Nihilism – Absurdism

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Nihilism – Absurdism

In the following paper, I’ll attempt to argue that the Mereological Universalism championed by James Van Cleve, and metaphysical nihilism, are more or less reconcilable. What’s more, I’ll argue that the functional understanding of the world occupied by universalists is more or less identical to that which is necessarily employed by all nihilists (or at least all those still living, and what’s more living outside of mental hospitals).

I’ll do this first by laying out how, ultimately, it’s necessary for those beholden to polar opposite views of object hood employ very similar functional understandings of the world, and secondly, what scale of measurement both schools of thought would find mutually employable. Finally, I’ll conclude by justifying the stance that choosing either of these two, Universalism or Nihilism is the only logical conclusion; claiming knowledge less than, or beyond (respectively) claimed by either of these extremes is ultimately bogged down in uncertainty. 2.

Camus’s Absurdism and Nihilism Ultimately, metaphysical nihilism as outlined by Van Cleve is all but identical to a realization of the absurd. The absurd is the harsh reality of the human condition that the truth and knowledge striven for above all else by humanity are either non-existent or at the very least perpetually out of reach. Metaphysical Nihilism is nothing less than a physical realization of the same, in so far that unrestrainedly questioning knowledge of any and all aspects of the physical world has dire implications for truth and knowledge on the grand scale.

The Nihilist acknowledges that while there are countless things that have and maintain the appearance of objects (truth and knowledge being the overarching counterparts) as we humans claim to recognize them, he accepts that all the criteria by which we acknowledge these apparent amalgamations of simple parts as such is ultimately uncertain. All divisions between object and non-object are nothing more than arbitrarily drawn lines in the sand, the combined product of anthropocentrism and denial; it’s here that one can easily see the parallel between Nihilsm and the Mereological Universalism.

3. Nihilism and Universalism By that, I mean to say that the Universalist, like the Nihilist, refuses to acknowledge the arbitrarily drawn lines separating objects from non-objects; they may acknowledge that different objects have varying proximities in space time, and perhaps may even attempt to index the varieties therein, the self admittedly arbitrary nature of these indexes would do nothing to detract from the claim of universal object-hood.

I ultimately consider nihilism to be (by a slim margin) superior only because the Universalist’s white-washing of object-hood is problematic in so far that a thing can only truly be said to exist so long as it has an “other,” a counterpart that grants distinction from itself. For example, one only considers “being alive” to be a “thing” because one’s able to conceptualize, at least on an intellectual level, “not being alive”, which is to say non-existence.

In a world without death, there’s a very strong argument for the fact that not only would there be no word for death, but there would be no word or concept of life itself. Aside from this point however, I’d say that both are essentially based on a realization of the absurd. 4. A Response to The Absurd It comes as no surprise that the inherent meaningless of life elicits melodramatic responses, and although no one, least of all Camus himself, would advocate suicide as an actual response to this, its acknowledgement is necessary to outlining the limited options provided by the situation.

The options Camus outlines are suicide, intellectual suicide (a leap of faith necessating the death of all reason, and presumably a bachelors in philosophy) and finally (the option he expects you to choose) is to simply arbitrarily choose a subjective understanding of reality, abandon any narrative claiming objectivity, and to pursue truth and knowledge all the while understanding that actually finding these things (or at least realizing that such is the case) is an impossibility.

Implied then is a system by which one can index all the various potential objects, while never actually acknowledging any of them as such. The logical conclusion of the Nihilist would therefore be functionally identical to that of the universalist; both would likely attempt to measure and codify the various simple parts into apparently more complex arrangements. That, or they would either resign themselves to sitting in a corner, either uncertain of everything, or totally unwilling to distinguish anything as existing to some lesser degree than anything else.

3. The Multi-Factor Approach; An Asymptote of Objectifed Simple Parts Therefore, the Universalist claiming that every possible combination of everything is an object is all but indistinguishable from the Nihilist who states that some simple parts occupy particular areas of space time while others do not. Indistinguishable, that is, save for the fact that, due to a slew of previously established points, the Nihilist has the ontologically indispensable weight of uncertainty behind his claims.

Therefore, all that’s needed is some functional scale of measurement that can be effectively employed both schools of thought. The Multi-Factor Approach, as provided by Spencer Kinsey (during an interview over a game of pool), performs the function of this missing cog by outlining the manner in which basic parts are objectified, or described by the degree to which they are “object like. ” There are two sets of continuums along which each and every possible combination of simple parts (proposed to be objects by the universalist), occupies a particular segment of the line.

The two continuums are labeled as “proximity” and “fascination. ” “Proximity” is the degree to which a given set or group of simple parts are close to one another; the closer they are, the more they might be categorized as having more qualities of being “object like. ” Similarly, “fascination” measures the gravitational pull between sets and groups of simple parts, with a stronger gravitational pull (which does imply but not necessitate a shorter proximity) implying a greater “object likeness.

” Essentially, this list of potential simple parts arrangements travel along the continuum in a manner comparable to that of an asymptote; the closer together and more gravitational influence the listed simple parts have on one another, the closer they are to being considered objects.

However, in the eyes of a nihilist, there is no arbitrary point at which the begin to be considered as such; in the eyes of the Universalist, the asymptote shrinks in the opposite direction, in which objects grow farther and farther from being recognizable as “objects” while never actually reaching a point that they cease to be so. 4. Conclusion In the end, whether one occupies the bloated reality of the Universalist or the barren one of the Nihilist, what seems obvious is that any view occupying the space between is based in little more than child’s make believe.

Any metaphysical narrative that claims to hold the non-objective key between object-hood and non-objecthood is, barring the unlikely scenario that its proponent occupies a level of existence as yet unknown to this human, intellectually dishonest in doing so. One must either acknowledge the existence of every possible amalgamation of simple parts as an item all its own, or one must acknowledge none of them. Regardless of the metaphysical narrative one adopts however, that of the Nihilist or the Universalist, the ontological reality of either camp is all but interchangeable.

The purpose of making this point is clarifying that these two trains of thought are in fact not the dynamically opposed stances they first appear; rather, they both stem from the understanding that our world is not one that lends itself to absolutes and certainties of any kind easily, and realization of the absurd is ultimately derivative of either. Works Cited: Camus, Albert. Myth of Sisyphus, and other essays. New York, Knopf, 1955 (http://www. josephkenny. joyeurs. com/PhilTexts/Camus/Myth%20of%20Sisyphus-. pdf) Spencer Kinsey, . Personal Interview. 3 14 2013.


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  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 22 November 2016

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