Why is nihilism considered a negative philosophical belief?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Plazma Inferno!, Jan 12, 2016.

  1. Plazma Inferno! Ding Ding Ding Ding Administrator

    Nihilism is often linked to negativity, perhaps due to radical views it offers. But, maybe nihilism is just a misunderstood branch of philosophy.
    Does it have a bright side, what do you think?
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  3. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    I think it's a knee-jerk reaction, that if someone hears your worldview to be, say, that there are no such thing as objective morals (moral-nihilism) then that must mean that you are immoral, that you are selfish, do whatever you want with no regard to society etc.
    Or that if you think that there is no inherent meaning to life (existential nihilism) that you should be put on suicide watch.
    In many regards their view of nihilism might be seen as a slippery-slope fallacy... The nihilistic view being seen as the first step on the slippery path to oblivion, but they judge by what they perceive as the end-point rather than the actual position taken.
    I'm nihilistic in many regards, yet where I don't believe there are objective morals or meaning to life, for example, I define my own morals, my own meaning as I see fit, to enable me to live as full a life as I would like, that I enjoy, etc. I replace objective morals, objective meaning with subjective ones. And these are formed through being part of society, through upbringing, genetics, experience etc. I would think one would be hard pressed to find any significant difference in my practical behaviour and that of someone who believes in objective morals.

    So the misunderstanding, I think, comes in what people see the actions of a nihilist being. They see the nihilist as having a lack of something, where in fact the nihilist has merely identified what they do have as coming from a different place.
    We might both drive cars, but where theirs comes from a garage, mine I built myself. But they hear that you haven't bought a car from a garage and assume that you don't have one.

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    And because some of the things the nihilist might fallaciously be thought to lack are what otherwise steers the person (morals, purpose etc) then they are viewed as rudderless ships without steering wheel or compass, and thus a danger both to themselves and others in their way.
    Ophiolite and Plazma Inferno! like this.
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  5. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    I consider myself an ecstatic nihilist. By this I mean that I freely acknowledge that there is no overarching meaning or plot to existence. But that doesn't mean it has no value to me, in the immediacy of my experience of it. I take each day as it comes, and am constantly amazed by all this stuff going on around me. Considering the alternative--of a cosmic haze of intergalactic dust randomly floating around forever--I am very pleased by what I find. And I am not so entirely confident in myself to assume that what I see as meaningless really is meaningless in the long term. Perhaps all this is leading somewhere we have no ability to imagine. Had we encountered the slime on our own primitive planet 3 billion years ago, we probably wouldn't assume much would come of that. And yet here we are, conscious of a reality that includes us and perhaps needs us in some sense. I believe in a reality of infinite possibilities, and I find value and joy in being able to be part of that.
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  7. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    To paraphrase Wikipedia's definition of 'nihilism', Nihilism, from the Latin nihil nothing, is a philosophical doctrine that denies the reality of one or more reputedly meaningful aspects of life. It should be obvious why people find that negative and don't like it.

    Various things have been given the label:

    Existential nihilism insists that life is without objective meaning, purpose or value.

    Moral nihilism - morality does not have any objective existence. All moral values are arbitrary and contrived.

    Epistemological nihilism - there is no such thing as truth, or that truth is unobtainable or unimportant.

    Ontological nihilism - reality doesn't exist.

    For many people atheism seems nihilistic, since many people anchor their values and their feeling that the events of their lives fit into some kind of meaningful narrative, in their concepts of God and of divine providence.

    I'm inclined to think that we give our own lives meaning, and that's a noble thing.

    But corrosive nihilistic skepticism is something that can drive a person mad if pushed too hard.
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  8. wellwisher Banned Banned

    When the brain writes memory to the cerebral matter, aspects of the limbic system, in the core of the brain, add an emotional tag to the memory. For example, if we eat some food we really like, the memory of that food will contain a emotional tag with a good feeling. If the food was terrible and made you sick, the emotional tag may give an unsettled feeling, that you all feel when you recall the memory.

    This schema is connected to the animal brain. When they encounter a memory trigger, the induced feeling will induce the proper action. The don't have to think, but can feel and react.

    That being said, the nihilist tends to consciously tag their memory with more than normal amount of negative feeling. Lack of meaning, for example, means more unknowns and therefore more uncertainty for fight/flight; anger and fear tags.

    This type of conscious tagging causes one to see reality through the prism of a negative emotional lens, until reality can no longer see seen, in a more balanced way.

