While I’ve read several works in literature that could pass as nihilistic, it wasn’t until Fate/Zero I could say I’ve come across a truly nihilistic masterpiece. Even the classic Neon Genesis Evangelion did not reach the nadir of such depraved nihility. Gen Urobuchi, the writer of Fate/Zero has expressed similar sentiments in his other works such as Puella Magi Madoka, but Fate/Zero serves as a platform that displays a potpourri of various philosophies that are exposed one by one as fictitious or illusory.
Posts Tagged ‘nihilism’
The following are collected tweets (@thanatology) I’ve made in the past month about posthumanism, or reviving the carrion of philosophy:
Once the window to a frozen thanatosphere opens, thought becomes razor sharp enough to slice through the rotting corpse of anthropocentrism.
Posthuman thought adjusts its peripatetic trail among the gravestones of exhausted theologies in the misty light of the Polaris of nihilism.
After 7 years, I was burned out by philosophy, yet I continued to haunt the philosophy section in search for anything radical and profound. Amidst the expected titles commonly found at any bookstore, sat A Short History of Decay. I pulled it off the shelf in the faint hopes of killing time until the cigar shop opened in 20 minutes. After a couple of hours disappeared savoring the salacious prose, I begrudgingly closed the book and hurried to the checkout counter, cackling in glee in the wonderful fortune of uncovering a new thinker that spoke blasphemous music to my eyes.
At the end of the 1949 film, Sands of Iwo Jima, after the US soldiers survive a battle, Marine Sergeant John Stryker (John Wayne) tells his fellow comrades in the trench that he’s never felt so good in his life. He asks them if they want a cigarette, and then he gets killed immediately by a sniper. Later, the others find a letter on his body that contains many things John Stryker planned to say, but never did. Absurd, I thought, when I first saw this movie. I was expecting a happy ending to the movie because the protagonists always survived the climax. I couldn’t help but be reminded of that scene when I read Albert Camus’ essay on the absurd, The Myth of Sisyphus. In this essay I will break down the concepts of the absurd, eluding, suicide and eluding, and make a few observations of my own. ↓ Read the rest of this entry…
The majority of people are so afraid of the possibility that life has no meaning, that it lacks any intrinsic worth whatsoever. This nihilism, due to the fear of the inevitability of meaningless suffering, is bolstered by the modern scientific view of the human species as just the “moldy film” of a tiny planet orbiting a very ordinary star in a ocean of billion of stars in a very ordinary galaxy in a cosmos of billion galaxies. ↓ Read the rest of this entry…
A reading of Schopenhauer, inspires a different view of old Nietzsche.
Every single thought, idea, concept, image, symbol, representation, are fundamentally distractions in themselves that prevent people from looking all the way down the rabbit hole, into the heart of the black hole, the bottomless chasm, the very abyss in itself. Ideas and images constantly flicker to and fro, unceasingly, incessantly, always coming and going, for the consciousness is a vaporous quicksilver that is essentially preoccupied with mental activity, in a permanent state of distraction. Yet, reflection has a strange function that quells this constant activity, and peels the layers away, resulting in the realization of the true essence of reality that is both beyond all temporary illusions and in between all those artifacts of consciousness….
Schopenhauer himself teetered on the brink with his philosophy when he attempted to articulate the unsayable, homogenize the unnamable incarnate and I must say, much better than any other thinker of modernity. Our slavery to our distractions obscure Schopenhauer’s insightful revelations, preventing us from ever coming to terms with them. We are reminded of Nietzsche’s chilling reminder: Lest not look into the abyss, cause the abyss peers back…
However, perhaps Nietzsche himself did not look deeply into the abyss long enough because he tiptoed back into the warm crevasses of his own illusory phantasms, the “eternal recurrence,” the “will to power,” and the “Ubermensch,” thereby restricting his understanding of Schopenhauer.
What Schopenhauer calls wille, a visceral articulation of that subterranean energy, a demonic ur-force, I call the abyss, a bottomless gulf, completely vacant of meaning, the unfathomable void. If the abyss is unknowable in any direct way, then we experience it only indirectly, through representations, concepts. In the medieval age, the abyss was chaos – that which lies beyond the edge of the world, beyond creation. Here, there be monsters!
