Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Notes on Meaning (part seven)

From Nihilism, The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
... the postmodern man, a dehumanized conformist, alienated, indifferent, and baffled, directing psychological energy into hedonistic narcissism or into a deep ressentiment that often explodes in violence. This perspective is derived from the existentialists’ reflections on nihilism stripped of any hopeful expectations, leaving only the experience of sickness, decay, and disintegration.

In his study of meaninglessness, Donald Crosby writes that the source of modern nihilism paradoxically stems from a commitment to honest intellectual openness. “Once set in motion, the process of questioning could come to but one end, the erosion of conviction and certitude and collapse into despair” (The Specter of the Absurd, 1988). When sincere inquiry is extended to moral convictions and social consensus, it can prove deadly, Crosby continues, promoting forces that ultimately destroy civilizations.


Anonymous said...

Can you bring awareness to the following in you:

will to live

will to pleasure

will to power

will to meaning

What comes out afterwards?

Anonymous said...

The following paragraph is from the same page:

the Faustian nihilist “shatters the ideals”; the Apollinian nihilist “watches them crumble before his eyes”; and the Indian nihilist “withdraws from their presence into himself.” Withdrawal, for instance, often identified with the negation of reality and resignation advocated by Eastern religions, is in the West associated with various versions of epicureanism and stoicism.

#Has Indian civilization collapsed?

#From the same page:

Among philosophers, Friedrich Nietzsche is most often associated with nihilism.

#Now consider this:


Throughout the 1880s, in his notebooks, Nietzsche also developed an equally elusive theory of the “eternal recurrence of the same” and much speculation on the physical possibility of this idea and the mechanics of its actualization recur in his later notebooks, which becomes tied with his theory of will to power as a potential physics integrated with the “eternal recurrence of the same.” Nietzsche appeared to imagine a physical universe of perpetual struggle and force, which successively completes its cycle and returns to the beginning again and again.

#How will Nietzsche's nihilism be seen in Hinduism considering that he was thinking about cyclical existence of universe?

Anonymous said...


If we accept that all perspectives are equally non-binding, then intellectual or moral arrogance will determine which perspective has precedence. Worse still, the banalization of nihilism creates an environment where ideas can be imposed forcibly with little resistance, raw power alone determining intellectual and moral hierarchies. It’s a conclusion that dovetails nicely with Nietzsche’s, who pointed out that all interpretations of the world are simply manifestations of will-to-power.

#There is no need to be 'alarmed' by nihilism as advised by Karen Carr. This has already happened a few centuries ago. Intellectual arrogance of brahmins divided the Indian society into caste system and placed themselves as superior to others. Kshatriyas (denoting raw power) also enjoyed a higher status than others. All this was preceded by Buddhist influence on Indian society denoting nihilism (emptiness/shunyata, a concept in Buddhist philosophy). Though Karen Carr is right about what nihilism might result in, there is no need to be alarmed (or may be there is, depending upon your disposition) as all this seems to be cyclical.

Anonymous said...

"promoting forces that ultimately destroy civilizations."

#Although destruction may not happen, but profound change will happen as it happened in Indian society when Brahmins and Kshatriyas took over (Buddhist shunyata was prevalent), Communists took over Chinese society (Buddhism again), Japan's involvement in WW II (Buddhism again). Nazis also utilized knowledge to their gain (survival of the fittest, Aryans being considered superior race by them).

One needs to be cautious about this but not alarmed as humanity still survived even though above happened.

S. Hall said...


Why modern man might be better suited for nihilism: the destruction of greater truths precede him. God, morals, and traditions have already been killed before his arrival. Thus, his gradual awareness of meaninglessness doesn't strike him as a tragedy. He looks at it with relative disregard, or, at best with relief - to him, it acknowledges that he is absolutely free (to play his videogames and watch his porn).

Modern man might view the atmosphere of alarm in your recent posts as dated, or, if they're historically conscious, "old-school."

Whether this is a tragedy in and of itself is another matter.


dotosm said...

