Staring into the abyss, tempted to doom humanity

Would you believe me if I said that even the most staunch rationalists, like me, are sometimes tempted to jump off a bridge of empiricism and logic and into the abyss of nihilism and post modernism. Consider the benefits. As a rationalists you have to acknowledge that there will always be at least 1% possibility that everything you know is wrong meaning that you’ll never reach 100%, yet at the same time you will always unabashedly strive to reach 100% and you know that 100% true truth exists because your senses give you the evidence of objective reality.

You also know that any of the conclusions you make, or rather milestones, could be a part of that 1%. In other words while there is at least 1% probability that you’re wrong, 100% of what you think you know is a candidate for what you’re wrong about.

Now consider post modernism. As a post modernist you give up this fight, you throw in the towel and just “admit” to yourself: “Meh, nothing is certain. Frak this constant struggle. Even the theory that objective reality exists is a candidate for this 1% probability of being wrong. Everything is, including the thinking that the probability of being wrong is only so low. What if the probability is 50%? I might as well pretend truth doesn’t exist and live from moment to moment. I know I wont change the world this way because I really don’t have a “one true way”, but at least I’ll live a life of adventure. Believe in nothing and nobody, throw yourself against the momentarily perceived reality and see what you get. Enjoy the exhilarating experience of a free fall to nowhere! Weee!”

Yep you are hearing these hypothetical words uttered by a rationalist, a guy who believes even morality can be determined empirically and logically and who believes that the non-coercion principle passes the test and remains a fundamental moral premise, a guy who despises post modernists and hates contradictions. How in the world is someone like me capable of uttering the above words without acting? Because of all contradictions the ones I hate the most are the ones I don’t yet know about! And it drives me nuts sometimes. Nuts, like all you post modernist frauds.

But there is something so devious and evil about this. I can smell it like the bad breath of a hypothetical devil lurking in the shadow waiting to reap your soul. If I let go, if I throw myself into the abyss of nihilism and post modernist thought. Me, the rationalist, me the despiser of nihilism. What hope is there for anybody else? If everyone gives up like this, if everyone throws themselves off this bridge, if everyone gives up on truth and begins accepting contradictions – we’ll contradict ourselves – we will destroy ourselves. Self contradiction is self destruction. That much would be certain. Because a sentient species which cannot resist the temptation of this nihilist abyss is the species whose days are numbered.

Nihilism is an ideological suicide. Suicide follows.

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  • Conrad

    What about the positions in between nihilism and rationalism (as you define them)?

    I'd say the large majority of contemporary positions in epistemology and philosophy of science fall somewhere in between

  • http://memeverse.com admin

    What is there between "There is absolute truth, you just have to keep uncovering it." and "There is no absolute truth.". The only thing I can think of is "There is absolute truth, but it's impossible to know more of it" which is still pretty much the nihilist side.

    There may be varying views within the rationalist "camp" (accepting truth and it's discoverability), but that doesn't mean they're not rationalists.

    Also majorities are quite inconsequential to anything except the number of people to debate against or agree with. Majorities have too much history of being wrong.

    EDIT: My terminology here might be a little off and casual. When I say rationalist I don't exclude empiricist. I think both play a part. The key distinction between what I describe above and post modern nihilism is the acceptance of existence of truth and possibility of discovering it, whether by logic or senses or both. I say both, plus emotions, especially when it comes to discovering truths about self.

  • Conrad

    You write "and you know that 100% true truth exists because your senses give you the evidence of objective reality".

    Two problems with this are 1) that observation is theory-laden, 2) beliefs face tests not in isolation, but as parts of a web of belief and you always have a choice which part of the web you sacrifice: nature doesn't dictate that.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_holism

    Those are two of the main problems epistemologists and philosophers of science try to deal with

  • Conrad
  • http://memeverse.com admin

    Actually I've been thinking these days about exactly what Confirmation holism seems to be about (thanks for the link). That seems to go in line with the consistency of reality. If one "truth" as you know it contradicts another there is obviously a problem. I agree with that.

    But I'm not sure how that contradicts with what I said.. It should actually support it. The fact I can sense something external of myself would prove objective reality exists and the fact that it is consistent and holistic means that it tolerates no contradiction and therefore allows for only one truth (the 100% truth). We can say (and many post modernists like to do that) that we're just brains in a vat or in some sort of a shared delusion, but that's all completely inconsequential, as inconsequential as saying there may be an invisible pig flying in the orbit of Jupiter.

    Anyway, I'll read the links in whole eventually, thanks.

  • http://thumpergooga1.livejournal.com/ Odessa Gilder

    Thanks very much for sharing this interesting post. I am just starting up my own blog and this has given me inspiration to what I can achieve.

  • CRB

    Nihilism is not the result of just "giving up" on logic. It's the result of coming to the realization that the very concept of knowledge is ridiculous, and therefore causes a great amount of distress in those who are accustomed to constantly focusing on rational argument. (A person who is not normally obsessed with truth and rationality could never be a nihilist, because it takes a rational destruction of rationality.) In short, there's no "weee!" True nihilism does not usually last very long, as it either leads to suicide or a philosophical solution.

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