Against Nihilism

Nihilists historically have made statements similar to Nietzsche’s comment that we live in a loveless universe. The universe does not care whether we live or die. The human race could disappear tomorrow without changing cosmic indifference – bearing in mind that it seems a rather strangely anthropomorphic conception of the universe; especially for a nihilist.

The mistaken contention of a loveless, indifferent universe is similar to the famous parable of the man who is told that “God will provide” and who, in order to escape a flood, consequently rejects the offer of a car ride, a boat ride and finally help from a helicopter, saying in his refusal in each case, “God will provide.” He subsequently drowns. When he quizzes God in heaven as to His failure to provide, God replies that He sent a car, then a boat and then a helicopter but was rejected in each case.

If God were to provide, He would need to do so using some specific method; making use of the means available.

Likewise, if the universe were to care, the best method would be to provide some agents of its benevolence and concern. These agents would tend, love and feed us as babies. Show care and concern for our upbringing and do their best to usher is into the world in such a manner that we have the best chances of flourishing. We may be waiting for the moon to wink at us, or wish that alien races on Alpha Centauri would send a text message, but some local source of benevolence would be best – where it could do us the most good. Actual human love would be best partly because this is what we long for most and partly because it is the most practical when we are helpless infants.

Babies who are not shown affection typically die. Olden day orphanages had horrendous mortality rates, particularly if they were understaffed. Merely being fed and kept warm was not enough to stop babies from dying. Even placing a hand on a baby and uttering the phrase “good baby” delivered in a robotic voice on a regular basis was enough to help babies retain the will to live.

The existence of babies who do not die and of parents is all the refutation needed of the nihilists’ pessimism.

9 thoughts on “Against Nihilism

  1. Pingback: Against Nihilism | Aus-Alt-Right

  2. Well said, with a really decisive punch-line.The misanthropy that goes hand-in-hand with nihilism is cartoonishly exaggerated and wildly unrealistic. This philosophy likes to style itself as very world-weary and cynical- but it is remarkably and revealingly naive about how actual people actually are. The existence of babies who do not die shows that most people, while at least a little bad, aren’t *that* bad.

  3. Pingback: Against Nihilism | Reaction Times

  4. Somebody really doesn’t understand Nietzsche if you think he is pessimistic. Not sure where you got that he remarks about a “loveless universe”, doesn’t sound like him and Google shows nothing. And his attitude to nihilism was complex. I’d avoid relying on cartoon versions of philosophers.

    Your basic point is a good one however.

    • Mr. Morphous – I’ll see if I can find the quotation. Nietzsche contradicts himself in many major ways, so for many positions and views attributed to him, it is possible to find its opposite. I don’t think he uses the phrase – but he expresses the sentiment, in German of course. His attitude towards nihilism was complex because inconsistent.

      • Thanks for that Nietzsche link a.morphous. I strongly disagree with the views expressed. Nietzsche rejects morality, which he identifies with slaves and Christianity. However, there isn’t another morality in reality. There is just “moral” and nonmoral. By championing the scapegoat mechanism in the form of Dionysus and saying we must accept terror and brutality, some version of might makes right, is not to offer a legitimate alternative morality. It is to reject morality as helping the weak, in the manner of Callicles in The Gorgias, who Nietzsche shamelessly rips off.

        Nietzsche pays half-hearted homage to “master” morality in The Genealogy of Morals, but he doesn’t seem enthusiastic. He is mostly interested in criticizing. Morality for Nietzsche is life-denying. Moral nihilism and nihilism in general are the same thing, as far as I am concerned.

        One thing that should raise suspicions concerning the coherence of Nietzsche’s philosophy is the fact that many on the Left and Right embrace him – obviously identifying quite different qualities in him. For my analysis see
        Nietzsche: Allure and Misunderstanding on the Left and Right

  5. Nietzsche uses the word nihilism in a peculiar way, mostly as a synonym for Christian self-denial. What he called slave morality was “nihilism” because it annihilated the Will, and without the Will, reality disintegrates into the chaos that the rest of us know as nihilism.

    You’ve made a good point, Richard. When people complain about a loveless universe, they are often blinded by a false idea of what a universe with love would look like (a universe with love being different than a loving universe). To be honest, people who complain about this often seem to be incensed by the fact that the postpartum world is not just like the womb. There’s love in the universe, but like most precious things, it’s rare and you have to look for it.

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