In Favor of Nihilism

“God is dead. God remains dead,” says Friedrich Nietzsche, “And we have killed him.”

As strange and enraging the proclamation is, it in no way fails to appeal to the keen eye who identifies the intent of such a provoking announcement. Nietzsche, in his most nihilistic of moments, went to the point where even the divine, which, though an imperceptible entity to whom mankind refers to as “God” and which perceivably is the last refuge of beings, is thought to be long gone or inexistent. His proclamation was not to provoke man to be irreligious but to take charge of his life. Nihilism, as a philosophical ideology, indicates the purposelessness of life and one’s existence when one reaches a stage where “why?” finds no answer and all religious and moral beliefs are rejected. Subsequently, Nietzsche perceived the inexistence of divine powers, and provoked the sleeping “superman” inside each being to come forward and enter uncharted seas and dare to establish a new world order.

There are times when the “revaluation of all values” becomes paramount for making mankind wiser, but is it even essential in times when free will and choice are also prevalent? Why would one even be a nihilist when one can choose to be an optimist or a realist? What if it is not a choice and, instead, providential? Destined to be? If it is to come, it must also have an end to give way to something beyond, just as modernism led to post-modernism, truth led to the post-truth search, and so on.

Nietzsche sensed the coming of nihilism long ago, which, to our least surprise, is facing us now unabashedly. A wave of valuelessness breeds across democracies; the search of liberation has led nations to become more insecure, evident by various hysterical shows of strength to one another. As a result, man himself has become a wanderer, indecisive in the demands of decisiveness, losing all means of reclaiming his gaze on the ownership of himself. Man has lost his hold on himself. He is in a state of perpetual intellectual decay, wandering in the world seeking value and meaning. Everything is becoming relative — religion, culture, morals, ethics, politics, etc.. So, what then remains for man to hold to the highest values which themselves are becoming weak? Man must begin search for some state of a new beyond.

The pointlessness of existence is so engrossing that it makes one unaware of the faculty of reason, and one is pushed into a dark abyss where no thought is able to sustain itself, even when chased repetitively. In such a state, there is never an attempt to linger to a single thought. The condition is renowned and often argued at a broad level, being associated with disordered behaviour. Those attempting to reject the condition of nihilism forget the fact that purpose is self-created by individual perception, and if existence is believed to precede essence then purposelessness becomes an ingrained condition. There is no individual who has not fallen in this meaningless abyss where his ability to seek reasons for his own existence and the whole point of him being alive is forcefully but unknowingly restricted.

The State of Nihilism

Of all the reasons of its origin, even before “nihilism” was linguistically invented by Friedrich Jacobi, the most prime one is that of its existence in the deepest moments of despair in individuals, who, having discovered an endless friction between the reality of the world in the way it operates and the values one holds, reject all socially constructed values and seek that which is beyond all manufactured limits. The world order is seen to be obsolete and without basis, hence the nihilist seeks to break all moral and religious barriers to redefine life and give all a righteous purpose. This condition often comes when one sees the whole passage of life as a mere obligation to fulfil self-constructed beliefs, and as having no substance in purpose. Why is one alive, and even if one accidentally exists, is there a purpose higher enough than reason itself to give meaning to one’s existence? There certainly seems to be no comforting conclusion for such an inquiry, thus man searches the basis of his disagreement with his existence. Hence the seed of nihilism is ingrained in the existence of the identified friction. And this friction is eternal, for no ideal world exists or can ever come into existence, because it would disprove the very essence of nihilism of settling in a limited world and confining ourselves. There is always a hidden and undiscovered realm beyond a defined space which mankind periodically comes to realize as its own limits, and this is the idealization of the nihilist — always seeking the unknown and striving for something beyond the newly attained limits, while rejecting all outdated moral and religious constructs. Therefore, all current values being claimed as definitive and saviors of mankind stand as null. This is evident in the current world, where all values are constructed from the perceptions of how society expects itself to behave in order to accommodate all beings. A nihilist does not inquire continuously about something beyond that which is “complete in itself” and which is the “being in itself,” the “most ideal” which can be nothing other than “what it is” and fulfils its purpose, but questions that which itself “being originally imperfect” claims to be perfect. Immorality claiming to be moral under the disguise of relative reason. Plato’s belief that “law is reason without passion” comes close to being called “complete in-itself.” Thus, relative reason disguises the inquirer to assume immorality as morality, thus the rise of nihilism.

