Nihilism--why did it get turned into a dirty word?

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Reconstructo
 
Reply Mon 1 Mar, 2010 08:33 pm
@Merry Prankster,
I think some understanding of nihilism can be connect to certain roots. Nietzsche loved Byron. The Romantic poets loved Milton's Satan. Milton loved Shakespeare, created Satan by modifying Edmund and Iago....

Man is never a valueless creature, but he can make the Self as sort of god and embrace a pragmatist epistemology. (nothing is true....except that nothing is true....hmm)
Quote:

The Romantic hero is a literary archetype referring to a character that rejects established norms and conventions, has been rejected by society, and has the self as the center of his or her own existence.[1] The Romantic hero is often the protagonist in the literary work and there is a primary focus on the character's thoughts rather than his or her actions. Literary critic Northrop Frye noted that the Romantic hero is often "placed outside the structure of civilization and therefore represents the force of physical nature, amoral or ruthless, yet with a sense of power, and often leadership, that society has impoverished itself by rejecting".[1]
 
Mentally Ill
 
Reply Mon 1 Mar, 2010 08:38 pm
@Reconstructo,
There is no truth.
True or false?

Answer true for a paradox. That leaves us with false...meaning: there is truth.
That means, in my mind at least, that nihilism is ultimately absurd, if I'm understanding the term correctly.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Mon 1 Mar, 2010 08:47 pm
@Mentally Ill,
Mentally Ill;134304 wrote:
There is no truth.
True or false?

Answer true for a paradox. That leaves us with false...meaning: there is truth.
That means, in my mind at least, that nihilism is ultimately absurd, if I'm understanding the term correctly.


Pragmatism is an ironic epistemology well-suited for nihilism or "satanism" (self as meaning, or the giver of meaning). But Lucifer means light-bringer. It's only a step from nihilism to gnosis. This is why there's that old saying about the lukewarm being farthest from "God."

Nihilism is an aspect of the struggle for truth. It's a hard cold anti-truth that is worshiped paradoxically as the truth about truth...
 
Minimal
 
Reply Thu 4 Mar, 2010 01:34 am
@Reconstructo,
Mentally Ill;134278 wrote:
"This is why, practically speaking, a Nihilist would be just an individual who recognises ultimately there is no intrinsic meaning to anything bar what we personally instil. You can recognise the nihilistic imperative and still have a moral system for pragmatic reasons."

That's what I said earlier in this forum and someone said that I was describing existentialism.
I don't think that a nihilist is someone who recognizes ultimately there is no intrinsic meaning to anything, but that a nihilist is literally someone who holds no beliefs about life or the world. They don't trust that their bed will be there in the morning and must have live extremely timidly.
But like I said, even if you say you hold no beliefs you are, I think, holding the belief that there is no truth...Impossible and paradoxical, I think.


Therefore a "true" Nihilist does not exist. Evolutionarily speaking we must have some belief in our cognitive experience or we die out. For a reasonable definition I stand by my point of a Nihilist rejecting the intrinsic, that is an absolute moral system or value system.

Reconstructo;134301 wrote:
I think some understanding of nihilism can be connect to certain roots. Nietzsche loved Byron. The Romantic poets loved Milton's Satan. Milton loved Shakespeare, created Satan by modifying Edmund and Iago....

Man is never a valueless creature, but he can make the Self as sort of god and embrace a pragmatist epistemology. (nothing is true....except that nothing is true....hmm)


Postulation aside, I would argue survival is a practical pursuit and we create systemic means to allow for survival to be possible with the evolution of our specie into more complex communities - that is societal order. We are ultimately chemical conflation with the emergence of a conscious state. If you believe in some supernatural rationale behind our existence I would like phenomenal proof. Our meaning is created by us; society creates its own meaning also - the universe shows an indifference to our existence or non-existence, hence why we struggle to evolve with it. This seems to give credence to the notion of self-created value. The extent you take self-created value to, that is people supposedly think they are effectively a "god", is arguably reductio ad absurdum.

I read your argument as stating anyone who believes they create their own meaning in life believes they are a "god". This conception of "god" seems somewhat skewed in my honest opinion. You can have a pragmatic epistemological perspective and still recognise precedence of others and their views - that is their ideas can be more pragmatic than our own and we can view others as more important than ourselves (i.e our loved ones). How is such a view self-worship?

About all you can state about Nihilism is that stating, "There is no absolute truth" is itself an absolute truth - seems quite absurd and hence why people believe in an existential conception of reality ;-) I think you are being too dismissive of the rejection of intrinsic value (or Truth) as some angst-ridden position that only the cynical subscribe to.

