Monday, April 11, 2011

On nihilism

This post is about nihilism. A concept that is more or less always misunderstood, or at least the concept is not fully understood. The thoughts presented here are not my own. Everything is based on a book by Kalle Haatanen Ei vois vähempää kiinnostaa (I couldn't care less), in which he explores many aspects related to nihilism and how intertwined it is to our modern society. I wrote this text mainly as a note for myself and as a way to go trough once again the things I read in the book. I have not checked everything so there might be misunderstandings and totally wrong interpretations in the text. Lastly let it be noted that this is the first time I try to write about philosophical topics in English, so my language may be kinda wonky. (It is usually wonky, but now even more.)

The two men who can be said to have developed the way modern philosophy thinks about nihilism are Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger. It is important to note that they both were strongly against nihilism. As a side note, let it be said that how Nietzsche became associated with Nazis was that his estate (writings etc.) fell to the hands of his sister Elisabeth who was antisemitist and his husband who was a member of the national socialistic party and quite high in the ranks.

Book cover: (Atena Kustannus Oy)
There two core concepts into which nihilism can be divided into. These are the concept of passive and active nihilism. Passive nihilism can be described as a way of thinking where one submits to just pursuing happiness and small mindedness, everything being relativistic and feeling the weight of sin inside yourself. Nietzsche calls this the life of the last man. The last man no longer feels powerful nor does he have any want for power. He only wishes to have long and secure life. Active nihilism can be described as an attempt to try and restore Truth, Beauty and Greatness to this world. An active nihilist looks at the world and admits holding his head high that the golden era is long gone. He faces nothingness with an aristocratic courage and looks it in straight in the eye and hopes that the world will continue it's internal cyclical dance. An active nihilist says “Yes” to life even though it is diminishing and has no eternal meaning.

On the last pages of the book it is mentioned how nihilism comments analytical philosophy, particularly Wittgenstein's obsession to formulate every sentence in a logical and clearway. The goal being a situation where there are no longer any contradictions. In this world philosophy works like a machine and A=A, always. In the book this conept, by the words of Staley Rosen, is called a longing for silence. World where there is no contradictions or room for imagination and flying.

This short piece of text, misses many fine points made in the book about cultural relativism, misinterpretations of nihilism and comments on many other phenomenons of our time. I did not know that nihilism could open so many new ways for looking at the world. Almost always nihilism is viewed as anti-life way of thinking which could not be further from the truth. What nihilism actually is against are the phenomenons that are anti-life, the things that try and reduce life in to just eating, shitting and having sex.

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