    Animals are not all depressed, but act with the meaning supplied by instinct. Nihilism is a conscious choice and not a natural choice. The brain will naturally ebb and flow in terms of emotional tags, with a balanced life a rainbow of feeling, with some storm clouds and sun.

    The opposite of nihilism is where there is generic meaning for everything. This does the opposite, in terms of memory, in that it add more positive emotional tags to memory. If there is meaning for everything, we are not as afraid or defensive, since it is known. This can shift the emotional lens to the opposite side and can also become unnatural. But at least, this life will feel happier and more secure.
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  9. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Do you have any evidence for this, or is this just a theory of yours?
    Many would argue that consciousness is a natural process. The alternative is that it is supernatural, that it comes from somewhere other than the natural universe. Is this what you're suggesting?
    Again, any support for this or is it just your theory?
    sunnevershines likes this.
  10. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    If you react negatively to the unknown thru fear or anger, it isn't thru its lack of meaning. Rather it is by interpreting the unknown as having a negative meaning for you. In itself the unknown shouldn't be threatening at all. It just is, and may or may not effect you in a bad way. The nihilist accepts this value neutrality of the unknown, and does not impose meaning on it in the attempt to control or mitigate it. What happens simply is, neither respectful nor malicious against us. And there's something very emotionally liberating about that. We embrace and let go, moving naturally onto the next upcoming thing.
  11. wellwisher Banned Banned

    It seems self evident to me, since I have spent a lot of time gaining first hand data looking for general patterns of human behavior. It may be harder to see this in the third person. Let me lead you to water, for a drink; first person data.

    The first question I will ask is, what is subjectivity? One answer is subjectivity is an emotional assessment of something. Being emotional, and not fully logical, this POV can be unique to a person or group. I may like apples, but hate oranges. There is no logic for this that can make my subjective choice, universal. This is unique to me, based on how I feel about apples and oranges.

    I may feel a stronger feeling of attachment to one side of the political spectrum. Or in the case of the topic at hand, the nihilist feels that there is no meaning to life and there are no absolutes. He can't prove this with pure logic. However, he has a subjective hunch; intuitive feeling. Subjectivity is not something one can prove in a way that will become universal for all. Subjectivity is not like logic and data, that can lead somewhere, regardless of the mixed feelings of the group. Someone may not subjectivity like E=MC2, but that does not change how logic and data flows there. This is an absolute. I can subjectively deny this, but I can't logically refute it. I am assessing based on subjective feeling.

    If a philosophy says there is no meaning or no absolutes, this means there is no possibility of reasoning toward universal conclusions. It means as you look around at life and the world, each situation will become subjective, by default; based on subjective feeling. The overall philosophical subjectivity will then influence how the brain will create emotional tags.

    Lack of definitives will makes it harder to function in reality and will therefore create the feeling of fight/flight; fear and anger tags. In other words, if each time you go to the store, this is subjectively different; no absolutes, one has to adapt anew each time, for what should be routine. This adds a lot of extra stress to life, staying full of adaptive adrenaline. This instinctive adrenaline can add fear tags, until you no longer go to the store, out of fear. It is too much work and stress, adapting; all can change .

    We have willpower and choice which can influence the emotional tagging of memory. The brain uses emotional tags, anyway, with the filters of the mind able to influence this natural process. If one is a pessimists, one will find subjective fault with all situations, thereby adding a negative tag to all the data they see in their normal day to day life. The birds are not singing a sweet song; positive emotional tag. Rather the birds become noise pollution; subjective feeling of a threat. One may get angry; fight and flight, by the induced subjective threat anytime there is a bird singing. On come out of the house with rocks and a gun to stop the noise threat.

    If there are no absolutes, then everything will be in a flux of change. This change can be random, or it can be subjective, based on the way the personal unconscious mind is filtering the tagging mechanism of the brain. The personal unconscious is based on our long held opinions and biases. This tagging can become automatic, until some people can no longer cope in a subjective world that has no meaning, based on their tagging, preempting natural tagging for distinctions leading to absolutes; routine.

    Discussions of nihilism get bogged down at the level of subjectivity. But I am trying to show how the brain works, so one can see this subjective philosophy is not healthy for the brain. Science seeks absolutes and does not leave reality, hanging in subjectivity.
  12. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Formal research or just a hobby?
    I'm not a horse, and please dispense with what is coming across as arrogance.
    I prefer the notion that subjectivity merely means that the viewpoint is specific to the perspective of the individual. It can thus be factual just as much as it can be emotional. If we both stand on top of a hill and look in opposite direction, we see different things. This makes those views subjective, irrespective of emotion.
    I feel you underestimate the thought process. For those who hold such a view it is no more an intuitive feeling or based on a hunch than the opposing view that there is, say, meaning to life. It is perceived to be the most rational explanation of the state of affairs, independent of emotion.

