Nihilism, Existentialism and Morality

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The economic crisis we’re in is bringing the notion of Nihilism back into vogue. And certainly as greater numbers of people find themselves unable to participate in an aboveground economy, the underground economy grows in prominence and the rule of law is threatened as never before.

The catch phrase of Chaos Magic, “Nothing is true, Everything is permitted” may suggest to some a Nihilistic point of view which would suggest Life is without purpose or intrinsic value. But Nihilism is something else, because holding life as being without purpose and having no intrinsic worth in fact doesn’t permit ‘everything’.

The enlightenment of Buddhism can also be confused for Nihilism, in that the content of the enlightenment can be pointed to in terms of understanding ’emptiness’.

Buddhist ’emptiness’ is the opposite of nihilism for in emptiness is limitless possibility and interconnectedness with all life, that which Nihilism denies.

The Existentialist insight is what “Nothing is true, Everything is permitted” may be pointing to. The content of an Existential insight is that great truths relating to culture and spirituality – they become stripped from you as you understand their foundation is truly nothing, nothing real.

Now what you do with the insight is what distinguishes an existential Christian like Kierkegaard (the absurdity of reality demands the artifice of clarity provided by faith in God and religion) and a Nihilist (If reality isn’t true as I imagined, nothing is true, life is without purpose or intrinsic worth!).

The most conservative reality based stance in the face of existential insight – is to not know. Because you can’t know. The idea of morality and ethics does hold up!-makes sense in a secular fashion, and we may have brain chemicals demanding ‘morality’ anyway – so let’s keep that.

Don’t pretend ethics aren’t real anymore because they have become inconvenient.
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