I must respectfully disagree that "nihilism is for weenies," for various reasons. Let me begin by stating that Friedrich Nietzsche, often considered to be a "nihilist" because of his lifelong focus on the object, considered Buddhism and Christianity to be two of the great nihilistic ideals. I don't think Nietzsche wanted to consider himself a nihilist at the later stages of his life...rather, he saw it as a problem created by other religions/philosophies; it was a nearly impossible problem that he wanted to conquer in some way or another. Nihilism was to be transcended; the ideal overman could transform, "become," and ideally, surpass his/her purposeless existence.

Buddhism embraces nothingness by creating a view of the world as something to be escaped, where the true ideal is to lose all desire and completely vanish from the wheel of life, thus attaining "enlightenment." There is no truth, no meaning, no purpose other than to attain nirvana and be done with existence. Christianity can be seen as nihilistic in that it identifies the material world as nothing more than a stepping-stone on one's journey to heaven or hell, rendering truths that guide one to either destination the only ones that matter. In other words, the only significance life has is that it determines where you go when you die. If you're bad, you go to hell, where you experience separation from god (the source of all meaning and goodness), whereas if you're good, you go to heaven, where you experience total, eternal subservience to god, and your whole meaning for being is to serve your creator, who put you in this position to begin with. You become little more than an extension of god's ego. To put it simply, your only reason for existing is to forever serve or to forever be separated from your cause of existence, and nothing more.

So for these and other reasons, Nietzsche saw these two ways of thinking as inevitably nihilistic, guiding the whole of humanity to ruin. With Buddhism, it's the ideal. With Christianity, it's implied. What's the friggin' point of advancing the human race and prolonging our lifespan and enjoying our lives to the fullest, if it's all worthless in the end? Of course, most Christians and Buddhists would disagree that their chosen philosophy or religion embraces total meaningless and random chaos. Nietzsche's proclamation that "god is dead" was his challenge to the human race to "grow up" and find a reason for advancing that was beyond religion, beyond good and evil.

The fact that some people were finally beginning to accept this way of thinking indicated to Nietzsche that, like the inherent delay in a ray of light reaching its destination over a vast distance, the awareness of god's nonexistence would inevitably smack the human race right on the face in due time. The problem was, would we be able to handle it? His challenge was to find meaning in a world that we assumed to be meaningless in the absense of god. Some people consider him an existentialist, others consider him a nihilist. I don't think he was either, and I don't think he would choose to labeled by either term. He brought the question to the table, and further complicated it by suggesting that perhaps the problem of existence is an endless one -- that death is only the beginning of yet another cycle of life. He suggested that perhaps there was no afterlife other than the same previous life that had just played itself out.

While it has become rather fashionable for anyone to claim "I'm a nihilist," true nihilism is a nearly impossible state to attain. Most nihilists only act nihilistic to a certain degree. They still usually have the urge to make a living and continue their pointless existence, if for anything else but to avoid the inevitable pain and fear involved with dying. I have long struggled with a nihilistic worldview, and still haven't made up my mind. What we label as "depression" could often be seen as a "nihilistic phase." Just about any atheist/agnostic will struggle with this at some point or another. It's only logical that many "geeks" and outcasts, having seen the way people can behave so ruthlessly for so little reason, will come to the conclusion that humans are doomed idiots and that life is nothing more than a game with nobody keeping score.

Every minor decision we make in life has some sort of personal significance, albeit small in the grand scheme of things. This makes it difficult for anyone to be a complete and total nihilist, in the strictest sense (by action). The nihilist must accept the fact that there is no moral arbiter to sway them towards right or wrong. There is no inherent purpose in life other than to propogate one's genes. There's no compelling, driving force that wants us to live for meaningful, philosophically satisfying reasons. We are animals, flesh and blood, and because we are so gloriously complicated and "beyond survival," we must now deal with the problem of justifying our existence. In essense, we are nothing more than formerly wild animals with too much time on our hands. The "problem" is that we are sentient and complacent, and so we desperately search for some source of happiness to bring comfort to our boring lives.

So while I doubt there are any true-to-form "total nihilists" in this world, I still disagree that those who choose to embrace the concept are "wimps" for doing so. Some might argue that it's harder to face day-to-day life when they believe somebody's watching them. Others would strongly disagree. When you believe everything you do is meaningless, it's pretty damned hard to be a motivated, ambitious member of the fast-paced society we've created for ourselves, despite the fact that everybody around you has no trouble falling into that pattern. Nihilists definitely do believe that being is pointless, but just because you believe something doesn't mean you act in accordance with said belief (case in point; many Christians, many of whom use the Old Testament to justify gay bashing yet strangely they wear clothes of more than one color and cloth, and probably don't have any objections to eating seafood). It's just a lot more difficult to "act" nihilistic when the end result is painful death. Life may be meaningless, but pain is still quite stimulating and motivating.

I realize this writeup could easily fall under nihilism, but that is already bloated, and this serves a fitting purpose in addressing the "nihilism is for dorks who brood endlessly while sipping Starbucks coffee" stereotype.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.