The nihilist seeks nothing when faced with purity of moral values that the world perceives and conceives, because he thinks that the world that “is” ought not to be, and the world that “ought to be” is not in existence. This disparity makes the nihilist enter an indecisive mode of existence where nothing is sought and nothing satisfies. He sinks into a dark abyss and the fall seems endless; he is even conscious of his fall but, to the loss of reason the fall is not resisted, but, rather, embraced. Such a condition can have varied interpretations and many who have never perceived the void would reject it upfront and outright, defining it as a construct of a disordered and ungoverned individual. That said, it is an undeniable fact that individuals can enter into deep moments of despair and dejection, where reason loses its grip on one’s thought, and, instead, inquiry, doubtfulness and questioning dominate. One loses the very ability to reason an act or event, and gives oneself up to the emptiness that is infinite and vast in its extent. Failure, misery, rejection, injustice, setbacks, and all interpretations of being unsuccessful have in them the seed of nihilism and the questioning of all values that the world imposes and considers absolute. Man in his deepest failures is without purpose and sinks into the endless abyss of emotional pain. This state rejects man having access to reason and subjugates him under its grip. It is a state where “nothing really matters” for the man, and hence no fruitful action and no acceptance of worldly beliefs. Such a state hasn’t spared any race, but, surprisingly, it is also overcome by the forces of nature when, in the next moment, pleasure suddenly shows up and seduces the senses, and thus nihilism starts to loosen its grip. Don’t we have the inability to remain in pain forever? And don’t we experience sporadic periods of purposelessness and purposefulness? Our senses act as saviors, civilization acts as a savior. Nihilism is thus never permanent.

Why is Nihilism Essential to the Individual?

As much as it is avoided by macho efforts when it comes uninvited, there lies a moment when one has a choice to look beyond and seek the unknown. The endlessness of indecisiveness is either without extremes or with finite limits, for anything which exists has its birth, survival and death. If nihilism is the deepest state of indecisiveness and moral apathy, it must have an opposite extreme which is full of perpetual bliss of divinity, perceptible but unclaimed. Only when one identifies the dark abyss of nihilism, can one perceive the possibility of an endless summit of bliss, of an ideal world, unhindered by ignorance.

Call it “active nihilism” or whatever, but when that which makes itself an authority attempts to dictate the beliefs and conduct of man, despite the possibility of much higher limits, it must be revalued for its authenticity. For if one does not question the authority’s authenticity, one is doomed to stagnate and not reach the realms of higher purpose, which possibly awaits on effect of a lighter push of right reasoning. This is clearly inclined to Socrates’ dictum that, “the unexamined life is not worth living” meaning that if one has not ventured into what is seemingly possible during one’s life, one is not fit to live as there is no attempt to examine one’s life and seek new limits. When one loses one’s “purpose,” and comes to the belief that “life is meaningless so far and shall be for the remaining future,” there is a strong acting force of self-contemplation. The arrival of nihilism in man makes him aware with the presence of emptiness which otherwise would have remained unperceived. This emptiness being infinite and vacuous brings one to a state where one, after coming into contact with reason through passage of time, realizes the endless potential one has to discover all that lies beyond the obvious: one’s own ability and society-imposed values, morals and beliefs. One, after identifying the immense broadness of all possibilities, comes to understand one’s inherent capability of reason, with which one catapults to a higher purpose full of vastness, purity, and righteousness.

Through nihilism, one comes to realize the tremendous scope of one’s own existence and redefines and re-evaluates all that which held him from venturing into the unknown. Reason, as a natural instinctive power of beings — evident in their very acts performed after perceiving all consequences — comes to the door of man’s thought. Reason follows nihilism, because the state of one’s mind is always changing naturally, for its dependency on the eternal wavering of the senses limits their perpetuity. Hence, there is no state which possesses the might to grip one for any prolonged period, due entirely to the fleeting nature of one’s senses that oscillate between multiple states and, thus, one’s reasoning comes to overpower one’s own nihilism in time to make room for a higher purpose. This is clearly evident in experiencing death of a loved one, whose ability to endure emotional pain and contemplate retrospectively become weak with time, even while attempting a forceful recall of the exact emotions felt when the death actually occurred. Nihilism acts in one as a preparatory readiness, for if one experiences the deepest and meaningless void, one sees the deepest pit of emotional transcendence, and is able to perceive the opposite extreme of the zenith of perpetual bliss. Transcendence through nihilism gives one an immense perspective; one feels like a free-spirited being, a harbourer of constantly seeking meaning in everything. Misery, rejection, failure and all unsuccessful events are then looked upon by man as miniscule accidents, making transcendence more easily attainable.

