Nihilism is hard

Gas clouds in the Trapezium of Orion

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It’s a pity that it’s so hard to be a nihilist. Nihilism is mistaken and harmful, but its insights into what’s wrong with eternalism may make it the easiest route into the complete stance.

The obstacles to nihilism are that eternalism—nihilism’s opposite—is attractive; and that nihilism is obviously wrong and harmful. These might seem fatal, except that eternalism is also obviously wrong and harmful. When you have been beaten up by eternalism often enough, nihilism may seem less bad.

In slightly more detail, the obstacles to nihilism are that:

  1. it’s hard to give up hope that eternalism will someday deliver on its promises
  2. there is a strong social and cultural taboo against adopting nihilism
  3. meaningfulness is obvious (so nihilism is obviously wrong)
  4. nihilism’s dire psychological side-effects make you miserable

The first two are “bad” obstacles, in the sense that they are obstacles to the complete stance too. The second two are “good” obstacles, in that they can shift you out of nihilism into the complete stance. I’ll explain each of them further below.

In practice, because meaning is obvious, committed nihilists usually adopt some sort of Nihilism Lite. That is, wavering nihilism secretly admits certain kinds of meaning, while denying others. Much of the rest of the book is about applications of Nihilism Lite in particular dimensions of meaning: stances that reject some meanings and accept others.