Wednesday, May 20, 2015

15. Nihilism is implausible

Nihilism is implausible

Therefore God exists.

Q: What is nihilism?
A: I don't know, and I don't care.

(little joke there)

There is no god, therefore everything is permissible.
There is no god, therefore nothing is significant.

But I think that some things are not permissible, even when alone, and theoretically, if I were the last man on earth.
But I think that some things are significant, e.g., acts of love and aspiration and beauty and kindness and justice.

Therefore the first proposition, "There is no god", is false.

A fine movie that captures what I think nihilism is all about.  Koyaanisqatsi.
(The filmmaker subtitles it Life Out of Balance.)

Objection to my argument:
Just because you don't like the implications of nihilism doesn't mean that it's false.  Suck it up. It's the way things are. 
My response: 
Ok, maybe that's right.  It's just really ugly and seems wrong.  I don't like it.  Therefore the burden of proof is on the nihilist to show me that this ugly implausible thing could possibly be the truth.

I think a more complete explanation of what nihilism is and where it comes from is warranted. For another day.

Note: not to be confused with scientific materialism or deism or zen or Sartrean existentialism. There are overlapping feature with both.
Note: the images and videos and audio attachments are intended to be part of the argument.  I am inspired by Wittgenstein in this, who said that a whole philosophy could be constructed of jokes.
Note: I'm removing all the images that are not fair use or public domain images.


1 comment:

  1. This particular argument is a beautiful example of a strawman argument combined with a false dichotomy.

    The strawman part is in the definition of nihilism that Bruce introduces in the form of two claims.

    There is no God, therefore everything is permissible. (*Moral nihilism)
    There is no God, therefore nothing is significant. (*Existential nihilism)

    (*) These are my additions.

    By defining nihilism this way Bruce gets to argue that he finds some things impermissible and some things significant and therefore that the claim that there is no God must be false.

    But nihilism is not defined in this way at all. Nihilism makes absolutely no reference to God at all. There are several forms of nihilism and none of them claim the non-existence of god. Nihilism merely questions certain basic assumptions about the reality in which we live. The two examples given by Bruce reference the concepts of moral nihilism and existential nihilism.

    Now let's see how these concepts are really defined.

    Moral nihilism is the claim that there is no objective morality.
    Existential nihilism is the claim that life has no objective meaning or value.

    God is not mentioned here at all. Then why does Bruce mention them at all. That's really simple. In his world view, God exists and God is the source of objective morality and objective meaning or value But if either of the two nihilistic claims were true, that would imply God doesn't exist. In his view both claims deny God, so he adds that consequence to the definition of nihilism. But this is only a consequence of his view of God, not a consequence of nihilism.

    Let's see what remains if we therefore remove the references to God from his definitions.

    Everything is permissible. (*There is no morality)
    Nothing is significant. (*There is no meaning or value)

    In this form he can still claim that he finds some things impermissible and some things significant. But all that means is that he is not a nihilist, not that god exists.

    Remember that I claimed that Bruce's argument was also a false dichotomy. Here's why. He claims there only two choices, either nihilism or God. However there is in fact a third choice. The above form of Bruce's definition is still not the same as the the definitions I gave. In my definitions I use the word objective. Let's fix that.

    There is no objective morality.
    There is no objective meaning or value.

    And immediately the third choice jumps out. There could be subjective morality and there could be subjective meaning or value.

    Indeed , I claim that the third option actually best describes the world we live in. Should Bruce want to challenge me on this, I would be more than willing to defend that claim.