physician of culture, reevaluation of values, decadence.


Nihilism as a cultural phenomenon is associated with a form of madness or with other illnesses of the human spirit, or is considered an illness itself. The nihilist is not in his right mind or suffers from a strange illness that cannot be diagnosed or treated by any physician. These activities are the responsibility of another type of physician, a ‘physician of culture’ as Friedrich Nietzsche said.

The nihilist, who knows by certitude that there is nothing behind any recognized and traditional values, has been seen in history as a lunatic, barbarian, out of his mind, or idiotic. In the following lines I will refer to this final state, using as a starting point Nietzsche’s strange opinion about the psychological type of Jesus. Nietzsche polemized with Renan, who ‘has introduced the two most inappropriate concepts possible into his explanation of the Jesus type: the concept of genius and the concept of the hero (héros)’. Nietzsche’s criticism has very strong fundaments. Jesus’ psychological features are opposed to those of the hero… [Pdf]