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+2 votes
by (53.1k points)

4 Answers

+1 vote

i define it as a lack of a belief system or ideology....

as using your senses, thoughts, and feelings in the moment as opposed to having some plan by which you (and others) should live.

(edited after further reflection from the comments/discussion that followed...thanks funky and skyline)

by (8.5k points)
edited by
im not sure about this one.  i dont think that lack of 'belief' necessarily encapsulates nihilism well, as you can believe things feel a certain way, or taste a certain way, at least thats how i use the word.  additionally you could say that you 'desire justice', which doesnt seem to me a very nihilist point of view.

edit: bornagain changed the answer, the sneaky bastard!! his original answer contrasted 'belief' as un-nihilistic with 'desire', 'think', 'feel' as nihilistic.
i like your point about "desiring justice". perhaps the idea of "justice" itself implies a belief (of right and wrong, or fairness).....i'll give that some more thought.

the tasting and feeling though, i don't see where belief comes into play....i sense a taste or feel an emotion, but i wouldn't say i believe in them.

the word "belief" could mean a few different things. but i don't use it, as i usually associate it with "belief system". i think or imagine certain things. i know certain things based on my experiences. but i don't know how "believing" fits in there, other than as a projection of a future society.

when looking up the etymology of the word "believe", i found "to hold dear" as the earliest meaning...which i like used in that way....but as i hear it usually, like "i believe in education" or "i believe in ghosts" or "i believe in stricter gun laws", or "we believe in one, holy catholic and apostolic church" implies to me either a) the way things "should be", or b) implying the existence of something not experienced.
with the 'belief in taste', i meant you could believe that pizza generally tastes pleasurable, whilst not actually tasting any pizza.  as you say, it is a projection of a future world.  it might be based on past experience, but it seems to me to be a 'belief' rather than 'knowledge', if 'knowledge' is conceived as something somehow fundamentally different from 'belief'.
ahhh, like if you've never eaten pizza?

yeah, in that case, i'd say i "think" pizza tastes pleasurable.

i guess i've spent time thinking about why people say "believe" when they could say "think" or "imagine", or "know", depending on the situation.

sometimes they might mean the same thing as think/imagine, but usually i've found "belief" as a very strange stronger than saying "i think", but yet not meaning "i know".
welcome to anarchy101, where we talk to plant-pimps, slight each other with toenails, and have philosophical discussions about nihilist pizza!!!
i don't feel qualified to speak intelligently on nihilism (or anything else, now that i think of it). my elementary understanding would be something like: "a nihilist acts without expectation or intent of any outcome from their action."

but the word "belief" is one i have thought about and discussed quite a bit over the years.

i think often, the word belief is used in ways that make it virtually synonymous with the word "faith". that is epitomized by the phase "believe in". since i have no use for faith, i have no use for belief (used in that way).

there is something in there that speaks to the concept of "trust". i generally only feel trust based on my lived/observed experience, or occasionally, the lived/observed experience of someone i already trust.

however, i have no problem saying something like "i believe it is raining out, you should probably wear your muck boots". in that context, it is more synonymous with the word "think" (than the word faith). think and faith are somehow diametrically opposed, in my mind. which i guess demonstrates just how wide a range of uses the word belief has.

but like ba@, i don't tend to use the word, due to the predominance (in my mind and experience) of its use in the former (faith) context.
i mean, never having eaten pizza is one example, but i was also including having eaten pizza before and then 'thinking' or 'believing' that a different pizza in the future would probably be tasty.

ok, imma do it, imma say i dont believe in pizza.  to me, pizza is not an existent category, that somehow there is 'pizzaness' in the universe, that somehow once you have eaten a pizza, you can 'know' about future pizzas.  each pizza is unique, and is linked to other 'pizzas' only because we link it, not because there exists some sort of form world 'pizza'.

