A text by Eirian J Ashley
Nihilism in its commonly understood form (existential Nihilism) simply argues that existence is without purpose or meaning. It literally argues that we exist for not reason whatsoever and in all honesty, I agree.
Whilst this initial statement is logical, is understandably quite distressing for a majority of people. It was distressing to myself around age 10, at which time I had entered the state of questioning the world and the meaning of existence. My worries prompted my father to suggest that I sound like a Nihilist and my father, being politically, philosophically and religiously open such as he is, informed me of what Nihilism was.
At first it was quite a daunting realisation, to realise that you're not the first person to think this but also that it seems quite correct. It took a small while for me to work through that phase in my life, but at the end of it I came up with my philosophy which is now the title of this text.
Positive Nihilism. What does Positive Nihilism argue? Like regular existential Nihilism it argues that life is inherently without meaning, we are born for no purpose, die for no purpose and exist for no purpose. Where it differs from the common conception of Nihilism is that it then stops and says, whilst yes life is pointless, there is nothing to stop us from creating points, meaning and enjoying a pointless existence.
Existence may well be pointless, but we do exist and that is a simple fact. We're questioning existence, so we must exist or we wouldn't be thinking.
The power of human intellect is to create and we can all create reason to exist, reason to move forward. One man might believe money is the ultimate reason to exist, another might believe that it's to bring people to believe in their deity of choice.
In the end, that point, that meaning isn't contained within the universe, the people themselves generate it, place it over a universe they simply are in for no particular reason.
But positive nihilism argues that this pointlessness is a brilliant thing. Think about it for a moment, that idea that there's some inherent purpose to life. Would that be amazingly good or amazingly bad? Because then the entire population would be subject to an eternal standard and objectively people could fail, there would be no personal goals, there would be only “the big picture” which we were never allowed any control of. We would be pawns of a predetermined existence, potentially failing to reach an objective and never being able to pick our own.
So, in this way, pointlessness is the ultimate freedom. It views life as a blank canvas to paint with whatever shapes, colours and brushes you wish. You can live any life you want and not be inherently wrong.
Two men might go through life realising that their objections with each other do not make them failures to the entire universe, they merely dislike each other and in this way, different, opposite views and objectives can exist in the same space. But another reason I argue this is Positive Nihilism is that it doesn't give that somewhat depressing theme of “there's no point to anything, we may as well die as live”.
It instead argues that if life is indeed as pointless as death, but that is fine and you can still enjoy life despite or even because of it's pointlessness. However, I wish to make it very clear that this doesn't advocate putting a big grin on your face and running around a town on a killing spree. Life may be pointless, but figuring that out hasn't changed reality, it's only changed how you looked at it.
It doesn't give you any right to end life. If someone is still alive, they've decided they'd like to keep living their existence and in the same way that they've respected your choice to exist, it seems only fair that you respect theirs. You may well exist in a pointless world, but there are over a billion other people also here, also figuring out their own views, their own points, their own objectives.
The framework we all operate in has been built over generations, refined and reworked for each generation of people. A collective set of objectives, rules, regulations, “norms”. We may not exist for a reason, but society does. It's a stable framework created by a human collective, allowing for points to exist, from money making to street cleaning and rule making.
If there are no humans, there are no points required, really. A plant is a plant because it's a plant. An animal eats because it needs to do so to continue existing, it doesn't need a reason.
Out of all the beings presently on this planet, we appear to be the ones that reason. That's why we search for points, for meanings, for purpose. But regardless of what we find, the sheer fact of it all is we're still human, we still need to eat, drink, sleep... all of the basic needs. Reality is still what it is, despite it having a point or not, despite how we perceive it or what points we make for it.
Love men, love women, wear pink, dance to work, spend all of your money collecting stamps or brush your teeth with organic-only toothpaste, you live in reality even if it is pointless. It being pointless is something you have to come to terms with yourself, but it doesn't need to be bad, it merely means that beyond basic needs, you can select any objective you like for your existence. You can do anything, set any goal and attempt to achieve it.