Is it psychopathology or nihilism?

whatever else that's yes/somewhat/sideways/maybe related
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Is it psychopathology or nihilism?

Post by Übermensch » Fri Dec 09, 2016 10:57 pm

On a completely unrelated topic I'll post here, because it's not worth mentioning anywhere else... It turns out my existentialist professor is a psychopath. Well, malignant narcissist or psychopath, one or the other. This brings up an absurd, but interesting point: that there may be a psychopathic way to interpret existentialist ideas. I have always thought of nihilists as being narcissistic, but there may actually be a much stronger correlation between the two than most people realize. This seems to imply that nihilism is not simply a philosophical viewpoint or construct, but in fact correlates rather strongly with abnormal psychology. Specifically, narcissistic personality disorder and anti-social personality disorder. Such a dismal and absurd view of the world is inconsistent with a psychologically healthy individual. Especially, when considered from the perspective of integration (in the Jungian sense). These people don't seem to deal with reality in a sane, adult, boundried way. They take sick pleasure in making other people miserable by eroding their beliefs, values, and cultural norms. In other words, they get their jollies by stepping over your boundries and taking a sh*t in your soul. If this correlation is significant, then nihilism may be indicative of a phenomenological perspective of psychopathy!

Of course, in regards to my psychopathic professor, this may explain why she regards nihilists as the misunderstood heros of the modern (or rather postmodern) age. And also why she "allows" for an alternate interpretation of various existential philosophers--no doubt forced on her by the protests of her students. Her "interpretations" I would classify as f'ing evil and the "other" interpretation (the one I consider to be correct) being profound and transcendental in nature. Of course, academia itself is no doubt deeply divided over how to interpret these various philosophers. Since there are a lot of rabid atheists and nihilists in academia this is not surprising. Oh hell, let's face it, there are a lot of narcissists and psychopaths in academia--and many times the two are one and the same!

Taking a Gnostic perspective on the issue, what are we talking about here? I believe nothing less than good and evil. And these two different perspectives constitute the knowledge of good and evil--because they are phenomenological perspectives rooted in human experience. What does this mean? If you are evil (and many people consider psychopaths and narcissists evil), then you will interpret philosophy one way and if you are good you will interpret it yet another. The "evil" interpretation is rather mundane, insignificant, lacks meaning, and is unprofound. The "good" interpretation is important, meaningful, and profound. I believe these varying interpretations are not only indicative of the psychological health of the individual, but that adopting an unhealthy view of reality leaves one subject to pathology. While a healthy view of reality is therapeutic and leads to good mental health. Of course, I believe these ideas are already substantiated by modern psychology, so there is no surprise here. But seeing the philosophical implications of this fist hand is a bit of a shock!

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Re: Welcome Eirenaeus & Brett

Post by Taurandir » Sat Dec 10, 2016 3:41 am

Yikes! In what specific way did this woman piss in your cornflakes?
-Raúl

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Re: Is it psychopathology or nihilism?

Post by Lúthien » Mon Dec 19, 2016 3:33 am

I'm also curious - did she open up about her condition or is it something you merely suspect?

At one job I had a manager of whom we were pretty certain that he was a clinical psychopath as well. Not the Hollywood variety who's into killing people in inconvenient ways of course, but it was just a deeply unpleasant person who literally made your hair stand up because of the way he managed to press all the wrong buttons (and acted like murdered innocence while doing so).
But I'm pretty certain that he would never admit to having such a condition even if it was diagnosed.
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Re: Welcome Eirenaeus & Brett

Post by Lúthien » Mon Dec 19, 2016 3:35 am

Skookum Jack wrote:Yikes! In what specific way did this woman piss in your cornflakes?
LOL

There's one thing I must admit I admire intensely in Americans: you certainly know how to come up with brilliant expressions :D

Especially southern slang is rife with it :)
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Re: Is it psychopathology or nihilism?

Post by Lúthien » Mon Dec 19, 2016 7:00 am

Übermensch wrote:On a completely unrelated topic I'll post here, because it's not worth mentioning anywhere else...
On the contrary, this is a great subject!

I've often wondered about it as well, not based on an experience with a specific person or even connected to psychopathology, but more as a cultural phenomenon.

Just as you say, some people seem indeed to derive a certain satisfaction (that smells somewhat like malicious pleasure) from trying to erode other people's values and beliefs that they think is untrue - or maybe feign they think is untrue, I don't know.

