Monday, January 30, 2017

640: The joy of nihilism...

As we noticed last week the naturalist explanation of our existence offers little material, which could help use answer the question why we are here.
This could lead to the conclusion, that life as we know it in this universe is just a meaningless coincidence.
Some people feel rather uncomfortable to know that we are just survival machines, as Richard Dawkins calls the living organisms in het book “The Selfish Gen”.
The fact that organisms survive does not imply any purpose. There is no final goal or direction which we are heading for.
From this point of view human life is only an objectless insignificant accident.
My goodness…..if this is all there is ?! A lot of people don’t like this observation at all. They even do not wish to have it true.
The first word, which may come to mind in this context is the word “NIHILISM”. What everybody at least knows is that this word has a negative connotation.
The term nihilism  appears to have been coined in Russia sometime in the second quarter of the nineteenth century around  1860.
Use of the term spread rapidly throughout Europe and the Americas. As it did, the term lost most 
of its anarchistic and revolutionary flavour, ceasing to evoke the image of a political program or even an intellectual movement.
On the one hand, the term is widely used to denote the doctrine that moral norms or standards cannot be justified by rational argument. 
On the other hand, it is widely used to denote a mood of despair over the emptiness or triviality of human existence. 
This double meaning appears to derive from the fact that the term was often employed in the nineteenth century by the religiously oriented 
as a club against atheists, atheists being regarded as ipso facto nihilists in both senses.     
The atheist, it was held, would not feel bound by moral norms; consequently, he would tend to be callous or selfish, even criminal.
There are many literary prototypes of the atheist-nihilist. The most famous are Ivan in F√ędor Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov  and Kirilov in Dostoevsky’s The Possessed.  
It was into Ivan’s mouth that Dostoevsky put the words, “If God does not exist, everything is permitted.”
You still hear such statements and I still do not see the logical relation between the existence of a god and the absence or presence of moral standards, especially when you look at the work of Frans de Waal with primates.

And I am not the only one.  Friedrich Nietzsche was the first great philosopher  and still the only one to make extensive use of the term nihilism.
He was also one of the first atheists to dispute the existence of a necessary link between atheism and nihilism.
The tendency to associate nihilism with atheism continues to the present.  During the course of the twentieth century, however, 
the image of the nihilist changed, with a corresponding change in the analysis of nihilism’s causes and consequences.
In a more contemporary view  nihilism is caused not so much by atheism as by industrialization and social pressures, 
and its typical consequences are not selfishness or suicide but indifference, ironical detachment, or sheer bafflement.
All together nihilism is an interesting answer to the question of the meaning of life. It seems to be not a popular one, but yet a challenging one…
Thank you… ^_^

Main Sources:
MacMillan The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition
Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1995
Julian Baggini, What's It All About? Philosophy and the Meaning of Life (2004)  
Richard David Precht, Wer bin ich, und wenn ja, wie viele? (2007)

