The New Nihilists

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Re: The New Nihilists

Postby anon » Thu Feb 24, 2011 6:52 pm

Ingenium wrote:Trump's father was a real estate developer and self-made millionare and Donald joined his dad's company after he graduated from the Wharton School. He brought it to a current worth of about $3 billion, although there have been ups & down along the way.

I dunno, this is probably stretching it, but I'm trying to think of how these two would be nihilists. I don't know about Trump's specific philosophy of conservatism (he seems mostly into unbridled capitalism, AFAIK), but I think you could consider Palin's neoconservatism that promotes individualism, natural rights and reasoned self-interest as tending toward a sort of nihilism (different from Nietzsche's European version, though). That is, you could consider it if Palin was capable of coming up with deeply considered ideas...and I don't believe she is. But no doubt there are people around her who are. Mostly, the only things neoconservatives propose to value above one's self interest, as a form of self-sacrifice, requires waging war. Although the sacrificing in that case is intended primarily for the middle and lower classes, and not for the neocon elite.

To repeat, this is probably stretching it a bit far.

Maybe it's Trump's hairpiece that leads me to see him as a nihilist. :P

I think one difference between myself and others, including you, who object to the word "nihilism" here, is that I don't think you have to have "deeply considered ideas" to be a nihilist. Again, though, it's fine with me that people don't like my use of the word here.

Though I wouldn't know of course, I don't see any reason to assume that Trump has worked harder than Palin. Surely his skills are different than hers, but if I approach the question cynically, perhaps his success is due almost wholly to intuitively well-executed strong-arming, and hers to intuitively well-executed ass-kissing. If I approach the question less cynically, perhaps they both simply worked hard using the skills they have to get where they are.
"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: The New Nihilists

Postby anon » Fri Feb 25, 2011 3:49 pm

If you set out to write a song, there is interplay involved between a subject and meaning you would like to convey in the song, and the playfulness required to not get so fixated that don't have the fluidity required to change course and write something that works. In conventional songwriting, there is a structure that needs to be conformed to. Syllables, rhymes, etc. If you're so fixated on saying exactly what you intended to say that you can't conform to the necessary structure, you won't write a good song. On the other hand, if all you care about is structure, you won't end up saying anything meaningful. I submit that Palin and Trump have nothing to say, because they don't care. If they are consistent in their message, it isn't because they care about anything, it is because they have found a structure that works for them and provides them with short term success, for themselves and possibly their small circle of family and friends. In the balance between seriousness and playfulness, they are all play. And they're not playing with us - they're just plain playing us. That is what I mean by nihilism, here.

Wikipedia wrote:Nihilism (pronounced /ˈnaɪ.əlɪzəm/ or /ˈniː.əlɪzəm/; from the Latin nihil, nothing) is the philosophical doctrine suggesting the negation of one or more putatively-meaningful aspects of life.
"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: The New Nihilists

Postby Sean » Sat Feb 26, 2011 11:28 am

That is a very well-put and well-taken point Anon.

They are all play.

My previous post in this thread emphasized a definition of "nihilism" as a lack of "play."
Sean wrote:Thus, I suggest we redefine nihilism as refusal to think, covered up by belief in some piece of absolute dogma. The problem here is not the "absolutism" of belief, the problem is there is nothing thought about. Dogmatism is not a positive state, it is a negation of thought.


With these celebrities, all you get is play. They have no dogma, just self-interest.

Otherwise, belief in some dogma about "giving" or something might lead them to philanthropy. Perhaps they might even sell their worldly possessions and give all to the poor in exchange for a spot in heaven.

In any event, it is too easy to blame dogmatism. Ultimately dogma can be a strong ally. As long as you have the right dogma, dogma can say, "Hey! Quit playin'! You have specific work to do on this Earth!" Then, suddenly you have to deal with this dogmatic option, which can be enough to trivialize your nihilism if you're listening to the right dogmatist. That's why I nominate myself for Communist Dictator.
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Re: The New Nihilists

Postby iambiguous » Sun Feb 27, 2011 2:55 am

anon wrote:Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, and others like them win whether they win or lose. As much as they continue to win, they still seem to have nothing to lose. This has a riddle-like quality. I would blame the media, but that's a bit like blaming the air for the pollution it carries.

