Mereological nihilists hold that composition never occurs, so that nothing is ever a proper part of anything else. Substance dualists generally hold that we are each identical with an immaterial soul. In this paper, I argue that every popular objection to substance dualism has a parallel objection to composition. This thesis has some interesting implications. First, many of those who reject composition, but accept substance dualism, or who reject substance dualism and accept composition, have some explaining to do. Secondly, one (...) popular objection to mereological nihilism, one which contends that mereological nihilism is objectionable insofar as it is incompatible with the existence of people, is untenable. (shrink)
According to Composition is Identity, a whole is literally identical to the plurality of its parts. According to Mereological Nihilism, nothing has proper parts. In this note, it is argued that Composition is Identity can be shown to entail Mereological Nihilism in a much more simple and direct way than the one recently proposed by Claudio Calosi.
Mereological nihilism (henceforth just "nihilism") is the thesis that composition never occurs. Nihilism has often been defended on the basis of its theoretical simplicity, including its ontological simplicity and its ideological simplicity (roughly, nihilism's ability to do without primitive mereological predicates). In this paper I defend nihilism on the basis of the theoretical unification conferred by nihilism, which is, roughly, nihilism's capacity to allow us to take fewer phenomena as brute and inexplicable. This (...) represents a respect in which nihilism enjoys greater theoretical simplicity than its rivals which has not yet been explored, and which is immune to many of the objections which have been leveled against previous arguments for nihilism from nihilism's theoretical simplicity. Composition as identity might be thought to confer a similar degree of theoretical unification as nihilism. I end the paper by arguing that this is not the case. (shrink)
Mereological nihilism is the thesis that composite objects—objects with proper parts—do not exist. Nihilists generally paraphrase talk of composite objects F into talk of there being “xs arranged F-wise” . Recently several philosophers have argued that nihilism is defective insofar as nihilists are either unable to say what they mean by such phrases as “there are xs arranged F-wise,” or that nihilists are unable to employ such phrases without incurring significant costs, perhaps even undermining one of the chief (...) motivations for nihilism. In this paper I defend nihilism against these objections. A key theme of the paper is this: if nihilists need to employ such phrases as “there are xs arranged F-wise,” non-nihilists will need to do so as well. Accordingly, any costs incurred by the nihilist when she employs such phrases will be shared by everyone else. What’s more, such phrases are intelligible when employed by the nihilist, as well as when they are employed by the non-nihilist, insofar as analyses of such phrases will not essentially involve mereological concepts incompatible with nihilism. (shrink)
Mereological nihilism is the thesis that there are no composite objects—i.e. objects with proper material parts. One of the main advantages of mereological nihilism is that it allows its supporters to avoid a number of notorious philosophical puzzles. However, it seems to offer this advantage only at the expense of certain widespread and deeply entrenched beliefs. In particular, it is usually assumed that mereological nihilism entails eliminativism about ordinary objects—i.e. the counterintuitive thesis that there are no such (...) things as tables, apples, cats, and the like. In this paper, I argue that this assumption is false—mereological nihilists do not need to be eliminativists about tables, apples, or cats. Non-eliminativist nihilists claim that all it takes for there to be a cat is that there are simples arranged cat-wise. More specifically, non-eliminative nihilists argue that expressions such as ‘the cat’ in sentences such as ‘The cat is on the mat’ do not refer to composite objects but only to simples arranged cat-wise and compare this metaphysical discovery to the scientific discovery that ‘water’ refers to dihydrogen oxide. Non-eliminative nihilism, I argue, is not only a coherent position, but it is preferable to its more popular, eliminativist counterpart, as it enjoys the key benefits of nihilism without incurring the prohibitive costs of eliminativism. Moreover, unlike conciliatory strategies adopted by eliminative nihilists, non-eliminative nihilism allow its supporters to account not only for how we can assert something true by saying ‘The cat is on the mat’ but also for how we can believe something true by believing that the cat is on the mat. (shrink)
I argue that mereological nihilism fails because it cannot answer the special arrangement question: when is it true that the xs are arranged F-wise? I suggest that the answers given in the literature fail and that the obvious responses that could be made look to undermine the motivations for adopting nihilism in the first place.
