Nihilism, in a nutshell, argues that life is without objective purpose or value. This philosophy is something that has always seemed to cause controversy, as it seems society has always a some sort of fear when it pertains to Nihilism. Briefly describe what Nihilism means to you, and its relation to Parallelism.
What is Nihilism?
Nihilism is a philosophy based on the idea that reality alone is important. It rejects belief, faith, wishful thinking, ideology, morality and socialization as in any way a form of reality and/or “inherent”; these are human projections. All potential actions are choices we can make. However, nihilists are not relativists. We do not say all choices are equal, because equality is also a human projection. All choices are simply whatever their results are, because intentions exist only within the human mind and are not important.
Most people want to read into nihilism the typical kiddie-rebellion fatalism that infects the industrialized nations: “Nothing matters, so do whatever you want!” This is broken, because nihilism eschews the yes/no question of “matters,” since even having something matter at all is a choice. Nihilism also avoids the “do whatever you want” because to prescribe that is to give it a value. The only statement nihilism makes is that nothing is real except reality. Human projections are irrelevant because they are unrelated to outcomes.
Every action we undertake on earth is a choice. Do I eat the red-spotted mushroom? The utilitarians will say that if most people like eating them, you should do it; the formalists will say that if it’s socially approved, you should do it; the instrumentalists will ask if the goal of eating the mushroom is moral; the materialists of course will say that it depends on what comforts or wealth it gets you. A nihilist says to use the scientific method and look at what the whole of the results are. Will it poison you? Will it mislead others? Will it harm the forest? Will it bring about any gain of any kind? These are all choices, and must be considered in turn.
Nihilism is not a morality. Morality is what comes between humans and making choices. I can choose to commit crimes, but if morality exists, I will be reacting to the moral judgment of right/wrong instead of the consequences of my actions. This puts us back to measuring our acts by intentions, when we really should instead look at what the results will be. We then have to confront those results and say, “The result of this crime is that I’m going to force this person to work another 40 hours to pay for what I took, and my reward will be 10% of the purchase value, and it’s likely that more people will follow my example and commit crimes.”
That sort of measurement is emotionally heavier than saying some action is bad or good. If an action brings about good results, we can talk about those anticipated results by looking at past similar actions and pointing out the similarity. In the same way, if a proposed action is likely to bring about bad results, we need to only compare it to past events. “Last time we lit our cigarettes off the propane tank, we blew up three houses and a dog. Is that the result we want again?”
Nihilism is not negation. If there is religion in a nihilist world, it is esotericism, or the discovery of religious principles from patterns in our environment. If there is morality in a nihilist world, it is unceasing awareness of consequences. These things can exist, but they, too, are choices. However, as mentioned above, nihilism is not relativistic, so “it’s a choice” doesn’t mean “it’s accepted” as it does in pluralist moralist societies. It means instead that the burden of consequences is upon the person who makes a choice.
Nihilism is also not anarchy. Anarchy is a moral judgment that a leadership structure should not exist. A nihilist will reject the idea that a State is necessary, but by recognizing that leadership is a choice, forces us to consider the consequences of types of leadership versus no leadership. Nihilism does not choose what “ought” to be; it chooses what works. And so the first nihilist question to an anarchist would be, “Where can I find a successful anarchist community?”
Unlike ideological political systems, nihilism does not view wishful thinking — what “ought” to be, what society “should” do, or a moral jihad for equality — as useful. It questions causes->effects and by looking at effects, chooses to pick the corresponding cause (action) that can be undertaken to achieve those effects. As a result, it is pragmatist, or non-utilitarian consequentialist. This makes it more like the paleoconservative right and less like modern post-1789 state/ideology-based systems.
As a philosophy, nihilism recognizes that rejection of all values negates itself because it is in itself a value. Instead, nihilism views all values as choices. When these values are based on aspects of reality, they are nihilistic, but the creation of values like morality is dangerous because it removes us from thinking about reality and instead has us thinking about the words, symbols and relationships that comprise those values. A nihilist would suggest that the healthiest human system is one where we look at consequences alone.
Nihilism is ultimately a philosophy of affirmation. When we clear the human projection out of our heads, we are like children again, and can instead of reacting blindly to social projections, choose what we want out of life. As a conservative nihilist, I choose what Plato found to be the apex of human existence: the good, the beautiful and the true.
Why society fears Nihilism
I no longer believe that society exists. I should say instead that it’s a moving target. Societies have a life cycle just like humans. If you take care of your society, it can last for a really long time. If you do not, it self-destructs quickly. The remnants of destroyed societies are what we call third world nations. In each of these, there was once a prosperous society led by intelligent and noble people. These people pitied others, and so made life more hygienic, safer, abundant and easier for them, which resulted in incompetents outbreeding competents and dooming the society to failure.
During the early days of a civilization, there is no need for formalization. People recognize a shared purpose and set of values to achieve that purpose. It can be as simple as adaptation to a geographic area, but only if it includes an added dimension, which is the desire to not just survive but to thrive. Essentially, the best human value is laziness, because it causes us to want to improve our knowledge and self-organization such that we have more time to relax, ponder, create music, wage war, fall in love, etc. You know of Mazlow’s pyramid of needs; in my view, civilization begins in the upper parts of this pyramid where emotions and the need to use the mind like a weapon are found.
