camus on nihilism

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camus on nihilism

Postby iambiguous » Wed Nov 17, 2010 8:39 pm

Albert Camus (1913–60)

Nihilism is not only despair and negation, but above all the desire to despair and to negate.

Maybe. Maybe not.

A point of view always seems to lie inextricably embedded in the murky middle somewhere between a particular philosophy of life and whatever particular circumstantial convulsions you happen to be caught up in at the time.

In other words, you can have a brutally cynical and pessimistic philosophy of life yet be deeply enscounced in a comfortable, satisfying lifestyle. You may be loved and valued and respected. You may be fullfilled sexually, in perfect health and embarked on a career you find stimulating and rewarding. And as long as you are immersed successfully "out in the world" it is easy enough to distract yourself from philosophical qualms.

Or, instead, you can have a generally optimistic, cheery philosophy of life and then suddenly fall into a circumstantial abyss from which you cannot seem to escape. As your existential worries and woes accumulate day after day you may begin to notice how little your uplifting and benevolent philosophy is contributing to resolving the crisis. Or even comforting you.

Most of us, of course, flipflop back and forth between the two. Sometimes we are able to concentrate on philosophical questions and other times they are the farthest thing from our minds.

For example, how many people in the path of those tsunami waves in South Asia were able to take comfort in a benevolent philosophy of life? Some, perhaps. Especially those able to anchor their's to God or some sort of religous salvation. But most were preoccupied with other things. Like coping with enormous grief and desolate feelings of loss.

I believe it is important for the philosophically minded to occasionally ask themslees, "how would my philosophy fare if it was me in the path of the tsunami?"

When push comes to shove, feelings of despair and negation sometimes make perfect sense. And for each individual, immersed in his or her own set of existential variables, it will always be something they have to work out for themselves. It is foolish to suppose you can really understand why others react as they do to life's trials and tribulations.

And it can be especiallly foolish to suppose you really understand why you react as you do to your own.
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Re: camus on nihilism

Postby anon » Wed Nov 17, 2010 9:51 pm

iambiguous wrote:When push comes to shove, feelings of despair and negation sometimes make perfect sense.

Do you mean to say "are understandable"? Because I can't see how feelings of despair "make perfect sense".
"Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries, and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries." - Blaise Pascal

"The bombs we plant in each other are ticking away." - Edward Yang

"To a fly that likes the smell of putrid / Meat the fragrance of sandalwood is foul. / Beings who discard Nirvana / Covet coarse Samsara's realm." - Saraha
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Re: camus on nihilism

Postby Humpty » Wed Nov 17, 2010 9:59 pm

what doesn't make sense about it?
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Re: camus on nihilism

Postby anon » Wed Nov 17, 2010 10:03 pm

Humpty wrote:what doesn't make sense about it?

It doesn't serve a purpose that I can think of. But maybe I'm missing something...
"Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries, and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries." - Blaise Pascal

"The bombs we plant in each other are ticking away." - Edward Yang

"To a fly that likes the smell of putrid / Meat the fragrance of sandalwood is foul. / Beings who discard Nirvana / Covet coarse Samsara's realm." - Saraha
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Re: camus on nihilism

Postby jonquil » Wed Nov 17, 2010 10:24 pm

Yeah, I think an argument could be made that where there is desire, nihilism is virtually confusticated. 8)
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Re: camus on nihilism

Postby statiktech » Wed Nov 17, 2010 10:49 pm

anon wrote:
iambiguous wrote:When push comes to shove, feelings of despair and negation sometimes make perfect sense.

Do you mean to say "are understandable"? Because I can't see how feelings of despair "make perfect sense".


The way I initially interpreted this statement is to say we essentially feel as if reality warrants, or 'calls for', despair and negation. Every person has his limits, so perhaps overwhelming sentiments of despair (provoking skepticism) can convince the subject that reality is despair and only deserves negation.

