Nihilism is a term formed from the Latin word ‘Nihil’ meaning ‘nothing’. Nihilism, in simple terms, means that morals and life are essentially meaningless.
The term was first coined by Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi but was popularized by Ivan Turgenev in his book ‘Fathers and Sons’. But the main individual who went into a detailed understanding of the subject was German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche opposed Nihilism and was of the opinion that Atheism would bring about a major transformation in nihilism in western culture.
When you consider morals, there are two views, a grand view that every person is created equal and of utmost importance as they are a creation of God and are of great value. Or you can look at them from an individual standpoint that every person has emotion and is the centre of their own universe making them and their emotions, again of utmost importance.
If you start thinking Nihilistically, then the idea of hurting someone is no longer wrong because the person that you are hurting, in the grand scheme of things is meaningless. What is a point of a simple single life in the view that is of the scale of the universe? It is not just about hurting but of every action that you take against or for an individual, it could be positive acts (doing good) or negative acts (doing bad), and they all will be meaningless as they are a blip in the eyes of the whole universe.
This view is what makes morals meaningless.
Meaning of Life
Now if we take the same idea and turn it inwards, that is what is the importance of my own existence in comparison to the scale of the universe; then we become meaningless. Does my choice of life impact anything apart from a few lives including my own? No.
The thoughts like these can be an extreme downward spiral that could lead to a feeling of unimportance, feeling of worthlessness and belief that we ourselves are meaningless; eventually leading to suicide. This is probably the biggest danger of Nihilistic view of life. But in the short view, nihilist risks making his life gloomier and without any form of excitement. A nihilist might not make career decisions which would upscale his life, would not make any romantic choices because love too would seem meaningless. In short for a nihilist their own and others’ life becomes meaningless.
Types of Nihilism
This simple overview of life and morals can be extrapolated to almost every little thing in life, it could be career, politics, metaphysics, love, existence and others. This gives rise to many forms of Nihilism.
This is grand form nihilism where everything including human life becomes meaningless.
There is nothing as absolute right or wrong, there are somethings that we deem as more appropriate than others but that doesn’t make something essentially right or wrong.
There is nothing as Knowledge, there are some facts which applicable in some scenarios, while they are not applicable in others, and under no circumstance can we know the whole truth i.e knowledge.
There is nothing as God or metaphysical entity that guides and adds meaning to life. Rather we are just a blip in the universe leading a pointless role in the grand picture.
Nihilism usually comes to a person when they lose a major pillar of belief in their life, and suddenly everything else also loses meaning, forcing them to doubt everything in their life. Nihilism is one world-view that seems too harsh but in reality, if we take it with a pinch of salt, can be very helpful in leading a life that may look dull but feels very complete because there is no meaning to anything outside your mind making it a way to feel pleased about our life no matter how bad or incomplete it might seem to the world outside.
As always, Thanks for Reading.