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Are most, if not all, good writers nihilists? watch

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    https://themillions.com/2016/07/writ...ting-life.html

    https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/0...oy-confession/

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/...and-gloom.html
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    'Existential nihilists', specifically, given what is under discussion in these posts.

    The first post re self-abnegation or a sort of 'death of the author' (maybe a suicide of the author in the cases specified) misunderstands existential nihilism and conflates it, in my view, with existentialism more broadly construed. The first post seems to really claim that Beckett's struggle was an existential one, not a nihilist one. It seems more apt to say that Beckett was fighting for authenticity, and that doesn't require that existence actually be meaningless, only that you mistake it as such and rail against it. You then spend your time inventing meaning and attempting to live according to it authentically, exercising one's freedom.

    The post about Tolstoy also comes to this result. It is a struggle against what he perceives as a sort of inevitable, necessary nihilism, not an endorsement of nihilism per se. He wonders how he might live authentically, sincerely, with some point. And in the end, he comes to the conclusion that the answer is in his method; he is to live actively, fully, 'not as a parasite'. This is not the final position of an existential nihilist, merely the meanderings of somebody that has flirted with its insidious effects and ultimately rejected it.

    Plath you could successfully argue to be a nihilist. She was also notoriously troubled, and one wonders if that had an impact on her thinking.
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    (Original post by gjd800)
    'Existential nihilists', specifically, given what is under discussion in these posts.

    The first post re self-abnegation or a sort of 'death of the author' (maybe a suicide of the author in the cases specified) misunderstands existential nihilism and conflates it, in my view, with existentialism more broadly construed. The first post seems to really claim that Beckett's struggle was an existential one, not a nihilist one. It seems more apt to say that Beckett was fighting for authenticity, and that doesn't require that existence actually be meaningless, only that you mistake it as such and rail against it. You then spend your time inventing meaning and attempting to live according to it authentically, exercising one's freedom.

    The post about Tolstoy also comes to this result. It is a struggle against what he perceives as a sort of inevitable, necessary nihilism, not an endorsement of nihilism per se. He wonders how he might live authentically, sincerely, with some point. And in the end, he comes to the conclusion that the answer is in his method; he is to live actively, fully, 'not as a parasite'. This is not the final position of an existential nihilist, merely the meanderings of somebody that has flirted with its insidious effects and ultimately rejected it.

    Plath you could successfully argue to be a nihilist. She was also notoriously troubled, and one wonders if that had an impact on her thinking.
    I suppose there's a narrow line between existential nihilism and nihilism anyway though, right? In both, there's the belief that there is no intrinsic meaning in the universe; the former just tries to construct one's own meaning to fill the hole. I think even for existential nihilists, there is still that sensation, during the empty moments (when not busy or distracted) that life is meaningless regardless of the meanings we create for ourselves.

    Personally I think that nihilism is our natural state, at least it is by the time we acquire the language necessary to reason. Unless we are conditioned to believe in something else. I was raised without any religion or belief system. For as long as I can remember I have thought that life is meaningless, but I still live a good life. But I could equally just choose to die were things to go sour.

    I'm not sure whether Tolstoy's nihilism is too different to Sylvia Plath's--maybe for the latter it was just that bit harder to bear? She too evidently invested time in trying to find meaning by starting a family, writing poems and a novel.
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    To aspire to be a writer means a life of penury for most. Poor people are more inclined to nihilism and nihilists shouldn't care about money.

    Depends what you mean by nihilist too, nihilism can be about challenging authority such as the Russian brand of nihilism in the 19th Century.
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    (Original post by Hirsty97)
    To aspire to be a writer means a life of penury for most. Poor people are more inclined to nihilism and nihilists shouldn't care about money.

    Depends what you mean by nihilist too, nihilism can be about challenging authority such as the Russian brand of nihilism in the 19th Century.
    I intend it in the broad, simple sense i.e. believing that there is no intrinsic meaning or value in anything in the universe.

    In what sense are poor people more inclined to nihilism? I think nihilism is either something you have with you from a young age, or something you arrive at through logical reasoning.

    You dwell on it more (and give it more importance) if you have the time and comfort to do so. Privileged people (the bourgeoisie and upper classes) have always 'enjoyed' more free time, hence more opportunity for nihilistic thought. Tolstoy indicated that work is one way for people to be free of existential, nihilistic thoughts.

    While writers seldom earned much, they often come from comfortable background which allows them the time and space to write.
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    I do not believe that Tolstoy was a nihilist when all is said and done, only that he struggled with what he initially thought was the necessity of it. Kierkegaard thought that we must manufacture meaning and live authentically according to it, but he was not a nihilist either. To be a nihilist, it seems to me, is not only to disavow intrinsic meaning in life/the universe, but to disavow any possibility of meaning in toto: something clear in the reams of philosophical material, but not in general definitions.

    The effect of this is that for a nihilist, there is no meaning including that which we try (in vain) to construct.

    Re my original point about existential nihilism being the flavour pertinent to the discussion, I include that caveat because 'nihilism' is a bit of a blanket terms for what can be relatively divergent schools of thought (epistemic nihilism was the de facto 'nihilism' of philosophy for a long time).

    Plath I think came to a radically different conclusion to Tolstoy, namely that it was not possible to create, capture or derive meaning in any sense. Maybe this was the abyss that stared back, eventually consuming her.
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    Nihilism is for losers
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    To give a short response, though, I do not think the writers need be nihilist, rather I think an author's quest for meaning is the point of interest. This invariably spins on an nihilistic axis no matter which way the author eventually turns.

    Good topic this, thanks for the discussion so far.
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    (Original post by gjd800)
    To give a short response, though, I do not think the writers need be nihilist, rather I think an author's quest for meaning is the point of interest. This invariably spins on an nihilistic axis no matter which way the author eventually turns.

    Good topic this, thanks for the discussion so far.
    I don't think writers need to be nihilists to the extent they reject the value in everything unconditionally, so I suppose I too feel they spin on a nihilistic axis. I think there must be doubt, if not a rational deduction that there is no intrinsic meaning in the universe (at least not one that we can comprehend); what they do with that information varies.

    I think for many nihilists (something hard to communicate to those who aren't nihilists), life is something they can either take or leave; because life itself has no intrinsic meaning for them, nor does death really. Only joy or suffering are of some importance as we have pain receptors and hormones such as dopamine and seratonine.

    I feel there are writers who don't delve into these questions, and from my subjective perspective they are invariably not good writers. They might be technically proficient, they might be appreciated by readers who like to be given spoonfuls of treacle (prose overladen with metaphors, similes, contrived symbolism, pretty descriptions etc), but they are not literary in the real sense of the word.

    In an interview with the New York Times Cormac McCarthy, who I consider one of the best living American writers, said he only respects authors who "deal with issues of life and death," citing Henry James and Marcel Proust as examples of writers who do not rate with him. "I don't understand them ... To me, that's not literature. A lot of writers who are considered good I consider strange."
 
 
 

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