Does the possibility that life has no meaning, bother you?

#1
I read an interesting article recently discussing Tolstoy's existential crisis, and how he felt an emptiness with the concept of nihilism.

''My question … was the simplest of questions, lying in the soul of every man from the foolish child to the wisest elder: it was a question without an answer to which one cannot live, as I had found by experience. It was: “What will come of what I am doing today or shall do tomorrow? What will come of my whole life?” Differently expressed, the question is: “Why should I live, why wish for anything, or do anything?” It can also be expressed thus: “Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy?” - Leo Tolstoy

For more, click here: https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/06/03/tolstoy-confession/

I wonder how it is possible at all, to believe that one's life is void of meaning. Even if it's just a meaning that we attach to our individual lives, there would still be a subjective purpose to life, right? Tolstoy turned to science, then philosophy, and even spiritual ideas to find the answers to his questions. 

''I understood that if I wish to understand life and its meaning, I must not live the life of a parasite, but must live a real life, and — taking the meaning given to live by real humanity and merging myself in that life — verify it.'' - Leo Tolstoy

Is it all wishful thinking or does life have meaning? Does the possibility that life has no meaning, bother you?
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#2
Quote:Is it all wishful thinking or does life have meaning? Does the possibility that life has no meaning, bother you?

That doesn't bother me. I experience meaning all around me as naturally as I eat, drink, and breathe. It would take an exhausting effort on my part to constantly deny the beauty and meaning and profundity of the world around me. Music, nature, people, art, culture, world events, the paranormal, the intriguing ideas of philosophy and science. It's all just a big given for me when I wake up in the morning, and I always enjoy getting up. It's so exciting to be alive, and even if death is the end, I will not have enjoyed less the amazing journey I have taken in my life.
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#3
(Aug 13, 2019 06:56 PM)Leigha Wrote: I read an interesting article recently discussing Tolstoy's existential crisis, and how he felt an emptiness with the concept of nihilism.

''My question … was the simplest of questions, lying in the soul of every man from the foolish child to the wisest elder: it was a question without an answer to which one cannot live, as I had found by experience. It was: “What will come of what I am doing today or shall do tomorrow? What will come of my whole life?” Differently expressed, the question is: “Why should I live, why wish for anything, or do anything?” It can also be expressed thus: “Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy?” - Leo Tolstoy

For more, click here: https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/06/03/tolstoy-confession/

I'm usually not a believer in the presentism view of time. So for me its alternatives zap that particular brand of doleful nonsense which Tolstoy seemed to be (temporarily?) wallowing in. Which is to say, the idea that falls out of presentism that an individual and what s/he did no longer exists (as what we label the "past") both now and especially after s/he reaches the last of interval of consciousness (death).

Quote:I wonder how it is possible at all, to believe that one's life is void of meaning. Even if it's just a meaning that we attach to our individual lives, there would still be a subjective purpose to life, right? Tolstoy turned to science, then philosophy, and even spiritual ideas to find the answers to his questions. 

''I understood that if I wish to understand life and its meaning, I must not live the life of a parasite, but must live a real life, and — taking the meaning given to live by real humanity and merging myself in that life — verify it.'' - Leo Tolstoy

Is it all wishful thinking or does life have meaning? Does the possibility that life has no meaning, bother you?

What that expression the "meaning of life" itself is supposed to mean is vague. So I'm going to go with a "structure or power that exists outside the individual consciousness to validate its decisions". Which is taken to be the cause of distress in the context of nihilism, when belief in such an external foundation is expunged.

Karen Carr (page 86): Sartre, in fact, suggested that, despite the "distress" accompanying the realization that there is no God (i.e., that no structure or power exists outside the individual consciousness to validate its decisions), recognizing this fact was the necessary precondition for authentic existence. Only then was the full burden of human responsibility placed on each individual's shoulders. Being authentic meant taking full responsibility for one's actions, facing up the truth that there is no truth other than the truth one wills, no ground or justification for this willing other than its own brute fact, coupled with a conviction of the seriousness of one's decisions... --The Banalization of Nihilism

Back on page 10, Carr comments: Rorty domesticates nihilism by making it an unobjectionable characteristic of human thought and discourse. Nihilism has been completely divested of its power to shock, and therefore of its power to reveal and redeem. [i.e., indifferent and so-called "cheerful nihilism".] We are left only with the prescriptions of a community, a community which it seems impossible to change without falling prey to a form of bad consciousness.

