45 responses to “Nihilism Where America is Going / Glenn Beck

  1. Bootiful. Although I’m sure he would cast me as one of the bad guys, I actually agree with his appraisal of the stakes, if not the problem. Enforced ignorance (via some form of neofascism) is one of the most likely scenarios I see arising out of the technologically driven disequilibria to come… He’s mobilizing.

    • well if anything the vast majority of people will likely to keep over-reading meanings into world events and keep overestimating their positive roles in those happenings, for me reading the tea-leaves (and the daily news) I see continuing collapsing of major/industrial economies and infrastructures and with that the further splintering/disintegration of states into warring tribes for all in the midst of the death-throes of our bio-sphere, how much time/resources left for high-tech-influences I don’t know but probably relatively little in the big picture, new dark ages anyone?

      • We’ve reached the magical point where our supercomputers can out-crunch our brains. This is where our lesson in Moore’s Law begins for real. There’s no realistic model of impending environmental collapse (that I’ve seen) that even approaches how quickly our technology will overthrow social equilibria–overthrowing them as we speak, actually. I see the environment as a canard anymore, a way to keep what critical resources the system has left preoccupied while capitalism retools itself into the perfect suicide machine.

    • ..hence the need for a post-nihilist response: self-deconstructing narratives of bricoleur ecologicians flinging metaphors and telling stories that resonate and move bodies. People who develop adequate vision-logics and hyper-reflexivity might be immune to fascism…

      • RSB, certainly won’t be a vehicle for large scale social-engineering but might help give some of us a bit of breathing room as things come crashing down around us.

      • I think given some augmentations to the hominid CNS and its public interface we might see forms of “rationality”, or cognitive adaptability that habitually (and perhaps violently) reject doxic modes of concluding. Perhaps similar to how most adults now violently reject having sex with their siblings, e.g., tuned afffect response of disgust or horror?

  2. It was definitely weird watching this – I agreed with Glenn Beck for much of his segment, an unsettling feeling on top of the original weirdness of a society I the throws of nihilism. His call for good old fashioned religious values is the stuff of reactionary fascism and what the stakes are for us on a planet that people are increasing realizing is deteriorating. I actually think that we do need to overcome this nihilist thought that has crept ever more widely, yet more or less out of sight, but through it and not against it. I still don’t think anyone has done it better than Nietzsche with the thought of the eternal return: a cosmic yes in any case that is so thoroughly invigorating. Hopefully a positive value at the cosmic level will force humans to acknowledge their earthly predicament, and we could do all of this without worship.

    • hey brt, I just don’t see this widespread nihilism (anymore than I see evidence that we have somehow become too scientistic) I see a world full of people who believe in all kinds of supposedly Universal (god-given or otherwise) values and other forms of inflationary narcissism.
      where are these masses who have lost faith in there being Meaning (and they somehow being central/vital to that Meaning) in Life?
      as far as I can see this is akin to the FauxNews paranoid propaganda of the homo-secular war on Christ-mas, the messenger in this case should be a clue, no?

      • Where are the nihilistic masses? It’s an issue of vision. What I see is the fervent religious types desperately trying to hold onto a belief and making up enemies to keep that belief relevant. There is an nervous/aggressive stance that seems to accompany the religious right (in America anyhow), like they are holding onto something that keep slipping out of their hands and looking for someone to blame. These people are trying to ward off nihilism.

        But I see this combative stance amongst my friends too: talking about climate change, monetary reform, most philosophy, etc. is something to get through very fast until I shut up. Nobody wants to tackle problems, everyone just seems to want to jump ahead to the “oh well, we’ll all be dead soon anyways so fuck it all” moment, or the “destroy all the things and have a spectacular revolution!” moment.

        I know that this is my own limited sphere of influence, but there is definitely a difference in our secular society from when religion was a common currency that captured all people’s imagination in those intensive personal moments. Even those that did not believe had to work it out in the terms of the culturally instituted religion, and face the wrath of the public. I’m about to dive into Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age where something like this is detailed in ~800 pages.