Ted Sider argues that nihilism about objects is incompatible with the metaphysical possibility of gunk and takes this point to show that nihilism is flawed. I shall describe one kind of nihilism able to answer this objection. I believe that most of the things we usually encounter do not exist. That is, I take talk of macroscopic objects and macroscopic properties to refer to sets of fundamental properties, which are invoked as a matter of linguistic convention. This (...) view is a kind of nihilism : it rules out the existence of objects; that is, from an ontological point of view, there are no objects. But unlike the moderate nihilism of Mark Heller, Peter van Inwagen and Trenton Merricks that claims that most objects do not exist, I endorse a radical nihilism according to which there are no objects in the world, but only properties instantiated in spacetime. As I will show, radical nihilism is perfectly compatible with the metaphysical possibility of gunk. It is also compatible with the epistemic possibility that we actually live in a gunk world. The objection raised by Ted Sider only applies to moderate nihilism that admits some objects in its ontology. (shrink)
The subtraction argument, originally put forward by Thomas Baldwin (1996), is intended to establish Metaphysical Nihilism, the thesis that there could have been no concrete objects. Some modified versions of the argument have been proposed in order to avoid some difficulties faced by the original argument. In this paper I shall concentrate on two of those versions, the so-called subtraction argument* (presented and defended in Rodriguez-Pereyra 1997, 2000, 2002), and Efird and Stoneham’s recent version of the argument (Efird and (...) Stoneham 2005). I shall defend the subtraction argument* from Alexander Paseau’s (2006) objection that because a crucial premise of the subtraction argument* may have no plausibility independent from Metaphysical Nihilism, the subtraction argument* is not suasive. Although Paseau focuses on the subtraction argument*, I shall point out that Efird and Stoneham could reply to Paseau’s objection in the same way. Thus there are (at least) two suasive versions of the subtraction argument that establish Metaphysical Nihilism. But are those two arguments equally good? I shall argue that the subtraction argument* is preferable to Efird and Stoneham’s argument. (shrink)
Gianni Vattimo reexamines the roots of modernism and postmodernism in Nietzsche, Benjamin, and Heidegger. Exploring the links between concepts of nihilism and destiny in nineteenth-century humanism, Vattimo follows these trends in aesthetic and scientific theory from Benjamin to Bloch, Ricoeur, and Kuhn.
Mereological nihilism is the philosophical position that there are no items that have parts. If there are no items with parts then the only items that exist are partless fundamental particles, such as the true atoms (also called philosophical atoms) theorized to exist by some ancient philosophers, some contemporary physicists, and some contemporary philosophers. With several novel arguments I show that mereological nihilism is the correct theory of reality. I will also discuss strong similarities that mereological nihilism (...) has with empirical results in quantum physics. And I will discuss how mereological nihilism vindicates a few other theories, such as a very specific theory of philosophical atomism, which I will call quantum abstract atomism. I will show that mereological nihilism also is an interpretation of quantum mechanics that avoids the problems of other interpretations, such as the widely known, metaphysically generated, quantum paradoxes of quantum physics, which ironically are typically accepted as facts about reality. I will also show why it is very surprising that mereological nihilism is not a widely held theory, and not the premier theory in philosophy. (shrink)
For Nietzsche’s hypothesis of a threat of nihilism to be intelligible, this chapter attributes to him at least three assumptions that underpin his philosophical project: (1) what there is, is becoming (and not being), (2) most (if not all) strongly believe in being, and (3) nihilism is a function of the belief in being. This chapter argues that Nietzsche held two doctrines of becoming: one more radical, which he believes is required to fend off nihilism, and one (...) much more moderate—the ontology of relations he develops under the label ‘will to power’. Based on the latter he attempts (but ultimately fails) to develop an ‘adualistic’—neither monistic nor dualistic—practice of thought, a ‘simultaneity-thinking’ ("Zugleich-Denken") that would no longer be subject to nihilism. (shrink)
In 2002, a remake of the 1975 film Rollerball was released in theaters. It flopped at the box-office, disappearing quickly from movie screens and reappearing shortly thereafter on home video. While aesthetically horrendous, the remake of Rollerball is instructive, as it provides a point of contrast to the original film, highlighting a change in our culture’s manner of engagement with the difficult philosophical problem of nihilism. Both films share a roughly similar plot, yet in the differing manners that they (...) explore and develop that plot, we can glimpse two separate ways in which nihilism may be discovered, confronted and dealt with. (shrink)
In the twentieth century, we often think of Nietzsche, nihilism, and the death of God as inextricably connected. But, in this pathbreaking work, Michael Gillespie argues that Nietzsche, in fact, misunderstood nihilism, and that his misunderstanding has misled nearly all succeeding thought about the subject. Reconstructing nihilism's intellectual and spiritual origins before it was given its determinitive definition by Nietzsche, Gillespie focuses on the crucial turning points in the development of nihilism, from Ockham and the nominalist (...) revolution to Descartes, Fichte, the German Romantics, the Russian nihilists and Nietzsche himself. His analysis shows that nihilism is not the result of the death of God, as Nietzsche believed but the consequence of a new idea of God as a God of will who overturns all eternal standards of truth and justice. To understand nihilism, one has to understand how this notion of God came to inform a new notion of man and nature, one that puts will in place of reason, and freedom in place of necessity and order. (shrink)
