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Why does society view nihilistic views as being immature?

  1. Jun 26, 2008 #1
    Casting aside morals that have been fabricated by man, for the purpose of man, I don't think there's anything intrinsically wrong with killing someone, even at random.

    Admit to this, and people will think you're nuts, immature, need help, or simply a terrible person.

    Why though?

    Consider the fact that natural events claim hundreds of thousands of lives every year, and with complete indifference.

    A lot of people believe in the omniscient/omnipotent god that created the universe, and if such a god were to exist, would he not be directly responsible for those deaths? Worship a god that kills millions, but abhor someone who feels killing is not intrinsically wrong?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 26, 2008 #2
  4. Jun 26, 2008 #3
  5. Jun 26, 2008 #4
    I thought it was "wrong"* to intentionally do things that are detrimental to yourself and society. Killing millions for a purpose one believes helps the greater good = OK. Killing one person for no reason at all = BAD.

    *wrong = Not pro-civilization. I'm not talking ethics or morality, I specifically mean "wrong" as in "if everyone did it it would lead to recession of society, rather than progress".
  6. Jun 26, 2008 #5
    Why is pro-civilization the highest good?
  7. Jun 26, 2008 #6


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    I don't think nihilistic views are immature, but I do think some people tend to incorporate them in an immature manner.

    Furthermore, as somewhat of a nihilist myself, I don't agree with you defining it as a lack of ethics. Ethics serve selfish purposes as well, and in my opinion, you have to comply to a different standard of ethics in different settings in order to do business (i.e. get what you want).

    The most prominent feature of nihilism is not believing in a purpose for man. As a nihilist, I feel that we define our own purpose individually. As an idealist, I still find our existence fascinating, I've always been interested in the history of man and I would love see society advance and become more cooperative and learn more: I'd love to see all the problems solved (war, hunger, etc.), but I don't think that implies any greater purpose; it's more likely I'm being a survivalist and that I recognize the benefits of a stable society. I wouldn't mind making the world a better place for future generations either, but I'm not sure that's meaningful... I tend to find that everyone goes through suffering and happiness no matter what situation they're in.
  8. Jun 26, 2008 #7


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    I used to consider myself a nihilist but then I realized I'd rather just be considered a determinist and nothing more.

    As for killing random people, you know you really shouldn't surprised about people's reactions, especially if you're not in a philosophical discussion. If you are in a philosophical discussion, you need to explain what you mean.

    Holocene, you need to say why you would consider something to be intrinsically wrong and why. Also, what are some things that you do consider to be intrinsically wrong?
  9. Jun 26, 2008 #8
    Do you like people who hurt you? If not, then hurting others would make you become something you hate, which doesn't seem reasonable.
  10. Jun 26, 2008 #9
    Here's the biggest issue for me.

    Quite obviously, the physical laws of the universe did not preclude our eventual coming into existence. By that very fact, the physical laws of the universe also did not preclude our eventual dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    See what I mean?

    Man's capacity to think, and to ultimately destroy his fellow man, was ENABLED by the laws governing this universe.

    What can you do? Be “mad” at the laws of physics?

    On top of that, think of mass extinctions or even the eventual death of the Sun. The death of the sun will be certain death for any and all life living on the planet at that time. How much “wrong” could it get? And yet, it's not wrong at all. It's simply a fact of cosmic nature.

    So if I kill a person tomorrow, what is the ultimate difference????

    And yes, I want to stress that I'm talking within a purely philosophical context. I would never kill a random person for no reason.
  11. Jun 27, 2008 #10
    I feel like you're comparing apples and oranges. Things that can be controlled and that which cannot.

    Its as if you're arguing that if an uncontrollable occurrence exists, then doing it in a controlled fashion is in agreement with nature's design, regardless of context.

    Seems illogical to make that connection. Mimicking nature is not nature itself. We have an ability to choose (I think, maybe not). But by you insinuating that nature "enabled" us, you admit we have a choice. Therefor it is inherently different from a natural occurrence.

    I'm not arguing whether its right or wrong, but rather that there is a difference. It seems difficult to choose to not see the difference :)
  12. Jun 27, 2008 #11
    If I could, I would toss a hurricane in jail and throw away the key.
  13. Jun 27, 2008 #12


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    The laws of "physics" also tell you that our society, if it became what it was, must have evolved self-propagating, and self-protecting mechanisms. Suicide-loving systems will, well, kill themselves, and not be there anymore, so the probability that you would be living in one is pretty small, and the probability that it wouldn't have killed itself as of yet and nevertheless evolved advanced thinking, technology and all that would also be low.

