Nietzsche offers us a critique of modern culture as threatened by a nihilistic crisis in values. Philosophy is specifically incorporated into Nietzsche's critique, resulting in the claim that modern philosophy, as well as modern culture, is nihilistic. But why should contemporary philosophers give this view credence? In this paper, I put forward some reasons to take Nietzsche's view seriously, focusing on the relationship between science and philosophy. I suggest that modern philosophy still tends to idealise science as an exemplar of (...) objectivity, particularly as this relates to judgement, even despite widespread acknowledgement that science is not value-free. I therefore argue that Nietzsche's critique is valuable in two respects: first, it calls the notion of a scientific ideal grounding objective, cross-cultural, judgement into question, and second, it facilitates a distinction between this scientific ideal and science itself. S. Afr. J. Philos. Vol.24(4) 2005:241-259. (shrink)
In this work the author presents Nietzsche as a counter-nihilistic philosopher-educator who aimed, very much like Plato and Rousseau, to set forth a healing education for western man in a characteristically decadent era. The principal pedagogical or edifying dimension of his philosophy, it is argued, consists of a redefinition of the educational aim of modern humanityóformulated in medical and cultural termsóas the recovery of health and worth.
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)
UNTIL RECENTLY the terms "nihilism" and "nihilist" had served as philosophic shibboleths. When uttered, the words were almost always invoked to summon the community--philosophic or nonphilosophic--to self-righteous indignation. Nihilism was said to motivate critiques of religious and moral notions; forms of skepticism, including Hume's, were not surprisingly branded "nihilism." When employed in this way, the terms were intended both to stigmatize and quarantine. "Nihilism" and "atheism" share a common history in this respect, as terms of derision, (...) as objects of abuse. To judge something or someone "nihilist" was to judge it evil, whether it embraced no specific theory or, simply, a doctrine perceived as fundamentally menacing to established dogmas. (shrink)
Mereological nihilism is the view that no objects have proper parts. Despite how counter‐intuitive it is, it is taken quite seriously, largely because it solves a number of puzzles in the metaphysics of material objects – or so its proponents claim. In this article, I show that for every puzzle that mereological nihilism solves, there is a similar puzzle that (a) it doesn’t solve, and (b) every other solution to the original puzzle does solve. Since the solutions to (...) the new puzzles apply just as well to the old puzzles, the old puzzles provide no motivation to be a mereological nihilist. (shrink)
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)
Logical monists and pluralists disagree about how many correct logics there are; the monists say there is just one, the pluralists that there are more. Could it turn out that both are wrong, and that there is no logic at all?
Mereological nihilism is the view that there are no composite objects; everything in existence is mereologically simple. The view is subject to a number of difficulties, one of which concerns what I call the problem of emergence. Very briefly, the problem is that nihilism seems to be incompatible with emergent properties; it seems to rule out their very possibility. This is a problem because there are good independent reasons to believe that emergent properties are possible. This paper provides (...) a solution to the problem. I will show that nihilism and emergence are perfectly compatible, providing one accepts a novel understanding of how objects can instantiate properties: what I call irreducibly collective instantiation. (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)
Since Friedrich Nietzsche, philosophers have grappled with the question of how to respond to nihilism. Nihilism, often seen as a derogative term for a ‘life-denying’, destructive and perhaps most of all depressive philosophy is what drove existentialists to write about the right response to a meaningless universe devoid of purpose. This latter diagnosis is what I shall refer to as existential nihilism, the denial of meaning and purpose, a view that not only existentialists but also a long (...) line of philosophers in the empiricist tradition ascribe to. The absurd stems from the fact that though life is without meaning and the universe devoid of purpose, man still longs for meaning, significance and purpose. Inspired by Bojack Horseman and Rick and Morty, two modern existentialist masterpieces, this paper explores the various alternatives that have been offered in how to respond to the absurd, or as Albert Camus puts it; the only “really serious philosophical problem” and concludes that the problem is compatible with a naturalistic world-view, thereby genuine and transcending existentialism. (shrink)
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)
Philosophers have identified a number of principles that characterize morality and underlie moral judgments. However, philosophy has failed to establish any widely agreed-upon justification for these judgments, and an “error theory” that views moral judgments as without justification has not been successfully refuted. Evolutionary psychologists have had success in explaining the likely origins and mechanisms of morality but have also not established any justification for adopting particular values. As a result, we are left with moral nihilism -- the absence (...) of any unarguable values or behaviors we must or should adopt. The philosophical and psychological implications of this nihilism suggest accepting shared, non-absolute values as “good enough”; a revised, humbler view of moral and other value judgments; and the possible acceptance of the hard truth of a value nihilism. (shrink)
