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A Response to Extracts from Roland Jaccard

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A Response to extracts from Roland Jaccard's

La Tentation Nihiliste

What is nihilism? It is the philosophy of no beliefs, the understanding that everything is nothingness, and the complete denial and rejection of all meanings and values. Philosophers throughout the years have provided different perspectives and interpretations on what they believe nihilism is through the creation of philosophical writings and personal experiences. In my final essay about Nihilism I will be explaining a few extracts from Roland Jaccard's La Tentation Nihiliste(PUF, 1989). I will start by providing the first extract.

"...And what if the right way was that of true nihilism? What if it was not only about rejecting all transcendence, about negating Satan as well as God? What if it was also, and especially, about the irony, the doubt, the impossibility of accepting one conception of the world, the incessant mobility of interpretations, the intimate and calm persuasion that existence has no meaning and is quite useless and intelligible, and that for us, transient survivors, to finish here or farther is equally laughable."

Cioran would completely agree with this quote. In his text On the Heights of Despair, he was very sarcastic and critical, in a humorous novelty kind of way, about humans. He describes how humans typically live, and for the majority of their lives, they live in a veil of illusion. This veil of illusion basically hides the truths, the reality from man to in essence, keep them happy through ignorance. He describes this sort of life as nihilistic, but most are not aware of the concept, and are not awake to the realization that their lives are pointless when they live them the way that they do, which is ignorantly.

For one to be a "true nihilist", as Jaccard describes, I think it would take someone who has seen what the world is truly like; a person who has been exposed to reality and realizes and understands the nihilism that exists in our everyday lives. This person would ironically be, to an almost certainty, completely miserable for they would not have the illusions to provide satisfaction any longer. Everything will seem depressing and pointless rather than joyful and pleasurable; the latter is for the ignorant. Cioran does not suggest this type of lifestyle for it is not for the weak minded

To begin answering Jaccard's excerpt, I will dissect it sentence by sentence; line by line, in an attempt to reveal the meaning behind this selection. Jaccard asks what if nihilism, true nihilism, was not only about "rejecting all transcendence", but is also about "negating Satan as well as God". Transcendence, being a term, or an idea within religion, which is ultimately a creation of man; a true nihilist must not only reject this idea, but all ideas that have spawned and branched off of transcendence, i.e. Satan and God. One cannot truly negate transcendence without denying the very figureheads that are represented within it. Though Satan and God represent complete opposite ends of the religious moral spectrum, they still nonetheless create this illusion, this prison, in which the masses succumb to in order to be saved. This illusion also provides a sense of comfort to the ignorant, something the true nihilists are sure not to experience. This goes back to why nihilism is only for the strong. The weak, when exposed to the truth, cannot handle the truth and will just end it through self-euthanasia. But for one to reject transcendence and everything along with that, one will be free of the limits created by it, and will now be able to create their own, along with their own meanings and values.

"The irony, the doubt, and the impossibility of accepting one conception of the world..." This quote just represents the skepticism and sarcasm that one needs in order to become the "true nihilist". "Once you have witnessed the fall of the entire world, there is nothing left but for you to fall too. The infinite character of irony cancels all of life's contents (Cioran, 91)." Irony makes everything else seem meaningless in that one will see the truly ironic aspects of the world, and the pointlessness it has created.

"...the impossibility of accepting one conception of the world, the incessant mobility of interpretations, the intimate and calm persuasion that existence has no meaning and is quite useless and unintelligible, and that for us, transient survivors, to finish here or farther us equally laughable."

The last half this quote is simply beautiful; beautiful in the eyes of a nihilist, no doubt. If one understands and realizes how nihilistic the world is, and still continues to live within it, is "laughable". Logic is man's attempt to understand this nihilistic world, even though all there is to understand is that this world is nihilistic (Nietzche, 158). A true nihilist would scoff at logic for it is an attempt to both exist within the real world, to live ignorantly, but at the same time pretend to understand the world and be an actor within this play called the world and act like one is not ignorant.

"The feeling of valuelessness was reached on understanding that neither the concept of 'purpose', nor the concept of 'truth' may be used to interpret total character of existence (Nietzsche, 219)." This sense of "valuelessness" is related to what Jaccard was talking about in the quote above. He was discussing how a true nihilist would come about becoming this type of nihilist; by identifying the useless and the meaninglessness within life - hence the valuelessness. This feeling of valuelessness, I think, would be the truest thing one can really experience in life. What else is there in life that can be so real? I mean, most things one will experience in life are illusions or falsifications of reality; while never completely understanding that they are just that. The true nihilist will acknowledge and understand that the life they are leading is nihilistic if it is within the boundaries our society has created, and is thus making one's completely valueless. To find true meaning within life, one must cut through all of the "bullshit", be able to laugh at these illusions, and now can create their own existence.

"I am lured by the faraway distances, the immense void I project upon the world. A feeling of emptiness grows in me; it infiltrates my body like a light and impalpaple fluid. In its progress, like a dilation into infinity, I perceive the mysterious presence of the most contradictory feelings ever to inhabit a human soul. I am simultaneously happy and unhappy, exalted and depressed, overcome by both pleasure and despair in the most contradictory harmonies.



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