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Moral Nihilism

Started by xSilverPhinx, January 27, 2020, 02:41:49 PM

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xSilverPhinx

Help me understand a couple of things about moral nihilism: if the nihilistic viewpoint is that there are no moral facts, then how can someone who calls themselves a nihilist ever state that something is good or bad/evil? Wouldn't those be in the realm of moral realism?

I'm curious about this philosophical position. It seems appealing to the maverick in me, but at the same time doesn't seem to be a very sturdy position.
I am what survives if it's slain - Zack Hemsey


Siz

Quote from: xSilverPhinx on January 27, 2020, 02:41:49 PM
Help me understand a couple of things about moral nihilism: if the nihilistic viewpoint is that there are no moral facts, then how can someone who calls themselves a nihilist ever state that something is good or bad/evil? Wouldn't those be in the realm of moral realism?

I'm curious about this philosophical position. It seems appealing to the maverick in me, but at the same time doesn't seem to be a very sturdy position.

I think you've got the gist of it.

For the sake of communication, I will refer to something as 'good' or 'bad'. This is an opinion based on how positively or not I view a thing on a personal, subjective level. My good or bad is expressed knowing that my 'opinion' is not objective, but also expressed in the knowledge that the person opposite me most likely has a similar experience of a thing as I, or might view the thing similarly if unfamiliar.

Extract from a post I made on the Satanist forum a while ago:

The Nihilist Dilemma suggests that a 'pure' Nihilist doesn't exist... or at least doesn't stay alive for long once confirmed as such. I recognise the Nihilist dilemma, but I do still refer to myself as a Nihilist with the following premises:

1. I live under the assumption that what I perceive (sense) IS reality. That is pragmatism stripped to it's most naked state!
2. There is no objective meaning within or for existence within a multi-/uni-versal context.
3. "Morality" and "existential meaning/purpose" are human/animal abstracts informed by organic firmware and social software.
4. I am limited by my human/animal programming.

As a human I am limited in my compulsions to act/not act DESPITE my beliefs/understanding. I believe that it really doesn't matter in a grander context if I breathe or eat or procreate or move, but I am programmed to do so. And I allow myself to do so without resistance because there are rewards for all of those things (or penalties for their neglect). Also, I have learned - apparently indelibly - emotional responses to the people and objects around me. But underlying is the KNOWLEDGE that it all amounts to nothing. I can't act on that knowledge (or remain inactive) because of the survival reflexes over which I have no control and the motivator of fear (fear of hurting myself or loved-ones and fear of loss (of leaving the earthly party and missing out on rewards)). The human/animal compulsions are stronger than my rational brain. I bare no shame in that, or apologise for it, but I do rejoice in the thought of the time after my ultimate demise when I'll be free from the shackles of emotion and animal compulsion.

I recognise that MY Nihilism isn't the purest philosophical stance, but I use it to distinguish myself from a regular Atheist/Satanist whereby I view the value of my life being lived in equal measure to the value of it not being lived. That is to say pretty valueless.

So, while I'm *here* and too scared and too human to allow myself to drop to the floor in apathetic pure nihilism. I'll take what rewards I can - smile and laugh and eat and procreate and love... and take the shitty stuff on the chin until I am enveloped by the comfy pillow of death.

When one sleeps on the floor one need not worry about falling out of bed - Anton LaVey

The universe is a cold, uncaring void. The key to happiness isn't a search for meaning, it's to just keep yourself busy with unimportant nonsense, and eventually you'll be dead!

billy rubin

Quote from: Siz on January 27, 2020, 03:26:11 PM
As a human I am limited in my compulsions to act/not act DESPITE my beliefs/understanding.

^^^this is central. evolution doesn't care whether anything makes any sense, but it's always there squirting out the endocrines.


more people have been to berlin than i have

xSilverPhinx

Quote from: Siz on January 27, 2020, 03:26:11 PM
Quote from: xSilverPhinx on January 27, 2020, 02:41:49 PM
Help me understand a couple of things about moral nihilism: if the nihilistic viewpoint is that there are no moral facts, then how can someone who calls themselves a nihilist ever state that something is good or bad/evil? Wouldn't those be in the realm of moral realism?

I'm curious about this philosophical position. It seems appealing to the maverick in me, but at the same time doesn't seem to be a very sturdy position.

I think you've got the gist of it.

For the sake of communication, I will refer to something as 'good' or 'bad'. This is an opinion based on how positively or not I view a thing on a personal, subjective level. My good or bad is expressed knowing that my 'opinion' is not objective, but also expressed in the knowledge that the person opposite me most likely has a similar experience of a thing as I, or might view the thing similarly if unfamiliar.

