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Nihilism and concrete freedom

Nihilism and concrete freedom
June 23, 2009, 09:13:36 PM
There are many views that converge on nihilism:

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When the French president told a special session of parliament in Versailles earlier this week, "We cannot accept to have in our country women who are prisoners behind netting, cut off from all social life, deprived of identity", he would have done better to hold his tongue, and instead reflect on that passage in the Philosophy of Right in which Hegel distinguishes between abstract and concrete freedom.

The former means the freedom to do whatever you want, which, as you know, is the basis of western civilisation and why you can choose between 23 different kinds of coffee in your local cafe, or 32 different kinds of four-inch wedges the glossies tell you look sexy this summer but in none of which you can walk comfortably. Such is the freedom of late capitalism, which seems to systematically strive to deprive us of an identity that we might construct ourselves.

For Hegel this isn't real freedom, because our wants and desires are determined by society. By those lights, a western fashion victim is as much a sartorial prisoner as a woman in a burka.

Neither is really free. Those that must buy what someone else tells them are this season's must-haves are as much in mental chains as those who put on head-to-toe garment with netting for the eyes because of the strictures of the society to which they belong.

By real freedom, Hegel meant not doing whatever one wants but having the freedom from societal conditioning and the fatuous whirl of desires by using reason. If you come across someone who manages to be really free in this sense in either capitalistic or strict Islamic society then send me their names so we can celebrate their escape.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jun/23/sarkozy-burka-french-parliament

Society is an extension of the individual personality. We treat it like a personality, and we use it to enforce rules on others that gurantee (we think) our own abstract freedom. But then our manipulation manipulates us; the tool becomes the master, and the master a tool.

Nihilism reverses this by throwing out the drama and replacing it with mental clarity through discipline, perception, and internal stillness.

Re: Nihilism and concrete freedom
June 24, 2009, 05:48:16 AM
More and more, I've been learning lately that what ANUS espouses in the name of nihilism is less a way of thought than it is a method of thinking - a process, not a result. I've also found that a lot of the bitterness that can come with thinking the world is under the reign of idiocy becomes opportunistic joy when adopting nihilism in this way.

Re: Nihilism and concrete freedom
June 24, 2009, 09:26:18 AM
The problem with the attitude above is that it could easily lead to atomism. People freeing themselves of all societal limitations would be hazardous. Could real freedom be not of social limitations but choosing which limitiations you impose on yourself? I extends to far more that clothing, becaus it also reflects on character and attitude, self respect, and your relationship with your surroundings. This way we can see that the process of freeing oneself from all limitiations imposed by society would lead to atomism, because it renders the surrounding world irrelevant and assumes things can exist in isolation. A healthier alternative would be looking on limitations from outside, analize them, understand, and act accordingly. Because most people aren't capable of this process, they must have limitations iposed on them, so it's useless to be caught up in motal reasoning.

Re: Nihilism and concrete freedom
June 24, 2009, 02:59:58 PM
Here's a useful counterpoint:

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Men are disturbed, not by things, but by the principles and notions which they form concerning things. Death, for instance, is not terrible, else it would have appeared so to Socrates. But the terror consists in our notion of death that it is terrible. When therefore we are hindered, or disturbed, or grieved, let us never attribute it to others, but to ourselves; that is, to our own principles. An uninstructed person will lay the fault of his own bad condition upon others. Someone just starting instruction will lay the fault on himself. Some who is perfectly instructed will place blame neither on others nor on himself.

http://classics.mit.edu/Epictetus/epicench.html

It's not that we're trying to free ourselves from participation in society, but to free ourselves from the judging social mind.

People see others do things, and imitate their actions, not the organization behind those actions.

So you have people acting like rock stars and hoping it will make their bands great, buying exercise bikes and hoping it will make them slim, voting for hoppity mcchange and hoping it will make everything "good again," etc.

