Living Nihilistically?

I haven’t fully studied the site, I must tell you. But I have been getting a lot of articles from them in my email box.

And I have to tell you, apparently has a lot of moral nihilists, in it.

I mean, I have an open mind. So I see nothing wrong with this, per se at least. But a lot of their articles are in defense of moral nihilism. And some even profess to tell you how to live a nihilistic lifestyle.

Forgive me if I am wrong with this. But nihilism is the rejection of all moral fact. How can you ‘live’ that way? Saying someone has chosen nihilism as their moral source (I think that is what they are saying) is like a vegan saying they have chosen to work in a meat processing plant. It just doesn’t make any sense.

Also, as long as I am talking about this site, will someone please explain the term ‘existential nihilism’ to me. They use the term in this site too, from time to time.

Thanks ahead of time for keeping in civil (even though it is a debate;)):).


Big picture, nihilism is a workable (and even comforting) framework for thinking people. We know how we got here (evolution) and we kinda know where we’re going (more evolution). We know our place in the universe–insignificance. All the things that confuse us and complicate us don’t actually matter.

Take children, for instance. We say that the children are our future, and we want them to have better lives than we did. But that’s just a biological imperative–we’re hardwired to believe that’s important. But it really isn’t. One way or another, the human race will end.

Our children will just have children who will have children, and so on and so on. If they’re not all wiped out in some catastrophe, then, at some point, they’ll evolve into something that’s not even human anymore.

Sure, we might colonize the stars, but that’s just moving the goalposts. And even the universe has a finite lifespan. When black holes dominate the universe and every living thing has been gone for a few quintillion years, what was it all for? The black holes won’t care that we were ever here.

It won’t matter that Jane didn’t get the promotion or that John wrecked his brand new car. It won’t matter that some guy got away with a murder or that some other guy was executed for a murder he didn’t commit.

Our own relatively recent history backs this up. It doesn’t matter to us–we literally do not care–that some unnamed ancient Egyptian was strangled for his religious beliefs or that some unknown Pict woman was raped a thousand years ago. Otzi’s a curiosity, not a tragedy. In a thousand years–probably far less–you’ll be just as forgotten, your personal story just as unimportant.

So don’t sweat the small stuff. And it’s all small stuff. Even nuclear wars and the heat death of the universe.
Small picture, though, suffering hurts. In the here and now, anything that reduces net suffering is good, and anything that increases it is bad. Which brings back all of the confusions and complications. Is a murderer’s suffering a good thing? Is our free will more important than a reduction in suffering?

Small correction. In a nihilistic framework, suffering might hurt ‘you,’ but there’s no reason that other people’s suffering is of much concern. That’s their problem. Truthfully, there’s no real reason not to suffer yourself other than you may or may not enjoy it. Of course, if you only seek what you enjoy, you become more of a hedonist than a nihilist. If you want to stamp out all suffering, you’re probably getting close to a utilitarian.

A true nihilist wouldn’t put value on suffering or anything else. Suffering is just some chemical reactions in your brain that are trying to control ‘your’ behavior. There’s no moral value in preventing it or causing it, simply an opinion.

Moral nihilism is popular because it’s so easily defensible. It requires no presuppositions. Its biggest knock is that it asks you to deny your observations as simply the workings of a benevolent (or malevolent? Probably neither, just selfish.) biology. Even the Nazis had trouble killing babies, but a moral nihilist would call that simply the success of their biology in combating the truth.

My opinion on it is that if you’re so intent on hating the concept of God that you’re willing to say the Holocaust wasn’t evil, you’ve already crossed the Rubicon to a place people shouldn’t be.

True enough. I’ll just say that I’ve never met a true nihilist with a toothache.

If there are no moral facts, then there are no moral contradictions, and a vegan working in a meat plant is no more (or less) contradictory than anyone else.

If nihilism is true, it isn’t possible to live non-nihilistically. Because if nihilism is true, the question “how should I live?” has no meaning. It’s like using logic to prove that logic doesn’t work.

Correct. For a true nihilist, one’s own suffering means neither more nor less than anyone else’s - that is, it means nothing. Fortunately, as mentioned above, the fact that it means nothing means nothing, and therefore there is no moral contradiction.


Regarding ‘existential nihilism’ - that’s nihilism that’s been written about by philosophers. The nihilism part means nothing is inherently important. The existential part means that “existence precedes essence”. It’s a materialistic refutation of the platonic idea that material things, including us, are individual manifestations of a pre-existing essence. A chair is not expressing an eternal, universal essence of chairness.

Short answer: I could explain it to you, but why would I bother?

Slightly longer and less glib answer:
Search SDMB for some of the debates about free will and try immersing yourself and see if you don’t have the same experience I had. To whit, we have a choice between engaging in magical thinking and/or willful self deception about who and what we are or accepting the truth that consciousness is an illusion, “you” do not actually exist in any meaningful way, and the concept of “meaning” is itself inherently flawed. Then you realize that just by having entertained this thought, you have admitted that you have no choice in anything. The universe will do what it will do and nothing matters. You can keep going though the motions of your life or you can give up, but it’s not your choice anyway.
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I read Quora frequently and haven’t noticed this. Can you give some cites?

I am on my cell phone now and it’s hard to paste and copy (let alone surf the net). Maybe when I go back on my home computer I will:).

I will tell you though, just about every article they have sent to email inbox is about ethical nihilism. Maybe I am just signed up that way.

Also, when I go to the website I find a lot of articles on that. But I haven’t checked the entire website either.

Finally got back on my home computer. Yeah, for whatever reason, has been inundating me with articles about nihilism: and Nietzsche FWIW.

Here, here and here are some articles on Nietzsche that they have sent me.

And here, here, here, here and here are just a few articles they have on ethical nihilism.

As you can see, one way or another, they do have a lot of articles on ethical nihilism. I myself am rather a critic of the theory. But my views are always evolving, which is why I like to know an occasional opposing view, from time to time.