i am actually pissing myself.  also i have written pizza so many times in this comment i can only read using english phonetics.
i had to google it to make sure i was spelling it right
yeah, i definitely think -or believe- that the 'lack of faith' would come closer to encapsulating nihilism than 'lack of belief', jus because 'belief' has a much wider use, but that might just be me and my useless philosophical (mis)education.
still, for some reason 'lack of faith' doesnt seem right either.  i certainly wouldnt say that nihilists act without expectation of outcome, as i genuinely dont think that is possible.  a nihilist would still sit on a chair and expect to be supported, rather than fall straight through, or suddenly become a single point in a void of cascading infinity -though that might be nice-.
f@, fuck qualifications!

i like what you wrote there.....much of it expressed what i tried to say, but more clearly.

yeah, sometimes "believe" substitutes for "think".....and yes to what you said about "faith"....i wonder if sometimes one uses "believe" for "think" because it sounds stronger or more certain (like faith) the thought comes from outside of you rather than within you.

i like your description of nihilist as "without expectation or intent of outcome....", which makes me feel far from a nihilist! thinking about ingrate's answer along with that thought of yours....i wonder if (either of) you mean in a personal sense as well as a "societal" sense.
@funkyanarchy.  seriously.  fuck qualifications.  a nihilist certainly wouldnt care!  qualifications are for bureaucrats, conversation is for engagement :D
of course, i never call myself a nihilist or really think about using the word why the hell did i answer?!

to me "believing in" something usually comes with a cause, an institution, religion, justice, etc....and implies wanting everyone (society?) to act in a particular way.

but then "believing in" ghosts i don't think quite means that....but even then i try not to use the word....i've seen a ghost (by that i mean, i communicated with someone who had died), so i would say i've seen a ghost rather than i believe in them.

skyline....fuck education! i appreciate the conversation....yes, perhaps lack of faith might fit me better too than lack of belief....but i get the sense that no matter the words we use, we have a similar understanding, in that the idea of nihilism (like anarchy) mostly implies a lack of a bunch of shit we don't want cluttering up our minds!
skyline, i missed your additional pizza comments.... :)

okay, so having eaten some tasty pizzas before, i might think i'll love the taste of the next pizza i eat.....but i wouldn't say "i believe this pizza will taste good" (i'd use think, or imagine)...but, yeah, i know what you mean about using "believe" in that way....i might need to tweak my answer a little more. :)
i think we agree and understand at this point, and are just using different wording.  im perfectly fine to leave it at that, at least now i understand :D  there is no 'correct' way to use a word, i was just trying to understand the context behind your specific use.
nevertheless, i still dont think that that adequately describes nihilism, at least what it is for me.
looking up one dictionary meaning of nihilism, i found "the belief that life is meaningless" (much like the nihilists in the big lebowski "we believe in NOTHING. LEBOWSKI!") me, that sounds much different than a "lack of belief", as i put it.
edit looks great, if sneaky! :D
beat me by a minute, darn you
yes, someone might need to read this entire comment exchange to get back to my original answer....but (so far) i like this one better! thanks.
youve made my first comment look even more insane :(
i thought about that.....although in part i changed it because of that comment.... sorry.....
that was definitely one of the things i was alluding to, but i was more trying to do so by undermine the notion of categories themselves, rather than some failure to meet the standards of 'truth' set by philosophy.  perhaps unsuccessfully.
re: the pizza, I notice my taste buds changing over the years....and every pizza I eat contains cheese that came from different cows....and even the same cow's milk doesn't taste the same every time....the people making the cheese out of the milk changes....and the temperature of the pizza from one to the next changes, which changes the taste...not to mention all the other long the pizza sat before you ate it...and....
^^^ exactly that yes
+3 votes
If I were to apply that label to my anarchism (and I do), it is about feeling out of hope, about seeing all options as dead ends. But not being willing to give up on still fighting against what I hate.
I think of anarchist nihilism as being an empty page or an open space. No hope, but also no preconceptions about what could be.
Also it is terribly depressing at times.
by (22.1k points)
yes, i like the empty page/open space image too.

i wonder about the possibility of "hopeless" expressing something different than "not having a sense of hope".  i certainly have felt hopeless and depressed at various moments and periods of my life, so i don't mean to trivialize. maybe the idea of hope lost feels worse than not hoping to begin with?

