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22511Nihilism, American Style

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  • iambiguously
    Oct 1, 2003
      From Thomas Hibbs' "Shows about Nothing" pgs 14 and 15:

      "The need for most human beings to believe in a moral universe is
      proof for Nietzsche that lies and self-deception are essential
      conditions of human life. Once one acknowledges that untruth is a
      condition of life, one can transcend traditional codes of good and
      evil....Nihilism follows the death of God, that is, the growing
      sense that no religious or moral code is credible. This 'pessimism',
      Nietzsch holds, is but a 'preliminary form of nihilism'"


      "The chaos following the death of God is likely to lead many to
      despair, to a stagnation of the creative will; in others,it will
      engender a creative violence greater than that known in any previous
      age. Thus Nietzsche foresaw that the 20th century would be a time of
      unrivaled violence.....The advent of nihilsim deprives us of any
      common vision as it unvaels the arbitrainess of of all codes of good
      and evil..."

      Here, once again, we see this absurd need to situate nihilism
      essentially as encompassing "all or nothing" respecting human moral
      interactions. Either someone has to envelop an
      ontological/teleological "center" around which to invest
      their "philoosphy of life" or else it is the abyss. Yet humanism in
      all of its many philosophical and/or politcal manifestations has
      existed for centuries now to situate ethical interactions somewhere
      in between "all or nothing". Does humanism embrace "lies and self-
      deceptions" in doing this? No, it merely situates "right"
      and "wrong" behavior in the contexts and in the constructs of mere
      mortals. In other words, while contemplating a universe sans God
      CAN, in fact, legitametly lead to feelings of pessimism [even
      despair] it does not have to. And, paradoxically, in freeing us from
      the old metaphysical ethical contraptions [remember the Crusades?
      The Inquisition?], nihilism [one manifestation of humanism] can
      actually help to liberate us, allow us to be more flxible and
      creative in our moral gropings.

      Yet, for Hibbs, of course, nihilism can only revolve around violence
      and despair and destruction. As if, again, to imply that the "20th
      century violence" begat by folks like Lenin and Hitler and Mao would
      never have existed had it not been for Nietzsche and nihilism!! Look
      long and hard at human history to date, however, and you tell me:
      was the violence and suffering and tyranny the results of folks
      advocating "an arbitrary moral code" or of those who advocated,
      instead, the One And Only Really Realy REALLY True Truth: theirs.

      Were Robert MacNamara and all of the other "Best and Brightest"
      politcal technocrats in the 60s and 70s waging the Vietnam war as a
      bunch of raving Nihilists? Was nihilism behind the the efforts to
      save the villages by burning them to the ground?

      Humanism becomes nihilism, in my view, when it stops situating human
      moral interactions in contingency and ambiguity and situates it,
      instead, in Kantian deduction and Hegelean idealism and Marxist
      ideology. The irony being that, when it does so, it ABANDONS the
      crucial premises around which nihilism originally evolved: how ARE
      we to live in a world without moral absolutes? The fools are the
      ones who actually thought this question could be answered when,
      instead, it must always be asked over and over and over and over and
      over again.

      And then, one by one, we all die.