Their disposition is always the same: armoured with a leaden humourlessness, they set out to show naive "bubble-heads" the errors of their ways. It is acted out with a patronising undertone, e.g.: "I'm doing this for your own good ... I think it is necessary that you need to grow up, purge that fluffy-bunny-delusion from your brain and face reality as it really is. You're not gonna like it, but I cannot sugar-coat it. Deal with it."

One of my colleagues is like that.

You know, I also see this a lot in people when they explain what they like about "Game of Thrones" (or "grimdark" fantasy in general). They'll say something like "Sure, it's very violent. It's sometimes extremely unpleasant to watch. But it is good, because those things also happened for real and we shouldn't close our eyes for that."

There are so many things wrong with that argument that Wolfgang Pauli's famous reply applies: "This isn't right ... this isn't even wrong."
What dominates is the feeling of a Calvinistic fire-and-brimstone preacher - probably not the intended effect :)

Next to plain wrong, it's also utterly small-minded and unimaginative and, as you say, it reeks of a psychologically dubious or even pathological motivation.

Those people often appeal to "science" and use cherry-picked facts to smite their audience about the ears with. The more controversial and reductionistic-materialistic it appears, the better.

For the record: I'm all for maintaining a healthy amount of skepticism. Especially in spiritual matters, where the oddballs, conspiracy thinkers, new-age airheads and the like are all over the place. It's too bad that so many levelheaded people have abandoned this field (the 'why' of which is another interesting discussion) leaving the place free to be overrun. That's the main reason we've been so cautious admitting new members in the past.

I especially have a problem with artists of whatever sort who consider their nihilistic outlook just what the doctor ordered. Of all things, art can provide the transfiguration that I think the world needs more than anything else now.
But the hipster galleries don't realise that of course - heck, they don't even know what that word means. So instead, they drool all over nihilistic brats like Damien Hirst who consider themselves heroical transgressive artists.
As if we haven't seen that for - what is it, fifty years at least?

Transgressive art. Pah. If there's anything more stupid, pointless and depressing than that I would rather not know it.
I'm more fed up than I can say with 'grimdark' fantasy and Nouvelle Violence or what other label the currently en vogue have come up with for the nihilistic bullshit that frustrated urban adolescents think they can shock the audience with (and hoping to become filthy rich in the process, of course).

I don't think they're all necessarily psychologically disturbed, though the situation seems to allow those who are to land in fertile soil.

There will always be sick, disturbed or evil people. I don't know what the difference is, if any. The problem is that we've seemingly lost the sense to see them as they are. Just as your psychopathic professor is probably considered as "normal" by her academic environment, the same thing applies to society as a whole.
People don't have an answer to nihilism.
Or at least none that they feel comfortable with.

Just the other day I was looking for critical opinions on "grimdark" fantasy. There are a few blogs that dare to challenge it (bravo!) but other than that, the top match on Google was an editorial (?) article on that conservative breitbart site. That is not exactly my natural habitat: I consider myself left-wing in most (though not all) regards, but I vigorously dislike populism and the "alt right".
And yet, in that particular article, they came with the same points that I would have made - apart from, of course, the knee-jerk blaming it on the liberals part.
I even wrote a comment in which I said as much, if only to not let it be conservatives only who think critically about the merits - or lack thereof - of "grimdark" fantasy.

Liberal-minded people feel uneasy about shunning anything, up and including things that deny every value they themselves hold dear. They're scared witless of being branded as intolerant or even as appearing to be religiously motivated - though they would happily sign any petition demanding equal rights for whatever religion you can come up with. Weird.

I think that the root cause, or one of the main causes in any case, is the trivialisation of the imagination.
Last summer I wrote a long piece about exactly this point that I still intend to post on Medium.com, so it's a bit pointless to repeat that .. if you want you can read it here
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Re: Is it psychopathology or nihilism?

Post by Meneldur Olvarion » Mon Dec 19, 2016 8:03 am

Lúthien wrote:[...] Transgressive art. Pah. If there's anything more stupid, pointless and depressing than that I would rather not know it.
I'm more fed up than I can say with 'grimdark' fantasy and Nouvelle Violence or what other label the currently en vogue have come up with for the nihilistic bullshit that frustrated urban adolescents think they can shock the audience with (and hoping to become filthy rich in the process, of course).
I remember that back in the 80's, all of the hipster-ati were agog at some weird exhibition in which the 'artist' had submerged a crucifix in urine and entitled it "Piss-Christ". I guess it was supposed to be subversively shocking, or whatever. I just found the idea stupid and somewhat disgusting.

