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Nihilism comes from the Latin nihil, or nothing. It is the belief that values are falsely invented. The term nihilism can also be used to describe the idea that life, or the world, has no distinct meaning or purpose. Nihilists believe that there are no true morals.

The term was made popular by Ivan Turgenev's novel Fathers and Sons. Bazarov, the hero in it, was a nihilist.

Most people think of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche when they think about nihilism, because he said that morals were invented. Even people who know about Nietzsche call him a nihilist (someone who practices nihilism.) But in his books, Nietzsche said that people needed to create their own morals to get over nihilism. Other than him, very few famous philosophers are nihilists. However, nihilism is still an important topic for students learning all the major philosophy categories.

Apart from Nietzsche, a popular text which draws heavily on nihilism is the novel Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Nihilism is associated with postmodernism.