For indeed Christianity was complicit in the death of antiquity, and in the birth of modernity, not because it was an accomplice of the latter, but because it, alone in the history of the West, constituted a rejection of and alternative to nihilism's despair, violence, and idolatry of power; as such, Christianity shattered the imposing and enchanting facade behind which nihilism once hid, and thereby, inadvertently, called it forth into the open.
David Bentley Hart
...What is at stake is civilization and humanity, nothing less. The idea that everything is permitted, as Nietzsche put it, rests on the premise of nihilism and has nihilistic implications. I will not pretend that the case against nihilism and for civilization is an easy one to make. We are here confronting the most fundamental of philosophical questions, on the deepest levels. In short, the matter of pornography and obscenity is not a trivial one, and only superficial minds can take a bland and untroubled view of it.
Though nihilism has been relentlessly criticized for overemphasizing the dark side of human experience, it might be equally true that this overemphasis represents a needed counterbalance to shallow optimism and arrogant confidence in human power. Nihilism reminds us that we are not gods, and that despite all of the accomplishments and wonders of civilization, humans cannot alter the fact that they possess only a finite amount of mastery and control over their own destinies.
All roads are blocked to a philosophy which reduces everything to the word "no." To "no" there is only one answer and that is "yes." Nihilism has no substance. There is no such thing as nothingness, and zero does not exist. Everything is something. Nothing is nothing. Man lives more by affirmation than by bread.
"I might be entertaining the idea of tamping down my nihilism. Just a bit. Not because life is not meaningless-I think that's inarguable. It's just that the constant awareness of its pointlessness is exhausting. I wouldn't mind being oblivious again. I'd love to feel the wind in my face and think, just for minute, that I'm not going to crash into the rocks.' 'You're saying you'd like to be happy.
Philosophy would do well to desist from issuing any further injunctions about the need to re-establish the meaningfulness of existence, the purposefulness of life, or mend the shattered concord between man and nature. It should strive to be more than a sop to the pathetic twinge of human self-esteem. Nihilism is not an existential quandary but a speculative opportunity.
The Sexual Revolution is a complete rebellion against authority, natural and supernatural, even against the body and its needs, its natural functions of child bearing. This is not reverence for life, it is a great denial and more resembles Nihilism than the revolution that they think they are furthering.
The middle way is a view of life that avoids the extreme of misguided grasping born of believing there is something we can find, or buy, or cling to that will not change. And it avoids the despair and nihilism born from the mistaken belief that nothing matters, that all is meaningless.
He wasn't, I realized when I read those scenes concerning Blair and myself, close to any of us- except of course to Blair, and really not even to her. He was simply someone who floated through our lives and didn't seem to care how flatly he perceived everyone or that he'd shared our secret failures with the world, showcasing the youthful indifference, the gleaming nihilism, glamorizing the horror of it all. But there was no point in being angry with him.
Bret Easton Ellis
I should go so far as to say that embedded in the surrealistic frame of a television news show is a theory of anticommunication, featuring a type of discourse that abandons logic, reason, sequence and rules of contradiction. In aesthetics, I believe the name given to this theory is Dadaism; in philosophy, nihilism; in psychiatry, schizophrenia. In the parlance of the theater, it is known as vaudeville.
Continental thinkers have been obsessed with bourgeois man as representing the worst and most contemptible failure of modernity, which must at all costs be overcome. Nihilism in its most palpable sense means that the bourgeois has won, that the future, all foreseeable futures, belong to him, that all heights above him and all depths beneath him are illusory and that life is not worth living on these terms.
When I was in college, I remember fearing that the dreary grind of adulthood would feature infinitely more existential dread than frat parties had, but the opposite has been true for me. I'm much less likely to feel that gnawing fear of aimlessness and nihilism than I used to be and that's partly because education gave me job opportunities, but it's mostly because education gave me perspective and context.
... the twin concepts of nihilism and the antihero have had it. What began with The Wild One and James "nobody understands me" Dean, ran with increasing vehement negativism up through the Stones and Velvets and Iggy ... [I]t may be time, in spite of all indications to the contrary from the exterior society, to begin thinking in terms of heroes again, of love instead of hate, of energy instead of violence, of strength instead of cruelty, of action instead of reaction.
In face of this modern nihilism, Christians are often lacking in courage. We tend to give the impression that we will hold on to the outward forms whatever happens, even if God really is not there. But the opposite ought to be true of us, so that people can see that we demand the truth of what is there and that we are not dealing merely with platitudes. In other words, it should be understood that we take this question of truth and personality so seriously that if God were not there we would be among the first of those who had the courage to step out of the queue.
