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Optimistic Nihilism (2017) (tinyclouds.org)
45 points by adambyrtek 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 83 comments



Nihilism need not be an end-point. There are many positive and motivating philosophies that are less bleak and more illuminating. The author's positions on most of their anecdotes do not seem to convey a sense of optimism.

Buddhism, Stoicism, Epicureanism, Shamanism; there are all sorts of neat philosophies you can abide by that have deciphered the non-dualistic nature of reality. In doing so, they provide you with tools to cope with this truth and lead a full and joyful life of belief.


I dunno. I didn't invent a term for it, but my beliefs map relatively well to the author's. And I've always considered myself a nihilist - it just seems (to me) basically irrefutable.

There is exactly one escape. I'm having enough fun that I don't want to take it, but that could change. That's nothing empty or baleful about that (again, to me).


Buddhism and Stoicism could both be interpreted as nihilisms. They were by Nietzsche, at least.


>The consequence of this understanding? You are the rarest of rare matter in the universe. You are much more precious than gold. You are the type of matter that can walk and discuss and build.

That doesn't sound nihilistic to me at all.

>Some worry that an artificial consciousnesses could turn against humans. I am not concerned about this. First of all, we are many years away from such technology. The "AI" that I deal with in my research is so laughably far from consciousness, it's like worrying about lawnmowers turning against us. But this meme has gotten enough attention that I want to address it: supposing that somehow we created an artificial consciousness that was able to spontaneously improve itself and escape from our control: are we doomed?

Oh God, this is painful, please stop.


This is a fantastic sample of the sort of romantic philosophizing that animates the technosphere.

It elides from some reasonable, nineteenth-century claims about atheism and materialsm to full-on AI worship without a moment's hesitation or reflection. It uses ecological and physiological fragility to justify the headlong embrace of more durable, synthetic minds -- as though all that were valuable about the human experience is intelligence. The value of embodied experience itself -- of being mortal, of having flesh, of eating food and sleeping and fucking and laughing, is never mentioned; presumably it just sort of falls out of the main thing. Gotta get those mind-MIPS up.

It wraps with the bromide that, because empathy is a form of intelligence, a superintelligence would be super-empathetic. Because of all the sociopaths drooling in the corner.

Sorry, I would like to return my kool-aid, is there a refund


I agree with your stance, though my take on it is a little differently headed.

Why do some people choose to define their personal values and motivation along abstract concepts that are only ever read about, never felt, and never even seen live in person? Usually, people just go with whatever lets them get along best with their peers. Don't be ripped off by anyone, form meaningful friendships, do what fills your heart with joy, and then distill from that whatever you think is worth fighting for in life. No need to resort to machine learning here.

It might be true that strong ai will take over in ten or thirty years. But should this really change your outlook? What happens if your bets are off, what did you then spend your life preparing for?

It might be true that science disagrees with traditional metaphysical ideas. (it cannot disprove those, by definition.) but does satellite data really mean that you shouldn't give your church a second chance? Maybe the traditional way of telling the story is funky, maybe the organization at large has some rot (don't they all), but I'm sure there's something to learn from it when it comes to how we can make people get along with each other. At the very least, LIGO and LHC won't.

What does it say about your personal striving that you have to look at Mars to reflect on your limits?

I'm not saying let's stop pursuing those things. I've been wanting a PC interface to my brain since the day I was able to imagine it, and never stopped wanting it. But over the last decade, I've learned to decouple my personal identity from humanity's technological advancement. Because after all, my grandparents knew how to be happy, too.


Watching everyone downvote me without an argument is also hilarous. Thanks, I can see I'm not welcome in this church, I'll see myself out


Well, for what it's worth, I thought your point was valid and well made. I think it represents a strong critique of the oft-stereotyped "Silicon Valley tech culture" - it's the same tendency that leads people to try and "optimize" their social relationships, not realizing the optimization is the wrong instinct to have when it comes to dealings with other people.


