T Nation

On Nihilism


#1


Interesting article paraphrasing a discussion between Martin Heidegger and Ernst Junger on nihilism:

Jünger, Heidegger, & Nihilism

I also find the paradox of nihilism interesting:

According to [Paul] Hegarty, the paradox of nihilism is "that the absence of meaning seems to be some sort of meaning".


#2

The anthropologist Ernest Becker described why many primitive tribes become extinct shortly after making first contact with modern man. Their fundamental belief systems that previously gave a sense of meaning and purpose to their lives are shattered and they descend into a kind of passive nihilism where they either stop reproducing or in extreme cases the entire tribe has been known to lay down, stop eating/drinking and die.

Becker’s 1973 book The Denial of Death posits that man’s need to believe in the meaning and purpose of life is a psychological defence mechanism.


#3

The thing about faith, when you lose it along with whatever cosmology attached to it. There’s this O.G. EMO Philospher named Sartre who wrote books on Existentialism… He talks about the process of losing ones faith along with all the emotions and hopelessness that comes along with it. Those of us who were born into a religion, and bought into it only to lose it later have gone through this. Sartre is all EMO which is lame, which is why it may be unwise to invest so much in things like faith when we have things like reason and science around that are becoming more and more sufficient at explaining life and coming up with a coherent morality.

Maybe the best place to gain value, or to assign value is with reason and what we know? Things I’ve brought up before like foresight, our knowledge of emotions and how we are wired to be empathetic?

We base value off of some weird shit as humans. I base a lot on how and what people think, while most of my buddies base their own value and others value in how many women they’ve bedded, or how much they can squat, or how high they can leap. Some wrongly invest in ideas of the afterlife and have been told since childhood that Grandma and grampa will be waiting for them, or that the great tatankah spirit will welcome them into the flock on the prairie, or that Elohim wants them to rule their own planet, or that Jehovah wants to save souls.


#4

[quote]Severiano wrote:
The thing about faith, when you lose it along with whatever cosmology attached to it. There’s this O.G. EMO Philospher named Sartre who wrote books on Existentialism… He talks about the process of losing ones faith along with all the emotions and hopelessness that comes along with it. Those of us who were born into a religion, and bought into it only to lose it later have gone through this. Sartre is all EMO which is lame, which is why it may be unwise to invest so much in things like faith when we have things like reason and science around that are becoming more and more sufficient at explaining life and coming up with a coherent morality.

[/quote]

Yes I’m familiar with Sartre. You seem to be missing the significance of science. Science does not provide any meaning. On the contrary, science is regarded as proof of the meaninglessness of life. It was science that brought about the existential crisis of nihilism.

On the contrary, reason negates value. In order to overcome existential nihilism one must reject reason and believe in a “true world” -

“A true world is a destination; a destination such that to reach it is to enter an ‘eternal bliss’, a heaven, a paradise or utopia. Hence true world philosophies give meaning to life by representing it as a journey; a journey towards redemption, towards an arrival that will more than make up for the stress and discomfort of the travelling” - Julian Young

Believing that does not overcome existential nihilism.

[quote]

We base value off of some weird shit as humans. I base a lot on how and what people think, while most of my buddies base their own value and others value in how many women they’ve bedded, or how much they can squat, or how high they can leap. Some wrongly invest in ideas of the afterlife and have been told since childhood that Grandma and grampa will be waiting for them, or that the great tatankah spirit will welcome them into the flock on the prairie, or that Elohim wants them to rule their own planet, or that Jehovah wants to save souls. [/quote]

To believe in some form of “true world” is the only escape from the abyss of existential nihilism.


#5

Interestingly, when people succumb to existential nihilism they respond in one of two ways:

  1. Passive response - depression, despair, suicide etc.

And the more interesting response:

  1. A kind of frenzied “will to power”

The second response is the essence of fascism. The fascists were essentially traditional conservatives who lost their faith in God.


#6

#7

[quote]SexMachine wrote:

Becker’s 1973 book The Denial of Death posits that man’s need to believe in the meaning and purpose of life is a psychological defence mechanism.

http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Denial_of_Death[/quote]

A defense mechanism for what? What does it protect? Emotions?

We need a feeling of meaning, but does reasoning need it? The claim of religion is that it can provide meaning no matter what, you can lose your loved ones or be stranded somewhere alone. Religion provides meaning when everything else fails.

But if you get a sense of meaning from something lesser than a religion, like family life, that doesn’t place restraints to reason like religion does. I don’t have to accept a Deus ex machina in my narrative. I might lose my protection, though.

While religion can provide the best protection it also limits your movements, like good protection easily does.


#8

[quote]kaaleppi wrote:

A defense mechanism for what? What does it protect? Emotions?

[/quote]

It protects against suicide and provides a will to live.

Yes…

If life has no meaning and purpose then your family’s lives have no meaning and purpose.


#9

[quote]SexMachine wrote:

If life has no meaning and purpose then your family’s lives have no meaning and purpose.[/quote]

Oh c’mon, that’s a totally cerebral construction. The emotional me is satisfied.


