Nihilism, Nietzsche & Billie Eilish
“Millennial Nihilism” is a phrase used a lot online, often used in bad faith but equally I do see why the philosophy of Nihilism might be attractive at the moment given how hopeless the future looks judging by any of the myriad horrors befalling the globe today. As such a resigned acceptance, if not a willing embrace of the encroaching void, seems reasonable. But I think both responses, the desperate cling to out of date values or the borderline contempt for everything, in the face of the current crises are somewhat lazy interpretations of the complex philosophy of Nihilism.
Nihilism, as we think of it today, is largely defined by the ideas of a one Friedrich Nietzsche (a strange person to have become almost a household name but here we are) though the concepts associated with nihilism were present many years before him. In broad terms, Nihilism is a rejection of any sense of meaning, objective truth or morality in life. But if you’ve read Nietzsche you’ll notice his use of the term is quite liberal, with various meanings and understandings associated with it. Nietzsche’s more nuanced argument is not that Nihilism is the overall point, that nothing means anything and that’s that, but that nihilism reveals existence as a ‘blank slate’ through which we are granted perspective. He rejected certain religious doctrines that ascribed intrinsic value to things as this meant we must accept those meanings given to us no questions asked, whereas the ‘truth’ (if there is such a thing) is that everything’s value is dependent on perspective. What is fascinating is that this theory has been borne out in contemporary sciences the more we investigate.
Whether it’s Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, the Observer Problem or even Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, most major scientific research acknowledges the problem of perspective. The very fact human beings involve themselves in objective reality fundamentally alters it. This also goes a long way to understanding the roots of the Sciences being in Philosophy itself, with the desire to question and understand our reality intrinsic to both. Even in a discipline seemingly far removed from both, Economics, we see a certain nihilistic influence given the understanding it offers on value. The…