NihilismThe loss of meaning The Universe Next Door Chapter 5Late 19th and early 20th centuries
• Nihilism placed it confidence in the SUBJECTIVE over the OBJECTIVE • Objective- reason, logic, science, empiricism, facts, etc. • Subjective- senses, passions, intuition, opinion, desires, etc.• It directly challenged all authority and moved toward personal autonomy
German artist George Grosz
Duchamp’s The Fountain
Macbeth by William Shakespeare Out, out, brief candle!Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more; it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.
NihilismWhat is it and why did it arise in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s?
Nihilism• Nihilism was a reaction to the despair and isolation produced by a growing atheism and reliance on science and human rationality • Naturalistic view of reality
Unrestrained industrialization and the unfilled hope of a better life had left many people feeling exploited, dehumanized and isolated
Modern Times Charlie Chaplain’s assessment of the dehumanizingeffects of industrialization and unregulated capitalism
German cartoon decrying the abuses of capitalism and industry
• Metropolis -1927 by the German director Fritz Lang A modern dystopia• Explores the dehumanizing effects of modern life and industrialization
The brutality, destruction, and inhumanity of WWI left manywith a profound sense of loss and hopelessness 8 ½ million died in WWI
Many people found themselves feeling alone and adrift in anabsurd, cruel, and indifferent world (universe).
What is nihilism?Nihilism is NOT a true philosophy in the traditional senseWHY?Nihilism is a denial of truth – no universal TRUTH reason knowledge- anti-rationalism philosophy morality- “beyond good and evil”
Nihilism rejected• rationalism- • Confidence in the Enlightenment’s emphasis in reason was lost• confidence in science and empiricism• traditional philosophy and philosophical assumptions- • based in rationalism and logic• religions institutions and orthodox religious beliefs• the assumption of a universal
How does nihilism address the major worldview questions?
Prime realityThere is no ultimate reality or Truth Atheistic – no God
External reality• The universe (material world) is a CLOSED (determined) system• The system is CHAOTIC – NOT ordered • Unpredictable • Harsh • Lonely • Cruel • Indifferent • Hostile
Human beings• Humans are physical beings ONLY • No soul or spirit• Human existence (life) is solitary and lonely (meaningless)• Humans have no free will • free will is an illusion • We think we have free will when in reality we are at the mercy of a cold and indifferent determined system
Death• Complete extinction• the “abyss”• death is the ultimate absurdity in an absurd and indifferent universe
Knowledge• There is no real knowledge• human intellect and rationality cannot be trusted• If the human mind is just physical matter that evolved through a mindless process, why should we trust it?
Morality- Right and Wrong• no universal moral standards or law• Humans must live according to their passions and instincts• primary focus is on power• pride and self-realization • self- actualization• “Reason cannot establish values”• Men are “beyond and good and evil” Friedrich Nietzsche
History• History is nothing but an endless cycle of meaningless events in a meaningless universe
Friedrich Nietzsche - 1844-1900 German philosopher Son of a Lutheran minister
Nietzsche’s major ideas• Believed that Christianity produced a weak slave like morality • unrealistic and un-masculine• Men had to face the fact that they existed in a cold and indifferent universe and stand boldly and courageously in opposition to that reality. “Build your cities under Vesuvius…. Live at war with your peers and yourself.”
• Nietzsche believed that a race of Ubermensch- (Overman)- would ultimately rule over the weak and inferior • Sometimes translated as “supermen”• The lust for power was at the heart of man’s nature. • Glorification of pride, power, and strength• The ideal human being was beyond the concept of good and evil • men had to overcome the constraints of imposed morality and authority of civilization
• Nietzsche proposed that man embrace his essential nature • Live according to his instincts and passions • Power and force were the keys to human advancement• For Nietzsche, women were weak and too emotional to ever act in authentic ways
“In our whole unhealthy modernity there is nothing more unhealthy than Christian piety. To be physicians here, to be inexorable here, to wield the scalpel here- that is our part, thatis our love of man….” Nietzsche
“Whither is God? I shall tell you. We have killedhim, you and I. We are his murderers.”Nietzsche believed that humanity had “killed” theidea and importance of God by ceasing to believe.Religion and the notion of God had becomeirrelevant.
According to nihilism,humans have to face the void of a world without God, truth, morality, knowledge, purpose or meaning. “The abyss”
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad an exploration of the abyss"I turned to the wilderness really, not to Mr.Kurtz, who, I was ready to admit, was as goodas buried. And for a moment it seemed to meas if I also was buried in a vast grave full ofunspeakable secrets. I felt an intolerableweight oppressing my breast, the smell of thedamp earth, the unseen presence ofvictorious corruption, the darkness of animpenetrable night."- Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness,
“The Scream” by Edvard Munch
• Dada Art• absurdity• the “death” of art
Implication of Nihilism• no hope• no love• no meaning for one’s existence• absolute glorification of SELF• renunciation of authority and rules• pride and power as the driving force of life and existence
Question• How does nihilism appear today?• What examples in popular culture express the nihilistic perspective?
Response to Nihilism• 1 Atheistic Existentialism • If the universe and life have no meaning then we must create meaning through our actions (existence) ACTION IS THE KEY TO MEANING• 2 Christian faith • the universe and life have meaning • God loves his creation (humanity) and seeks to restore (redeem) it • there is a deep hope to be found in the ultimate reality (Christ)