I'm not sure if I have a specific point. Maybe I'm just pointing this out. Maybe some genius out there knows of a cure for cancer.


And how would this post be different if you had called it The Old Nihilists?
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: The New Nihilists

Postby iambiguous » Sun Feb 27, 2011 3:07 am

Sean wrote:Nihilism is mankind's worst enemy.


On the contrary, nihilism liberates us from the dogma of, among other things, God and ideology.

Tell me: How many innocent men, women and children have been slaughtered by nihilists? And how many by one or another doctrinaire proponent of God and ideology?

Unless you are confusing means and ends. Indeed, evangelical religionists, Communists, Nazis etc. will use any and all means in service of their particular Kingdom of Ends.

And then there are those who claim the global economy as the end that justifies any means. But that is an altogether different kind of nihilism.
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: The New Nihilists

Postby Three Times Great » Sun Feb 27, 2011 5:14 pm

iambiguous wrote:
Sean wrote:Nihilism is mankind's worst enemy.


On the contrary, nihilism liberates us from the dogma of, among other things, God and ideology.


Yes.

Tell me: How many innocent men, women and children have been slaughtered by nihilists? And how many by one or another doctrinaire proponent of God and ideology?

Unless you are confusing means and ends. Indeed, evangelical religionists, Communists, Nazis etc. will use any and all means in service of their particular Kingdom of Ends.


Yes, ideology as such is the antithesis of nihilism.

And then there are those who claim the global economy as the end that justifies any means. But that is an altogether different kind of nihilism.


That would be another form of ideology, then, and not nihilism.
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Re: The New Nihilists

Postby Sean » Sun Feb 27, 2011 6:54 pm

iambiguous wrote:
Sean wrote:Nihilism is mankind's worst enemy.


On the contrary, nihilism liberates us from the dogma of, among other things, God and ideology.


In response, particularly to your quote which follows, I direct you to my primary post in this thread. I suggest that there are "New Nihilists" (as opposed to whatever we call "Old Nihilists") who can be characterized as nihilists not by a lack of dogmatic belief, but as a failure to think ethically, to think values. A nihilation of thinking, which I think is synonymous with ideology.

imbiguous wrote:And then there are those who claim the global economy as the end that justifies any means. But that is an altogether different kind of nihilism.


Sean wrote:Lately it has seemed to me that what really should be called "nihilistic" is perhaps the opposite of what we usually mean by: "I believe in nothing." Bear with me, and call me out as a bullshitter if necessary, but I think that the worst manifestations of nihilism show up where people actually have very firm beliefs.

Example 1: Free Market zealotry
Total faith in the free market system. This is something you hear a lot from some brands of libertarian. "The free market system is just the way humans organize resources. It's the natural state of things" Normally you would say, "That Libertarian is not a nihilist, they clearly believe in a thing, namely, the Free Market System." However, what if this is a way of refusing to think about values besides those determined by brute supply/demand outcomes? If things only have value because of supply and demand, and supply and demand really is a totally cold rational system, then isn't a failure to attribute any further value a form of nihilism? Marxists for example suggest that there might be an implicit value in a worker's labors. There might further be an implicit value in the utility of a given good.

Example 2: Faith-based values
Total faith in the declarations of your God. Moral dogmatism of the absolute kind. Usually you would say, "That Christian is not a nihilist, they clearly believe in a thing, namely God and our obligation to her will." However, what if this is a way of refusing to think about values besides those determined by brute commandments passed down in textual or oral tradition. By believing that only what God says to do is a legitimate moral value, a dogmatic Christian expunges herself of the responsibility to "think ethically." There are understandable motivations to avoid actually thinking ethically. When we are forced to think about something, we experience anxiety. Belief in dogma at the expense of actual thought, i contend, is nihilistic in the same way that dogmatic faith in hyper-rationalistic free market forces is nihilistic.

Thus, I suggest we redefine nihilism as refusal to think, covered up by belief in some piece of absolute dogma. The problem here is not the "absolutism" of belief, the problem is there is nothing thought about. Dogmatism is not a positive state, it is a negation of thought.

A nihilation of thought, thus nihilism.


