I commented yesterday that widespread cultural adjustment to nihilism has happened before, for Buddhism is the nihilism of the East.
Western nihilism is different. We don’t follow the Noble Eightfold Path, because we no longer admire anything noble. Despite a few superman pretensions, ours is a nihilism for the vulgar.
Macho nihilists say "Maybe there isn't any meaning, but I'm brave enough to live without it. Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger." That is just a pose. They can't really live without meaning -- they seek it in the idea of living bravely. The problem is that they haven't anything to be brave about.
Pop nihilists say "Meaning is a drag -- who needs it? I'm so cool I like life pointless." That is another pose. They don't really like life pointless -- they seek meaning in seeming to like it pointless, in being cool. The problem is that in a pointless life, being cool is as pointless as everything else.
Political nihilists say "If I need a meaning, my group will construct it for me. Whatever we say is true, that's true for us. And when we win, it will be true for you too." The problem is that there is no such thing as "true for us." If the group said rape were okay, that fertility were a disease, or that a man and his dog were married, these things would still all be false. We can't change reality by changing the way we talk. We can only pretend to.
Most real-life nihilists are a mix of the three flavors: a little Macho, a dash of Pop, and a sprinkling of Politics. Some few of them wear the nihilist label proudly. Others downplay their nihilism -- they don’t want to be extremists. But meaninglessness is the point of nihilism; there isn't much you can do to moderate it.
Tomorrow: Why Is It So Easy?