In my opinion, I think such an overall negation to be more a statement of lost faith or trust. That sort of 'in your face' nihilism, where one accepts despair and negation as a way of life, seems to me like a cry for help, purpose, or reason -- or, as one of our esteemed colleagues on this forum might say, 'emo claptrap.'
"Man is the animal that laughs at himself."
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Re: camus on nihilism

Postby iambiguous » Wed Nov 17, 2010 10:52 pm

anon wrote:
iambiguous wrote:When push comes to shove, feelings of despair and negation sometimes make perfect sense.

Do you mean to say "are understandable"? Because I can't see how feelings of despair "make perfect sense".


I meant that given a hole deep enough it can seem perfectly reasonable to feel despair.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: camus on nihilism

Postby anon » Wed Nov 17, 2010 10:53 pm

statiktech wrote:
anon wrote:
iambiguous wrote:When push comes to shove, feelings of despair and negation sometimes make perfect sense.

Do you mean to say "are understandable"? Because I can't see how feelings of despair "make perfect sense".


The way I initially interpreted this statement is to say we essentially feel as if reality warrants, or 'calls for', despair and negation. Every person has his limits, so perhaps overwhelming sentiments of despair (provoking skepticism) can convince the subject that reality is despair and only deserves negation.

In my opinion, I think such an overall negation to be more a statement of lost faith or trust. That sort of 'in your face' nihilism, where one accepts despair and negation as a way of life, seems to me like a cry for help, purpose, or reason -- or, as one of our esteemed colleagues on this forum might say, 'emo claptrap.'

So to feel despairing is in a sense to ask for help? Ah, then it does make more sense than I first thought. I like that.

I suppose it's only attachment to despair, then, that makes no sense? What do you think? Or have I misunderstood you?
"Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries, and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries." - Blaise Pascal

"The bombs we plant in each other are ticking away." - Edward Yang

"To a fly that likes the smell of putrid / Meat the fragrance of sandalwood is foul. / Beings who discard Nirvana / Covet coarse Samsara's realm." - Saraha
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Re: camus on nihilism

Postby iambiguous » Wed Nov 17, 2010 11:07 pm

statiktech wrote:
anon wrote:
iambiguous wrote:When push comes to shove, feelings of despair and negation sometimes make perfect sense.

Do you mean to say "are understandable"? Because I can't see how feelings of despair "make perfect sense".


In my opinion, I think such an overall negation to be more a statement of lost faith or trust. That sort of 'in your face' nihilism, where one accepts despair and negation as a way of life, seems to me like a cry for help, purpose, or reason --


But "negation" can be linked to a particular circumstantial landslide that overwhelms someone. Their despair flows from an existential context they feel powerless to overcome. And indeed it may well be beyond overcoming. And their optimistic philosophy succumbs as well.

It has nothing to do with faith or trust, in my view.

And it is possible for someone to feel "thrown" into an essentially absurd and meaningless world [as I do] and be able to distract him or herself from the despair this can, at times, precipitate, by pursuing things like love, family, career, sports, the arts etc.

It is all rooted in dasein---in an individual's "sense of self".
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: camus on nihilism

Postby cheegster » Wed Nov 17, 2010 11:36 pm

iambiguous wrote:But "negation" can be linked to a particular circumstantial landslide that overwhelms someone. Their despair flows from an existential context they feel powerless to overcome. And indeed it may well be beyond overcoming. And their optimistic philosophy succumbs as well.

It has nothing to do with faith or trust, in my view.

And it is possible for someone to feel "thrown" into an essentially absurd and meaningless world [as I do] and be able to distract him or herself from the despair this can, at times, precipitate, by pursuing things like love, family, career, sports, the arts etc.

It is all rooted in dasein---in an individual's "sense of self".


It seems individuals almost always let their sense of self and the world they live in ('dasein') overwhelm their philosophy. For example one could accept ideas of atheism, nihilism and the like but although it will be a very poignant occasion for them they are still going to be more concerned with dasein; the welfare of their family, career, love, anything like that which when you accept nihilism becomes arbitrary. So back to the original point, I think it's perfectly normal to have feelings of despair regardless of your philosophical views.