Epictetus' point, Hegel's point, and the point of nihilism is this: there is no freedom except in our minds. But we must achieve that freedom in our minds before we appreciate how truly free we have been all along.

The problem with humanity, as always, is the monkey within. The solution is to convert our egos from self-awareness in monkeymind to being logical, aesthetic, structural analytic powerhouses directed at reality, not directed within.

As a wise man once said, "There are two types of people in this world. Those who expect the world to adapt to them, and those who adapt to the world."

Re: Nihilism and concrete freedom
June 24, 2009, 09:07:54 PM
I do not think we could ignore the fact that phenomena are never isolated.
Are we able to be free inside our minds, or do we really need to accept the limitations and flow through them, is there a difference?
You are presenting a very Daoist approach in the sense of adapting to the world and freeing the self. I tend to agree with it, but I wonder how many people are really capable of these acts.

Re: Nihilism and concrete freedom
June 26, 2009, 02:08:28 PM
Here's another one:

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Jeffers was an advocate for inhumanism, the belief that mankind is too self-centered and too indifferent to the "astonishing beauty of things." Articulated in the first half of the 1900s, inhumanism views that humans may strive, but will always be unable to "uncenter" themselves. Furthermore Inhumanism called for "a shifting of emphasis and significance from man to notman; the rejection of human solipsism and recognition of the transhuman magnificence.... This manner of thought and feeling is neither misanthropic nor pessimist.... It offers a reasonable detachment as rule of conduct, instead of love, hate and envy.... it provides magnificence for the religious instinct, and satisfies our need to admire greatness and rejoice in beauty."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robinson_Jeffers#Inhumanism

Straight out of the transcendentalist environmental movement.

Re: Nihilism and concrete freedom
June 27, 2009, 03:21:59 AM
"Epictetus' point, Hegel's point, and the point of nihilism is this: there is no freedom except in our minds. But we must achieve that freedom in our minds before we appreciate how truly free we have been all along."

this may be a dangerous line. One could easily say "tell that to somebody living in USSR, or somebody who's doing time"- just because most people use their lifes unwisely is merely an argument against stupidity and limited individuals, but not against "concrete freedom", don't you think? Someother wise man said (explicitly against hegel i think) that there isn't such thing as "half-freedom", or diferent kinds of freedom, in fact, freedom can't exist but intact. If somebody is not free to act accordingly to his ("free") thoughts he s not free at all. there's no such thing as "political freedom" or "economic freedom" etc, just FREEDOM and anybody who tells you otherwise is eithr the one who tries to flaw it or the advocate of such a man.what's the use of my thinking if i cant express it if i cant debate with others on it? (writings books, music, is acting, not just thinking, (wich in fact is an act also...) and as you stated not an act that's safe from inslavement - weak minds, easily to manipulate and direct)  what's the use of artstical creation in "just freedom of thinking" ? I wouldn't want to be deprived of my favorites artistic acts (be it music, film, literature etc) just because the artists freedom is "in their minds" (think totalitarian censorship). the mind is not isolated, or selfsufficient. It needs action. It s funny how actualy inconceivable this is: being free only in your mind, that's truly impossible, everybody acts. even when they choose not to. (manipulation kills choice, freedom of choice is an atribute of a free individual, do not confuse this with the automation of so many, or democracy etc)

Re: Nihilism and concrete freedom
June 27, 2009, 05:20:45 PM
Assuming freedom can only exist intact let's assume you have been thrown back in time before the dawn of civilization and it's up to you to survive. You are on your own, and there is nobody who limits you. However, your freedom is overcome by circumstances - you can't do whatever you feel like because if you don't focous on survival you will die. So you work your ass off to secure your future and still you would have to work for your daily survival, even if only for a few hours. How can you ever be free? The concept of freedom in the physical world is flawed in essence, it is an illusion of modernity, all you have is your mind, will, and body.

