Beyond Nihilism

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Giovanni Cucci, SJ

 Giovanni Cucci, SJ / Philosophy / 15 July 2021


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One of the effects of the current pandemic has been the calling into question of a general silence on the “ultimate questions.” The nihilistic vision of life, which was made famous by Nietzsche’s philosophy and has frequently returned in updated versions, considers such questions definitively outdated and meaningless. According to this philosophical approach, the truth cannot be attained, because there are no stable values. This is a consequence of the death of God and a fragmented vision of time and history.[1] Therefore, people can only attend to their momentary, experience of present circumstances, renouncing the fundamental questions.

A recent book by Costantino Esposito, looking at the main existential themes of our time, notes how they have a common thread in an irrepressible demand for stability at various levels (cognitive, ethical and emotional), which challenge point by point the assumptions of nihilism.[2] In the approaches taken into consideration, there emerges a longing for a fullness and a faith in the meaning of reality, which are indispensable to be able to continue living meaningful lives.

He deals with many themes (understanding of reality, affections, happiness, corporeality, gratitude, truth, mystery, etc.), as well as areas of reference (literature, philosophy, TV, cinema, computer science). We can see in them the presence of a beyond, irreducible to  current circumstances and yet in line with the deep desires which emerge in the course of living one’s life, which could be summarized in the famous questions Immanuel Kant posed in closing his Critique of Pure Reason: “What can I know? What should I do? What am I allowed to hope for?”[3]

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