Nihilism or . . . What?

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Nihilism or . . . What?

Post by Red Aegis on Sat Apr 14, 2012 10:09 am

There has been a lot of talk as to Nihilism being a bad thing for society, but I think that it is the most factually correct way of seeing the Universe. The reason for this thread is to investigate the perceived hostility to the idea that nothing has inherent value. To start with I shall quote the definition of nihilism:

Nihilism: Fundamentally, nihilism represented a philosophy of negation of all forms of aestheticism; it advocated utilitarianism and scientific rationalism. The social sciences and classical philosophical systems were rejected entirely. Nihilism represented a crude form of positivism and materialism, a revolt against the established social order; it negated all authority exercised by the state, by the church, or by the family. It based its belief on nothing but scientific truth; science became the cure-all for social problems. All evils, nihilists believed, derived from a single source—ignorance—which science alone would overcome. ~ http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/415081/nihilism

Once one accepts that there is no objective truth, one sees will eventually come to the conclusion that since all morals and value systems are subjective there is no inherent value in anything. This does not mean that Nihilists have no values at all, however. They may still hold consciously subjective rules of conduct, and this does not mean that they drop those concepts at momentary convenience.

Once one comes to the conclusion of Nihilism, they may realize that the conviction one once had if they used to believe in objective truth and morality is that those ideas too were subjective but that just was not known. This indicates that the conviction that one once had is possible again. This is where Nihilism branches off into a subgroup/philosophical tradition called Existentialism.

I can see one criticism of Nihilism being that there is not reason for the person to not be opportunist in their actions and tread towards hedonism. I agree that it is possible that this could happen, though not likely. People like, they desire, a meaning to their lives. How else would one explain those who convert to Christianity or some other religion? The stability that one can make for themselves through an inter-subjective moral framework is the philosophical alternative to seeking meaning from an outside source. Religion does not have a monopoly on meaning, even for Nihilists. I would even go so far as to say that religion is philosophically weak, but that is for another thread and will not go into much detail.

The counter-criticism that I have for religion, other than that which has already been provided, is that it bases it's tenets on unprovable/undisprovable claims which come into conflict with both logic and the scientific method. Both philosophical traditions, science and logic, are used to investigate physical claims and logical argument respectively. The claims of miracles have to do with science and the claims of divinity based on Reason are addressed by logic.

If needed I could go into much more detail, but here's my main question: why is Nihilism so destructive or non-destructive in your eyes?

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Re: Nihilism or . . . What?

Post by Celtiberian on Sat Apr 14, 2012 11:53 am

Red Aegis wrote:If needed I could go into much more detail, but here's my main question: why is Nihilism so destructive or non-destructive in your eyes?

I don't believe it's socially destructive because most individuals will, as you stated, continue to forge their own meaning in life regardless. Not withstanding a small percentage of sociopaths, people behave morally both because it's in their nature to do so and because society requires that from them in order for everyone to lead a decent existence. Nations which fail to establish rules and regulations would implode, which is obvious even to relatively dull people.

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Re: Nihilism or . . . What?

Post by Pantheon Rising on Sat Apr 14, 2012 2:14 pm

I think that nihilism is mainly a problem, and a direct result of capitalism and liberalism, in that society no longer functions around a common center point which results in a detachment of the individual from his nation and community. Collectively and nationally we have lost all meaning to our lives and so has the nation - it has no basis on which to exist beyond hollow calls of "democracy, freedom" in which we do not even have. I accept the Spenglerite definition of a nation, in that it is very much subject to the same conditions as that of an individual. When an individual plunges into the depths of nihilism and suffers from all sorts of existential crisis' it is his duty to reestablish meaning and make himself worthy. Same with that of a nation, which is at its very heart a collective. The human mind and soul greatly yearns to be a part of something bigger than itself, and it is the liberal-capitalist system which prevents this with its hyper-individualist way of operating. In a society where "everyone is free and right" in their own opinions the fabric of society falls apart and the people lose any sense of attachment to something higher than themselves.

This isn't to say that I support one big national campaign to force everyone to believe in the same thing. On the contrary, I support the establishment of sovereign States, communities, and communes, with those who think alike. People should be allowed to freely move around into a community that suits them best. I think that States and communes which have a good sense of cultural idealism and are centered around a healthy focal point will be much better off and healthier, however, it is not my desire to dictate things to people.

I believe we can collectively come together and establish a meaning back to our national life, shake off the ambient nihilism radiating through the air today, and forge ahead in the direction of a people's undying cultural revolution and cultural renaissance.

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Re: Nihilism or . . . What?

Post by Red Aegis on Sat Apr 14, 2012 3:32 pm

What you are not understanding is that Nihilism is simply the admission of the subjectivity of morality. This is the technical definition. I could site more sources if you do not believe me. Nihilism, like Fascism are not words that should just be thrown around. They have strict meanings that are not flexible. The way that you are using the word leads me to have no idea what you are talking about.

