What is optimistic nihilism?

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/07/27/what-is-optimistic-nihilism.html


It sounds like an inherent oxymoron, but I look forward to watching the vid later; I love those guys.


I saw this when it came out. TL;DW - it’s a great big universe, and we’re all really puny, so we might as well have fun and try to make a few peoples’ days brighter.


So much this… when I get asked where do morals, etc come about if there is no god. Cause life would fucking suck if we all went around being dickweeds to each other.

This is what we have and when we have it. Be with your family (blood related or just whatever kind you like) your friends. Have good times, enjoy sunsets, eat great food, be kind, do what you can to make the place better than when you came in.


Except for the “make the world a better place” part, which comes out of nowhere and therefore feels tacked on, this is a pretty good explanation and defense of objectivism: nothing matters in the world, every bad decision / mistake / moment of guilt or other negative emotions – basically everything you’ve ever done or will do is meaningless and will be forgotten in the heat death of the universe, so you might as well enjoy your life. Your life is the only thing that matters, so enjoy it.

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Know what else comes out of nowhere? Nihilism.


What civilization with magic warp drive technology are they from? We’re stuck at the bottom of a gravity well with a bunch of fools who voted for Mango Mussolini, we might not even survive the next few years.

Edit: We are 30 seconds closer to midnight.


That’s the reference :wink:


Jetzt stell’ dich nicht so an, Mark. Du schaffst das schon.


I thought so too. After watching, a better term would be optimistic existential nihilism. They do a pretty good job of explaining existential nihilism, but people are bound to get confused between the two schools of philosophy.

You Can Do It, Happy Gilmore

Eh? Not really.

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Spotted this a while ago:


You’re right but can you see a lot of people spending time on that distinction? I appreciate the pedantry on this front, but it’s a lonely position.


I remember the first time I found out that I was going to die someday…I was not pleased…I was like “what? why…no…!!!”

I recently went through some meaning of life stuff…I ultimately got content when I considered…we are specs in the grand scheme…tiny-er than leafs on a big tree. And if you think of leafs…do leafs worry about their purpose? I mean, what is a leaf’s purpose? Ultimately there is none…and so I guess in that case it is ok if none of us really have a grand purpose…but just being part of the tree is enough.

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For me, “make the world a better place” follows on logically.

The universe is going to expand and cool, and over huge timescales even giant black holes will evaporate, and the universe will all be isolated particles that never meet. Is this what comes of my dreams of greatness? Well, probably, yes. Maybe the exact physics is wrong, but thermodynamics has it that things generally run down, wear out, and go random; and it is pretty hard to argue against that.

So, what do we do? Well you can enjoy yourselves by doing shots, or driving too fast, or both; or watch all the Frank Quimby Tom & Jerry films while breathing nitrous oxide. But that would only bring temporary relief. A more satisfying thing is to try and understand what is going on, and, where possible to improve it. Things are probably getting better. We are probably not going to have all-out nuclear war. We can fix global warming. There are a lot of social problems we can easily fix. Or, to quote William Morris…

Meanwhile, if these hours be dark, as, indeed, in many ways they are, at least do not let us sit deedless, like fools and fine gentlemen, thinking the common toil not good enough for us, and beaten by the muddle; but rather let us work like good fellows trying by some dim candle-light to set our workshop ready against to-morrow’s daylight–that to-morrow, when the civilised world, no longer greedy, strifeful, and destructive, shall have a new art, a glorious art, made by the people and for the people, as a happiness to the maker and the user.


It’s bee a while since I’ve paid attention to philosophy but I think they’re actually promoting Stoicism. “Life is shit. Then you die. You can’t stop it so you might as well just get on with it and try your best.”

Or as the philosopher Albert Camus once said;


It doesn’t say that your life is the only thing that matters; it says that the only things that are important are the things you decide are important. If all you can come up with is “me”, well then yes you are an objectivist. Or a toddler.


well then yes you are an objectivist. Or a toddler.

They’re not the same?


I’d say that’s rather the point though. We might all kill each other and end the human race. But if you think that death is really the end, well and truly, that’s a lot more reason to work to prevent that. It’s a lot easier to push the button when you think you’ll go to a better place after, and it’s a lot easier to take other people with you if it’s not really an end.

Interstellar travel? Sure, it might well be impossible. There’s some ideas for bypassing the speed of light barrier, even if it can’t be broken, but they’re unlikely. Still, the goal should be getting out there, in space. Earth has a limited lifespan. The farther the human race can go, the longer they can live. It won’t be forever, but… well there’s only one humanity. Might as well give it as good a run as possible. Even if we only get as far as Mars, or even if we never get that far, at least we made the effort.


…so…Can I have your liver then?