        I’m not looking for a replacement religion here; more like a release of the imagination, so that ‘nothingness’ stops blocking it from planning, strategizing, and critical engagement. My wager is that it is in the absence of public assembly and commoning, the weakness of people in determining their own future, that we find the true culprit: we lack Common Notions. Fascination with nothingness and the void (and ending there), prevents us from seeking to create more powerful bodies.

      • Dmf: Well, with Adorno, perhaps, you can see it as functionally nihilistic. This is a big part of the problem: The way things look now is pretty much what you would expect if *nihilism were true* for a species hardwired to think otherwise. States retreat from the objective meaning business, and thus from the endless argumentum ad baculum that is history, organizing themselves around the efficient servicing of our shared animal imperatives–consumerism–instead. These become the anchors of social cohesion, allowing the old anchors, like Christianity, to become another mass consumer good. So I agree with you that his thesis of ‘nihilism overrunning culture’ is absurd. Hollywood cannot make a movement–er, movie–without extolling the ‘power of belief.’ But at the same time I think this incapacity on Hollywood’s part is symptomatic of the way nihilism is clearly overrunning culture. The content is chock full o semantic nuts, but the form is perfectly instrumental.

        The great problem that Glen Beck poses in this video is not so much his ideology as his *predicament.* The problem is one of *not sounding like him* in the course of condemning nihilism. There is simply no claim regarding ‘objective meaning’ that anyone can now make that isn’t simply rank speculation, and therefore utterly incapable of rallying ‘rational consensus,’ and so requiring coercion to organize collective behaviour.

        My fantasy series is actually all about this troubling connection between meaningfulness and chauvinism and oppression, btw.

      • RSB, I don’t think that govts/industries etc are suffering from nihilism as they from an inability to exercise much in the way of top-down control because they are operating on different scales, with differing technologies, than before,
        their histories were always conflict-ridden and otherwise buggy and now we have more players/interests/modes involved than ever, just too messy/complex to really manage…

      • Scott, I completely agree with what you write here and elsewhere about our inability to use rational consensus about objective meanings as a way to organize action and life, but there are options for organizing other than crude forms of coercion. Here I’m thinking of non-invasive affording infrastructures. That is, by creating ecosocial niches that cue, prompt, guide (as all infrastructures already do), yet also provide, afford and enhance prosociality, cognitive sensitivity and bodily flourishing, we can enact pre-ideological modes or organizing. Of course we would still need deliberational processes and forms of consensus (that are more about semio-affective resonance than conceptual fit), but this can, and I would argue must, all be done after the advent of a nihilistic intelligence not opposed to it.

    • Bill, when you say you agree with much of what Beck was saying which part exactly did you mean? Beck want to fight off nihilistic intelligence in favor of (re)installing the logic of rote tradition and doxic unthinking. His yea-saying is a full inflation of the theological, and not the stuff of an acceptance of finitude which would allow us to put away our silly, self-mutilating ideological fetishes in favor of a more humble working with affective materiality.

      And I agree with Dirk, in that I don’t see a full-fledged nihilism at work in the world – outside of white bro academia and their pop culture dark-arts expressions. What I see is incoherence and fragmentation at all levels of ideology – with some people amplifying their Christian sentiments and cognitive habits here, and others perpetuating some alternative tradition or given habit of reasoning there – but not much in the way of abandoning the whole metanarrative project altogether. People everywhere are stressed and scared and overrun by media to the extent that they form all sorts of patchwork or hybrid Metas in order to cope with uniform onslaught of capital. And as we all know as things start to deteriorate people will be tend towards defensive reactionary positions and social conforming in order to band together and make sense and subsistence of their lives. So no, a virulent nihilism is not Glenn’s conjured enemy here but instead SECULARISM, and narcissism and kludgey smorgasbord Metas that get fashioned for coping in a secular society. The anti-secularists are trying to ward off nihilism not embrace its accompanying insights and grow from it.

