The Experience of Nothingness


In The Experience of Nothingness, Michael Novak has two objectives. First, he shows the paths by which the experience of nothingness is becoming common among all those who live in free societies. Second, he details the various experiences that lead to the nothingness point of view. Most discussions of these matters have been so implicated in the European experience that the term “nihilism” has a European ring. Novak, however, articulates this experience of formlessness in an American context.

In his new introduction, the author lists four requirements that must be met by an individual in order for the experience of nothingness to emerge: a commitment to honesty, a commitment to courage, recognition of how widespread the experience of nothingness is, and a virtue of will.

Novak writes that these principles are what guide self-described philosophical nihilists. But many people simply borrow the nihilistic conclusions without observing the moral commitments to them. For this reason Novak believes that nihilism is fraudulent as a theory intended to explain the experience of nothingness. Nihilism in practice, he maintains, often results in a form of intolerance. The Experience of Nothingness is a work that will cause many scholars to rethink their beliefs. It should be read by philosophers, theologians, sociologists, political theorists, and cultural historians.

Originally Published: 1970


“Man’s world is mediated by meaning and motivated by values. But meaning can be so debased and values so disregarded that that world collapses and there follows the experience of nothingness. It is out of this depth of alienation that Michael Novak, an articulate and incisive thinker, would proceed to ethical renewal and social reconstruction.”

Bernard J. F. Lonergan
The Gregorian University


“I was moved by this book-not only by its honesty, but by the way hat honesty vibrates with tenderness. Here theology and philosophy are not treated in the style of the autopsy. Novak knows that the struggle for faith hurts.”

Krister Stendahl
The Harvard Divinity School


“Michael Novak is a truly creative thinker at a time when American religious thought is dominated by fads. . . . His book bears rare fruit for the contemporary student of man”

The Nation