In this essay, I have decided to abide by three points, what Optimistic Nihilism is, the arguments for it, and finishing with my critiques for this philosophy. Although this is not the essay format I usually use, I’ve tried something new out hoping this format will appeal to the beginners of philosophy.
Optimistic Nihilism is the belief that life has no inherent meaning, but you have to find meaning in your own life. Another word for this can be existentialism, as existentialism is a way to make value out of your own life, while your life may not have much value. This belief also accordingly opposes hard determinism, as it believes that your life is valuable based on the way you spend it and the meaning you make out of it. However, it provides an outlook on life that encourages a person to think of life in a positive manner, even their outlook on life is nothing close to this. A fundamental part of this philosophy is that feelings and emotions are nothing but chemical reactions that derive from hormones and quantum biology. This also can tightly align with utilitarianism.
In the Ted Talk I watched, the speaker was a believer in optimistic nihilism. He describes how he wants to be happy and that the fact that life has no meaning shouldn’t be negative, and in fact that it should encourage people to live their life based on their self desires and ego. He says that the idea of life not mattering should inspire people to be happy and free instead of chained down to believing that there is a meaning in life they need to find. He says that if you are having a bad day, do things that make you happy rather than things that our society’s standards of happiness. It gives you a chance to make your ideal life. He believes that if the action makes you happy then it must be good, and this leads me to my critique on optimistic nihilism and ties of utilitarianism.
My biggest critique is that happiness is subjective as it applies to everyone differently in what they believe makes them happy. In consequentialism, it believes that an action is morally based on the outcome that comes out of it, or as derived from the name, the consequence. I’m going to use an example to show my critique. Ex. If I hit someone unconscious, but it gives me more pleasure than it gives them, is this action ethically right or moral? There is no definite answer to which philosophy is ethically right, consequentialist, or deontologist (the opposing ideology) however we find when reaching each extreme both are immoral. To relate this to nihilism, if I were to end someone’s life because it made me happy, would that make the action right? If that life is meaningless, why does ending it matter? Although I don’t know the meaning of life, and probably never will, I know indeed that there is a meaning that controls our mindset and our actions, or else life would be complete chaos.
Skjoldborg, Elias. “Optimistic Nihilism | Elias Skjoldborg | TEDxHarwoodUnionHighSchool.” Youtube, Google, 24 Aug. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmRBzc0o71A. Accessed 5 Apr. 2021.