If Nothing Matters

Noûs 51 (2):327-353 (2017)
  Copy   BIBTEX


The possibility that nothing really matters can cause much anxiety, but what would it mean for that to be true? Since it couldn’t be bad that nothing matters, fearing nihilism makes little sense. However, the consequences of belief in nihilism will be far more dramatic than often thought. Many metaethicists assume that even if nothing matters, we should, and would, go on more or less as before. But if nihilism is true in an unqualified way, it can’t be the case that we should go on as before. And given some plausible assumptions about our psychology, it’s also unlikely that we would go on as before: belief in nihilism will lead to loss of evaluative belief, and that will lead to loss or deflation of our corresponding subjective concerns. Now if nothing matters, then this consequence also wouldn’t matter. But this consequence will be extremely harmful if we believe in nihilism but things do matter, an asymmetry that gives us, in Pascalian fashion, pragmatic reasons not to believe in nihilism, and reasons not to try to find out whether it is really true.

Similar books and articles

Taking the 'error' out of Ruse's error theory.A. James - 1997 - Biology and Philosophy 12 (3).
Taking the ‘Error’ Out of Ruse‘s Error Theory.James A. Ryan - 1997 - Biology and Philosophy 12 (3):385-397.
Bloom and His Critics: Nietzsche, Nihilism, and the Aims of Education.Jon Fennell - 1999 - Studies in Philosophy and Education 18 (6):405-434.
Morality is not good.Samuel Green - 2011 - Emergent Australasian Philosophers 4 (1).
In the Thick of Moral Motivation.Wesley Buckwalter & John Turri - 2017 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 8 (2):433-453.
Climate Change Inaction and Moral Nihilism.Thomas Pölzler - 2015 - Ethics, Policy and Environment 18 (2):202-214.
Sympathy for the Error Theorist: Parfit and Mackie.David Phillips - 2014 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 17 (3):559-566.
An Amoral Manifesto Part I.Joel Marks - 2010 - Philosophy Now (80):30-33.
An Amoral Manifesto Part II.Joel Marks - 2010 - Philosophy Now (81):23-26.
Mackie's Error Theory and Reasons.Douglas Farland - 2005 - South African Journal of Philosophy 24 (1):1-13.
How Does Moral Nihilism Affect our Taking Action against Climate Change?Thomas Pölzler - 2013 - Proceedings of the 13. International Conference of ISSEI.


Added to PP

20,713 (#84)

6 months
527 (#1,330)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Guy Kahane
Oxford University

References found in this work

What we owe to each other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
On What Matters: Two-Volume Set.Derek Parfit - 2011 - New York: Oxford University Press.
The sources of normativity.Christine M. Korsgaard - 1996 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Onora O'Neill.
Taking Morality Seriously: A Defense of Robust Realism.David Enoch - 2011 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK.

View all 68 references / Add more references