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wearemiracles's avatar

Is nihilism known to cause strong reactions in a person introduced to the idea?

Asked by wearemiracles (467points) December 24th, 2022
18 responses
“Great Question” (3points)

I my spiritual seeking I had been coming across various ideas some of which are very nihilistic. Such as that there is no self or you don’t really exist or the world is a dream. When I share these ideas it almost always had a reaction. In one case it almost lead to a physical fight and created an enemy. In another case the person communicated it was evil and I was doing evil things. In another case the person used it against me to paint me as someone possessed with evil spirits and made threats. In a few cases the person became paranoid of me and long afterwards seemed afraid to hear me speak. They always nervously avoid my sentences or anything I try to show them.

I can’t help my curiosity even if it’s to my own detriment. It’s just too fascinating. Is this a known thing?

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LostInParadise's avatar

Here is a key question. What do you do differently as a result of these beliefs? If the beliefs are inconsequential then there is quite literally nothing to talk about.

wearemiracles's avatar

@LostInParadise Supposedly it leads to the end of suffering. By finding pure emptiness you move beyond the world, body and mind as pure awareness or something. Supposedly it feels better than any other experience. But I’m not trying to push any idea only cos you asked. I was more concerned with peoples reaction to the idea. I’ve encountered too many instances of people outright rejecting it or sort of blocking their eyes and ears.

At least that’s the way it’s presented. Nihilism is just the closest term I can find in the rational world which seems to apply but I’m sure it’s technically incorrect.

flutherother's avatar

Those very extreme reactions may be a response to how you communicate your concept of nihilism and what you personally infer from these ideas rather than the ideas themselves. Nihilism doesn’t give you a licence to do what you like for example because if nothing is real then nihilism itself isn’t real. If feelings and thoughts are all we have then thinking or feeling can’t think or feel them away.

“Before one studies Zen, mountains are mountains and waters are waters; after a first glimpse into the truth of Zen, mountains are no longer mountains and waters are no longer waters; after enlightenment, mountains are once again mountains and waters once again waters.”

LostInParadise's avatar

Again I ask, what do you do differently? If you have your basic needs satisfied then there is no need to suffer, and if you don’t have your basic needs met then you will suffer for good reason.

RayaHope's avatar

I believe it depends in what context you are using it. As far as the universe is concerned…the Earth and all of us on it does not matter. We could be gone in an instant and the cosmos would not even notice.

As far as I’m concerned…yes things do matter. It’s how we run our lives and we need order to do that. We need thing to matter or than we don’t. Our society could not function without order and meaning.

Pandora's avatar

Well, it sounds as if you are speaking to people who believe in a God or some faith, so you are telling them God doesn’t exist. So it’s understandable that they would view your idea as evil. Doesn’t matter what you say.
Then you are also telling other people that social order isn’t necessary. And lastly, you are telling them that their lives are meaningless and morals aren’t necessary as well.

So my question to you would be, why wouldn’t people reject your ideas and therefore reject you altogether?
Then there is the final blow. People who solidly believe nihilism can’t be trusted and often are selfish. I mean if you don’t believe morality or social order is necessary then what’s to prevent you from taking or doing anything you want? Yes, not everyone is moral or follows the social order but we observe individuals and give them the benefit of doubt before deciding if we can trust them. You remove all doubt the moment you say speak of this. You make yourself untrustworthy by stating your beliefs with one word.

I understand the concept and it does have some validity but honestly, no one wants that headache. Questioning everything is exhausting. Where do the questions stop? For instance, nihilists even can question science that is proven by questioning who has the authority to dictate what is proof. That is exhausting. It would be like being around a small child asking why all day. To the point where I would ask why ask why? Because you want to know? Why must you know? Would you accept any of our answers as true? I offer no proof.
I could be an exception, not really the norm. I have no authority. And do you even have the authority to say I am right or wrong?
And lastly, does my answer matter?
This is where I believe most people just dump the idea of nihilism in the trash.

wearemiracles's avatar

Well this question is kind of a case in point. Everyone is stuck on the meaning and merit of the idea of nihilism and even of me when that wasn’t what the question was about. I say that lightly, not arguing or anything.

Also when I said I shared these ideas which seemed nihilistic, I almost never tried to explain it myself because it’s not something I really know well in mind and not in my experience at all. It took the form of showing them either youtube videos or text like blog posts, reddit answers and stuff.

Since nihilism is specifically a philosophical term, I can’t speak on it as I don’t know philosophy but its description seem to closely match the ideas I’ve come across in spirituality, as I described in the first sentence of the question description.

The quick summary I got for nihilism from a google search showing the wikipedia description as: “Nihilism is a philosophy, or family of views within philosophy, that rejects generally accepted or fundamental aspects of human existence, such as objective truth, knowledge, morality, values, or meaning.”

I had been following certain teachers and teachings which seemed to have led me to the comprehension how there may be no such thing as truth outside of the mind or thought space. That truth was nothing more than a property of consistency in the mind or thought space and there was no real objective truth. Meaning one could find consistency in concepts any number of ways. And that truth could change and does change and in ways that exceed our ability to understand. But also in observable ways. But it’s all obscure now or was to begin with. As of now, I don’t see how to refute the truth of say a mathematical proof. If I do then that would do it but I’m not a mathematician.

The above paragraph is a description of one of many understandings I had which I no longer take seriously. Neither do I take nihilism seriously. Strangely, that in itself is kinda consistent with the description I just gave of truth. All the rest except for human existence seemed to also be of the mind and discounted as such. Human existence was discounted as being a divine drama or the play of one being incarnating as limited separate being in order to undergo a journey of self-discovery in the form of self-knowledge and self-realization hallmarked by the end of suffering in life before death. Again these are just ideas.