The meaning of life derives from the meaning of death. What happens to us after we die? Since this question may be scientifically unanswerable, we should rather say, important is our stance towards this question? Do we dissappear? Or continue somehow? Without deciding about this, it is a mere intellectual pastime, doomed to circularity.

dotosm said...

One can but admire your courage and honesty to abandon teachers once you discover their errors, inspite of the durations of time you may have invested on them!

dotosm said...

May you find the authentic, if it exists!

Anonymous said...

I'm simply an accident. Why take it so seriously?

Life inspires more dread than death - it is life which is the great unknown.

Life is possible only by the deficiencies of our imagination and memory.

No one can enjoy freedom without trembling.

No one recovers from the disease of being born, a deadly wound if there ever was one.

Nothing proves that we are more than nothing.

The fact that life has no meaning is a reason to live - moreover, the only one.

The desire to die was my one and only concern; to it I have sacrificed everything, even death.

There is no means of proving it is preferable to be than not to be.

When we cannot be delivered from ourselves, we delight in devouring ourselves.

Emil M. Cioran

William H. Gass called Cioran's work "a philosophical romance on the modern themes of alienation, absurdity, boredom, futility, decay, the tyranny of history, the vulgarities of change, awareness as agony, reason as disease".

Anonymous said...

To Harman,

being skeptical is not the same thing as having investigated and abandoned one’s beliefs.

Your process, pursued for sufficient years, lead you to cynicism, a common symptom amongst long-time spiritual seekers.

- Do you prefer to live and die in your real-cynical world?

If yes, stay posting your "Notes on Meaning"...

If no, turn around 180 degrees in another direction (i.e. returning to actualism path).

It´s your call.

From a fellow living in one distant land.

Anonymous said...

"Your process, pursued for sufficient years, lead you to cynicism, a common symptom amongst long-time spiritual seekers.

- Do you prefer to live and die in your real-cynical world?"

Are you suggesting that living in a castle built out of thin air is better than facing reality?

Well that is what human progress (knowledge) has made it extremely difficult to sustain for increasing number of people. If you can still sustain it, good for you but for how long? You will need to isolate yourself from the world to keep it going. That will be one hell of a task in an increasingly connected world.

I guess you didn't want a response from someone who is not an Actualist!

Anonymous said...

The unsatisfied desire and confusion which you call meaninglessness is not the absence of anything real. It is your own contribution to life, the fruit of what you have sown.

Because it is presence, not an absence, there can be an end to it.

Harmanjit Singh said...

Because it is presence, not an absence, there can be an end to it.

Meaninglessness is a void, it can be sought to be filled in various unsatisfactory ways.

To elucidate your point, why not tell me about your life, in case you have ended "it"?

Anonymous said...

Harman said: "Meaninglessness is a void".

No, it is a subjective state. It is emotional energy blocked by cognitive barriers.

Harmanjit Singh said...


It is emotional energy blocked by cognitive barriers.

I quite agree with you. That's a very insightful statement.

What I call a void of motivation, you call a cognitive "barrier".

So do you suggest sublimation of the emotional energy into sensuality (actualism), or sublimation of the cognitive energy into blissful feelings (spiritualism), or something else?

Harmanjit Singh said...

I said: So do you suggest sublimation of the emotional energy into sensuality (actualism), or sublimation of the cognitive energy into blissful feelings (spiritualism), or something else?

Let me rephrase it in a simpler way. What do you suggest?

Anonymous said...

Harman asked: "What do you suggest?"

I suspect it is not the lack of a grand narrative which fails to motivate and inspire you to live, but the presence of incompatible fragments of grand narratives which block and thwart the naturally purposeful energy of life.

My suggestion is to give life - and yourself - a break from your broken ideologies. The energy of life, the energy that you are, is a naturally purposeful energy. Let it be, let it tell its own story without being too quick to clamp a framework onto it.

And breathe. Breathing is meaningful :-)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: It is emotional energy blocked by cognitive barriers.

#On the contrary, it is cognitive energy (intellectual) breaking all emotional barriers to reveal the meaninglessness of it all.