No downvote from me; I agree with what you said and I appreciate your having the courage to say it. The writer of this article has dumped one form of religion and replaced it with another, right down to the wishful thinking about a "super empathetic" supreme intelligence, and hope for immortality.


I'm not going to address all of your post, but I will agree with one thing: the technosphere is full of bullshit artistry and quack philosophy stated with an air of authority so incorrigibly solemn, it moves marble busts to laughter. It seems people in tech, and elsewhere, believe that philosophy is just some shit you make up without having to really think through and verify anything you've said or see what others have written on the subject. All you need is to watch some crackpot's Youtube video to give you the confidence to play the wise man.

Philosophy, dear children, is a branch of knowledge that, like other branches of knowledge, requires lots of study and dedication if you're going to be any good at it. "Philosophy" is not a synonym for "here's my poorly thought through opinion".


If i were to abstract the entire universe to one formula with perfect soundness it would not be some model of society or physics, but 0=0. This formula is not debatable, it's perfect in its simplicity, and it has 0 real world value.

I feel the same about nihilism. "If we abstract everything away then we end up with nothing", and then claims are made based upon that ("so live for yourself"), but that's not valid reasoning. You can't prove anything with an empty premise.

The entirety of morality (doing things for yourself vs doing things for the group) isn't restricted by accepting nihilism while people often (including this article) make it out to be the answer of it.


The author is negating some concepts but not others, which is inconsistent, true.

But nihilism cannot be advanced as a universal philosophy, as it represents pure negation, and universal negation is impossible.

In practice, nihilism is about the selective negation of concepts or bodies of thought, not as an end in itself but to open up new possible lines of reasoning.


>It's clear that in our modern era, with our extremely robust theories of physics, backed by extremely precise observations of the universe, that the religious explanations of existence are false.

I think that's up for debate still.


It might be fairer to look at the scientifically falsifiable claims that are or were important to major religions and determine which of those have been scientifically falsified.

Some conspicuous examples have certainly been falsified, like young earth creationism, but that certainly doesn’t mean that all of Christianity’s claims have been falsified.


> Some conspicuous examples have certainly been falsified, like young earth creationism

The classic counter-argument is that God has created the world N years ago in a way that makes it appear older, in order to test our faith or sth like that.

You cannot really disprove that. Scientists discard such theories because of Alder's Razor: "What cannot be settled by experiment is not worth debating."

I think your misconception is that science is the method by which all truths can be discovered. That has not been shown. Science is merely a narrowed down version of philosophy (with restrictions on which tools and methods may be used) that is vastly better at finding a consistent and useful model of reality than average philosophy.

This is why something like Occam's Razor (or Alder's Razor from above) is used by scientists. Occam does not say that the simpler hypothesis is always correct, but it suggests that you will usually be more productive when you work with simpler rather than more complex hypotheses.


I don’t think that is a common counter-argument. The young earth creationism I’m aware of explicitly denies that God made things look as if the Earth was actually older, that humans evolved from other primates, etc. In the US, Answers in Genesis is probably the most prominent advocate of supposedly scientific arguments for a young earth.

Here’s one article from them: https://answersingenesis.org/age-of-the-earth/


I'd agree. I think it would be better to say:

"Now that we have developed tools and processes for validating truths against falsehoods which seem to be accurate across all applications thus far - for a religion to exist it must violate one or more of the rules that are true elsewhere or bypass these rules entirely."

So "false" vs "unprovable".


Well they're not hiding it. "Miracles" inherently bypass those rules.


What is the basis for debate? We have observable, testable, repeatable, data backed hypotheses on one hand and stories on the other.


Monistic Idealism vs. Monistic Physicalism/Materialism


I was trying to meditate on this topic a few months ago, https://serprex.github.io/w/My%20Thesis

Didn't come together very coherently. It's coming from someone who's both stoic & hedonist. Mostly trying to find explanation for causality of behavior

Written somewhat while gasping from the end of a noose, so not as optimistic as this article, but the call to action ends up the same (where action is deemed voluntary)


If nihilism is true, then it follows that our lives are very little to no significance. And if that's the case, then we should do what pleases us rather what is right, since we have one life to live.

