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By John Marmysz
The essence of nihilism as a psychological phenomenon is defined by a perceived incongruity between real-life capacities and ideal standards of achievement. From the perspective of the nihilist, nothing that we do is of worth because nothing of which we are capable measures up to the superlative standards set by absolute Being, Truth, Goodness, Beauty, Freedom, etc. Since perfection is always beyond our reach, all of our accomplishments in this world are judged to be substandard by the nihilist. Human life is, thus, a constant and hopeless struggle that involves a perpetual falling away from the highest, most worthy ideals. The further we reach, the more painfully we fall away from all that is true, good and perfect.
We might venture to inquire into the more general circumstances that occasion this seemingly depressing incongruity. It is has often been suggested that the psychological problem of nihilism is a phenomenon arising in response to larger cultural and societal changes in the world. For instance, John Zerzan has claimed that the march of technology, in the direction of the complete industrialization of
society is the deep, causal factor in the emergence of modern, passive nihilism.(1)He follows Heidegger in this regard, claiming that technology tends to promote an instrumental sort of thinking in which human beings lose their sense of freedom and happiness, in the process becoming alienated from nature itself. Nihilism, Zerzan seems to believe, is a problem unique to life in late capitalist societies where market forces and the drive towards profit and efficiency have eroded our confidence in the highest moral values. The nihilist feels a sense of passive despair as a result of being crushed under the heel of capitalist technology. The ideals of Being, Truth, Goodness, Beauty, Freedom, etc., come to mean nothing, and the passive nihilist laments this incongruity between the way that the world is and the way that it should be, feeling powerless to change anything.
While it is highly questionable that the sole cause of nihilism is the operation of market forces and technology, it seems less questionable that nihilism certainly introduces a distressing predicament strongly associated with cultural crisis, change and transition. What I would like to argue here is that nihilism has less to do with technology, as Zerzan claims, and more to do with cultural transition generally. The phenomenon of nihilism becomes most apparent during times of cultural upheaval and change because it is during these periods when the legitimacy and desirability of the collective values and aspirations of a people are most likely to be thrown into question. During such periods, individuals may lose the strength of their taken for granted and unquestioned confidence in the socially
rather. and thus opens up the opportunity for action and the re-evaluation of values. When this occurs. and the individual is called to re-evaluate the highest values of civilization in light of the most unconditioned. never-the-less announces itself as more than a simple threat. initiate changes in our own communities. though often emerging from the painful and tumultuous confusion of cultural upheaval. in participating in the projects of the collective. desire for perfection. The manner in . Thus. perhaps. absolute and categorical standards of worth. The shattering of this confidence may encourage meditation by individuals on the criteria by which valuable things in general are judged. We know that the ends and goals we pursue as worthwhile are. nihilism. Though all of us may. the objects of our highest aspirations. it becomes apparent that the actual values of civilization that we are socialized into are not. It also ushers in a period of crisis. a period of reflective reorientation and crisis is ushered in. yet hidden. to a great degree. Whereas authors such as Zerzan commonly emphasize the passive and despairing side of nihilism. is to underscore its active and rejuvenating powers. With this. what I would like to do here. conditioned and reinforced by the groups that we find ourselves in. in fact. Though the consummation of this desire for perfection is doomed to failure. none of us may refuse to be born into those communities or to be influenced by them. we were all along motivated by a more ambitious. in falling away from it we are able to appreciate and contemplate its grandeur. Rather.sanctioned activities and undertakings encouraged and advocated by civilization.