Although now, cynic that I am, I wonder if I could get rich constructing "Piss-Trump" reliquaries. ;)
Just the other day I was looking for critical opinions on "grimdark" fantasy. There are a few blogs that dare to challenge it (bravo!) but other than that, the top match on Google was an editorial (?) article on that conservative breitbart site. That is not exactly my natural habitat: I consider myself left-wing in most (though not all) regards, but I vigorously dislike populism and the "alt right". And yet, in that particular article, they came with the same points that I would have made - apart from, of course, the knee-jerk blaming it on the liberals part.
I even wrote a comment in which I said as much, if only to not let it be conservatives only who think critically about the merits - or lack thereof - of "grimdark" fantasy.
Was it this article?

The Bankrupt Nihilism of Our Fallen Fantasists

I'm mildly amazed, as usually I just think of that site as "Stormfront Lite."

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Re: Is it psychopathology or nihilism?

Post by Meneldur Olvarion » Mon Dec 19, 2016 8:40 am

Interesting article. A salient quote:
[...] But, to quote Tolkien’s famous rejoinder to his critics from his introduction to the revised edition of The Lord of the Rings, “Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible; and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing that they evidently prefer.” The other side thinks that their stuff is, at long last, turning the genre into something more original, thoughtful, and ultimately palatable to intelligent, mature audiences.
I think that may have worked in the recent past, but probably won't work for much longer, given that one can see real-world atrocities only a few hours old. I mean, if you're interested in that sort of thing, what can compete with a real-life ISIS beheading-fest?

But, then again, I fully admit I don't really get that 'grimdark' genre. It's just that if I were interested, logically that is where someone like me would turn to next.

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Re: Is it psychopathology or nihilism?

Post by Lúthien » Mon Dec 19, 2016 10:39 am

Meneldur Olvarion wrote: Although now, cynic that I am, I wonder if I could get rich constructing "Piss-Trump" reliquaries. ;)
What are you waiting for? B-)

Meneldur Olvarion wrote:Was it this article?
The Bankrupt Nihilism of Our Fallen Fantasists

I'm mildly amazed, as usually I just think of that site as "Stormfront Lite."
Yes, that's the one.
If you sort the comments on newest first you'll see mine.

I was reminded of that one guy who has this blog named after the Notion club papers. I read a couple of his posts (which were interesting) and the read some of his other posts - and some of that was of the paranoid right wing variety that considers "political correctness" as the root of all evil.
Ok, PC might not always work out well. I'll admit that. But to scapegoat it like that is like, I don't know, suggesting that the Harry Potter books are causing the war in Syria.

That man was really very weird. And yet, in writing about Tolkien he was fine.

It's strange isn't it? I wonder if there's a relationship - something like a reaction to the problem that progressives have with explicitly stating a moral point of view because they're afraid to insult others?

So that right-wing conservatives reason like "so, then we will like someone who did not hesitate taking a moral stance" - and Tolkien sure had moral principles.
The conservatives then typically overlook that Tolkien would probably have quartered, marinated and skewered most of what they stand for. Tolkien was certainly somewhat conservative, but supposedly more liberal than conservative in today's terms. And he was about as far removed from that despicable populism as possible: his conservatism was of the wholly respectable sort.
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Re: Is it psychopathology or nihilism?

Post by Übermensch » Tue Dec 27, 2016 1:48 pm

Skookum Jack wrote:Yikes! In what specific way did this woman piss in your cornflakes?
LOL!
(Apologies for late reply, I just recovered from finals.)
Wow! I did not expect such a response to this post. Perhaps, I was venting my frustrations with this professor more than anything. But I agree, this is a fascinating area of intrigue, nonetheless.

No, Lúthien, in the end, I merely found her suspect to pathology due to some red flags in her personality and behavior. Of course, I could not prove she was disordered in any way, nor am I qualified to make such a diagnosis. However, it is perfectly alright to evaluate or profile an individual on the basis of their personality (even if performed remotely). Interestingly, such evaluations have often led to a correct diagnosis, such as in the case of Donald Trump, who has long been suspected of pathological narcissism. Since the general public has been made aware of these strictly theoretical evaluations, dozens of mental health professionals have gone on record with Trump's mental infirmity. That being said, since there is sufficient interest in this topic, I will list the evidence I have collected over the course of the semester--which I believe indicates possible red flags for pathological narcissism in my professor--in the comments below:

