Three Forms of Nihilism
Nihilism is a neat philosophy that proposes life, the universe, and everything is inherently meaningless. Is is the type of philosophy that is hard to believe but also difficult to defend against. There are basically three types of nihilist with divisions based on what the concept of no-meaning means to you.
The first, and probably most common form of nihilism is what I call emo-nihilism. This form of nihilism has been discussed and even championed by the likes of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Sartre. What do all of these philosophers have in common? Well, they were sort of whiny babies about everything. Thus, emo nihilism is when life has no meaning, and that gives you feelings, man.
Emo-nihilism sometimes appears to spread among people like a philosophical plague. If you hand around someone who is always upset at the meaninglessness of everything, then its going to start bugging you, too. How can you convince a person that is in the grip of emo-nihilism not to be such a buzzkill? You could try pointing out the inconsistency of their position. They know life has no meaning, and this upsets them. So, they are upset by nothing. How can you be upset by nothing? Apparently its quite easy.
The second form on nihilism is neutral-nihilism. This is when you know there is no meaning, and that doesn’t mean anything to you. There is no reason to be upset, and there is no reason to be joyful. Everything simply is what is is, which is nothing. Neutral-nihilism is the most pure form of nihilism. It is also one of the bleakest and least sustainable worldviews I can think of.
Maybe a machine could be a neutral-nihilist, but a normal human being can’t. At least not for very long. You can’t just feel nothing about everything. You can’t go through life without ascribing some kind of meaning to something at some point. That would be too sad. At least the emo-nihilists have something to fight against. Or, I should say, nothing to fight against. Neutral-nihilism reminds me of the Path of No More Learning, which sounds awesome and sublime, but also extremely boring. Given a choice between being upset and being boring, I would probably choose upset, because at least it isn’t boring.
The third type of nihilism I call absurdist-nihilism in the tradition of Albert Camus, who was obviously much smarter than I am, but I think I maybe sort of understand what he was talking about. Absurdist-nihilism is when you know there is no meaning in the universe, but you keep looking for it anyway. Like getting all your gear together and trekking into the deep woods to find Bigfoot. You know you’re never going to find him, but you do it anyway. This is a completely absurd thing to do. More importantly, its fun!
Just because there is no meaning in the universe doesn’t mean you shouldn’t search for meaning. And, since there is no grand cosmic index of what is and is not meaningful, then you get to decide what is meaningful to you.
“But,” you might say, “what if the things that are meaningful to me aren’t meaningful to my friends or society at large? Doesn’t that undermine the value of my meaningful things?”
Yes! It absolutely does. That is an excellent point, there is no such thing as universal value, but you are being an emo-nihilist and should knock it off before you depress everyone.
Emo-nihilism is the worst form of nihilism. Neutral-nihilism is the most pure and unsustainable. And Absurdist-nihilism is the most fun, which makes it the winner to me. At the very least, you don’t see the words fun and nihilist in the same sentence together very often.