Extract from a post I made on the Satanist forum a while ago:

The Nihilist Dilemma suggests that a 'pure' Nihilist doesn't exist... or at least doesn't stay alive for long once confirmed as such. I recognise the Nihilist dilemma, but I do still refer to myself as a Nihilist with the following premises:

1. I live under the assumption that what I perceive (sense) IS reality. That is pragmatism stripped to it's most naked state!
2. There is no objective meaning within or for existence within a multi-/uni-versal context.
3. "Morality" and "existential meaning/purpose" are human/animal abstracts informed by organic firmware and social software.
4. I am limited by my human/animal programming.

As a human I am limited in my compulsions to act/not act DESPITE my beliefs/understanding. I believe that it really doesn't matter in a grander context if I breathe or eat or procreate or move, but I am programmed to do so. And I allow myself to do so without resistance because there are rewards for all of those things (or penalties for their neglect). Also, I have learned - apparently indelibly - emotional responses to the people and objects around me. But underlying is the KNOWLEDGE that it all amounts to nothing. I can't act on that knowledge (or remain inactive) because of the survival reflexes over which I have no control and the motivator of fear (fear of hurting myself or loved-ones and fear of loss (of leaving the earthly party and missing out on rewards)). The human/animal compulsions are stronger than my rational brain. I bare no shame in that, or apologise for it, but I do rejoice in the thought of the time after my ultimate demise when I'll be free from the shackles of emotion and animal compulsion.

I recognise that MY Nihilism isn't the purest philosophical stance, but I use it to distinguish myself from a regular Atheist/Satanist whereby I view the value of my life being lived in equal measure to the value of it not being lived. That is to say pretty valueless.

So, while I'm *here* and too scared and too human to allow myself to drop to the floor in apathetic pure nihilism. I'll take what rewards I can - smile and laugh and eat and procreate and love... and take the shitty stuff on the chin until I am enveloped by the comfy pillow of death.

Thanks for that interesting reply!

So...do you think it's actually possible for a human who isn't completely disconnected from their emotions and animal compulsions/instincts be a 'pure nihilist?'
I am what survives if it's slain - Zack Hemsey


xSilverPhinx

Quote from: billy rubin on January 27, 2020, 09:37:30 PM
Quote from: Siz on January 27, 2020, 03:26:11 PM
As a human I am limited in my compulsions to act/not act DESPITE my beliefs/understanding.

^^^this is central. evolution doesn't care whether anything makes any sense, but it's always there squirting out the endocrines.

Those damn endocrines! :lol: But yes, I believe that to be true. Though I also think as a species we are generally capable of rationally curbing a lot of hormone-driven behaviour, unlike most other animals. 
I am what survives if it's slain - Zack Hemsey


Siz

Quote from: xSilverPhinx on January 27, 2020, 10:27:33 PM
Quote from: Siz on January 27, 2020, 03:26:11 PM
Quote from: xSilverPhinx on January 27, 2020, 02:41:49 PM
Help me understand a couple of things about moral nihilism: if the nihilistic viewpoint is that there are no moral facts, then how can someone who calls themselves a nihilist ever state that something is good or bad/evil? Wouldn't those be in the realm of moral realism?

I'm curious about this philosophical position. It seems appealing to the maverick in me, but at the same time doesn't seem to be a very sturdy position.

I think you've got the gist of it.

For the sake of communication, I will refer to something as 'good' or 'bad'. This is an opinion based on how positively or not I view a thing on a personal, subjective level. My good or bad is expressed knowing that my 'opinion' is not objective, but also expressed in the knowledge that the person opposite me most likely has a similar experience of a thing as I, or might view the thing similarly if unfamiliar.

Extract from a post I made on the Satanist forum a while ago:

The Nihilist Dilemma suggests that a 'pure' Nihilist doesn't exist... or at least doesn't stay alive for long once confirmed as such. I recognise the Nihilist dilemma, but I do still refer to myself as a Nihilist with the following premises:

1. I live under the assumption that what I perceive (sense) IS reality. That is pragmatism stripped to it's most naked state!
2. There is no objective meaning within or for existence within a multi-/uni-versal context.
3. "Morality" and "existential meaning/purpose" are human/animal abstracts informed by organic firmware and social software.
4. I am limited by my human/animal programming.

