Creative Nihilism

One meme that has gotten an unjustly (and calculatedly) bad rap is "nihilism."

Typically taken to signify "believing nothing has any meaning or value," it originally meant something quite different.

Dostoevsky, a religious man, parodied nihilism mercilessly and hilariously in his novels, interpreting it in the above manner.

But many of the Russian nihilists of the mid-1800s (for instance the great mathematician Sofya Kovalevskaya, perhaps my favorite female mad scientist) took it to mean, rather, "believing that nothing has any absolute meaning or value" -- a radically different thing!

Cosmism advocates nihilism in the latter sense -- which I call creative nihilism.

Take nothing for granted!

As the bumpersticker says: Question authority!

Or in the words of William Burroughs: Nothing is true! Everything is permitted!

But Burroughs didn't mean "nothing is true at all." He meant "nothing is absolutely true."

And he didn't mean "every activity and idea is permitted in every context." Some valuable contexts, clearly, are defined by what they rule out.

He meant "nothing is a priori ruled out. There is total freedom to explore."

Cosmism requires creative nihilism: anything else stifles growth and choice, restricting avenues for joy.

Long live creative nihilism!

1 comment:

  1. This is a good explanation for those struggling to find a reason not to dogmatically believe everything Ayn Rand wrote.