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A Respone to nihlism?

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What is the Objectivist response to nihilism? Not moral nihilism, but the Nihilism Nietzsche was talking about in The Antichrist.

This is a link to a video of a Nihilist arguing with a moral nihilist (kind of a utilitarian/hedonist).

So the above guy is probably the most vulgar example of nihilism, where as the taoists might be the least hardcore nihilists. Now these philosophies are evil, but I would like to provide an adequate issue to the problem of suffering.

I mean, Ayn Rand treats it as a non-issue.... I do not know why she does though. Can someone explain why Nihlism is wrong. I have some ideas on solutions, but I was curious on what Ayn rand though.

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Wow, this guy has the philosophy of... well, pretty much every Final Fantasy villain ever.

First, I wouldn't say the person in the video he was responding to is a "moral nihilist" - as you said, he's a utilitarian who seemed to be advocating "the greatest good for the greatest number." In any case, Rand didn't write much about nihilism because there's not much to write about - it's not even a belief, it's the negation of belief. In a sense, the whole of her philosophy is her response to nihilism; by giving answers to the major questions about existence, knowledge, human nature, and choice, she shows that there are meaningful solutions to these problems.

As for the claims made in the video, where do I start? It's difficult to count the number of terrible premises he's arguing from. To me, the four most egregious ones are:

1. Ethics is about minimizing the suffering of the collective.

2. Real happiness doesn't come with "a price," i.e. proper happiness is automatic.

3. Life is the story of the "haves" exploiting the "have-nots."

4. The fact that life is finite makes achieving values impossible.

Of course, Objectivism rejects all of these claims:

1. Ethics is a code of values to guide man's choices, with the goal of furthering his life. While to a rational man, the flourishing of other people is a value and the suffering of other people is a dis-value, neither is his fundamental concern. The existence of suffering does not eliminate the possibility of a happy, moral life (our friend would contest this, of course - see (2)). It's not hard to see, then, why the Objectivist ethics regards a man who would destroy all life in response to suffering as pure evil.

2. Because life is a process, it requires effort. Thus, there can be no such thing as "happiness without a price tag." It's also not true that pleasure is solely the result of staving off suffering. I think everybody knows athletes who are already in excellent health who still enjoy working out, or an older man who hasn't retired because he loves his job too much.

3. The world is not a pie over which people fight for fixed slices. One man's gain is not another's loss. This is the principle that makes benevolent interaction between human beings possible. This is covered extensively in "The 'Conflicts of Men's Interests" in The Virtue of Selfishness, so if you want an extensive rebuttal to this point I would read that, if you haven't already.

4. While the observation that everyone and everything we value will be no more someday is depressing, it doesn't negate the achievement of values over the course of one's life. Again, life is a process, not an end result. We seek productive work, hobbies, and the company of friends for the time we will spend enjoying them, not because we expect them to be eternal. Making this argument is like saying that you can never enjoy a movie, because it will be over in two hours.

The most disturbing thing about this video to me is how many up-votes it has. People are scary sometimes...

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Haha so true about the final fantasy comment.

1) The dude is a moral nihilists. He claims to be at least. He just sees his choies as arbitrary, even though he chose a utilitarian belief system. Some moral nihilists are practically individualists.

2) My question is how one should respond to the problem of suffering. Maybe the response is "suffering is not a problem", which seems to be the Objectivist response. Nietzsche wrote about this extensively, and I was wondering if Ayn Rand agreed with Nietzsche, or really did think that suffering was trivial (even though it is a part of many peoples lives).

3) Another alternative to nihilistic philosophies is existentialism. They tend to say things like "sure, life is full of pain, and there isn't any meaning to this pain, so I will make up a reason, cause thats okay." Existentialists are douche-bags though.

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2) My question is how one should respond to the problem of suffering. Maybe the response is "suffering is not a problem", which seems to be the Objectivist response. Nietzsche wrote about this extensively, and I was wondering if Ayn Rand agreed with Nietzsche, or really did think that suffering was trivial (even though it is a part of many peoples lives).

Suffering is a problem and it's not trivial, it's just that there is not the expectation of suffering as normal to life, or as metaphysically to be expected of existence. (Investigate more Rand's conception of a benevolent versus malevolent universe.) Suffering is caused by impotence at dealing with reality, philosophy is supposed to help give you practical guidance for succeeding at dealing with reality, so that's Rand's response to suffering. People experience failure, frustration, loss of values, injustices, and so on, but the point is that only applied reason can investigate the causes and solutions to the problem of suffering.

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This guy is completely incapable of looking at people as individuals. He probably lives in his mothers basement, wasting the day away projecting his own misery on the "human race", as if its an entity that feels and acts and chooses. Id suggest that he stop being a hypocrite as soon as possible, which I see as a pretty straighforward prescription, not much reading between the lines neccessary.

As for the Objectivist response to suffering, dont suffer. Pain in life is unavoidable, but in the context of todays modern civilization, wallowing in misery to to point of suffering is a choice. When you look at ethics from a perspective that judges the moral status of your actions based first on how they affect your life (egoism) vs. how they effect others lives (altruism) its clear that the only way to address the problem of suffering in the world is to put yourself first, and hope others do the same.