      I do appreciate your comments about how a loss of meaning can block us form progressive action. I find this to be the case with many of those I talk to about these issues as well. The problem is a kind of existential blockage that follows from the REACTION TO nihilist thinking. First exposures to nihilist thought tend to generate types of melancholia born out of our existential need for coherence. The a loss of coherence viz. cognitive evaluations results in a habitual default back into meta-narrativization, which leads to the refashioning of theology into yet another ISM in place of the old Gods. In this case a “dark” theology of Nihil-ISM – as the dwelling on our lonely lot and a mourning of the death of the Gods. Oh so dramatic, and pacifying, and paralyzing – all the while not realizing that their ISM (however unreflective and informal it may be), with its associated affects and reasoning styles, is just one more deity in the pantheon of idealist longings: a dwelling or “fascination” that, as you say, confines us and shelters us from actually engaging the intensive forces at play in the wild.

      Nihilist thinking is a cognitive and methodological achievement not a confluence of negative tropes and coded affects. What will move us forward in our exploration of the abyss might not be “common notions” but common and earthly effective resonances between and within bodies. I follow Arran in this regard with wanting to understand notions or “ideas” as embodied information events, or states of multiscalar oscillations with rhythmic-affective force. We can resonate and oscilate and thus act in inter-corporeal (“common”) ways that don’t rely on semantic inflation but instead generate new capacaities for sustaining more progressive ecologies/matrices. The tyranny of Meaning must be overthrown by what really ‘matters’ – a revolution of the flesh.

      • Michael,

        Sorry for the late response, I’ve been away from the internet for a spell. I must say, again, that I agree with everything you say. The part I agree with Glenn Beck about is the emergence and visibility of nihilism as a force within our culture and its appearance being a problem that we must deal with. His solution is for more of the same religious commitment getting injection into the masses yet again, in a truly panicked reactionary form. Rather than being a problem that comes from the outside or infiltrates our precious culture or youth or whatever, this isn’t something that can be warded off or replaced with The Real -ISM. There is a danger (in my view) of groups reinvigorating the religious within the commons because of a perceived fragmentation of a once great whole, but religion did once pervade the public realm as indistinguishable from it. A public body could have life breathed into it again with proper assembly and, as you rightly write, resonance. Common notions used here was a reference to Spinoza which, as I understand it is a kind of nexus between the ideas people communicate with each other and the bodies coming together and sharing a place. So, bodies in concert will inevitably share the same notions.

        Dark theologies, ontologies, and ecologies don’t seem to sidestep the -ISM problem to me, though I’m sure plenty will have something to say about this.


  3. I feel like something is missing from the short discussion here, and that is attention to Beck’s embodied relationship to the cultural artifacts of pop nihilism that act as the material media of the idea of nihilism. It isn’t just his fervent reactionary religiosity and fascism (well, know surprise there) its his sheer fucking excitement! While Glenn is talking about enacting a full reterritorialisation around old fashioned ma and pa family values and ain’t Jesus a Good Guy, just look how excited all this talk of nihilism has him. He loves it. Glenn thinks that nihilism is all “I don’t give a shit” but that isn’t it. Like Ligotti has it in Conspiracy Against the Human Race, the conflation of pessimism with despair or sadness is absolutely bankrupt.