Francis A. Schaeffer
The man of the future who will redeem us not only from the hitherto reigning ideal but also from that which was bound to grow out of it, the great nausea, the will to nothingness, nihilism; this bell stroke of noon and of the great decision that liberates the will again and restores its goal to the earth and his hope to man; this Antichrist and anti-nihilist; this victor over God and nothingness - he must come one day.
When it comes to explaining human thought and behavior, the possibility that heredity plays any role at all still has the power to shock. To acknowledge human nature, many think, is to endorse racism, sexism, war, greed, genocide, nihilism, reactionary politics, and neglect of children and the disadvantaged. Any claim that the mind has an innate organization strikes people not as a hypothesis that might be incorrect but as a thought it is immoral to think.
Free men are aware of the imperfection inherent in human affairs, and they are willing to fight and die for that which is not perfect. They know that basic human problems can have no final solutions, that our freedom, justice, equality, etc. are far from absolute, and that the good life is compounded of half measures, compromises, lesser evils, and gropings toward the perfect. The rejection of approximations and the insistence on absolutes are the manifestation of a nihilism that loathes freedom, tolerance, and equity.
The Nazis, for him, are merely available movie tropes--articulate monsters with a talent for sadism. By making the Americans cruel, too, he escapes the customary division of good and evil along national lines, but he escapes any sense of moral accountability as well. In a Tarantino war, everyone commits atrocities. Like all the director's work after 'Jackie Brown,' the movie is pure sensation. It's disconnected from feeling, and an eerie blankness--it's too shallow to be called nihilism--undermines even the best scenes.
And then, on September 11, the world fractured. It's beyond my skill as a writer to capture that day and the days that would follow-the planes, like specters, vanishing into steel and glass; the slow-motion cascade of the towers crumbling into themselves; the ash-covered figures wandering the streets; the anguish and the fear. Nor do I pretend to understand the stark nihilism that drove the terrorists that day and that drives their brethren still. My powers of empathy, my ability to reach into another's heart, cannot penetrate the blank stares of those would murder innocents with abstract, serene satisfaction.
Then, what is sacrelige [sic]? If it is nothing more than a rebellion against dogma, it is eventually as meaningless as the dogma it defies, and they are both become hounds ranting in the high grass, never see the boar in the thicket. Only a religious person can perpetrate sacrelige: and if its blasphemy reaches the heart of the question; if it investigates deeply enough to unfold, not the pattern, but the materials of the pattern, and the necessity of a pattern; if it questions so deeply that the doubt it arouses is frightening and cannot be dismissed; then it has done its true sacreligious [sic] work, in the service of its adversary: the only service that nihilism can ever perform. (unused 1949 prefatory note to The Recognitions)
Like the Nazis, the cadres of jihad have a death wish that sets the seal on their nihilism. The goal of a world run by an oligarchy in possession of Teutonic genes, who may kill or enslave other 'races' according to need, is not more unrealizable than the idea that a single state, let alone the globe itself, could be governed according to the dictates of an allegedly holy book. This mad scheme begins by denying itself the talents (and the rights) of half the population, views with superstitious horror the charging of interest, and invokes the right of Muslims to subject nonbelievers to special taxes and confiscations. Not even Afghanistan or Somalia, scenes of the furthest advances yet made by pro-caliphate forces, could be governed for long in this way without setting new standards for beggary and decline.
When I think of the years when I had no faith, what I am struck by, first of all, is how little this lack disrupted my conscious life. I lived not without God, nor wish his absence, but in a mild abeyance of belief, drifting through the days on a tide of tiny vanities - a publication, a flirtation, a strong case made for some weak nihilism - nights all adagios and alcohol as my mind tore luxuriously into itself. I can see now how deeply God's absence affected my unconscious life, how under me always there was this long fall that pride and fear and self-live at once protected me from and subjected me to. Was the fall into belief or into unbelief? Both. For if grace woke me to God's presence in the world and in my heart, it also woke me to his absence. I never truly felt the pain of unbelief until I began to believe.
Our greater beastliness lies not in a penchant for brute force, but in our greater corruption, nihilism, and decadence; in our servitude to the overwhelming systems we create; in the sociopathic rationalism we adopt to master natural forces and to compete with the machines we build;and in the scientistic idolatry that co-opts the religious impulse. Of course the ancients resorted more to brute force: they lacked the infrastructure to punish their enemies and victims in a safer, more sophisticated fashion, with advanced legal regimes and mass-produced, maximum security prisons; with engineered propaganda for social conditioning; and with economic, cyber, and drone warfare. We channel our aggression with more sophisticated instruments, but the use of those instruments doesn't ennoble us.