I stopped trying to figure it out. I’m currently trying to let go and have been finding strong faith in something mysterious and unknown. When I face minor crisis of doubt and confusion there is still the fact of the matter of how it feels to sink deeper into your being and so I know there must be something going on even if only rational, psychological and physiological.

After all is said and done, the question is still valid in my mind. These ideas seem to be a trouble maker of sorts at least in my past experience.

I would share some of those sources that got negative reactions except it would reveal too much about me. Instead I’ll share just one which is more recent.

kritiper's avatar

Sometimes it’s better to not overthink things. If you do, they become too complex, too unrealistic. Simplicity is sometimes best.

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wearemiracles's avatar

@kritiper That sounds good but the thing is:

What this is talking about is
1. Our experience of life / Effect in life
2. Reality / Existence

When you say don’t overthink it, value simplicity over complexity or this is unrealistic, while that may be true and good, the alternative to this is by default what we inherit from school and environment. Which is:
1. You are a temporary mortal biological organism with software called consciousness.
2. You will die
3. The meaning of your very short and fragile life is contained within the imperatives programmed into your DNA for your survival and reproduction.

How should we arrange the following in order of complexity?:
1. Science
2. Mathematics
3. Philosophy
4. Politics
5. Software development
6. Non-duality

Pandora's avatar

@wearemiracles I have no problem with the 1–3 in your second paragraph. I accept for the most part what I was taught in school but keep learning because there are always new discoveries. As for my environment and society at large, I have no personal control. Sweating over things I have no control of is pointless. And as for the 3rd. Yep. Pretty much on board with that idea. We are born, we live, we reproduce or don’t, and die.

Sure my view on life can always change, and often it has given a new perspective. But Nihlism doesn’t answer lifes difficult question. It just places a billion more, when most people have only the following questions going on and they feel its already too much.
1. Can I feed myself and my family and cloth us
2. Can I afford a place to live
3 Can I afford medical cost
4 Am I healthy
5. Is my neighborhood safe
6 Wil I still have a job tomorrow or be able to find one So I can do most of the stuff above.
7 Why is my neighbor an a-hole?
8 What’s on tv tonight
9 Will I get lucky
10 Will I be able to catch up on some sleep
11 Where’s the aspirin my joints ache or my acid reflux is acting up?
12 Are the kids safe?

A ton more self-involved questions fill our lives. Most people don’t care to ponder our existence for good reason. NO TIME and it does nothing in the end to improve their lives. You will just need more aspirin.
You ponder a lot more questions and whether you realize it or not sharing your views is asking people to ponder the same thing and most people are going to ponder why don’t you just stop beating your head against a rock? Why are you trying to make your life more difficult than it is?
By the way, I’m not trying to be difficult. Your above question was generally about why people react a certain way toward you when you bring up this subject. So I’m giving you my point of view of how I view things and how I feel others may view them as well. I’m not trying to be a jerk, but nihilism for me is a waste of time and energy. Energy that I could put into other points in my life to make it more productive in ways to benefit myself or those I hold care for.

wearemiracles's avatar

@Pandora I suppose we all have different roles in life. You have people under your care. Questioning the meaning of life beyond the obvious is not a priority for someone who has mouths to feed and shelter in a hostile and competitive world.

wearemiracles's avatar

I should add for clarification:

The question is about whether nihilism is a trouble maker in philosophy.
The spiritual ideas referred to is called Non-duality in modern English and Advaita-Vedanta in Sanskrit.

I do take Non-duality seriously because I take the claim of what it leads to seriously, for me personally and there are others who do to. But it’s never presented as more than an idea and because I haven’t fully experienced the claims it makes as true, it’s also just that. A second hand claim for the most part but not one which I haven’t found some evidence for personally.

LostInParadise's avatar

You might find Nietzsche’s attitude toward Nihilism to be of interest. Nietzsche was not a nihilist, but he saw nihilism as a danger coming from the Enlightenment.

Bruiser_wolvie's avatar

It’s known to cause strong reactions, but not strong as in ‘immediately overpowering’, because usually the ‘revelation’ that the way life works supposes and necessitates a nihilistic outlook, isn’t usually a jolting or quick ‘wake up call.’ So, if nihilism in its most general sense was something that people often experienced all at once, in a profound moment of insight, then depending on how far away their understanding of life was before this… then hypothetically yes, that would hit quite hard.

I think a great example of the real unraveling that happens gradually is perfectly illustrated in The Catcher in the Rye. Holden keeps looking for beauty in an ugly world, he wants to share his heart, but only finds the heartless, wants to actually connect with others, but others are self-obsessed egotists who don’t connect with anyone, but rather just use other people as means to ends, etc.

Smashley's avatar

While nihilism is a little problematic (I’ve always thought of it as more of an imaginary inverse philosophy, to hold a mirror to), I think anti-nihilism might be having a moment, since the world seems awash in those bereft of morality, values, or belief in objective truth. People are afraid they are being lied to to be taken advantage of by cynical power brokers, and you come along with this “those aren’t lies, and right and wrong don’t exist so it doesn’t matter anyway” stuff? Depending on your delivery, I can we why people might react.

We fear those who would exploit us for money or power, but we protect ourselves with ideas of morality, truth and justice. They are doing bad, but they are bad people. When you hear a philosophical justification for those bad actors, it hits deeper.

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Kraigmo's avatar

Most Nihilists do not even realize they are Nihilist .
(Such as American conspiracy theory believers).
They tend to have extremely insecure egos, and they fear intelligence. If you try to educate them, they will resist, out of their ego.

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