    You seem to be equating subjectivity solely with emotion, and thus I find most of what you have said to be somewhat irrelevant.
    No, based on reasoning and what is held to be rational.
    I'll ask again: do you have any evidence for this?
    Or any evidence for this?
    Or this?
    I don't follow the point? Things are never exactly the same. So what?
    Really? Going to the shop each day where it might be slightly different adds stress? And what does this have to do with subjectivity?
    ah, I get it - you want there to be an objective morality, objective meaning, because it makes you feel better? Isn't this just an appeal to emotion?
    We're not talking about pessimism, were talking about nihilism.
    I think you are confusing nihilism with a state of mind rather than just a philosophical position.
    Nihilism is not something one really even considers unless one actively thinks about it. There is little practical application to being simply a nihilist, as the absence of what is held to be objective morals, meaning etc is replaced with subjective ones.
    Being a pessimist is a state of mind, a completely different kettle of fish.
    All I read here is an attempt at justification to appeal to emotion.
    Says the one who has just written a lengthy post on the matter of subjectivity??
    Some actual evidence to support your notions would be a start, please.
    Which you have not yet demonstrated.
    I'm confused now: so what happens if/when science confirms that morals are subjective? That our sense of morality is not objective? That moral nihilism is the place to be?
    It is science, and it's lack of ability / success in finding anything that is objective in things like meaning, morals, existence that most often leads the nihilist to their viewpoint with regard these issues. So forgive me but I'm really not sure invoking science as somehow being an alternative to nihilism is valid in any way. And if anything merely highlights that the negative view of nihilism (which you have) quite possibly simply stems from a lack of understanding (a lack which you demonstrate) of what it entails.[/quote][/quote]
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  13. birch Valued Senior Member

    heh, we all need at least some of our ideals, levels of comfort and dreams etc at least to be able to remain afloat or seem possible to feel somewhat positive or content. If this is drastically, rudely or crudely destroyed by reality, sometimes having to face it is nihilistic because it is the bare bones of the facts that can no longer be denied or ignored.

    If you are in a position that you don't have to come to this point, then just consider yourself lucky to not have all your bubbles bursted unceremoniously, irreverently and coldly by life.

    Life is a cold, harsh place when you realize people can't be counted on, not what they seem, will decieve you and/or all your hopes and dreams dashed or not possible or past possible to continue to hope by the realities of life because everyone's situation is different. There are absolutely no guarantees in life whatsoever and that really can wear on faith or security as we need some consistency or we just know we can only rely on yourself bottom line. Well, there is nihilism from ignorance or patterned thinking wherein an individual may be oblivious of opportunities but not all is such. Sometimes life circumstances forces you to face the cold, stark truth in whatever it is. Just because there is a solution or someone out there who you can trust etc hardly matters if you aren't going to obtain it. Someone starving may know food exists aplenty but it doesn't matter when its not accessible. There may be a cure to cancer in nature somewhere but what the hell does it matter as it won't alter or remedy your situation? You could know only betrayal and disappointment from people around you and there may be a precious friend out there somewhere but what does it matter if you'll never find them? This is what is facing some nihilistic truths about life and some things we may never be able to change, whatever form that takes.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2016
  14. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Or maybe it's because the Latin noun nihil and the root nega- both mean "nothing."

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  15. river

    And this " nihil " ; nothing ; is destroying the psychology of Humanity.

    We need ; we as in Humanity ; to see a better perspective of ourselves.
  16. Retribution Banned Banned

    What psychology of humanity?

    People have the tendency to view ourselves (and by extension our society) in the best possible light, even under those circumstances in which our actions, or those of our society, have been deplorable. That much is evident even to the most casual of observers.
    While when viewed in terms of social cohesion that is a positive trait, it can also be a negative one. It is only by viewing ourselves negatively that we can effect change.
    I actually have quite a problem with the current notion that tolerance and understanding are key to social evolution. That understanding leads to tolerance has become a mantra; yet not necessarily a true or beneficial one.
  17. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    An absolute value or standard would be immune to modification or conditions. A relation to something else wouldn't change its intrinsic meaning / character / status. Or diminish a power of it, like being in effect universally, a right to be applied globally (necessary), etc.

