Nihilism is the philosophical view that all values and beliefs are baseless. It is oftentimes associated with extreme pessimism or radical skepticism. The Skeptics and the Sophists were considered as among the earliest philosophers to hold such view. They denied the possibility that anything can be known with certainty. For them, there are no truths but mere opinions and perspectives. Nihilism can be interpreted in different meanings. First is the ethical nihilism which is the rejection of all absolute moral or ethical values and the belief in ethical relativism. (Alan Pratt, 2006) Second is the political nihilism which espouses the destruction of al. existing political, social and religious order as a means for advancement or improvement. (Alan Pratt, 2006) Third is Existential Nihilism which is the belief that life has no intrinsic meaning or value. (Alan Pratt, 2006) Nietzsche is the more famous philosopher to hold such view. For him, nihilism “is not only the belief that everything deserves to perish; but one actually puts one’s shoulder to the plough; one destroys.” (Byron Williston, 2001)
While it may seem odd, it is my belief that holding the philosophical view of nihilism may be the answer to the modern day problems of man. It may be the key to unlocking the mystery that will open the way for man’s attaining complete happiness and inner peace.
is suffering from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The stock market is down. The United States dollar is down. Houses are being foreclosed. Bank deposits are slowly being depleted. Assets are losing their value. Salaries are being reduced. Employees are slowly being terminated from their job. These events have triggered a chain reaction not only in the United States but in other countries as well. Presently, the United States is experiencing the worst number of cases of depression since the Great Depression. More people are stressed and having anxiety. Research even indicates that the number cases of suicide have increased compared to the cases in the past. In United States alone, the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office found that the number of suicides in 2008 increased to 805 compared to 695 in 2007 and 698 in 2006. The same trend exists not only in the Los Angeles but in other states as well. Los Angeles
The root cause of this problem or the primary reason that drives Americans to depression and to committing suicide is materialism. Materialism or the people’s desire for tangible and impermanent objects that can only give them superficial happiness is one of the factors responsible for putting majority of the Americans in their present predicament. People want to buy new laptops, notebook PCs, new cellular phones and iPhones. In their desire for better clothes, new technologies and devices, new cars, and new houses they applied for loans with banks even when their present income does not suffice to pay off these loans. In their desire to get more money, they invested their family’s savings in the stock market hoping that in just a matter of months the money will be doubled if not tripled.
When people cannot buy these things they get frustrated and depressed because unlike their well-off friends and classmates they can buy these material things. When the economic situation got a little rough, these cars and houses were eventually foreclosed and taken by the lending institutions. When the stock market fell, their life savings eventually went down with the stock market. All these things are leading to more depression, frustration, anxiety, stress and worries.
In reality, Nietzsche makes a lot of sense in saying that all values and sense of purpose should not only perish but they should be destroyed. Nietzsche is right. The root cause for the depression, anxiety, anguish and suicide the public are experiencing now is the people’s wrong sense of values – their desire for more wealth. We are in a world where money is desired and pursued. It is this sense of values that restrict man from attaining full autonomy and from attaining happiness.
The solution to the present state of depression, anxiety, stress and anguish is to change our perspective of the present situation. The public should stop thinking that money is the alpha and omega of our existence. Instead of focusing on money, we should all appreciate the more important things in life – our relationship with family and friends. We should not forget that despite the economic hardships we are still lucky since our family and friends are still with us. It is this time that we should focus on them more by being a good father or a good son or a good brother or a good sister or a good friend to them. By appreciating what we have right now rather than by thinking about what we do not have there can be real autonomy.
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