    So, if you are living in any more or less advanced society of individual entities, chances are that self-destruction is in one or other way frowned upon. That doesn't mean that destroying entities in that society in general is frowned upon (look at how many wars and killings we have done and do historically), but the "senseless" destroying must somehow be avoided by certain mechanisms that have evolved in that system (society).

    So don't be surprised for society to frown upon you to kill others (without it giving you a "good" reason). If it were not the case, we would have eliminated ourselves already long ago and you wouldn't be there to ask the question.

    What we experience as "good" and "bad", and "purpose" is nothing else but emerging rules that evolved out of our continued successful existence. If there weren't, we would already not be here anymore. So IF you can ask the question, it means that some set of rules of what is "good" and "bad" have already evolved.

    Our "purpose" is what got us here, and what is "good" is what got us here, and what is "bad" is what would not have gotten us here. As randomly killing one another would not have gotten us here, we experience it as "bad".
  14. Jun 27, 2008 #13


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    In the natural world it happens all the time. We don't hate the lion for killing the antelope.

    Because almost all humans have agreed to be part of a society, which means we've agreed to abide by a social contract.

    Those who choose to live by the more natural, primitive rules (as the lion does) are:
    - immature (in a societal context - they are animals)
    - nuts (because they are unable to understand the social contract)
    - a terrible person (because they understand the social contract but choose to exploit it)

    Here is a question I put back to you:

    If "you" (i.e. the 'royal' you) choose to abandon social norms and opt for nihilism, why do you think you can/should be judged by others as their equal (not immature, not nuts or not terrible)?

    In a nutshell, it sounds like you're saying "I want to be mean as I please, but I don't want anybody to hate me for it."

    How society feels about your choice is simply a price you are willing to pay, is it not?
  15. Jun 27, 2008 #14
    Nihilism to me is not about abandoning social norms or morals.
    Quite on the contrary, it's about realizing that there are really no morals, and that we as humans and individuals, must think critically and solve problems and moral problems with our own judgment.
    Most nihilists I have met, have not been socially deviant or otherwise, they have been very interested in having a working society, but it leaves a lot of responsibility on the individual to decide, but on the other hand a lot of freedom.

    I guess the nihilism 'tagline' is something along the lines of "there are no inherent morals in the universe, which leaves a lot of responsibility for individuals to choose the right morals, and if they don't, they may perish, or succeed, depending on the situation."

    Only individuals can decide morals, so its like a moral battle between groups or individuals, but there is no inherent values outside of these minds.
  16. Jun 27, 2008 #15
    Ok, I think we're really confusing nihilism with existentialism here. Developing ones own arbritary moral structure independent from social norms is really existentialist not nihilist. I've always viewed nihilists as people who would oppose an implementation of ANY moral structure.
  17. Jun 27, 2008 #16
    I've always seen it almost like the difference between someone who thinks no political system can every be any good (existentialists) and anarchists (nihilists).
  18. Jun 27, 2008 #17


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    I don;t see how this changes the argument though. If your philosophy is at odds with society to the point where society can rightfully feel threatened, then they're going to view you as a threat - they're going to view you as literally, not socially mature.
  19. Jul 4, 2008 #18


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    Hi Moridin,
    Page 38 says “Morality is a valid concept” and that it should be taken as one of three axioms. I guess the question from the OP is, ‘why should this be an axiom?’.

    Hi Holocene,
    That’s a nice summary of the issue IMO.

    You state “I would never kill a random person for no reason.” The vast majority of people would say this, albeit the potential for taking another’s life is dependant on the circumstances. There are circumstances (such as killing enemy combatants, or even civilians of an enemy) that historically, people have been found to be willing to take another’s life.

    It seems to me that people have a sense of what is morally acceptable, just as Moridin’s reference uses this as an axiom. For example, you’ve pointed out that you would not indiscriminately kill another. In fact, most people would feel an overwhelming sensation of negativity were they forced to kill someone without cause.

    Is this sensation that morality is an axiom just something that was learned, perhaps from religious teachings or the fear of legal retribution? Or is this sensation about morality something innate which we are born with? I don’t know the answer to that one, but I suspect it is innate. And if it is innate, it is just as real as the belief in ‘free will’ or seeing the color red, or the universally recognized smell of a skunk which makes a skunk so repulsive to its enemies that it can walk among lions without fear of being eaten. The sensation of morality is real from a subjective perspective - I think humans in general feel repulsed by actions that hurt others without helping anyone. However, I don't see morality as something that can be objectively evaluated - you can't measure morality against an objective scale for all the reasons you point out.
  20. Jul 9, 2008 #19
    Morality is axiomatic, since its negation is a logical contradiction -- you ought to hold that you ought not to do anything, including holding beliefs.
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