30 Oct 2021 02:15 - 30 Jul 2023 03:10
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    • The term ‘nihilism’ has a hackneyed quality. Too much has been written on the topic, and any sense of urgency that the word might once have communicated has been dulled by overexposure. The result is a vocable tainted by dreary over-familiarity and nebulous indeterminacy. Nevertheless, few other topics of philosophical debate exert such an immediate grip on people with little or no interest in the problems of philosophy as the claim of nihilism in its most ‘naive’ acceptation: existence is worthless.
    • the experience of nothingness is now the point from which nearly every reflective man begins his adult life. (p14)
    • The spectre of nothingness has haunted Western civilization ever since the modern era dispensed with the traditional religious view of the cosmos, leaving us in with a picture of it as atoms in the void, with the void predominating.
    • I find it to be a difficult topic to write about. It's too big; it's unavoidably pretentious. It's embarrassing in the same way that talking about god or religion is embarrassing. But I'm also drawn towards it because iti
    • Nihilism ≡ nothingness ≡ death, . But it lurks beneath the surface regardless, it exerts an irresistible attraction
      When I realized how much my consumption of fiction and culture was trending to the nihilistic, I assembled a collection in Nihilism in Art.
    • Meaningness has a lot to say about nihilism. It's one side of the false dichotomy he aims to overcome (eternalism being the opposite error). To him, it's a stance, a posture people take towards the problem of making sense of their lives. He provides a detailed story about the dynamics of the nihilist stance; why people fall into it; how they escape out of it.
    • This is a very pragmatic way to think about nihilism, like it's sort of a crude form of thinking that one can grow out of, or be trained out of.
    • Nihilism of course is commonly held to be a disease of youth. Adults generally do grow out of it, in order to fabricate real lives for themselves. Families and jobs are good defenses against nihilism, since they entail real responsibilities and do not leave time for silly questions about the ultimate purpose of people or of work.
    • Nihilism and Agency
      • It's pretty obvious that my obsession with agency is in part simply my own personal to fight off nihilism.
    • Rationalism and nihilism

      • Modern nihilism is largely a side-product of the success of the Enlightenment. All that rationalism and materialism left a god-shaped hole in the human mind. Nietzsche was the most accurate diagnostician of this ailment, but pretty much everybody is aware of it.
      • I come from a background of fairly radical materialism – my late advisor Marvin Minsky delighted in calling humans "meat machines". I think this was mostly to deliberately needle his humanist enemies, who were incapable of appreciating that machines can be wonderfully intricate embodiments of intelligence. He was not a nihilist, but the materialist concept of mind that he advocated could seem that way from the outside.
      • The need to find some kind of value or purpose in a meaningless universe is kind of an unacknowledged note throughout Rationalism discourse, emerging in its nightmare dreams of like the paperclip maximizer or Roko's Basilisk or its attempts to wax poetic about utilitarianism. This is not really meant as a criticism. I see Rationalism as a sincere attempt to build something necessary – a religion, a shared way of making meaning – on top of the unpromising nihilist foundations of the materialist worldview. I'm sympathetic to their goals and efforts but kind of dubious about their solution.
    • Political nihilism

      • The elevation of Trump, and the associated movements on the right seem utterly nihilistic, there's a burn-it-all-down impulse that has been far more successful than similar tendencies on the left.