Unfortunately, over time, the aforementioned process of “helping others” leads to a proliferation of incapable people. These people do not mean badly, but they have a fatal flaw, which is that they are thoughtless. They will either overpopulate their geographical area or cause some other tragedy of the commons (an event where a public resource is exploited unto destruction because its cost to each individual is free) and as a result, will find themselves starving, diseased or in wars they can’t win. At that point they turn on their leaders, who are usually the people who had been trying to stop the decay and getting beaten back by the crowd of people who want to believe in what they wish were true, not what they can discern is true.
As a result, wishful thinking predominates up until the very end, where there is a sudden and conclusion confrontation with reality itself, and the civilization falls apart. It doesn’t just explode, but all the levels of civilized behavior drop precipitously until it is corrupt, dishonest, whorelike, ugly, dirty, commerce-ridden, violent, and directionless. It is usually ruled by warlords or a military junta because such disorder requires authoritarian government to keep it in line.
During this process people attempt to enforce their wishful thinking because (a) they want to stay in denial about the collapse and (b) this enables them to control others and get ahead through manipulation. As a result, they invent the myth of inherency. These words we use to describe things are not just token symbols we exchange in their view, but are the actual names of things. Our religions are not interpretations of metaphysics, but the whole truth. Government and collective approval are the only legitimate ways to make decisions. Good is a certain list of things; bad is anything that opposes it. Soon we are living in a world of “inherent” symbols that are human-created and often either arbitrary or deliberately controlling.
This is the origin of modern control. Unlike ancient control, which was cooperation based on having a hierarchy, or a decent authoritarian state, which is essentially paternalistic pragmatism (a form of consequentialism — the idea that we measure our actions by their results, not their intent — that, unlike utilitarianism, is based on reality for society as a whole and not the approval of a majority of its members, a subjective…or should we say “wishful thinking”….measurement), modern control is individuals controlling one another to keep any of us from upsetting the fragile balance created by a civilization dedicated to equality. In practical terms, “equality” means pluralism or that there is no right/wrong except for what is proscribed by the dominant ideology which we see as giving us equality and thus “freedom.” To a modern person, freedom and equality mean the same thing, which is pluralism or no social standards, which is naturally extended to diversity/multiculturalism/internationalism (these terms mean the same thing) and approval of every underdog group that doesn’t violate social/political norms.
Nihilism shatters this control by attacking inherency. As a nihilist, you realize that everything is indeed a choice. You can choose to deny reality. You can choose to eat feces. You can choose to shoot yourself in the head. All of these are possible choices, and there’s only two ways to make such choices. The first way is wishful thinking; the second way is reality-based thinking. Since we know wishful thinking varies with the quality of the individual, and it can be easily observed that most individuals (I’ll add the Southern hybrid between good-will and pity, “Bless their hearts!”) make most decisions poorly, it makes zero sense to pick wishful thinking, or a subjective standard. Instead, it is logical to pick a reality-based standard. The prole has trained themselves to say “but who decides?” and the answer to that is obvious: we pick the best among us. However, to a non-nihilist, that answer seems dangerous. Someone is more than equal? There are differences between people? But you can’t say that in polite conversation! You will never get laid!
This is why nihilism is controversial. It destroys control, but unlike anarchy, does not affirm the necessity of control through picking an opposite model. Instead, it tells us we have choices. We can choose a rising society, or by making a different decision, choose to have a dying one. The results of our decisions are clear because similar types of decisions have been made in the past, and we can compare cause->effect and see what effects our actions are likely to have. Most people get freaked out by that “deterministic” view of life, so choose to believe that they can choose an effect, and then assign to it any cause they want, thus they can do whatever they want and claim they “intended” to have a certain effect. Tee hee, aren’t they clever! Logicians will know this as a B->A error: If all A->B, then all A are B, but not all B are A (B->A). Mistaken cause->effect reasoning is the foundation of our declining society today.
On a simpler level, nihilism is controversial because people prefer pleasant/easy lies to complex/difficult truths. They want to hear absolute and universal guarantees, like the talismans of an ancient religion: just slaughter a lamb to Baal, and you will get rich. Don’t worry about your decisions, and trying to figure out if you do the right one; get the right symbol on there, and everything will be OK. Social decision-making works this way, interestingly enough. If I say nice things to my friend, and then answer with wrong information when she asks me a factual question, I don’t get blamed or seen as having failed because the link in the friendship is the social kindness, not accuracy. People want that level of acceptance-without-challenge extended to all portions of their lives.
What is Parallelism?
Parallelism is a solution to linear thinking. Nihilism has us thinking in terms of choices; parallelism has us realizing that to make these choices, we need to compare more than one factor out of many to consider the before-state and after-state of our decision. Humans tend to project their own arbitrary choices onto situations by choosing one factor out of thousands or millions to look at when evaluating a decision.
