On Nihilism

A Short essay by Tao Gaede

A nihilist is one who decides to give up on humanity. The nihilist accepts out of convenience that human potential is bounded in some way, and therefore humans must be contained by some no doubt clever system that the nihilist came up with. To the nihilist, humans are resolvable things justifiably simplified by his or her formulas. The irony of nihilism is that nihilists bind themselves first, often knowingly, and because of their arrogant inability to doubt their own theories and perspective, they assume that because they are bounded then it must follow that all others are inherently bounded.

An indicator of this nihilism is in intelligent people who speak impressively about things like “the masses,” or such and such “demographics.” When these people cannot readily acknowledge that speaking about humans as fitting in such containers is inherently folly and naive, and only useful in some limited and narrow way, then they are nihilists who have sometime decided to give up on the surprise of human ingenuity.

A primary feature of human beings is unbounded imagination. This imagination is what will take us to the stars, new stories, new music, and new beauty beyond our current conception. It is our only means of redeeming our past and planting a flourishing future. Yet the nihilist has bounded this imagination for himself and so believes it a fabrication and falseness, both within himself and others, to be quashed as an imposter.

Intelligence is the secondary feature of humanity. It is through intelligence that the nihilist dampens his imagination. Seen as a betraying evil to be annulled, the imagination is bounded by the intelligent nihilist. So nihilism reifies intelligence, because intelligence is all it has since imagination is deemed fruitless.

This is the tragedy of nihilism: it lures the intelligence of people away from their humanity. What remains is a population of actually beautiful human beings deprived of the means of being human beautifully. I don’t hate the nihilist; instead, I fear and worry about the limiting mode of nihilism, which seems to me the most likely to lead to our self-destruction and botched redemption. For suicide is often logical, but it is never properly redemptive.