Wednesday, December 26, 2007

From Nihilism to positive philosophy

Nihilism is great. Nihilism is cool and sexy. But it isn't a philosophical dead end, as some people think. Instead, even if you believe in nothing, there are ways of getting at things that you believe in that can shed light on what your philosophy beyond nihilism is.

What particularly don't you believe in? For example, you don't believe in organized religion or Christianity. What exactly do you think is wrong with it? It's oppressive for the individual and has been a way of maintaining social control by elites for centuries. Ok, so you don't like the oppression of individuality and you don't like elites making and enforcing doctrines that keep people controlled. That means that you like individuality and that you want some sort of system where people in power don't have the opportunity to keep people in line with some sort of religion or ideology.

So right there you have two examples of some general things that you believe are good, things defined positively in the sense of "I generally like this idea", as opposed to negatively, which would be "I don't like this thing".

You can examine yourself and essentially look at what pisses you off to find out what you'd like to replace it with. You probably won't have specific answers to the questions of how exactly the stuff you'd like to replace it with, like individual freedom from social control, can manifest in the external world, but it's a step towards figuring out for yourself how that can be and then figuring out how to take steps to actualize it in reailty or to fight for some sort of change in society that accomplishes what you think is right.

This idea isn't new with me; it comes from Herbert Marcuse, radical theorist, who described a process like this in his book "One Dimensional Man", which is still in print.

3 comments:

Post said...

To be able to do what you want, belief in nothing is required. When you start believing in something, you must act according to your beliefs, not what you want.

John Madziarczyk said...

But what determines what you want? Besides basic things like food, shelter, sex, etc... it becomes kind of blurry. When things get beyond the very basic level preference comes into play, and you must have some sort of reason to prefer one thing to another. What kind of food do you like? Why do you desire this kind of food and not that kind of food, for example? Theoretically if you have no beliefs you could have anything you want, yet people have their preferences. Where do they come from?

In order for someone to have a belief it doesn't have to be something that's extensively thought out.

Post said...

Preferences should come from experiences and they shouldn't be absolute. Things may be different for different people. Things can change over time. For some things it is true that it does matter HOW you do it. Etc., etc.

I'll give you a real life example. I'm planning to start traveling soon, even though I don't really own such big amount of money required for that. Now, all those believers now will tell me that it is stupid. Have they tried it themselves? No. I can tell from my experience that not doing this much earlier was a very big mistake.

Now let's talk about an ideology like anarchism. It requires you to believe that most of the people are good. If you tell an anarchist, that people are in fact NOT that good, then he will probably think that you just don't understand anything, because you've not read tons of anarchist literature. Saying that people are not good equals saying that anarchy would never work. In fact, anarchists want just to change politics/economics and nothing else. They don't see anything wrong with people themselves, how they live, etc. When alienation is mentioned, it refers exclusively to alienation from labor.

The point is - don't live for a purpose. Just have fun. What else you could do?