Its goals are very general and very ambitious.which we interpret and understand the world is irretrievably colored by our upbringing. always represented as the internal. As we struggle for achievement. The Animating Principle. Truth. called this internal force by different names: Elan Vital. innate life force that makes us alive and human. This internal drive seeks dissipation and expression. however. Different individuals have. etc. Will. Soul. Society molds and conditions the individual from the outside. It seeks the superlative. Beauty and Freedom themselves. but a standard against which we judge our accomplishments. Though human desires and aspirations are certainly shaped by outside social forces. It is. the ultimate and the infinite in whatever it attempts. Goodness. rewarding those beliefs and behaviors that are beneficial to the group while discouraging and punishing those that threaten collective cohesion. It wants to touch Being. and it remains unsatisfied so long as . at differing times. humans have an innate "longing for infinity"(2) that expresses itself in the unquenchable desire for the ultimate. and as we grow and mature into adulthood we inherit traditional ambitions from the various communities and subcultures that we belong to. never resting satisfied so long as some of its energy is held in reserve. Humans are called from within just as forcefully as they are from without. this innate endowment provides not only the motivation for our striving. Spirit. Will to Power. this does not mean that internal forces play no role whatsoever in this regard. As Emile Durkheim observes. It desires perfection.
The collective gives concrete shape and purpose to our inner drives. society claims that we should redirect our efforts towards those more modest projects that may realistically result in fulfillment. the call of the group is more pragmatic and realistic. the group. We are constantly reminded by this inner daimon that there is always more to do and higher levels of accomplishment to achieve. From the inside. While the call from inside is idealistic. allowing for the realization of hopes and plans. So it is that humans are called from both inside and outside. the group tells us.these things are out of reach. It makes us feel dissatisfied with what we have and motivates us to reach for what we don't already possess. Unqualified perfection does not exist. society tells us that we should pursue those ends and goals valued by. nature tells us that we must engage in activity and striving. and useful to. This inner drive takes perfection as its standard. however. From the outside. and we must always try to transform what we have achieved into something better and different. What we possess is never good enough. . It encourages us to reign in our desire for perfection and to pursue those projects that afford the greatest chances of success. pushing us forward when we might otherwise fall into complacent satisfaction with our already actualized accomplishments. and so in order to avoid the senseless dissipation of our life's energy.
This antagonism brings into existence an entity that is dependent upon both and yet transcends them both. Locked in a war for dominance. while the force of the collective never ceases to tyrannize and direct the sum total of human aspirations. this emergent entity acts to bind the individual and the collective ever more tightly and intimately together. Social scientists and philosophers have speculated endlessly concerning the nature of the "social glue" that binds people together in groups. This emergent entity is culture.The inner and the outer forces that shape humans are. perpetuating engagement and strengthening the commitment of each side to its respective role. one thing seems clear. is a teacher whose method of instruction is sometimes very covert and subtle. Culture. in conflict. the individual and the collective encounter one another as on a battlefield. The inner drive for "infinity" perpetually struggles to free itself from the constraining force of collective expectation. thus. They are bound together by their mutual antagonism. however. neither the individual nor the collective can do without one another. The force of culture cements the individual and the collective into a discontented whole. like soldiers who find their purpose in fighting the enemy. and though they may disagree on many details. Like the war that is larger than any of its participants. and no group of individuals is able to fully break free from its influence. Yet. We often don't consciously realize what we have been taught until our presumptions . Culture is a force that affects and shapes both individuals and the groups to which they belong.
and as long as they go unchallenged and remain ungrounded. It is just the way that things have always been done. and values that are propagated throughout a culture are of this nature. it is hoped that the cleanliness of . Of course. to an American it may seem strange that Japanese custom requires one to remove one's shoes before entering a domicile. such defenses must appeal to a common bond that holds across differing cultural groups. From the "outside. they continue to covertly color and direct our understanding and perception of the world around us. When questioned why this is the case. Many of the customs. a person from Japan might not even know how to answer. explain or account for particular cultural beliefs. A Japanese person might explain that by taking off one's shoes before entering a house. However.are thrown into question and our worldviews have been challenged as dubious. There are any number of possible ways that one might justify. assumptions. This sometimes happens when outsiders bring to our attention certain details of our beliefs that seem curious and counter-intuitive to them. We unreflectively absorb them. binding us in comradeship to some people and alienating us from others." the values and concerns that a culture takes seriously may appear odd. and no one has ever bothered to offer an explicit explanation or reason for the custom. just because no justification for a particular cultural belief has ever been offered does not mean that one might not exist. in order to make seemingly strange customs and beliefs comprehensible to an outsider. it might be claimed. For instance.
