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I'm specifically thinking of nihilism as defined here:

Nihilism is the philosophical viewpoint that denies or lacks belief in any or all of the reputedly meaningful aspects of life.

Not nihilism in the pessimistic sense, but rather in the sense that a nihilist doesn't have specific beliefs, or thinks having specific beliefs is futile. The definition of this antonym would be something like:

Someone who has specific convictions, positive or negative, on a given subject.

This word shouldn't be constrained to morality, but could apply to any field (e.g. religion, philosophy, stock markets). Opinionist is a promising contender, but doesn't quite work because it typically connotes someone with contrarian views. Conceptually, it would be something like specifist or convictionist (these aren't real words).

Sample sentences:

Unlike nihilists, ____ have specific beliefs.

The decline in active investing suggests there are fewer ____ than ever in the market.

  • Those who are not nihilists are usually referred to by a term for the specific view they hold; there is rarely a need for a term that would convey merely that somebody is not a nihilist. Incidentally, it is rather unclear what it is for somebody to be a nihilist with respect to the stock market; hence it is rather unclear what its opposite would be. And somebody who holds no views on religious matters is usually referred to as an agnostic, rather than a nihilist. – jsw29 Nov 25 '19 at 1:06
  • It would be impossible for a practicing nihilist to participate in the stock market. Any action to buy, sell or hold has some implicit theory of future value. – Global Charm Nov 25 '19 at 2:48
  • . . . . anti-nihilist ? – Nigel J Nov 25 '19 at 4:27
  • How about conformist (total acceptance vs total denial)? – Alex_ander Nov 25 '19 at 9:23
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    If believer doesn't work, you can consider firm believer. The definition of "be a firm believer in (something)" from TFD: "To have a strong conviction that something (stated after "in") is important or worthwhile." – ermanen Nov 27 '19 at 4:30
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I suggest "believers":

  • The decline in active investing suggests there are fewer believers than ever in the market.

The first sentence would require changing "beliefs" to some other word:

  • Unlike nihilists, believers have specific convictions.
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  • Thanks! This is a good contender. I would say this doesn't quite capture the emphasis on the specificity of the beliefs. In the investing sentence, for example, passive investors still believe in the market, but they don't have specific beliefs (beyond general optimism in stocks). – johnluttig Nov 25 '19 at 21:47
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The word antinihilist actually exists, as such.

Etymology anti- +‎ nihilist

Noun antinihilist (plural antinihilists)

(philosophy) One who opposes nihilism.

Wiktionary They even have an Institute :

Welcome to the Anti-Nihilist Institute

The Anti-Nihilist Institute

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  • Technically correct, so you get an upvote! But not quite what I'm looking for – I don't want to describe someone with an opposition to nihilism itself, but rather someone who acts in the opposite way by having specific beliefs. By analogy, the antonym to gay would be straight, not homophobic or antigay. – johnluttig Nov 25 '19 at 22:17
  • @johnluttig You asked, specifically, for an 'antonym of nihilism'. – Nigel J Nov 26 '19 at 9:02
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There are multiple ways to determine the opposite of nihilism. It depends on what is being focused on.

According to the question, however, the word being looked for here is described by the following:

Someone who has specific convictions, positive or negative, on a given subject.

The opposite of somebody who believes in nothing, evidence of not, is somebody who believes in something, evidence or not.

To believe in something despite a lack of evidence (or to follow it blindly with evidence) is to have faith.

Merriam-Webster gives the following non-religious senses of the word (I only give the non-religious senses, since it was asked to focus on that):

2 b(1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof
// clinging to the faith that her missing son would one day return
2 b(2) : complete trust
3 : something that is believed especially with strong conviction

on faith
: without question
// took everything he said on faith

// Nick wiped at the moustache of sweat droplets that was as much a part of his face as his eyes and nose and gave a shrug that indicated a certain lack of faith in our judgment.
— Tom Perrotta, Joe College, 2000

// Claypool appreciated the faith offensive coordinator Chip Long showed in calling his number after the receiver dropped a short pass on the first play of the drive.
— Mike Berardino, Indianapolis Star, "Notre Dame WR Chase Claypool 'needs the ball more,' says ACC Network analyst Eric Mac Lain," 8 Nov. 2019

Of course, if you have faith, you are faithful, and something like the following could be said:

Despite all evidence to the contrary, she remained faithful to the conviction that her father was innocent.

In terms of the example sentences in the question, the actual noun faithful might have too many religious connotations. So, it would probably sound better to use the adjective or the noun faith instead:

Unlike nihilists, those with faith have specific beliefs.
The decline in active investing suggests there are fewer faithful traders than ever in the market.


As an aside, I came across a different interpretation of the opposite of nihilism—one that isn't asked for in the question, but which I still found noteworthy.

The following excerpt comes from "Existentialism, Bounded in a Nutshell: The Basic Philosophical Concepts," a lecture note at the University of Idaho:

3) Existentialism is not nihilism:
"Nihilism" is the belief that nothing matters. Existentialism is the attempt to confront and deal with meaninglessness...to not succumb to nihilism or despair: to not give up or avoid responsibility.

For Camus, the entire purpose of Existential philosophy is to overcome absurdity, or, more accurately, for man to triumph over the absurdity of existence.

So Existentialism is the opposite of nihilism: the nihilist says "There is no god, no heaven or hell, so screw it: there can be no right or wrong. Let's party!" The Existentialist says "There is no god, no heaven or hell, so you and I alone must figure out to make life meaningful and good -- we must, in fact, work without cosmic aid to figure out what 'good' itself is."

In that interpretation of opposites, the opposite of a nihilist is an existentialist.

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  • It is not clear where the clause 'evidence or not' comes from. There are rational arguments for-and-against nihilism. Also, existentialism is definitely not the antonym for nihilism; there are many philosophical positions that reject nihilism far more obviously than existentialism does. The reason why the quoted class notes emphasise that existentialism is not nihilism is precisely that it has some similarities to nihilism. – jsw29 Nov 25 '19 at 6:07
  • Thanks! "Faithful" is promising, but doesn't quite capture the emphasis on the specificity of the beliefs. In the investing sentence, for example, passive investors still have faith in the market, but they don't have specific beliefs (beyond general optimism in the stock market). So I'm looking for a word that describes someone with specific self-motivated faiths / beliefs, versus a lack or absence of specific beliefs. – johnluttig Nov 25 '19 at 22:00

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