Podcast #29: The Podcast about Nothing

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Ben Bartlett and Richard Clark return triumphantly with an in depth discussion about pop culture’s nihilistic tendencies, which attempting to avoid talking too in depth about the philosophy of nihilism itself. It turns out, nihilism is all over the place in popular culture, and it may not be such a bad thing. Tune in and find out why!

Plus, Richard and Ben give really lame reasons for not having done a podcast in forever and they also count down their Top 5 Nihilistic Moments in Popular Culture. You don’t want to miss this!

Then again, what’s the point?


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The music in this episode is by SoberMinded and awesome rap duo featuring our own writer and co-founder,Alan NobleCheck them out!

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  • I would just like to say Re Entertainment Weekly:
    If Owen Gleiberman rates something well, it may be worth a look. If Lisa Schwarzbaum rates something at all, you’re better off asking your local mentally derailed hobo for an opinion, because that hobo will talk sense 80% more often than Lisa Schwarzbaum.

    I know you guys were trying to avoid getting too technical with your nihilism argument, but really, a lot of your examples seemed like whole other philosophies to me. Philosophies produced in absence of God, sure, but non-nihilistic philosophies regardless.

    I think the only truly nihilistic characters we encounter are all sociopaths. And it’s not that all sociopaths are even nihilistic. It’s just that only a sociopath can possibly be a nihilist who doesn’t cheat by eating chicken and fish.

    The Danes last blog post..20080923

  • Dave Dunham


    I think there is a difference between what is considered pure philosophic nihilism and the pop-nihilism that Rich and Ben are discussing here.

  • Well, if we limited the definition of nihilism to sociopaths it would be a pretty short show.

    I’ve seen a lot of movie reviews that refer to characters or movies having “nihilistic leanings” or things like that. I think our goal was to highlight why these characters are compelling, how they compare to Christianity, and how we should react.

    And as I mentioned, technical philosophers love to clarify and define things out of existence… we were looking more to think about a simple, broad definition that will help our awareness of certain movie trends.

    Ben Bartletts last blog post..Moses and me: Practicing Faith and Pragmatism

  • Yeah, I think it’s pretty clear we need to be talking about inconsistent nihilists for the most part. The more consistent one becomes in nihilistic belief, one would either get crazier or closer to Christ.

    Richard Clarks last blog post..LGBT Says “Whoo!”

  • I’m just saying, I’m pretty far from a technical philosopher (or even a philosopher) but you offer the working definition of nihilism as being someone who believes in nothing and then offer examples like Tyler Durden, who pretty clearly believes in something. (He’s an anarchist because he wants to promote values that would bring about a better world, not because he just wants to watch the world burn. He’s principled and has a belief system, though it be an atheistic one.)

    I don’t think my hesitation here is due so much to technicality as it’s just that the examples don’t seem to fit the category you describe. Unless maybe you’re stretching your definition to umbrella all atheists…

    Incidentally, I just thought you should know that it was not me who gave the one-star rating there. Just in case you thought it was me.

  • I think there’s a distinction between “believing in nothing” and believing that there is no God and no ultimate purpose or meaning.

    I can’t remember exactly how I phrased it on the show, but I think the goal of the working definition was to picture a person who is atheistic, and wants to construct their morality on the basis of that notion. So Tyler Durden is a good example because he basically kills off God in his mind, and then constructs a moral system on that basis… namely, that societal structure should honor strength and manliness and physicality rather than the doing of dull jobs to buy useless stuff.

    And it’s probably true that some of the examples are imperfect, but movies aren’t constructed to fit into easy categories. I think we just wanted to highlight the nihilistic trends or themes that can be seen in various characters or portions of movies. They are pretty distinct from normal movie fare, with a bunch of pseudo-moralists willingly participating in various aspects of the rat race.

    The atheist I WOULD exclude from this category is the one who, as Neitzsche points out, says he does not believe in God but continues to have an irrational moral system that is basically inherited piecemeal from Christianity or some other religion. Vonnegut is a great example… he doesn’t believe in God, but holds on to some morality that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense given the premise.

    Ben Bartletts last blog post..Moses and me: Practicing Faith and Pragmatism

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