Morrison offers an illuminating study of two linked traditions that have figured prominently in twentieth-century thought: Buddhism and the philosophy of Nietzsche. Nietzsche admired Buddhism, but saw it as a dangerously nihilistic religion; he forged his own affirmative philosophy in reaction against the nihilism that he feared would overwhelm Europe. Morrison shows that Nietzsche's influential view of Buddhism was mistaken, and that far from being nihilistic, it has notable and perhaps surprising affinities with Nietzsche's own project of the transvaluation (...) of all values. (shrink)
Nihilism is the logic of nothing as something, which claims that Nothing Is. Its unmaking of things, and its forming of formless things, strain the fundamental terms of existence: what it is to be, to know, to be known. But nihilism, the antithesis of God, is also like theology. Where nihilism creates nothingness, condenses it to substance, God also makes nothingness creative. Negotiating the borders of spirit and substance, theology can ask the questions of nihilism that (...) other disciplines do not ask: Where is it? What is it made of? Why is it so destructive? How can it be made holy, or overcome? Genealogy of Nihilism rereads Western history in the light of nihilistic logic, which pervades two millennia of Western thought and is coming to fruition in our present age in a virulently dangerous manner. From Parmenides to Alain Badiou, via Plotinus, Avicenna, Duns Scotus, Ockham, Descartes, Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, Sartre, Lacan, Deleuze and Derrida, a genealogy of nothingness can be witnessed in development, with devastating consequences for the way we live. Conor Cunningham's elaborate and sophisticated theology, spanning the disciplines of philosophy, science and popular culture, permits us to see not simply how modernity has formulated its philosophies of nothing, but how these philosophies might be transfigures by the crucial difference theology makes, and so be reconcilable with life and the living - with the very gift which being is. (shrink)
I believe in metaphysical nihilism, the thesis that there could have been no concrete objects, because I believe in a version of the subtraction argument, the subtraction argument*, that proves it. But both Jonathan Lowe (2002) and Alexander Paseau (2002) express doubts about the subtraction argument*. Paseau thinks the argument is invalid, and Lowe argues that invoking concrete* objects is unnecessary. Furthermore Lowe attempts to rebut my objections (Rodriguez-Pereyra 2000) to his anti-nihilist argument (Lowe 1998). In this paper I (...) defend the subtraction argument* from Paseau's and Lowe's criticisms as well as show that the premises of Lowe's anti-nihilist argument are still lacking support. (shrink)
(Version 2.4) I have argued elsewhere for ascribing an error theory about all normative and evaluative judgements to Nietzsche. Such a nihilism brings with it a puzzle: how could we—or at least the select few of us being addressed by Nietzsche—continue in the face of this nihilism? This is a philosophical puzzle and so, defeasibly, an interpretive puzzle. If there is no theory it would make sense for Nietzsche to have about how the select few could go on, (...) then this is some evidence against the proposed interpretation of him as a nihilist. I defended the interpretation by arguing that Nietzsche’s declarations about creating values point to a practice of generating honest evaluative illusions. Such honest evaluative illusions are tricky things, though, and, precisely because they are honest, one might worry that they lack the motivational power of genuine evaluative belief. Can they truly play the role that evaluative beliefs play in our psychological economies? I suspect that Nietzsche does not want the honest illusions to play exactly the role that evaluative beliefs played. The cheerfulness, the playfulness, the lightness that Nietzsche hopes for are, I have suggested, a function of the shift from belief to pretence, from illusion to honest illusion. The question, nonetheless, is whether the resulting picture is too light. Can I go through life merely acting, as a critic might put it? My suggestion in this essay will be that the thought of eternal recurrence is meant to add weight to the lightness of acting—“acting”, obviously, in both the here relevant senses of the word. (shrink)
The effects of anthropogenic climate change may be devastating. Nevertheless, most people do not seem to be seriously concerned. We consume as much as we always did, drive as much as we always did, eat as much meat as we always did. What can we do to overcome this collective apathy? In order to be able to develop effective measures, we must first get clear about the causes of climate change inaction. In this paper I ask whether moral nihilism (...) is a significant cause of climate change inaction. The answer to this question depends mainly on the extent to which being a moral nihilist reduces one's likelihood of taking action against climate change. At first sight, the extent seems to be considerable. I argue, however, that this assumption is false. Only slightly more non-nihilists than nihilists are led to climate-friendly actions by moral considerations. And in absolute terms, morality plays such a minor role in leading people to act that the difference is barely noticeable. (shrink)
This book fundamentally challenges the radical credentials of post-structuralism. Though Derrida, Foucault and Deleuze claim to have 'deconstructed' metaphysics, their work has much in common with previous attempts to 'end' the metaphysical tradition, from Kant to Nietzshe and Heidegger, and by sociology in general. Gillian Rose shows that this anti-metaphysical writing always appears in historically specific jurisprudential terms, which themselves found and recapitulate metaphysical categories. She reconsiders post-structuralism in this light and assesses the relationship between deconstruction and the earlier structuralism (...) of Saussure and Levi-Strauss. She argues in conclusion that the choice between post-structuralist nihilism and Hegelian and Marxist dialectic is spurious. (shrink)
Nietzsche’s discussions of nihilism are meant to bring into view an intriguing pathology of modern culture: that it is unable to sustain "higher values". This paper attempts to make sense of the nature and import of higher values. Higher values are a subset of final values. They are distinguished by their demandingness, susceptibility toward creating tragic conflicts, recruitment of a characteristic set of powerful emotions, perceived import, exclusionary nature, and their tendency to instantiate a community. The paper considers Nietzsche’s (...) arguments for the claim that we are committed to instituting some set of higher values. The cost of not doing so is vitiating our deepest aim and precluding a central form of happiness. (shrink)