As a human I am limited in my compulsions to act/not act DESPITE my beliefs/understanding. I believe that it really doesn't matter in a grander context if I breathe or eat or procreate or move, but I am programmed to do so. And I allow myself to do so without resistance because there are rewards for all of those things (or penalties for their neglect). Also, I have learned - apparently indelibly - emotional responses to the people and objects around me. But underlying is the KNOWLEDGE that it all amounts to nothing. I can't act on that knowledge (or remain inactive) because of the survival reflexes over which I have no control and the motivator of fear (fear of hurting myself or loved-ones and fear of loss (of leaving the earthly party and missing out on rewards)). The human/animal compulsions are stronger than my rational brain. I bare no shame in that, or apologise for it, but I do rejoice in the thought of the time after my ultimate demise when I'll be free from the shackles of emotion and animal compulsion.

I recognise that MY Nihilism isn't the purest philosophical stance, but I use it to distinguish myself from a regular Atheist/Satanist whereby I view the value of my life being lived in equal measure to the value of it not being lived. That is to say pretty valueless.

So, while I'm *here* and too scared and too human to allow myself to drop to the floor in apathetic pure nihilism. I'll take what rewards I can - smile and laugh and eat and procreate and love... and take the shitty stuff on the chin until I am enveloped by the comfy pillow of death.

Thanks for that interesting reply!

So...do you think it's actually possible for a human who isn't completely disconnected from their emotions and animal compulsions/instincts be a 'pure nihilist?'
In a word, no.

To clarify, I don't think they exist. We all have our compulsions, for better or worse. What makes us human is what keeps us from nihilism.

So, pragmatic nihilism is the best I can hope for. And the rest of the world can please itself   ;D

When one sleeps on the floor one need not worry about falling out of bed - Anton LaVey

The universe is a cold, uncaring void. The key to happiness isn't a search for meaning, it's to just keep yourself busy with unimportant nonsense, and eventually you'll be dead!

xSilverPhinx

Quote from: Siz on January 27, 2020, 10:51:23 PM
Quote from: xSilverPhinx on January 27, 2020, 10:27:33 PM
Quote from: Siz on January 27, 2020, 03:26:11 PM
Quote from: xSilverPhinx on January 27, 2020, 02:41:49 PM
Help me understand a couple of things about moral nihilism: if the nihilistic viewpoint is that there are no moral facts, then how can someone who calls themselves a nihilist ever state that something is good or bad/evil? Wouldn't those be in the realm of moral realism?

I'm curious about this philosophical position. It seems appealing to the maverick in me, but at the same time doesn't seem to be a very sturdy position.

I think you've got the gist of it.

For the sake of communication, I will refer to something as 'good' or 'bad'. This is an opinion based on how positively or not I view a thing on a personal, subjective level. My good or bad is expressed knowing that my 'opinion' is not objective, but also expressed in the knowledge that the person opposite me most likely has a similar experience of a thing as I, or might view the thing similarly if unfamiliar.

Extract from a post I made on the Satanist forum a while ago:

The Nihilist Dilemma suggests that a 'pure' Nihilist doesn't exist... or at least doesn't stay alive for long once confirmed as such. I recognise the Nihilist dilemma, but I do still refer to myself as a Nihilist with the following premises:

1. I live under the assumption that what I perceive (sense) IS reality. That is pragmatism stripped to it's most naked state!
2. There is no objective meaning within or for existence within a multi-/uni-versal context.
3. "Morality" and "existential meaning/purpose" are human/animal abstracts informed by organic firmware and social software.
4. I am limited by my human/animal programming.

As a human I am limited in my compulsions to act/not act DESPITE my beliefs/understanding. I believe that it really doesn't matter in a grander context if I breathe or eat or procreate or move, but I am programmed to do so. And I allow myself to do so without resistance because there are rewards for all of those things (or penalties for their neglect). Also, I have learned - apparently indelibly - emotional responses to the people and objects around me. But underlying is the KNOWLEDGE that it all amounts to nothing. I can't act on that knowledge (or remain inactive) because of the survival reflexes over which I have no control and the motivator of fear (fear of hurting myself or loved-ones and fear of loss (of leaving the earthly party and missing out on rewards)). The human/animal compulsions are stronger than my rational brain. I bare no shame in that, or apologise for it, but I do rejoice in the thought of the time after my ultimate demise when I'll be free from the shackles of emotion and animal compulsion.

I recognise that MY Nihilism isn't the purest philosophical stance, but I use it to distinguish myself from a regular Atheist/Satanist whereby I view the value of my life being lived in equal measure to the value of it not being lived. That is to say pretty valueless.

So, while I'm *here* and too scared and too human to allow myself to drop to the floor in apathetic pure nihilism. I'll take what rewards I can - smile and laugh and eat and procreate and love... and take the shitty stuff on the chin until I am enveloped by the comfy pillow of death.

Thanks for that interesting reply!