In any case, I think Alvin Plantinga has something good to say about science and religion in his book: science, religion, and naturalism, where the conflict really lies.


The point of nihilism is that there is no "should." There are no logical conclusions from nihilism except all of them. If you feel a connection to fellow sentient beings, act in accordance with that. If you see them as your tools, then act so.

This frees up your moralistic framework to be solely realized by your own ethics. It takes some time to clarify and arrive at them, sure, but it necessitates an active engagement with the world and your influences upon it.

Or not. You could just use it as an excuse to live in hedonism or to off yourself. But that choice is entirely yours and you take ownership of it whether you want to or not.


Check out Jordan Petersons biblical series: the psychological significance of the bible stories.

The bible tells a deep story about the workings of the human mind. To discard them because you don't believe them to be historically accurate is missing the point. There is a reason people have kept those stories alive for thousands of years, and why functional societies have them, and why dictatorships tend to ban them. They teach thought!


First in the series for those who are curious: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-wWBGo6a2w


I get your point but also want to point out that dictators ban religions because it usually tells people there is something more powerful than the dictator.


Did you know the same regions of the brain light up for self when people think of God? Maybe the dictator doesn't want anyone to think THEY'RE more important than the dictator, like in our society, where every individual is sovereign with rights, every individual is like a king.


does it work that way for non-monotheisticly based ideas of religion/God like the paganism or Buddhist varieties?


Not sure. I think it wouldn't, because it needs all domains. Like, I know myself can delve into any arena of life, whereas those gods are typically refered to as one domain. Perhaps something to do with a functional hierarchy, you'd think of yourself.


This is just sad...


Whoever this 15 year old is, it looks like he's wandered into the neckbeard section of Youtube.


With a title like this I was expecting a little more from this piece.

The best responses I've heard to nihilism are from Ernst Becker's Denial of Death [1] which argues that the best way to overcome nihilism is to stop thinking so hard. Another way to phrase this is that you need to move away from the abstract and towards the concrete. As you focus on a more specific set of experiences, the bigger existential questions seem to fade.

The second is from Jordan Peterson, who argues that nihilism is too easy of a solution. If you find yourself drifting too much into pessimistic nihilism, then you should ask yourself whether this worldview also "conveniently" relieves you of certain responsibilities.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Denial_of_Death


Let’s please not conflate someone like Becker with the Disney Movie Conspiracy Theory Alt-Right philosopher king.


I don't watch or study Jordan Peterson, but I'm flabbergasted by how inflammatory he manages to be. I read a critical article about Peterson in a major publication which excoriated his -- apparently awful -- misunderstanding of Derrida and Foucault (whom he apparently faults for modern leftism) but barely even described his theories, whatever they are. I came away fully convinced that Peterson does not understand Derrida, and better aware of the intellectual dispute between postmodernism and Marxism, but unsure of how important this is to refuting Peterson's broader cultural criticisms, and also unsure of what those were.

I guess my point is, if you disagree with someone's thinking, try to be clear about why, and don't assume everyone else is familiar with them.


I guess one of the problems with Peterson (and also with people like Zizek) is that he manages to say some completely indefensible things (i.e. he seems to tie so many of the world's problems to "liberal professors in the universities"), while also managing to say some very poignant and insightful things that do genuinely improve one's thinking. I think the second part is the reason why he has built up such a large following.


Exactly. One doesn't have to agree with every single thing he says to find something of value in his ideas. Similarly, it's idiotic to discard his entire set of ideas because you have found some disagreements.


No, I think that's exactly the opposite of the right take-away re: how to think critically about the output of "scholar-celebrity" types. With both him and Zizek, it's idiotic to take their less well-based ideas at face value (ESPECIALLY if you find yourself knee-jerk agreeing with those ideas) just because they manage to say smart and well-informed things from time to time. Zizek knows lots about Lacan and also says lots of stupid random shit for the book sales. Peterson knows a lot about Nietzsche and also says lots of stupid random shit for the book sales. Same game, different customer.