The effects of anthropogenic climate change will be devastating. Nevertheless, most people do not seem to be seriously concerned. We consume as much as we always did, drive as much as we always did, eat as much meat as we always did. What can we do to overcome this collective apathy? In order to be able to develop effective measures, we must first get clear about the causes of climate change inaction. In this paper I ask whether moral nihilism (...) (the denial of moral truths) is a significant cause of climate change inaction. The answer to this question depends mainly on the extent to which being a moral nihilist reduces one’s likelihood of taking action against climate change. At first sight, the extent seems to be considerable. I will argue, however, that this assumption is false. Only slightly more non-nihilists than nihilists are led to climate-friendly actions by moral considerations. And in absolute terms, morality plays such a minor role in leading people to act that the difference is barely noticeable. (shrink)
Camus published an essay entitled ‘Nietzsche and Nihilism,’ which was later incorporated into The Rebel . Camus' aim was to assess Nietzsche's response to the problem of nihilism. My aim is to do the same with Camus. The paper explores Camus' engagement with nihilism through its two major modalities: with respect to the individual and the question of suicide in The Myth of Sisyphus , and with respect to the collective and the question of murder in The (...) Rebel . While a Nietzschean influence thoroughly suffuses both books, it is in the second that Camus' most explicit, and most critical, engagement with the German philosopher takes place. The crux of Camus' critique of Nietzsche is that the absolute affirmation of existence he proposes as a response to nihilism cannot say ‘no’ to murder. In the terms of Camus' discussion in The Rebel , Nietzsche's philosophy is thus culpable in the straying of rebellion from its own foundations and its slide into bloody revolution. First, the paper argues that Camus' criticisms of Nietzsche are misplaced. Camus focuses his analysis on sections of the problematic text The Will to Power and misses important sections of Nietzsche's published texts which in fact support the condemnation of revolution which is the project of The Rebel . However, the paper argues that Camus moves beyond Nietzsche in radically democratizing the response to nihilism. While Nietzsche's hopes for the creation of meaning are focused on exceptional individuals, Camus insists that any response to nihilism needs to be accessible to the average person. Such a move is laudable, but it raises a number of questions and challenges regarding the type of problem nihilism is, and how these might be addressed. (shrink)
This paper addresses the problem of reflexivity in modern social inquiry in general and in sociology in particular. This problem is inherited from Weber''s very conception of sociology, is transformed by phenomenology and ethnomethodology, deepened by the linguistic turn of hermeneutics and Wittgenstein''s later philosophy, and has been the central concern of the work of Alan Blum and Peter McHugh. The issues and spectres raised by reflexivity are methodological arbitrariness, the need to take responsibility for one''s own talk (and the (...) cultural assumptions embedded in talk) and, finally, the deep fear of nihilism – the sense that with regard to inquiry (along with everything else in the world) nothing matters. As such, reflexivity raises the most fundamental issue that can be raised for modern social inquiry. Through an oriented interpretation of the work of Blum and McHugh and other contemporary social theorists (particularly Gadamer and Arendt), this paper works through what a dialectical engagement with these issues look like. (shrink)
Madhyamaka philosophy has been frequently characterized as nihilism, not just by its Buddhist and non-Buddhist opponents, but also by some contemporary Buddhologists. This characterization might well strike us as surprising. First, nihilism appears to be straightforwardly inconsistent. It would be curious if a philosophical school holding such an obviously deficient view would have acquired the kind of importance Madhyamaka has acquired in the Asian intellectual landscape over the last two millenia. Second, Madhyamaka by its very name proclaims to (...) tread the “middle way”, and what if anything would count as an extreme position but the view that there is nothing? This essay addresses both the systematic status of nihilist theories as well as the historical contexts in which Madhyamaka has been characterized as nihilistic, aiming to throw some light on plausible and implausible ways of understanding the Madhyamaka intellectual enterprise. (shrink)
This is a unique study, contuining the work of Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger, and using the techniques of phenomenology against the prevailing nihilism of our culture. It expands our understanding of the human potential for spiritual self-realization by interpreting it as the developing of a bodily-felt awareness informing our gestures and movements. The author argues that a psychological focus on our experience of well-being and pathology as embodied beings contributes significantly to a historically relevant critique of ideology. It also provides (...) an essential touchstone in experience for a fruitful individual and collective response to the danger of nihilism. Dr Levin draws on Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology to clarify Heidegger's analytic of human beings through an interpretation that focuses on our experience of being embodied. He reconstructs in modern terms the wisdom implicit in western and semitic forms of religion and philosophy, considering the work of Freud, Jung, Focault and Neitzsche, as well as that of American educational philosophers, including Dewey. In particular, he draws on the psychology of Freud and Jung to clarify our historical experience of gesture and movement and to bring to light its potential in the fulfilment of Selfhood. Throughout the book, the pathologies of the ego and its journey into Selfhood are considered in relation to the conditons of technology and the powers of nihilism. (shrink)
