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by Nolen Gertz

Narrated by Shaun Grindell

Unabridged — 4 hours, 36 minutes

Nolen Gertz

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When someone is labeled a nihilist, it's not usually meant as a compliment. Most of us associate nihilism with destructiveness and violence. Nihilism means, literally, "an ideology of nothing". Is nihilism, then, believing in nothing? Or is it the belief that life is nothing? Or the belief that the beliefs we have amount to nothing? If we can learn to recognize the many varieties of nihilism, Nolen Gertz writes, then we can learn to distinguish what is meaningful from what is meaningless. In this addition to the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series, Gertz traces the history of nihilism in Western philosophy from Socrates through Hannah Arendt and Jean-Paul Sartre.

Although the term "nihilism" was first used by Friedrich Jacobi to criticize the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, Gertz shows that the concept can illuminate the thinking of Socrates, Descartes, and others. It is Nietzsche, however, who is most associated with nihilism, and Gertz focuses on Nietzsche's thought. Gertz goes on to consider what is not nihilism - pessimism, cynicism, and apathy - and why; he explores theories of nihilism; he considers nihilism as a way of understanding aspects of everyday life; and he reflects on the future of nihilism. We need to understand nihilism not only from an individual perspective, Gertz tells us, but also from a political one.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly


Gertz (Nihilism and Technology) explores the concept and ramifications of nihilism in this quirky and instructive work. In a playful tone, Gertz writes that nihilism is much more than a philosophy of meaninglessness, and makes the case that such things as optimism, idealism, sympathy, and certain forms of spirituality are much more nihilistic than one might at first think. “Nihilism is about evading reality rather than confronting it,” he writes, and it exposes the difference between “being indifferent because that is how one responds to the world and becoming indifferent because we want to be liberated from our feelings and attachments.” In this way, Gertz compares nihilistic detachment to that found in stoicism and Buddhism. By considering the connection of the rise of postmodernism to nihilism, Gertz points out that nihilism is far more present, powerful, and pervasive than its pessimistic reputation suggests: “Postmodernism is the recognition that the narratives, the ideas, and the values we use to give life meaning are empty shells—or, to be more precise, the recognition that these narratives, ideas, and values have always been empty shells.” For Gertz, understanding the “normal nihilism” of modern times and coming to grips with reality in the face of meaninglessness can help readers transform self-destruction into an opportunity for meaningful creation. Gertz’s pithy, persuasive work usefully explains how nihilism can provide motivation for self-inquiry and creativity. (Sept.)

From the Publisher

"Gertz's pithy, persuasive work usefully explains how nihilism can provide motivation for self-inquiry and creativity."
Publishers Weekly

"This is a wonderful introduction to some pressing questions in philosophy, both political and personal. Those who would like to explore the interplay of Nietzschean ideas, existentialism, and postmodernity in the Western world will enjoy this book."

"[A]n engaging study that sets out to analyze various conceptions and misconceptions of nihilism. Any such enterprise has to survey the intellectual history of what today has come to be known as nihilism, and this Gertz delivers in almost exemplary fashion....a great starting point for the exploration of nihilism in its many guises." 
Text Matters: A Journal of Literature, Theory and Culture

Product Details

BN ID: 2940173978660
Publisher: Ascent Audio
Publication date: 11/15/2019
Edition description: Unabridged

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