the house's interior will be retained. No two people will agree on the value of every particular thing. The appeal to common values requires that we engage in a process that involves abstraction from particular. no understanding would be possible between individuals possessing seemingly inconsistent cultural beliefs. we are forced to make appeals to standards that transcend our own particular cultural systems. which is presumably a value that Americans adhere to in companionship with the Japanese. However. If we allow ourselves to focus too closely on these sorts of particulars (as sociologists and . some of the things that we consider important. When we try to communicate with those outside of our own culture concerning issues of value and worth. ideas and customs or values different from our own we must do so by appeal to higher principles that all involved interlocutors recognize as legitimate. an appeal is made to the virtue of cleanliness. In this manner. since intercultural communication and understanding is possible. but they can also obscure. disguise and get in the way of our ability to recognize some of the more general and abstract values that guide and condition our adherence to them. Any time that we attempt to communicate. but they may agree on the more general standards by which particular things should be judged valuable. Without access to such higher principles and standards of legitimacy. it follows that there must be some general standards that human beings recognize as authoritative and transcultural guides to correct thought and practice. Cultural particulars call our attention towards. and hint at. concrete instances of valuable things. argue and reconcile ourselves with others who possess beliefs.
Culture. at such times. and the battle between. become. and so the expectations of the group are more fluid and less unpliant than they may. . reinforcing the bond between groups of individuals. a wide variety of individuals. It is a force of becoming whose symptoms are animation and creativity. This essence is the "longing for infinity." The longing for infinity finds its voice in the struggle of individuals within the collective. This is a situation that allows for cultural flowering and growth. particular collective norms and values have not solidified to the point of reification. is dynamic. culture takes on a life of its own. we run the risk of misunderstanding the larger significance and meaning that cultural practices possess for us as human beings. As culture develops and evolves it goes on to seek its own highest values. and it expresses itself through the accomplishments of culture. Emerging out of the human struggle within the collective. Yet culture also has its own essence.anthropologists often do). At such times there is ample opportunity for the individual to find a variety of means for expressing and exercising the inner impulse for infinity. This search is energized by the creative contributions of. at other times. expressing itself in activity and the expansion of possibilities. the needs of the collective and the innate drives of individuals are most closely allied. During periods of cultural development. Though we have become quite adept at dividing ourselves into a huge variety of groups and subgroups. such diversity belies the fact that as human beings we share an essence that unites us as one. groups and subgroups. Likewise.
It dismisses the soaring visions of culture as overly general.However. and that the individual has become a prisoner. leaving behind the very force of energetic life and animation that made its accomplishments possible in the first place. The task of civilization is the protection and perpetuation of this identity. It is rigid and static. Whereas the accomplishment of civilization is that it has already learned and discovered much. culture sings its swan song. as Oswald Spengler has pointed out. Civilization is the armistice. useless. Its emergence signals that the collective has won the war. Culture is the battlefield. civilization is the crystallization of culture. The energy of culture served to motivate the activity that led to the realities of civilization. the dynamism of culture has a tendency towards the complacency of civilization. As a culture moves towards becoming a civilization. impractical and. the liveliness of culture stems from the fact that there are still many battles to be fought and that there is still much to do.(3)In civilization. it experiences the realization of its latent possibilities. the drive for infinity is quashed by the realistic and conservative forces of the collective. vague. Civilization is earthly and lower. . yet in the process loses the impetus for further development. It expresses itself in the desire for preservation and conservation. culture develops a firm identity with which it remains satisfied. Yet it was precisely because of these very same characteristics that development and creative activity were first possible. and as civilization triumphs. Whereas culture is characterized by energy and creativity. In civilization. therefore.
