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existentialism, nihilism Can you be an existentialist if you don't believe in freewill. When I say free will I mean everything is determined by the natural laws of science. Also what is nihilism? Is nihilsm just a general term where there are different types,  like existential nihilism and moral nihilism? Are there any philosophies where you can't create personal meaning? I am not refering to universal meaning I am just refering to personal meaning. When I say universal meaning I refering to meaning that applies to everyone. Can you try to keep your answer simple thanks      

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So would the correct word be subjective meaning in nihilism or is that just a synonym for personal meaning? 

Meaning is a tricky term. We generally distinguish between objective and subjective types of meaning, but "personal meaning" can stand in for subjective meaning if we offer an explanation or a context for the term.

 "According to some scholars, existentialism posits that there are motivations which move us to action that we cannot understand and may not be aware of at all." Can you go into more detail?

In existentialism, as I understand it, there is an important doubt as to how much a person can truly know about the world and the self. Experience only offers access to a limited degree of knowledge. This limitation can apply to our awareness of our own behaviour, leading us to do things we do not understand or even intend to do. We lapse, at times, into actions that are driven by forces which are learned, which are animal, unconscious, and absurd, as Camus writes:

“Men, too, secrete the inhuman.  At certain moments of lucidity, the mechanical aspects of their gestures, their meaningless pantomime makes silly everything that surrounds them.  A man is talking on the telephone behind a glass partition; you cannot hear him, but you see his incomprehensible dumb show: you wonder why he is alive.  This discomfort in the face of man’s own inhumanity, this incalculable tumble before the image of what we are, this “nausea,” as a writer of today calls it, is also the absurd. Likewise the stranger who at certain seconds comes to meet us in the mirror, the familiar and yet alarming brother we encounter in own photograph is also the absurd.”


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According to some scholars, existentialism posits that there are motivations which move us to action that we cannot understand and may not be aware of at all. This would seem to jive with the possibility in being an "existentialist" while not believing in free will. 

This is open to debate however. 

The nihilism question is a bit tougher, or seems tougher to me. Nihilism and existentialism are both rather loosely defined because, as terms, they are tossed around quite a bit and applied in contexts that widen their meanings. Nihilism suffers more than existentialism in this way. 

My understanding of nihilism, if we take it as an absolute philosophical principle, is that under nihilism there can be no profound meaning of any kind, personal meaning would be included. The world was not born meaningfully, does not possess or express an intentionality which would be required for "actual meaning" and so offers only contingent, momentary, arbitrary and accidental meaning. 

Of course, words still have meaning. Actions still have meaning. But the meaning stems from a socially-codified agreement, not from a pre-existing, larger context. There is no reference frame outside of human history and so there is no objective or spiritual meaning available. It's all just people, people's attitudes (inherited and imagined), and that's it. That's nihilism, as I understand it. 

Importantly, there is no call for destruction, for immoral behavior or any negativity at all as a natural consequence of nihilism. Essentially, both existentialism and nihilism share the notion that there is no ultimate reference frame from which we might derive meaning. Existentialists say that if it's there we can't know it. Nihilists say that it isn't there at all. 

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