The Threat of Nihilism

Hamza Yusuf

Channel: Hamza Yusuf

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With Thomas Hibbs 

Episode Transcript

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Just spin out a home Rahim. First of all, thank you very much for those thoughtful and important remarks. I think in in reading your your book shows about nothing you attempt to address I think that rather you address very well the crises of Neel ism In popular culture. And what I want to start off one is by

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looking at the problem of realism,

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which is a human problem and I'd like to quote and then ask some of your reflections on this from idle. Are you familiar with ni[???]ani? Meiji? Have you read anything? No, okay. He's a chapter that he he wrote a book called overcoming nihilism. It's actually really worth reading. But anyway, he says, On the one hand, Neel ism is a problem that transcends time and space and is rooted in the essence of human being an existential problem in which the being of the self is revealed to the self itself as something groundless. On the other hand, it is a historical and social phenomenon, an object of the study of history, the phenomenon of Neel ism shows that our historical life has lost

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its ground as objective spirit, that the value system which supports this life has broken down, and that the entirety of social and historical life has loosened itself from its foundations. Kneel ism, is a sign of the collapse of the social order, externally and of spiritual decay internally. And as such signifies a time of great upheaval. viewed in this way, one might say that it is a general phenomenon that occurs from time to time in the course of history. And he was writing in post war Japan, where they had an immense crisis. So I'd like just maybe to hear from you about how this translates what I just read and what you wrote about in your book in our current crises.

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Yes, very, very good. And that's a very succinct analysis, just so everyone knows. Neil ism is a term comes from a Latin word nihill, which means nothing. And it's typically taken to be a philosophy or a way of life that says that there's no ultimate purpose or meaning, no, no fundamental standard, to which we can appeal that enables us to distinguish between true and false, good and evil, even better or worse. And so it is, it can be the result of deep social, political confusion, spiritual emptiness, obviously, it when it's taught, particularly to young people, either as a philosophy or through the stories we tell, it can have a coarsening and indeed corrosive effect

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on the moral imagination of young people. And that's, in part what I was worried about in the book, looking at examples from television and film. And I do think that we are in a time where we're nihilism threatens us in lots of ways, I think, are even in our, in our positive quest for justice. We've had a lot of talk since early summer after George Floyd, about issues of racial injustice, and mistreatment by the legal system, by police, and by courts and so forth. A and beneath that, it in in its its deep authenticity is a great hunger for justice. But I think sometimes in our culture, when we talk about rights when we talk about demands for justice, because we lack a consensus about

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what it means to be human, about what the foundations of justice are, whether they're in nature, or in God, our our discussions about these matters, have an almost hysterical character to them, that borders on the irrational and is always in danger of bordering on violence, because we we lack a sense of the foundation of purpose and so we're always we're always sort of threatened by nihilism, whether we're aware of it or not, that one last thing I'd say about this is the the first part of that comment from the scholar you were reading

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is that the the sense of one's own nothingness. In religious traditions, I speak here, especially in the Christian religious tradition, that insight into one's nothingness is a possibility of opening up into seeing one's very existence as a gift of the Creator God and so the the

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The, in the, in the deep religion, religious traditions of which we are apart. That sense of nothingness is always part of our sense of ourselves, because we are not self creators, because we are not fully autonomous, because we are not sufficient unto ourselves. And so that sense of my own nothingness within the ambit of a rich theology and liturgy, and practice of a meaningful religious life. That's it that is actually something that we are urged to have. Right, we are urged to have a sense of our own nothingness, and that our dignity comes from our being created by God and from our subordinate relationship to God as creator and judge. And so the when you when you have the

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experience of nothingness, apart from that theological framework, the risk is always that everything falls apart, right that then it's just bear meaninglessness.