human drives. in demanding our attention. and we often become unreflectively entangled within activities and relationships that dissolve our unique. anti-social drives. In our everydayness we surrender to the public world and melt away into the projects of civilization. redirecting those energies into the service of civilization. Such diversion has both benefits and costs. We usually don't even notice this happening. Though repression. more important pursuits. The growth and flourishing of civilization takes place. So long as we turn away from the longing for perfect Being. These greater pursuits. as Freud claimed. the individual must submit to greater and greater forms of restraint in exchange for the guarantee of a role and a place within the civilization. sublimation and falleness help to produce all of the grand and wonderful accomplishments that we take pride in as members of a common . that humans undergo the repression of their innate. To have fallen is to lose one's way in the quest for that which is most important and worthy. distract us from greater. personal awareness of ourselves and our mighty aspirations. Heidegger calls this situation "falleness"(4)and characterizes it as the height of inauthenticity. tormenting us with feelings of emptiness and anxiety. becoming instruments rather than selves. Goodness and Freedom.As civilization triumphs. Truth. by means of squelching our innate. though they may be consciously forgotten. at least to a large extent. It involves becoming immersed in everyday activities which. So it is. still insistently call to us from within. we are tormented with the feeling that there is unfinished business to be taken care of.
and the duties and tasks that civilization demands of its members may serve as conduits through which individuals pursue their own spiritual needs. we generally accept these tradeoffs as bearable. disease and spiritual malaise. A school teacher. Through ongoing negotiation and compromise. It is at this point that the ideals of the past crumble into nothing and all creative possibility is forgotten. many of the contradictions between the individual and the collective might be smoothed over and worked out. might pursue ultimate Truth by way of performing teaching duties. These are the tradeoffs for the benefits of civilization.(5) During the vital and dynamic period of cultural development. protracted decline. When a civilization demands of its members that they sacrifice their own inner aspirations for the sustenance of the collective. nihilism emerges as an especially pervasive social problem. and so the people who live through this . or a scientist might pursue Being itself through research that produces useful products and technology. rather it is a long. there are periods of time when the incongruity between the needs of civilization and the needs of the individuals becomes so pronounced that nihilism pushes to the fore and asserts itself as a problem that can't be ignored. The apex of civilization occasions the most extreme manifestations of nihilism.civilization. for instance. This transition to nihilism doesn't take place overnight. they also have the effect of producing latent feelings of discontent and dissatisfaction that may become manifest through mental illness. However.
The pinnacle of development in a cultureÕs soul also marks the point at which it must begin to wither and deteriorate. Their nostalgia comes from the feeling that the highest. and that measured against those accomplishments. "Nihilism is not a one-way street with no return. old age and death.period are torn between the ideals of the past and the realities of the present. In our present day. that cultures often become so inexorably intertwined that it makes no literal sense to speak of a "pure" culture with a distinct life cycle. but the apocalyptic claim that nihilism necessarily signals the final and unequivocal death and dissolution of a culture is overly dramatic. may be a bit misleading. The biological image of birth."(6) It seems obvious. it has been claimed that it is this very intertwining of diverse . simply by recognizing our own indebtedness to fallen civilizations like the Ancient Greeks. In this I agree with Zerzan when he writes. Individuals who participate in the life of a culture experience this slow decline as a sense of loss. Rather their influences reach into other cultures and find new life in the interaction with foreign customs and folk ways. which became so influential with Spengler. Egyptians. etc. they do not literally die out. in other words. Though cultures rise and fall. maturity. Chinese. Nihilistic decline has occurred at various times throughout recorded history. nothing in the present world is really worthy. most noble accomplishments lie in the past.
