13 March 2006

Common-sense nihilism (a first stab at a manifesto)

All we know that we know is that we know nothing. Everything we think we know is mediated through our senses and constructed in our brain. The evidence of our senses could be an illusion. We have no way of knowing whether the construct in our brain has any relation with what actually exists.

In this situation all we can do is make certain assumptions. No matter the underlying reality, if we climb out of a high-storey window, we will appear to fall and appear to be in pain. Therefore we should behave as if what appears to be a material universe actually is a materialist universe.

We appear to occupy a tiny four-dimensional segment of the spacetime that we occupy. This appears to have begun in the big bang and appears as if it will end with eventual heat death – where all matter and energy is evenly distributed and unchanging. However, it also appears as if the big bang could have been caused by a white hole – the other end of a black hole in another completely separate spacetime, one that started with different initial conditions and so different universal constants than ours.

Everything-that-is appears as if it could comprise the set of all possible universal constants, expressed as separate spacetimes connected by black holes in a closed causal loop. What we call the universe appears to be the spacetime where the arrangement of universal constants allows matter conducive to life like ours to form.

However, as Neitzsche reminds us, science only describes what appears to be there but does not explain it. We do not even pretend to know why anything exists. Not only that but the visible universe – galaxies, stars, planets, and life – only accounts for 5% of the measurable mass. We only perceive four dimensions but there appears to be at least nine physical and two temporal dimensions. Not only is the observable universe, assuming it exists, unknown but it could also be unknowable.

This observable, material universe that we appear to inhabit is hostile and contigent – the blind working out of physical processes. All life on Earth could be destroyed by a physical event, such as our being hit by a comet or a nearby star going supernova, at any time. Life has evolved on this planet completely by chance. By its very nature, life requires suffering. Matter and energy that has organised itself into a living thing needs to consume other living things in order to maintain itself. As a side-effect of the way we evolved, we appear to be self-aware consciousnesses capable of abstract thought and of using what we think we know to manipulate the physical universe we appear to observe.

Therefore, even assuming the material world we observe does exist, life has no meaning or purpose other than existing – and the only purpose existing serves is to increase the amount of suffering in the world. We were arbitrarily born in a particular place at a particular time and we will die at a particular place at a particular time. Our life consists of all the spacetime events between these two points. If we assume this to be the case, then it is exclusively up to us as individuals to make that sequence of events worthwhile.

We evolved as social beings - the entirety of human history and prehistory has involved the struggle to control human societies, the struggle to organise a society to suit the interests of the most powerful few. Before history began, we had killed off all our nearest relatives – all the relevant competitors – and had spread to every major habitable part of the planet. Civilisation appeared spontaneously several times. In each case, it was because the rulers of the relevant society realised it would serve their interests better to adopt agriculture and settle in cities and were able to impose their will, even though most people lived shorter and harder lives as a consequence. History began with the first writing, which, along with mathematics, was developed by priest-kings to keep accurate tax records.

Throughout humanity’s existence, this struggle has used both physical and mental means. Historically, the physical means involve such things as war and laws enforced by police to control access to resources and ensure the production of that which the powerful few need and value. The mental means involve such things as religion, nationalism, and consumerism – belief systems that provide a meaning and purpose to life that ensures the individuals believing those systems serve power’s ends. We can assume the societies we have no record of took the same basic form as those that we do.

This struggle is, however, not solely between the powerful few and the many. It is between control itself and humanity. Even the powerful few who control a society’s resources are slaves to control – their actions are constrained by the need to retain power and maintain control. Likewise, so are rebels from, or outcasts of, a society a necessary part of that society. The free, authentic life – the human life – is that lived on its own terms and for its own ends.

3 comments:

Faeropus said...

A sad state of affairs for those aetheists among us. Indeed you just ask yourself. What the f..ik is the point?? Is there a place in the universe for a sense of the divine? (religious control by priest castes notwithstanding. Is the universe by it's very nature an entity?

Frankly if it brings some sort of point and purpose to my existence in this shit hole then I'm all for it. Nihilism sucks.

David said...

No!! You are wanting to be given a consoling lie rather than creating your own freedom!

Faeropus said...

I'm not wanting for anything. I think you are getting confused between the concept of an all powerful god that some people wish/hope/pray is looking after them 'cause the thought of them being on their own is just too terrifying and a spark of magick, the divine or something that just can't be explained but which brings both unpredictability and beauty to ones life. The muse for a poet, the flow for a martial artist, the groove for a musician. Nihilism is banality manifested, a reduction of life to parcels of scientific principle and predictability. I think that creates fertile ground for the opposite of freedom - 'cause you end up asking yourself - what is the point of it all if I am just a collection of star dust that just happens to be constructed in such a way that I am conscious (relatively speaking) and capable of abstract thought? We are then caged by our consciousness.

F..k that.

Bring on Yog Sogoth - eater of souls, the Archons or whatever.... Yes some of this will be explainable in mundane terms when our knowledge base expands and some won't, 'cause it is unknowable - but in the meantime - I want that unknown - that fear that there may be some entity capable of sucking my soul out through my nose when I am sleeping, the chance that I may end up in the hall of the fairy king when I fall asleep drunk in a field at night.

'Cause that just makes my life that much more interesting.

The world is what we believe in. Consensually. Such is the quantum nature of the universe. Collapsed, partially collapsed, or expanding waveforms included.

visitors since 29 March 2004.