It seems nobody really lives directly in adherence to their philosophy because it suits their life better. Socrates is the only one I can think of who seemed to only live by his word. And he may not have even existed.
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Re: camus on nihilism

Postby iambiguous » Wed Nov 17, 2010 11:58 pm

It seems individuals almost always let their sense of self and the world they live in ('dasein') overwhelm their philosophy. For example one could accept ideas of atheism, nihilism and the like but although it will be a very poignant occasion for them they are still going to be more concerned with dasein; the welfare of their family, career, love, anything like that which when you accept nihilism becomes arbitrary. So back to the original point, I think it's perfectly normal to have feelings of despair regardless of your philosophical views.


You have to remember that philosophy is not something most are able to pursue as a discipline. For instance, there are over 3,000,000,000 men, women and children around the globe that literally live on less than $2 a day. They are preoccupied mainly with survival. They leave all the stuff we talk about to God.

Yes, despair is an equal opportuinty emotional reaction. It can afflict anyone from a Platonist to a Nietzschean. But those who not have a philosophy that includes God can be especially afflicted because their suffering is viewed as essentially meaningless. And there is no Salvation to take its place.

It seems nobody really lives directly in adherence to their philosophy because it suits their life better. Socrates is the only one I can think of who seemed to only live by his word. And he may not have even existed.


I think philosophy will only make a comeback when it abandons scholastic, academic analysis and embraces a more existential agenda instead.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

Start here: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=176529
Then here: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=185296
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Re: camus on nihilism

Postby cheegster » Thu Nov 18, 2010 12:09 am

iambiguous wrote:
It seems individuals almost always let their sense of self and the world they live in ('dasein') overwhelm their philosophy. For example one could accept ideas of atheism, nihilism and the like but although it will be a very poignant occasion for them they are still going to be more concerned with dasein; the welfare of their family, career, love, anything like that which when you accept nihilism becomes arbitrary. So back to the original point, I think it's perfectly normal to have feelings of despair regardless of your philosophical views.


You have to remember that philosophy is not something most are able to pursue as a discipline. For instance, there are over 3,000,000,000 men, women and children around the globe that literally live on less than $2 a day. They are preoccupied mainly with survival. They leave all the stuff we talk about to God.

Yes, despair is an equal opportuinty emotional reaction. It can afflict anyone from a Platonist to a Nietzschean. But those who not have a philosophy that includes God can be especially afflicted because their suffering is viewed as essentially meaningless. And there is no Salvation to take its place.

It seems nobody really lives directly in adherence to their philosophy because it suits their life better. Socrates is the only one I can think of who seemed to only live by his word. And he may not have even existed.


I think philosophy will only make a comeback when it abandons scholastic, academic analysis and embraces a more existential agenda instead.


Agreed.
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Re: camus on nihilism

Postby statiktech » Thu Nov 18, 2010 12:12 am

anon wrote:So to feel despairing is in a sense to ask for help? Ah, then it does make more sense than I first thought. I like that.

I suppose it's only attachment to despair, then, that makes no sense? What do you think? Or have I misunderstood you?


I think you got me. To despair, especially overtly, is an expression of grief or pain. For an introvert, I would expect the "cry" to be directed inward, as if to say "learn more, understand more, and perhaps you'll find purpose." An extrovert, on the other hand, is more likely to seek answers from others by making his despair that much more obvious (prompting recognition).

I realize these assertions may seem presumptuous, but they are not unfounded. I've personally experienced despair to such a degree, and for such a duration, that I resorted to both methods --those are my conclusions.

But "negation" can be linked to a particular circumstantial landslide that overwhelms someone. Their despair flows from an existential context they feel powerless to overcome. And indeed it may well be beyond overcoming. And their optimistic philosophy succumbs as well.


You restated almost exactly what I said. That feeling of powerlessness is a loss of faith, of 'hope.' A person can be pushed to a point wherein reality becomes torment -- this is where negation may be a source of comfort.

t is all rooted in dasein---in an individual's "sense of self".


Sure, but in direct relation to 'reality' as the respective 'self' perceives it.
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Re: camus on nihilism

Postby iambiguous » Thu Nov 18, 2010 3:24 am

iambiguous wrote:

It is all rooted in dasein---in an individual's "sense of self".


statiktech wrote:Sure, but in direct relation to 'reality' as the respective 'self' perceives it.



