Tuesday, December 8, 2020

On Medium: Is Success Ever Earned?

An article on how our commonsense congratulations about our successes in life are empty if talent, hard work, and luck don't add up to unambiguous merit.


  1. we should be wondering whether the enlightened nihilist has any reason to get up in the morning. Otherwise, we should be looking for a sustainable value system that’s isn’t so superficial or archaic.

    The only reason I get up some mornings is because I cannot get back to sleep. There does not seem to be any cause these days worth serving; not even my own.

    Successful people attribute their accomplishments to their own efforts because feeling in control of one's destiny feels good & most people want to feel good. But if you aren't as motivated to feel good, then you are less likely to take credit for your lot & life & you are more likely to see how little control anyone has over their circumstances. That is, I suspect the philosophical attitude might largely be the result of a brain that just can't take pleasure in the things that make most people happy. The clinical term would be anhedonia & it almost certainly has a neurological basis. So, I don't think there is any religion, philosophy, or value system that could cure the nihilism that you describe. Even genuine philosophical nihilists, like Buddhists, generally have no trouble getting up in the morning since even they are inexplicably motivated, if not to pursue pleasure, to at least avoid suffering. Ultimately, I think this is a neurological condition, not a philosophical problem.

    1. I don't think this makes for an either-or choice. There are likely at least two ways to become depressed or anxious, through a genetic or neurological condition and through philosophy. There can be overlap between these causes, as when a melancholic disposition leads you to study rather than ignore philosophy.

      There might be nihilistic or hyperskeptical personalities that can't be cured by philosophy, but I'd maintain that philosophy and science or reason more generally pose independent social problems.