we must find a way of prospering in an unfamiliar world as we reel from the shock of our passage. relative to our cultural upbringing. in fact. However. or an opportunity for convalescence and recovery. Once exposed to the vastly divergent and contradictory wisdom of the world's cultures. This is a major point stressed in Alan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind. we only prolong our feelings of homelessness and bewilderment the longer that we stubbornly grasp at remnants of the past. it is also signals a point of Verwindgung.(7) His suggestion for combating this trend is to settle on a cannon of basic texts from which we can draw our collective wisdom and ideals. Caught in the difficult stage of cultural transition. This being the case. We must attempt to develop concepts that make sense of our changed perception of humans and their role in the universe. We must now face the possibility that many of the values. while intended to promote tolerance and liberality. Multiculturalism and diversity. and it signals the beginning of the end for modern human beings. This is our contemporary crisis. such utilitarian measures seem too self-conscious and calculated to be truly convincing.elements that has contributed to cultural confusion and a widespread lack of confidence in the traditional values previously taken for granted. we should learn to . As we fall further away from traditional values. may also run the risk of encouraging the kind of relativism and confusion that contributes to nihilism. we just can't go back. "truths" and ideals that we previously took to be universal and objective are really. But in the words of Giannini Vattimo.
rather. passed over as quickly as possible. The undermining of the highest values of civilization has the effect of emphasizing to individuals that these values were simply conventions all along. though unpleasant. the threat of nihilism emerges. and as such it holds a transformative power that promises other things for the future. and as such it allows the distance necessary for the appreciation of the completed tasks of the past. In this way it is a bittersweet moment in the flux of life. or. Our convalescence must end at some point. Once in the grip of nihilism. Nihilism is neither a wholly negative nor a wholly positive situation.refashion those remnants into something useful for the future. and when it does humankind should emerge strong and confident. "What is to be done?" This is the question repeatedly asked throughout the . It is. and in revealing this fact. It is an opportunity to convalesce. meditate and to linger on our present condition. This situation. ignored or disregarded. The problem of nihilism has the import of a crisis. the incongruity between desire and reality opens up an abyss in human life producing a situation in which humans feels unfulfilled. rather than weak and grieving. on the other. on the one hand. Nihilism is the decline that follows a climax in human achievement. embodying both the pain of loss and the pleasure of beholding culmination. allowed to languish on forever. incomplete and impatient with the world. a phenomenon that signals a turning point in the value structure of a civilization. is not necessarily one that should be.
On the one hand. It has grown to its full height. If the history of culture is conceived of as a never ending vacillation between ascent and decline. On the other hand. floundering in the abyss of their lost faith. and so cultural rigidity and stagnation are initiated at the very moment when the highest achievements have . There is nothing higher to reach for. the nihilist is made aware of an inner drive that remains unchanged. then nihilism corresponds to those periods during which a culture experiences the exhaustion of its greatest possibilities. In losing the values of convention. growth and decay. it has produced its greatest successes and experienced its most wonderful triumphs.literature of nihilism. It is a downwards movement that creates room for an upwards movement. It is a question posed at those points when the highest values of civilization lose their legitimacy and people are left in the lurch. As it indicates a falling away from the hopes of the past. such periods also embody a climax or a pinnacle that signals consummation and completion.(8)and now we can begin to understand its force. It is an indication both that something has gone wrong and that there still remains an inner ambition for the pursuit of higher purposes and goals. they are the pinnacle of civilized achievement. nihilism also attunes us to our own spiritual depths. Such periods have ambiguous characteristics. while in another sense it is a cry of despair and confusion. It signals the possibility for renewed growth and future development. When a culture has reached its full potential. rise and fall. The question is in one sense a sincere request for direction and guidance.
it offers fewer and fewer concrete challenges to the individuals who participate in its life. possibility is. The spiritual energy of individuals is again unleashed to seek infinity. and its highest aspirations become curiosities of the past. Yet in nihilistic decline. then. creativity and potentially destructive capacity of human nature. the innate longing for infinity finds fewer and fewer legitimate outlets. . nihilism is inaugurated. These are the periods when the desire for conservation and the perpetuation of the present order predominate. The life force that animates individual human beings within a collective may be siphoned off into the conservation of the status quo. frustrated and discontented if restrained for too long. may correspond with the greatest accomplishments of civilization. As culture solidifies into civilization. Nihilism. seeking new projects and adventures. Whenever these accomplishments are accompanied by the repression of the human drive to push farther and higher. The symptoms of cultural nihilism. The spirit becomes bored. But as its successes crumble and disintegrate. reconstituted and new ambitions are discovered. a civilization slides into a period of decline.been attained. Discontent grows as a result and civilization loses its allies. This being the case. With the fragmentation of the citizenry. in this manner. but this force will never remain happy and satisfied there. It needs to expand itself. emancipates the innate dynamism. and the vitality of culture is reborn. new potential is created. ironically.