So...do you think it's actually possible for a human who isn't completely disconnected from their emotions and animal compulsions/instincts be a 'pure nihilist?'
In a word, no.

To clarify, I don't think they exist. We all have our compulsions, for better or worse. What makes us human is what keeps us from nihilism.

So, pragmatic nihilism is the best I can hope for. And the rest of the world can please itself   ;D

Ah, ok.  ;D That's the main question I had about nihilism I guess.
I am what survives if it's slain - Zack Hemsey


billy rubin

Quote from: xSilverPhinx on January 27, 2020, 10:32:50 PM
Quote from: billy rubin on January 27, 2020, 09:37:30 PM
Quote from: Siz on January 27, 2020, 03:26:11 PM
As a human I am limited in my compulsions to act/not act DESPITE my beliefs/understanding.

^^^this is central. evolution doesn't care whether anything makes any sense, but it's always there squirting out the endocrines.

Those damn endocrines! :lol: But yes, I believe that to be true. Though I also think as a species we are generally capable of rationally curbing a lot of hormone-driven behaviour, unlike most other animals.

sure, we can do that. but rationalism is irrelevant, in the end, silver. it's a meaningless search for meaning. there's no more reason or advantage in seeking rationalism than there is lying on your back and making up animals out of the shapes of the clouds that sail by. self-preservation is a rational practice, or example. but why do we want to preserve ourselves? what do we gain if we do, or lose if we don't? nothing.

we can control our instinctive and chemically-driven behavior, if we want, and if there's some pattern of behavior that we prefer for some reason, we can pursue it. but there's no apparatus to hold it together into a pattern that isn't mechanical.

some people say that this a bleak outlook, but it's only bleak if you're looking for meaning that you think is there. in the end, even working at understanding and defining nihilism is a meaningless enterprise. there's nothing there to understand.




more people have been to berlin than i have

Siz

All of what I wrote was with reference to existential nihilism.

Moral nihilism (or amoralism) is a different animal and is a valid position IMHO.  But even that, for me, is mitigated by a notional nod to The Golden Rule, however arbitrarily I choose to apply it.

When one sleeps on the floor one need not worry about falling out of bed - Anton LaVey

The universe is a cold, uncaring void. The key to happiness isn't a search for meaning, it's to just keep yourself busy with unimportant nonsense, and eventually you'll be dead!

Siz

Quote from: billy rubin on January 28, 2020, 12:22:41 AM
Quote from: xSilverPhinx on January 27, 2020, 10:32:50 PM
Quote from: billy rubin on January 27, 2020, 09:37:30 PM
Quote from: Siz on January 27, 2020, 03:26:11 PM
As a human I am limited in my compulsions to act/not act DESPITE my beliefs/understanding.

^^^this is central. evolution doesn't care whether anything makes any sense, but it's always there squirting out the endocrines.

Those damn endocrines! :lol: But yes, I believe that to be true. Though I also think as a species we are generally capable of rationally curbing a lot of hormone-driven behaviour, unlike most other animals.

sure, we can do that. but rationalism is irrelevant, in the end, silver. it's a meaningless search for meaning. there's no more reason or advantage in seeking rationalism than there is lying on your back and making up animals out of the shapes of the clouds that sail by. self-preservation is a rational practice, or example. but why do we want to preserve ourselves? what do we gain if we do, or lose if we don't? nothing.

we can control our instinctive and chemically-driven behavior, if we want, and if there's some pattern of behavior that we prefer for some reason, we can pursue it. but there's no apparatus to hold it together into a pattern that isn't mechanical.

some people say that this a bleak outlook, but it's only bleak if you're looking for meaning that you think is there. in the end, even working at understanding and defining nihilism is a meaningless enterprise. there's nothing there to understand.
I see it as liberating rather than bleak.
Applying meaning to the world is like a nicotine addiction; you're taking the drug, not to feel good, but to stop yourself feeling bad (withdrawal). Remove the drug and the default 'without drug' neutral state is eventually restored.

When one sleeps on the floor one need not worry about falling out of bed - Anton LaVey

The universe is a cold, uncaring void. The key to happiness isn't a search for meaning, it's to just keep yourself busy with unimportant nonsense, and eventually you'll be dead!

billy rubin

Quote from: Siz on January 28, 2020, 12:30:29 AM
All of what I wrote was with reference to existential nihilism.

Moral nihilism (or amoralism) is a different animal and is a valid position IMHO.  But even that, for me, is mitigated by a notional nod to The Golden Rule, however arbitrarily I choose to apply it.

i see one as leading inevitably to the other, siz.

morals are based on the notion that there is such a thing as right and wrong, whether that is basedon emotionalism, or religion, aesthetics, or social cohesion, or just-making-shit-up. in order for morals to be anything other than opinion, they must be derived from a source that transcends their application. existential nihilism denies that any such thing exists, so moral nihilism is a natural consequence.

if one is a moral nihilist, on the other hand, one may still believe in meaning, just not in a moral context.

does that make sense?

