Nihilistic anxiety

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Nihilistic anxiety is also called existential angst.

Nihilistic anxiety is pervasive; it is not about anything in particular.

Not being able to make sense of specific things naturally causes anxiety about them, because of uncertainty. Not being able to make sense of anything—a consequence of nihilism—causes non-specific, pervasive anxiety.

The underlying worry is that our perception of meaningness is unreliable. Therefore, there is no sensible way to choose activities. Paralysis results. Anxiety alienates one from all projects, and from social involvement. This is depressing.

Whereas nihilistic rage, intellectualization, and depression include active strategies for stabilizing nihilism against the threat of meaningfulness, anxiety is purely a consequence.

“Cosmic horror” fiction—such as Lovecraft’s Cthulhu stories—express nihilistic anxiety. They convey the feeling that everything is horrible and doomed, without making any actual sense. As I’ve written elsewhere, this is silly (although fun if you don’t take them seriously).

Actually, in nihilistic anxiety and depression, everything shows up as existent but meaningless, and therefore silly. This includes oneself. In existentialism, this is called “The Absurd.”

Perceiving this absurdity is valuable, because it’s funny—or can be. Laughter is enjoyable, which points to a route out of nihilism.

Finding meaninglessness enjoyable is necessary to stabilize the complete stance, so this is a particularly good way out.


This page is in the section The emotional dynamics of nihilism,
      which is in Nihilism,
      which is in Meaning and meaninglessness,
      which is in Doing meaning better.

This is the last page in its section.

The next page in book-reading order is ⚒ Existentialism: a muddled middle.

The previous page is ⚒ Nihilistic depression.

This page’s topic is Nihilism.

General explanation: Meaningness is a hypertext book (in progress), plus a “metablog” that comments on it. The book begins with an appetizer. Alternatively, you might like to look at its table of contents, or some other starting points. Classification of pages by topics supplements the book and metablog structures. Terms with dotted underlining (example: meaningness) show a definition if you click on them. Pages marked with ⚒ are still under construction. Copyright ©2010–2017 David Chapman.