From within history. Within a nihilistic historical framework. Conceived of in this way. When understood in this fashion. Hopelessness may follow from the death of yesterday's unlimited hopes. If the great accomplishments of civilization are to be marveled at and cherished. but appreciated. but in the context of history's larger processes. In such times of crisis. It fits into a bigger picture. and the pains. "objective" perspective on history stands in sharp contrast to the lived. decline is understood as a necessary stage that must follow the glorious moments of cultural ascent. and so should be understood not in isolation. the future becomes an unknown "nothing" which. then to deny the worth of any condition making those accomplishments possible is to fall short of fully appreciating the struggle and difficulty involved in the pursuit of ideals. Decline is a necessary condition for the greatness of civilization. one's declining confidence in the values and ideals of the past might be experienced as a reason for regret and passive despair. however.Situating the moment of nihilism within a grander cycle of ascent and decline grants it a kind of inevitability and necessity. frustrations and sufferings that one experiences may seem to be without purpose or meaning. From this subjective perspective. and the present may seem to be without purpose. subjective experience of individuals within history. if meditated upon for too long. A grand. nihilism acts as a necessary condition for all else that is encompassed within the cycle of cultural history. nihilism can not only be endured. understanding is fragmentary. has the potential to absorb and .
As Aristotle observed in Poetics.(9) the human mind can only grasp and truly appreciate dramas of a limited magnitude. we ourselves are caught right in the middle of human history. tends to confuse and overwhelm rather than to direct. unstructured future. we have yet to achieve it. an abyss of unknown and unthinkable possibility. middle and end allow us to encompass and make sense of the horrors of tragedy or the absurdities of comedy. However. My departure point for the present discussion was the observation that many authors. and so we are fated never to have access to the beginning of the end of this life drama.dissipate all motivation towards activity and effort. and to ally our own passions and emotions completely with the collective history of that struggle. such as Zerzan. A clear beginning. Any production that goes on for too long or that is too intricate squanders its significance on an audience. infinite. While this may be a worthy goal to strive towards. we might be able to do away with the sort of incongruity between ourselves and the world that leads to personal despair. If it was possible to gain a God's eye perspective on the drama of human struggle. not humans. tend to emphasize the negative and destructive aspects of . producing not pleasure but confusion and discomfort. The notion of an endless. motivate and focus one's efforts. and the transformation from the finite to the infinite would be complete. But then we would be gods.
every radical adjustment is a crisis in self-esteem: we undergo a test. habit and tradition tend to have unsettling psychological effects upon communities of individuals. It is during such times of turmoil that the assumed and . and to finally orient themselves towards the future in a meaningful manner. It needs inordinate self-confidence to face drastic change without inner trembling. However. finding that the upset of routine. frustration and despair normally accompany major changes in collective values. They characterize nihilism as a force of decline that should be fought against with all of our might and overcome with haste. there is often a nostalgia and longing for the past.. we have to prove ourselves. and that the "inner trembling" that characterizes the experience of nihilism in the individual is more common than not during periods of cultural transition. As values change and evolve. As such it is an indispensable juncture between old and new times.nihilism. Nihilism is a moment of mourning that follows the death of old values and often precedes the birth of new ones. Widespread spiritual suffering. what I have here attempted to make apparent is that this negative force may play an important and positive role in the transitional periods of individuals and groups. ".. Sociologists and psychologists have studied this phenomenon extensively. take stock of those things they believe to be important to them as human beings. Such periods are opportunities for people to come to terms with their situation."(10)I suspect that such selfconfidence is very rare. Eric Hoffer wrote.
