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Author Topic:   In defense of nihilism
robinrohan
Inactive Member


Message 1 of 306 (263440)
11-27-2005 12:16 AM


"Nihilism" has negative connotations, but I would like to explain my own use of it and offer a defense. As I define it, nihilism is neither positive nor negative. It is merely a certain view about the nature of human life. This is it: life has no objective purpose. We are accidental creations of a mindless universe. I think most can agree that this is not an unreasonable idea.

What are the benefits of nihilism? It allows one to relieve oneself of cant and piety, both of the humanistic and religious sort.
The benefit is not that one rids oneself of moralistic schemes--that's impossible--but that one is able to take all these moralities with a grain of salt. People have always had a tendency to think themselves too thoroughly right in matters which are subjective. This tendency is responsible for much of human suffering, for much of the whole history of grief.

One might reply, if I cannot take my creed wholeheartedly, then it seems a sham. I consider that idea a mistake. That is the salemanship view of life, the view that if I only believe something enough then it is bound to be true. There are certain practical aspects of life in which that idea might come in handy, but it won't do as philosophy.

For those interested in exploring nihilism further, I'm including a brief excerpt from a nihilistic bible that I located in the dusty corner of a used-book store (Pardon me. The books are referred to as "pre-owned.").

The Nihilistic Bible

1.1 The Master looks out into the world of men and finds no purpose under the sun. Though he travels to all the tribes of the world and hearkens to its wise men, of meaning he finds none.
1.2 Yet he rejoices to know that it matters not what he does or leaves undone. A hundred years from now it is all the same. The dog that lieth in the ditch is his equal as is the gnat swarming in the eye.
1.3 But tell us, Master, how we should live and what we should do.
1.4 It matters not how ye live or what ye do ultimately. You will go to your long home. There is nothing more tragic than this and nothing more true. But until the ultimate, consider the cows of the pasture munching contentedly. They do not worry about their future which is to be beef for the fat men of the earth. We must likewise ignore the slaughterhouse of time, the abbattoir of all.
1.5 Philosophy is poetry. What the wise men say is so much sparkling dust and word experiments. Rainbows and sunsets make us shiver with delight but soon disappear into nothing. So it is with all creeds. Even so, there is comfort in a creed, as in a warm fire, and I would urge ye to adopt one.
1.6 We do not understand, Master.
1.7 What stupid apostles I have. One must take one's apostles as one finds them, I suppose. Adopt a creed with full knowledge of what ye do. Then ye shall live authentically. Stay out of the churches. They exist to destroy your freedom of thought. A creed is a game which ye must play well to reap the profit. One must enter into the spirit of the game.
1.8 Be ye not loners in your creed. Hearken unto others and learn to enjoy their subtle pretensions, as they will enjoy yours, and what was once disgusting will become delightful; what was once ugly, beautiful; what was once ailing, healthy.
1.9 Life might be likened to a farmer who must choose which to harvest first, the wheat or the corn. While he is thus taking thought, a storm comes out of the mountains and destroys both crops.
1.10 Partake freely therefore of the bounteous earth, the dripping honey, the leavened bread, the flesh of goats, and the flowing wine, but beware lest ye forfeit the greater good, the comfort of women and the long journey of the mind.
1.11 He who utters pious cant can in no wise enter the church--
1.12 What church, Master?
1.13 Could you let me finish? He who utters pious cant can in no wise enter the church to end all churches, the anti-church church. It mattereth not if one ministers unto the mountain god or refuses the pale Galilean; it mattereth not if one loves the race or promotes the patriotism of the tribe. O ye hypocrites, will you paint the world blue and call that a purpose? Just as well that as the other, the giving of alms or the care of the sick or washing the feet of the Master. It is all arbitrary.

This message has been edited by robinrohan, 11-26-2005 11:30 PM


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AdminNWR
Inactive Member


Message 2 of 306 (263446)
11-27-2005 12:40 AM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.

It doesn't quite fit here. But it doesn't quite fit in Faith and Belief either. I'm hoping we can see a serious discussion, so I avoided the coffee house.