i remember reading a little placard in my sister's house one time when i felt particularly down that said "now that i've given up hope, i feel so much better" made me laugh...and feel a little lighter.
interesting, the role of hope. i guess i don't really think about hope; it's not something i consciously have or don't have. as opposed to desires, which i definitely have. hope does seem to fly in the face of a nihilistic perspective, as i understand it. does desire as well?

expectation seems somehow related to hope; maybe a common thread is desire. hope feels much more generalized, expectation feels more focused on a particular situation. i actively try to avoid expectations, in order to avoid disappointment.
I don't think desire has a thing to do with hope. I desire many things. To meet my friends for brunch in a couple hours, to make love to the person I love more than everyone else (no offence, funkyanarchy, but we really don';t have that kind of relationship), I desire my sweet little dog cuddling into the covers at night.

I hope (I still do, even if I reject it) for a world where there are no bosses. I hope for a life free from capitalism. I hope to see civilization fail critically. I don't hold hope that any of my hopes will come true.
ingrate: when you say "i hope for a life free from capitalism", how is that different - for you - from saying "i desire a life free from capitalism"?
i would interpret a difference as, hope meaning you desire and believe in a possibility, and desire to be desire without commentary on possibility.

obviously I cant speak for ingrate, as their distinction between having a hope, and believing in a possibility of fruition of those hopes, doesn't make sense to me personally.
that may be a reasonable way to distinguish between hope and desire, if i understand correctly: desire is more of a pure "wanting"; hope is that wanting plus some level of belief that what is wanted is realistically attainable.

but ingrate said that hope has nothing to do with desire, which is why i asked how they themselves would differentiate.
+1 vote
perhaps nihilism is the lack of belief in what is outside of direct experience, or a lack of belief in intrinsic values or qualities; values and qualities present in a given 'object' independent of perspective.

i dont think this necessarily entails a feeling of 'lack of hope' in the mundane sense of the word, that is expectations in relation to desires, but a rejection of grand projects, grand narratives, grand truths, and the 'hope' associated with them.
i really love the image from @ingrate of nihilist anarchism being 'an empty page'.  perhaps one on which we can draw our own artwork -forgive the cloying and thoroughly un-nihilistic sentimentality-.  i am getting quite fascinated with the concept of emptiness at the moment, and how it relates to nihilism and anarchy, probably spurred on by my slow burning interest in daoism.

edit: i thought it might be useful to contrast what i would consider 'nihilist anarchy' and 'non-nihilist anarchy'

a prime example of the latter might be anarchist-communism, or anarchist-socialism, which place notions of society, justice, equality at the centre of their theory and practice.  these notions are assumed to possess intrinsic value in these philosophies, and as such the 'meaning' of life would be to pursue these objectives, even if they probably wouldnt be happy with me wording it like that.  this idea can be seen in notions such as 'struggle' or 'revolution', large projects or goals to which you are supposed to sacrifice yourself.

alternatively, an anarchist who rejects these notions, but instead attempts to act from their own desires might be more nihilistic -nihil meaning nothing after all-.
by (2.1k points)
edited by
well I completely agree that part of the reason experimentation is fallable is the fallability and subjectivity of our senses, and that the way we experience things is subjective, but I'm talking about the way things are, regardless of whether we can ever know for sure, or experience them as objective, could some physical realities be objective? to be clear, I wouldn't say experiencing something the same way each time makes it objective, but something happening the same way each time, and being physically or chemically constrained from happening any other way ever, and thus making it predictable, seems to be objective.

I wasn't describing your view as that now BAA, I was simply explaining why I said that, I now understand it was a misunderstanding of your view.

