2 comments on “Shunyata

  1. NellaLou, do you know Ray Brassier’s work Nihil Unbound. You may find it useful. Some excerpts:

    The disenchantment of the world understood as a consequence of the process whereby the Enlightenment shattered the ‘great chain of being’ and defaced the ‘book of the world’ is a necessary consequence of the coruscating potency of reason, and hence an invigorating vector of intellectual discovery, rather than a calamitous diminishment.

    The disenchantment of the world deserves to be celebrated as an achievement of intellectual maturity, not bewailed as a debilitating impoverishment.

    Nihilism is not…a pathological exacerbation of subjectivism, which annuls the world and reduces reality to a correlate of the absolute ego, but on the contrary, the unavoidable corollary of the realist conviction that there is a mind-independent reality, which despite the presumptions of human narcissism, is indifferent to our existence and oblivious to the “values” and “meanings” which we would drape over it in order to make it more hospitable. Nature is not anyone’s “home,” nor a particularly beneficent progenitor. Philosophy would do well to desist from issuing any further injunctions about the need to re-establish the meaningfulness of existence, the purposefulness of life, or mend the shattered concord between man and nature. It should strive to be more than a sop to the pathetic twinge of human self-esteem. Nihilism is not an existential quandary but a speculative opportunity. Thinking has interests that do not coincide with those of living; indeed, they can and have been pitied against the latter.

    Extinction is real yet not empirical, since it is not of the order of experience. It is transcendental yet not ideal, since it coincides with the external objectification of thought unfolding at a specific historical juncture when the resources of intelligibility, and hence the lexicon of ideality, are being renegotiated. In this regard, it is precisely the extinction of meaning that clears the way for the intelligibility of extinction. Senselessness and purposelessness are not merely private; they represent a gain in intelligibility. The cancellation of sense, purpose, and possibility marks the point at which the “horror” concomitant with the impossibility of either being or not-being becomes intelligible. Thus, if [p. 239] everything is dead already, this is not only because extinction disables those possibilities which were taken to be constitutive of life and existence, but also because the will to know is driven by the traumatic reality of extinction, and strives to become equal to the trauma of the in-itself whose trace it bears. In becoming equal to it, philosophy achieves a binding of extinction, through which the will to know is finally rendered commensurate with the in-itself. This binding coincides with the objectification of thinking understood as the adequation without correspondence between the objective reality of extinction and the subjective knowledge of the trauma to which it gives rise. It is this adequation that constitutes the truth of extinction. But to acknowledge this truth, the subject of philosophy is neither a medium of affirmation nor a source of justification, but rather the organon of extinction.

  2. Some of this I agree with and some not so much. The aspect of human narcissism, yes, that’s a problem. I do see some value in phenomenology and attendant subjectivisms provided the narcissistic element (vis-a-vis nature in particular) is put into proper perspective. In short Nihilism might be true but is it useful especially on the level of social interaction? Here I’m interested in something like a hermeneutic viewpoint–the manufacture and distribution of meaning. This ties in with things like identity and other social constructs that while being constructs are still “real enough” that they have serious impact. This is a very short version of what might well take 20K words to unpack. I’ve secured a copy of Nihil Unbound and will make more comments about nihilism in the future.

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