The Doubts of a Nihilist

A person who doubts is not necessarily a nihilist

The other day a close friend suggested that my mind is metamorphosing into a nihilist one. One of my golden brothers is a psychiatrist. I told him about what my friend had said just to see if he could diagnose me of some psychological issues. What he said, well I am not going to repeat it here, definitely sounded like a serious psychological disorder. Now that was something serious because most crackpots don’t really know they are crackpots.

I most definitely know I am a crackpot. So am I really?

As far as I am concerned, I don’t deny the existence or that life, in general, has no objective meaning or purpose. I also believe that there are many constructs and ideals that hold inherent value, and not everything is abstract. Therefore, morality is not contrived, it certainly exists. Just like human altruism which is quite rare but it exists. Our point of references to morality may be different, and they are influenced by experience and indoctrination but they overlap. There are values universally held to be true and good like helping the poor or feeding the hungry.

However, if you have noticed I have referred to this belief as a general principle. It is entirely possible that an individual ceases to believe in any meaning to whatever he or she does or wants, that their entire existence seems to them as completely pointless. It is possible to damage a person’s individuality and to distort their experiences, to the extent that they fail to see any purpose in their mundane day-to-day life.

People who know me closely know perfectly well how I am allergic to anything quantitative. Even my ongoing thesis, which I am unable to bend to my will, happens to be a qualitative research. But, I would like to mention here something what Rene’ Descartes; the famous French philosopher mathematician, once said:

“I think therefore I am” – Rene’ Descartes

What Descartes essentially did here was to recognise his thought process as the single most important proof of his existence. Surely, he was a great man with a great purpose. But he declined to believe everything he sensed or perceived to be true, thus he advocated his famous radical doubt and revolutionised western knowledge and reason. He saw human mind and body as two separate entities but believed that the mind is the only thing certain. The body wouldn’t have existed without a mind to sense it. What happened to him in response; the Pope banned his work because the clergy perceived he doubted God. Whether he actually did or not is an entirely different matter and not my concern.

Portrait of René Descartes, dubbed the "F...
Portrait of René Descartes, dubbed the “Father of Modern Philosophy”, after Frans Hals c. 1648 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Certain theologians today believe that modernity and post-modernity have led to the rejection of religion, and this rejection of religion is followed by nihilism. I have a small and slow mind and yet I have my differences with Descartes, and I also have my differences with these theologians. For one thing, this rejection of religion has nothing to do with modernity or post-modernity but with the history of the western world and a systematic revolt against religious dogma and the rule of the clergy.

Quite unlike Descartes, I am not a positivist. I am an interpretivist by design. I believe that our reasoning is triggered by our perception, and our perception is dependent on our experience among other things. We all have that learning curve. We are more of an experiential and circumstantial being than a logical one. We interpret life and the world around all the time, and we feel those experiences within. We cannot entirely abstract either from our points of references or our mind from the body. This constructs our reality. It is definitely doubt, question, experience and reflection and it may be translated into a logical mathematical equation. But, it is not perceived as one, to begin with.

I have long pondered upon the question of free will and predestination, on the fragility of human existence and effort, and the indispensability of prayer (read: religion). I might have constructed a reality out of my own experiences. I might have developed doubts about the utility and purpose of life. It is possible that my interpretation may be wrong, but to deny or negate someone’s experiences is actually like telling them they don’t exist. And to make them believe that they don’t is not just unkind, it is dehumanizing.

I don’t deny reality. I don’t deny that certain constructs have inherent moral value. I don’t deny religion or the existence of God. I don’t deny that life is a great gift, and death is the best guardian of life because no one dies before their time is up. But, I deny the twisted usage of that religion. I deny people who act like God’s viceroys on earth when you can clearly see through their twisted moral values. I deny the authority of these people to decide the mortal fates of others. I deny accepting their unapologetic egos.

Therefore, I do believe some people are inherently immoral and lack a human heart. So, am I a nihilist? You decide!

Author: Bilal Khan

I am a Lahore, Pakistan, based researcher in the fields of Political Science, Public Policy, and Public Administration.