(The signal-noise ratio on scholar-celebrities is so out of whack that simply ignoring them isn't a terrible heuristic, unless you're more interested in communication theory and marketing strategies than the subjects they're purportedly discussing.)


Peterson's arguments against Nihilism are substantive and deeply involved with his thesis about individual responsibility. Your description of him is merely hand-waving, uncharitable, and reactionary.


Peterson is a con artist who appeals to desperate and impressionable men that can’t be bothered to read the Nietzsche and Jung that he only skims for sound bites.


That you feel he is a con artist does nothing but indicate to me that all you know of Peterson is from headlines and hit pieces.

On the contrary, he is probably responsible for droves of new readers of Nietzsche, Jung, Solzhenitsyn, Piaget, William James and other important thinkers, which is certainly not a bad thing. Whether you find yourself at odds with what you think his audience is makes no difference to the strength of his arguments.

If you were honestly concerned with challenging Peterson's ideas and fans, you could squarely engage his work critically. Others have productively challenged his ideas and, as a result, have added to the progress of the discussion surrounding them. Before you do that, you're just adding to the noise which confuses and obscures issues of actual importance.


Ah the old "Peterson is a con artist/fraud", aka "I automatically disagree with what he says because he's not a left-wing atheist" or some slight variation of that.

The more people are told to stay away from his work for such intellectually lazy reasons (such that he's inflammatory, offensive, etc, primarily pushed by journalistic hit pieces), the greater the odds of the uninitiated taking a look at his work and finding some value in it. Ironically, the dynamic somewhat resembles your overly religious parents on that damn devil's music.

Note: "finding value in his ideas" does not correspond to agreeing with everything he says. There are many valid critiques of Peterson. It also does not mean that you discard everything he says because you disagree. These strike me as symptoms of lazy ideologically driven thinking, most often political, and particularly speaks volumes of the left vs right divide in America.


I’d be more convinced he wasn’t a con artist if there weren’t swarms of new accounts on HN recommending/defending him every chance they get :)


It's more telling that you've used your month-old account to drag his name through the mud just as opportunistically as those you accuse.

All you're doing is charging up the topic with more contention than you've found it with. The consequences of doing so are regressive for all related causes, especially your own.

If you find yourself elsewhere in life championing free thought and open discourse, remember this comment and know that you are a hypocrite and an enemy to your own virtues.


It is a shame that people cannot engage substantively with Jordan Peterson's decent arguments because of his tendency to be inflammatory.

What exactly about his argument that nihilism is "the easy way out" is problematic?


> What exactly about his argument that nihilism is "the easy way out" is problematic?

The fact that it is a polemical characterization and not any kind of argument at all would be the main problem I've seen in his attacks on what he calls “nihilism”.

Another problem is that he seems to use the term “nihilist” about as loosely as the average modern North American right-wing propagandist uses the term “Marxist”, so that it becomes very hard to be clear what he is arguing against specifically, which is a real problem because “nihilist” is already a heavily overloaded term that refers to a lot of different and often conflicting belief systems and affiliations.

Another problem is that to the extent that one can frame his stream of polemic as an argument at all, it's mostly one which implicitly relies on existential or moral nihilism (by presenting meaning or morality as something which is not intrinsic, but where is preferred morality is merely an idea that arose at a particular historical time and place that has certain utility to the holder to both hold and to have others around them hold) to argue against whatever it is that Peterson is calling “nihilism”. In this respect, it seems a poor, sloppy, and less honest echo of Nietzsche, who overtly embraced nihilism, but rejected passive nihilism for a more active and, in his view, productive for the individual form of nihilism.


are u with or against!


I'm not conflating the two. I'm merely citing two examples of people (among many others) who have offered approaches to dealing with nihilism.


