BPB on Nihilism

BPB Halloween Special.

The scariest, spookiest, most sinister thing of all: realising that human beings are a big accident and nothing means anything.

Readers. Meet nihilism.

‘Nihilism: based on the Latin word for `nothing’: nihil. Nihilism is used for a lot of positions in philosophy… that there is nothing at all; that we know nothing at all; that there are no moral principles at all, and virtually any other position that could be framed with the word `nothing’. But the most common use is nihilism as the view that nothing we do, nothing we create, nothing we love, has any meaning or value whatsoever.’ — John Perry.

This ought to be deeply distressing. And yet, it’s at the cutting edge of cool. Eugene Thacker wrote a nihilistic book that was published in 2011 entitled: ‘In the Dust of this Planet: Horror of Philosophy Vol. 1’ — “In the Dust of this Planet” ended up as a slogan on the back of a biker jacket, worn by Jay-Z in a promotion video for his ‘On the Run’ tour with Queen Bey. Which obviously skyrocketed the popularity of the book — along with a few other special mentions & fashion flaunts. Why is it cool for everything to mean nothing? Surely it’s terrifying, no? Why would you put it on a jacket?

I think one of the answers to this question is that it makes you seem brave. It’s not so much a not caring that the world means nothing, but it’s a kind of middle finger to it all. Maybe. Or maybe ‘why we love nihilism in pop culture is that it saves us from being burdened with it — it saves us from feeling it — we can enjoy it in our rooms and we can get off on it — then go back to work’ says Simon Critchley. So perhaps we listen to punk rock music and wear black and go and see the seventh movie in the Saw franchise (yes, there are seven) as a kind of way to get it out of our system? Or, through fiction especially I suppose, we isolate ourselves from it whilst simultaneously including ourselves in it. Is this the case?

Thacker’s book (which I recommend to you) explores the thought that there might be no meaning to anything, (what Nietzsche called ‘the most difficult thought’), through different horror mediums like black metal music, horror movies and mystic traditions. He argues that the undercurrent of the horror genre is the theme of trying to think about our unthinkable world. To try to understand the world in which we live, a world containing all manner of horrors from famines to tornados to the ever-present threat of extinction, is becoming increasingly difficult — when we try to think about it, we discover our limits. That, according to Thacker, is the central motif of the genre of horror.

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” — H.P. Lovecraft. The unknown then, says Thacker, is a world-without-us. We cannot know this world-without-us. As soon as we try to know this world-without-us, we bring ‘us’ into the equation. Horror then encapsulates trying to think the unthinkable — trying to think of the world-without-us. Horror is our stab at it.

It’s scary already; to confront the thought of the world-without-us. It’s sort of present but also totally out of our reach. Somewhere in the Twilight Zone, the realm of things just out of our intelligibility. And it also seems inevitable that we will reach out to this unknown, this world-without-us. Horror then, in Thacker’s terms, is inescapable.

Do you think this is what horror is?

Check out this podcast by Radiolab.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN. It just got more serious than dressing up as monsters.

Hope you can sleep tonight….

Originally published at bedpostblonde.tumblr.com. (31/10/2015)