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What Are We?A Study in Personal Ontology$
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Eric T. Olson

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780195176421

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195176421.001.0001

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(p.180) 8 Nihilism
What Are We?

Eric T. Olson (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the view that we do not exist because there are no human thinkers: nihilism. Nihilism is defended against the charge that it is an absurd denial of the obvious, or that it is self‐refuting. Attempts by Kant and others, such as Russell, Unger, and Wittgenstein, to defeat nihilism by showing that thought requires a thinker are examined and found wanting. Attention then turns to attempts to paraphrase statements apparently about people into terms compatible with nihilism. Although this is difficult because nihilists will want to deny the existence of any composite objects, no conclusive objections to the project are found. It is then argued that nihilism, like solipsism, is depressing, and that someone who accepted it consistently would appear to deprive herself of any reasons for action.

Keywords:   action, Kant, nihilism, paraphrase, reasons, Russell, self‐refuting, solipsism, Unger, Wittgenstein

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