@sms, well Newtonian physics could be a terrible example as yes it doesn't quite work that way on the subatomic level for reasons we don't quite understand, and the macro level due to relativity.

a better example: colors, we all experience the same color differently, however the frequency of the wave and concentration of photons is... objective?

sms working on my response to that essay ill message you soon
no, i dont think that is a good example.  because objective is used to imply some disconnect from sensual experience and perception, which is impossible, you cannot experience without experiencing subjectively.  its the notion of objective itself i have a problem with, not really the examples, as if the best way to interact with the world is to pretend that we arent people, but disembodied 'rationality'.

i also think that the newtonian physics example shows the nature of the scientific endeavour; namely to control.  newtonian physics was never meant to be an accurate representation of experience, but to allow people -mostly rich people- to dominate and control nature, and by extension other people.  if you look at quotes from early scientists you can see this; they will often describe a feminine nature being dominated and controlled by -a male- science.  i think its interesting to consider what affect this mindset might have on the 'objective facts' science 'discovered' and 'discovers'.

okay, DD, i think i understand what you mean....

skyline's first paragraph in the comment above comes pretty close to how i look at the idea of "objectivity".

i don't think about "how things are", simply because i cannot remove myself from "objectivity" only can appear to me as a thought about something....a thought which supposedly i need to remove from myself in order to find objectivity. 

and of course, people argue all the time about "the way things are" or "reality", with all kinds of disagreement, with all kinds of justification for why they know what objectively happens. i don't feel motivated to look at life that feels like a hopeless and pointless conundrum to me. 

the "chemical constraints" or "protons" or "wave frequencies" came about as representations themselves....a particular way that scientific experts created to observe life through instruments created by people....i wouldn't call those observations "objective"....but i might find some of them useful (and some not).

none of this means that i think i perceive everything....only that i don't find any appeal in trying to perceive something that i cannot perceive...just saying that makes my head hurt!

sms: "disembodied 'rationality'" - yes! that's a 3-pointer!

ba@: i particularly like your paragraph about science and objectivity.

some of the best critiques of Science i have come across over the years present great arguments against the concept of objectivity and its usefulness.
thanks, funky@.
+1 vote
a couple thoughts, I would agree with the general lack of a rigid belief system, but to me personally it mainly refers to a rejection of things like, "the collective", "the masses", "the someday revolution" or even just describing anarchy, as someone else mentioned, a "grand scheme" or a plan with a definite goal (non hierarchical lack of oppression, or stateless moneyless classless society) in mind and a way to get there, that includes all anarchists, when it would be more accurate and, well, real, to try to explain what individuals or groups are doing, and what their real, tangible, and realistically attainable goals are.

someone else mentioned the concept of emptiness, and this is another important aspect to how I think personally. I said something about gaining an "optimistic nihilism" in another post but that's problematic because nihilism is clearly realistic, but what I was trying to say by optimism, is that the emptiness to me, ironically yields an optimistic feeling because I don't feel weighed down by gods, predestination, inherent universal "meaning of life", etc. because nothing matters and all the stars in the universe go dark eventually, I am my own god, I make my own destiny and meaning, I set my own standards and I alone enforce them.
by (890 points)
@donniedarko yeah, I really feel your version of 'optimistic nihilism', although I too share reservations about that word, as it often has association with 'grand project'. perhaps joyful nihilism? I don't know, I'll think fur a while to see if I can find a word I like better.
"I don't feel weighed down by gods, predestination, inherent universal "meaning of life", etc"

i can surely relate to that. it feels somehow related to my own desire/intent to not have expectations. as well as, of course, my lack of "belief in".
I don't think the modifier would go to nihilism, as it is not a type of nihilism, that feeling of my own meaning is the result of nihilism. could still use a word tho. but ive lost interest
donnie d, how does your definition of nihilism differ from egoism? (at least the latter half of your answer seems ... very similar.)
well again the latter half is the result of nihilism not the nihilism itself, so I guess you could say,

because all the stars in the universe go dark eventually (nihilism) --> I am my own god (egoism)

so I suppose you could say that  (for me) egoism is a conclusion, perhaps a necessary one, of nihilism.

^ i would concur with that statement

you cant have egoism without the rejection of all things sacred.  egoism and nihilism then, for me as well, are closely linked.  which one you identify with probably depends mostly on how you reached those conclusions.  i tend to use 'egoist' more to describe myself, as 'nihilists' will often try to 'reduce' the self to 'just' physical processes, which i find odd, self-undermining -aha ha-, and rather uninspired.  though if anyone here denies/doubts the self i would be super interested to discuss that.

eww academic papers
ikr I damn near never read anything they post on here. not that I have an aversion to reading.