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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
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
yes, the grand projects rejection!
"...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."

hmmmm. that is an interesting take on nihilism, one i have not really heard or thought about. based on that description, i would have more affinity with a nihilistic perspective than i tend to think i do.

your contrast of nihilist vs non-nihilist anarchy sounds a bit like the contrast between left(ish) vs "post-left" anarchy, to me.
@funky  from what i have noticed, nihilism tends to have two meanings in broad society.  most generally it is used basically as a derogative term for people with generally despairing attitudes and a strong amount of skepticism.  people probably picture things like poeple screaming 'god is dead', drinking a lot, and acting with no thought for consequences because 'nothing matters, its all meaningless'.

when discussing nihilism as an actual thought process or philosophy, it tends to be described more or less how i have; a lack of belief in intrinsic meaning or value.  the word itself is a combination of 'nihil' meaning nothing, and 'ism' denoting an ideology or philosophy, and is generally used by academic philosophers to badmouth and malign other philosophers.  nihilism is often linked with 'existentialism', which generally shares all the basic premises such as the rejection of intrinsic meaning, it just isnt satisfied with the final result, and so tends to throw meaning back in at the last moment, latching onto things like morality and absolute truth.  existentialist thinker's actually tended to spent quite a lot of their time attacking nihilism, and trying to somehow pull meaning from all the nothing they find.  for example, sartre appealed to the causes of 'humanity', and to the that of the communist project; and nietzsche to the ubermensch and weird ideas about eternal recurrence.  kierkegaards response to the lack of meaning was basically 'rationality leads me to some dark places so fuck all this, i have faith in god'.

personally i learn a great deal from these philosophers' writings, especially the ones that get more freaky, but with a lot of them they stop short of where it really starts to get interesting.

an interesting thing to note is that stirner -like the other philosophers i mentioned above- is often lumped in to both 'existentialism' /and/ 'nihilism', if he ever gets talked about -which is basically never-.  as such 'post-left' anarchy can be seen as leaning hard on 'nihilism'.

this is a very interesting question, first of all because how to define nihilism or a nihilist itself is vague and unclear. Nihilism is an emphasis on non-belief or nothingness, at least in the sense that the term has made sense to me. Also, within the context of anarchism, it seems to praise de-constructive as opposed to constructive behavior, for example, rather than starting a political affinity group a nihilist anarchist might say that coming up with some sort of a group label is pointless and is the beginning of a game of politics that defeats the purpose of anarchism.

Nihilism is also a reference to a type of action that is violent and destructive, for example, despite the fact that many of the russian nihilists held patriotic points of view, their praxis was often to murder people in power. Eco-extremism is seen as a type of nihlism without a look towards future political goal, as an egoist killing of people for pleasure.

As ingrate pointed out, anarcho-nihilism can be seen as depressing, hopeless realization that society will continue propagating itself, but a rejection of hierarchy and authority just out of realizing that they degrade anyone who doesn't want these things in their lives.

The thing i like about nihilism iteself is there are many different types! Another avenue of intellectual exploration of nihilism is to what extent something is an ideology, a mode of thinking, or a paradigm? What is the difference between these things? To what extend to anarchists and nihilists reject ideology but embrace paradigms or structures to help them pursue a way of life that's fun and meaningful to them?

" to what extent something is an ideology, a mode of thinking, or a paradigm? What is the difference between these things? "

those are some of the most interesting questions i have seen coming from this.
I cant say I identify with having a lack of belief in anything I don't experience directly or personally. if someone else has experienced something, and it has been purportedly observed or purposefully replicated, why shouldn't I believe it unless I believe the person is dishonest?
yes, DD, I've thought about that too...and I look at like this...

if someone else conveys to me what they experienced, I then experience their recollection of what they I don't think in terms of "belief" or "disbelief" of their stories and observations...but try to remain open to what I sense and feel through their words and bodies (and vibrations, etc.)....and I may resonate or feel curious or feel disconnected or experience any variety of other feelings...

even my own telling or writing or recollecting in my mind of experiences I've had - they change with each retelling and remembering and imagining...

I feel less interested in "believing/not believing" the more I put my energy toward relating in a more sensory way....trying to let the concept of objective truth fall away...
i was more or less referring to delusion rather than lies

"I feel less interested in "believing/not believing" the more I put my energy toward relating in a more sensory way....trying to let the concept of objective truth fall away..."

‚Äčthis is what i meant btw that one time I said that I don't agree with the "nothing is real" sentiment ive seen here sometimes. I have a much easier time accepting objective truth in Newtonian physics than I do with a way of life. do you make a distinguishment? this is why I personally I actually don't entirely trust my senses, however that being said I certainly trust them more than the words of another person.‚Äč but I trust experimentation trial and error more than I do my own senses. like the way that we experience motion, it seems as though objects simply stop, they lose kinetic energy and stop without an opposing force. however, we know now that it is the force of drag that stops these objects, or friction from the ground/rolling resistance. these things can be observed with your own eyes with a properly set up experiment.

here I don't really feel an urgent desire to let objective truth fall away and if I did I would have trouble with the fact that these things happen the same way every time, over and over.

edit added without an opposing force

you use your senses when experimenting though, don't you?

and if i encounter something happening the same way over and over, i still wouldn't call that "objective"....i use my senses to notice something happening repeatedly....then i might further think about what i sensed, and/or react or alter my actions in response to what i perceived.....which matters to me as i move about in my life....but i don't see those perceptions as "objective".

of course, in my comment, i meant to refer to your comment (DD) about "believing" something because someone else experienced it. in those cases, i perceive/sense/interpret based on someone else's description of their perceptions from their experiences.

i do remember the "nothing is real" comment you made a while back, but i wouldn't describe my view that, i don't know what you mean by that.

and by "sensing", i mean a lot of things....the usual five senses and several others.
@dd except that the scientific community doesnt even consider the newtonian model 'true', just useful at human scale.

as @bornagain says, you use your senses when you experiment.  i find it interesting when people say they dont trust their senses, as they are using the testimony of the senses to arrive at a conclusion that you cant trust yours senses.  its kind of self undermining
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.