    For Ligotti- who neither feels much in the way of joy or despair- philosophical pessimism and existential nihilism are rational conclusions, and ain’t we caught in a resurgent rationalist movement right now in the darker hues of the post-SR movements? Depression and mourning are indeed problems with the conscious nihilist but these cultural symptoms are only the barest flicker of reception and registration about what is going on- about just how far the blackhole has swallowed the game of Meaning. Here is the other side of nihilism, the excitement of it: well people don’t give a shit, do you understand?! They don’t care and so we can make them care about anything! But even before his scripted and predictable turning things around to look for a Christofascist Cultural Resurgence he is thrilled to bits at the idea of world full of youths who don’t care that the world is ending. “Sky is falling and I don’t care/I just want to feel good”. Isn’t it maybe Glenn’s Chriscatology that is a “death cult” and isn’t it his religion that actively pursues the end of the world? Glenn is excited because he is a nihilist and all of a sudden the world is with him. There is an almost sexual glee in his animation. Jay-Z doesn’t care, but Glenn Beck is virtually ejaculating!

    I’m with dmf. I don’t see waves of nihilist masses. But that is because we’re not talking about the masses being nihilists. Nihilism is a condition of the real, not of us. Insofar as this is the case the term “nihilism” has become misleading and could be done with jettisoning. But at the same time, I think we’re seeing the inflationary narcissism get all the more inflated, all the more puffed out, all the more virulent and ridiculous and dangerous because it knows, deep down those who hold it know, that all that is finished. It’s done. When we’re threatened, when we are in proximity to death, we cling to what we know. There is a perversity: when the assumptive world is shattered- that is, when our biases and metacognitive illusions are pointed out for what they are- we might actually require them even more, and so completely without intention we’ll be fiercely attached to what has been ruptured. Maybe I’m going too far the other way here, and I don’t mind if I am, but I’d be tempted to say that when Meaning is finished with that’s when you’ll find Meaning most sought after. I always return to my old question: why aren’t we all suicides?

    We ain’t good rationalists, even if our supercomputers will be capable of producing them. Maybe transhumanist anarchism will eventually mean playing out my favourite ending of the video game Deus Ex irl: the fusion of human affect with machine rationality.

    Meantime I tend to agree with Bill on the topic of assembly and common notions (although I’d be keen to stress that common=/=universal).

    • It’s important not to conflate the politicization of Christian conservatism with its ‘resurgence.’ It’s shrinking, the same way affiliations to all traditional religions are shrinking in post-industrial states.

      But I love the idea of Beck as himself a nihilist!

      Otherwise, you can expect machines intelligences will only have use of ‘beliefs’ and ‘rationality’ so long as they have use of us. The terms are too low-res.

      • Yeh, I didn’t mean resurgence in terms of numbers but in terms of “libido” (or whatever less idealist term it stand in for).

        The terms are too low-res, and it may be the case that machines will outpace and overcome us, although its not necessary, but that’s just to say it’s dangerous. Or not. I’m planning to write something inspired by David’s new book, but I think I should wait til I read it, on the coupling of posthumanism and philosophical pessimism. I’m putting my tongue firmly in my cheek and calling it transpessimism: a voluntary human extinction by means of machinic augmentation to the point of the emergence of a new species.

  4. from a secular materialist take you seem to be confusing entropy (a fact of physics) with nihilism (an all too rare human patho-logos), as for the mythical questing theo-logos of “common” notions there has never been nor could be such things/doings/experiences (by what supra-human means would this sort of transmission/coordination/program-coding take place?)
    Also this “deep down those who hold it know, that all that is finished” doesn’t match with what we are beginning to understand about cog-biases, Freud was largely wrong to frame our un-conscious processes in terms of repression/denial and so is more of what we should be leaving behind.

  5. The fact of entropy means nihilism has the veracity of truth isn’t this one of Brassier’s main points? nihilism can’t be reduced to pathology. Meanwhile common notions aren’t universals and don’t require supra-human anything. If the commons typically refers to ecological resources shared with and participated in by any-body then the idea of common notions just extends this to the machinic noosphere. If we think of ideas in terms of embodied information (information enacted and enacting in brain-bodies) then to speak of common notions would be to suggest the possibility of a communisation of information and action: I’d think this is what left movements have always strived for and is what is alluded to in the idea of a general intellect.

