Comments on “Nihilistic anxiety opens into play”

Nihilism as base camp

End of the world philosopher 2015-07-27

There is massive universal suffering going on and everything is just wrong in the world.
Some people, like me, take the blue pill in order to escape the Matrix but stray to nihilism. I would like to become a bodhisattva but I’ve been stuck in dualistic nihilism. Maybe because I haven’t yet been able to locate the hero aspect of myself.
I keep trying to climb up the high mountain but always, after some initial success, eventually fall back to base camp Nihilism.
I’m getting old and tired. Please tell me what do you think there is silly in that situation?

Enjoying the foothills

David Chapman 2015-07-29

Nihilism is a basically intelligent stance, because it requires seeing through the Matrix-like illusory promises of eternalism. So it’s not silly in general.

It’s also extremely unpleasant. Nihilistic depression and anxiety are awful. (I am prone to nihilism, so I know this well.) I don’t mean to make light of this at all.

As an understanding of the world, though, nihilism is simply wrong. Usually it obscures its wrongness through intellectualization. When you see through that, it can be very funny; and when people insist on being serious even when it’s obviously wrong, that does become silly. (My essay about Lovecraftian nihilism is about that.)

Nihilism, here, is the stance that everything is meaningless. This is obviously wrong; meanings are obvious everywhere. When we point this out, nihilism falls back to “it’s not really meaningful” or “not ultimately meaningful”; and when you ask what that means, eventually nihilism retreats to “meanings are not enforced by God,” which is perfectly true, but so what?

When you notice that ordinary meanings are meaningful, and cosmic meaning is an irrelevant mirage, nihilism ceases to be a problem.

“Trying to climb up the high mountain” sounds like it might be the stance of mission, which is exhausting. When it fails, nihilism is a likely next stance.

Nobility does not depend on accomplishment; it is sufficient to maintain the attitude. Realizing that, one can enjoy the foothills, and find ways of being helpful around the base camp.

Positive antidotes other than amusement at absurdity

Remedios 2018-01-25

I understand what you’re saying, in this post. The transformation or antidote you suggest (to laugh at absurdity) isn’t accessible to me on a physical level. I find absurdity mildly distressing, not humorous… just because. This could be from some OCD tendencies. To complicate matters, during a bout of depression, it can be impossible for me to experience joy or humor at all.

There may be antidotes for anhedonic nihilists like me, however. Amusement is only one of 13 types of enjoyment identified in the Dalai Lama’s atlas of emotions!

To transform my nihilistic anxiety without requiring amusement, I will sidestep the “Even if this is funny, I don’t find it meaningful that it’s funny” problem and go straight to an enjoyment emotion I do have. Since for me laughing is meaningless, I’ll invoke the types of enjoyment that are meaningful to me:

  1. Excitement and Pride
    I’m figuring this out!

  2. Peace and Relief Some of this might start making sense now.

Have you looked at the

Seymour Brighton 2019-11-12

Have you looked at the universe? It is absolutely Lovecraftian. Planet earth alone is riddled with the sublime. It’s horror for any conscious being, from the most massive, all the way down to the smallest objects and creatures. If there’s a God he’s a sick, sick puppy.


dreieck 2021-12-29

I am thinking if “Lexx” can also take the place of the work of “Lovecraft” here. This at least would explain why I like the parts of Lexx, which are absurd but do not focus on the (universe-destroying) background story.

Shifting what you mean by meaning

Thomas Paynter 2023-08-27

I think you are being squishy with what you mean by meaning (maybe I just haven’t yet read where you clarify). When you say things like, roughly, “meaning is obviously everywhere,” or claim that nihilists contradict themselves by acting as if the statement “everything is meaningless” is meaningful it seems as if you are using ‘meaning’ in the sense that the sentence “I am sitting in a chair” is meaningful. Yes, it means something as a matter of language. But it lacks meaning in the “who gives a shit, why are we here” sense. So yes, everyday meanings are everywhere. But satisfactory answers to “who gives a shit”-or “why should I give a shit”-can seems sadly lacking.

As for the supposed nihilist contradiction, yes, nihilists act as if the fact that everything is meaningless has meaning. It is not a nonsense statement; furthermore, it is a statement with an important and consequential meaning, if true. But what it isn’t is an answer to the question “why should I give a shit.” In fact it is a negation, a confirmation that no, you should not give a shit.

Sometimes you seem to straw-man nihilists as literally believing nothing, not even words like “I am sitting in a chair”, mean anything, as if they are sticking their fingers in their ears going lalala and claiming everyone is babbling literal nonsense. If someone says “everything is meaningless, there’s nothing worth giving a shit about,” it is not a gotcha to respond “you obviously find the fact that everything is meaningless pretty significant, I.e meaningful.” Yes the words and concepts contain significant information; but the person still doesn’t have a reason to give a shit, and that is the point.