This paper is a critical analysis of Tristram Engelhardt''s attempts to avoid unrestricted nihilism and relativism. The focus of attention is his recent book, The Foundations of Bioethics (Oxford University Press, 1996). No substantive or content-full bioethics (e.g., that of Roman Catholicism or the Samurai) has an intersubjectively verifiable and universally binding foundation, Engelhardt thinks, for unaided secular reason cannot show that any particular substantive morality (or moral code) is correct. He thus seems to be committed to either (...) class='Hi'>nihilism or relativism. The first is the view that there is not even one true or valid moral code, and the second is the view that there is a plurality of true or valid moral codes. However, Engelhardt rejects both nihilism and relativism, at least in unrestricted form. Strictly speaking, he himself is a universalist, someone who believes that there is a single true moral code. Two argumentative strategies are employed by him to fend off unconstrained nihilism and relativism. The first argues that although all attempts to establish a content-full morality on the basis of secular reason fail, secular reason can still establish a content-less, purely procedural morality. Although not content-full and incapable of providing positive direction in life, much less a meaning of life, such a morality does limit the range of relativism and nihilism. The second argues that there is a single true, content-full morality. Grace and revelation, however, are needed to make it available to us; secular reason alone is not up to the task. This second line of argument is not pursued in The Foundations at any length, but it does crop up at times, and if it is sound, nihilism and relativism can be much more thoroughly routed than the first line of argument has it.Engelhardt''s position and argumentative strategies are exposed at length and accorded a detailed critical examination. In the end, it is concluded that neither strategy will do, and that Engelhardt is probably committed to some form of relativism. (shrink)
This paper addresses the most fundamental question in metaphysics, Why is there something rather than nothing? The question is framed as a question about concrete entities, Why does a possible world containing concrete entities obtain rather than one containing no concrete entities? Traditional answers are in terms of there necessarily being some concrete entities, and include the possibility of a necessary being. But such answers are threatened by metaphysical nihilism, the thesis that there being nothing concrete is possible, and (...) the subtraction argument for this thesis, an argument that is the subject of considerable recent debate. I summarize and extend the debate about the argument, and answer the threat it poses, turning the tables on it to show how the subtraction argument supports a cosmological argument for a necessary being. (shrink)
Nihilism in Postmodernity is an exploration of the nature of the problem of meaninglessness in the contemporary world through the philosophical traditions of nihilism and postmodernism. The author traces the advent of modern nihilism in the works of Nietzsche, Sartre, and Heidegger, before detailing the postmodern transformation of nihilism in the works of three major postmodern thinkers: Lyotard, Baudrillard, and Vattimo. He presents a qualified defense of their positions, arguing that while there is much under-appreciated value (...) in their responses to nihilism, they fail to address adequately the problem of contingency in contemporary life. Drawing on the critical encounters with nihilism in both existentialist and postmodern traditions, the author concludes by staking out future directions for combating meaninglessness. (shrink)
Is the youth culture, or more precisely aparticular kind of it, to be characterized as nihilistic ? And is this a threat or ablessing for education? To deal with this nihilism is first characterized generally andfollowing particular attention is paid toNietzsche's own version and revaluation ofvalues. Then Foucault's concept of life as awork of art is brought to the forefront as aparticular manner to give shape to one's life.It is argued that some of the more popularforms of pleasure nowadays (...) may contrarily towhat is generally believed, be reminiscent of arevaluation thus to overcome nihilism.Implications for education include for theeducator to realize the unavoidability to offerherself as who she is, furthermore to be fullyaware of the fact that many boundaries in theeducational process are arbitrary, and last butnot least the acceptance of the need to createthe room for the child to develop an image ofherself which she can live with. (shrink)
In the summer of 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, an event which led to the horror of World War I and which many historians suggest marked the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1992, Sarajevo again lurched into prominence as the focal point of one of the century’s bloodiest civil wars. Yet Sarajevo at one point epitomized the dreams of the Enlightenment, a city where Christians, Jews, and Muslims peacefully coexisted. In the midst of Sarajevo’s recent decline (...) into chaos and destruction, Susan Sontag decided to produce Act I of Waiting for Godot, which, despite ever-looming danger, played to packed houses. Why? Why did this city of hope lie crushed at the end of the twentieth century? Why did Sontag stage an artistic production in the middle of such overwhelming tragedy? Why Waiting for Godot ? And, most important, why the appreciative, silent tears of audience members who risked their lives to attend a play in the middle of a war?These are the questions that guide David Toole’s theological reflections in Waiting for Godot in Sarajevo, where he seeks to come to terms with what it means to live a life of dignity in a world of undeniable suffering. Toole skillfully weaves together Friedrich Nietzsche’s views on nihilism with Michel Foucault’s analysis of power to produce a metaphysics of tragedy, or a “politics of dying.” Such politics are then used to shed new theological light on the Christian apocalypse and what it means to be alive at the end of the twentieth century. In making his argument, Toole draws innovative connections between such diverse figures as John Milbank, Alasdair MacIntyre, Euripides, John Howard Yoder, and Norman Maclean (author of A River Runs Through It and Young Men and Fire ), all the while using Beckett’s play as a compass for his direction. The end result is a fascinating, eminently readable, unexpectedly adventurous theological inquiry into the meaning of life. (shrink)