The Discussion

[13:22] herman Bergson: nihil questions or remarks are expected :-))
[13:23] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): Hmm no nihilism expert but i know somewhat what it defines
[13:24] Starr (lynstarr): i don't see how nilihism answer the question on the meaning of life
[13:24] herman Bergson: well for us..most interesting one is "a mood of despair over the emptiness or triviality of human existence. "
[13:24] CB Axel: I'm still thinking.
[13:25] CB Axel: That's about how I feel.
[13:25] herman Bergson: What fascinates me it the fact that a lot of people have problems with the idea that life has no meaning or purpose at al...but just is
[13:25] Ciska Riverstone: mh- whats the psychological approach on that?
[13:26] herman Bergson: A need for certainty and security, Ciska?
[13:26] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): the definition of nihilism would suggest they are bloodthirsty murderers and robbers since they done believe in any moral and thus it doesnt matter what they do
[13:27] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): damn cant type today, too much pythin coding before
[13:27] herman Bergson: no no Bejiita.....
[13:27] herman Bergson: They just claim that we can not formulate absolute moral standards based on our rationality
[13:27] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): or do they just think everything is meaninglss, nihilism as i get it is at least no happy view in general
[13:27] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): but as said no expert
[13:28] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): just know the term vaguely
[13:28] herman Bergson: YEs BEjiita a lot of us do...
[13:28] herman Bergson: we only know that it has a negative connotation :-)
[13:28] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): sort of
[13:28] herman Bergson: which is quite interesting....
[13:29] herman Bergson: the other interesting feature is that it is often associated with atheism....
[13:29] Starr (lynstarr): that sounds logical
[13:30] herman Bergson: understandable....
[13:30] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): no god no moral ?
[13:30] CB Axel: I think that what worries people about nihilism is your first definition of the word. "moral norms or standards cannot be justified by rational argument."
[13:30] herman Bergson: it is only logical if you assume the premise that only a religion can offer us moral standards.....which is nonsense in my opinion
[13:31] CB Axel: They are afraid that if moral norms cannot be justified then anarchy will ensue.
[13:31] herman Bergson: yes indeed CB...
[13:31] Ciska Riverstone: but atheism itself has no moral standards - has it?
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): indeed, i dont believe in god but moral and reason are very important things to me, without it would be chaos
[13:31] herman Bergson: early nihilists were also anarchists
[13:31] Starr (lynstarr): if there is no, idk, ultimate morality, then there is none
[13:31] CB Axel: Let me share a picture with you, Herman, since I can't rez a prim here...
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): we would do terrible things to each other all time
[13:31] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): like beasts
[13:32] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): or i dont know
[13:32] herman Bergson: there you are mistaken Bejiita.....
[13:32] herman Bergson: The social behavior of many animals is often more civilized than human behavior
[13:32] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): at least we have some sort of built in empathy and such so maybe not that bad, also our individual personality play a role
[13:33] Starr (lynstarr): and more times not
[13:33] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): its a very complex subject
[13:33] herman Bergson: a lot of animals have this built in empathy too
[13:33] CB Axel: Ciska, the moral standards people attribute to a god are, through experiments with babies and (other) apes show that they occur naturally.
[13:34] herman Bergson: atheism isnt a philosophy on ethics....
[13:34] Starr (lynstarr): what standards?
[13:34] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): for example i don’t think i could ever become a murderer even if moral and such did not existed, i cant see me do a such terrible thing, have alays ben a nice social guy since littl
[13:34] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): little
[13:34] herman Bergson: it is an ontological philosophy about what exists and what does not exist...
[13:34] Starr (lynstarr): that is because the society has had moral standards
[13:35] Ciska Riverstone: atheism itself does not say anything about moral to my knowledge ... so if someon identifies as an atheist it does not say anything about his moral standarts at all
[13:35] CB Axel: Moral standards that we are born with.
[13:35] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): yes
[13:35] herman Bergson: Indeed Ciska...
[13:35] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): i think so too
[13:35] Starr (lynstarr): what moral standards are we born with?
[13:35] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): its in us and we need no god for that
[13:36] CB Axel: I was called a "good Christian" not too long ago, because I had done something nice. It was really hard to not laugh out loud.
[13:36] Starr (lynstarr): where do you get that?
[13:36] herman Bergson: As I said....unless you uphold the premise that moral standards are only possible under supernatural rulership by a god
[13:36] CB Axel: Herman, where are the links to those two experiments you showed us weeks ago? I think Starr needs to see them.
[13:36] Starr (lynstarr): you were influenced by the standards of morality you grew up in
[13:37] CB Axel: Infants show empathy. Apes show empathy.
[13:37] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): true
[13:37] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): very true
[13:37] herman Bergson: here is one....
[13:37] CB Axel: You don't need to be taught what's right and what's wrong. Studies have shown this.
[13:37] herman Bergson: cant find the other
[13:38] Starr (lynstarr): where is this sense of right and wrong? who is to say what is right and what is wrong?
[13:38] CB Axel: Watch the video.
[13:38] herman Bergson: nature, Starr...
[13:38] herman Bergson: our social brain...
[13:38] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): i think so too
[13:39] herman Bergson: Here is the other
[13:39] Starr (lynstarr): then if i am having a moment of natural anger am i justified to act out as i feel?
[13:40] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): aaa those 2 videos
[13:40] herman Bergson: Yes Starr.....
[13:40] herman Bergson: But that doesn’t mean that your feelings are just uncontroled random events
[13:41] CB Axel: Starr, you can act like that, but you will know (and others will let you know) that you were wrong to do so.
[13:41] Starr (lynstarr): i'm wondering if we are talking about the same thing
[13:41] herman Bergson: they will be in line with your social context and behavior
[13:41] herman Bergson: just watch these two videos, Starr....
