Defining Nihilism

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Judaka
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Defining Nihilism

Post by Judaka » January 17th, 2018, 9:07 am

I have three questions here because I don't think I can progress further in this issue by thinking about it.

1. Defining Nihilism
A couple of things that I think that I am not sure whether nihilism generally means to believe, I thought nihilism seemed most similar to my views on things but I wanted to confirm somethings for those who have opinions or information about this. I'll just do some true/false statements.

1. Nihilism rejects objective meaning and purpose in the universe but says nothing about people finding subjective meaning and purpose in whatever.
2. Nihilism is a rejection that meaning and purpose can be objective altogether.
3. In nihilism, the rejection of objective meaning and purpose generally mean that proven or perceived causal relationships and the proven of perceived existence of things cannot be objectively characterized as being for the sake of something else.

2. What ideologies claim exists what nihilism claims does not?

I have come to believe that nihilism is only a rejection of objective moral law, which makes things like moral relativism synonymous with nihilism. Does anyone know ideologies or philosophies which can cause someone to reject objective morality and nihilism together?

3. Outside of religion, what ideologies or philosophies make arguments for objective morality?

Thanks and I'm happy to be referred to reading material that talked about these kinds of subjects. I am not interested in hearing about an evaluation of nihilism but rather I just want to know a clear definition or at least, to know if I can define my ideas as nihilism. For the record I am not interested in any kind of nihilism which rejects anything other than meaning and purpose in the universe.

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Re: Defining Nihilism

Post by Burning ghost » January 17th, 2018, 11:51 am

Well, I cannot offer any direct definition of what nihilism is. Generally it is a kind of extreme pessimism. You may have seen the comparison I made elsewhere between Buddhism and Nihilism?

Anyway, my understanding of nihilism is surrounded by what I've rad of Nietzsche and my own existential tilt. Like all philosophical -isms there are many different flavours; which general orbit the basics categories of morality, ontology and epistemology.

Sorry, probably not very useful. As for reading I would suggest Nietzsche, but he's a bloody hard read. Beyond Good and Evil seems like a good suggestion, and I hear Will to Power takes a storng look at nihilism (they are both more like antidotes though.) Other than I would suggest getting your hands on anything that takes a look at pessimism.

If we look at political tyranny I think you'll find strong element of nihilism within. They tend to drive people to the precipice so that no choice is left to be made on an individual level and all there is left to do is go with the tide in the face of the seeming meaningless and torture of life (better to not give a **** to reduce suffering - which would lead me to equate it with willful avoidance of responsibility.)

All that said I do think it can be a very productive if you manage to wrestle yourself free enough so as not to fall into complete hopelessness and depravity of selfhood.

note: Not quite sure how to deal with your questions. Maybe cut them up into separate pieces so we can deal with one thing at a time?
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Re: Defining Nihilism

Post by Hereandnow » January 17th, 2018, 12:05 pm

Nihilism is a denial of absolutes. Moral nihilism, epistemic nihilism, political nihilism: when you trace the posited value in question to its basic justification, you find no absolutely reliable, non question begging foundation for the knowledge claims in question.

There may be meaning, but this meaning has no meaning. That is nihilism.

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Re: Defining Nihilism

Post by Judaka » January 17th, 2018, 6:57 pm

There may be meaning, but this meaning has no meaning. That is nihilism.
For you, does this mean that Nihilism is a rejection that meaning and purpose can be objective altogether? That is something I believe but I am not sure if Nihilism as a definition goes that far.

BG, I agree that Nihilism isn't an inherently good thing, what I think Nihilism does is create a malleability in values which can cause people to suffer as you are describing. However I don't think Nihilism does that inherently, something already covered by views like Absurdism. Also I think Nihilism can be useful for separating yourself from values which lack practicality and that's my interest in it. I have a lot of views about Nihilism already but I always questioned whether what I am describing is really Nihilism or just something similar.

So my main views are basically Nihilism is an argument against objective morality and that's because it's an argument against objective meaning and purpose. I would even go further than that and say all descriptions of things are inherently subjective or relative but I'm not sure whether the definition of Nihilism means Nihilism can mean all those things or not.

