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Philosophically Thinking Through Nihilism
The crucial question for those concerned with nihilism thus becomes: Is there still left in our practices some remnant of the nonobjectifying practices that were presumably extant in fifth-century Athens before the cultural collapse that is expressed and furthered by Socrates and Plato?” ~ Dreyfus
In response to this pressing question I now attempt to explicate what Dreyfus terms “nonobjectifying” practices as an active response to the nihilistic condition within which now find ourselves. This final section focuses on two aspects of our lived world and the values, which are inextricably bound up within our worldly existence: (1) the practices and “forms of life” we share that demand the rethinking of our privileged modes of epistemological links to the earth and others, which includes rethinking philosophy’s role in elucidating and contributing to the development and sustaining of our cultural practices, and (2) the attitude we adopt in relation to science and technology that is the crux of nihilism, and how that relationship might, and indeed, needs to be rethought and recast in terms other than a relationship of divine reverence and servitude. According to Dreyfus, as long as we continue to think in terms of explicit views of truth and objectifying models for values over implicit shared concerns, we will not “find anything that has authority for us and elicits our commitment” (512).
Introducing Empedocles, Nietzsche, and Nihilism
“So much depends on the development of the Greek culture because our entire occidental world has received its initial stimuli from it […] There are very many possibilities which have not yet been discovered because the Greeks did not discover them. And others have discovered the Greeks and later covered them up again.” ~ Nietzsche
In his introduction to Heidegger’s Early Greek Thinking, David Krell talks about the history of philosophy in terms of a “nightmare from which we, Dedalus-like, are trying to awake,” unfortunately, as he observes, “indignant refusal and consignment to oblivion are hardly signs of wakefulness” (7). What follows is not however, an interpretation of Heidegger’s engagement with Pre-Socratic thought, if it were, we would be looking at the fragments of Anaximander, Heraclitus, and Parmenides. Rather, I choose to focus on Empedocles, perhaps for one of the reasons Nietzsche found so appealing, namely, Empedocles attempts to “lead humanity across [the bridge] to the universal friendship (koina ton philon) of the Pythagoreans and thus to social reform” (113). Although the issue of social reform on a grand scale is beyond the modest scope of these thoughts, I examine Empedocles’ thought as it moves through Nietzsche’s modern philosophy with the hope of reawakening and reinvigorating the authentic need and drive to philosophize by attempting to understand more clearly what the ancient Greek’s relationship to his world, and by extension, others, might have been like. I want to consider the value and potential in the thought of Empedocles and Nietzsche for inspiring thinking in other directions beyond our contemporary nihilistic condition as Hubert Dreyfus outlines, which might offer a new understanding of who we are in relation to the way in which we inhabit the world.
Politics over the last hundred years has been highly resistant to mythic or legendary considerations.
Legend may be used tactically for propaganda in a crisis or enter into the perceived history of a nation but, despite the influence of legend on nineteenth century romantic nationalism, most modern politicians most of the time like to avoid irrationalism.
Similarly the distinction between mythic and legendary narratives allows us to place to one side faith-based political ideology – notably that of the Shi’a but also the now much reduced, except in the backwoods of America, biblical fundamentalist narratives about race and providence.
Elixir by David Chaim Smith
“Fulgur Limited is delighted to host a much anticipated launch party for David Chaim Smith’s The Sacrificial Universe in collaboration with our friends at the Cavin-Morris Gallery in the Chelsea arts district, New York, on March 23rd. The event will run from 6-8pm. We are especially honoured that the evening will feature a live performance from the legendary John Zorn, plus special guests.”
- Fulgur Limited Press Release
David Chaim Smith, with characteristic humility, describes the event as “just a humble book launch party for my most recent work “The Sacrificial Universe” (Fulgur 2012). “ However, this celebration marks an important philosophical turning point that has been churning of late and is starting to bear visible fruit. This turning point is a renewal of a deeper engagement with concepts that have been relegated to mere theory and idealization or fringe realization.
J. Briggs and F.D. Peat (1999) describe a link between Chaos Theory and the creative act of making and remaking our world and Being in terms analogous to those encountered in the German philosophical tradition, e.g., Kant, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and the philosophy of primordial truth and the work of art in Heidegger. Against the traditional notion of truth that comes by means of “technique, discipline, or logic,” Briggs and Peat write of a unique form of truth that manifests in moments of creative activity as “something lived in the moment and expressive of an individual’s connection to the whole” (p. 21).
This notion of truth is more primordial than any of our formal notions of truth (e.g., propositional truth) and is connected with a type of knowledge, or better, understanding that represents a “deeper authenticity and ‘truth’ about our individual experience of being in the world” (p. 20). Importantly, as related to Heidegger’s philosophy, this notion of truth, which is revelatory and ecstatic in nature, holds the potential to (1) disrupt the mechanized patterns of our rote day-to-day existence, an existence that conditions us in an inauthentic manner, and (2) awaken in us a creative “vortex,” or center, in which the processes of bifurcation and amplification open the potential for a new principle of self-organization and self-reorganization. As the authors stress, releasing ourselves to the “chaos” attunes us anew and colors our “vision” in a way that allows us to understand and discourse about our existence in a renewed manner.
Robert Monroe interviewed on WPIX San Francisco for his publication of Journey’s Out of the Body.