Nihilism and Culture

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One of the most detrimental elements of society goes largely unrecognized. Nihilism’s negative effects can be seen throughout our culture. Nihilism makes many appearances in pop culture, numbs society into a lull, and yet at the same time offers some hope.

While traditional nihilism is often discussed in terms of extreme skepticism and relativism, for most of the 20th century it has been associated with the belief that life is meaningless. This new type of philosophy is called existential nihilism. Existential nihilism begins with the notion that the world is without meaning or purpose. Under this idea, existence itself, all action, suffering, and feeling is senseless and lacking a point.

Pop culture, movies and television especially, are become increasingly more nihilistic. The movie The Matrix has strong nihilistic undertones. The main character, Neo, keeps his computer programs in the chapter “On Nihilism” in the book Simulacra and Simulation by Baudrillard.

Baudrillard’s philosophy was that God’s presence is only perceived by religious icons. These icons become the source of God’s power. When God is only felt through these icons, it is very unlikely a god exists. Baudrillard believed that God does not exist if his presence is not felt. The idea of a god is a manmade concept intended to fill the emptiness mankind feels. One character in The Matrix said “I was looking for an answer,” as she was enlightened of the Matrix. Once nihilism is realized separated and from God and the rules associated with him, the self creates its own reality.

The cult classic Fight Club suggest both a traditional and existential nihilistic lifestyle. Fight Club rejects capitalism and consumerism, a lifestyle that nearly everyone holds dear in our consumerist culture. There is also a rejection that violence is negative. Pain and other sensory experiences becomes the means to awaken to a real life. Tyler, while burning the main character (who’s other personality is...
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