Arguments Against Nihilism? Watch

miser
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I've been struggling for a while with nihilism. A few years ago I accepted the thesis of existential nihilism: that there is no intrinsic value able to be attributed to existence such that existence is better than non-existence. Ever since that time I've understood myself to be an existentialist (believing that meaning can be found extrinsically in the environment - in people, causes or beliefs), but since a few months ago, I have found my perspective flip as I began to realise that I could not justify existentialism; I could not reconcile to myself the reason why any action I perceived as 'meaningful' was more important than any other action, and this lead to a transition to nihilism.

Now that I am a nihilist, I cannot help but feel surrounded by the inherent feeling of purposelessness of any action or any inaction. I bother to stay alive because my instincts tell me that any suicide would hurt my friends and family, but I cannot separate feelings of instinct against feelings of free will, or any feelings that could truly be said to belong to 'me' and not simply be a product of my 'design' (or the specific configuration of matter that constitutes 'me').

So, I would like to ask, is there any strong argument in favor of existentialism over nihilism? Or of any other philosophy?

For additional details, I'd like to clarify that my nihilism is not related to depression (I'd like to mention this since it is a common misconception regarding nihilism) - my nihilism has not lead to feelings of depression, nor has any feeling of depression contributed to my current beliefs; I've thought in-depth about philosophy for a long time, and I'm simply unable to justify any feeling of purposefulness over any other feeling.

The only compelling argument I can think of that even tempts me is that the existence of consciousnesses necessitates the existence of morality, and so therefore perhaps it is more logically sound to devote one's life to humanism or altruism. Or perhaps that the existence of my own consciousness inherently justifies hedonism, according to the idea that existence could only be said to be more worthwhile than non-existence if it was better than non-existence.

I'd be really interested to hear others' thoughts on this subject. Thanks for your time!
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Noslew
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I'm not very good with philosophical lingo and I don't know an awful lot about it, but you can create your own purpose.

The universe that exists has no purpose, no (moral) rules, it just is. We, as humans have managed to create an environment for ourselves which subjectively has purpose. In this particular case, objective purpose doesn't particularly matter because we have our own rules/morals which we created. We are the starting point. The fact that the existence of our constituents has no meaning, doesn't mean that any existence that is from there on means nothing.

Our definition of value is just as valid as the inherent value of existence to begin with. We're are the only things that know about our existence. Humans generally put value to things that are rare. In my personal opinion, going against your instincts gives your existence some sort of "purpose", as you are one of the very few things in this universe that go against that preposed pathway. i.e. Most idiotic chavs just follow their instincts and go through life with as much "purpose" as bacteria (essentially nothing). Their genetics have them by the balls.

Understanding that your initial existence is ultimately futile but knowing that you exist, doing things that you don't particularly want to do but will make you a more efficient human being, and persuing things that give me pleasure (hedonism) are what give me my "purpose".

tl;dr - The inherent idea of the purpose of existence is really no more valid than the definition I made up as a human. "Better" or "worse" doesn't exist in the universe. My existence is better than non-existence for me. Mainly due to the feeling of pleasure that makes me want to exist, aside from my instincts telling me to.



This is probably just incoherent thoughts blurted out, but I kind of just wanted to give an opinion. Feel free to thrash the **** out of it haha.
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Rob da Mop
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It's your choice to subscribe to that philosophy. Even if one accepts that there's no intrinsic purpose or value to life or existence one can still see the value of experience to you. Listening to music doesn't serve any "purpose" but it makes you feel better.
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J.tytler
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Is it better to be ignorant and happy than informed and depressed?

I'd go for the first one... I agree with nihilism as a philisophy but... what's the point in nihilism? As a philiosphy it doesn't contribute anything except extreme pessimism. If all you do with your consciousness is sit around contemplating how pointless it is then it does become pointless.

I'd rather just not worry about it and enjoy life... Humanism and Headonism over Nihilism any day. Nihilism just seems empty and pointless.

Why does existence need to have a point? We exist, we can choose to do what we want with our existance so why waste it?
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Stratos
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Hedonism is the only way out I guess. Doing things to make yourself better.
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Noslew
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(Original post by J.tytler)
Is it better to be ignorant and happy than informed and depressed?

I'd go for the first one... I agree with nihilism as a philisophy but... what's the point in nihilism? As a philiosphy it doesn't contribute anything except extreme pessimism. If all you do with your consciousness is sit around contemplating how pointless it is then it does become pointless.

I'd rather just not worry about it and enjoy life... Humanism and Headonism over Nihilism any day. Nihilism just seems empty and pointless.

Why does existence need to have a point? We exist, we can choose to do what we want with our existance so why waste it?
Philosophies don't need a purpose. It's a discussion over what is true. Hedonism and Nihilism are completely compatible btw.

