Wednesday, 12 October 2011

It really *is* a matter of nihilism versus God

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From the comments:

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.com/2011/06/psychology-of-atheist.html

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Daniel said...



Mr. Charlton,

Your dilemma, as you have described it here, very closely resembles my own. But I don't understand your conclusion (the one that leads you to accept transcendence).

You very expertly lay out a paradox, and then point out that a belief in transcendence is the only way out of the paradox. But I do not see how this is necessarily so. It is the only satisfying answer to the dilemma. But there is also another, entirely unsatisfying answer: that nothing makes any sense and the only answer is pure nihilism.

One sees the problem in judging science vs animism (your example) without an appeal to transcendent truth. But what about the ole shrug of the shoulders? The materialist/nihilist would say: yes, you are correct, moral instincts are evolved. Yes, you are correct, science can't be proven to be more true than animism except that it is much better at manipulating the physical environment, and therefore is at least pragmatically more true. And yes (you don't suggest this one, but it's an easy argument that's been made many times), what seems beautiful in art is also just a product of evolution. We don't find beautiful what slugs find beautiful. Neither are slugs interested in Caravaggio.

So, to repeat, while I find your story relevant and indeed compelling, I don't see how you really made the leap you did. Acknowledging that you don't necessarily intend this as some sort of proof (you have presented it merely as your own psychological journey), can I ask you what I have missed here in my response? Or were these questions simply never important to you?

One more rephrasing, if you will indulge me. You seem to have chosen theism because it was more comforting that pure nihilism. But I don't see how it's any more necessary that pure nihilism. One or the other, it would seem. But why, from a formal logic point of view, the one and not the other?

PS: I ask all these questions in earnest and sympathetically, and do not mean to be needlessly combative.



bgc said...



@Daniel - "point out that a belief in transcendence is the only way out of the paradox. But I do not see how this is necessarily so. It is the only satisfying answer to the dilemma. But there is also another, entirely unsatisfying answer: that nothing makes any sense and the only answer is pure nihilism."

We are agreed that nihilism and God are the only answers - but when you say 'satisfying' you seem to imply emotionally satisfying, whereas I mean satisfying to reason.

A nihilist cannot use reason, since he has no grounds at all to assume that reason is valid. Indeed a nihilist has no reason to say anything, do anything nor even to stay alive.

A consistent nihilist presumably just *feels* that everything is meaningless, including the feeling that everything is meaningless.

But having decided that reason is valid, I was trying to satisfy *reason* - not my feelings.

"You seem to have chosen theism because it was more comforting that pure nihilism. But I don't see how it's any more necessary that pure nihilism. One or the other, it would seem. But why, from a formal logic point of view, the one and not the other?"

I hope that this is answered by the previous point. It is not a matter of 'comfort' but reason, truth, the nature of reality (belief in God may, or may not, be comforting, varying at different times and situations).

Eugene (later Seraphim) Rose sets this out in his (online) book Nihilism which I have referenced innumerable times on this blog. He makes clear there really is *no middle ground* between God and nihilism: and nihilism is denial of reality - so if there ever was a coherent nihilist we would know nothing of them.

What we actually observe in the West is a partial nihilism, where nihilism is selectively-applied - usually to those parts of Christianity which stand in the path of self-gratification, or applied only to enemies' beliefs.

However, once the process of nihilism/ secularization has begun it eats away more and more meaning, purpose and relatedness - until it ends up being a hell on earth (misery, purposelessness and alienation with no hope).

As we see.

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P.S: 'Daniel' is now blogging at:

http://outofsleep.wordpress.com/





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