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Re: Defining Nihilism

Post by Present awareness » January 17th, 2018, 7:24 pm

In my view, Nihilism is about the relationship between subject and object. Without a subject, there can be no object. From your subjective point of view, the universe did not exist, until you were born and here to experience it. I believe that what Nihilism is saying is, nothing may exist without this relationship, so that if all life in the universe, ceased to exist, the universe itself, would cease to exist. For those whom would say that the universe would still be there, may be right, but how would anyone know, without a subjective experience of it?
Even though you can see me, I might not be here.

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Re: Defining Nihilism

Post by Hereandnow » January 17th, 2018, 7:48 pm

Judaka:
For you, does this mean that Nihilism is a rejection that meaning and purpose can be objective altogether? That is something I believe but I am not sure if Nihilism as a definition goes that far.
it does. It's from the Latin 'nothing'. Obviously, you and I value things, like this new coat of mine. As far as that goes, there is no issue. But take it further; ask a question like a Christian might ask: Does God approve, endorse, condemn, and so on; then the meaning is quite different. You're not asking is it good, as in, is that Haagen Dazs chocolate ice cream good. Your asking, is your experience of something good, in possession of a quality of something greater, something of another order of good beyond what you experience now?

There is value, but there is no value to value. That is Wittgenstein. To speak of, say, a Platonic Form of the Good, is absurd. To speak of something God approves of is absurd.

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Re: Defining Nihilism

Post by Hereandnow » January 17th, 2018, 8:02 pm

But is it absurd to deny that the material good of this ice cream is only relatively good? How can this obvious yumminess in this episodic case ever be canceled in relativity? THIS is the issue.

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Re: Defining Nihilism

Post by Judaka » January 17th, 2018, 8:34 pm

Well taste is a subjective distinction to begin with, it follows only the rules that we set for it. I would say beauty is relative but some would say "everything is beautiful", I would say intelligence is relative but that doesn't stop someone from setting a universal benchmark for intelligence that never fluctuates due to changes in relativity. So long as it's subjective, I view all of this as consistent with Nihilism. Which is why I can only ever see ideologies which make claims that there is an objective truth to characterisations such as meaning and purpose. Eduk made the argument that he doesn't know whether objective morality exists or not so he doesn't consider himself a Nihilist for that reason. I wonder if besides that, arguments against Nihilism which don't involve religion exist.

I kind of feel pseudo-objective moral law arguments exist which claim morality can objective but don't necessarily offer an explanation for that.

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Re: Defining Nihilism

Post by Hereandnow » January 17th, 2018, 10:37 pm

Then, Judaka, you force my hand, though I don't feel up to writing that much right now. It's a longish argument that starts with Witttgenstein. Write it up tomorrow, see what you think.

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Re: Defining Nihilism

Post by Burning ghost » January 17th, 2018, 11:07 pm

Judaka -

I guess when we usually talk about "subjective" or "objective" we're talking about knowledge in general (to some degree.) These are values of existence and meaning. So, I'd have to say that nihilism doesn't care for either what is considered objective nor what is subjective, it just doesn't care.

I would also say that as a frame of mind its been with humanity for a long time in one form or another. Existentialism seemed to expose it more fully, and Nietzsche certainly dabbled with it - I think he even talks of its use somewhere? His stuff is so dense I cannot remember.

I often get the impression that those people who speak out against atheists generally assume something like nihilism. I can see why, and as you seemed to outline above the boon of nihilism is a certain disassociation from meaning, which is a very important scientific theme.
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Judaka
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Re: Defining Nihilism

Post by Judaka » January 18th, 2018, 12:18 am

I guess when we usually talk about "subjective" or "objective" we're talking about knowledge in general (to some degree.) These are values of existence and meaning. So, I'd have to say that nihilism doesn't care for either what is considered objective nor what is subjective, it just doesn't care.
What do you mean it doesn't care? Nihilism is just a philosophy and it means what people say it means. If people agree Nihilism rejects all meaning and values regardless of whether it's being validated subjectively or objectively, then I would just denounce Nihilism as stupid and dangerous and find a new name to describe my views on the subject, where objectivity and subjectivity aren't values but empirical observations of the nature of truth. Though what you are saying does sound like ontological nihilism which I already think is pretty much nonsense.
I often get the impression that those people who speak out against atheists generally assume something like nihilism
I'm not clear on what you mean by this.