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Re: Nihilism or . . . What?

Post by Pantheon Rising on Sat Apr 14, 2012 3:43 pm

Red Aegis wrote:What you are not understanding is that Nihilism is simply the admission of the subjectivity of morality. This is the technical definition. I could site more sources if you do not believe me. Nihilism, like Fascism are not words that should just be thrown around. They have strict meanings that are not flexible. The way that you are using the word leads me to have no idea what you are talking about.

Nihilism has always been used to mean a lack of meaning or higher power (ideal greater than oneself - not necessarily a God) in life. Many individuals will divulge into Nihilism while some find a meaning to existence which is a characteristic of our hyper-individualized capitalistic society. I am talking about collectively overcoming nihilism and establishing a collective meaning. Existentialism arose as a reaction to the nihilism we see widespread today.

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Re: Nihilism or . . . What?

Post by Red Aegis on Sat Apr 14, 2012 4:11 pm

No that is not what Nihilism is. If that's the way that you've heard it used in your life then they were using it wrong. I'll repeat myself, Nihilism has a strict definition and the word should not be misused. You are not using Existentialism correctly either:

Existentialism: a philosophy concerned with finding self and the meaning of life through free will, choice, and personal responsibility. The belief is that people are searching to find out who and what they are throughout life as they make choices based on their experiences, beliefs, and outlook. And personal choices become unique without the necessity of an objective form of truth. An existentialist believes that a person should be forced to choose and be responsible without the help of laws, ethnic rules, or traditions. ~ http://www.allaboutphilosophy.org/existentialism.htm

It is a subgroup of Nihilism in that Existentialism rejects inherent meaning in anything but supports the construction of a subjective framework.

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Re: Nihilism or . . . What?

Post by Pantheon Rising on Sat Apr 14, 2012 4:58 pm

Red Aegis wrote:No that is not what Nihilism is. If that's the way that you've heard it used in your life then they were using it wrong. I'll repeat myself, Nihilism has a strict definition and the word should not be misused.

The problem with Nihilism is that; it is simply that - Nihilism. It rejects any objective meaning, but without Existentialism, it fails to establish any meaning. Sure individuals will sometimes never establish any sort of meaning and revert to a life of hedonism and short sightedness, and a vast majority of individuals will apply a personal meaning to their lives. What I am speaking of is national Nihilism. Many current day liberal-"democracies" totally lack any sort of Existentialist character and have nothing to justify the existence of their nation.


You are not using Existentialism correctly either:

Existentialism: a philosophy concerned with finding self and the meaning of life through free will, choice, and personal responsibility. The belief is that people are searching to find out who and what they are throughout life as they make choices based on their experiences, beliefs, and outlook. And personal choices become unique without the necessity of an objective form of truth. An existentialist believes that a person should be forced to choose and be responsible without the help of laws, ethnic rules, or traditions. ~ http://www.allaboutphilosophy.org/existentialism.htm

It is a subgroup of Nihilism in that Existentialism rejects inherent meaning in anything but supports the construction of a subjective framework.

If anything, this only proves my point that Existentialism was a reaction to ambient Nihilism. Following the collapse of traditional institutions there was nothing left to do but reestablish a meaning to life and order. Existentialism branches off Nihilism, yes that much is understood, but it is not Nihilism in itself.

Secondly, that is a very narrow definition of Existentialism considering the amount and diversity of authors who expounded Existentialist ideas, from the Christian Kirkegaard to the Atheistic Nietzsche.

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Re: Nihilism or . . . What?

Post by GF on Sat Apr 14, 2012 7:27 pm

Red Aegis wrote:Once one accepts that there is no objective truth, one sees will eventually come to the conclusion that since all morals and value systems are subjective there is no inherent value in anything. This does not mean that Nihilists have no values at all, however. They may still hold consciously subjective rules of conduct, and this does not mean that they drop those concepts at momentary convenience.

How can nihilism reject objective truth if it accepts science as objective truth?

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Re: Nihilism or . . . What?

Post by Red Aegis on Sat Apr 14, 2012 7:39 pm

The answer is that science is, at it's most base level, not objective truth. The reason for this is that science is based upon one principle more than any other: Induction. Induction is a type of reasoning that has to do with likelihoods and would be better defined by this:

Inductive Reasoning: an initial observation leads to the discovery of a certain pattern. This allows a tentative prediction to be made which leads to a general theory about how things work. ~ http://www.experiment-resources.com/inductive-reasoning.html

Put in another way, Induction asserts that when you do a Y once and X happens, then when you repeat Y, X will happen again. This seems intuitive but there is no way of proving that X will happen every time that Y is performed. The only way around this would to do Y an infinite number of times which is impossible by definition. Science is based on this un-provable hypothesis that is just accepted as one of it's fundamental axioms.