#10

[quote]SexMachine wrote:
It protects against suicide and provides a will to live.

[quote]

Are you sure brain chemistry doesn’t drive the will to live or commit suicide to a large degree?


#11

[quote]kaaleppi wrote:

[quote]SexMachine wrote:

If life has no meaning and purpose then your family’s lives have no meaning and purpose.[/quote]

Oh c’mon, that’s a totally cerebral construction. The emotional me is satisfied.
[/quote]

Well if it works for you that’s all good and well. However, when people start to face serious adversity(eg death of family members, illness etc) they tend to get “depressed” which is essentially the first phase of existential nihilism.


#12

[quote]jjackkrash wrote:

[quote]SexMachine wrote:
It protects against suicide and provides a will to live.

[quote]

Are you sure brain chemistry doesn’t drive the will to live or commit suicide to a large degree? [/quote]

I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not.


#13

[quote]SexMachine wrote:

Well if it works for you that’s all good and well. However, when people start to face serious adversity(eg death of family members, illness etc) they tend to get “depressed” which is essentially the first phase of existential nihilism.[/quote]

Well, it happens to religious people too and it is in no way guaranteed that religion will help them cope with that. Maybe, maybe not.

If getting depressed is the first step to nihilism, nihilism is then basically a medical condition.


#14

[quote]SexMachine wrote:

[quote]Severiano wrote:
The thing about faith, when you lose it along with whatever cosmology attached to it. There’s this O.G. EMO Philospher named Sartre who wrote books on Existentialism… He talks about the process of losing ones faith along with all the emotions and hopelessness that comes along with it. Those of us who were born into a religion, and bought into it only to lose it later have gone through this. Sartre is all EMO which is lame, which is why it may be unwise to invest so much in things like faith when we have things like reason and science around that are becoming more and more sufficient at explaining life and coming up with a coherent morality.

[/quote]

Yes I’m familiar with Sartre. You seem to be missing the significance of science. Science does not provide any meaning. On the contrary, science is regarded as proof of the meaninglessness of life. It was science that brought about the existential crisis of nihilism.

On the contrary, reason negates value. In order to overcome existential nihilism one must reject reason and believe in a “true world” -

“A true world is a destination; a destination such that to reach it is to enter an ‘eternal bliss’, a heaven, a paradise or utopia. Hence true world philosophies give meaning to life by representing it as a journey; a journey towards redemption, towards an arrival that will more than make up for the stress and discomfort of the travelling” - Julian Young

Believing that does not overcome existential nihilism.

You forget, I was born into a religion and bought into it hard, so I’ve been through Existentialism already, you don’t see me in a pile crying, much the opposite. I’ve been over here calling you a pussy for not growing a pair and entertaining your worst fears. I’ve been telling you there are other ways to go about life, and live a fulfilling one in spite of there being or not being a God.

You see I’m someone who cares and has values, I give a shit about the world and humankind, I think critically on the similar subjects as yourself. I look back on my religious self and see someone who was controlled by things I was afraid of and didn’t know.


#15

[quote]jjackkrash wrote:

[quote]SexMachine wrote:
It protects against suicide and provides a will to live.

[quote]

Are you sure brain chemistry doesn’t drive the will to live or commit suicide to a large degree? [/quote]

Amen!
Depression is just another barrier to survival. Strength is always defined by the situation; and nature has a cornucopia of tools at it’s disposal to eliminate the weak.


#16

[quote]SexMachine wrote:

I also find the paradox of nihilism interesting:

According to [Paul] Hegarty, the paradox of nihilism is “that the absence of meaning seems to be some sort of meaning”.[/quote]

That is because of the structure of language. A dichotomy lies always at the bottom. Language isn’t skilled with grades. Grades belong to the realm of mathematics. Witch by the way, is the most magical ability humankind has achieved.


#17

“Man acts as though he were the shaper and master of language, while in fact language remains the master of man.” - Heidegger


#18

[quote]SexMachine wrote:
According to [Paul] Hegarty, the paradox of nihilism is “that the absence of meaning seems to be some sort of meaning”.[/quote]

Indeed. There is a variety of nihilism that is not so paradoxical, but one of its principal characteristics is that one doesn’t hear anything about it. The other variety of nihilism, the one that is written about, talked about, set against its rival Weltanschauungen and defended: This one is a house divided against itself (or, more accurately, an ouroboros). Defense, after all, evinces perceived value, and perceived value evinces perceived meaning, and perceived meaning eats away at the defense.

(Good thread, and great shout out to Becker.)


#19

[quote]SexMachine wrote:
“Man acts as though he were the shaper and master of language, while in fact language remains the master of man.” - Heidegger
[/quote]

=o


#20

So, a lot of you really believe that essence precedes existence, rather than the opposite?

Like, being born for a certain purpose rather than being born and figuring shit out for yourself. We aren’t cups meant for drinking, or chairs made for sitting in, or creatures made to fulfill Gods prophecy or whatever…

Stop being cowards and find your own meaning. Bunch of sorry old emo sloppy vaginas.