- Minimal.
 
Scottydamion
 
Reply Thu 4 Mar, 2010 02:10 pm
@Mentally Ill,
Mentally Ill;134304 wrote:
There is no truth.
True or false?

Answer true for a paradox. That leaves us with false...meaning: there is truth.
That means, in my mind at least, that nihilism is ultimately absurd, if I'm understanding the term correctly.


There is only one truth: That nothing is true except this statement.

That fixes the paradox Razz
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Wed 14 Apr, 2010 05:17 am
@Minimal,
Minimal;133160 wrote:
a Nihilist thinks this metaphorical "house" gives us the capacity to make value systems for pragmatic reasons.

- Minimal.


I think you are attributing far too much to the Nihilist here. You are being overly generous. The 'value system' that you are envisaging can really only be that of the Selfish Gene, which survives, BECAUSE it is programmed to do so. Unfortunately, in the H Sapiens, the Selfish Gene runs up against an impenetrable barrier. This is the question: why survive? Which, of course, the Selfish Gene has never had to deal with before. And I think many nihilists fail to answer that question.

Of course, they are no longer with us.
 
Minimal
 
Reply Wed 14 Apr, 2010 05:57 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;151743 wrote:
I think you are attributing far too much to the Nihilist here. You are being overly generous. The 'value system' that you are envisaging can really only be that of the Selfish Gene, which survives, BECAUSE it is programmed to do so. Unfortunately, in the H Sapiens, the Selfish Gene runs up against an impenetrable barrier. This is the question: why survive? Which, of course, the Selfish Gene has never had to deal with before. And I think many nihilists fail to answer that question.

Of course, they are no longer with us.


I am not attributing anything to a nihilist but the rejection of intrinsic value - a nihilist would probably reject you notion of innate drive and therefore adopt pragmatic ideals. The rationale for this could be simply, "Life makes me happy, although ultimately pointless." I do not see nihilism as this absolute rejection of life you speak of - perhaps I speak of a softer interpretation. I think the degree you present is unrealistic, improbable and, therefore, absurd.

- Minimal.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Wed 14 Apr, 2010 03:43 pm
@Merry Prankster,
Pragmatism assumes some purpose, even if it is just survival. I am sure real nihilism questions even that, and is as much a psychological condition as much as a philosophical stance. An attitude summed up in the well-known aphorism of noted social philosopher Bart Simpson and many Gen X devotees as: 'whatever'.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Wed 14 Apr, 2010 03:50 pm
@Minimal,
Minimal;135814 wrote:
This conception of "god" seems somewhat skewed in my honest opinion.


Of course. Romanticism is history. And Milton's Satan didn't end well. I think Blake's twist on it is deeper, better. Ultimately we are social beings.

However, there is something to be said for the burning of idols, and this self-as-god romanticism is a potent brew. Consider the ethical questions that plague the young in this chaotic age. We are mortal beings...and if there is no one in charged except for an evolved prudence, this is quite a bit of rope to swing on.

regards/recon

---------- Post added 04-14-2010 at 04:51 PM ----------

Scottydamion;136040 wrote:
There is only one truth: That nothing is true except this statement.

That fixes the paradox Razz


What about this statement (following), which is a different statement than yours? "That statement of yours is true." Smile

---------- Post added 04-14-2010 at 04:56 PM ----------

Minimal;135814 wrote:

You can have a pragmatic epistemological perspective and still recognise precedence of others and their views - that is their ideas can be more pragmatic than our own and we can view others as more important than ourselves (i.e our loved ones). How is such a view self-worship?

I agree. Perhaps you assumed I was arguing a position when I was merely describing a seductive variety of Romanticism. (Satanism /Byronism).

Ethically I myself have moved (to oversimplify in terms of German Foolosophy) from Nietzsche to Hegel. Also Blake whose general idea is that true religion is just the love of great humans...and loving the greatest humans best. For me, "god" is completely incarnate...., "Humanism", I guess, is a fair word. Smile
 
Minimal
 
Reply Fri 16 Apr, 2010 03:42 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;152003 wrote:
Pragmatism assumes some purpose, even if it is just survival. I am sure real nihilism questions even that, and is as much a psychological condition as much as a philosophical stance. An attitude summed up in the well-known aphorism of noted social philosopher Bart Simpson and many Gen X devotees as: 'whatever'.


That "purpose" is created and not an intrinsic feature of reality according to the nihilistic perspective.