The central questions raised by Allan Bloom's The Closing of theAmerican Mind are often overlooked. Among the most important ofBloom's themes is the impact of nihilism upon education. Bloom condemnsnihilism. Interestingly, we find among his critics two alternativejudgments. Richard Schacht, citing Nietzsche, asserts that nihilism,while fruitless in and of itself, is a necessary prerequisite tosomething higher. Harry Neumann, affirming the accuracy of nihilism,declares that both Bloom and Nietzsche reject nihilism out of ignoranceborn of weakness. All three (...) philosophers understand that the purpose ofeducation emerges from one's position on nihilism. If nihilism is true,then it is senseless and cowardly to teach one's students that there aregrounds for moral judgments. On the other hand, if one believes thatthere is an objective higher and lower in moral matters, then one cannotat the same time consistently endorse nihilism or the atheism upon whichit rests. There is reason to believe that a consistent nihilism isimpossible and hence that the concept is bankrupt. But then something istrue, and there are grounds for moral judgment. Education must respondaccordingly. But even Bloom with his emphasis on the Great Books fallsshort of what is required. An education which aims to defeat nihilismmust, at the very least, hold out the promise that through thecultivation of reason one may indeed arrive at the truth. (shrink)
This paper critically examines Deleuze’s treatment of the Nietzschean problem of nihilism. Of all the major figures in contemporary continental thought, Deleuze is at once one of the most luminous, and practically a lone voice in suggesting that nihilism may successfully be overcome. Whether or not he is correct on this point is thus a commanding question in relation to our understanding of the issue. Many commentators on Nietzsche have argued that his project of overcoming nihilism is (...) destined to failure because of the affinity between the problem of nihilism and the logic of negation. While Nietzsche wants an absolute affirmation of life, Spinoza’s principle that “all determination is negation,” as well as Hegel’s dialectical conception of negation, suggest that affirmation free of negation is not possible. However, some commentators indicate that Deleuze successfully shows how overcoming nihilism is possible because his “logic of difference” allows for an affirmation which is not dialectically reappropriated by negation. This paper argues that beyond such logical considerations, there are metaphysical and existential reasons why Deleuze’s interpretation of nihilism fails to show that it can be overcome. For Deleuze, the overcoming of nihilism hinges not just on a logic of difference, but on a radical interpretation of Nietzsche’s doctrine of eternal return as “selective being.” Drawing on recent scholarship and on Nietzsche’s own writings I argue that this is not a tenable interpretation, and also, more importantly, that the metaphysical and existential implications of this understanding of eternal return reinstate nihilism at the very point where it is supposedly overcome. Moreover, I argue that there are attendant ethical and political dangers to Deleuze’s position on nihilism. (shrink)
I show how scientism leads to deconstruction and both, in turn, lead to nihilism. Nihilism constitutes a denial both of the existence of fallacious moral reasoning and the existence of a moral dimension to fallacious reasoning. I argue against all of these positions by maintaining that (1) there is a pre-theoretical framework of norms within which technical thinking function, (2) the pre-theoretical framework cannot itself be technically conceptualized, and (3) the explication of this framework permits us to identify (...) both fallacies of moral reasoning and the immorality of fallacious reasoning. (shrink)
This paper is a philosophical analysis ofHeidegger and Nietzsche's approach tometaphysics and the associated problem ofnihilism. Heidegger sums up the history ofWestern metaphysics in a way which challengescommon sense approaches to values education.Through close attention to language, Heideggerargues that Nietzsche inverts thePlatonic-Christian tradition but retains theanthropocentric imposition of âvaluesâ. Ihave used Nietzsche's theory to suggest aslightly different definition of metaphysicsand nihilism which draws attention to theontological parameters of human truths as astruggle between competing sets of conflictingor contradictory values (perspectives) (...) thatopens space for rethinking and re-educatinghuman possibilities. How this openness willshow up in educational theory and practice isonly beginning to be evoked. The twophilosophers indicate an approach to issues ofmorality, decision making and knowledgeproduction which may surprise and disconcerttraditional views. As the forefathers ofpost-structuralist thinking, Nietzsche andHeidegger offer a critique of Humanism whileretaining the Renaissance tradition ofpositioning education as the well spring ofvalues in society. It is through the generationof new knowledges, the development of critiqueand the nurturing of character that societyreformulates itself in relation to the earth.The ethical evaluation of these new forms ofknowledge is crucial to the creative and caringregeneration of the human environment, asopposed to the corrosive adoption ofconsumerism and usury. (shrink)
Given that numerous critics have complained about Saw’s apparently confused sense of ethics, it is surprising that little attention has been paid to how morality operates in narrative itself. Coming from a Nietzschean perspective - specifically questioning whether the lead torturer Jigsaw is a passive or a radical nihilist - I seek to rectify that oversight. This philosophical reading of the series explores Jigsaw’s moral stance, which is complicated by his hypocrisy: I contend that this underpins critical complaints regarding the (...) films’ "muddled" morality. My narrative analysis reveals that Jigsaw’s values are not as confused as they may first appear to be. Despite explicitly proclaiming that his quest is to save others, his actions reveal another story. Following the loss of his unborn son and his failed suicide attempt, Jigsaw seeks to symbolically eradicate himself: the victims he selects reflect and reify his own obsessive personality traits. In keeping with the franchises’ narrative twists – which are designed to reverse initially "obvious" meanings – I argue that Jigsaw’s proclamations have misdirected critics. His nihilism may be manifested as coerced suffering and articulated as distaste with the world, yet the series’ symbolic target is Jigsaw himself. (shrink)
The presentation of nihilism as a phenomenon integrated in the category of illnesses is very common in the scientific literature. This paper is centered on the fact that nihilism is a major disease of the axiological conscience, an illness that can be diagnosed and treated by the philosopher like a ‘physician of culture’.
