Nihilism as a philosophical concept is lacking in belief in some of the facets of life that are believed to be the most meaningful. Existential nihilism, the core principles of which were made popular through the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, takes this one step farther and maintains a disbelief in the significance of any one individual or the entire human race as a whole. This theory posits that life has no inherent value or meaning; humans, individually or collectively, have no purpose and thus are unlikely to ever really exhibit change. This position has existed in western civilizations from the onset; it can be traced back to some of the earliest philosophers in one form or another, and it is seen in the writings of some of the greatest authors in history, including William Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth.
Existential nihilism also holds true the idea that man can never fully understand the “why” of any aspect of life. As a result, man is forced to create his own meaning, all of which is, essentially, meaningless. Anything man thinks or feels is merely in response to something else; free will to create one’s own thoughts and feelings is inherently denied, thus depriving man the ability to create any true meaning to life. Any meaning found in religion or philosophy are also equally meaningless, as these are only created in response to the fear man feels of death and an end of his existence. Life, in essence, has no meaning; existential nihilists believe that individuals claiming to understand the meaning of life are being utterly dishonest with themselves and their existence.