- Minimal.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Fri 16 Apr, 2010 03:57 am
@Merry Prankster,
well that is true. But you can easily get to a place of thinking 'what is the point?'. I don't know if you are familiar with Camus. He was acutely aware of the predicament of modernity in that regard. To Camus, heroism was to be able to impart some sense of purpose to a universe were there was really none at all. But it is pretty hard to sustain, isn't it? I mean, depression and suicide are real social problems in modern society. Nihilism, heroic or not, does not strike me as an effective philosophical basis on which to combat these maladies.

Perhaps a sound alternative is provided by Viktor Frankl whose book Mankind's Search for Meaning retains an existentialist perspective while articulating a sense of higher purpose.

But as far as I am concerned, nihilism is simply an affliction, pure and simple. It has no redeeming features in my book.
 
Night Ripper
 
Reply Fri 16 Apr, 2010 04:04 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;152688 wrote:
I mean, depression and suicide are real social problems in modern society. Nihilism, heroic or not, does not strike me as an effective philosophical basis on which to combat these maladies.


I'm a moral and existential nihilist. I'm not depressed or suicidal. If there's no point in living, there's no point in dying.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Fri 16 Apr, 2010 04:12 am
@Merry Prankster,
Glad I am not you, that is all I can say. I don't see the point in having a philosophy that says there isn't any point. Isn't it the case that if you argue with me, you contradict yourself?
 
Night Ripper
 
Reply Fri 16 Apr, 2010 04:17 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;152691 wrote:
Glad I am not you, that is all I can say. I don't see the point in having a philosophy that says there isn't any point. Isn't it the case that if you argue with me, you contradict yourself?


My very existence has perplexed many people. I take it as a compliment. However, I don't see how my arguing with you contradicts anything.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Fri 16 Apr, 2010 04:43 am
@Merry Prankster,
well you haven't tried to argue yet.
 
Minimal
 
Reply Fri 16 Apr, 2010 07:11 pm
@jeeprs,
Reconstructo;152005 wrote:
Of course. Romanticism is history. And Milton's Satan didn't end well. I think Blake's twist on it is deeper, better. Ultimately we are social beings.

However, there is something to be said for the burning of idols, and this self-as-god romanticism is a potent brew. Consider the ethical questions that plague the young in this chaotic age. We are mortal beings...and if there is no one in charged except for an evolved prudence, this is quite a bit of rope to swing on.

regards/recon

I agree. Perhaps you assumed I was arguing a position when I was merely describing a seductive variety of Romanticism. (Satanism /Byronism).

Ethically I myself have moved (to oversimplify in terms of German Foolosophy) from Nietzsche to Hegel. Also Blake whose general idea is that true religion is just the love of great humans...and loving the greatest humans best. For me, "god" is completely incarnate...., "Humanism", I guess, is a fair word. Smile


Greetings Reconstructo, my apologises for the belated reply - I seemingly missed your reply when scanning this thread the other night.

I assume you are talking of William Blake, the epileptic and Gnostic mystic - if not, I apologise for this digression. William Blake's poetry embodies the humanistic, I can very much agree with such if we are talking of the same academic (if not, well it is relevant nonetheless). The dialectical manner in which William Blake wrote his poetry was profound and, ultimately, existential. He went through this seemingly Socratic discourse to remedy the turmoil plaguing his mind, his dislike of the emerging society and its seemingly amoral state that perpetuated egoistic hedonism as opposed to this free love - if you read the poem "London" by William Blake there lies an honest depiction of the times he lived, the rottenness of the approximate Industrial Revolution and the emergence of capitalistic societies. Every natural order succumbs to the corrupted "mind forged manacles" of, presumably, the societal mandates evolving at the time - this institutionalisation of humanity.

In the "Preface to Milton" Blake writes with profound veracity - or what I firmly believe is some of the most truthful outpourings of his personal views. He speaks of the symbolic divinity and the messiah of biblical proportions in profound detail and seemingly questions a higher order if the holy land ever resided on the pastoral heaths of England where now satanic mills and industrialised waste now exists. I love Blake's writing with a passion, although I admit I have a limited knowledge of even them. However, what I gleaned of the work of his I have read, he was existential, he was a figure of immense superstition although had a flagrant dislike for organised religion - he however was a man of visions, which would logically inference epilepsy or some other malady (not the pathologize creativity or his works as a whole), and had a passionate belief in a higher order. This order therefore ordained intrinsically a set of absolute principles, take for instance free love, that were axiomatically the solution to the surrounding amorality or moral decadence.

