What do we think of Nihilism?

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deliverous
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#1
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#1
For those who don't know:

"Nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated. It is often associated with extreme pessimism and a radical skepticism that condemns existence"

"While nihilism is often discussed in terms of extreme skepticism and relativism, for most of the 20th century it has been associated with the belief that life is meaningless. Existential nihilism begins with the notion that the world is without meaning or purpose. Given this circumstance, existence itself–all action, suffering, and feeling–is ultimately senseless and empty"

http://www.iep.utm.edu/nihilism/
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ChiefNinja
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#2
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#2
Who cares?
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miser
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#3
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#3
(Original post by deliverous)
For those who don't know:

"Nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated. It is often associated with extreme pessimism and a radical skepticism that condemns existence"

"While nihilism is often discussed in terms of extreme skepticism and relativism, for most of the 20th century it has been associated with the belief that life is meaningless. Existential nihilism begins with the notion that the world is without meaning or purpose. Given this circumstance, existence itself–all action, suffering, and feeling–is ultimately senseless and empty"

http://www.iep.utm.edu/nihilism/
For a while in 2011 I was an existential nihilist. In fact, I joined TSR to ask for criticisms of nihilism because I didn't want to be a nihilist - it's a hopeless philosophy. Believing there to be no inherent value in anything, it caused me to feel depressed.

I eventually came to the conclusion that I had been mistaken however. I realised that I believed that there was something with inherent value: the feelings of others. I realised that I thought it did matter if a person was happy or suffering. Although I had ruled out living for myself (since why bother?), it still made sense to live to benefit others. This is the view I still hold today and I am much happier for it.

If you are interested, here is an essay I wrote advocating a nihilist outlook: http://journalofinterest.com/essays/...h-over-nature/
And here is one I wrote more recently advocating the views I hold today: http://journalofinterest.com/essays/meaning-of-life/
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deliverous
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#4
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#4
(Original post by miser)
For a while in 2011 I was an existential nihilist. In fact, I joined TSR to ask for criticisms of nihilism because I didn't want to be a nihilist - it's a hopeless philosophy. Believing there to be no inherent value in anything, it caused me to feel depressed.

I eventually came to the conclusion that I had been mistaken however. I realised that I believed that there was something with inherent value: the feelings of others. I realised that I thought it did matter if a person was happy or suffering. Although I had ruled out living for myself (since why bother?), it still made sense to live to benefit others. This is the view I still hold today and I am much happier for it.

If you are interested, here is an essay I wrote advocating a nihilist outlook: http://journalofinterest.com/essays/...h-over-nature/
And here is one I wrote more recently advocating the views I hold today: http://journalofinterest.com/essays/meaning-of-life/
Interesting. I am going to read both.

Surely, it's almost natural that the nihilist succumbs to depression and/or insanity at some point? How can we remain 'normal' indefinitely while believing everything is meaningless? Still, that doesn't disprove the argument, right? It simply means, those who value themselves probably shouldn't flirt with nihilistic views.
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miser
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#5
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#5
(Original post by deliverous)
Interesting. I am going to read both.

Surely, it's almost natural that the nihilist succumbs to depression and/or insanity at some point? How can we remain 'normal' indefinitely while believing everything is meaningless? Still, that doesn't disprove the argument, right? It simply means, those who value themselves probably shouldn't flirt with nihilistic views.
While I can't be certain it caused me to feel depressed, it certainly didn't help at all. It made life feel so empty.

Yes, it feeling bad is not at all a valid criticism of it - it just means that if it is true, then the truth is unpalateable. I came to nihilism by questioning the validity of all my values until I had deconstructed my entire world view. It took me some time to realise I had one I could add back, and this laid the foundation for my philosophical views I've adopted since. Consequently, I can now say I feel my views are now reassuringly robust.
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deliverous
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#6
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#6
(Original post by miser)
While I can't be certain it caused me to feel depressed, it certainly didn't help at all. It made life feel so empty.