For Nietzsche, the abyss is nihilism – the awesome consequences when foundations of civilization collapse and the bottom of culture falls out from under it. With the existentialist’s mask Nietzsche accepts the all-too-early message that God is dead and peers into the abyss of nothingness, only to find meaninglessness and valuelessness. The hope of redemption, afterworld, salvation are empty concepts or fictions that conceal the ugly realization that existence is pointless. All our greatest values – truth, enlightenment, wisdom, knowledge, progress – lose their moorings, as hollow as the hollowest idols. We end up walking up and down the cliffs aimlessly, without direction, in the grips of uncertainty.
Zarathustra is the tightrope walker who was ideally the courageous hero, for he not only look deep into the abyss, but cross it… Yet… alas, Nietzsche always slips and falls headlong into the void. The yawning black hole of nihilism is infinite… He falls for an eternity, for time always recurs eternally. However……. beyond the death of God… possibly lies redemption…
Why deicide precedes posthumanism
The significance of the death of God has many aspects, but the most important one is the painful realization that metaphysical foundations have become empty, irrelevant, and consequently, romantic. But it is human weaknesses that keeps those foundations circulating under the pretense of necessity, due to shame, cowardice masquerading as arrogance, and self-indulgent nostalgia.
Even though absolute values have lost their credibility today, we still haven’t come to grips with our murder of God. Moreover, the shift to secularism has eroded away the inertia of metaphysical foundations, yet the bloated and rotting divine corpse remains unacknowledged, the proverbial pink elephant nobody “sees.” Despite the obvious assassination of the divine, we refuse to admit the guilt of deicide. Thus our disavowal, in turn, serves as an artificial respirator that keeps a comatose, brain-dead God alive.
It is possible that sooner or later, we will come clean, collectively, and see past Feuerbach’s insight that man’s psychological illusions are behind the self-projection of his highest attributes. More importantly, we must go further than the all-too-easy replacement of God with Man, which jettisoned the philosophy of theism by introducing humanism in its place, for that is merely another attempt to forget the demise of the Divine.
Nothing profitable will come from the substitute idolatry of humanism, for both humanism and religion are co-dependent. Man is the avatar of God on earth, but Jacques Lacan would say this is replacing Master Signifier with an excremental remainder. Consequently, the death of God in turn is also the death of Man. Both “deaths” of abstractions are best understood as metaphors that signifies the collapse of humanism under the infection of nihilism in modernity.
The “death of God” is a mutation of Christianity, where the crucifixion of Christ signaled the end of the idea of God as a vengeful patriarch. The death of God, in turn, signals the end of man as a created being with a special status in all of Creation and a hotline to the Creator. Our ineradicable need for metaphysics predispose a teleology for existence – which means the alternative, a meaningless universe and a lack of ultimate reason for the existence of the human race, is far too difficult to even conceive, much less cope with.
If man has no preexisting purpose, no divine guarantee, then nor will its disappearance amount to anything either. The invention of God, perhaps, has to do with our hopes of being remembered in an absurdly empty universe. But the death of God is a necessary transition for the maturation of human culture, and the death of Man is absolutely essential for the continued evolution of the species….
When did Man kill God?
I don’t have a definite answer yet, but, right now I am looking at the shift in the many historical conceptions of God, starting with the theology of William of Occam, who lived during the apocalyptic times of the late Middle Ages: people perceived a future where God would rule directly, totally independent from the church or nature. This picture of an omnipotent God who could call good evil and evil good became known as nominalism. Since man is made in the image of God, the chief attribute of man became, in this future, his will. This focus on the will is considered in contemporary culture to be grounded in the insistence that if only the culture had enough desire, any difficulty could be overcome, according to the scholar Michael Allen Gillespie in his book, Nihilism before Nietzsche.
Another possibility is Connor Cunningham’s book, Genealogy of Nihilism, where the radical theologian finds the same roots in William of Occam, but with a different interpretation, he comes up with very different conclusions.
But the belief in God hasn’t died out yet.
The “death of god” does not mean people no longer believe in god at all, but that the God concept of the Middle ages and Enlightenment has lost much of its potency and given ground to different ones that are much weaker copies, ghosts that live on beyond the grave.