Now I can see where you infer this "rope", or we will call "The Noose" (embodying the depressive trap hole of youth ;-) ), but I feel this nihilistic belief is not inherently wrong - all irony aside. The belief that we can reject an absolute authority, drawing back to Blake's belief in some form of a deity, is not necessarily a depressing conclusion. If we see society as merely the mangled and dishevelled order it can be a depressing truth and one that can propagate negativity. Conversely, we can overcome this "abandonment" from a higher order and recognise the development of value systems that embody pragmatic virtues - that is what is socially determined to be "good" and grow a vehement distaste for what is socially "bad".

At an ultimate level, I think nihilism reflects reality's indifference to our existence or non-existence, as I have previously mentioned. At a societal level we function because our primitive tendency drives toward survival, the preservation of oneself and specie. This hard to ignore and it is a sad truth that some feel they never find their niche in this world. These are the ones who are prone to take nihilism out of the sphere of being ultimately true but into their everyday life - "I am mere dust, the vibration of cosmological matter"; although true fundamentally, it ignores the monolithic emergence, or endowment, of subjective cognition - our means to construct and evolve more effectively with the universe. Nietzsche, I feel at least, recognised the effect this would have at a personal level (which also seems to be your concern) - that is the ones who are prone to think at the ultimate level and overlook the immediacy of the situation, our finest accolade of subjective cognition and the ability to make virtues and vices out of the primordial lust to continue just "being".

I do not believe this is Satanism, as I think cohesion is our goal - to find a niche (that is preserve ourself and our loved ones [specie]), to find our place where we can prosper despite the entirety of the world seemingly issuing an ultimatum against such. This does not mean ones will vilify all pre-existing principles - I view that as pragmatically stunted in viability. The rest of society would not agree with such a proposition - why should they ignore their own belief that they too are the ultimate authority? We need to supersede this egoism and adopt the pragmatic to obtain this aforementioned niche - we exist in a world with more than one sentient and sapient being and therefore will adopt a value system which may feel is not intrinsically so - indeed the variability of morality suggest values are dynamic and personal. My only nuance with nihilism is it ignores primitive drive being intrinsically a part of us - although I agree value is merely a subjective concoction spawned from pragmatic necessity to further that "drive"; our existence necessitates we hold value for self.

Perhaps that will clarify things.

jeeprs;152688 wrote:
well that is true. But you can easily get to a place of thinking 'what is the point?'. I don't know if you are familiar with Camus. He was acutely aware of the predicament of modernity in that regard. To Camus, heroism was to be able to impart some sense of purpose to a universe were there was really none at all. But it is pretty hard to sustain, isn't it? I mean, depression and suicide are real social problems in modern society. Nihilism, heroic or not, does not strike me as an effective philosophical basis on which to combat these maladies.

Perhaps a sound alternative is provided by Viktor Frankl whose book Mankind's Search for Meaning retains an existentialist perspective while articulating a sense of higher purpose.

But as far as I am concerned, nihilism is simply an affliction, pure and simple. It has no redeeming features in my book.


I think if you read the above reply to recon, you will find I agree with this primitive drive but ultimately, if we presuppose no higher order, value is necessitated by this drive to continue to live - for pragmatic reasons. I disagree with nihilism on that point, but the ultimate sentiment that nihilism purports, that is value is subjective, I agree with. I think I also address the issue of modernity as well. I think I ultimately agree with your statement that it can be an affliction but this recognition of value being only pragmatic is not necessarily a burden.

Hopefully that all makes sense,

Minimal.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Fri 16 Apr, 2010 08:13 pm
@Minimal,
Minimal;153038 wrote:
At an ultimate level, I think nihilism reflects reality's indifference to our existence or non-existence, as I have previously mentioned.


It makes sense. But I question whether this vision of the 'vast indifferent universe' is also historically conditioned by the emergence of industrial modernity, the vast wars of the 20th Century, the ongoing backlash against Western religion and the very real awareness that the species and civilization now possesses the power of complete self-destruction. This too is very characteristic of Camus and Sartre, existentialism and nihilism. It was made the basis for Jacques Monod's bleak vision of the human species as a 'biochemical fluke' who emerged fortuitously as a result of 'chance and necessity'. It is an outlook rooted in the aftermath of the idea of death of God.