Nihilists are often guilty of something which many teenagers are guilty of, which I call epistemological narcissism. Basically, they think they know it all, pretty much.

The cure for this is to take the extrapolation strategy which PG uses in "What You Can't Say." ( http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html ) However, you should instead apply it to "what you can't predict." Would any of our ancestors of 400 or 1000 years ago been able to predict the world of today? In many regards, they would not even have had the conceptual framework to ask the right questions in the first place!

If you don't know the future, how do you know if what you do will or won't matter in the grand scheme of things? How do you know if you can even properly conceptualize "consequence" or what "matters" for your future self? When I was growing up, books were something to be treasured. Now I'm quite aware that it's only the knowledge in those books which really matters, and the particular form they take is only a medium with certain properties. Even our concepts of identity and mind are changing, and they are bound to change much further. Given all that, how do you know if you aren't already a part of something of universal consequence?

To fully understand: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connections_(TV_series)


> If you don't know the future, how do you know if what you do will or won't matter in the grand scheme of things?

If you “know” that the grand scheme of things itself doesn't, and definitionally cannot, matter, then this isn't a problem.

Similarly, if you “know” that, whether or not you know what future events are, they are all determined and cannot be other than they are determined to be (or, equivalently, that every possible outcome will, in fact, be taken), then you can no that nothing you choose can matter in the grand (or even small) scheme of things, without knowing what will occur.

You seem to be more complaining about people who believe that there is fundamental meaning in existence, but that they are impotent with regard to achieving it, than actual (moral or existential) nihilists, who reject the existence of such meaning.


If you “know” that the grand scheme of things itself doesn't, and definitionally cannot, matter, then this isn't a problem.

Well, you can't know, and exactly how do you define "matter?"

You seem to be more complaining about people who believe that there is fundamental meaning in existence, but that they are impotent with regard to achieving it

No. I'm complaining about people who believe that there should be fundamental meaning, but are resentful that they can't seem to achieve it.

actual (moral or existential) nihilists, who reject the existence of such meaning.

Someone without hope isn't a good mate in a lifeboat or a good buddy in a foxhole. If truth be told, your current circumstances aren't far off from either of those. People without hope aren't good company in life.


In the grand scheme of things every one dies and the universes freezes from entropic heat death, so yeah...

That said Nihilism isn't necessarily pessimistic. The French Existentialist were basically weak nihilism and Camus was almost celebratory of the lack of meaning of life. "Nothing Means Anything" can be taken as "fuck it burn it all down" OR it can be taken as "there are no unforgivable sins, there is no eternal reward for martyrdom, so why not maximize our fleeting existence for 'happiness'?"


But you just did that exact same thing!

a) Do we know for sure that's what happens to the universe?

and

b) It doesn't matter anyway. "Everybody dies" is only a fact. What does the fact of heat death have to do with the question of meaning? The implication that "nothing means anything" is just as metaphysical an assumption as "everything means something."


a) math, even if not entropic heat death, a basic grasp of history show that 99.999...% of our lives are meaningless after some cut off.

b)I am specifically claiming that while "nothing means anything" is the--lie that tells the truth--summation of nihilism it, by it's very nature, doesn't imply a course of action. So it doesn't matter how metaphysical of a claim it is.


a basic grasp of history show that 99.999...% of our lives are meaningless after some cut off

Why shouldn't we be grateful to the totality of our ancestors for getting us this far? Who is to say that we could change even a butterfly wing's flutter of the distant past and still have everything turn out as now?

b)I am specifically claiming that while "nothing means anything" is the--lie that tells the truth--summation of nihilism it, by it's very nature, doesn't imply a course of action. So it doesn't matter how metaphysical of a claim it is.

You know nothing, Jon Snow!


why shouldn't we resent the totality of our ancestors?