Yes, "reality" is as it is percevived [and then concieved] by each individual dasein. But there are some parts of this alleged reality that can be confirmed as in fact true, and other parts that can only be subjective points of view.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Then here: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=185296
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Re: camus on nihilism

Postby Humpty » Thu Nov 18, 2010 3:26 am

anon wrote:
Humpty wrote:what doesn't make sense about it?

It doesn't serve a purpose that I can think of. But maybe I'm missing something...

why does something have to serve a purpose to make sense?
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Re: camus on nihilism

Postby finishedman » Thu Nov 18, 2010 4:37 am

iambiguous wrote:Yes, "reality" is as it is percevived [and then concieved] by each individual dasein.


Thought in its very nature is short-lived. So every time a thought is born, the dasein is born. But there’s been added to that the constant demand to experience the same things over and over again, thus giving a false continuity to thought. To experience anything knowledge is needed. Knowledge is the entire heritage of man's thoughts, feelings, and experiences, handed on from generation to generation.

Just as we all breathe from a common fund of air, we appropriate and use thoughts from the surrounding thought-sphere to function in this world. That's all there is to it. Man's insistence that thought must be continuous denies the nature of thought, which is short-lived. Thought has created for itself a separate destiny. It has been very successful in creating for itself a separate parallel existence. By positing the unknown, the Beyond, the immortal, it has created for itself a way to continue on. There is no timeless, only time. When thought creates time, a space is created there; so thought is also space as well. Thought also creates matter; no thought, no matter.

Thought is a manifestation or expression of life, and to make of it a separate thing, impute to it a life of its own, and then allow it to create a future for its own unobstructed continuity, is man's tragedy.
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Re: camus on nihilism

Postby anon » Thu Nov 18, 2010 2:06 pm

Humpty wrote:
anon wrote:
Humpty wrote:what doesn't make sense about it?

It doesn't serve a purpose that I can think of. But maybe I'm missing something...

why does something have to serve a purpose to make sense?

If it "makes sense" to do something, it's because that something serves some function - it can be put into a larger context and valued for its relationship to that larger context. No? Otherwise, all that's being said is that it's understandable - i.e. nothing to be ashamed of or to be fought against.
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"To a fly that likes the smell of putrid / Meat the fragrance of sandalwood is foul. / Beings who discard Nirvana / Covet coarse Samsara's realm." - Saraha
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Re: camus on nihilism

Postby Humpty » Thu Nov 18, 2010 6:02 pm

i guess we just have different definitions of "making sense." pretty much all that's required to make sense according to my definition is that it's logically consistent.
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Re: camus on nihilism

Postby anon » Thu Nov 18, 2010 6:17 pm

Humpty wrote:i guess we just have different definitions of "making sense." pretty much all that's required to make sense according to my definition is that it's logically consistent.

So "makes sense" means "is understandable"? That's what I originally asked. Ok.
"Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries, and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries." - Blaise Pascal

"The bombs we plant in each other are ticking away." - Edward Yang

"To a fly that likes the smell of putrid / Meat the fragrance of sandalwood is foul. / Beings who discard Nirvana / Covet coarse Samsara's realm." - Saraha
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Re: camus on nihilism

Postby Humpty » Thu Nov 18, 2010 6:19 pm

i didn't notice that you asked anything
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Re: camus on nihilism

Postby anon » Thu Nov 18, 2010 6:21 pm

Humpty wrote:i didn't notice that you asked anything

I said: Do you mean to say "are understandable"? Because I can't see how feelings of despair "make perfect sense".

That's what you first responded to.
"Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries, and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries." - Blaise Pascal

"The bombs we plant in each other are ticking away." - Edward Yang

"To a fly that likes the smell of putrid / Meat the fragrance of sandalwood is foul. / Beings who discard Nirvana / Covet coarse Samsara's realm." - Saraha
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Re: camus on nihilism

Postby Humpty » Thu Nov 18, 2010 6:29 pm

the question implies that "makes sense" and "is understandable" cannot be synonymous.

