SO YOU WANT TO LEARN ABOUT NIHILISM? Introduction


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“We hate this system that we’re trapped in but we don’t know who has trapped us or how. We don’t even know what our cage looks like because we have never seen it from the outside.” – Gore Vidal (2004)

Get the book 'Nihilism', by Freydis

A common concern received here is the question, "I want to learn more about nihilism, where should I go, what should I do, what should I read ?"

Well first off you don't need to go anywhere - you're already here! Second you will want to visit your nearest library or search the Internet for online books depending on the format of your reading preference. More on that in a moment.

Next, what you should do is read. This is because it's the most effective way to learn the subject and will best present new ideas and perspectives in a way that can be effectively digested, so to speak, by the mind. Try the list below; these books represent how I primarily learned about nihilism (albeit without the benefit of the simplified order shown), and they all contain key elements of the nihilistic mindset. I suggest following the numerical sequence for reading, mostly because it follows a general historical progression, but the order you follow is really a matter of your convenience.

Nihilism Reading & Viewing List for The Beginner

  1. Dictionary [Simple definitions]

  2. Fathers and Sons, by Turgenev.
    This is a novel which depicts the how, why and what for of the Nihilist, set in 19th century Czarist Russia. [Defining the Nihilist]

  3. Notes From the Underground, by Dostoyevsky.
    A first person exposition of life in (or at least near) the gutter. [Nihilistic scenery]

  4. Nietzsche's The Antichrist. [God destruction]

  5. The Trial by Franz Kafka.
    A novel of the individual being ground down and persecuted by the weight and capricious whim of the system. [Destroying artificial law]

  6. God and the State, by Michael Bakunin.
    Where anarchism meets nihilism - covers religion as slavery, science in society and other topics. [Destroying the State]

  7. The Catechism of a Revolutionist by Sergei Nechayev, 1869.
    The hyperlink is to a local excerpt. [Revolutionary Manifesto for a Nihilist]

  8. The Will to Power, by Nietzsche.
    Examines the nature of nihilism and its evolution into the 'anti-Nihilist' archetype.

  9. 10,000 Years of Art, Phaidon Press, 2009.
    Art is a window into the human mind, and the values, goals and beliefs that influence behavior. As such, although a superficially innocuous publication, this compact but dense book reveals how transient cultural values can change dramatically over time, and indicates just how foolish it is to hold blind faith in the superiority of contemporary, modern beliefs. [Cultural Revaluation]

Additional Reading Material

  1. The Assassination Bureau, Ltd by Jack London.
    Nihilism in action of a sort.

  2.  The Career of a Nihilist, by Stepniak, 1890
    This novel provides insight into the lives and actions of the 19th century Russian Nihilist revolutionaries.

  3. The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, by A. Warhol, 1975

  4. Adam’s Curse, by Bryan Sykes, 2004.
    If nihilism is that which is unavoidable then this book fits the category perfectly. Geneticist Bryan Sykes combines history, geography, and of course genetics, to reveal the past, present and future of the Y (male) chromosome. Ultimately the book reveals the way that unthinking genetic influences can redirect, and even contradict, our best interests as individual human beings, and as a species.

  5. for more suggestions visit the LINKS page

  6. ... and Nihilism the book and website by Freydis

Film

These films are both entertaining and informative; they will help you establish an expanded sense of …

Cultural context (compare and contrast):

  • Baraka (1993) DVD, a stunning visual tour of the world by Ron Fricke.

  • Mondo Cane 2 (1964) DVD, meaning 'a dog's world' or 'dog’s life', in Italian, featuring extreme human behavior, ridiculous religious rituals, fashion and foolish fad, violence and stupidity, low-budget entertainment; “... the film tended to shatter values.”

The artificial technological environment:

  • Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance (1983), directed by Godfrey Reggio

The natural environment in context:

  • Animal Minds (1999) DVD, PBS/BBC production. [Biological & psychological context: emotions, consciousness, morality]

  • Earth: The Biography (2008) Blu-ray, by  Dr. Iain Stewart, BBC.  [Geo-historical context]

  • Planet Earth (2007) Blu-ray, narrated by David Attenborough (skip disc 4). [Biological environmental context]

  • BBC Atlas of the Natural World [series] (2007), narrated by David Attenborough. [Biological environmental context]

Cosmic context:

  • Journey to the Edge of the Universe (2008) Blu-ray, This National Geographic film is a visually compelling trip through space and time, depicting the violent creative and destructive forces that created us and shape the universe.

Glossary of Key Terms

Anomie: Instability that comes from the breakdown of standards and values within society. The alienation and uncertainty resulting from a lack of direction and broken ideals.

 

Apostasy: To reject or renounce a belief set or religious faith, to revolt.

 

Existentialism: A philosophy concerning the difficulties of individual existence in a world where knowledge and morality are uncertain.

 

Faith: The firm belief in something for which there is no proof.

 

Heretic: One who dissents from religious dogma or breaks from accepted beliefs; nonconformist.

 

Heterodox: View or opinion that is different from, or in opposition to, an accepted standard or religion; unconventional, unorthodox.

 

Iconoclast: Image destroyer. Destruction of religious symbols and or one who opposes their worship. One who attacks established beliefs and associated institutions.

 

nihilism:  A viewpoint that traditional beliefs and values are mortally flawed, unfounded. The imperative desire for the wholesale destruction of existing values, beliefs and associated institutions.

 

Nihilism: The ideas and concepts of nihilism put into action.

 

Revolution: Fundamental change in worldview, and/or a radical socio-political and economic transformation.

The great soul of power extends far beyond states, to every domain of life, from families to international affairs. And throughout, every form of authority and domination bears a severe burden of proof. It is not self-legitimizing. And when it cannot bear the burden, as is commonly the case, it should be dismantled. – Noam Chomsky

   

Content & Design By Freydis
Updated: October, 2015
Created: 2003