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Re: Defining Nihilism

Post by Burning ghost » January 18th, 2018, 1:33 am

Well, I guess my point here is just to reiterate the obvious. Any position taken to an extreme hits a wall of contrariness. I think that is essentially where nihilism slips quietly in unannounced.

By that atheist remark I mean that science is generally reliant upon a kind of moral nihilism. Meaning is the scientific method meaning and opinion are thoughts that only occur prior to and after the facts. The same is true of logic ("cold logic".) The premise of these positions is to attempt to remove as much of the subjective view as position and leave only "what is," unexplained, raw and exposed to the cold light of day.

It makes perfect sense to see this approach as quite frightening because it grates up against the very meaning of existence yet brushes it aside. Of course the pragmatic use of scientific knowledge allows extentions of thought and feeling giving way to expanding morality and helping fellow humans flourish ... that is where the more radical religious types fall into bias.

See what I mean? I am not suggesting that this is the reason exclaimed by all anti-atheist theists, but I am pretty sure it plays an underlying role in their suspicions of the scientific endeavors.
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Re: Defining Nihilism

Post by Spectrum » January 18th, 2018, 1:48 am

Like 'atheism' the term 'nihilism' was first introduced in a derogatory perspective to condemn any philosophy which do not agree with one's emotional clinging beliefs.
Wiki wrote:The term nihilism was first used by Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi (1743–1819). Jacobi used the term to characterize rationalism[14] and in particular Immanuel Kant's "critical" philosophy to carry out a reductio ad absurdum according to which all rationalism (philosophy as criticism) reduces to nihilism—and thus it should be avoided and replaced with a return to some type of faith and revelation.
I cannot imagine how any one could associate Kant's philosophy as nihilistic in a derogatory manner, except for anti-Kantians.

These days, people would view and condemn any philosophy as nihilistic whenever those philosophies do not agree with theirs.

I do not agree the term 'nihilism' [etymologically = nothing] should be used at all to describe any philosophy or for any one to brand their accepted philosophy as nihilistic.

Rather one should just defines and explains what one's accepted philosophy is about without any reference to whether it is nihilistic or not.
Not-a-theist. Religion is a critical necessity for humanity now, but not the FUTURE.

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Re: Defining Nihilism

Post by Burning ghost » January 18th, 2018, 2:45 am

Judaka -

I really hope we can find something we really having strong differing views about. That would be very exciting :D

I am very much fascinated by Husserl and the perspective of phenomenology. Maybe there is something there we can clash about? That or my liberal flop-flopping between positions? Or general morality?

This could be the start of a beautiful conflict :D
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Judaka
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Re: Defining Nihilism

Post by Judaka » January 18th, 2018, 4:50 am

Judaka -

I really hope we can find something we really having strong differing views about. That would be very exciting :D
What are you talking about BG? I thought I was already your arch-nemesis that "opposed you at every turn". I wonder why you're so keen to argue with me when it wasn't only a few weeks ago you said you were only talking to me in the "vain hope" I wasn't a vengeful crybaby. I thought we argued more often than we agreed already.
See what I mean? I am not suggesting that this is the reason exclaimed by all anti-atheist theists, but I am pretty sure it plays an underlying role in their suspicions of the scientific endeavors.
That's interesting because I view the threat of nihilism to be the same for pretty much all philosophies, ideologies and even sciences. Which is that what you are doing and what you believe is only subjectively valuable, on a basic quick explanation level, there's no point in doing something if there's no practical benefit besides self-indulgence. Nihilism threatens religion in the fundamental sense that religion preaches not only morality but also values, nihilism basically says that there's no greater reason to do anything and so adherence to religious teachings about how to behave require explanations grounded in practical benefit. Not something that most values are designed for in the first place, I think it's still possible to be religious and a nihilist, similar to the way protestants think like "to be a Christian all you need to do is believe in God and that Jesus is the saviour of mankind".

Personally my interest in nihilism has nothing to do with science, it's about rejecting value systems which are not grounded in empirical benefit. It is the starting point for me in the self help book I am working on, I don't view nihilism as an inherently advantageous thing but rather, something which destroys the old and allows room for the new. If you destroy your old value systems with nihilism and replace it with nothing, then you get the dark nihilism where there's no reason to do anything, neither eat nor breathe, existential nihilism. However most of my views about this subject came before I knew about the term Nihilism, so I am still unsure about the exact definition.

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