What We're Reading: Nihilism01-07-2021
Nolen Gertz writes that if we are going to talk meaningfully about our nihilistic age, we should understand what nihilism really means. And he begins, appropriately enough, with Hannah Arendt.
Nihilism is a constant threat. As the 20th-century philosopher Hannah Arendt recognised, it is best understood not as a set of ‘dangerous thoughts’, but as a risk inherent in the very act of thinking. If we reflect on any specific idea long enough, no matter how strong it seems at first, or how widely accepted, we’ll start to doubt its truth. We might also begin to doubt whether those who accept the idea really know (or care) about whether or not the idea is true. This is one step away from thinking about why there is so little consensus about so many issues, and why everyone else seems to be so certain about what now appears to you so uncertain. At this point, on the brink of nihilism, there’s a choice: either keep thinking and risk alienating yourself from society; or stop thinking and risk alienating yourself from reality.