“The nihilist’s capacity to act is increased (what Nietzsche calls “spiritual vigour”) when the goals or missions that once directed you are no longer suitable; the nihilist begins as an existential exploration: discover your own challenges.”
– Dr. Glen Fuller
It is long overdue that we begin to understand and present theadvent of nihilism as an opportunity for human emancipation. These are interesting times, and we need not remain complacent in activating the latent possibilities emanating from such ambient disorder.
The liberating and invigorating spaces of reasoning opened up by operant negational attitudes are multitudinous. Instead of remaining content to reiterate centuries old maladaptive semiotic commitments and social enactments we would do better in the task of living, relating and thinking to toss aside the lazy interpretations of those contemporaries who seem more interested in protecting the supposed sanctity of transcendental logos and virtue than coming to grips with the end of certainty.
To be sure, ‘nihilism’ has never existed as a unified objective condition or psychological mood, but rather as loosely organizing constellations of affects and references expressing a growing awareness of the dissolution of various claims to truth, methodological faiths, social institutions, political regimes and cognitive orientations. Truth ain’t what it used we might say.
The delegitimization of doxic modes of cognition and belief enacted in the wake of the corrosive effects of nihilistic intelligence – with its acceptance of scientific methodologies over semantic habits, and discursive relativity over soothsaying bravado – has afforded our species a range of potentially rewarding neurally instantiated possibility spaces for experience and cognition.
Nihilism is coded intellectually and emotionally in us as a growing awareness that there is no escape from the material, kinetic and non-human force of the Real, both without (in the great outdoors) and within our embodied matrix (the ‘nonhuman-in-human’). The myth of pure representation as mediator of the Real predicated on an assumed split between cognition and nature, between thought and world, died with natural science right alongside the supposed laughing Gods. Ecology trumps Cartesianism; and every experience we have with limit, decay, death, causality, affordance, affect, and necessity confirms the practical taskscapesthat structure all that we are or aspire to be.
So if we cannot escape reality ignoring what it has to teach us about our own constructed and cherished commitments and values is to remain lost in confusion and self-assuring naivety. The reality of embodied ecological life cuts through our narratives and disrupts our strategies in ways that fundamentally challenge us. Nihilistic maturity is thus the translating of an awareness of the limits of signification and futility of certainty into a conceptually open willingness to end the various games of detached self-enchantment that keep us from enacting healthier and more creative lives and worlds.
Nihilistic thought forces us to start over, and remake our commitments, and accept the immanent challenges and opportunities of embodied ecological life. Therefore nihilism also always immediately leads us into positions of post-nihilistpossibility. The post-nihilist position is inherently given to possibility. Whereas nihilism as a reactive negational realization entails destruktion, the post-nihilist outgrowth as an active possibility space necessarily affords creation. After deterritorialization necessarily comes reterritorialization, endlessly.
Cultural commitments that have bound us to our current ecologies of practice can now be swept away in favour of more collaborative and context specific forms of inquiry and action. The practical advantages and adaptations of exploring such possibilities are too important to be explained away. The possibility of salvaging and remaking whole fields of knowledge, methodology, discourse, participation, and praxis to more adaptively align with our social and ecological needs and goals is at stake. There is an urgency with which we must respond to challenges of Anthropocene life.
The nihilist insights leading to any post-nihilist will to empowerment can be conceived as a type of ‘coming to our senses’: motivated by the deemphasis of representation and semantic association in favour of a reengagement of embodied knowing and appreciation of the visceral intensities of life. The post-nihilist reactivation of explicit copings-with the pre-conceptual plane of immanent consistency offers a kind of zero-point realism that renders thinkable an auto-affective matrix within which all praxis operates. And praxis is what always sustains us. ‘Knowing how’ to find or way in the world and continue to existence has demonstrably more traction than ‘knowing that’ (often mistakenly) things are they way we organize them schematically.
“God is dead”, and yet we remain intoxicated by the idea of gods. We continue to drink the electric kool-aid of ideology and concoct potent cocktails of compromising certainty. Culture-shocking drunkards stumble from town to city, from field to forrest, slurring our media with toxic information and distracting images.
The nihilist-to-post-nihilist move is an evolutionary and cognitive mutation of a species that has been too drunk by its own desire-infused semiotic feedback loops for far too long. We have been intoxicated by all the stories and the successes they allowed since the beginning. Now excess and abuse of those same stories and practices can finally help us hit rock-bottom and confront the consequences of our addiction to ourselves. We can now change. We can mutate and become immune to our ideological successes in order to confront our practical failures.
Those of us no longer hung over from God’s colossal wake are content only in forging new worlds while others seek new intoxications that might allow them to cling to their principles, axioms and nostalgia. Our species does not need more ‘isms’, even if its coated in the soothing logic of norms and predicates. What we need is a perpetual disillusionment that fosters brave new pragmatisms and animal becomings. What we need is post-nihilist praxis.