Yes, it feeling bad is not at all a valid criticism of it - it just means that if it is true, then the truth is unpalateable. I came to nihilism by questioning the validity of all my values until I had deconstructed my entire world view. It took me some time to realise I had one I could add back, and this laid the foundation for my philosophical views I've adopted since. Consequently, I can now say I feel my views are now reassuringly robust.
I've read your articles. I enjoyed them both.

But..

I don't see how compassion is meaningful. As you said, we all die. Our values are not objective. The only source for purpose must be in some religious authority, prescribing human-beings with a point, which as an Atheist, I reject. If compassion helps other people feel better - why does that signify meaning to compassion? If they died, and they will, inside a world of mere senses and subjectivity, how can there truly be real meaning? We are all accidents, products of nature, and are objectively as important as the ant that two minutes ago was squashed. It must be the case surely, if there is no objective guide or designated meaning to life?

I'm asking you this out of genuine interest. I want you to show me why I am wrong. As you more or less argued, Nihilism is absurdly pessimistic - the great enemy of our emotions.
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Picnic1
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#7
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#7
Nihilism is the desire to destroy everything because of not getting constant comfort and sex.

In the gaps between constant desire it is so easy for the ugliness of the world, the physical and spiritual ugliness of many people (especially in the UK- this is often not a pretty country people-wise) to dominate our interior landscape to the extent where it makes more logical, valid sense to destroy the whole canvas (ourself or the world) than to keep on trying to concentrate on a tiny piece of the painting which is truly beautiful.

The UK, so work and binge obsessed, is always in such a state of see sawing emotions that true beauty is fleeting or else kept depressingly private.

Nihilism makes perfect sense. Kurt Cobain was essentially a nihilist because he was too beautiful in appearance and thought and emotion to stand the rest of the world. Anyone with huge fame must become a bit of a nihilist. People who wouldn't have given them the time of day before now showing a voyeuristic interest.

Life itself is inherently nihilistic in its nature. The bold and brave have more chance of dying young than the cowardly. All will die.
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cole-slaw
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#8
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#8
pointless, both literally and metaphorically.
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I am not finite
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#9
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#9
(Original post by miser)
For a while in 2011 I was an existential nihilist. In fact, I joined TSR to ask for criticisms of nihilism because I didn't want to be a nihilist - it's a hopeless philosophy. Believing there to be no inherent value in anything, it caused me to feel depressed.

I eventually came to the conclusion that I had been mistaken however. I realised that I believed that there was something with inherent value: the feelings of others. I realised that I thought it did matter if a person was happy or suffering. Although I had ruled out living for myself (since why bother?), it still made sense to live to benefit others. This is the view I still hold today and I am much happier for it.

If you are interested, here is an essay I wrote advocating a nihilist outlook: http://journalofinterest.com/essays/...h-over-nature/
And here is one I wrote more recently advocating the views I hold today: http://journalofinterest.com/essays/meaning-of-life/
Lol most philosophers who came to the position of nihilism were like 'ffs now what do I do' and spent their entire lives trying to refute it. It's ridiculous though as there are clearly something that have value to us, and you can only be a nihilist if you deny that these things have values (isn't this a value itself?), because 'none of it matters', it's the equivilient of saying I might as well not learn physics because one day i'm going to die. It completely excludes happiness from the equation, why should I care doing something 'pointless' (how can physics be pointless in this life? it can't be because it has use) if it makes me happy?
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mmmpie
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#10
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#10
(Original post by deliverous)
Interesting. I am going to read both.