Because it's a dismal way to live.


a) If "everything means something" is at least equal in truth-value to "nothing means anything," it's simply not a matter of percentages.

b) If I understand you correctly, I think you're sneaking the assumption of nihilism back into your argument. The "lie that tells the truth" could also very well describe "everything means something," since I undeniably experience meaningfulness as something and not as nothing, despite all scientific facts. Just as I experience you as another soul though I know you are "just" matter. And this undeniable experience of meaning would undeniably imply a course of action. Non-harm (not treating a soul like an object) most immediately coming to mind.


In the grand scheme of things every one dies and the universes freezes from entropic heat death, so yeah...

{facepalm}

We don't know what Dark Matter and Dark Energy are. We have no idea what happens if/when the expansion of space itself starts pulling quarks apart.

https://www.quora.com/What-happens-when-you-pull-apart-a-pai...

You only think you know what's going to happen, based on the limited toy understanding of the vast universe which can fit into your present day little ape brain.


The entropic heat death of the universe comes more from the notion that R=1 is implied by the conservation of energy and so while the universe might stop expanding at t=∞ the average energy of any particle at that time will be 0.

if R>1 same thing but faster.

The other option is that we all die and then the universe collapses... which is just as final for anything hanging around as heat death would be.


The entropic heat death of the universe comes more from the notion that R=1 is implied by the conservation of energy

{facepalm}

Physicists already know that on the scales of the universe, there is no conservation of energy.

I hate to break it to you folks, but most of you are dead wrong about conservation laws. Conservation laws are a fundamental part of your education, but they are not a fundamental part of the universe. They are dependent on symmetry, as German mathematician Emmy Noether figured out. What this means is that energy is not conserved on universal scales, though it is still a very powerful analysis tool on smaller scales. We already have good reasons to believe that there is no time symmetry in deep time. The part relevant to the above specifically is at 10:15, but the whole video is worth watching.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUn2izowBkw

We know that the universe is expanding, and that this expansion is accelerating. So, do you know what happens when the expansion of space itself starts pulling quarks apart? Can you describe the physics? Do we even know that is going to happen?

Also: Physics Girl -- On universal scales, energy is not conserved! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHCc9b2phn0


>>Do we even know that is going to happen?

no one you can conceive of caring about will be alive and nothing you do now will have any noticeable effect on them.

But also yes we have worked out the math for a hyperbolic universe and it is still not effected by 21st century morality.


You’re not wrong, but you’re not a good teacher either. Rudeness and mockery don’t add anything, and in fact take away from your ability to inform people. You’re also only half right, insofar as nobody knows is a very accurate statement. You’re wrong however, that conservation laws definitely don’t apply. We just don’t know if they do, and there are reasons to believe (you reference Noether’s theorem) why they might not. The truth is, “Nobody knows” with a period and a full stop.

It’s also worth pointing out that universal expansion has an effect only on distance scales larger than galaxies. There is no reason to believe it will pull apart smaller structures, never mind subatomic ones. It’s a popular misconception that the expanding force is great on small distance scales. On the scale of a galaxy, that force is overcome by gravity, so needless to say the Strong force won’t even notice it.

Tl;DR Metric expansion is a powerful cumulative force on giant distance scales, weak on small (below galaxies) scales. Galaxies, stellar systems, stars, and Hadrons will be just fine, thanks.

If you’re going to scold people, you could at least be right. It is also a good idea not to rely on just YouTube videos for your arguments.


In the grand scheme of things every one dies and the universes freezes from entropic heat death, so yeah...

In the grand scheme of things, perhaps the dark energy driven expansion of space-time continues to accelerate until quarks get pulled apart, which increases their potential energy, creating more quarks to get pulled apart in an exponential cascade, simultaneously throughout the entire universe. What the hell happens after that?


To me at least, the lack of meaning comes to what we are. If we are just a really complex phenomenon, then why are we more important then other such things? If our consciousness is just emergent behavior of a lot of brain cells communicating, then why are we more important than the particles of air making wind, or ants acting like a being together? Even the concept of self or being is a illusion, our sensation of continuity is just a byproduct of our memories.