This message has been edited by AdminNWR, 11-26-2005 11:43 PM


Funkaloyd
Inactive Member


Message 3 of 306 (263463)
11-27-2005 7:45 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by robinrohan
11-27-2005 12:16 AM


My problem with nihilism is that it seems to underestimate the significance of human interpretation. In my limited experience, nihilists have had a tendency to depreciate the fact that "rainbows and sunsets make us shiver".

There may be no objective purpose to life, but I don't see why the purpose that we get from our minds is not valid.


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nwr
Member
Posts: 5585
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005


Message 4 of 306 (263505)
11-27-2005 2:09 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by robinrohan
11-27-2005 12:16 AM


This is it: life has no objective purpose.

Isn't that the problem right there?

"Purpose" is an inherently subjective concept. Thus any attempt to come up with an objective purpose is doomed to fail. But this need not indicate that there is any problem for us. It is simply a natural consequence of what we mean by "objective".

If we want purpose in our lives, we must look within, rather than without. For it is of the nature of the subjective that it comes from within.


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Nighttrain
Member (Idle past 2101 days)
Posts: 1512
From: brisbane,australia
Joined: 06-08-2004


Message 5 of 306 (263539)
11-27-2005 4:51 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by nwr
11-27-2005 2:09 PM


De-nialist
And here I thought a nihilist was someone in love with Egypt :-p

If we want purpose in our lives, we must look within, rather than without. For it is of the nature of the subjective that it comes from within.

Trouble is, too many look within and find nothing there to start with---


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Nighttrain
Member (Idle past 2101 days)
Posts: 1512
From: brisbane,australia
Joined: 06-08-2004


Message 6 of 306 (263541)
11-27-2005 4:53 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by robinrohan
11-27-2005 12:16 AM


Good apostles hard to find
1.7 What stupid apostles I have. One must take one's apostles as one finds them, I suppose

Jesus had the same trouble.


This message is a reply to:
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Omnivorous
Member (Idle past 1075 days)
Posts: 3808
From: Adirondackia
Joined: 07-21-2005


Message 7 of 306 (263546)
11-27-2005 5:05 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by robinrohan
11-27-2005 12:16 AM


Perfect Master of Contingency
Bravo!

Don't change a word without payment.


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Parasomnium
Member (Idle past 804 days)
Posts: 2191
Joined: 07-15-2003


Message 8 of 306 (263559)
11-27-2005 5:43 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by robinrohan
11-27-2005 12:16 AM


Primum viveri deinde philosophari
What a beautiful, moving post. There is wisdom in these words, even if, or perhaps because they essentially deny the possibility of wisdom. If there is beauty in nihilism, this paradox is it.

Nice touch, Robin, this Nihilistic Bible. You have the gift of the written word.

I agree that there is no objective purpose in life. The closest we can get to objectivity is to say that the purpose of life is to live it.


"We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further." - Richard Dawkins
This message is a reply to:
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robinrohan
Inactive Member


Message 9 of 306 (263589)
11-27-2005 7:30 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Nighttrain
11-27-2005 4:53 PM


Re: Good apostles hard to find
Jesus had the same trouble.

Yeah, he was the only one who was smart.


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joshua221 
Inactive Suspended Member


Message 10 of 306 (263626)
11-27-2005 9:55 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by robinrohan
11-27-2005 12:16 AM


An absurd abyss of existence as it was termed by the late Albert Camus, this is where we are, and we know nothing of it, we can only speculate and measure this world with crude tools. So here we are all without purpose, without significance, in a life that does not mean anything? A product of what you say " a mindless universe "? You are mistaken in these conclusions about the life that you live. What is inside of us cannot be product of a mindless universe, we are not pawns in a world that has no meaning, these depressing thoughts do not resonate truth. They at best give us an idea of what life is like without God. The existence of a God promotes a much more positive outlook on life, a life with purpose. Transendance of our souls, the ability to transcend the natural universe and reach a plane of thought that is talked of in books by herman hesse and thoreau. Nothing in life is important and the love that I bestow to my friends means absolutely nothing at all, how could you bring yourself to accept that? Have you given up on life robinrohan?

