A few weeks back, I had a couple friends visit me. It was a really great trip, and I got a lot out of it; a lot of hope that I didn’t have previously. We stayed up late, until the ungodly hours of the night and had sleep-deprived discussions ranging from the philosophical to absurd and meaningless. In one of these discussions, one of these friends pointed out that my views on life and death skewed pretty heavily to the nihilistic.
I was taken aback for a few seconds, but realized he was probably right. I’ve since done some (very, very light) reading on the subject and found that I do, in fact, identify as an existential nihilist. This is probably the most discussed form of nihilism in terms of philosophy, and I’m honestly not all that special for finding myself in its blank, nondescript walls.
Existential nihilism is the belief… in nothing, I guess. It is not really skepticism, or epistemological nihilism, where one believes that nothing in the universe can be known. Epistemological nihilism is like an extreme version of agnosticism, while existential nihilism is an extreme version of atheism. I’ll lay it all out on the table for you. I believe that there’s no such thing as a reason to exist; there is nothing of importance in our lives in the grand scheme of things. Extrapolated out, you can say that there isn’t any meaning in the day-to-day, smaller scheme of things either, as everything you do in your life essentially amounts to nothing. Every person you interact with will one day die, as will every person they interact with. Every child you have will one day die, and so will their children. And if somehow, by some freak occurrence, something you affected manages to last until the end of the universe…
Well, the universe dies then. Everything that ever happened in it? It’s over. It’s done. One day this will all be over; there will be no life left to appreciate the life that came before. It all amounts to nothing in the end, no matter how much you struggle to preserve yourself.
That’s the core of my belief, boiled down and stripped of all its humanity. In practice, I find that holding this belief changes very little for me. I still want to exist. I still want to make grand gestures and change the world and all of that nonsense. I still care about people. I still have a strong moral code.
Side note: This is maybe the most frustrating part of being an atheist, dealing with the prevailing attitude among the religious sect that without a god making rules to follow, there are no rules. This isn’t the case. This isn’t how my brain works! I am still, in fact, human. A blanket statement that those who don’t follow god must not have a moral code is tantamount to calling us less than human. Don’t fucking say shit like that.
There is in fact something out there called moral nihilism, which is the belief that all morality is a social construct and entirely arbitrary, and therefore morality does not exist. I guess I technically subscribe to that theory, as I believe that all of this shit is arbitrary, no matter what it is. While I technically believe it to be true, I still have chosen to align myself with my own moral code. I abide by these arbitrary rules because… Well, I don’t exactly know. It’s because I’m human, I guess. I have empathy. I think causing others pain is wrong. Maybe it’s not technically wrong, because technically, “wrong” doesn’t exist, but it’s wrong to me anyway. The idea of abandoning empathy because it is illogical disgusts me on a very base level.
I don’t know exactly what I’m getting at here. I guess I just figured out a little bit more about myself. I figured out another tiny fraction of who I am. I thought I’d share it. I feel okay about being a nihilist. It sits well with me, honestly.