Surely, it's almost natural that the nihilist succumbs to depression and/or insanity at some point? How can we remain 'normal' indefinitely while believing everything is meaningless? Still, that doesn't disprove the argument, right? It simply means, those who value themselves probably shouldn't flirt with nihilistic views.
Nah. Just because nothing has meaning or value, that's no reason not to do things. I don't find the meaninglessness of everything to be depressing.
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the bear
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#11
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#11
it is really a teenage agenda. once people grow up and have a stake in society these foolish notions wither away.
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miser
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#12
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#12
(Original post by I am not finite)
Lol most philosophers who came to the position of nihilism were like 'ffs now what do I do' and spent their entire lives trying to refute it. It's ridiculous though as there are clearly something that have value to us, and you can only be a nihilist if you deny that these things have values (isn't this a value itself?), because 'none of it matters', it's the equivilient of saying I might as well not learn physics because one day i'm going to die. It completely excludes happiness from the equation, why should I care doing something 'pointless' (how can physics be pointless in this life? it can't be because it has use) if it makes me happy?
It's not about whether you personally value things, it's about whether there are things which are objectively valuable.
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RandZul'Zorander
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#13
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#13
I personally find it hard to avoid being a nihilist, seeing as once get into any kind of critical, deconstructionist/skeptical theory it seems to be the logical conclusion. However, I maintain my position against nihilism as I don't like the consequences (although that is mostly illogical I know ).

That being said I think I could handle nihilism on a psychological level/it wouldn't send me into a depressive state.
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I am not finite
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#14
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#14
(Original post by miser)
It's not about whether you personally value things, it's about whether there are things which are objectively valuable.
they're the same thing though... the subject object dichtomy is ridiculous
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little_tom
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#15
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#15
(Original post by deliverous)
I've read your articles. I enjoyed them both.

But..

I don't see how compassion is meaningful. As you said, we all die. Our values are not objective. The only source for purpose must be in some religious authority, prescribing human-beings with a point, which as an Atheist, I reject. If compassion helps other people feel better - why does that signify meaning to compassion? If they died, and they will, inside a world of mere senses and subjectivity, how can there truly be real meaning? We are all accidents, products of nature, and are objectively as important as the ant that two minutes ago was squashed. It must be the case surely, if there is no objective guide or designated meaning to life?

I'm asking you this out of genuine interest. I want you to show me why I am wrong. As you more or less argued, Nihilism is absurdly pessimistic - the great enemy of our emotions.
If I'm understanding you correctly you are arguing from a standpoint of emotivism. Emotivism is a moral theory within ethical non-cognitivism, which is a subcategory of moral nihilism.

The emotivist framework is compatible with moral relativism. They hold the view that morality is just a matter of emotional reactions people have to certain situations.

