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17 May 2006 @ 05:44 pm
Nietzsche; Nothingness as Philosophical Motivation  
Although not every thinker is innately susceptible to the pitfalls of radical skepticism and/or nihilism, there is a constant danger present to each and every thinker-- a vicious, infinitely regressive downward and inward spiral of insatiable analysis that has no end, except, for those unfortunate philosophers with weak intellectual constitutions, the abyss.

Consider the following excerpt from §1 of Nietzsche's The Gay Science:

Gradually, man has become a fantastic animal that has to fulfill one more condition of existence than any other animal: man has to believe, to know, from time to time why he exists; his race cannot flourish without a periodic trust in life—without faith in reason in life.

In many serious philosophers, this instinct is already inveterate and subconsciously established. They assume, right from the start, not only that this condition must be fulfilled, but also that it can be fulfilled. They do not scrutinize the condition itself, nor do they consider the possibility that there is no reason why he exists, nor reason in life at all.

Some philosophers, however, for one reason or another, fail to successfully fulfill this condition in their own minds. It may be a matter of over-analysis: the compulsion to continue asking "why" of popularly accepted axioms and fundamental truths that do not lend themselves to further dissection or explanation (leading to radical skepticism). It may be a matter of confusion: the inability to reconcile conflicting paradigms that, to the subject, each seems intuitively true enough that it should not be wholly discarded, even though it defies other paradigms that also fit the subject's intuitive criteria. Confusion can lead to insufferable intellectual frustration, and even the total abandonment of all thoughts and ideals (nihilism).

Whatever the reason, the point is simple: it is possible for even a rational thinker to lose faith in reason altogether. It is this psychological state in which I am interested: the absence of faith in reason. I offer this psychological state as a possible conceptualization of Nothingness: an epistemic abyss.

This abyss can consume, but it can also motivate. Nietzsche is astute and on target with his assessment of this particular human condition for living: man has to know why. Even the radical skeptic or nihilist can recover, and the suffering he feels in his epistemic abyss may just be the motivation that compels him to re-evaluate his intellectual approach and attempt to escape from it.
Mlover_of_anime on May 17th, 2006 11:39 pm (UTC)
good post.
Mlover_of_anime on May 17th, 2006 11:39 pm (UTC)
sorry, but it seems i have nothing (ha) to add. i've always felt radically skeptical, and nothingness is a type of truth for me. it is beautiful and alluring, something that makes more sense than existence.
(Anonymous) on May 18th, 2006 03:00 am (UTC)
1) Not ALL men have to know why.

2) Please quantify your opposition to "radical skepticism". If the conclusions they reach are reached with accurate support, what's your deal? Such is the goal of the thinker: to reach conclusions using reasoning. If their conclusions are flawed, then address the flawed reasoning. It sounds like you just got a little somethin' somethin' against the challenge skepticism presents to some conclusions you want to stand by.
indifferent child of the universe: silencenonbeing on May 18th, 2006 08:27 pm (UTC)
1) I am aware of this. I only meant to present, as evidence, that SOME do. It is not necessary to the point of my post that all do.

2) I did not mean to exlicitly oppose radical skepticism in this post, I rather meant to use it as an example of how some philosophers dig too deep, only to find that they reach a point in the metaphorical dirt in which answers are no longer found. It is that point that I have interpreted as the "epistemic abyss"-- an example of Nothingness within the context of rational analysis.
(Anonymous) on October 22nd, 2006 09:52 pm (UTC)
1.) Agreed.

Also, once again, Nietzsche is wrong. Most animals do, actually, live according to a distinct purpose. It is this 'lack of questioning' that is their greatest strength. Though it is not so much 'lack of questioning' as it is 'common sense for survival.' It is mankind that chooses to waste their lives in atrophy and expect the world to revolve around them and fall in love with their sisters.
Adamidsrevenge on May 18th, 2006 08:16 pm (UTC)
You know, all of philosophy and the great chain of whys is just a show of an active left brain. Like the anonymous man above, I have doubts that every man is rattled by the why question. But I am willing to bet that most people who worry extensively about the why question (a third circuit map making instinct) are also to given to writing about it (third circuit verbalization).
indifferent child of the universe: epistemologynonbeing on May 18th, 2006 08:23 pm (UTC)
But I am willing to bet that most people who worry extensively about the why question (a third circuit map making instinct) are also to given to writing about it (third circuit verbalization).

Precisely the reason, I suppose, that I have done so.

I am aware that the infinite-regress-why conundrum does not plague all people. It does, however, undoubtedly plague some (myself being at least a single example). It is, hence, the existence of this quandary in at least some minds from which I aimed to extrapolate an interpretation of Nothingness in an epistemic context.