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Nihilism as a method of observation

Nihilism as a method of observation
October 25, 2011, 01:15:37 PM
A tempting reason to adopt a particular worldview is the expectation of it being able to function as a sort of problem solving device. Once we are able to find symbolic clues as to how variables should be assigned, we plug them into the equations that this worldview provides to us and voilà! A few simple computations and an answer is given, often in the form of a short aphorism that can be used to solve whichever mystery life has thrown at us.

For example, I often hear Christians declaring that a separation from Jesus is the definitive diagnosis of a flawed individual or society. Their equation is a quite simple one because it involves a universal constant (our inherent need for salvation) that ensures that the same answer be given back every time: redemption from said flaws can only be found through the acceptance of Jesus as Lord of their life.

This is a pitfall that one must be wary of in all walks of life. Any worldview that approaches life with preordained conclusions is destined to fail. There will inevitable come a situation in which the equations don’t offer a logical evaluation to the issue at hand. The adherents of said equations become confused as to why their answer isn’t working. They respond by either abandoning their current worldview and searching for a new one that is better adapted to this obstacle they have encountered, or they cling on to them and hope that what happened was a “glitch” in reality that they need not be accountable for. Neither response works towards something that is of greater value: a clear and “dispassionate” observation of our self and the world which contains it.

Quote from:  Jiddu Krishnamurti
We do not know how to look at a problem dispassionately. We are not capable of it, unfortunately, because we want a result from the problem, we want an answer, we are looking to an end; or we try to translate the problem according to our pleasure or pain; or we have an answer already on how to deal with the problem. Therefore we approach a problem, which is always new, with the old pattern. The challenge is always the new, but our response is always the old; and our difficulty is to meet the challenge adequately, that is fully.

http://www.messagefrommasters.com/Meditation/Jiddu-Krishnamurti/How-to-become-aware.htm

Even with the long hours we may devote to the study of subjects such as eternal truths, the direction of our society, the origins of modern decay and the forging of healthy alternatives, we mustn’t fall into the habit of trying to translate these ideas into handy dandy equations that can provide simple resolutions to every little conflict and decision we must face in our day to day life.

Re: Nihilism as a method of observation
October 25, 2011, 02:28:05 PM
Some good points were brought up here. Nihilism as a term means lack of inherent meaning to anything. But more, nihilism in practice would require denial of one's own interest for best clarity. We can arbitrate our own meaning simply by having an interest in an object or problem in question. That at least distorts an object or problem's actual value from our own perspective.

Re: Nihilism as a method of observation
October 25, 2011, 04:55:33 PM
You make some insightful observations regarding the structure of the world, Petrarca, that, I think, may lead one to some interesting conclusions, depending on the depth to which one is willing to explore the considerations noted. To comment on but one of the points you raised, which I'd like to recast in a slightly different light, one can discover much through a contemplation of the way in which mathematical formulae, by their very nature, cannot adequately describe the workings of the real, despite the groping attempts of modern science to procure such an encapsulation.

Quote from:  Frithjof Schuon, "The Veil of Isis"
One point that certain physicists do not seem to understand is that the mechanism of the world can be neither purely deterministic nor a fortiori purely arbitrary. In reality, the universe is a veil woven of necessity and freedom, of mathematical rigor and musical play; every phenomenon participates in these two principles, which amounts to saying that everything is situated in two apparently divergent but at bottom concordant dimensions, exactly as the dimensions of space are concordant while giving rise to divergent appearances that are irreconcilable from the standpoint of a planimetric view of objects.

Let us take the example of the human body: its principial form, which cannot be other than what it is, stems from the Absolute and from necessity, whereas its actual form — a particular body, and not the body as such — which gives rise to innumerable variations, stems from the Infinite and from freedom. Its principial form is as it were mathematical, it is measurable; on the contrary, its actual form is as it were musical, its beauty is unfathomable. Anatomy has its limits, beauty does not; but beauty can be relative, whereas anatomy cannot.



Re: Nihilism as a method of observation
October 27, 2011, 10:01:25 PM
To comment on but one of the points you raised, which I'd like to recast in a slightly different light, one can discover much through a contemplation of the way in which mathematical formulae, by their very nature, cannot adequately describe the workings of the real, despite the groping attempts of modern science to procure such an encapsulation.

Quote from:  Frithjof Schuon, "The Veil of Isis"

Let us take the example of the human body: its principial form, which cannot be other than what it is, stems from the Absolute and from necessity, whereas its actual form — a particular body, and not the body as such — which gives rise to innumerable variations, stems from the Infinite and from freedom. Its principial form is as it were mathematical, it is measurable; on the contrary, its actual form is as it were musical, its beauty is unfathomable. Anatomy has its limits, beauty does not; but beauty can be relative, whereas anatomy cannot.


Thanks for the feedback. This quote is helpful in elucidating my thoughts on the matter. There is great danger in expecting the function of absolutes to correspond identically with the function of particulars. Historically, this is demonstrated by the failings of Enlightenment thought when their "scientific absolutes" were applied to realms controlled so heavily by particulars (ex: the battlefield).

I agree with Plato that the principal form is the most worthy object of study, but at the same time is only effective to certain degree when applied to particulars. The benefit of this study will manifest itself when we interact with particulars, but it need not be expected to always provide what's in our interest. A prevalent interest of the philosophically minded is a keener perception on the absolute, and this is an interest that is as likely a victim as any other.

This is what I was trying to get at by distinguishing the goal of obtaining more "equations" versus the goal of observation with no "equations" at all.

Re: Nihilism as a method of observation
October 30, 2011, 02:29:11 PM
Prozakian nihilism is Zen buddhism minus the fatalistic Asian parts and incorporated with Platonic monism. It's positively fucking Vedic, a total dinosaur, and yet also part of our future.