    A "bright side" of nihilism or a relational reality can be that an absence of absolutes does not eliminate all values and standards -- there would be those that are local, practical, and are arising via that very inter-dependence of things and situations (especially pertaining to the interacting components of a society). Accordingly those more vulnerable, regional values and standards are of "objective" origin if that connective, conditional nature of the environment which gives birth to them isn't just appearing / asserting itself in Alices's mind. But also in the perceptions and interpretations of Bob & Carol & Ted, etc. The source is locally objective enough if it outruns the personal psychology and interests / biases of the lone mind.

    There are the kind of basic immutables found in our formal systems (expressed on paper or whatever medium). Those are "games" we invent with contractual agreements to obey those rules and properties in the course of whatever seemingly contingent items fall out of them. Principles are made "absolute" via that route, wherein they remain unchanging or have their precise identities maintained in the course of being utilized for internal-system discoveries and appealed back to for approving new proposals, etc.

    As a glancing historic issue: A potential lack of absolutes is actually what should be expected in the sensible, phenomenal world side of the old Platonic dichotomy. Thus, either observing or philosophically declaring an absence of absolutes on that side would do nothing to validate or eliminate them from its abstract counterpart. The developing tradition from Parmenides(?) to Plato to Kant's "I know what Plato was groping at more than he did" clarification was a long adventure which simply respected the possibility that our relational reality itself might be similarly undergirded / regulated by a "game" of intellectual principles. Rather than being an ad lib performance arbitrarily and miraculously leaping on the fly from stone to stone without any basic operating system or regulatory instructions.
  18. Retribution Banned Banned

    I had to read that about 3 times, C C.
    Bit of a slog.

    Basically, though, I tend to agree with what I think you just said.
    Goes back to what I was saying about why I don't like psychology.
  19. kx000 Valued Senior Member

    If you truly had no faith or truly dont love things, it would be bad
  20. Retribution Banned Banned

    What has that got to do with Nihilism?.

    Are you going to now show us how superior you are because you love things and nihilists don't?
  21. wellwisher Banned Banned

    Nihilism, from what everyone is saying, appears to be like a starting point for critical thinking. However, the Nihilist never seems to leave the starting blocks. They seem to get stuck stretching and getting comfortable in the starting blocks. In that respect, the philosophy is sort of like the terrible two's, where the child says no to everything. Yet he will not explain why, or present a better way.

    Nihilism is most often associated with religion and moral certainty. The Nihilist drops out of the mass mind. But Nihilism can also be applied to politics and science. Both are a work in progress yet both often act like they have all the answers.
  22. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Is that really what you get from the discussion thus far? That it's a starting block for critical thinking?
    If anything it is a result of.
    And clearly you don't hold to the view of nihilism yet your alternative seems to be to spout unsubstantiated nonsense.
    Explain what? Better way for what?
    How do you suggest you apply nihilism to science? I can certainly see how science can inform one's view that might then lead one to nihilism, but how do you think nihilism itself can be applied to science?
    And to politics???
    Care to actually explain?
  23. Retribution Banned Banned

    Heh. I like the bit where he says Nihilism acts like it has all the answers. That's just... deary me.

    In my experience, the nihilist doesn't drop out of the mass mind at all. Rather, they are more likely than most to understand why they are a part of it.
    Nihilism can be both the result of critical thinking, and the start of it...at the same time. Tabula Rasa, when applied "correctly".

    But I admit, one does need to watch for the traps. I liken it (in my case, specifically) in some ways to being a recovering alcoholic. In that you're always an alcoholic, for the rest of your life. You can get over it, ignore it, do whatever you like in order to survive - but when someone places a bottle in front of you and tells you to have a drink, you know that's your reality, right there.
    I haven't met too many who claim to not believe in it anymore... rather, they tend to just forget it. Like walking past that big dude in the bar giving you the evil eye, trying not to look back at him on your way to get a drink.

    I suppose Nihilism and Faith are two ends of the string. The former, you believe and then have to survive. The latter you believe in order to survive.

    Sans the aforementioned faith, however, I do have a tendency to think that the former is significantly more honest, while giving due respect to it carrying the danger of not being entirely beneficial.
    At least then you have the means to try to go your own way, and the ability to think beyond what life presents you.

    Damned hard to find your way out of that rabbit hole, sometimes.

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