Nihilism and Agency

30 Oct 2021 02:15 - 03 Jun 2023 02:39
Open in Logseq
    • My proliferating inquiries into agency are kind of my personal answer to nihilism.
    • The problem
      • We live in a mechanical universe where our ultimate fate is death and nothingness, devoid of god or anything eternal.
      • Despite the sermons against nihilism of Meaningness, this feels bad. It's not a question of whether we should feel "very, very sad"
        Maybe it's this: "We don’t have any of these extra-special fancy meanings, and we can’t get them. Should we be very, very sad?" (I know you are just quoting that article) but it should be obvious that sadness precedes any philosophical conclusions
        , or not, that's how we feel, and we aren't going to be argued out of it.
      • In a mechanical universe, nobody really gets any blame, credit, or responsibility. Which is kind of nice in a way, it gives you freedom from the constant barrage of guilt and competitiveness that come with adult social life.
      • But it also removes any notion of moral obligation, responsibility or agency.
    • et we experience ourselves and others as agents – what's that about? It's clearly kind of a fiction, but one with power and thus in some sense real.
    • That is to say, my position is the opposite of eliminativism, which is explicitly nihilistic, it claims that minds and mind-like things aren't real, including agency (I guess Skinnerian behaviorism is the psychological analog). I on the other hand think minds are perfectly real, in their own fashion, and want to explore their relationship to materiality.
    • This seems so commonsensical that I am almost embarrassed to state it, like it's some grand revelation. But it's also the case that our ordinary ways of thinking seem inadequate to capture whatever kind of reality agency has. We divide things and ourselves up into the physical and the immaterial and then are very confused by how those interact.
    • Notes for the future
      • Russian nihilism was pro-agency, it was nihilistic about authority, not purpose or meaning as such.
      • We are compelled to be agents, responsible for ourselves
        • Note in passing: Telling the American Story was a kind of step towards nihilism for me, since it highlighted the fact that the ordinary stories we tell in conversation about our own actions and motives are social constructions which vary considerably across different cultures. Not nihilism exactly, but fictionalization of agency, making it seem less real.