This abyss of existence is more than it seems, we have purpose, that purpose lies within ourselves in our hearts, and minds, and souls. And this isn't subjective, this is real, this is true. Without it we would be worthless, and we are not worthless my friend, we are special. What we all do matters, and everything happens for a reason. Put aside my beliefs on God itself, through Christianity, and we cannot differ on these fundemental abilities that humanity must possess. To be a nihilist is to give up on humanity, and to give up on oneself. Nihilism is simply the last straw, it's the suicide of the mind. God exists, and gave all things life, there is beauty in life, and there is meaning within this absurd abyss.

With this line I could call you a relativist.

People have always had a tendency to think themselves too thoroughly right in matters which are subjective.

Sure, but we are dealing with the essence of our existance, and to sit on a fence, or decide that this mess we call life doesn't have purpose is to give up on one's own existance. Don't give this up, we are important, and there is objectivity within what is called truth.


well sure as planets come, i know that they end
and if i'm here when they happens, will you promise me this my friend?
please bury me with it
i just don't need none of that mad max bullshit
This message is a reply to:
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Omnivorous
Member (Idle past 1075 days)
Posts: 3808
From: Adirondackia
Joined: 07-21-2005


Message 11 of 306 (263630)
11-27-2005 10:21 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by robinrohan
11-27-2005 7:30 PM


Re: Good apostles hard to find
Jesus had the same trouble.

robin writes:

Yeah, he was the only one who was smart.

Bet he never got a POTM nomination, though--and his critics were harsh.


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nwr
Member
Posts: 5585
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005


Message 12 of 306 (263643)
11-27-2005 11:16 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by joshua221
11-27-2005 9:55 PM


prophex writes:

This abyss of existence is more than it seems, we have purpose, that purpose lies within ourselves in our hearts, and minds, and souls.


Of course we have meaning and purpose. It lies within us. That's what several of us had been trying to explain to you in the several threads you started.

And this isn't subjective, this is real, this is true.

Come now, you can do better than that. Of course it is subjective. That's the very meaning of "subjective".

Even though it is subjective, it can still be real and true. Is that where you have been making your mistake? Have you perhaps been assuming that only what is objective can be real?

Science deals with the objective. But it does not deny that there is a subjective. Some people say that the subjective is an illusion, but they are surely mistaken.

Without it we would be worthless, ...

Without the subjective you would not be worthless. Rather, without the subjective you would not be. Your being is tied to the subjective.

Put aside my beliefs on God itself, through Christianity, and we cannot differ on these fundemental abilities that humanity must possess.

No, that's wrong. Your subjective, that you have purpose, that your live is meaningful, these do not depend on your beliefs in God. Some of the details of your purpose and meaning in life might depend on those beliefs, but having purpose and meaning do not depend on those beliefs.

I'm not suggesting that you should give up your beliefs. I am suggesting that you develop a better perspective as to the role that they play in your life.


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Phat
Member
Posts: 12248
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.3


Message 13 of 306 (263646)
11-27-2005 11:30 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by nwr
11-27-2005 11:16 PM


Subjects of an objective reality
Imagine a King. A King who was, is, and always will be. A Creator who created you and I before we could even think to imagine Him. Now, I explain to you, He is the object of my Faith. I am His subject.

My love for Him is subjective, for I am human. Having given my life to Him, I allow His objective to become my objective. This involves a lifelong process, to be sure. "Subject to change." Subject WILL change. My Brothers and Sisters and I will change together.

Not because of a loud preacher! Not because of the Bible! We will change because He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it! That we may be as one, even as He and His Father are one.


Nature is an infinite sphere of which the center is everywhere and the circumference nowhere.
Pensées (1670)

We arrive at truth, not by reason only, but also by the heart.
Pensées (1670)

Heb 4:12-13-- For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Holy Spirit--speaking through the Apostle Paul


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Phat
Member
Posts: 12248
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.3


Message 14 of 306 (263648)
11-27-2005 11:39 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by joshua221
11-27-2005 9:55 PM


S'cuse Him, while He makes the Sky!
Twindrix writes:

This abyss of existence is more than it seems, we have purpose, that purpose lies within ourselves in our hearts, and minds, and souls. And this isn't subjective, this is real, this is true. Without it we would be worthless, and we are not worthless my friend, we are special. What we all do matters, and everything happens for a reason.

