Colin's Daily Log

Sometimes these log entries will be short.

Wed Oct 13 08:44:27 2021

More about Nihilism.

Nihilism follows, so goes the idea in Nietzsche, from this desire for the goods of an "otherworld", a world of fixed values - a desire termed "the ascetic ideal". Such desire induces you to ignore the goods of this, real, world -- goods you come to know as you invent, discover, and create by "living them out" as experience.

Think about pop music. Every time pop music makes you feel sad or "lacking" and nostalgic for no reason, that's this principle at work. The false mood, the style of experience at work in a pop song, may not correspond to any real mode of being. It is, rather, just a show that is performed in the "otherworld" of pop culture, a world that purports to mirror this one. In the pop culture world, or some pop culture worlds, decisions about experiential modes and values have already been made for you. These modes are usually highly stylized and idealized, and you are seduced by their appearance, their vibrancy, their immaculate aptness, or their sexual verve. But again, those goods are illusion - they are not your real experience. Instead, they seem to overlay your experience, so much so that you actually begin to identify with them instead of with the real.

Nietzsche's answer to the acetic ideal and nihilism, as the late philosopher Lise van Boxel discusses, involves a kind of creative activity -- an active reinvention and reinterpretation of the given-at-hand, that is peculiar to your circumstance, and peculiar to "you" - what Nietzsche sometimes refers to as "amor fati".

There is one path in the world that none can walk but you. Where does it lead? Don’t ask, walk! -- Nietzsche

In the work of philosopher Agnes Callard, which I'm only just dipping my toe into, a puzzle is presented. The puzzle is: how can the intentional pursuit of acquiring new values be rational? If behaving with rational agency is acting in response to reasons, and if reasons to act are grounded in values, then how can acting to change values, or acquire new ones, be itself rational? That is, how can reasons to act be anything but reflections of currently held values?

I am not through with her book so I am not sure how she resolves this puzzle, but part of has to do with the theme of yesterday's entry: Values are the effect of action (and therefore experience), not the cause of it. "If we want to understand how substantive value change is possible, we will have to introduce a new kind of reason, one directed not at satisfying wants but rather at generating them."

A further variation on the theme comes up in my own thoughts about what I have been calling toyfulness: The possibility for play latent in circumstance. Toyfulness is crucial to the discovery of purpose: a toy has no purpose. Play, a form of activity that a toy's toyfulness invites, is how new purpose is found.

That is, a ball is just a ball. But by tossing it around, rolling it, kicking it, bouncing it, sharing its possession with those around you, myriad purposes for that ball are discovered in the form of games.

If you want to find a new use for a ball, just make sure it doesn't look like a baseball, a soccer ball, a football, a golf ball, or a basket ball. If it is "just a ball", somebody will find a purpose for it, since the 'otherworld' of inclusion into the implements of an already formally defined game is not available.

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