Re: Nihilism and concrete freedom
June 28, 2009, 04:49:48 AM
Assuming freedom can only exist intact let's assume you have been thrown back in time before the dawn of civilization and it's up to you to survive. You are on your own, and there is nobody who limits you. However, your freedom is overcome by circumstances - you can't do whatever you feel like because if you don't focous on survival you will die. So you work your ass off to secure your future and still you would have to work for your daily survival, even if only for a few hours. How can you ever be free? The concept of freedom in the physical world is flawed in essence, it is an illusion of modernity, all you have is your mind, will, and body.

you confuse freedom with allpowerfulness. Ofcourse all i have is myself, but i cant have my body, my mind, my will if i m obliged not to act accordingly to what i think. If somebody forces you to act or not to act he or she is hostile, if he or she succedes in this you're not free anymore. If NATURE obliges you to agnoledge your limitations as a being then better feel happy for this that you are: a human being that's free to experince his limits, to face danger for itself, with limitations that may be overcomed by intelligence, creativity, willpower. Nature doesnt steal your body, your mind, your wil, it enfoced them. Actualy, your confusion is modern illusion (the allpowerfulness of man twoards nature) not my understanding of freedom.

Re: Nihilism and concrete freedom
June 28, 2009, 02:24:14 PM
I hope your descisions on my confusion are making you happy, but I think I should clarify my claim, if nessecary:
I was trying to convey the idea that freedom is merely an illusion and can exist only in out minds because there are alway enviormental factors limiting us - Nature which forces us to survive according to its flow, and society imposing sometimes-arbitrary looking laws upon us, although it would be reasonable to see while you are free from societal limitations, you cannot go around killing people etc.
My offer is similar to yours, but works from the bottom up - nature poses limitations on us, so does society, and so does anything eles. True transcendance over these limitations is by plunging into the river and finding the flow of it, using it to propel yourself. If the flow is a river, your life is a boat, you better know where the big rocks are and how not to drown. We all die in the end. I don't see man as allpowerful, but as weaker because of the false world in his mind.
The bamboo bends in the wind but does not break

Re: Nihilism and concrete freedom
June 28, 2009, 04:08:03 PM
I understood your position. It is not a rare opinion.
If natural limitations of man are impediments to somebodys dreams of transcendence than is human nature  that he has problems with. And that's in my opinion anti-life. You call this way to freedom, but is an ilusionary and idealistic teenage will to allpowerfulness. Nature doesnt impose limitations on us,but creates us for what we are, gives us the tools to conquer our identity, to create etc, these are not impediments, these are ways,  this is what you (and everybody saying that) see as an impossible barrier and an argument against the "concrete" freedom's reality: human nature. Refuting what you are is refuting nature. Weak, narrow is what we are as human beings, comparing to other forces that could crush us, but dreaming of transcendence and twisting freedom's meaning is ... just a christian thing to do... enviorment does not limitate us, only our wrong ideas does.

 Just meditate on how that that makes you what you are (as a human being) could at the same time set you free (free as in your statement) and without hinting to allpowerfulness.

( And i didnt say that you see man as allpowerful, but you see freedom , as it should be, as allpowerfulness. )


Re: Nihilism and concrete freedom
June 28, 2009, 09:15:33 PM
Ofcourse all i have is myself, but i cant have my body, my mind, my will if i m obliged not to act accordingly to what i think. If somebody forces you to act or not to act he or she is hostile, if he or she succedes in this you're not free anymore.

you're only as free as your abilities "allow" you to be.  if someone has obliged you, blame your lack of ability or your lack of bravery.  you are still "free" to think of a way around your obligation.  if that means coming up with a plan that might risk your life, and you still aren't willing to do it, then blame your cowardice, not your lack of freedom.  "Freedom," in the sense that I think of it, can't be granted, nor can it be taken away.  It DOES exist "in" one's mind.