See? We're both secular leftists and agree on everything.
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Re: The New Nihilists

Postby anon » Sun Feb 27, 2011 11:35 pm

iambiguous wrote:
anon wrote:Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, and others like them win whether they win or lose. As much as they continue to win, they still seem to have nothing to lose. This has a riddle-like quality. I would blame the media, but that's a bit like blaming the air for the pollution it carries.

I'm not sure if I have a specific point. Maybe I'm just pointing this out. Maybe some genius out there knows of a cure for cancer.


And how would this post be different if you had called it The Old Nihilists?

There are no well-known examples of "old nihilists", only caricatures. What I'm calling "new nihilists" are real people who are in the public eye. They are a bit giddy, and don't wear black. If old nihilism is film noir, new nihilism is Pulp Fiction.
"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: The New Nihilists

Postby anon » Sun Feb 27, 2011 11:36 pm

Sean, lots of good points. And I can't tell exactly when you being serious and when your screwing around. Which is kind of fun. :)
"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: The New Nihilists

Postby GateControlTheory » Thu Mar 03, 2011 5:50 am

Three Times Great wrote:What is wrong with nihilism?


nothing...

ho ho ho.

No, really though. I always thought the eastern philosophies had the best answer for this. If all things are but one thing, then even nothing is something.

Since this is the Social Science section though I'd argue that the problem with nihilism (the existential version) is used by authoritarian types as a false critique of democracy. 'Given too much freedom and paralyzed by inummerable and equally meaningless choices, man falters and then falls in to the abyss' or some such nonsense.
Kids, don't try this at home.

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Re: The New Nihilists

Postby Sean » Fri Mar 04, 2011 1:53 am

GateControlTheory wrote:Since this is the Social Science section though I'd argue that the problem with nihilism (the existential version) is used by authoritarian types as a false critique of democracy. 'Given too much freedom and paralyzed by inummerable and equally meaningless choices, man falters and then falls in to the abyss' or some such nonsense.


I think this "falling into the abyss of equally meaningless choices" is exactly what the Authoritarian Democrat wants.

Parse that sentence at will.

I should add, this response is meant entail that I also disagree with ThreeTimesGreat on this thread.

Also, GateControlTheory I hate your exorcist avatar, it makes me want to puke.
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Re: The New Nihilists

Postby Three Times Great » Fri Mar 04, 2011 8:12 pm

Sean wrote:
Three Times Great wrote:To me nihilism is an essential fire that purifies mind and soul. A test by fire, so to speak. If one cannot survive this test, one has no business in philosophy as such.


TTG, you sound disturbingly Cartesian here. What are you up to?


What do you mean by this?

Surely you do not think that Philosophical projects must always begin with "global doubt." Must we sit and meditate until we forget everything we know?


That is certainly not what I said, nor is such a position necessitated or even implied directly by what I have said here regarding the nihilist position.

The essence of my point here is that nihilism is the reversal of the positivist, closed perspective (of belief, of thought, of understanding). Belief acts like a closed box, a concept into which we pour a limited meaning and then seal it away therein. The extent of the seal is the extent to which we fall prey to black and white thinking, bigotry, bias, closed-mindedness, decay of growth in understanding, and superficial analysis. So, in my experience (I am not implying this has been or ought to be your experience as well) nihilism is that view which "unseals" beliefs as such, frees them from positive forms which are closed and self-contained. Most people operate under such closed paradigms, with a number of sustaining concepts that ground the overall frame. These concepts are rarely examined, which is the utility of positivist thinking. Rather, I prefer open position, and the ground ought to be that which arises of necessity or known assumption-hypothesis (via deliberate self-testing), these then arising out of a fundamentally negative (falsifying, doubtful) perspective. Of course this perspective is mediated by both an awareness of the psychological limitations of thought/reason as well as a realistic view of the world in which we live and the demands imposed upon us by this world. So there is some give and take, as always.

Perhaps you need to explain what it is about my thoughts here in this thread that you disagree with?
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Re: The New Nihilists

Postby Sean » Tue Mar 22, 2011 2:58 am

We agree 100% on the implications for what a responsible human will do (for you, practice nihilism against ideology).

I disagree with you on a terminological level.

In this thread titled "The New Nihilists" I want to suggest that we need a new definition of nihilism.

I've outlined this in previous posts, but suffice to say I believe we need to save the word Nihilism to describe a nihilation of thought that takes place whenever we rely on authoritative dogma to make decisions.