For centuries the religious thinkers in Judaism, Islam and Christianity tried to explain that God wasn’t another “being” that just existed like the other phenomena we experience. But due to the theologians’ attraction for philosophy they chose to talk about God as if he was one of the things that exist. They wasted no time in appropriating the new mechanistic science of the 17th century to prove the objective reality of god as if he could be tested and analyzed like any other particular object. This appropriation backfired with Diderot, Holbach, and Laplace when they came to the same conclusion as the extreme mystics – there’s nothing out there. Then the scientists and philosophers started declaring the death of God. The advances in science and technology in the 19th century established an autonomous independence of religion – Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, Nietzsche, Freud – with their interpretations of reality that did not have a place for God.
Even the poets articulated this shift of culture: William Blake used terms like “innocence” and “experience” in a dialectical way to show how complicated reality really was. His early poems expressed an apocalyptic sense that God was dead – the vision of the enlightenment of synthesizing truth and the God of Christianity who alienated men and women from their humanity by imposing unnatural laws that oppressed their sexuality, liberty and joy. My interpretation of this divine death is not a scientific observation, nor is it an atheistic statement, nor metaphysical speculation about ultimate reality, but the diagnosis of modern culture. The death of God has two aspects: the death of the particular god of Christianity – even though this God was the major force behind a pathological hatred for the human and the earth, it was a security blanket that safeguarded the human will from theoretical and practical nihilism. The second aspect is the God of the theologians, philosophers, and scientists – that God guaranteed the universe with structure, order purpose – is no longer. Now, this death is actually the call to creativity, to invent new structures and fresh ideals. No more cringing in the corner burdened with fictional guilt. Although the Death of God introduces us to Milan Kundera’s Unbearable lightness of Being, we shouldn’t let something else take the place of the superannuated God and make us feel humble and insignificant. The guilt is fictional, and so is everything else.
What do i mean by “humanism?”
My argument against humanism isn’t addressed to a specific type in the wiki entry, but the general theme of humanism.
The word “man” in the “death of man is functionally a technical term that takes place at the transcendental levels of the biological and historio-cultural conditions that make empirical knowledge possible. “Man” designates the being who centers the disorganized representations of the classical episteme and who also becomes the privileged object of philosophical anthropology. However, the era of “man” as a foundational concept, being privileged in the discourses of human sciences, is nearing its end. But nihilism will be overcome if and only if humanity itself is also overcome as well. Foucault’s comments at the end of that seminal work of neostructuralism, Les Mots et Choses, is a testament to the “death of man” concept:
….as the archaeology of our thought easily shows, man is an invention of recent date. And one perhaps nearing its end. If those arrangements were to disappear as they appeared… As the ground of classical thought did at the end of the eighteenth century, then one can certainly wager that man would be erased like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea.
In the book, Foucault’s method of historiography, archaeology analyzes the discontinuities in the Western episteme and describes the emergence of new paradigms, new sciences, and particularly for Foucault, man as the subject of discourse. According to Foucault, the human sciences first emerged when “man” was simultaneously constituted as the transcendental foundation of knowledge and as the primary empirical object of knowledge. Essentially, “man” is both the subject participating in the sciences and is the very object of the sciences. Yet the problem is that this apparently obliquely self-reflective position of man already undermines the objectivity of the human sciences. Furthermore, once the histories of the various aspects of “man” – language, life, labor – are developed, then “man” is no longer the foundation of history. In order to combat this loss, “man” is given a history, yet, consequently, and inadvertently, his aspects themselves also gain histories of their own. This leads Foucault to conclude that the human sciences are bankrupt: not only are these disciplines false, they cannot even be sciences at all. The human sciences lack objectivity due to the subjectivity of man.
Against humanism, Foucault argues that man is neither the transcendental foundation nor the essential object of human knowledge. How does Foucault accomplish this strategic move? By exposing the commitments of the humanist to the ideology of humanism: Humanists are committed to the human individual, subject as consciousness and will, as the originator of action and understanding, and that entails the concepts of freedom and responsibility. Foucault believes this ideology of the philosophy of man to have run its course and is slowly being disposed from the center of culture and modern thought. Antihumanism focuses on the implicit belief in human autonomy – specifically free will and consciousness – and determines it to be illusory. According to the humanist the subject is a free agent who rationally judges its course of action. This sketch is rather naive for it overlooks/marginalizes/disregards the unconscious. Due to the developments in 19th century German philosophy (Freud & Nietzsche), the role of the unconscious has bumped the conscious from the central role of the human mind and become the dominant force of behavior and thinking. If that is the case then the assumption that human actions are consciously determined is invalid. Ergo the autonomy of the human subject is rejected.