O artigo pretende expor uma visão crítica sobre a teoria da secularização defendida por Carl Schmitt e sobre a reflexão de Martin Heidegger a respeito da metafísica do sujeito. Mais precisamente, nosso foco recai criticamente sobre a equivalência entre niilismo e autolegislação humana presente na obra de ambos os autores. Nosso objetivo é apreender tais formulações em duas dimensões imbricadas: uma delas, teórico-filosófica, e a outra, histórica. Em seguida, buscamos colocá-las em perspectiva crítica tendo em vista especialmente a reflexão desenvolvida (...) por Hans Blumenberg e alguns de seus comentaristas. Pretendemos proceder a contraposição entre (i) a noção de autolegislação humana como niilismo e (ii) a legitimidade do espaço do simbólico. Sem negar a crítica ao racionalismo limitante, que inclui a superação do sujeito cartesiano, a abordagem que defendemos legitima a dimensão de mediação entre o tempo da vida e tempo do mundo, mediação que pode se dar tanto pela elaboração científica quanto pelo pensamento filosófico ou religioso. Por fim, buscamos apontar a relação entre o espaço simbólico e a superação da noção de mímesis como imitação ou simples adequação. Palavras-chave: Autolegislação humana. Niilismo. Simbólico. Mímesis .The article aims to expose a critical view about the theory of secularization advocated by Carl Schmitt and also about Martin Heidegger's reflection on metaphysics of the subject. More precisely, our focus rests critically upon the equivalence between nihilism and human self-legislation present in the work of both authors. Our goal is to apprehend such formulations in two imbricated dimensions: one, theoretical and philosophical, and the other historical. Then, we seek to put both in a critical perspective, in special the reflection developed by Hans Blumenberg and some of his commentators. We intend to make the counterposition between (i) the notion of human self-legislation as nihilism and (ii) the legitimacy of the symbolic space. Without denying the critique of the limiting rationalism, which includes the overcoming the Cartesian subject, the approach we advocate legitimates the dimension of mediation between life-time and world-time, mediation that can occur either by scientific elaboration or by philosophical or religious thought. Finally, we seek to point out the relationship between the symbolic space and the overcoming on the notion of mimesis as an imitation or a mere adequacy. Keywords: Human self-legislation. Nihilism. Symbolic. Mímesis. (shrink)
I argue that the Nineteenth Century phenomenon of Russian nihilism, rather than belonging to the spiritual crisis that threatened Europe, was an independent and historically specific attitude of the Russian intelligentsia in their wholesale and utopian rejection of the prevailing values of their parents’ generation. Turgenev’s novel, Fathers and Sons, exemplifies this revolt in the literary character Bazarov, who embodies an archetypical account of the conflict between generations, social values, and traditions in Russian—but not just Russian—culture.
