Are Existentialism, Absurdism, and Nihilism linked to each other?

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I’ve read different blogs as well as chapters from philosophy books about these three terms. But if I’m asked to explain it in simple words, I still stutter to make a distinction between these three philosophical terms. Any simpler explanation that covers some core ideas of these terms, like being-in-itself or being-for-itself and others, will be very meaningful to me to get clarity.

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Anonymous 0 Comments

Existentialism says that life doesn’t have a set meaning until you give it one. It’s about creating your own purpose and taking responsibility for your choices.

Absurdism believes that life is naturally without meaning, and it’s a bit silly to try to find or create one. However, despite this, you should keep living and find your own way to enjoy life.

Nihilism says that life really has no meaning, purpose, or value at all. Nihilists think that trying to create a meaning is pointless.

**Edit**: You wanted to have ‘being-in-itself’ and ‘being-for-itself’ included in the explanation. Let me try:

In Existentialism, ‘being-for-itself’ refers to humans, who are aware of themselves and can make choices. This makes them special. ‘Being-in-itself’ refers to objects that simply exist without self-awareness or the ability to make choices.

Absurdism is about the conflict between our desire to find inherent meaning in life (‘being-for-itself’) and the silent, indifferent universe that offers none (‘being-in-itself’).

Nihilism denies any inherent dignity to ‘being-for-itself'” (human existence) or ‘being-in-itself’ (the universe and everything in it), seeing all values, meanings, or purposes as baseless.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Yeah, they’re definitely related. I’m not a pro but I think I can tie these together.

First, all of these are nonreligious, so they all start with **life does not have an inherent ‘meaning’ or purpose**. If you sincerely think the purpose of your life is to serve and obey a god and get into a paradise, then you’re probably not any of these things. Also, I don’t see a tremendous difference between absurdism and nihilism and that’s going to show in my summaries.

Absurdism: Life does not have an inherent meaning or purpose; you can accept that fact and not take it so seriously, or try to engage with it and create meaning and purpose for yourself, but those are just coping mechanisms and they’re ultimately irrelevant.

Nihilism: Life does not have an inherent meaning or purpose and that means happiness, suffering, ethics and even survival don’t ultimately matter. Your body has evolved to want to survive and avoid pain and seek pleasure so go with that, I guess, but your choices are ultimately irrelevant.

Existentialism: Life does not have an inherent meaning or purpose, but the fact that you are conscious and get to have feelings and make choices is an amazing opportunity and you owe it to yourself to capitalize on it to the best of your ability. Find something that inspires you and gives your life meaning or purpose, and pursue that.

Anonymous 0 Comments

From my understanding:

**Nihilism** is a rejection of there being a ‘true’/valid moral framework or intrinsic meaning to the world. That, any meaning we impose on *anything at all* does not come from nature or reality, but is placed there artificially for arbitrary reasons. It is essentially summed up as “nothing is moral” and “nothing is meaningful”, and to believe otherwise is to believe the subjective is objective (untrue and fooling yourself).

**Existentialism** is a further point on this that essentially states that, meaning is thus defined by humans. We are actors thrown into a chaotic world without intrinsic meaning, therefore the meaning we are beholden to is the meaning we are destined to assign to things–meaning is defined *internally* through the active process of *assigning* things meaning, not externally or as an inherent property.

**Absurdism** is the belief that the human nature of trying to assign meaning to an intrinsically meaningless world is doomed to fail, but we should embrace it all the same. Things will always be meaningless, but we will struggle to give them meaning anyways according to our base nature–meaning will always be the immaterial thing we chase and impose over our world despite never succeeding in making it “real”.

Anonymous 0 Comments

It is important to understand that these are *not* three competing philosophical movements. Existentialism is a genuine, but loose, philosophical movement and its individual thinkers can be theistic or atheistic. It got off the ground in 19th century Europe with a Christian thinker (Kierkegaard) and in the early 20th century its definitive statements were Heidegger’s **Being & Time** (1927) and Sartre’s **Being and Nothingness** (1943).

In the essay **The Myth of Sisyphus** (1942) Albert Camus described the human condition as ‘absurd’ because we crave some sort of transcendent meaning for our lives but, alas, the universe we inhabit cannot provide one. Camus was a close friend of Sartre and de Beauvoir, but unlike them he resisted being labeled an ‘existentialist’. I’m not aware of him ever calling his views ‘absurdism’, but he did use terms like ‘the absurd man’. So there really isn’t a philosophical movement called ‘absurdism’.

‘Nihilism’ is a vague term often used as an insult to dismiss various worldviews. It is certainly not a philosophical movement and I’m at a loss to name any major European thinker who proudly adopted this label (the Russian thinkers in the 19th century who *did* refer to themselves by this term weren’t philosophers, just rebels unimpressed with religion and impressed with science).

*Note: When the scholar and translator Walter Kaufmann introduced Nietzsche to America as a serious thinker (circa 1950) he emphasized aspects that made Nietzsche sound like a 19th century existentialist. Also, many people think Nietzsche’s writings were ‘nihilistic’ because of his slogan ‘God is Dead”. But for Nietzsche that was a sociological observation about 19th century culture, not a metaphysical claim. Nietzsche was neither an existentialist nor a nihilist.*