For example, “Will this new car produce more or less carbon output than my old car?” If you look only at that one factor, you’ll go buy a Prius, but then there’s the question of what environmental damage is caused by the batteries in the Prius and the energy required to make it. There are other questions to be asked as well: am I more likely to be in a wreck, and thus send both cars to the junkyard? Will this be as reliable as a “regular” car? Is a better use of the money required to pay for its higher cost to simply purchase a few acres of forest land? Can I drive less with my existing car? These questions involve the assessment of environmental impact only.
Parallelism suggests that decisions are made according to indicators found in parallel between multiple factors. This reduces the arbitrary nature of linear decision-making. As a corresponding notion, parallelism also suggests that structures exist in parallel throughout the universe. This includes the vertical dimension of complexity and the possibility of metaphysics. “As above, so below,” would be an expression of parallelism; another way to view it is that there are no structures in the cosmos which are radically incompatible with any others.
As such, parallelism is an attack on how most people conceive of religion. The average person is either (a) a materialist, believing that there is nothing but physical matter and thus enhacing physical comfort for people is the best goal (utilitarianism), or (b) a dualist, believing that there is some “other side” where all things are pure and clear and people will live in perfection in the order of God or gods. Parallelism suggests instead that any additional metaphysical dimension will resemble what is here, because in all aspects of reality, nature uses mirrored structures to create an architectonic or self-balancing order. The greatest is found in the least and vice-versa. It is a perfect design.
In addition, parallelism points out another structure in nature, which is a natural selection-like mechanism that is found in nature, but also in mathematics and thought. Roughly speaking, for any possible action there are many parallel impulses, and each one reflects a certain degree of maturation toward completeness of organization. The most organized tend to form a parallel harmonic level — imagine the parallels themselves as verticals, and a horizontal line being drawn where completeness of order occurs — and thrive, while others go away. Our thoughts are like this: we have many impulses in response to stimulus, and our brain selects those which are the most complete and which do not trigger any negative feedback loops.
Parallelism also has political implications, notably that it’s nonsense to base a society on a single arbitrary idea (equality, finance) when many other things need to be considered. We need to consider happiness, and more importantly, being a rising society where we’re constantly getting better at what we do, instead of a declining one. Physical health needs to be considered as well, as does environmental impact, as does social consequence. There is no “freedom” from any of the consequences of our actions.
Further, parallelism suggests that different civilizations go through the same patterns if they use similar forms of organization. This ratifies Plato’s “civilization cycle,” by which nations are born, age and die. Every nation that undertakes the attitude and organization typical of a senescent nation will become senescent; any nation that adopts the attitude and organization typical of a new nation will be reborn. Further, parallelism suggests that the fortunes of our societies are not caused by geography, but by where in the cycle we choose to put our effort. In addition, parallelism would have us thus separate these societies so that each can evolve according to its choices.
A parallelist worldview also includes that idea that we cannot divide leadership by separating it into different subject matters. For example, financial decisions have effects on the same things that legal or social decisions do, but so also do non-government actions like those of the media, religions, social groups etc. It makes more sense to organize government by the things upon which we are having effect, than by the flavor (religious, economic, social, political) of activity undergone.
As such, parallelism is an entry point to the birth stage of the cycle of civilizations, called Tradition, and is utterly incompatible with modernity. However, since parallelism is reality-based, it explains the consequences of choices rather than formulate an ideology toward their ends. For this reason, it is a useful tool for diagnosing modern stumbles and finding ways to work around them.
What are some important figures in history that have shared the same viewpoint, to some degree?
Every great leader in history has recognized these principles to some degree. Nihilism belongs to strategic realists like NiccolÃ² Machiavelli and Kautilya, but also to clear-minded thinkers like Siddhartha and Eckhart. Parallelism has to my knowledge never been articulated as such, but was an understood (which is better than written down — it lives in the culture and, as culture shapes its population through natural selection according to Race-Culture Theory, becomes part of the genetics of that population) part of ancient cultures.
Because these viewpoints are more descriptive (analysis of cause->effect decisions) than prescriptive, or ideological and moral values imposed on a population to control it, they do not comprise an ideology per se but are methods that can be applied by anyone. Josef Stalin can be said to be a nihilist with his pronouncement “no man, no problem”; then again, Bill Clinton also displayed nihilistic thinking when he adopted the practice of creating his current political platform by reading the polls and selecting any idea that polled highly as something he would support. However, none of these consciously adopt a nihilistic or parallelist viewpoint.
I would imagine that artists share a good deal of these philosophies because artists are naturally outsiders, since their job is to notice what society cannot. Further, artists are naturally realists, because in order to portray life accurately, one must notice how it functions and not the type of social statements that can be made to gloss-over that or make it sound appealing. Finally, art is inherently meditative; meditation is the root of all understanding, since it calms the mind and allows exploration of all factors at once. To be an artist, you must find what is hidden in plain sight and style it so that it and any solutions needed to it are appealing, making people want to engage with it. Artists fight back against numbness induced by social conformity of behavior which in turn exhausts the mind of any possibilities other than obedience and reward.