There’s one thing in common for all people. Every person faces different questions about what is purpose and meaning of life, what are we doing here, and what life is all about. Recently, I came across a video about Nihilism and Existentialism that made me wonder – every thought and feeling that we have has a philosophical definition. And we all want to have a feeling of belonging to a group, or someone who can understand us.
Each individual stands or lives with their own philosophy, and they carry it with them wherever they go. Philosophy has helped each individual to solve their problems, improved one’s critical thinking, and helped make better decisions. After all, the story of happiness is somehow very vague and subjective.
Talking about philosophy, nihilism, and existentialism are considered as each other’s opposite, and at the same time, very similar. There are people who are considered nihilists and some, existentialists. How would you know which one are you? To know that, let us define and differentiate each of them.
What is Nihilism?
Nihilism is derived from the Latin word “nihil” which means nothing. Its origin is similarly found in the related terms annihilate, meaning ‘to bring to nothing’ and nihility, meaning ‘nothingness’. It is a philosophy that rejects general or fundamental aspects of human existence, such as objective truth, knowledge, morality, values, or meaning. Different nihilist positions hold variously that human values are baseless, that life is meaningless, that knowledge is impossible, or that some set of entities do not exist or are meaningless or pointless.
Nihilism is essentially the belief in nothing. That there are no answers to someone’s “why’s”. A nihilist would say: “There is no god, no heaven, no hell. There can be no right or wrong. That you can screw it up because we’re all gonna die anyway.” As Alan Watts said: “I am what happens between the maternity ward and the Crematorium”.
Watch the video to know more about nihilism.
What is Existentialism?
On the other hand, existentialism emphasizes the existence of the individual person as free and responsible to determine their own development through acts of the will. Existentialism states that our lives have no inherent meaning or purpose, but rather it is the purpose we create for our lives that gives them a sense of meaning.
An existentialist creates their own meaning in life and defines the purpose of it. They decide who they want to become, but it can lead to an existential crisis. For example, an existentialist defines his existence as an athlete but when he/she gets injured and can’t play ever again, he/she doesn’t know what his purpose in life is anymore.
Watch the video to know more about existentialism.
Compare and contrast
In a nutshell, Nihilists believe in nothing – that life is meaningless and without purpose, that nothing exists, such as good or evil, empty or full. However, existentialism is the opposite, though it states that life has no inherent meaning or purpose, but we can create our own meaning in life by the choices we make.
So, are you a Nihilist or an Existentialist?
Now that each philosophy has been defined and differentiated, what philosophy do you believe in? Are you a nihilist who believes that life is meaningless, useless, and purposeless? Or are you someone who defines the purpose of his own life, and decides who you want to become?
Our verdict, a nihilist would say that it does not matter, you should not ask questions, and there’s no meaning to what defines you. If you are here, you most likely looking for answers or meaning. So, I think you just discovered you are an existentialist. Welcome to the club… Or?
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