1. On one occasion, she told us a story which was strangely out of place for the subject matter relating to the course material of how her husband who was both an alcoholic and a crack addict abandoned her and her son. What struck me as odd is that any reasonable person would logically conclude that she in fact left him, but she seemed to be projecting the blame onto him for abandoning her. Projecting blame onto others or scapegoating is indicative of narcissistic projection. Often in abusive relationships the narcissist will leave their partner and blame their partner for abandoning them, when in reality they are the ones doing the abandoning. Also the story seemed to hint that the relationship was an abusive one, but again it was strangely ambiguous as to who was doing the abusing and who was being abused--regardless by the end of the story she was the innocent victim in all this. (I don't know, to me, within the context of that story it did not seem logical at all to conclude that he was the one who abandoned her--more like good riddance to bad rubbish. Just think about how bad things have to be going in your life for your abusive, alcoholic partner who is also a crack addict to be the one who abandons you! I mean, unless you were suffering from Stockholm syndrome, you should be relieved and glad you got that person the hell out of your life. Of course this whole story and the circumstances under which it was brought up are something of an oddity within itself.)
2. In one of her ethics classes she assigned her own book to read (which itself has very little, if anything, to do with ethics) and when she found out that students either didn't buy the book or bother to read it, she kicked all of the students out of the classroom. (To me, this is indicative of vindictive behavior or possibly narcissistic rage. Since I think it is doubtful that she would have blown her top like that and tried to vindictively punish students by kicking them out of her classroom if it was any book other than her own. Or if this was just an act of rage, the vindictive punishment may have came later.)
3. She is intellectually lazy in grading papers and providing feedback to students. (This complaint seems valid, since I received the least amount of feedback from this course than any course I had this semester or that I can even recollect.)
4. She has been accused by students in the past of showing favoritism and grading unfairly. (In my own experience she graded me fairly, but students she seemed to favor appeared to be doing suspiciously better than others.)
5. During lectures she often turned the subject back to herself and interjected with stories of her personal life which had little, if anything, to do with the course material.
6. Some of these stories were of questionable validity, if not complete fabrications, which left me wondering if this was evidence that she was a pathological liar (in no other classes did I have cause to question whether what I was being told was purposely deceitful).
7. On rate my professor, amongst many unfavorable reviews, one student simply remarked: She is insane. (One may question what this student meant by that, but often what this implies is psychopathy or pathological narcissism, so it is reasonable to assume that at least one other student has brought this question up before.)
8. Lastly, she seems to have a highly disagreeable personality. I had no disagreements personally, but she did tell us some horror stories of arguments she has had with students. On one such occasion a student became so infuriated with her that he screamed and cursed at her for 20 minutes or so. Of course, this is one of those stories that may be a fabrication, since I'm not sure it's even physically possible for a person to yell and curse someone out for 20 mins (this may be a Guiness World Record, I don't know).

Furthermore, I do not think these are isolated incidents, but form a consistent pattern of behavior. This professor, more than others, raises some eyebrows and seems to have a history of students reporting abnormal behavior. Although, some of these accounts just seem bizarre on the surface, I think that upon closer inspection the root of these behaviors are anti-social in nature, and hence destructive. It is this pattern of destructive behavior that classifies a narcissist as malignant. However, it is certainly possible that this person merely has a narcissistic personality style and does not meet the level of disorder. And I'm not certain whether the evidence I have collected is sufficient, in fact, I do not think so (the bar is, in reality, set quite high). But it is certainly suspicious and it does raise eyebrows or "red flags" for a possible disorder. Some of the more destructive and abusive behaviors characteristic of pathological narcissism do not appear to be present (i.e. no reports of sadistic abuse or overtly malicious behavior). All this amounts to is rather mild vindictive behavior or behavior that is covertly malicious, so it is also possible this person is a covert narcissist (intellectual narcissists more often than not fall underneath this category). If this is the case, then one would expect not to find a lot of evidence, at least nothing which indicates an obvious disorder.

It could be that I am hypersensitive due to my exposure to disordered individuals and so I'm seeing things that aren't really there. But if you have to seriously ask yourself whether this person is a pathological liar or whether this person is vindictive or malicious, then there is something wrong with this picture. Don't get me wrong, I want to believe this person is a highly individuated, wonderful person and that this is not just a projection of a false self-image. The problem is there are too many contradictions for me to believe such a self-image to be an accurate reflection of reality, which is one of the things I found suspicious in the first place. That is, you can usually find at a person's core, a truly empathic human being there--the very personification of humanness. In a narcissist, that empathic core is missing much like a robot running a behaviorial software program. Perhaps, what is most dubious of all is the fact that I could not find that empathic core in my professor, and while I can't prove it doesn't exist, there is little evidence to show that it does. This more than anything is the cause of my quandary and the reason for my speculation, even if such speculation is merely philosophical. So perhaps the question I should be asking is not: Is my professor a psychopath? Rather, the question I should be asking is: Do androids dream of electric sheep?

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