And if we are comparable to the wind, why does anything we do is special? Why do something rather than other thing? Why create things and not destroy everything? Why prefer a type of phenomenon instead of other?

I can't grasp it no matter what I read on the subject or on philosophy (but I never really discussed with someone who could point me to good directions). Everything I read seems to base its ideas on some axioms in which I don't think are true, such as that human life is important, or that we should maximize individual or collective happiness, or anything like that.

Yeah, we don't know a lot of things. Maybe consciousness is not only emergent behavior. Maybe we have a soul or something like that. But it's hardly the truth at this point, it looks like just a false hope we can hold onto.

I also don't share the text or video views. I'm quite pessimistic although I don't act like that. I do like to hold onto the hope I'm wrong.


For me, it comes down to the meaning that I experience in my life personally, and in the small amount of meaning carried by my actions as they ripple outwards gently towards the distant future -- perhaps touching many people in a small way.

If someone, a million years from now, experiences slightly more beauty and understanding in part because of my actions, I find that to be incredibly fulfilling. Even better if they are in another star system!


I'll try. We are different than the wind in that we tend to be more ordered than random particles bouncing around. Our cells are ordered and so too is our DNA, which depends on specific ordering of molecules. This ordering of our world has increase with our number, not only human, but life in general. We export our entropy. It looks like we are going to further this ordering of matter when you look at our advancements in processors, memories, 3d printing, etc. We are becoming the master of matter and the trajectory is geometric in advancement. If we hold out, we may well order all the matter around us. Frankly, I'm not sure what such a system would think or what a thought looks like to it, but I think it might be okay, tending towards a lack of self-harm or disorder. Some views may be more in keeping with that order and they'll proliferate if it's important that they do.

Personally, I'm happy if we learn to live better with each other and thrive together.


| "we should maximize human happiness"

I can't address everything, but the one reason to do that, at least for yourself, is because it's simply more fun to be happy than sad. Just because _X_ doesn't matter, doesn't change that _X_ might make you feel a certain way.


> If you don't know the future, how do you know if what you do will or won't matter in the grand scheme of things?

If future understanding of the grand scheme is unpredictable, then that form of decision making seems equally likely to miss the mark as reactionary non-decisions or intentionally tribally inclusive decisions. You don't really gain anything by switching between those perspectives, or by dismissing one of them, by your premise.


You don't really gain anything by switching between those perspectives, or by dismissing one of them, by your premise.

I don't care if you call yourself a buddhist or a "happy nihilist" so long as you live with yourself and interact with others as if you had a basis for hope. As for your assertion that "You don't really gain anything" -- hope is something truly valuable to gain or to lose.

In other words, "Don't be an asshole, selfish or otherwise."


I’m baffled as to why nihilism is equated with hopelessness or “asshole-ism” when I speak to others about it. I (almost jokingly) call myself a nihilist because I truly believe my life has no meaning. I am but one organism in a giant soup of beautiful organisms. If I have “meaning” - in my humble opinion - it means the maggots in my compost bin have equal meaning. I consider us, them, whatever...all a curious, albeit awesome, accident of nature.

While I think my life has no point (in the “being an accident” sense) I am exhilarated to be alive. How cool it is to experience wind, sun, procreation, driving, art, love, and on and on!

I truly believe nihilism and “hope” are not mutually exclusive. I still get up every day and do cool shit cause it’s fascinating to be alive. I can affect things, make things, and help other “accidents” with their problems.

Nihilism to me is humility. It’s a big universe and we mean f-all in the grand scheme. Enjoy the ride and make of it what you will.


I’m baffled as to why nihilism is equated with hopelessness or “asshole-ism” when I speak to others about it. I (almost jokingly) call myself a nihilist because I truly believe my life has no meaning. I am but one organism in a giant soup of beautiful organisms.

You're baffled because you're a happy nihilist, as opposed to a bitter, resentful one.


No, I specifically mean that within the premise you lay out, you don't present any advantage in predicting the future grand scheme meaning, compared to the nihilists.