I also find it funny how humans seem to get offended by this philosophy. "Grrr, I'M NOT POINTLESS!". I just shows how much the hardwiring of their brains can block out logic. (This wasn't pointed at the person I quoted btw)
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Da Bachtopus
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Nihilism is just stupid. Is demanding "intrinsic", or -- and I think this is more what you're aiming for -- transcendental/universal value actually valid? This isn't just to say that "value" is only attributed to things by certain communities, and therefore relative, rather than (in an ultimate sense) intrinsic. The concept of "value" itself, at least in ethical terms, does not exist apart from a certain social world. Bemoaning a lack of value in a baldly material universe is just nonsensical. But you don't inhabit such a universe. Because you're already asking questions about value. So don't worry.
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chainedheart
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How about Projectivism?

There are no moral values in the world itself and it's up to human beings to project our values/benefits/attitudes into the world?
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miser
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I would certainly like to believe in projectivism or in the idea that we are able to create our own purposes in life, but the very fact that it is we that choose which purpose we follow seems to negate any proposed purpose's actual worth. What is it about one purpose that makes it superior over any other decision if the only difference is the fact that I have chosen it? Any decision seems to be entirely arbitrary and ultimately unjustifiable.

For example, I am naturally drawn to ideas such as caring for my family, teaching others or having positive impacts on others' lives, but to what degree can 'I' be said to be responsible for being drawn to those idealisms? It is very likely that it is instinct that sways me - instinct and experience that inevitably force my hand and fill me with countless biases and my ancestors' evolved predispositions. Do I want these things because I have made a purely rational decision about them, having avoided basing any decision on unjustifed premises, or is it simply psychological bias?

Even happiness, sadness, pleasure and suffering are apparently the manifestations of chemicals existing within the brain, and so even if I feel these sensations, what is it that causes their presence (and thus the sensation of my experience)? They seem to be provided because I have (or haven't) acted in accordance with evolutionary instinct, therefore demonstrating themselves as irrelevent if you would prefer to walk a purely rational path. People feel happy when they fall in love, when they are able to gain respect and high status within social groups, when they satisfy their various evolutionary urges (including seeking purposefulness and other 'higher' human needs); people feel sad or depressed when they are unable to find those things - in short, happiness and sadness appear to be correlated almost completely with an individual's estimation of his or her own current evolutionary 'success' (or else for other reasons intrinsic to each individual). Therefore, if philosophy is about understanding truth - about conquering all biases and evolved misconceptions - then should we disregard instinct in favor of the truth, even if it were to lead to, for example, purposelessness and sadness?

Is it the case that we, as humans, are inevitably condemned to chase after these 'positive' sensations, even when it appears impossible to explicitly justify one action or belief over any other, other than that we decide it to be so? Even if we had the power to ignore all the biases inherent in all of us, what is it that makes the decision of what purpose to follow or what beliefs to believe in a choice that is not completely arbitrary?

In short, it appears to me that the search for truth does not necessarily engender happiness - rather it appears to lead simply to the understanding that we are who we are by design and external influence, that nothing can truly be said to be more important than any other thing, and that the universe itself is the embodiment of apparent absurdity.

Specifically to Da Bachtopus who claimed that nihilism is "stupid": it's not that anyone would want to be a nihilist; it's simply that nihilism appears to be the default choice when evidence for the belief in other philosophies is lacking. I'm not "demanding" that life have a purpose - I believe we're only interested in philosophy and the search for purpose because it's a facet of our design, much like the need for companionship - a natural desire present in most individuals, but probably not all.

I would like to believe in a purpose, but my reason for wishing to believe in that purpose is itself unjustified.
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Saichu
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(Original post by Da Bachtopus)
Nihilism is just stupid. Is demanding "intrinsic", or -- and I think this is more what you're aiming for -- transcendental/universal value actually valid? This isn't just to say that "value" is only attributed to things by certain communities, and therefore relative, rather than (in an ultimate sense) intrinsic. The concept of "value" itself, at least in ethical terms, does not exist apart from a certain social world. Bemoaning a lack of value in a baldly material universe is just nonsensical. But you don't inhabit such a universe. Because you're already asking questions about value. So don't worry.
Nihilism is about lack of intrinsic meaning, however, not about "bemoaning" said lack of meaning. If it's right, it's right, and that's all there is to it.
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J.tytler
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(Original post by Saichu)
Nihilism is about lack of intrinsic meaning, however, not about "bemoaning" said lack of meaning. If it's right, it's right, and that's all there is to it.
But as OP said (before he edited) if you accept there is a lack of meaning in life then you will loose interest in living. Everything will seem menial and pointless, and as such not worth bothering with. How can you believe that life is pointless and then go on living a full and happy lfie?