Our greater beastliness lies not in a penchant for brute force,but in our greater corruption, nihilism, and decadence; in our servitude to the overwhelming systems we create; in the sociopathic rationalism we adopt to master natural forces and to compete with the machines we build;and in the scientistic idolatry that co-opts the religious impulse. Of course the ancients resorted more to brute force: they lacked the infrastructure to punish their enemies and victims in a safer, more sophisticated fashion, with advanced legal regimes and mass-produced, maximum security prisons; with engineered propaganda for social conditioning; and with economic, cyber, and drone warfare. We channel our aggression with more sophisticated instruments, but the use of those instruments doesn't ennoble us.
But today's society is characterized by achievement orientation, and consequently it adores people who are successful and happy and, in particular, it adores the young. It virtually ignores the value of all those who are otherwise, and in so doing blurs the decisive difference between being valuable in the sense of dignity and being valuable in the sense of usefulness. If one is not cognizant of this difference and holds that an individual's value stems only from his present usefulness, then, believe me, one owes it only to personal inconsistency not to plead for euthanasia along the lines of Hitler's program, that is to say, 'mercy' killing of all those who have lost their social usefulness, be it because of old age, incurable illness, mental deterioration, or whatever handicap they may suffer. Confounding the dignity of man with mere usefulness arises from conceptual confusion that in turn may be traced back to the contemporary nihilism transmitted on many an academic campus and many an analytical couch.
Viktor E. Frankl
Atheism... goes back to the Ancient Greek (a - a negative prefix, theos - god), evidencing the antiquity of the outlook of those who saw no presence of God (or gods) in their everyday lives, or who even denied the very existence of God (or gods). There are different types of atheism, but atheism in one form or another has existed in every civilization. [T]he concept "atheist" partially coincides with such notions as "skeptic, " "agnostic, " and "rationalist" and it borders with such notions as "anticlerical, " "God fighter" (theomachist), and "God abuser" (blasphemer). It is wrong to identify an atheist as one who denies God, though this is what opponents of atheism usually claim. If such people exist, it would probably be more correct to call them the "verbal" murderers of God, for the prefix a- means denying as elimination... I would like to stress that the prefix a- does not necessarily mean rejection. It can mean "absence of." For example, "apathy" means "absence of passion." Thus, the concept "atheist" does not necessarily mean nihilism.
Valerii A. Kuvakin
What, more realistically, is this 'mutation, ' the 'new man'? He is the rootless man, discontinuous with a past that Nihilism has destroyed, the raw material of every demagogue's dream; the 'free-thinker' and skeptic, closed only to the truth but 'open' to each new intellectual fashion because he himself has no intellectual foundation; the 'seeker' after some 'new revelation, ' ready to believe anything new because true faith has been annihilated in him; the planner and experimenter, worshipping 'fact' because he has abandoned truth, seeing the world as a vast laboratory in which he is free to determine what is 'possible'; the autonomous man, pretending to the humility of only asking his 'rights, ' yet full of the pride that expects everything to be given him in a world where nothing is authoritatively forbidden; the man of the moment, without conscience or values and thus at the mercy of the strongest 'stimulus'; the 'rebel, ' hating all restraint and authority because he himself is his own and only god; the 'mass man, ' this new barbarian, thoroughly 'reduced' and 'simplified' and capable of only the most elementary ideas, yet scornful of anyone who presumes to point out the higher things or the real complexity of life.
In sum, then a conservative tech writer offers a really attractive way of looking at viewer passivity and TV's institutionalization of irony, narcissism, nihilism, stasis. It's not our fault! It's outmoded technology's fault! If TV-dissemination were up to date, it would be impossible for it to "institutionalize" anything through its demonic "mass psychology"! Let's let Joe B., the little lonely guy, be his own manipulator or video-bits! Once all experience is finally reduced to marketable image, once the receiving user of user-friendly receivers can choose freely, Americanly, from an Americanly infinite variety of moving images hardly distinguishable from real-life images, and can then choose further just how he wishes to store, enhance, edit, recombine, and present those images to himself, in the privacy of his very own home and skull, TV's ironic, totalitarian grip on the American psychic cajones will be broken!" E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction" (The Review of Contemporary Fiction, 1993)
David Foster Wallace
It is noted that from 1967 to 1995 essays on negative emotions far outnumbered those on positive emotions in the psychological literature. The ratio was 21:1. Even those supreme perpetrators of pop nihilism, The New York Times and The Washington Post, have a better ratio than psychological literature. They average 12 negative stories to every one that might be construed to be non-negative. Many of their non-negative stories, however, cover success in sports and entertainment. I demand that the purveyors of despair who pretend to be dispassionate observes of the human condition go ahead and disclose that the 10 most beautiful words in the English languages are chimes, dawn, golden, hush, lullaby, luminous, melody, mist, murmuring, and tranquil; that Java sparrows prefer the music of Back over that of Schoenberg; that math experts have determined there are 1/96 trillion ways to lace up your shoes; that the Inuit term for making love is translated as 'laughing together in bed;' and that according to Buckminster Fuller, 'pollution is nothing but resources we're not harvesting.