Quote from: Siz on January 28, 2020, 12:51:37 AM
I see it as liberating rather than bleak.
Applying meaning to the world is like a nicotine addiction; you're taking the drug, not to feel good, but to stop yourself feeling bad (withdrawal). Remove the drug and the default 'without drug' neutral state is eventually restored.

an interesting analogy with drugs. i'm not sure what a neutral state of meaninglessness would look like on a large scale. people in groups are generally very uncomfortable with it.


more people have been to berlin than i have

billy rubin

i made a double post, so here is a picture i took of the grand tetons instead



more people have been to berlin than i have

Siz

#12
Quote from: billy rubin on January 28, 2020, 01:13:36 AM
Quote from: Siz on January 28, 2020, 12:30:29 AM
All of what I wrote was with reference to existential nihilism.

Moral nihilism (or amoralism) is a different animal and is a valid position IMHO.  But even that, for me, is mitigated by a notional nod to The Golden Rule, however arbitrarily I choose to apply it.

i see one as leading inevitably to the other, siz.

morals are based on the notion that there is such a thing as right and wrong, whether that is basedon emotionalism, or religion, aesthetics, or social cohesion, or just-making-shit-up. in order for morals to be anything other than opinion, they must be derived from a source that transcends their application. existential nihilism denies that any such thing exists, so moral nihilism is a natural consequence.

if one is a moral nihilist, on the other hand, one may still believe in meaning, just not in a moral context.

does that make sense?

Quote from: Siz on January 28, 2020, 12:51:37 AM
I see it as liberating rather than bleak.
Applying meaning to the world is like a nicotine addiction; you're taking the drug, not to feel good, but to stop yourself feeling bad (withdrawal). Remove the drug and the default 'without drug' neutral state is eventually restored.

an interesting analogy with drugs. i'm not sure what a neutral state of meaninglessness would look like on a large scale. people in groups are generally very uncomfortable with it.
Using people's own guilt and desire to fit in has been a useful control tool in religion and government since forever. My own aversion to coercive authority (no doubt born of being subject to coercive authority through childhood) has led me to this place. Yes, humans are social creatures, but are we not disserving ourselves by toeing the morality line unquestioningly? Of course we are, but it is in the interests of 'authority' to deny that.
The transhumanist movement is all about seeking emancipation from animalistic, evolutionary tunnel vision. I'm sold - the implications are boundless, the possibilities awe-inspiring. I'm not saying moral nihilism could/would work on a global scale (at least not while we're still in our biophilosophical nappies), but worth exploring. And certainly an idea, as a duty to oneself, worth examining on a personal level.

That's my take anyway. I've possibly lost perspective rather than gained insight over the years, but what can you do?!


When one sleeps on the floor one need not worry about falling out of bed - Anton LaVey

The universe is a cold, uncaring void. The key to happiness isn't a search for meaning, it's to just keep yourself busy with unimportant nonsense, and eventually you'll be dead!

Recusant

I think it can be said that moral nihilism aligns with theism, positing a point of view which is superior to that of humanity. In theism, the superior point of view is a god's, while the nihilist dismisses the human perspective from an equally imaginary god-like place.

For both of these positions, mere human morality and understanding are arbitrary, deficient and unworthy of bearing any "real" significance. The theist dismisses human morality because they claim that only their god can be a "real" source of morality, while the nihilist does the same because they claim that there is no "real" source of morality. The moral nihilist essentially agrees with the theist, supposing that morality must exist in some exalted realm like that of Plato's Ideals, else it carries no weight.

"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration — courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth."
— H. L. Mencken


billy rubin

#14
sure.

the argument is reminiscent of the geocentrism controversy, in which one side claims that the earth must be the central point in the universe because it is the most important object, while the other asserts that the earth cannot be the most important object because it is not at the center of the universe. both sides accept that a central position in the universe must indicate something of importance.

but this is interesting. i have already defined "real" morality as something that exists externally to a  frame of reference, in the same way that a law of physics must apply to all matter irrespective of scale, or a the definition of a set must assert a boundary that separates members from non-members.

in order to deny "real" morality, one must first define something to deny. otherwise is to simply deny the coherence of the phenomenon in any context, which i don't think is what you'e doing.

on what basis would any morality carry any weight, "real" or otherwise?






more people have been to berlin than i have