There has been an emergence of a completely different kind of spirituality since those times - the 60's type of cosmic religious outlook which incorporates Indian spirituality. I and many others have had to abandon the existentialist/nihilist view because it is so bleak. And I don't even think it is true. There is no resonance in it, there is no place for humanity in the cosmos. Of our existence is purely fortuitous, and all meaning is subjective, then I can't help but find it alienating. If that makes me New Age, so be it.:bigsmile:

Quote:
The New Age movement deserves respect for its attunement to nature and its search for meaning at a time when neither nature nor meaning is valued in discourse in the humanities. New Age has a core of perennial wisdom. It exalts the brotherhood of man, encourages contemplation, and finds beauty in the moment
(Camille Paglia, Cults and Cosmic Consciousness: Religious Vision in the American 1960's)


I see mankind as the universe expressing itself. Like Alan Watts said, 'As the ocean waves, the universe peoples'. No less than the trees and the stars, we are meant to be here. But we have to wake up to it and behave accordingly. That is my understanding.
 
Minimal
 
Reply Sat 17 Apr, 2010 07:09 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;153050 wrote:
It makes sense. But I question whether this vision of the 'vast indifferent universe' is also historically conditioned by the emergence of industrial modernity, the vast wars of the 20th Century, the ongoing backlash against Western religion and the very real awareness that the species and civilization now possesses the power of complete self-destruction. This too is very characteristic of Camus and Sartre, existentialism and nihilism. It was made the basis for Jacques Monod's bleak vision of the human species as a 'biochemical fluke' who emerged fortuitously as a result of 'chance and necessity'. It is an outlook rooted in the aftermath of the idea of death of God.


This mentality proliferates when such occurrences take place - but then again the death of God, as Nietzsche envisioned, is a quite recent happening also. If there is no absolute meaning within the universe people question their position in the universe although they are no longer subordinated by a transcendental realm. Some proponents of strong atheism (or just secularism) would argue this is liberation, however you personally seem to adopt the sentiment it is a negative event in human history - in some regards I agree and others I do not agree. Alternative to the development of modern spirituality, having no ultimate order that is conscious and an active agent prompts one to conceive perhaps a deistic agent that caused the universe or perhaps pure chaos. I do not subscribe to either ideas; I am more fond of the idea energy has been in a constant flux of transformation with no causation.

Do you personally subscribe to any religious ideas or "higher order"? I am very interested to understand your viewpoint as you seem a very interesting and intelligent individual - I thoroughly enjoy reading your responses and I thank you for your passion!

- Minimal.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sat 17 Apr, 2010 05:11 pm
@Merry Prankster,
Why thanks! I came of age in the 60's so a lot of what I say is out of the genre of 'baby boomer spirituality'. I had some spontaneous spiritual realizations in my late childhood, which were really very like memories of a previous life, although there was no detail of what that might be, other than the sense that one had known something of great significance which was right 'on the tip of the tongue', while remaining elusive (strong resemblance to Plato's 'anamnesis', I realized later). Then in my teenage years, numerous experiences with entheogens, which led to a realization of a 'higher awareness' although one impossible to sustain by those means. This was followed by the discovery of Eastern spiritual masters including Paramahansa Yogananda, Swami Vivekananda, Ramana Maharishi, and Krishnamurti. Then I discovered Buddhism and have been practicing Buddhist meditation more or less ever since (with frequent and regrettable lapses.....)

All of this has given rise to a distinct sense of being 'outside' the Western view of life, in some ways. (Mind you this was a deliberate aim of the 60's counter culture.) The Indian view of life is different to the European, and 'dharma' is fundamentally different to religion. It is experiential and inclusive, rather than dogmatic and exclusive. The basic attitude to life is that one is solely responsible for what happens; there is no vindictive deity keeping score and meting out punishments, but a succession of states of existence, each of which largely depends on the quality of your intention in the prior one. There is also an over-arching state of awareness which the spiritual masters realize, variously known as nirvana, moksha, liberation, or enlightenment, and which we are engaged in pursuit of through many lives. That is the basic view of Indian spirituality.

When I went to Uni, in Sydney, in the late 70's, I was struck by how prominent the assumed non-existence of God was in the humanities subjects. Philosophy and psychology at the time were largely behaviourist, marxist, positivist, or some other form of materialism or atheism. I formed the view that Western culture was in a centuries-old movement away from religion as defined by them. I mean, these same academic atheists would have been, 500 years previously, prelates and curates and bishops of the One True Church. Having spent millenia forcing their version of God down everyone's throats, they were now convinced that it had all been a delusion. So here we are and it is still going on.

Now I know what I have said here contains sweeping generalizations, I have recently been thoroughly flamed for having what some think is debased view of Western intellectual culture. C'est la vie. That anyway is the background to my philosophical thinking, such as it is.
 
topnotcht121
 
Reply Sat 17 Apr, 2010 05:57 pm
@Merry Prankster,
I was once called a Nihilist. I think because for certain discourses I threw out the book of social mores.
 
 

 
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