In this miasma of forgotten wars, torture and the war on terror, there are no easy answers, especially in the face of a very real terrorism. But I can live my questions. As a humanitarian, I can act from a feeling of shared vulnerability with the victims of preventable suffering. I have a responsibility to bear witness publicly to the plight of those I seek to assist and to insist on independent humanitarian action and respect for international humanitarian law. As a citizen, I can assume my responsibility for the public world - the world of politics - not as a spectator, but as a participant who engages and shapes it. The larger force that can push back against the wrong use of power can be the force of a citizen's politics that openly debates the right use of power and the reasoned pursuit of justice. Catherine Lu, a political philosopher and my friend, has described justice as a boundary over which we must not go, a bond of common humanity between us, a balance among people of equal worth and dignity. I fight not for a utopian ideal, but each day I make a choice, against nihilism and towards justice.
After moving his family from Yakima to Paradise, California, in 1958, he enrolled at Chico State College. There, he began an apprenticeship under the soon-to-be-famous John Gardner, the first "real writer" he had ever met. "He offered me the key to his office, " Carver recalled in his preface to Gardner's On Becoming a Novelist (1983). "I see that gift now as a turning point." In addition, Gardner gave his student "close, line-by-line criticism" and taught him a set of values that was "not negotiable." Among these values were convictions that Carver held until his death. Like Gardner, whose On Moral Fiction (1978) decried the "nihilism" of postmodern formalism, Carver maintained that great literature is life-connected, life-affirming, and life-changing. "In the best fiction, " he wrote "the central character, the hero or heroine, is also the 'moved' character, the one to whom something happens in the story that makes a difference. Something happens that changes the way that character looks at himself and hence the world." Through the 1960s and 1970s he steered wide of the metafictional "funhouse" erected by Barth, Barthelme and Company, concentrating instead on what he called "those basics of old-fashioned storytelling: plot, character, and action." Like Gardner and Chekhov, Carver declared himself a humanist. "Art is not self-expression, " he insisted, "it's communication.
William L. Stull
The new atheists show a disturbing lack of understanding of or concern about the complexity and ambiguity of modern experience, and their polemic entirely fails to mention the concern for justice and compassion that, despite their undeniable failings, has been espoused by all three of the monotheisms. Religious fundamentalists also develop an exagerrated view of their enemy as the epitome of evil. This tendency makes critique of the new atheists too easy. They never discuss the work of such theologians as Bultmann or Tillich, who offer a very different view of religion and are closer to mainstream tradition than any fundamentalist. Unlike Feurerbach, Marx and Freud, the new atheists are not theologically literate. As one of their critics has remarked, in any military strategy it is essential to confront the enemy at its strongest point; failure to do so means that their polemic remains shallow and lacks intellectual depth. It is also morally and intellectually conservative. Unlike Feurerback, Marx, Ingersoll or Mill, these new Atheists show little concern about the poverty, injustice and humiliation that has inspired many of the atrocities they deplore; they show no yearning for a better world. Nor, like Nietzsche , Sartre or Camus, do they compel their readers to face up to the pointlessness and futility that ensue when people lack the resources to create a sense of meaning. They do not appear to consider the effect of such nihilism on people who do not have privileged lives and absorbing work.
We live among ruins in a World in which 'god is dead' as Nietzsche stated. The ideals of today are comfort, expediency, surface knowledge, disregard for one's ancestral heritage and traditions, catering to the lowest standards of taste and intelligence, apotheosis of the pathetic, hoarding of material objects and possessions, disrespect for all that is inherently higher and better - in other words a complete inversion of true values and ideals, the raising of the victory flag of ignorance and the banner of degeneracy. In such a time, social decadence is so widespread that it appears as a natural component of all political institutions. The crises that dominate the daily lives of our societies are part of a secret occult war to remove the support of spiritual and traditional values in order to turn man into a passive instrument of dark powers. The common ground of both Capitalism and Socialism is a materialistic view of life and being. Materialism in its war with the Spirit has taken on many forms; some have promoted its goals with great subtlety, whilst others have done so with an alarming lack of subtlety, but all have added, in greater or lesser measure, to the growing misery of Mankind. The forms which have done the most damage in our time may be enumerated as: Freemasonry, Liberalism, Nihilism, Capitalism, Socialism, Marxism, Imperialism, Anarchism, Modernism and the New Age.
Seyyed Hossein Nasr