What is nihilism?
“Nihilism” comes from the Latin word nihil, which means nothing. Friedrich Jacobi used the word to negatively characterize transcendental idealism. In Russia, nihilism was associated with a loosely organized revolutionary movement (C.1860-1917) that rejected the authority of the state, church, and family. Hence, nihilism was always seen with a negative outlook. Moreover, there are broad categories of nihilism as well:
- Epistemological nihilism denies the possibility of knowledge and truth. Since everything we know has some amount of uncertainty. There is no true knowledge, you can never be sure of anything, at all.
- Political nihilism advocates the prior destruction of all existing political, social, and religious orders as a prerequisite for any future improvement.
- Ethical nihilism rejects the possibility of absolute moral or ethical values. Good and evil are relative, and related values are simply the result of social and emotional pressures.
- Existential nihilism, the most widely perceived notion of nihilism, affirms that life has no intrinsic meaning or value.
In today’s world, nihilism is closely associated with the reference that life has no inherent purpose. That nothing we do has any inherent meaning. We simply create our purpose or else it is given to us by the society we live in, the culture and religion we follow and morals we have.
This creates a deep sense of havoc in our minds: Is all of humanity just a result of trivial cosmic events, and a chain of biochemical reactions? We realize the vastness of the universe and its true essence,followed by a very basic question: Does anything matter?
Well, majority of people see nihilism as a path to destruction, since when we go further in depth about purpose, morals, religions and values, it comes down to: What are morals? Morals changes with time. People a century ago didn’t have the same morals as we have today. Does that mean our morals aren’t righteous? Or is it the other way around?
The answer is no one was wrong, morals change with time.
On a similar note,culture is made of rituals, faith and morals. Culture also changes with time .Every culture feels that they are right. But so does the other culture think that they are right.
If right is just a matter of opinion, then there is no absolute ‘right’ or ‘good’. Morals are just opinions, religions are just cultural trends, like morals and values and laws. And they all change. Then that means that culture, religion, morals, laws are just matters of opinions. Therefore, since there is no grand law that decides what is what, everything is nothing. Everything is just a matter of perspective. And that too changes from time to time.
Nihilism just comes from rejecting all bias, and objectively asking yourself questions most people doesn’t dare ask. It can be enlightening and freeing to realize this entire thing but it can have a negative impact as well.
Nihilism can make a person kill someone and not feel guilty, wrong or sad about it. But nihilism can be taken positively as well:
Most of us blindly follow the path that society lays down for us, being unaware of it almost all our lives. They define the wrong, the right, the good and the bad for us. Nihilism is an attempt to free us from these preset notions and question these notions if required. It has the power to open up a person’s mind and see how insignificant he is in this vast universe, how futile are the things he worries about,makes him realize,how much good he can contribute to this world.But it can be gravely dangerous depending upon the person and his own set of values.
I hope people start taking nihilism in a positive way and embrace it’s very simplistic approach towards life!