Moral Nihilism

It has been my humble observation that many of the non-religious are confused with the topic of morality and ethics in how it would be rationally extended from their particular breed of reasoning. Don’t get me wrong, the religious aren’t the masters of logical consistency, but this is specifically directed towards the unbeknownst  confusion  asserted from those who claim the negation of faith. By confused I refer to internal inconsistency within their perspective. In this blog-post I will discuss how the rational extension of non-religiosity in regard to ethics leads to Nihilism.

Regardless of how unpleasant it may seem to refer to morality as an illusion, the intellectually-honest non-religious individual must do so in-order to hold internal consistency.

First, a definition of terms; morality and ethics is a description of values and behavior that one ought to have. It is not simply describing  behavior that is but rather behavior that ought to be.

To define ethics as simply a type of behavior in no way means that one ought to behave that way. The famous philosopher, David Hume, aptly pointed out that it is logically impossible to derive an ought from an is–or a value from a fact. So while you may define Altruism, compassion, and kindness as ethical behavior, you are really just describing a type of behavior that is, not one that ought to be.

It’s important to properly understand that ethics and morality is based on how things ought to be. To say giving food to the homeless is kind is completely different than saying that one ought to give food to the homeless. The statement that giving food to the homeless is kind, that is a fact. But to derive a value out of that, saying being kind is a value, that does not logically derive from the fact that giving food to the homeless is kind. You could also say the statement that beating up the homeless for fun is unkind is a fact–so would you then say that you ought to value being unkind, simply because it is a fact? No, all you are doing is stating facts and you’ll never get a value out of that. If someone kills another in cold-blood, it is a fact, it is what is whether or not one ought to have done it.

Now, remember, saying one ought to do this or do that is entirely different than the subjective statement of “I prefer to do this or that”. For example, I prefer water to soda but that does not mean I say one ought to drink water. A Nihilist may be reading this now who understands and agrees with everything I’ve written so far. Most likely they are  someone who would say “I prefer people to be kind” or “I strongly dislike killing”, but they acknowledge that as their own subjective preference and they don’t believe in any kind of morality. So subjective preference, of preferring things to be a certain way, is in no way at all what morality and ethics is about. In this sense, Nihilists are Egoists. The Egoist who says self-pleasure is moral has purely a semantical difference with Nihilism, in actuality there’s no difference in how they behave.

To pull morality out of a hat, to derive an ought from an is, requires some convoluted sense of faith. So if you’re an individual who claims to be non-religious and asserts no code of morality then, congratulations, your ethics are consistent with your reasoning which produced your rejection of faith.

I also find it necessary to point out two different attitudes of Nihilism; Passive and Active.

Passive Nihilism is indicative of a decline in a personal sense of control. It is characterized by the inability to create, or in the extreme to react. The Passive Nihilist is one who, when faced with the world’s uncertainty, withdraws and refuses to engage the world. For him, uncertainty is a sufficient condition not to proceed through life, and so paralyzed by fear of the unknown and unknowable he does nothing or even to the extent that it can no longer be bared which results in insanity or suicide. The famous philosopher Frederich  Nietzsche described this condition as “the weary Nihilism that no longer attacks..a passive Nihilism, a sign of weakness”.

Active Nihilism on the other hand, is indicative of a relative increase in a sense of personal control. The Active Nihilist sees freedom where the Passive Nihilist sees loss or meaninglessness. He chooses action and creation instead of passivity and withdrawal. For him, the lack of objective standards of moral truth motivates self-created standards and criteria. The Active Nihilist  is not active despite  the unknown but because of it. He possesses a store of creative energy and power which allows him to impose personal meaning on the world while never forgetting that he is the source of it all and progenitor of that meaning. He is heroic in this sense, facing the world with courage and purpose.

This short inquiry is not exhaustive in the least and would be chancy to change any minds but I felt it necessary of my own desire to give my two cents on the matter. Nihilism can be a very confusing thing for some people, especially those who see Nihilists like me who would easily confuse me with come kind of Gandhi character espousing robust Altruism. But so I don’t disappoint their mis-guided view of Nihilism as a meaningless, heartless and void of all things good I’ll close off by saying that I wish all my Nihilist friends well while they go brutally anal rape some crippled people and blow-up a church.

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5 Responses to “Moral Nihilism”

  1. interesting piece. i am not sure that strong nihilism is really how you describe it. from where does the courage of the strong nihilist come from? it reeks of hope to me, and if there is hope, how can one be nihilist?

    i also would like to point out that there is in a fact a view of humanity that might shed some light on why ethics or morals should be shaped in a particular way (the ought). if we see the whole of humanity as a living, breathing organism, just as the collection of cells is also a living breathing organism, then does it make sense for humans to harm each other? i would venture the guess that no, it doesn’t. i realize that seeing humanity as an organism is probably a leap, but that is probably because there really isn’t much data (at least that i am aware of) that the human collective moves and acts like an organism. i mean, if your cells started to do bad shit to your other cells out of some deluded selfish wanting, like power over other cells, or even just bad programming etc. you would probably want treatment to fix these cells, or even to get rid of them if they are causing a great deal of harm to your person, right?

    so i guess don’t burn churches down unless you’re sure they are as bad for humanity as cancer is to a human. besides, it’s much easier to burn down a church than to build your own, and considering scientology is the best church around for scientists…we could probably use a few good churches.

  2. I’ve been a moral nihilist for a loooooong time.

  3. Is consumerism not a type of passive nihilism?

  4. morals do not exist 🙂

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