Re: Nihilism and concrete freedom
June 29, 2009, 09:31:28 PM
you confuse freedom with allpowerfulness. Ofcourse all i have is myself, but i cant have my body, my mind, my will if i m obliged not to act accordingly to what i think. If somebody forces you to act or not to act he or she is hostile, if he or she succedes in this you're not free anymore. If NATURE obliges you to agnoledge your limitations as a being then better feel happy for this that you are: a human being that's free to experince his limits, to face danger for itself, with limitations that may be overcomed by intelligence, creativity, willpower. Nature doesnt steal your body, your mind, your wil, it enfoced them. Actualy, your confusion is modern illusion (the allpowerfulness of man twoards nature) not my understanding of freedom.

Sorry, but these are merely semantic distinctions. Nature limits your abilities much more than social rules do - this should be obvious even to fifth-graders. Nature doesn't grant you the ability to fly, for example. By contrast, a society may not grant you the "ability" to fly without a license. But that's an easy "inability" to circumvent - break the law. You can't break physical law, however; you can still circumvent it, but finding the minds, resources, time, and determination necessary to the invention of the airplane is far more difficult than just deciding to not listen to authority. This is why freedom is said to exist only in the mind - the world is as it always has been and always will be, it wasn't created to accomodate any philosophical ideas(freedom included), and thus the premise of freedom is itself an invention of the human mind. It doesn't HAVE a "meaning." The statement that nature doesn't pose limitations on us is annoyingly stupid and idealistic - of course it poses limitations, otherwise we would overrun every other living thing on the planet.Nature has also blessed us with a host of what any conscious being would consider "mistakes" - vestigial organs and the high risk of complications during childbirth due to increased brain size + more erect posture, to name just a couple.

Re: Nihilism and concrete freedom
June 30, 2009, 05:38:57 AM
Another interesting take on this:

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Each of the following philosophical interpretations of general relativity selected certain aspects of that theory for favored recognition. While followers of Mach lauded Einstein's attempt to implement a "relativization of inertia" in the general theory, they were much more comfortable with Einstein's operationalist treatment of concepts in the special theory. Kantians and neo-Kantians, if freed from strict fealty to the doctrine of the Transcendental Aesthetic, pointed to the surpassing importance of certain synthetic "intellectual forms" in the general theory, such as the principle of general covariance. For logical empiricism, the philosophical significance of relativity theory was largely methodological, that conventions must first be laid down in order to express the empirical content of a physical theory. Finally, within a few years of its completion in 1915, attempts were made to extend general relativity's "geometrization" of gravitation to non-gravitational fields. The first of these, by Weyl, and shortly thereafter by Eddington, may be distinguished from others, in particular the many attempts of Einstein, in that they aimed not at a unified field theory, in the sense of a completely geometrical field theory of all fundamental interactions, but at reconstructing general relativity from the epistemological perspectives of transcendental idealism.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/genrel-early/

Re: Nihilism and concrete freedom
June 30, 2009, 07:54:51 AM
@istaros: I said "Nature doesnt impose limitations on us, but creates us for what we are" - the definition reflects us as what we are, doesnt stop us from being what we are. Creating something is not puting it in the cage of it's definition. Agree?  The rest of  your post mainly agrees with mine. Exept I dont see freedom as an invention of the human mind: man without freedom is less than what he's by design, lack of freedom is dehumanizing. It's asking diferent animals to be what their prey is. Ask the lion to be a deer, force him to be so and you are distroying him: take freedom away from man (freedom, not some strange concept as "diferent types of freedom") and you'll have some monkey in suit. Human nature is essentialy freedom and reason. Take this (or just one of them) away and you won't have a man anymore. Take freedom away by seizing action, take reason away by seizing choice and you ll have something less than a human being. Thats why you hate your contemporaries, isnt it? cause they are less then man is.( Now probably you re thinking: "well democracy is freedom...etc". Democracy is not freedom, but that's another topic.)
@ Jim Necroslaughter: "you're only as free as your abilities "allow" you to be." - again allpowerfulness. Saying this is like saying "being a man stops me from being a god, stops me from doing everything i wanna do" , see above.