Nietzsche is of course well known for his nihilism. NLP sounds like the exact opposite of nihilism. Nevertheless, Nietzsche’s nihilism has been often misunderstood. Nowadays we would classify Nietzsche’s thinking more as pragmatism than nihilism. The best definition of pragmatism has been given by the philosopher Stephen Stich: any theory that values other things besides truth or instead of truth is a form of pragmatism.

NLP is a form of pragmatism. Inspired by William James and John Dewey, one of the most important ideas within NLP is that NLP practitioners don’t care about the truth and are only interested in what works. So that they can do of what works and less of what isn’t working.  Critics of NLP have often held this against them, but this is only because these critics are not pragmatist themselves.

I. Nihilism as a normal condition. Nihilism: the goal is lacking; an answer to the ‘Why?’ is lacking. What does nihilism mean? – That the highest values are devaluated. It is ambiguous: (A) Nihilism as a sign of the increased power of the spirit: as active nihilism. It may be a sign of strength: the force of the spirit may have grown so much that the goals it has had so far (‘convictions’, articles of faith) are no longer appropriate – for a belief generally expresses the constraints of conditions of existence, submission to the authority of the circumstances under which a being prospers, grows, gains in power . .. On the other hand a sign that one’s strength is insufficient to productively posit for oneself a new goal, a ‘Why?’, a belief. It achieves its maximum of relative force as a violent force of destruction: as active nihilism. The opposite would be the weary nihilism that no longer attacks: its most celebrated form Buddhism: as passivist nihilism. Nihilism represents a pathological intermediate state (what is pathological is the tremendous generalization, the inference that there is no meaning at all): whether because the productive forces are not yet strong enough or because decadence is still hesitating and has not yet invented the resources it needs. (B) Nihilism as a decline and retreat of the spirit’s power: passive nihilism: as a sign of weakness: the force of the spirit may be wearied, exhausted, so that the goals and values that have prevailed so far are no longer appropriate and are no longer believed – that the synthesis of values and goals (on which every strong culture rests) dissolves, so that the individual values wage war on each other: disintegration that everything which revives, heals, soothes, benumbs comes to the fore in a variety of disguises: religious, or moral or political or aesthetic, etc. 2. Presupposition of this hypothesis: that there is no truth; that there is no absolute nature of things, no ‘thing-in-itself’ – this is itself a nihilism, and indeed the most extreme one. It places the value of things precisely in the fact that no reality corresponds and has corresponded to that value, which is instead only a symptom of force on the part of the value-positers, a simplification for the purposes of life.

Notebook 9, autumn 1887