To paraphrase Robert Duval, "This Kali-Yuga is gonna end some day..."

walks away

Re: Nihilism as a method of observation
October 31, 2011, 01:27:50 PM
A prevalent interest of the philosophically minded is a keener perception on the absolute, and this is an interest that is as likely a victim as any other.

This is what I was trying to get at by distinguishing the goal of obtaining more "equations" versus the goal of observation with no "equations" at all.

Indeed, perception becomes impoverished through purely analytical approaches to phenomena, whereby qualities are altogether ignored; it should be noted too that these precisely are what are real, as they are intrinsic to the object in question, unlike quantities, which are but abstractions derived from an act of comparison during the process of measurement.

Quote from: Frithjof Schuon, "The Feathered Sun"
The man of rationalist formation, whose mind is anchored in the material as such, starts from experience and sees things in their existential isolation. Water is for him--when he considers it aside from poetry--a substance composed of oxygen and hydrogen, to which an allegorical significance can be attributed if one wishes, but without there being a necessary ontological connection between the material thing and the idea associated with it. The symbolist mind, on the contrary, is intuitive in a superior sense, reasoning and experience having for it the function of an occasional cause only and not of a foundation. The symbolist mind sees appearances in their connection with essences: in its manner of vision, water is primarily the sensible appearance of a principle-reality, a kami (Japanese) or a manitu (Algonquin) or a wakan (Sioux); this means that it sees, not "superfically" only, but above all "in depth," or that it perceives them in their "participative" or "unitive" dimension as well as their "separative" dimension.

All of this has profound implications on our view of and relationship with nature, as John Griffin elucidated in a recently published book:

Quote from: On the Origin of Beauty: Ecophilosophy in the Light of Traditional Wisdom
The questions, "what is the nature of nature?" cannot be meaningfully asked--and certainly not answered--without being aware that our own nature, or our own consciousness, is drawn into the very framework of the question. The particular vision we now have of nature is one slowly formed during the five hundred years or so in which our allegiance to Intellective perception became increasingly dimished. A withdrawal of consciousness into the shell of rationality meant that we believed the world and our knowledge of it were distinct, one from the other. Our science fostered a belief that only some of the qualities we experienced should remain in the world, while the rest must be brought within the domain of our own consciousness. This view has worked to undermine the qualitative experience of nature, so that attributes like beauty seem now like projections onto nature of exclusively human values, feelings, and sentiments. Both a belief in our own separateness and a conviction that our minds are the origin of many of the qualities, marking the "absolutizing" of the human being. Inevitably, the attempt to quantify all characteristics has led to a reduction of the value of even the qualities we have been left with, and they have come to appear more and more abstract.

This process of reduction has been through a measurement of the world--the imaginative association of aspects of sensory experience with measuring tools, ultimately with mathematical symbols. Mathematics is the basic language of science, and through this language the Western consciousness has been "quantified"--it has succumbed to a faith in the legitimacy of quantified reality. . . .

The quantifying process, by which all non-quantifiable things become psychic things, means that the qualities of nature are not recognized as qualities of nature, but as elements of consciousness. But, according to the traditionalists, the human state is itself a reflection of the qualities of the Spirit, and, therefore, its nature and mode of seeing is dependent upon what "light" from the Unity is reflected in it.[65] Furthermore, due to the inseparability at the deepest level of the knower and known, there is an exact correspondence between the qualities reflected in the human state and those within nature. Therefore, the sense we have have of the beauty of nature is not something we create. it does not rely on manufactured conceptions. Nor does it come simply from the world and impinge on consciousness. It is rather the other way around: our subjective awareness of beauty is the relative existence within consciousness of the quality Beauty itself, which allows us to "see" it "outwardly" because it resonates with the quality Beauty in our environment; "we assent to the qualities to the extent that we ourselves are 'qualitative'."[66] When the rays from the divine Beauty strike and illumine individuated consciousness, they qualify consciousness; that is, they allow the quality of beauty to be perceived. This qualification is the lessening of the divide between ontology and epistemology, since the nature of the Spirit, which is both knower and known, begins to replace egoic or individuated consciousness.

The identity--at the deepest level--of knower and known, and the fact that most of the divine qualities belong to both nature and human consciousness, means that there is a two-way relationship between nature and ourselves. Immediate awareness (in the sense of being unmediated by rational or discursive thought) of the natural world allows the actual nature of the world--its beauty, for instance-- to impinge upon consciousness. The qualities of nature--which are the qualities of God--may then act to qualify consciousness, thus reversing the movement taking place under the impact of the quantification of science. Significantly, the process will be self-reinforcing; the presence of beauty in consciousness allows an increasing perception of beauty, while the world's beauty lends to consciousness a further capacity to experience it. Understood in this way, nature is revealed "as a multitude of more or less pure images of God or of his qualities, as a hierarchy of more or less pure truths leading towards the only truth."[67] Since "wilderness" or "virgin" nature is a perfect reflection of the Spirit's qualities, this type of nature provides the means whereby a remembrance, or recollection of the soul's true nature can most readily take place. By one interpretation of a famous hadith qudsi, the world exists to allow its own deepest nature to be understood: "I was a Hidden Treasure and I loved to e known, so I created the world." And in the Qur'an, we are told: "We shall show them our signs on the horizons and within themselves until they know that this is the Truth."[68] To be receptive to nature as symbol is to begin to withdraw a veil from consciousness.


[65] From the traditionalist perspective, being made "in the image of God" (Genesis 1: 27) means the potential to express all the divine qualities.

[66] Schuon, "Seeing God Everywhere," pp. 4-5, emphasis added.

[67] Schaya, "creation, the Image of God," p. 241.

[68] Qur'an, LXI: 53.