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/make+sense
definition 1 of makes sense:
1. To be coherent or intelligible:

it also just so happens that one of the listed synonyms of understandable is "intelligible"
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Re: camus on nihilism

Postby anon » Thu Nov 18, 2010 6:35 pm

Humpty wrote:the question implies that "makes sense" and "is understandable" cannot be synonymous.

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/make+sense
definition 1 of makes sense:
1. To be coherent or intelligible:

I was merely asking what was meant. I'm not making an argument, other than that wallowing in despair serves no purpose that I can think of. I think it is perfectly understandable though.
"Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries, and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries." - Blaise Pascal

"The bombs we plant in each other are ticking away." - Edward Yang

"To a fly that likes the smell of putrid / Meat the fragrance of sandalwood is foul. / Beings who discard Nirvana / Covet coarse Samsara's realm." - Saraha
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Re: camus on nihilism

Postby iambiguous » Thu Nov 18, 2010 6:42 pm

finishedman wrote: Thought in its very nature is short-lived. So every time a thought is born, the dasein is born. But there’s been added to that the constant demand to experience the same things over and over again, thus giving a false continuity to thought. To experience anything knowledge is needed. Knowledge is the entire heritage of man's thoughts, feelings, and experiences, handed on from generation to generation.


With every thought dasein is reborn. It's symbiotic. The thoughts we have now are predicated in part on the thoughts we once had. And those thoughts are predicated on the manner in which we viewed our "self" then. And that is predicated in large part on our historical era, our culture and our own unique individual experiences. And then a new thought can reconfigure dasein yet again going on into the future.

And sometimes when we experience a completely new thing...or experience a circumstantial landslide..."I" can change dramatically.


finishedman wrote:Just as we all breathe from a common fund of air, we appropriate and use thoughts from the surrounding thought-sphere to function in this world. That's all there is to it. Man's insistence that thought must be continuous denies the nature of thought, which is short-lived.


I agree. But the thoughts we had drummed into our heads as children, by sheer repitition, can stay with us throughout our lives. And thoughts associated with significant events in our lives can as well. It varies from individual to individual of course, but some thoughts are far more continuous than are others.


finishedman wrote:Thought has created for itself a separate destiny. It has been very successful in creating for itself a separate parallel existence. By positing the unknown, the Beyond, the immortal, it has created for itself a way to continue on. There is no timeless, only time. When thought creates time, a space is created there; so thought is also space as well. Thought also creates matter; no thought, no matter.

Thought is a manifestation or expression of life, and to make of it a separate thing, impute to it a life of its own, and then allow it to create a future for its own unobstructed continuity, is man's tragedy.



We can think thoughts based on what we think we know is true that either is not true or cannot be confirmed as true. That is always a facet of human interaction that is exasperating. We believe something that others do not. And try as we might we can't reconcile the differences.

This is the case when discussing Camus's take on nihilism. Or in discussing moral, political or aesthetic values. Or in discussing personal tastes.

And mind and matter are always routinely symbiotic. We simply do not understand fully this profoundly problematic relationship. And perhaps we never will.

But I agree the extent to which the mind of man can create thoughts that create Gods and doctrinaire ideologies and all manner of additional absolutist and authoritarian monsters, is indeed a tragedy.

If, of course, I understand your own thoughts here.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: camus on nihilism

Postby statiktech » Fri Nov 19, 2010 6:21 pm

Yes, "reality" is as it is percevived [and then concieved] by each individual dasein. But there are some parts of this alleged reality that can be confirmed as in fact true, and other parts that can only be subjective points of view.


Really? Can you cite specific examples of 'in-fact-truth'?

Some parts of reality can affirmed as more objectively 'true' (more in terms of quality), whereas other parts are more obviously subjective. We don't confirm 'truth' as much as we agree with it. Our only means of confirmation would be the same by which the 'truth' was posited, meaning we agree or disagree with the respective 'truth' and its justification altogether. "Confirmation" of a 'truth', in this respect, is essentially recognition that someone else's perception of a thing is somehow similar to your own.
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