Friday, September 20, 2019

Why Nihilism?

I have adopted a certain degree of nihilism as my philosophical framework. What's more, I suspect a large number of modern people have come to many of the same conclusions I have, even if most lack a framework for their scattered impressions and ideas.

The purpose of this project is to articulate and elaborate on the theme of my brand of positive nihilism, and so I need to start at the very beginning.

A nihilist, generally speaking, is someone who rejects religious and moral principles and asserts that life is fundamentally meaningless. You can get more or less aggressive with that, but the basic principals I am working with are:

- Religion is false.

- Morality is invented.

- Life has no inherent meaning.

Obviously, each of these could and has been the subject of libraries of contention, while all I offer are a set of uninformed blog posts, and only until I get bored or too busy to continue.

But I really think nihilism is the natural endpoint of most current modes of thinking, which is of course how I have arrived here.

The age of religious truth is mostly ended. The number of Christians in the west is declining steadily, and the number of people who take their faith seriously is dropping even faster. I think even the devout would agree with me here, though they would frame this as a bad thing where I find it to be positive. In my own personal journey, I find the core values of every major faith I have studied to be unacceptable, even setting aside my materialist skepticism of their truth claims. I will add here that I have not studied Hinduism in any depth, so I can't reject that with the same vehemence I have for buddhism and the Abrahamic faiths, but that is an investigation for another time.

To touch on another topic related to religion is the contention that the Christian faith has been largely supplanted in the west by Liberalism As Faith. This is one of the claims that made Mencius Moldbug so interesting back when he was writing, tracing the intellectual roots of progressivism back to John Calvin. It is worth exploring the degree to which progressivism truly is a faith alongside the question of whether it should be rejected as a philosophical tradition, but for now I will say that I have problems with this movement as well and consider it inadequate.

Having rejected religion as a source of fundamental truths, the inquiring mind naturally asks if there is some other source for truths. Progressives usually deny that they are religious, at least the properly left-wing ones do, and claim that their principles are wholly derived from some other source, like reason, marxist dialectic, feelings, etc. Maybe they are right about that. But for those of us who reject faith and reject progressivism as fundamental values, in what else can we ground ourselves philosophically? We need either to find that ground in some more exotic philosophy, construct our own ground, or become comfortable being philosophically ungrounded.

My approach, to the extent that I have thought this through a little bit before resolving to start writing on a regular basis, is mostly the second option, drawing heavily from the first.

I want to put in some notes here before going on. I don't mean to disparage or reject out of hand the idea of being philosophically ungrounded. I have met some number of people in my life who, while generally intelligent, are philosophically incurious. A few of them call themselves Christians, but for the most part they have no real reason for any of the things they believe. They have a working sense of right and wrong, a practical sense of reality, and a deep ambivalence towards questions that require too much digging. And they live successful lives, as we would normally consider it, content to accept the mainstream as generally correct. There is nothing wrong with this as a way to live, or at least my first intuition tells me. Socrates would certainly disapprove, but philosophy is to a certain extent a luxury.

There are also people who adopt radical subjectivism, radical skepticism, dadaism, or other similar philosophies, making a lack of grounding a virtue. This again is another thing to consider in my growing list of topics to pick at from the Positive Nihilist lens.

And a third note, just because I am initially rejecting these other systems (because, of course, they must all be rejected if we are going to arrive at nihilism), that does not mean that all my conclusions will be radically opposed to those found in these other philosophies. I fully expect to find myself in agreement with some other doctrines, since really, 90% of possible philosophical questions have answers that are nearly universally agreed on. Murder is generally bad. The universe probably exists. Mathematics is reliable. Men with beards are more attractive, intelligent, and virtuous than men without. Those sorts of things.

The final thing I am positing, which like all the many, many assertions I have made tonight I plan on examining later, is that life is fundamentally meaningless. This is a conclusion very commonly derived from both the absense of any god or god-like entity to be bestowing meaning upon life and from modern scientific understanding of the true scale of the universe. And once this conclusion is reached, it is usually ignored when not passing blunts around the circle.

I intend to follow the well trod path of establishing the bankruptcy of existing traditions and the meaninglessness of life, and then working aggressively withing that context to determing why we should live productive lives instead of committing suicide, though that second part is for another post.

This was a bit of a ramble, and it is past bedtimn, so I will conclude that religion is false, all claims to objective morality are false, and asserting that life is meaningless.

Tomorrow I will discuss why we should be happy about this.

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