Despite recent interest in his work, little has been written about Løgstrup’s relation to phenomenology—what he thinks phenomenology is, how it informs his approach to ethics, and what he believes it can accomplish. Here I hope to stimulate further discussion of these matters. In this, consideration of Levinas’s understanding of phenomenology will be useful. While sharing many of Løgstrup’s concerns, Levinas insists on a distinction between phenomenological ontology and “metaphysics,” one that Løgstrup tends to blur in support of his argument (...) that “absolute nihilism is an impossibility.” After showing why this distinction matters, I will argue that Løgstrup’s goal is better achieved if we embrace Heidegger’s transcendental version of phenomenology rather than follow Løgstrup or Levinas, despite much that remains phenomenologically valuable in both. (shrink)
“Nihilism” (from the Latin “nihil” meaning nothing) is not a well-defined term. One can be a nihilist about just about anything: A philosopher who does not believe in the existence of knowledge, for example, might be called an “epistemological nihilist”; an atheist might be called a “religious nihilist.” In the vicinity of ethics, one should take care to distinguish moral nihilism from political nihilism and from existential nihilism. These last two will be briefly discussed below, only (...) with the aim of clarifying our topic: moral nihilism. Even restricting attention to “moral nihilism,” matters remain indeterminate. Its most prominent usage in the field of metaethics treats it as a synonym for “error theory,” therefore an entry that said only “Nihilism: see ERROR THEORY” would not be badly misleading. This would identify moral nihilism as the metaethical view that moral discourse consists of assertions that systematically fail to secure the truth. (See Mackie 1977; Joyce 2001.) A broader definition of “nihilism” would be “the view that there are no moral facts.” This is broader because it covers not only the error theory but also noncognitivism (see NONCOGNITIVISM). Both these theories deny that there are moral facts—the difference being that the error theorist thinks that in making moral judgments we try to state facts (but fail to do so, because there are no facts of the type in question), whereas the noncognitivist thinks that in making moral judgments we do not even try to state facts (because, for example, these judgments are really veiled commands or expressions of desire). (In characterizing noncognitivism in this way, I am sidelining various linguistic permissions that may be earned via the quasi-realist program (see QUASI-REALISM).) While it is not uncommon to see “nihilism” defined in this broader way, few contemporary noncognitivists think of themselves as “nihilists,” so it is reasonable to suspect that the extra breadth of the definition is often unintentional. Both these characterizations see moral nihilism as a purely metaethical thesis...n. (shrink)
One of the main motivations for compositional nihilism, the view that there are no composite material objects, concerns the many puzzles and problems associated with them. Nihilists claim that eliminating composites provides a unified solution to a slew of varied, difficult problems. However, numerous philosophers have questioned whether this is really so. While nihilists clearly avoid the usual, composite-featuring formulations of the puzzles, the concern is that the commitments that generate the problems are not eliminated along with composites. If (...) this is correct, it severely undercuts the motivation for the view. However, I argue that it is not correct. The aim of this paper is to explain exactly how and why eliminating composites dissolves substantive metaphysical puzzles. More generally, I aim to clarify the nihilist’s ontological commitments and the scope of the paraphrase strategy she employs. (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)
The idea of nihilism continues to figure prominently in philosophical debates about the problems of modernity. The aim of this article is to consider how Richard Rorty’s work might advance these debates. The article begins with a discussion of the problem of nihilism as it appears in the recent exchange between Charles Taylor, Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Kelly. It then brings Rorty into the conversation by considering his reflections on egotism and his proposed antidote to it: self-enlargement. (...) I propose that self-creation and solidarity, two key ideas of Rorty’s earlier work, should be understood as redemptive paths to self-enlargement. With this interpretation in place, Rorty can be seen as offering an alternative perspective on the problem of nihilism, one that compares favourably with those put forward by Taylor, Dreyfus and Kelly. (shrink)
Late antique Gnosticism and Heidegger’s Existentialism are usually counted among the main theoretical targets of Hans Jonas’s philosophy of life and responsibility, since they are supposed to share the dualistic and nihilistic attitude the philosopher deemed most mistaken and pernicious. In particular, Gnosticism is commonly understood as the exact opposite of what Jonas strove to accomplish in his work. However, I think it is simplistic to relegate Gnosticism to a merely antagonistic role in the development of Jonas’s philosophy. My claim (...) is that Gnosticism, being a non-nihilistic form of dualism, might have been a relevant source of inspiration – although not the only one – for amending the flaws of Heidegger’s Existentialism. By taking a closer look at the essay Gnosticism, Existentialism, and Nihilism, this article aims to clarify the critical and constructive role that Gnosticism might have played in shaping some of the major traits of Jonas’s thought. The first part of this essay deals with Jonas’s ‘gnostic reading’ of Heidegger’s Existentialism and highlights the positive insights drawn from such interpretative strategy. The second part focuses on three main motives in Jonas’s philosophy that may be traced back to the gnostic narrative: value objectivity and vulnerability, human responsibility and involvement in the history of being, and the sense of belonging to a wider dimension capable of providing orientation and meaning to human life. (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.