Edit: a strange thing happened, the first time I watched this I was disgusted, as I went back and watched again it was hilarious!

Edited by JayR
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Suffering is a problem and it's not trivial, it's just that there is not the expectation of suffering as normal to life, or as metaphysically to be expected of existence. (Investigate more Rand's conception of a benevolent versus malevolent universe.) Suffering is caused by impotence at dealing with reality, philosophy is supposed to help give you practical guidance for succeeding at dealing with reality, so that's Rand's response to suffering. People experience failure, frustration, loss of values, injustices, and so on, but the point is that only applied reason can investigate the causes and solutions to the problem of suffering.

I have been trying to make a counter argument to this, and I have to say that after attempting to write several posts I can not. It seems like even "four signs" (death, age, disease, and meditation) that Buddha saw are refuted by a proper use of reason, and that although suffering is extremely likely in some quantity in people's lives, this is only due to human error and not to some existential problem.

So a question remains though, how do we respond to suffering that we can't control? Terminal Illnesses, The collapse of a nation etc.

There are few options I see

1) Fight it tooth and nail anyways, and seek comfort in that. <--- Seems like the Objectivist choice, but this is how some versions of existentialists seem to portray all of life.

2) Embrace suffering, learn to enjoy it, make it yours, masochism. <--- Other existentialists treat life this way also.

3) Detachment (Zen/Taoism/Yogic Action) <---- SO yeah nihilistic philosophy.

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I have been trying to make a counter argument to this, and I have to say that after attempting to write several posts I can not. It seems like even "four signs" (death, age, disease, and meditation) that Buddha saw are refuted by a proper use of reason, and that although suffering is extremely likely in some quantity in people's lives, this is only due to human error and not to some existential problem.

So a question remains though, how do we respond to suffering that we can't control? Terminal Illnesses, The collapse of a nation etc.

There are few options I see

1) Fight it tooth and nail anyways, and seek comfort in that. <--- Seems like the Objectivist choice, but this is how some versions of existentialists seem to portray all of life.

2) Embrace suffering, learn to enjoy it, make it yours, masochism. <--- Other existentialists treat life this way also.

3) Detachment (Zen/Taoism/Yogic Action) <---- SO yeah nihilistic philosophy.

Well it's like this. Most people are not totally irrational and full of Jim Taggart-like hatred of existence and life itself. Most people that turn to these religions and mystic philosophies are using them as defense mechanisms. Remember when Galt says the mystics run a protection racket? Mystics need people who are suffering and so they spend time trying to convince us that suffering is unavoidable and intrinsic to existence. St. Augustine asked what are the cardinal facts of human existence, and answered suffering, pain, and misery. People break down and turn to these things for consolation and emotional support.

Philosophy only has so much to say about happiness and suffering. At some point the science of psychology has to take over and explain what exactly causes happiness and misery in human beings. A scientific theory of mental health and mental illness can be discovered. But the point is, misery should be seen as the exception, not the rule, not what your life should revolve around. Rand's benevolent premise explains why you should be motivated by values and achievement thereof, not fear of suffering and losing them. Secondly, you can't combat the misery with false hope and faking reality. The first thing that will suffer is your self-esteem as you know you will be lying to yourself. These people in that video know what they are doing, if not that it is bad for them. If taken consistently, some of these belief systems lead to the idea that the only way to not suffer is to renounce any further interest in life on earth and long for death. But how is that going to make you not suffer and become mentally healthy?

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I agree. But that doesn't answer my question really. We can say that there is nothing in life that makes suffering unavoidable off the bat. But some people deal with suffering, that is in their context, outside of their control. I am just talking about what the proper attitude is towards this kind of suffering given that you can not do anything about it.

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I agree. But that doesn't answer my question really. We can say that there is nothing in life that makes suffering unavoidable off the bat. But some people deal with suffering, that is in their context, outside of their control. I am just talking about what the proper attitude is towards this kind of suffering given that you can not do anything about it.

Yeah that's a toughie, but as far as I can see it, you have to realize that the amount of happiness you can attain in society is always limited, and that just has to be accepted. Secondly, there are things that happen to people that are out of their control and those just have to be accepted. In other words, you can't take the “what could have been, but isn't” as the standard of what your life should be. You have to be able to accept and work with the conditions of your existence to achieve values.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Nihilist's rarely fully integrate what it requires because consciously this is basically not possible. Most people who claim this title that I know reject it in the axioms behind other knowledge they are using to exist. Were anyone not to do this they would suffer until deaths end. Yet by surviving in reality and communicating in it they accept the existence of reality - they just refuse to give it much thought. To me it is just an evasion of the effort required to develop a moral code which comes from reality and a conscious effort to avoid the conscious effort of having values. Yet, as axioms, they have values: they like to eat, have sex, and so on like everybody else.

I believe Ayn Rand's works as has been said are all arguments which negate such philosophical laze as Nihilism. Peikoff I think explains it better in OPAR, I can't remember the exact words. To express these Nihilist ideas they must do so in reality, and simply by the act of communicating they accept existence as an axiom. So my refutation is like this:

"We cannot know the real world,"

"Yet you are expecting me to know it, to understand what you are saying, and thus you accept it anyway as an axiom."

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