He followed it up with a number of other works on the condition of the Russian peasantry, on Nihilism, and on the conditions of life in Russia.
The principle of examination, the reasoned analysis of human conditions and the discussion of causes, far from culminating in disillusioned nihilism, everywhere aroused the democratic spirit, the life of sentiment and of human feeling: in the drama, with Marivaux, Diderot and La Chausse; in art, with Chardin and Greuze; and in the salons, in view of the suppression of privilege.
Still more unequivocal was the sceptical nihilism expressed by Gorgias: - (I) nothing exists; (2) if anything existed, it would be unknowable; (3) if anything existed and were knowable, the knowledge of it could not be communicated.
Thus arose a struggle between the youthful, hot-headed partisans of revolutionary physical science and the zealous official guardians of political order - a struggle which has made the strange term Nihilism a familiar word not only in Russia but also in western Europe.
The result is a selflimiting dialectic. This higher dialectic is a logic. It is no accident that the first of the philosophical sophists, Gorgias, on the one hand, is Eleatic in his affinities, and on the other raises in the characteristic formula of his intellectual nihilism' issues which are as much logical and epistemological as ontological.
The nihilism of Gorgias from the Eleatic point of view of bare identity, and the speechlessness of Cratylus from the Heraclitean ground of absolute difference, are alike disowned.
Brahmanic pantheism and Buddhistic nihilism alike teach the unreality of the seeming world, and preach mystical absorption as the highest goal; in both, the sense of the worth of human personality is lost.
(For details of this revolutionary movement, see Nihilism.) In respect of foreign policy the reign of Alexander II.