Science is not absolute due to this flaw in it's foundation; however, it is still the best method that is known to know the world.

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Re: Nihilism or . . . What?

Post by GF on Sat Apr 14, 2012 7:46 pm

Red Aegis wrote:The answer is that science is, at it's most base level, not objective truth. The reason for this is that science is based upon one principle more than any other: Induction. Induction is a type of reasoning that has to do with likelihoods and would be better defined by this:

Inductive Reasoning: an initial observation leads to the discovery of a certain pattern. This allows a tentative prediction to be made which leads to a general theory about how things work. ~ http://www.experiment-resources.com/inductive-reasoning.html

Put in another way, Induction asserts that when you do a Y once and X happens, then when you repeat Y, X will happen again. This seems intuitive but there is no way of proving that X will happen every time that Y is performed. The only way around this would to do Y an infinite number of times which is impossible by definition. Science is based on this un-provable hypothesis that is just accepted as one of it's fundamental axioms.

Science is not absolute due to this flaw in it's foundation; however, it is still the best method that is known to know the world.

Ok, so science does not hold that its observations are definitely true, but at the same time, science operates under the principle that there is objective truth. For example, Scientists can know that there is an objective way inherited traits are passed down from parent to offspring, even if they can't be 100% certain that the Mendelian theory is true.

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Re: Nihilism or . . . What?

Post by Red Aegis on Sat Apr 14, 2012 7:55 pm

It operates on the principle that induction is true and uses the generalities found in the experiments to deduce things in other arenas. For instance, if I drop a rock from different heights and notice that the unit of acceleration near the Earth's surface is 9.8m/s/s and I find the formula that relates the height of the rock pre-drop, the rate of acceleration and the time that it takes to reach the Earth I can give the time it will take the rock to fall from any height. This presupposes a cause similar to your biology analogy. Where it fails is that at any moment the acceleration factor could change and the rock fall faster, slower or even upwards. This is the flaw in having inductive reasoning, it presupposes order and cause when these things are not necessarily the case.

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Re: Nihilism or . . . What?

Post by Celtiberian on Sat Apr 14, 2012 7:56 pm

Godfaesten wrote:Ok, so science does not hold that its observations are definitely true, but at the same time, science operates under the principle that there is objective truth. For example, Scientists can know that there is an objective way inherited traits are passed down from parent to offspring, even if they can't be 100% certain that the Mendelian theory is true.

Science is the search for truth, which they attempt to discover using the narrow parameters of the scientific method. But it is not the search for meaning, nor could it be. Uncovering the laws of gravity or evolutionary biology tell us how something operates, not why it exists in the first place.

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Re: Nihilism or . . . What?

Post by GF on Sat Apr 14, 2012 8:09 pm

Red Aegis wrote:It operates on the principle that induction is true and uses the generalities found in the experiments to deduce things in other arenas. For instance, if I drop a rock from different heights and notice that the unit of acceleration near the Earth's surface is 9.8m/s/s and I find the formula that relates the height of the rock pre-drop, the rate of acceleration and the time that it takes to reach the Earth I can give the time it will take the rock to fall from any height. This presupposes a cause similar to your biology analogy. Where it fails is that at any moment the acceleration factor could change and the rock fall faster, slower or even upwards. This is the flaw in having inductive reasoning, it presupposes order and cause when these things are not necessarily the case.


You are correct in this, but I am not saying an objective truth can be derived via inductive reasoning. I agree that it is impossible to prove an objective truth through inductive reasoning. All I'm saying is science, which you said nihilism upholds, assumes that, even though it cannot be 100% proven, there is an objective truth. For example, we can't be certain the acceleration factor would stay the same, but that's still operating under the assumption that an acceleration factor exists.

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Re: Nihilism or . . . What?

Post by Red Aegis on Sat Apr 14, 2012 8:14 pm

Basically, you can't be sure of anything. Don't get paranoid though haha.

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Re: Nihilism or . . . What?

Post by GF on Sat Apr 14, 2012 8:25 pm

Red Aegis wrote:Basically, you can't be sure of anything. Don't get paranoid though haha.

Right. I agree entirely. You can't be sure of anything. But nevertheless, it is possible that an objective truth exists, even though we can't prove it.

And I won't. Very Happy

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Re: Nihilism or . . . What?

Post by Rev Scare on Sun Apr 15, 2012 1:14 am

As a philosophical doctrine, I do not believe nihilism is destructive. I embrace nihilism in the same manner that I do materialism. It is impossible to logically infer meaning and value; instead, all of our thoughts and actions are ultimately irrational. If the term is used to describe a psychological state of existential despair or total indifference and destructiveness then such a condition is "undesirable." I do not employ the term simply to describe negative attitudes toward life, however. I am a nihilist, yet my life is not without meaning.

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