Is there any word more misused than nihilism?
Or maybe it's me who doesn't get it.
I had already been thinking about this a few weeks ago and had forgotten I had been doing so when I was reading a review of a book in the New York Times and there was that word again. If I were to mention the book, the author of the book, the author of the review, we would all get quite distracted.
As far as I can tell, most people accused of being nihilists seem to believe quite deeply that life is meaningful, and often despair of finding evidence for this belief due to their sensitivity towards the prevalence of unnecessary suffering experienced by others. Nihilism is an insult directed towards those whose capacity for empathy distracts them from "proper" levels of self-interest.
I don't understand why the capacity to not be distracted by the suffering of others is not considered nihilistic.
Isn't a notion of meaning entirely circumscribed by the limits of an individual's desire by necessity dismissive of any social foundation of meaning? Isn't that, um, nihilism?
I admit the first sentence of the preceding paragraph needs to be rewritten. I could distract you instead, though, by taking a cheap shot and reminding you that the New York Times supports coups, and the inevitable death that follows, but that would make me a nihilist.