I think these meta-ethical theories are much better developed than most others, but these positions fail to account for shared interests within which conflicts of interests engage moral agents. They both enable and constrain moral agency. Neither do they (in my opinion) adequately distinguish between moral and non-moral preferences/pleasures and this implicitly begs the question of what moral agents ought/ought not to prefer in any given moral situation.
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Machop
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#16
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#16
Nihilism is the reality of the world, there is no inherent, objective or intrinsic purpose to life. We as humans have to ascribe meaning to things and create our own purpose and sense of direction in life.
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captain.sensible
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#17
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#17
to be a strict rationalist in my opinion is to be a nihilist (whether a moral or existential nihilist) - there is no rational justification for synthesising "the purpose of existence" or "the meaning of the universe" other than trying to make sense of something through emotions. the universe/reality exists in an objective way, and trying to fabricate emotive and purposive explanations for it isn't going to make them so just because they put a positive spin on it; if there is any kind of explanation, it isn't going to be one that conforms to our expectations, that at least is pretty certain - the universe is a non-human and pretty jumbled up place, whether there is order in it or not, so putting a rational spin into it is going to far to put everything we can understand into "boxes" of understanding
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little_tom
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#18
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#18
(Original post by captain.sensible)
to be a strict rationalist in my opinion is to be a nihilist (whether a moral or existential nihilist) - there is no rational justification for synthesising "the purpose of existence" or "the meaning of the universe" other than trying to make sense of something through emotions. the universe/reality exists in an objective way, and trying to fabricate emotive and purposive explanations for it isn't going to make them so just because they put a positive spin on it; if there is any kind of explanation, it isn't going to be one that conforms to our expectations, that at least is pretty certain - the universe is a non-human and pretty jumbled up place, whether there is order in it or not, so putting a rational spin into it is going to far to put everything we can understand into "boxes" of understanding
The thing is though, moral philosophy in modern ethical debates has transformed massively, the question is less rather "what ought I do to be a good person" and more concerned with society. We have essentially regressed to the debates in Ancient Greece, i.e. what predicates a good society, what predicates advancement, what social mechanisms benefit us all? These are questions that the nihilist nor emotivist can answer in a rational way because they have not given a pre-requisite answer to value theory
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captain.sensible
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#19
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#19
(Original post by little_tom)
The thing is though, moral philosophy in modern ethical debates has transformed massively, the question is less rather "what ought I do to be a good person" and more concerned with society. We have essentially regressed to the debates in Ancient Greece, i.e. what predicates a good society, what predicates advancement, what social mechanisms benefit us all? These are questions that the nihilist nor emotivist can answer in a rational way because they have not given a pre-requisite answer to value theory
I mean the actually evalutation of the meaningfulness of ethics - if ethics are simply based on emotivism and doing good for our own emotional advantages (e.g. doing good to get a positive reputation, or a reward, or even to satisfy a irrational sense of self-worth) then this would basically condense all reasoning for our actions as satisfying our own emotions, opposed to someone else's, and therefore it would be beyond good and bad because emotions aren't good or bad, emotions aren't a question of morality (or at least some could say), they are a question of existence and obviously you can't (objectively) go from a fact to a value judgement, so this would only leave us to emotivism and anthropocentricism (if not an attempt to achieve objective questions of principle to describe morality and what kind of overall principles are good which again is fairly subjective as we can't pull together those principles factually) - or maybe I'm just saying a bunch of nonsense here in trying to say that "morals are only emotions most of the time", but again if you use that principle then the whole moral aspect of emotions could break down when committing crimes e.g. theft and other conventionally non-moral things could also satisfy our emotions, and due to how societies don't all think with one mind and can only think individually through single minds, then emotions as facts of individual minds wouldn't cause theft to be overall a negative act in that respect

edit: wow, I could have saved myself a lot of time there by simplying referring to the error theory of moral nihilism (from JL Mackie) :lol:
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DanB1991
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#20
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#20
Nihilism is only pessimistic because we as a society want everything to have a meaning.

People feel like having a religious belief naturally. It's kind of in our genetics... well for some of us at least.

It's even partially backed up by science.

You know when you see barmy ghost hunters with electrical/magnetism sensing equipment... well it works but not for the reason they think.

It's been tested and it kind of works, if you use magnets to make a magnetic field in a certain area of the brain it stimulates electrical activity in the temporal lobe. People can get a variety of result from full blown relgious visions, to a feeling a presence that is on another plane of existence.

The researcher went to one house where a young girl was seeing ghost's, found in the house a magnetic disturbance was caused by a bedside radio clock, removed it from the room and the girl stopped having the visions.

In fact those with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy (aka naturally increased electronic activity in that area of the brain) do tend to get religious visions, even those who are atheist, one atheist who had temporal love epilepsy saw himself in hell for not believing in Christianity (and he stayed a atheist afterwards). Some even theorise many prophets in religious documents actually had temporal lobe epilepsy.

Some fairly recent prophets of fairly recent american churches have had signs of Temporal Lobe Epilepsy

On the other side of things those with naturally less sensitive temporal lobes tend to be less religious. For them even if you manipulate the magnetic field around the temporal lobe they will not feel or see anything different.

It actually kind of makes evolutionary sense seeing throughout history religious people have tended to live longer.

Anyway!!!! Point being, many people like to believe in something naturally. The suggestion that everything is for nothing is pessimistic for anyone, especially those who have invested time and belief an a "higher cause".

I have been a nihilist for a very long time, but only recently realised it (I only just found out about it's real "name"). Even if there are higher forms of life it would most likely a similar comparison to Humans and Bacteria... with us being the bacteria.

I'm also a moral/ethical nihilist, if you look at every negative or positive action in our society, there will be another at some place or time that would have a vastly different view on it. As soon as you have one person disagree with a moral/ethic it no longer becomes a moral/ethical standard.
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