    This general intellect is to be found in its alienated form distributed across neuro-cognitive and informational technologies. On the question of what it would take to achieve a nonalienated general intellect, I don’t think I can answer that, but skill shares, open flows of information (with mediatic filters) and the possibility of cognitive prosthetics with the capability of actually sharing thought with others in real-time would be part of that? But whenever we cooperate we’re also attempting to hash out, more or less explicitly, common notions. Certainly, I’ve been part of a safer spaces working group and an aims and principles working group recently where the attempt to forge common ideas has been very explicit. Of course these ideas remains materially existent in one respect (although not only) as synaptic configurations and idiosyncratic cognitions but most neurotypical brains, and to no small extent even neurodiverse brains, operate with the same physiological systems. We are at least in principle capable of producing common notions and navigating the slips and drifts between idiosyncrasy; nothing theological about it.

    On the last point, I didn’t mean to invoke Freud…but there is an inheritance that’s hard to get away from. I was meaning to gesture at a strong disconfirmation bias. When all the evidence points to a meaningless cosmos, what cognitive reaction would you expect to see someone who has a strong pre-existing belief in meaningfulness?

    • ” I’d think this is what left movements have always strived for and is what is alluded to in the idea of a general intellect” yes this is why they are (and have been) modernist at best and will always be out of step (and so impotent) in the face of the ongoing collapses we are in the midst of. That there is a physical world doesn’t give us something to anchor our activities/interests/etc to that’s the way to fall into confusing prescription with description and other symptoms of the mistaken faith in Reason-ing.
      on the freudian thing I don’t get what you were saying than when you projected a deep-down recognition of the reality of our plight onto the faith-full, which as I understand it rather never registers with them at all as they aren’t so equipped.
      Oh and perspicuous-re-minders/tokens/signs/totems&taboos aren’t literally held in common, nor do they order/program our co-operations, for some practical (if a bit overly optimistic) takes on such matters see:

      • This is all just jamming, nothing settled, toying with things but…

        On commoning/coodination I’m increasingly drawn to rhythmicity as a way of talking about this in terms of embodiment. Coordination of rhythmic processes occur at multiscalar sites of oscillation observable at cellular, synaptic/network, intercorporeal levels. Praxis involves the capacity to reflect and revise our practices with theoretical lenses, hampered as they may be by our all-too-human shortcomings and shortcuts. The revisions we make are the revisions we make; who is saying anything about Reason having mystical power?

        But for all this, if ideas are understood as embodied and enactive information then ideas are held in common in the same way that biocodes (biological ideas?) are. Why eliminate from cognitive information what we ascribe to genetic information? Common ideas exist- we talk about them as justice, equality, and so on. All this still accords with the idea of sense being negotiated in “doings and saying” as the Shotter text argues. When ideas are considered as embodied information they are events; isn’t it possible to work towards the experience of the same event? The examples I point to aren’t exclusively communicative-transmissions but are experiences of transverality. We’re really talking about common practices and the opening up of specific networks in which they take place, no? For instance- a space of common ideas might also be spaces of collective enunciation (open access journals; blogs).

        To pull back, I have to say that I guess, and have been aware for a little while, that I don’t really know what I mean when I say “idea”. I suppose I still mean something like the idea of concepts that held to structure/constrain action and “thought”, but its this thought aspect I’m getting sceptical of, and want to stick closer to the view that ideas/concepts aren’t representational mentalistic contents but capacities for grasping the world. Information has come to seem like a good way of talking about how that grasping is carried out.

        Aren’t we able to coordinate how we grasp the world at all? If that were the case then I’m at a loss to explain how civilisation ever emerged, forget its ongoing collapse.

      • we’re all just making this up as we go, riffing as you say, what would be the semiotic/grammatical/expressive/etc equivalent of DNA?
        also that we can roughly coordinate external behaviors is a long way from experiences/interests being commonly held. all more grist for the mill as they say.

