Optimistic Nihilism vs Existentialism: Understanding the Differences and Similarities

If you’re someone who has ever wondered about the meaning of existence, you’ve likely come across terms like nihilism and existentialism. While both these philosophies revolve around the question of meaning and purpose, there’s a fine line that separates them. On one hand, you have nihilism, which paints a picture of existential meaninglessness and void, and on the other hand, you have existentialism, which considers the search for meaning and purpose to be the fundamental human need. However, there’s a new movement that’s taking the world by storm, and it’s called “optimistic nihilism.” In this blog post, we’ll explore the main differences and similarities between optimistic nihilism and existentialism.

Understanding Nihilism and Existentialism: What’s the Main Difference?

Nihilism refers to the philosophical concept that life has no inherent meaning or purpose. Nihilists believe that all values and beliefs are baseless, and that there is no objective moral compass or greater purpose to existence. However, nihilism is not just one philosophy but a spectrum, with different interpretations and schools of thought. Some nihilists are apathetic nihilists who believe that despite the lack of purpose, life is still worth living, while others are existential nihilists, who believe that the void created by the lack of meaning is overwhelming.

On the other hand, existentialism is a philosophy that emphasizes individual existence, freedom, and choice. At its core, existentialism argues that human beings create meaning and purpose for themselves, rather than seeking it out in external forces. Existentialists believe that it’s up to individuals to create their own meaning, and that despite the inherent meaninglessness of existence, it’s still possible to find happiness, fulfillment, and purpose in life.

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What’s the Opposite to Optimistic Nihilism?

The opposite of optimistic nihilism is pessimistic nihilism. While optimistic nihilists accept the inherent meaninglessness of existence, pessimistic nihilists tend to have a bleaker outlook on life. Pessimistic nihilists believe that life is meaningless and void, and therefore, it’s not worth living. They don’t see any purpose or value in existence, which leads to feelings of despair, hopelessness, and cynicism.

Existentialism vs Nihilism: What Sets Them Apart?

Existentialism and nihilism share some similarities, such as the belief that existence is inherently meaningless. However, there are some critical differences between the two.

Firstly, while nihilism emphasizes the void and the absence of meaning, existentialism acknowledges the same but frames it as an opportunity for individuals to create their own meaning and purpose. Existentialists believe that life is only truly worth living when human beings create their own values and goals.

Moreover, while nihilism is often seen as a pessimistic philosophy, existentialism celebrates the beauty and complexity of life and human experience. Existentialists embrace the full range of human emotions and experiences, including joy, sorrow, and pain, and believe that these are essential elements of a meaningful life.

Optimistic Nihilism: A New Philosophy

Optimistic nihilism is a recent development that combines elements of nihilism and existentialism. It’s a philosophy that accepts the inherent meaninglessness of existence while still encouraging individuals to live life to the fullest and create their own purpose and values. In some ways, optimistic nihilism is a response to the existential nihilism that comes with the realization that there is no inherent meaning to life.

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Optimistic nihilism acknowledges the void but doesn’t stop there. Instead, it encourages individuals to create their own sense of purpose and value, which can make life worth living. Optimistic nihilists don’t see the lack of meaning as a reason for despair or hopelessness; instead, they view it as an opportunity to determine their own vision of life.

Optimistic Existentialism vs Absurdism

At first glance, optimistic nihilism and absurdism seem similar, given that both ideas accept the inherent meaninglessness of existence. However, there is a subtle difference.

Absurdism is a philosophy that emphasizes the absurdity of human existence and argues that individuals should embrace the inherent irrationality and chaos of the universe. Absurdists believe that the search for meaning is ultimately futile, and that human beings are incapable of finding a rational explanation for existence.

Optimistic existentialism, on the other hand, sees human existence as an opportunity to create meaning and purpose. While existentialists accept the inherent meaninglessness of existence, they also see this as an invitation to determine one’s own values and goals.

Is Optimistic Nihilism the Same as Existentialism?

While both ideas share certain similarities, there are some critical differences between optimistic nihilism and existentialism. It’s true that both philosophies encourage individuals to create their own meaning and purpose, but the approach to the question of meaning is different.

Existentialism frames the void as an opportunity, while optimistic nihilism accepts the void but doesn’t necessarily see it as an invitation. Additionally, existentialism places greater emphasis on the beauty and complexity of human experience, while optimistic nihilism downplays this aspect in favor of practical ways to create meaning and purpose.

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Optimistic Nihilism vs Absurdism: Which One Is Better?

Ultimately, whether optimistic nihilism or absurdism is better depends on your personal philosophy. If you believe that human beings can create their own meaning and purpose and that life is worth living despite its inherent meaninglessness, then optimistic nihilism might be a good fit. On the other hand, if you believe that the universe is fundamentally irrational and chaotic and that human beings can never hope to find a rational explanation for existence, then absurdism might be more appealing.

Is It Possible to Be an Optimistic Nihilist?

Yes, it’s absolutely possible to be an optimistic nihilist. In fact, many people identify with this philosophy, which is gaining popularity as a response to existential meaninglessness. While optimistic nihilism may seem paradoxical at first, it makes sense when you consider that it acknowledges the void but encourages individuals to create their own purpose and value.


Nihilism and existentialism are two philosophies that have been around for centuries. However, with the emergence of optimistic nihilism, there’s a new way of looking at the world that acknowledges the inherent meaninglessness of existence while encouraging individuals to create their own purpose and value. Whether you identify as an existentialist, nihilist, or an optimistic nihilist, the important thing is to stay true to your own values and beliefs, and live life on your own terms.