Currently we are experiencing an explosion in the amount of serious and valuable discourse that originates from increasingly diverse perspectives. The pain. On the contrary. and though it often takes us in directions that seem progressive. we should also recognize that change just as often occurs in directions that may be perceived as regressive.taken for granted are challenged and thrown into question. the contributions that nourish and feed our communities come from a wide and diverse variety of people whose experiences and backgrounds differ radically. Today. it is unstoppable. individuals lose the familiar framework that allows them to organize and interpret the vast and chaotic phenomena of reality. They may become confused and overwhelmed. we may be certain that in such a milieu the transitions considered by some to be favorable and wonderful will be considered by others to be loathsome and nihilistic. destroying the coherence of the collective worldview. Change is not only necessary. For these reasons it seems to me that the phenomenon of nihilism will never wholly . suffering and turmoil involved in cultural transition is not something to be avoided. Under these conditions it is likely that not everyone will agree on exactly what constitutes cultural ascent and what constitutes cultural decline. being forced to recognize how easily their most dearly held assumptions about the world are swept away by forces bigger than they can control or even comprehend. Such challenges to our understanding of the world are often experienced as painful and disruptive. however. With the shattering of the taken for granted.
) Pathologies of the Modern Self.I scorn to distinguish between culture and civilization. Knopf. New York: Doubleday and Company. p. (6)Zerzan. (Durkheim. Gianni Vattimo. New York: New York University Press. finding that suicide rates in France tended to increase during times of social change and industrial or economic crisis. 1951. Sogomonov. many of which appear to have features similar to the experience of nihilism as I have defined it. Moscow: Progress Publishers. Some other works suggesting that nihilism is a result of capitalism and technology include: Y. Being and Time. Inc. Vol. in the 1800Õs. Baltimore: The John Hopkins Press. 1993. 257. (4)Martin Heidegger. it will remain a persistent and chronic phenomenon that brings frustration and pain while also spurring continued reflection and meditation on the nature of value.. (2)Emile Durkheim. New York: Alfred A. 2. Boston: Beacon Press. This equivocal usage is continued in Civilization and Its Discontents. and specifically narcissism. 1988. 1989. Notes (1)John Zerzan. depression and schizophrenia are results of the nihilistic forgetfulness of Being. pp. Arthur Brittan. 31." Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed. Albany: State University of New York Press. 1987. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is the affliction that I was surprised to find had the most nihilistic sounding characteristics. Masculinity and Power.. 1994. conducted this classic investigation into the phenomenon of suicide." meaning that it resulted from a sudden change in the character of the social values that constrain and shape the expectations of citizens. Inc. Race Matters. In 1927 Freud wrote. See: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Especially in the dynamic and multicultural world of today.) (3)Oswald Spengler. Landesman. 1996. The End of Modernity. 164 . p. p." He considered both to be those "respects in which human life has raised itself above its animal status and differs from the life of beasts.Summer. 1964.168. He called this type of suicide "anomic." See: Sigmund Freud.. p. Suicide. ". The Decline of the West. New York: The Free Press. . 18. Washington DC: American Psychiatric Association. 1977.disappear. The Future of an Illusion. P. He also claims that cancer has a similar cause. (5)David Michael Levin argues that mental illness. #1 (#49/Spring. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 2000). Fourth Edition. 1926. New York: Basil Blackwell. p. Nihilism Today. Cornell West. Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) offers descriptions of a variety of mental disorders. See: David Michael Levin (ed. 41. "The Age of Nihilism.. 39.
3.1450b. 1963. p. 1987. New York: Simon and Schuster.7. (10)Eric Hoffer. The Ordeal of Change. p. 1996. Publishers. New York: Harper and Row. Poetics II. . 4.25. (9)Aristotle.(7)Alan Bloom. Vattimo. The Closing of the American Mind. (8)It even appears as the title of Nikolai Chernyshevsky's famous novel: What is to Be Done? Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.
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