Touche!

In fact, I could rephrase what you stated. I could say that we have purpose, and that purpose is an objective. That objective is to know Christ. To know Him who lives in our hearts,and our minds, and our souls! Without Him we are empty. Filling the void with twinkies, or beers, or pot, or heartless sex! Unable to come to a realization of the truth, for without a Love for it, emptiness is the final destination. Hell is not about demons, pitchforks, and frustrated frenzied agony so much as it is about emptiness. A picture of a dead man...a dead woman...with no life within them for they left themselves empty.
nihilism \n-e-li-zem, ne-he-\ n 1 : a viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless 2 : anarchism 3 : terrorism nihilist \-list\ n or adj nihilistic \n-e-lis-tik, ne-he-\ adj

Jesus declared that Satan had nothing In Him. Why? Because His Father filled Him! Jesus had sense and had a use. He still does!
He lives on! :D

This message has been edited by Phat, 11-27-2005 09:47 PM


Nature is an infinite sphere of which the center is everywhere and the circumference nowhere.
Pensées (1670)

We arrive at truth, not by reason only, but also by the heart.
Pensées (1670)

Heb 4:12-13-- For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Holy Spirit--speaking through the Apostle Paul


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Phat
Member
Posts: 12248
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.3


Message 15 of 306 (263651)
11-28-2005 12:30 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by robinrohan
11-27-2005 12:16 AM


Nix to Nihilism
Nihilists "Bible" writes:

O ye hypocrites, will you paint the world blue and call that a purpose? Just as well that as the other, the giving of alms or the care of the sick or washing the feet of the Master. It is all arbitrary.

How can anything be declared arbitrary without an arbitrator? Philosophy itself is vain and hollow as it lifts human wisdom unto itself as the standard and the definition of reality.
nwr writes:

If we want purpose in our lives, we must look within, rather than without. For it is of the nature of the subjective that it comes from within.

I agree that one must look within, but one cannot look within until one realizes that meaning is found through the eyes of One whom is not only within us, but is enveloping us as well!
NIV writes:

Eccl 1:10--
Is there anything of which one can say,
"Look! This is something new"?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.

So who is the arbitrator? Is it our own vain and hollow philosophies?

NIV writes:

Eccl 12:8-13-- "Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher."Everything is meaningless!"
Not only was the Teacher wise, but also he imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true.
The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails-given by one Shepherd. Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.
Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.
Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole [duty] of man.

Fear God? Does the Bible contradict itself??? Perhaps we should take everything within context.....

NIV writes:

Job 28:28-
'The fear of the Lord-that is wisdom,
and to shun evil is understanding.'"

Finally, in defense of this Fear Factor, I offer a wee bit more scripture:

NIV writes:

Luke 12:4-7-- But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.


Why is it so easy to say that one has no fear of death and yet deny needing to have a reverant fear of God? The Arbitrator? 9-11 brought up a great national fear.

It turns out that many reacted at first with reverance and repentance and then, turning to the idolatry of patriotism and worship of the flag and the freedom for which it stands, we had no fear of anything...and now reap the consequences of our arrogance!

Nihilism frees the mind from fear of anything....yet death awaits the nihilist as surely as the Sun sets. There is a Light, however, that shines in the darkness of our blackened souls, and the darkness does not understand this Light. I say this: Let us understand our worth! We are nothing without He who is the Creator of everything!

In other words, our intellectual evolution leads to nothing without acknowledgment of the Creator of everything.

parasomnium writes:

The closest we can get to objectivity is to say that the purpose of life is to live it.

I agree that living life is itself an objective. However,
NIV writes:

Mark 8:36-37
6 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?

Ask yourself who the arbitrator is? Hint: It ain't Richard Dawkins!

This message has been edited by Phat, 11-27-2005 10:42 PM


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