The article addresses the ‘messianic turn’ in contemporary continental philosophy, focusing on the concept of the katechon as the restraining force that delays the advent of the Antichrist in the Second Letter to the Thessalonians. While Carl Schmitt held the passage on the katechon to ground the Christian doctrine of state power, Giorgio Agamben’s reading of Pauline messianism rather posits the ‘removal’ of the katechon as the pathway for messianic redemption. In our argument, the significance of this text goes beyond (...) the persistence of a vestige of the theological in modern politics. On the contrary, the logic of the katechon only comes into its own under modern nihilism as the resolution of the problem of social order in the absence of the eschatological dimension. The article focuses on the lethal paradox of the logic of the katechon, whereby the function of protection and restraint is converted into violence and anomie, and global political order becomes indistinguishable from global civil war. We conclude by outlining the conditions for suspending the katechonic function in a critical engagement with Agamben’s messianic politics. (shrink)
Gianni Vattimo refers his weak interpretation of metaphysics to its Christian provenance. He argues that his nihilist secularization theory divulges the full and ultimate meaning of Christianity. This model understands Christianity as God who ‘returns,’ not as an eternal substance but as one who in his return reveals himself as becoming the current nihilist hermeneutic flux that is reality. Vattimo takes kenosis as the model of the destiny of ontology. God takes a distance from the eternal origin and lets go (...) of his transcendent divinity. From this, Vattimo learns that truth becomes a purely ‘wordly’ matter without any external, c.q. metaphysical or sacred reference. The Good message is: there are only messages, no facts. God’s return has to be understood epistmo-theologically. Revelation is now completely accomplished in a nihilist, endless way: Christianity means keeping thought away from petrifying into truth, fact, and reality. This is pure Christian caritas in that it does away with the violence of metaphysics and the sacred and thereby discourages all human attempts toward violence. Redeeming though this may sound, perhaps Vattimo is too naïve and too theologically shallow. (shrink)
A connection is often made between postmodernism and nihilism, but the full meaning of such a connection is rarely explored. The contemporary Italian philosopher Gianni Vattimo is one of the few philosophers to have devoted much work to explaining this connection. Vattimo extrapolates the relevance of Nietzsche’s theory of nihilism for the postmodern condition, arguing that the concept of the postmodern can only be thought rigorously in relation to the nihilistic destiny of the West. This article explores Vattimo’s (...) postmodern reading of Nietzsche and argues that this reading helps to illuminate (1) the connection between nihilism and the postmodern; (2) the postmodern transformation of nihilism, which was originally a theory of the ails of modernity rather than of postmodernity; and (3) why postmodernists may wish to affirm nihilism rather than take the accusation that postmodernism is nihilistic as a charge that must be refuted. (shrink)
According to Friedrich Schlegel: "The Romantic imperative demands [that] all nature and science should become art [and] art should become nature and science"; "[P]oetry and philosophy should be made unified?, and ?life and society [should be made] poetic". The aim of this paper is to explain why Schlegel believes that this is an imperative that constrains philosophy and ordinary life. I argue that the answer to this question requires that we regard the Romantic imperative as a response to the skeptical (...) worry that was introduced by Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi as nihilism. The aspect of nihilism that I discuss concerns the worry that we are incapable of experiencing individuals qua individuals. According to Schlegel, this skeptical threat requires a reorientation in thought and philosophical method, one that must be modeled on the aesthetic orientation towards the world. More precisely, the experience of individuals qua individuals, which is called into question by the nihilist, depends on the special normative structure of the creative and critical attitude towards art and beauty that Schlegel called Romantic Poesie. Kant failed to address nihilism because he failed to recognize that the normative structure that he himself ascribed to the judgment of taste is required also for experiencing individuals as individuals, and for being properly responsive to persons. (shrink)
In contemporary analytic philosophy metaphysical nihilism is the thesis according to which there might be nothing, i.e. a possible world with no concreteobjects in it, but that can contain abstract objects. After summarizing the set of premises from which analytic metaphysics deals with nothing, I propose a set of premises that could fit continental metaphysics. Then I propose a new set of premises for the question of nothing that derives from a synthesis of the two above mentioned sets. By (...) means of this new set, I try to show that nothing as a possible world with no objects at all is not a self-contradictory entity and I propose an argument for proving that an empty possible world exists. (shrink)
Heidegger’s critique of European nihilism seeks to expose self-legislation as the governing principle of central manifestations of modernity such as science, technology, and the interpretation of art as aesthetics. Need we accept the conclusion that modern constitutional democracies are intrinsically nihilistic, insofar as they give political and legal form to the principle of collective self-legislation? An answer to this question turns on the concept of power implied in constituent and constituted power. A confrontation of the genealogies of modern subjectivity (...) proposed by Heidegger and Blumenberg suggests that there is indeed a metaphysical core to the concept of constituent power developed by various political theorists, including Schmitt and Habermas. By contrast, closer consideration of the paradoxical relation between constituent and constituted power illuminates the ambiguity of collective self-legislation, which means both enactment of a legal order by a collective self and the enactment of a collective self by a legal order. To the extent that constitutional democracies are a way of preserving rather than dissolving this ambiguity, they imply an interpretation of power and human finitude that parries the charge of nihilism. (shrink)
This volume aims to inspire a return to the energetics of Nietzsche's prose and the critical intensity of his approach to nihilism. For too long contemporary thought has been dominated by a depressed "what is to be done?" All is regarded to be in vain, nothing is deemed real, there is nothing new seen under the sun. Such a "postmodern" lament is easily confounded with an apathetic reluctance to think engagedly. Hence the contributors here draw on a variety of (...) issues--the future of life, the nature of life-forms, the techno-sciences, the body, religions--as a way of tackling the question of nihilism's pertinence to us now. (shrink)
Machine generated contents note: Introduction -- Possible Worlds -- The Subtraction Argument -- The Metaphysics of Subtraction -- World and Object -- Metaphysical Nihilism -- Anti-nihilism -- Conclusion -- Index.