How Does Existentialism Differ From Nihilism?


Vincent White

Existentialism and nihilism are two philosophical concepts that are often confused with each other. While both of these philosophies deal with the purpose and meaning of life, they have distinct differences that set them apart. In this article, we will explore the differences between existentialism and nihilism.

What is Existentialism?

Existentialism is a philosophical theory that emphasizes individual existence, freedom, and choice. It suggests that humans are responsible for creating their own meaning in life, as opposed to relying on external factors such as religion or tradition. Existentialists believe that individuals must confront the absurdity of life and create their own purpose through actions and choices.

Existentialism emphasizes the importance of personal responsibility, authenticity, and self-awareness. It rejects the idea of a predetermined destiny or fate and instead asserts that individuals have free will to create their own destiny.

What is Nihilism?

Nihilism is a philosophical belief that life has no inherent meaning or value. It suggests that there is no objective morality or purpose in life. Nihilists believe that everything in life – including human values – is ultimately meaningless.

Unlike existentialists who believe in individual freedom and choice, nihilists reject the idea of free will. They argue that humans are merely products of their environment and biology – with no control over their actions or decisions.

Differences between Existentialism and Nihilism

While both existentialism and nihilism reject traditional notions of objective meaning or purpose in life, they differ greatly in their approach to dealing with this realization.

Existentialists embrace the realization that there is no inherent meaning to life but emphasize the importance of creating one’s own purpose through individual choices and actions. They believe in personal responsibility for one’s choices, authenticity, and self-awareness.

On the other hand, nihilists take a more pessimistic approach and believe that life is ultimately meaningless. They reject the idea of free will and argue that humans are mere products of their environment and biology.


In conclusion, while existentialism and nihilism both deal with the meaning of life, they have distinct differences. Existentialism emphasizes individual freedom, responsibility, and choice in creating one’s own purpose in life. Nihilism, on the other hand, rejects the idea of objective meaning or purpose in life and takes a more pessimistic view of human existence.