The main character of Fathers and Sons, Bazarov, does not want to occupy a philosophical position. Yet nihilism, whether he likes it or not, is a philosophy, a philosophy of destruction and renunciation. Bazarov is such an intellectual character that throughout the novel we see him struggle to understand each new situation in which he is put. Yet, from his intellectual point of view, he renounces romance and many other human values that make life worth living. Part of the drama of the novel is watching how Bazarov can go on living with his philosophy.
Bazarov's philosophy is inconsistent because, though it renounces everything, it does not have the capacity to call itself into question.
Though Bazarov perceives romanticism as the opposite of philosophy, what we learn by the end of the novel is that romanticism – a sense of human value – is exactly what is missing from Bazarov's own nihilistic philosophy.