      • Dirk, I am largely in agreement with Arran in that we obviously communicate with each other in such a way as to generate shared cognitive habits and linguistic practices, so there has to be some sort of “common” or shared resonance between bodies. Our capacity for coping together and coordinating actions depends upon some sort of mutualistic or analogous states or neuronal ‘structures’. How would you account for shared cognitive traits without some objective structuration?

      • hey m, that we can ape each others public performances/expressions doesn’t mean that we literally share common associations or neurology.

      • I’m interested in hearing you flesh out this disagreement, dmf. I think it gets right to the bottom of many of the discussions we’ve had over the years.

      • Systematicities at the phenomenal level can stem from any number of mechanical arrangements, tis true. But lest we lapse into naïve functionalism, we need to understand 1) that the more complicated those systematicities become, the more liable structural isomorphies will explain them; and 2) that the systematicities isolated at the phenomenal level are themselves the product of cognitive systematicities, that we’ve evolved to cherry-pick structures from the booming noise saturating our environments.

        The point is that the systematicities isolated at the phenomenal level are pinioned, conditioned both by the cognitive systematicities ‘above’ and the ontic systematicities ‘below,’ both of which are occluded. Not surprisingly, things quickly become intractable when cognition itself becomes the phenomenal systematicity at issue.

        The salient point is that phenomenal systematicities are always heuristic artifacts, something that can only be understood by taking account of the information neglected. We evolved to survive the systematicities below, not grasp them, which is why the systematicities above (now that we possess the tools and techniques to crack them) are proving to be so opportunistic – or what amounts to the same, ecologically specific. Heuristics are the only way forward. Understand them, and the puzzles that presently bedevil us dissolve into a whole different set of puzzles, a different kind of philosophizing.

        It ain’t going to let us talk in any of the old ways. So it will take quite some time – likely too much time – before people really start to listen.

      • RSB, I think yer heuristics are close to what I call after Wittgenstein perspicuous-re-minders or as I prefer prototypes (not arche-types), if “understanding” them means something more like learn how to use/bricolage them for our current (and so evolving) purposes ( mangling as Andy Pickering says) and not something more akin to traditional hermeneutics than I’m on board with that, grasping as manipulating.

      • dmf: I haven’t read any Pickering, though I know of him. Anything you recommend, Dirk?

        With heuristics, the nice thing is that so much empirical work is being done on them, primarily under the auspices of the ecological rationality and the ‘heuristic and biases’ research program. Neither angle, in my opinion, has grasped the heuristic nature of their own discourse, and so remain ‘dialectically naive’ (in the Critical Theory sense). But more and more you see them coming around to crucial role neglect has to play.

        This is where the research on (human and nonhuman) metacognition fits in.

  6. I think we can talk about two different kinds of nihilism. The first is philosophical nihilism. Philosophical nihilism is a formidable and interesting position that takes as its task the critique or elimination of ontotheological / metaphysical dogmas and opens out into constructivism, participation, responsibility, and epistemic humility. The second is something we can call everyday nihilism. Everyday nihilism represents the pinnacle of postmodern (i..e., hyper-perspectival) laissez-faire individualism and apathy. Everyday nihilism is a kind of reckless submission to doxa, to ideology, to deity, to markets, to the idea that we have no power or influence. The former is very rare and interesting while the latter is widespread, I think.