The Arrival of Right Reasoning

Perpetual existence in a nihilistic mode gives way to a call to transcendence, for one would constantly seek new avenues beyond the defined, and reason being a natural ally of consciousness leads the ignorant to realize the existence of the alternative but wiser extreme. When “right reasoning” sets in, self-inquiry rises and seeks answers for the past experienced states. This reasoning could be said to be an inseparable companion of nihilism, visiting one after nihilism leaves, and makes itself prominently displayed by the increased clarity of one’s thought. The application of reasoning is embedded in one’s natural instinct; one is inclined to think before acting. Reasoning, thus, having gripped one’s thought, then reaches that which is beyond the abysmal state and seeks a revaluation of all moral and religious beliefs that, until then, had been the support of sentient beings on earth. Reason transcends the abyss of pointlessness and rediscovers that which sets a new order for the world. It is thus essential for the individual, for societies and for nation-states to position themselves to question the authority and constantly seek newer realms of enhanced morality and religious belief, even if they believe in a world where everything is permitted within a specified ethical and moral law. This state of reasoning after nihilism provides a doorway to seek the transcendental state which lies beyond the emptiness of the vacuous nihilism. One clearly arrives to one’s original state post this transcendence, which is exemplary in its closeness to the utmost freedom of man and enables him to create a world higher in order and purpose. Wisdom for such a man is ideal to seek and the most crucial as a purpose and possession. The arrival and departure of nihilism in one is necessary, for it is with this state of purposelessness with which one is tested of one’s endurance and patience, which, to the utmost extent, makes one only more aware of oneself and one’s limits. What else, except the knowledge of the endless abyss of darkness, of ignorance, of eternal doubts, of eternal uncertainty, of eternal void and vacuity, has the ability to make one wiser than one entering nihilism? This deepest and endless looking state of “eternal loss of purpose” teaches one more than endless hours of wise sermons ever could. Thus, one overcomes one’s own self and triumphs over all that which restricts. The state of nihilism must be overcome because it inevitably arrives at different stages and gives birth to numerous states, but when followed by right reasoning, one becomes a living light unto oneself and delivers oneself and others from the darkness of ignorance. Even though a nihilist rejects all moral and religious beliefs, he is wiser than the one who remains in a stagnant and ignorant state, unpolished and unhurt. The immensity of experience of the most transcendental states of existence, be it even of endless despair, makes the nihilist more deserving and aware of the heightened states of perpetual bliss, which the ignorant shall never even perceive as a possibility.

If it is to come, it must come and be done with us (I believe it is already here, penetrating us all). If it is to bury us deeper, let it arrive early and bury us all, so we push to a newer state of perpetual transcendence. The wise shall embrace nihilism and transcend it before it makes a permanent home, for only the depth of meaning eventually provides the breadth of bliss.

Nikul Joshi

I long for a simplified life, a life of fulfillment and unhindered satisfaction, a life free of worries and ill thoughts. I occupy myself in writing, real estate, and hospitality. My only insatiable hunger, knowledge.

10 thoughts on “In Favor of Nihilism

  1. In many ways for some Nihilism is the foundation of faith and religion. By realising where the depths are (death), we fully understand to where our energies and creative capacities should be pointed (life).

    I passed further to behold wisdom, and errors and folly, (What is man, said I, that he can follow the King his maker?) And I saw that wisdom excelled folly, as much as light differeth from darkness. The eyes of a wise man are in his head: the fool walketh in darkness: and I learned that they were to die both alike. And I said in my heart: If the death of the fool and mine shall be one, what doth it avail me, that I have applied myself more to the study of wisdom? And speaking with my own mind, I perceived that this also was vanity. For there shall be no remembrance of the wise no more than of the fool for ever, and the times to come shall cover all things together with oblivion: the learned dieth in like manner as the unlearned. And therefore I was weary of my life, when I saw that all things under the sun are evil, and all vanity and vexation of spirit. Eccl. 2:12-17

    1. Wonderful addition. Wisdom and darkness, learned and unlearned, are all alike in the end. Who knows where they go after death, certainly though they leave the place differently.

  2. Does nihilism really give us transcendence, or does it just give us a vacuum? When European Man began to worship reason and tore down the Aristotelianism and Scholasticism of old he emerged triumphant. He understood the laws governing the motions of the celestial bodies, he split the atom, and he landed on the Moon. But when he tore down Christianity he fell into a hopeless muddle, unable to proceed any further. As Ludwig Wittgenstein put it:

    “We feel that even if all possible scientific questions be answered, the problems of life have still not been touched at all. Of course there is then no question left, and just this is the answer.”

    1. Thanks for the comment John. I believe nihilism gives us a vacuum which is directionless, without basis. However, one cannot deny that the human species is inherently ingrained with an incapacity to withhold and sustain sorrow or any counter productive emotion. This feeling is pushed aside by our senses when reason replaces the darkness. This transmission is what I call transcendence. Ludwig’s observation is correct, human nature is “curious” in itself, remains ever dissatisfied and hence, though we have settled we habitually seek more, not to leave out that our daily affairs also trigger a need for new curiosity.
      Only when man settles for inner peace and realises that his endless anxiety, curiosity is only a product of the eternity of world affairs, will he stop seeking the external and settle for the internal inner peace.

  3. So let me see if I got this right: to enjoy lasting happiness, I must first endure lasting misery.

    Nietzsche was a raving ratbag.

    1. Thanks for the comment. No, you “must” not endure lasting misery to experience lasting happiness. It is not a doctrine to follow. Nihilism is a natural part of everyone’s life, it only remains unperceived. But when one perceives, feels the emptiness of the deepest sorrows, one is led to great heights when one transcends that dark abyss. Its like becoming numb to all the sorrow at a point and coming to feel the power of one’s intellect to taste lasting happiness. For example, some prisoners after getting beaten incessantly, loses the feeling for their pain, and after experiencing the depths of pain, even a small moment of happiness is a luxury. They are able to conceptualize the heights of bliss.
      I believe ignorance and knowledge, happiness and sorrow, belong to the same roots. Just that they are different branches of the same tree.
      Well, Nietzsche may be a raving ratbag, but he wrote some flamboyant philosophy, which shall remain ever relevant. Even I disagree with his specific critique of morality, religion, etc. but he still makes us think the way we have never thought before.

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