I don't see how you could.
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Saichu
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(Original post by J.tytler)
But as OP said (before he edited) if you accept there is a lack of intrinsic meaning in life then you will loose interest in living. Everything will seem menial and pointless, and as such not worth bothering with. How can you believe that life is pointless and then go on living a full and happy lfie?

I don't see how you could.
I've made a correction; does an answer seem more obvious now? One possibility is via extrinsic meaning, like the projectivism that had earlier been suggested. I'm sure there are also ways of living your life that successfully distract you from lack of intrinsic meaning, such as workaholism or drunkenness.
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BeanofJelly
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I had a similar problem.

My tactics:

1) Try not to think about it

2) Realise that being upset about nihilism is also just an instictive feature. There is no logical reason why meaning should be superior to no meaning, and as you've kinda taken logic to its extreme and depressing conclusion, why not apply it further to say that being depressed about nihilism is also unjustified, and abandon the human obsession with purpose altogether.

Which kind of ur.. brings you back to point 1. Yeah its mostly just point 1.
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J.tytler
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(Original post by Saichu)
I've made a correction; does an answer seem more obvious now? One possibility is via extrinsic meaning, like the projectivism that had earlier been suggested. I'm sure there are also ways of living your life that successfully distract you from lack of intrinsic meaning, such as workaholism or drunkenness.
Workaholism and drunkeness.... what kind of a life is that? And I'm sure both would eventually make you feel worse as the first will cause strees which leads to depression and alchohol is a depressant.

Full blown existential nihilism is like a self imposed intellectual depression imo.
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Saichu
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(Original post by J.tytler)
Workaholism and drunkeness.... what kind of a life is that? And I'm sure both would eventually make you feel worse as the first will cause strees which leads to depression and alchohol is a depressant.

Full blown existential nihilism is like a self imposed intellectual depression imo.
Did you miss the very previous sentence?

As for your misquote, it's workaholism or drunkenness. Those are just two examples of styles of life that would definitely distract one from meaning. It's quite likely there are far more balanced ways of doing so, and your generalization that all ways are like those is unfounded.
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Lagunabeans911
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(Original post by miser)
I've been struggling for a while with nihilism. A few years ago I accepted the thesis of existential nihilism: that there is no intrinsic value able to be attributed to existence such that existence is better than non-existence. Ever since that time I've understood myself to be an existentialist (believing that meaning can be found extrinsically in the environment - in people, causes or beliefs), but since a few months ago, I have found my perspective flip as I began to realise that I could not justify existentialism; I could not reconcile to myself the reason why any action I perceived as 'meaningful' was more important than any other action, and this lead to a transition to nihilism.

Now that I am a nihilist, I cannot help but feel surrounded by the inherent feeling of purposelessness of any action or any inaction. I bother to stay alive because my instincts tell me that any suicide would hurt my friends and family, but I cannot separate feelings of instinct against feelings of free will, or any feelings that could truly be said to belong to 'me' and not simply be a product of my 'design' (or the specific configuration of matter that constitutes 'me').

So, I would like to ask, is there any strong argument in favor of existentialism over nihilism? Or of any other philosophy?

For additional details, I'd like to clarify that my nihilism is not related to depression (I'd like to mention this since it is a common misconception regarding nihilism) - my nihilism has not lead to feelings of depression, nor has any feeling of depression contributed to my current beliefs; I've thought in-depth about philosophy for a long time, and I'm simply unable to justify any feeling of purposefulness over any other feeling.

The only compelling argument I can think of that even tempts me is that the existence of consciousnesses necessitates the existence of morality, and so therefore perhaps it is more logically sound to devote one's life to humanism or altruism. Or perhaps that the existence of my own consciousness inherently justifies hedonism, according to the idea that existence could only be said to be more worthwhile than non-existence if it was better than non-existence.

I'd be really interested to hear others' thoughts on this subject. Thanks for your time!

I just tried to find the Nihilism website, but all that came up was "Page does not exist"
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J.tytler
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(Original post by Saichu)
Did you miss the very previous sentence?

As for your misquote, it's workaholism or drunkenness. Those are just two examples of styles of life that would definitely distract one from meaning. It's quite likely there are far more balanced ways of doing so, and your generalization that all ways are like those is unfounded.
I didn't generalise that all ways of 'distractng yourself' are like those... but can you give me an example of one that isnt?

And as far as misquotes go that was pretty menial and barely distorted the original meaning whatsoever.
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Saichu
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(Original post by J.tytler)
I didn't generalise that all ways of 'distractng yourself' are like those... but can you give me an example of one that isnt?
Amusingly enough, there's an easy answer from the nihilist perspective: any philosophy that treats life as if does have meaning [is used to distract you from the fact that it has none].