This paper argues the Lyotard's The Postmodern Condition is to be interpreted as a response to nihilism, especially in relation to the question of the legitimation of knowledge and the so-called crisis of narratives, and that, therefore, it provides an appropriate response to the question of nihilism in educational philosophy. The paper begins with a discussion of Nietzsche's and Heidegger's views of nihilism as a prolegomenon to Lyotard's views concerning European nihilism and the end of grand (...) narratives. These are important sources for a philosophical reception of the problem and the context in which Lyotard formulates his response and the immediate sources against that conditions Lyotard's response. The problem of nihilism raises its head in education in a double way: in relation to both the foundation of knowledge and the problem of its legitimation and the problem of values. (shrink)
Abstract: This paper explores the relevance of themes from Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus to the ongoing discussion of metaphysical nihilism. I set out by showing how metaphysical nihilism is of paramount importance for cosmological arguments. Metaphysical nihilism is the position that there might have been nothing. Two conflicting intuitions emerge from a survey of discussions of metaphysical nihilism: Firstly, that metaphysical nihilism is true, and secondly, that formulations of the position are somehow unclear or nonsensical. By (...) considering formalizations of philosophical language, the second intuition is sharpened, while the first intuition is given expression through the Tractarian distinction between what is said and what is shown by our symbolism. I conclude by exploring and rejecting objections to making metaphysical nihilism a scientific, rather than a philosophical question. (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)
A Meta-Philosophy exploration of immanent and non-immanent features of first-order philosophy in terms of the values of non- values or negative values of Radical Scepticism, Nihilism and Minarchy, executed to show how philosophizing is done. -/- It misleadingly seems as if there is no progress in philosophy as, like in visual art, literature and music, each original thinker re-invents the entire discipline, its aims, purposes, values, methods, etc The nature of philosophical tools, methods, techniques and skills will be (...) investigated and applied in terms of radical scepticism. -/- This approach, set of values and attitude restrict the nature and the style of the meta-philosophizing. It will for example prevent the traditional development of a general, all-encompassing and all-inclusive metaphysical system. It also demands the focus on context-specific investigation of questions and the dealing of a particular problem in a certain context. -/- These limits require the re-interpretation of any philosophical tool being employed as well as the underlying assumptions and any pre-suppositions. -/- As far as possible philosophizing as an aspect of the processes of theorizing will be adhered to and realized. In chapter THREE I illustrate many-leveled and multi-dimensional thinking, that are to me as a visual artist as well, of extreme importance. These are the types of things employed by radical skepticism and that should be the form of philosophizing instead of and replacing traditional one-leveled and one-dimensional thinking, argumentation and reasoning. (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)
Nihilism is one of Nietzsche’s foremost philosophical concerns. But characterizing it proves elusive. His nihilists include those in despair in the wake of the “death of God.” Yet they also include believing Christians. We have, among these nihilists, those fervently committed to frameworks of cosmic meaning. But we also have those who lack any such commitment, epitomized in the “last man.” We have those who want to escape this life. And we have those who wouldn’t dream of such (...) a prospect. Extant accounts have shed helpful light on the particularities of these various manifestations of nihilism. Yet they have not explained what ties these together. In this paper, I propose a unifying thread. Nihilists, on my reading of Nietzsche, are those who have come unmoored from the most important values. That is not to say that there is nothing more to nihilism than being wrong. But it is to say that we don’t understand Nietzschean nihilism fully if we just focus on the descriptive psychology of valuers. The unifying thread of Nietzschean nihilism, on my reading, in fact turns out to be structurally similar to the familiar idea of it we get in a number of other 19th century thinkers and authors—and ironically with those moralists who brand Nietzsche himself a nihilist. Where he differs from them is not in his account of what nihilism fundamentally is, but in the values he sees nihilists as having come unmoored from. (shrink)
This essay is part of a doctoral dissertation presented to the Department of Philosophy, University of São Paulo, in 1993, named 'Genealogy of the Real' . Its core idea is a Nietzschean approach to a masterpiece among philosophical inspired movies, namely, Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon, which surely touches deep groundings of the concept of truth and reality.
I defend mereological nihilism, the view that there are no composite objects, against a challenge from ontological emergence, the view that some things have properties that are ‘something over and above’ the properties of their parts. As the nihilist does not believe in composite wholes, there is nothing in the nihilist's ontology to instantiate emergent properties – or so the challenge goes. However, I argue that some simples can collectively instantiate an emergent property, so the nihilist's ontology can in (...) fact accommodate emergent properties. Furthermore, I show that employing plural instantiation does not bloat the nihilist's ontology or ideology. (shrink)