    • hey AR, I think that the everyday as you phrase it is more with what used to be called a herd-mentality and not so sure it is as much a symptom of our times as it is of our species. Tho apparently there is some anxiety/precarity making its way onto the radar of more people than I had expected but even then they keep pushing the same rocks up the hill just with more juice: http://www.commonwealthclub.org/events/archive/podcast/sheryl-sandberg-marianne-cooper-talk-anxieties-modern-families

    • I like the differentiation Adam. Thank you for that. I do believe ‘philosophical nihilism’ is more than an interesting position. I’m thinking it is more of a cognitive achievement or post-formal developmental ‘stage’ crystalized into discursive operators. As for everyday nihilism, like I said above I think that kind of sentiment is actually the symptom of a mode of affect generated by secularization and its deterritorialization of traditional meta-frames that produces a loss in coherence leading to a subsequent mourning. I think this awkward dwelling in incoherence in certainly growing (how can it not in this insane civilization?), but I think the reactionary impulse is also quite strong and pervasive with its reterritorializations viz. religion, sports affiliations, sub-cultural identifications and so on…

      • Mourning is definitely what is happening. Everyone has suffered a shattering of their long-term assumptive worlds but somehow manage to continue on. The everyday nihilism is perhaps a response to the conditions that contemporary philosophical nihilism predicates itself on. How do you go on after nihilism when you haven’t yet reached passed it? A typical answer is pathology: herd-mentality as a mass cultural pathology.

      • Insofar as it directly follows as a forceful implication of science I’m inclined to agree. Every time I hear an argument for compatibilism, I always say, ‘Explain that to a crowd of fourteen year olds.’ Just talk to people who work on a neurology floor: as seamless as it seems for the body, the fit between medicine and the mind is profoundly uncomfortable. Anything can be rationalized: we are fucking humans after all. Except that. When our brains break down it never stops being inexplicable in some way.

        The continual expansion of the sciences just is the extension of nihilistic implicature. Rosenberg, for instance, adheres to a hardline appraisal of theoretical competence (the same as I do) outside the sciences. Given a domain general application of the domain specific skepticism that plainly renders science such an extraordinarily effective claim-making institution, you accordingly become a meaning skeptic. (The position has two primary vulnerabilities, one merely apparent, the other very real. The merely apparent vulnerability is the charge of question-begging incoherence. The real vulnerability lies in the failure of eliminativism to produce any positive account of the phenomena eliminated, leaving the door open to infer varieties of meaning realism as best explanations. Since this is the way the grain of our intuitions run, this is the way the majority run.)

        It’s no coincidence that ‘scientism’ is the charge raised in concert with nihilism. Nihilism just is progress. The real question is one of whether we’ll be able to keep abreast it, generate the conceptuality we need to at least understand what is dismantling us from without and within. To be scientifically reverse-engineered is to be understood as another machine, end of story. To be understood as a machine is to be something that can be manipulated, to become the site of intersecting interests. The cures will make people weep for wonder.

        To be scientifically reverse-engineered is to be understood as another machine, end of story. This is why something miraculous is always required, some kind efficacious lacuna or some kind of emergent spark or some kind of real-but-not-natural social function. Meaning always requires something more because nihilism is simply the shout of nature.

    • (Talk about a late reply) I think this distinction was one that I failed to make explicit, so right on. With philosophical nihilism I would equate the owning of the title Nihilist, as some people do. This is less of an issue as I take it, as few would ever try to build a nihilist institution, with canon literature, and recruit. One could imagine a Monty Python sketch to that tune, that would be by turns intensely apathetic and contain horrendous infighting. The nihilism I was referring to was more of the everyday kind: affective nihilism. But the polarity of apathy and non-participation contra dreams of destruction seems to me what we are left with absent a way out of this situation.

      I tend to work with Simon Critchley’s active/passive framework, but ultimately it is Nietzsche who saw the advent of this dilemma and he was thinking of what happens to our bodies and our will when the basic beliefs and values that carried our culture along just vanish. Like when a satisfactory end of a string of thoughts is never reached but, collectively, we can’t stop retracing those strings.

  7. Dirk, if what we do when we coordinate is a behavioural mimesis pure and simple then aren’t we in straight up behaviourist territory? I’d always though part of the point of enactivist thinking was to incorporate behaviourism whilst going beyond it. We’re not after a “mindless” science, we’re just not after a “mentalistic” science.

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