What you describe as nihilism I see as a positive struggle to constantly practice positive thought, creating understanding and moving forward through dissolution of dogma.

When I called you a Cartesian I was hoping the Heideggerian in you would recoil and provide an easy explanation of the difference between practical skepticism and Cartesian global doubt. Unfortunately for me, you do not respond so easily to straw provocation.

What do you think of calling your project in this thread something different from "nihilism." Can we here on this board come together in small groups to change the way we use loaded words like Nihilism? You've already described nihilism as a positive process. What if, instead of calling your project "nihilism," we called it "turning." When I say "turning" I am referring to the turning that takes place in Plato's cave, but I am trying to call forth the Heideggerian turn of turning in order to evoke your "nihilism" in a way that is crucially substantial.
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Re: The New Nihilists

Postby anon » Sat Aug 20, 2016 5:43 pm

"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: The New Nihilists

Postby iambiguous » Sun Aug 21, 2016 9:32 pm

anon wrote:
iambiguous wrote:
anon wrote:Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, and others like them win whether they win or lose. As much as they continue to win, they still seem to have nothing to lose. This has a riddle-like quality. I would blame the media, but that's a bit like blaming the air for the pollution it carries.

I'm not sure if I have a specific point. Maybe I'm just pointing this out. Maybe some genius out there knows of a cure for cancer.


And how would this post be different if you had called it The Old Nihilists?


There are no well-known examples of "old nihilists", only caricatures. What I'm calling "new nihilists" are real people who are in the public eye. They are a bit giddy, and don't wear black. If old nihilism is film noir, new nihilism is Pulp Fiction.


I apologize of course for missing this all those years ago.

Also, Donald Trump now puts a whole new spin on assessments of nihilism. Old or new.

From my own frame of mind, nihilism revolves first and foremost around the extent to which you believe that your moral and political narratives are in sync objectively [naturally] with the world around us.

My take on Trump today is that he pretends to be an objectivist around some because they need to hear that there really is only one right answer.

Trump projects to them as an advocate of the Christian God if the Christian God were more or less a Libertarian. Just not on "social issues".

But, sure, nihilism embodied in a Pulp Fiction frame of mind can be a really, really scary thing to encounter. Everything and anything is rationalized if it is within your power to make it happen.

Still, how different is that from the more "civilized" rendition encompassed in the agenda of those who own and operate the global economy?

Show me the money. That's morality enough for them.
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: The New Nihilists

Postby Mictlantecuhtli » Sun Aug 21, 2016 9:34 pm

New Nihilists? Where? 8)
Civilization is a ship of fools headed to a one way destination of catastrophe and annihilation, its many captains populated by asshole-idiots that all agree it is unsinkable.

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Re: The New Nihilists

Postby anon » Tue Aug 23, 2016 1:05 pm

iambiguous wrote:
anon wrote:There are no well-known examples of "old nihilists", only caricatures. What I'm calling "new nihilists" are real people who are in the public eye. They are a bit giddy, and don't wear black. If old nihilism is film noir, new nihilism is Pulp Fiction.


I apologize of course for missing this all those years ago.

Also, Donald Trump now puts a whole new spin on assessments of nihilism. Old or new.

From my own frame of mind, nihilism revolves first and foremost around the extent to which you believe that your moral and political narratives are in sync objectively [naturally] with the world around us.

My take on Trump today is that he pretends to be an objectivist around some because they need to hear that there really is only one right answer.

Trump projects to them as an advocate of the Christian God if the Christian God were more or less a Libertarian. Just not on "social issues".

But, sure, nihilism embodied in a Pulp Fiction frame of mind can be a really, really scary thing to encounter. Everything and anything is rationalized if it is within your power to make it happen.

Still, how different is that from the more "civilized" rendition encompassed in the agenda of those who own and operate the global economy?

Show me the money. That's morality enough for them.

How different is it? As different as red is from green, I'd say. You can't just say it's all just refracted light. I mean, in the right context you can. In the wrong context - like when you're distinguishing red from green - you'd look foolish to just keep insisting that it's all just refracted light. Everyone knows that, it doesn't need repeating.
"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: The New Nihilists

Postby Arminius » Wed Aug 24, 2016 1:46 am

HaHaHa wrote:New Nihilists? Where? 8)

:wink:
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