Thus the goal of this work is to show how Nietzsche's "uncanniest of all guests," the bane of the nineteenth century, is becoming an unremarkable, even banal, feature of modern life. The concluding chapter presents my analysis of how this transformation has happened and explores soem of its implications. Nilhilism, I will argue, comes full circle -- as its crisis value diminishes, as it becomes accepted with an indifferent shrug, it devolves into its antithesise: a dogmataic absolutism.
--The Banalization of Nihilism

The part in bold could correspond to the trendy academic ideological correctness and online vigilante justice we have today, when conjoined with what Pratt adds below about "intellectual or moral arrogance will determine which perspective has precedence". In turn, he possibly clarifies what Carr meant by nihilism (or its postmodern progeny of the 20th century) eventually breaking down and yielding its very opposite. Driven by Nietzsche's "will to power", there's nothing to stop a particular system which does believe in absolute truths and non-relativistic morality from dominating all the other cultures again. Should they be wandering around in the directionless confusion of anti-foundationalism. A disoriented herd primed for conquest, if not slaughter.

Alan Pratt: Karen Carr discusses the antifoundationalist response to nihilism. Although it still inflames a paralyzing relativism and subverts critical tools, "cheerful nihilism" carries the day, she notes, distinguished by an easy-going acceptance of meaninglessness. Such a development, Carr concludes, is alarming. If we accept that all perspectives are equally non-binding, then intellectual or moral arrogance will determine which perspective has precedence. Worse still, the banalization of nihilism creates an environment where ideas can be imposed forcibly with little resistance, raw power alone determining intellectual and moral hierarchies. It's a conclusion that dovetails nicely with Nietzsche's, who pointed out that all interpretations of the world are simply manifestations of will-to-power. --Nihilism ... IEP
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#4
I imagine that, if I lost all faith in meaning, maybe that would be bad. Not sure. Humans are significance generators, and if nothing else, genetic immortality through our children provides a purpose and meaning.
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#5
Interestingly my first thought was to propose the anthropomorphic response and query the thoughts of something surreal like a "cow" (considering they stand staring in a daze while chewing grass to cud and not worrying about the long scale of their internal flatulence adding to the global warming crisis or being ground to burger pâté)

That lead my neurological process to anthologise it to into the statement "The size of a cow", since I've been posting various music tracks in the music thread it actually made me thing of the Wonderstuff's track on that title which incidentally has lyrics that hinge on some of the very question provided by the OP.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1egoyuCrwM

Ideally I'd prefer a more hedonistic approach to the view point of what life's about, although at times it can be difficult to remain upbeat with so many people willing to drag us all down.
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#6
(Aug 13, 2019 08:21 PM)Magical Realist Wrote:
Quote:Is it all wishful thinking or does life have meaning? Does the possibility that life has no meaning, bother you?

That doesn't bother me. I experience meaning all around me as naturally as I eat, drink, and breathe. It would take an exhausting effort on my part to constantly deny the beauty and meaning and profundity of the world around me. Music, nature, people, art, culture, world events, the paranormal, the intriguing ideas of philosophy and science. It's all just a big given for me when I wake up in the morning, and I always enjoy getting up. It's so exciting to be alive, and even if death is the end, I will not have enjoyed less the amazing journey I have taken in my life.

Nicely done MR. I share your sentiments (sans paranormal) Wink. Privileged to be a piece of the universe that looks around.
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#7
(Aug 13, 2019 10:07 PM)C C Wrote:
(Aug 13, 2019 06:56 PM)Leigha Wrote: I read an interesting article recently discussing Tolstoy's existential crisis, and how he felt an emptiness with the concept of nihilism.

''My question … was the simplest of questions, lying in the soul of every man from the foolish child to the wisest elder: it was a question without an answer to which one cannot live, as I had found by experience. It was: “What will come of what I am doing today or shall do tomorrow? What will come of my whole life?” Differently expressed, the question is: “Why should I live, why wish for anything, or do anything?” It can also be expressed thus: “Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy?” - Leo Tolstoy

For more, click here: https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/06/03/tolstoy-confession/

I'm usually not a believer in the presentism view of time. So for me its alternatives zap that particular brand of doleful nonsense which Tolstoy seemed to be (temporarily?) wallowing in. Which is to say, the idea that falls out of presentism that an individual and what s/he did no longer exists (as what we label the "past") both now and especially after s/he reaches the last of interval of consciousness (death).

Quote:I wonder how it is possible at all, to believe that one's life is void of meaning. Even if it's just a meaning that we attach to our individual lives, there would still be a subjective purpose to life, right? Tolstoy turned to science, then philosophy, and even spiritual ideas to find the answers to his questions. 