As for less trivial answers, it honestly depends on how easily-distracted a person is. A standard worklife with Friday nights off would not successfully distract someone who questions their every moment, but it might be enough to distract many people.
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J.tytler
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(Original post by Saichu)
Amusingly enough, there's an easy answer from the nihilist perspective: any philosophy that treats life as if does have meaning [is used to distract you from the fact that it has none].
But if you truly accept the nihilistic philosophy... how can you then accept another conflicting one. Wouldn't you just be paying lip service? and as such still feel the same as you did before?
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ffffffffff
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(Original post by miser)
I've been struggling for a while with nihilism. A few years ago I accepted the thesis of existential nihilism: that there is no intrinsic value able to be attributed to existence such that existence is better than non-existence. Ever since that time I've understood myself to be an existentialist (believing that meaning can be found extrinsically in the environment - in people, causes or beliefs), but since a few months ago, I have found my perspective flip as I began to realise that I could not justify existentialism; I could not reconcile to myself the reason why any action I perceived as 'meaningful' was more important than any other action, and this lead to a transition to nihilism.

Now that I am a nihilist, I cannot help but feel surrounded by the inherent feeling of purposelessness of any action or any inaction. I bother to stay alive because my instincts tell me that any suicide would hurt my friends and family, but I cannot separate feelings of instinct against feelings of free will, or any feelings that could truly be said to belong to 'me' and not simply be a product of my 'design' (or the specific configuration of matter that constitutes 'me').

So, I would like to ask, is there any strong argument in favor of existentialism over nihilism? Or of any other philosophy?

For additional details, I'd like to clarify that my nihilism is not related to depression (I'd like to mention this since it is a common misconception regarding nihilism) - my nihilism has not lead to feelings of depression, nor has any feeling of depression contributed to my current beliefs; I've thought in-depth about philosophy for a long time, and I'm simply unable to justify any feeling of purposefulness over any other feeling.

The only compelling argument I can think of that even tempts me is that the existence of consciousnesses necessitates the existence of morality, and so therefore perhaps it is more logically sound to devote one's life to humanism or altruism. Or perhaps that the existence of my own consciousness inherently justifies hedonism, according to the idea that existence could only be said to be more worthwhile than non-existence if it was better than non-existence.

I'd be really interested to hear others' thoughts on this subject. Thanks for your time!
This is just how I feel, I believe that there is no definitive morality. I think Nihilism somewhat resembles moral relativism in its most extreme. I don't believe in absolute justification, even if the most evil act is at hand- mainly because, TECHNICALLY it may create an offsetting factor (e.g. murder and the economic benefits).

I'd like to echo a point someone earlier has mentioned, Nihilism isn't therefore a precriptivist argument, and (like Atheism for example) isn't actually a belief system, more of a mentality whereby there is no attribution of statemented argument, but more of a 'via negativa', we have a destructive [or deductive] (as opposed to constructive [inductive]) thinking in that respect (e.g. Atheism is a lack of belief, not a belief of a non-belief in God).

I'd like to argue that Nihilism is favourable perhaps as a neutral standpoint to other minorities and society in general, but I don't think Nihiliism is a stance of WEAKNESS, but of the potential to develop theories that are more IMPRESSIVE in the respect that it isn't fueled by underlying self-interest (some argue this is the case for religion), for example I may value the construction of social peace, although there is no reasoning for why this is essential.

I don't think there are many arguments against Nihilism if you accept a scientific mentality (please note I made 'mentality' in bold to emphasise the viewpoint of oneself as an outcome of such scientific and rational lifestyles), and yes that usually entails Atheism (as much as people like to disagree with this).

I'd like to add that EUGENICS and other ways of bettering man kind perhaps is best suited through Nihilism as it perhaps removes our weakness of emotionally based reasoning, therefore human life isn't valuable instrinsically, but extrinsically. This may actually be somewhat sound as usually a vibrant economically active individual usually (accordingly) accrues some form of instrumental value, OF COURSE one has to acknowledge (if Nihilist) the value of life other than abilities.

I think Nihilism cannot be fully acheived by humans due to our current brain stage, by this I argue that we can only be perfectly indifferent as a result of any form of bio-medical implants. I think what CONTRADICTS, which is often confused with NIHILISM is the implications in terms of beliefs usually brought alongside Nihilism.

In a sense Nihilism is state of indifference, and therefore, as naturally social and emotional beings we cannot achieve a rationally sound 'justification' (ironically mentioned before in this post) or practical usage of Nihilism, which yes is a PROBLEM.

(Note: I put words in caps lock to emphasise important points :P)
Just some thoughts.
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