[13:42] herman Bergson: they even make a nihilist happy ^_^
[13:42] CB Axel: Watch the videos. Monkeys and babies understand right and wrong and fairness.
[13:42] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:42] Starr (lynstarr): okay, let's say we are born with some sort of sense of good and bad... why?
[13:42] herman Bergson: survival, Starr
[13:42] CB Axel nods
[13:43] herman Bergson: only social behavior makes it possible to survive in and as a group
[13:43] Starr (lynstarr): i understand what you are saying
[13:43] herman Bergson: But our theme is ...WHy should we ever want to survive...what is the meaning of it...? :-)
[13:44] Starr (lynstarr): but i don't think i am expressing myself well
[13:44] CB Axel: Those who couldn't understand that were shunned by the group and couldn't survive on their own.
[13:44] herman Bergson: Dont worry Starr...we got all the time of the world here.....
[13:44] Starr (lynstarr): yes, Mr. Bergson, that is a good question.. why do we want to survive
[13:44] herman Bergson: many lectures to come still :-)
[13:45] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:45] CB Axel: This doesn't explain why we should want to survive. That's true, Herman.
[13:45] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): many questions as well:)
[13:45] herman Bergson: Yes Starr...indeed a challenging question
[13:46] CB Axel: Curiosity about what's going to happen next?
[13:46] herman Bergson: I think you should look at it from the other side.....
[13:46] CB Axel: Is that a reason?
[13:46] herman Bergson: there is no "wanting" to survive....
[13:46] herman Bergson: we all other organisms....
[13:47] herman Bergson: never seen a tree drop dead willingly :-)
[13:47] herman Bergson: Like Dawkins says....the gen just strives to exist...period
[13:47] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): why?
[13:47] Starr (lynstarr): how do we know if a tree committed suicide or not?  LOL
[13:47] herman Bergson: because it exists Beertje.....
[13:48] herman Bergson: it is innate in the system
[13:48] CB Axel is trying to picture how a tree would commit suicide.
[13:48] herman Bergson smiles
[13:49] CB Axel pictures a tree hanging itself from the next tree over.
[13:49] herman Bergson: indeed an intriguing issue
[13:49] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): only humans can do that I suppose
[13:49] Starr (lynstarr): maybe that's it, CB... tree can't... even if it wanted to
[13:49] Ciska Riverstone: whales maybe?
[13:49] herman Bergson: as such it is an interesting matter......
[13:49] herman Bergson: by choice ending your life....
[13:50] herman Bergson: can only humans do that?
[13:50] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): also plants are alive but can they feel? they neither move or talk
[13:50] CB Axel: Perhaps some creatures can just lose the will to live and fail to thrive.
[13:50] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): except for the Venus fly trap that is
[13:50] Starr (lynstarr): yeh
[13:50] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): venus
[13:51] herman Bergson: I just in my newspaper that that even isnt true anymore Bejiita....
[13:51] CB Axel: Venus fly traps talk?
[13:51] herman Bergson: plants purposefully interact with their environment...
[13:51] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): no but they move
[13:51] CB Axel: All plants, at least green ones, move.
[13:51] CB Axel: Like toward the sun.
[13:51] Starr (lynstarr): they speak venusian
[13:51] CB Axel: Look at a field of sunflowers in the summer. °͜°
[13:51] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): i had one once and when it  died i felt sad for it
[13:51] CB Axel: LOL, Starr.
[13:51] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): yes, trees warn each other when there is a sickness ]
[13:51] Starr (lynstarr): :)
[13:52] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): but id probably do that for some other ones too, i have an orchid here thats been with me entire time i have lived here
[13:52] herman Bergson: yes Beertje..things like that...
[13:52] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): it s become a bit like a fiend
[13:52] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): friend
[13:52] CB Axel: That's right, Beertje. I forgot about that!
[13:53] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): (I live in near the forest)..
[13:53] herman Bergson: It doesn’t mean that plants are conscious beings.....
[13:53] herman Bergson: but they are more than just green things
[13:54] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): in a way they are
[13:54] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hmm
[13:54] herman Bergson: Talk to your orchid Bejiita and it will kiss you :-))
[13:54] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:55] herman Bergson: All in all...I get the feeling that Nihilism yet is fun :-)
[13:55] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): no flowers on it at the moment but it just looms agai and again and have tone so for around 10 years
[13:55] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): blooms
[13:55] herman Bergson: wow....
[13:55] CB Axel: I'm not sure that nihilism is fun, but it certainly is interesting.
[13:55] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): yes another interesting subject among others
[13:55] herman Bergson: Ok CB...there is little fun in nihil ^_^
[13:56] Ciska Riverstone: inrwewaarinf ia  a special kind of fun ;)
[13:56] Ciska Riverstone: oops
[13:56] Ciska Riverstone: interessting
[13:56] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): smiles
[13:56] Ciska Riverstone: darn.. typo day here too
[13:56] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hahaa coded python as well?
[13:56] CB Axel: I may have to make a "Nihilism is FUN" shirt. LOL
[13:56] herman Bergson: We all speak our languages here Ciska :-)
[13:56] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): don’t think its that though
[13:56] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hehe
[13:56] Ciska Riverstone: heheh no - just my brain liking the rearrangement of the letters game ;)
[13:57] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): working on yet another game featuring surralism and will make it with python
[13:57] CB Axel: Your keyboard has adopted a nihilistic philosophy.
[13:57] Ciska Riverstone: that would be great cb - count me in as a buyer hahah
[13:57] Ciska Riverstone: I bet
[13:57] herman Bergson: Guess that is it CB :-)
[13:58] herman Bergson: Well....guess we had our talk again today.....
[13:58] herman Bergson: Thank you all again for your participation....
[13:58] Ciska Riverstone: (may I ask a stupid question ? does the ghost town hud dissolve by itself? does anyone here know?
[13:58] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): thank you Herman
[13:58] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): great again Herman
[13:58] Ciska Riverstone: )
[13:58] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): cu next time
[13:58] herman Bergson: Class dismissed :-)
[13:58] CB Axel: Thank you, Herman.
[13:58] Ciska Riverstone: thank you herman

[13:58] Ciska Riverstone: thanx all

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