''I understood that if I wish to understand life and its meaning, I must not live the life of a parasite, but must live a real life, and — taking the meaning given to live by real humanity and merging myself in that life — verify it.'' - Leo Tolstoy

Is it all wishful thinking or does life have meaning? Does the possibility that life has no meaning, bother you?

What that expression the "meaning of life" itself is supposed to mean is vague. So I'm going to go with a "structure or power that exists outside the individual consciousness to validate its decisions". Which is taken to be the cause of distress in the context of nihilism, when belief in such an external foundation is expunged.

Karen Carr (page 86): Sartre, in fact, suggested that, despite the "distress" accompanying the realization that there is no God (i.e., that no structure or power exists outside the individual consciousness to validate its decisions), recognizing this fact was the necessary precondition for authentic existence. Only then was the full burden of human responsibility placed on each individual's shoulders. Being authentic meant taking full responsibility for one's actions, facing up the truth that there is no truth other than the truth one wills, no ground or justification for this willing other than its own brute fact, coupled with a conviction of the seriousness of one's decisions... --The Banalization of Nihilism 

Back on page 10, Carr comments: Rorty domesticates nihilism by making it an unobjectionable characteristic of human thought and discourse. Nihilism has been completely divested of its power to shock, and therefore of its power to reveal and redeem. [i.e., indifferent and so-called "cheerful nihilism".] We are left only with the prescriptions of a community, a community which it seems impossible to change without falling prey to a form of bad consciousness.

Thus the goal of this work is to show how Nietzsche's "uncanniest of all guests," the bane of the nineteenth century, is becoming an unremarkable, even banal, feature of modern life. The concluding chapter presents my analysis of how this transformation has happened and explores soem of its implications. Nilhilism, I will argue, comes full circle -- as its crisis value diminishes, as it becomes accepted with an indifferent shrug, it devolves into its antithesise: a dogmataic absolutism.
--The Banalization of Nihilism

The part in bold could correspond to the trendy academic ideological correctness and online vigilante justice we have today, when conjoined with what Pratt adds below about "intellectual or moral arrogance will determine which perspective has precedence". In turn, he possibly clarifies what Carr meant by nihilism (or its postmodern progeny of the 20th century) eventually breaking down and yielding its very opposite. Driven by Nietzsche's "will to power", there's nothing to stop a particular system which does believe in absolute truths and non-relativistic morality from dominating all the other cultures again. Should they be wandering around in the directionless confusion of anti-foundationalism. A disoriented herd primed for conquest, if not slaughter.

Alan Pratt: Karen Carr discusses the antifoundationalist response to nihilism. Although it still inflames a paralyzing relativism and subverts critical tools, "cheerful nihilism" carries the day, she notes, distinguished by an easy-going acceptance of meaninglessness. Such a development, Carr concludes, is alarming. If we accept that all perspectives are equally non-binding, then intellectual or moral arrogance will determine which perspective has precedence. Worse still, the banalization of nihilism creates an environment where ideas can be imposed forcibly with little resistance, raw power alone determining intellectual and moral hierarchies. It's a conclusion that dovetails nicely with Nietzsche's, who pointed out that all interpretations of the world are simply manifestations of will-to-power. --Nihilism ... IEP

ha ''Cheerful nihilism,'' I like that. I didn't realize it until researching Tolstoy's backstory a little more yesterday, but he converted to Christianity around his 50th birthday. It would seem, at least for him, that not only was nihilism unsatisfying for lack of a better word, but he was searching for an ''absolute'' truth. That said, he was known as a ''Christian anarchist,'' so to speak - he didn't follow the traditional, orthodox ''version'' of Christianity. He seemed like an intellectual Christian, who wasn't interested in grabbing hold of the Bible for comfort or escape, but to simply bring a sense of meaning to his life, and he found meaning in Jesus' words. I didn't know this about Tolstoy, pretty eye opening.

(Aug 13, 2019 08:21 PM)Magical Realist Wrote:
Quote:Is it all wishful thinking or does life have meaning? Does the possibility that life has no meaning, bother you?

That doesn't bother me. I experience meaning all around me as naturally as I eat, drink, and breathe. It would take an exhausting effort on my part to constantly deny the beauty and meaning and profundity of the world around me. Music, nature, people, art, culture, world events, the paranormal, the intriguing ideas of philosophy and science. It's all just a big given for me when I wake up in the morning, and I always enjoy getting up. It's so exciting to be alive, and even if death is the end, I will not have enjoyed less the amazing journey I have taken in my life.
Even through your posts, I've always sensed a genuine positive spirit about you, MR.
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