Please note I am in no way claiming to be a philosopher or to fully understand all the terms and ideas mentioned below. I will probably butcher a few terms here and there, and some statements and definitions will make you cringe. If you find any mistakes in what I have written then I beg you to correct me.
Throughout my life, I have been a curious person. I have probably spent a lot of my time watching videos and reading articles on a variety of topics. However, it’s very recent that I actually started forming my own opinions, adopting philosophies and debating ideas. I have read a few books here on there on absurdism, religion and so on. I’ve probably spent months of my life reading articles and essays on science, philosophy, art and religion. I’ve probably wasted dozens of hours watching someone breaking down very complex topics. I am definitely not ready to take a clear position on what I believe and what way of thinking I’m currently following, but as that thing will always be changing, I decided to put it into a blog post so I can look back at it years later and laugh at myself.
I’ll start first with toying with the idea of nihilism. If you are an expert on philosophical topics, you’re scared that I’ll mess up somewhere and confuse nihilism with something else. Although that’s very likely, let me start by stating that Nietzsche was not a nihilist. That’s no big deal, but hopefully it’ll help you sleep at night.
Moving on, nihilism is philosophical position that rejects belief in different aspects of life. I personally consider it a complete rejection of existence. The typical nihilist will look at life and identify it as meaningless and purposeless. “Why bother?” he asks himself almost every time he’s faced with a challenge. “Why should I care?” is his answer to every moral question. Morals, according to nihilists, do not inherently exist. The current moral system is but a human invention in order to keep humans in line. If you are a friend of mine, you have probably seen me make a few nihilist jokes here and there, associating nihilism with suicide and the love of death. I would like to tell you, that is not the case.
A “true nihilist” will know that there is no purpose to suicide just like there is no purpose to life. You might actually go through some nihilistic moments yourself. At 12:00 am, when you’re laying in bed and starting at the ceiling fan, you could be facing the unnecessary and meaningless human ideas. You could regard life as simply a few scores you would spend before completely seizing to exist. Of course, if you’re a normal person, these ideas will disappear by the time you wake up next morning. If that does not happen, you might actually fall into a state of full nihilism. It gets more complicated and there are many different types of nihilism and definitely a lot of criticism towards. Google and books are you friends here, do your reading.
I’ll now starting expanding on the idea of existentialism. It is very important for you to distinct between existentialism and nihilism because, regardless of their similarities, they are very different with how you would see and deal with life and I’ll do my best to explain the differences. The mentioned position focuses on human free will in the midst of a meaningless world. While both philosophies acknowledge that life has no meaning inherently, the latter takes that idea a step forward. If you are familiar with the works of Nietzsche and Sartre, you’ll see how both of these individuals highlight the idea that humans are what they make of themselves. Although that sounds like something a white teenage girl would put as her Instagram caption, it is exactly what existentialism is all about.
Here, I would like to refer to Jean-Paul Sartre’s Existentialism is a Humanism where he compares humans and hammers. He first starts by explaining that hammers were created for a purpose. Before the hammer was made, someone formed its image and purpose in their head. He then proceeded to forge that hammer around that purpose. This according to Sartre, is when essence precedes existence. Most humans like to believe that this is how God created humans. He had a purpose for humans and forged them around that idea. However, in atheistic existentialism, Sartre supposed that if God does not, and that’s very likely, there must be one conscious being whose existence precedes their essence. Man was the answer.
According to this philosophy, man existed, became self-aware and then started to give his life meaning. This is where Sartre derived his idea of free will. Since humans have no predetermined purpose, they are the ones who give meaning to their lives and through their own will, create their purpose. Christian existentialists such as Kierkegaard would argue that a leap of faith to believe in God is the solution. However, in a society where Nietzsche’s words on the death of God are spreading, this idea will not find a place.
Finally, I’m going to address one final philosophical position. This does not necessarily fit in with the former two but since I am discussing my current ideas, I’m going to mention hedonism. Hedonism in a very short definition, is the belief that pleasure is the ultimate goal of life. In other words, happiness can only be achieved when pleasure is your purpose. You are probably imagining a guy who has sex multiple times per week and eats fancy food every day at the moment. That is not completely wrong but that is not necessarily what hedonism is about.
Here, we have to look at the types of pleasure. You have the low pleasures that include sexual relationships and food. I would like to go back to that one paper I read in my Theory of Knowledge class on this subject. It used the example of Howard in the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory. If you have ever watched that show, you would realize that Howard is almost to do anything in exchange for sex. In one episode, he got sleeves tattoo and dressed up as a goth just to attract two hot goth chicks at the bar. Howard is definitely a hedonist but he focuses on the low pleasures of life. You also have the high pleasures, these are represented by what you would get out of reading philosophy, poetry and novels and by looking at art. The high pleasures would better be represented Epicureanism, an Athenian school of philosophy advocating for hedonism while preferring mental pleasure to physical pleasure.
To end this article, I would like to answer the question that many of my friends have asked. What philosophical schools do I adhere to? What are my philosophical positions? This long article has probably kept you waiting and I’m finally going to answer that question.
I regard myself as many things but I would find myself as a lovely combination of existentialism and hedonism. In the past few years, I have come to the realization that I have complete control over who I am. If I am a coward, then that’s who I chose to be and who I made myself become. It’s not the result of the work of some supernatural force or deity nor is it the result of other people’s actions. As Sartre said “Nous sommes nos choix.” which is French for “We are our choices.”
I am also a hedonist since pleasure has been and probably will always be a great factor in the process of decision-making. You are probably asking yourself what kind of pleasure I’m talking about. Both types of pleasure are what I’m seeking with an emphasis on the high pleasures. Although low pleasures are biologically pleasure and attractive to our instincts, they are very limited to the moment. Once the heat wears off, they’re gone. The high pleasures are what stays. The knowledge I have collected from a book or the feelings that I have got from looking at a painting is what I’m going to keep in my head. The high pleasures are the ones you can recall and relive over and over again. I’m not going to act completely pure here and I’ll leave you with a quote by Blaise Pascal:
Man is neither angel nor beast; and the misfortune is that he who would act the angel acts the beast.
Au revoir, chers amis!