If I understand your post correctly, the problem is the narcissistic thought that one can declare now about what future things will and won't matter, and things can change in the interim. That doesn't seem linked to nihilism at all (ie, positive personal philosophies of meaning have the same problem of picking the right target), nor does there seem to be a counterpoint presented which would allow you to predict the future more correctly.


No, I specifically mean that within the premise you lay out, you don't present any advantage in predicting the future grand scheme meaning, compared to the nihilists.

I can't predict. However, I can hope. I think that's worth a lot.


Well, to that, I can only quote:

> If you don't know the future, how do you know if what you do will or won't matter in the grand scheme of things? How do you know if you can even properly conceptualize "consequence" or what "matters" for your future self?

:-)

There's little semantic difference between "hope", "know what will", "think that's worth a lot", and "predict" in this future-facing context.

(Note that I'm not promoting nihilism here, only pointing out that what you state against nihilism actually applies against many things broadly, in the exact same way, to the point where it could easily be used as a pro-nihilist argument.)


As a side note--and I stole this idea from an essay that I thought was by Asimov called the Scientist and the Sage but: 400 or 1000 years ago there were still basically three possible predictions: the universe will end; the universe is infinite; the universe will cycle.

It is then trivial to find philosophers who take one of those notions as a cornerstone of their philosophy and thus absolutely have a conceptual framework for the right questions.


but: 400 or 1000 years ago there were still basically three possible predictions: the universe will end; the universe is infinite; the universe will cycle.

It is then trivial to find philosophers who take one of those notions as a cornerstone of their philosophy and thus absolutely have a conceptual framework for the right questions.

We now have an inkling that this taxonomy of understanding may well be too limited. For one thing, the notion of a "beginning" might not actually have a concrete meaning. There may simply be no time before "time zero." Also, the universe may well come to a false "end" in a way which completely remixes the laws of physics and possibly remixes the very causal structure of the universe. The universe may well unfold in a series of such incomprehensible remixings in a way analogous to Roger Penrose's 5-way symmetrical tiling, where an infinity may be "covered" by a predetermined non-cyclic pattern which never repeats. That last one is something which our ancestors of 400 and 1000 years ago simply didn't have the "mental furnishing" to conceptualize.


>>For one thing, the notion of a "beginning" might not actually have a concrete meaning. There may simply be no time before "time zero."

Is not relevant to the end (or not) of the everything.

>>The universe may well unfold in a series of such incomprehensible remixings in a way analogous to Roger Penrose's 5-way symmetrical tiling, where an infinity may be "covered" by a predetermined non-cyclic pattern which never repeats.

Is usefully distinct from an un-ending universe for philosophic purposes... how?


Is usefully distinct from an un-ending universe for philosophic purposes... how?

Because the phase change boundaries may be utterly impassable and the other side incomprehensible to beings such as ourselves, but the universe itself goes on. So it's quite distinct from an un-ending universe.


What if the universe doesn't end, or at least hasn't appeared to yet, and yet you're not sure if it's infinite. Like a computer that may halt, but you can't decide if it will or not.

I hope you don't upset the operator and have the simulator suspended with this bickering about what it is. :)


Well if you believe in a god all bets are off, including whatever conception of god you believe in.


Take it easy, I just wanted to put forth another position, that of not knowing.


No, no. That's the thing: if we have no fucking clue-- "not knowing"-- we have no direction or guidance and thus no way to distinguish (globally) good versus bad and we end up running off what "we" feel is right. And yeah that can lead Hitler but it can equally lead to MLK Jr.

Again I'm not saying Nihilism is "good" I'm just saying it doesn't necessarily lead to one set of morals, and what ever you allow it to lead you to can infact be almost congruent with Abraham or Quetzalcoatl or whatever.


I don't think it's necessarily "know it all". Atleast for me, the subjectivity of morality merely means that everyone's morality is correct. Of course, I will disagree when someone claims something is a natural X or inherent Y, but that's a debate that both sides can leave satisfied, usually.




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