Penultimate drafts of all chapters of my book Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional sexual morality as an antidote to nihilism can now be downloaded from the website Confronting Sexual Nihilism . The introductory chapter, Chapter I, provides information about me and the perspective from which I argue. Here it suffices to note that I am a Catholic who argues using only assumptions acceptable to atheists that a strong case can be made for traditional sexual morality. In the first chapter, the sections of I.3 give a preliminary account of nihilism and its role in the argument of the book. The opening sections of Chapter IX examine nihilism in much greater detail. A few remarks on nihilism are given below.
Nihilism is a combination of thought and sentiment. There is a thought that nothing matters and a melancholy mood that life has no significance. Both the thought and the sentiment are required for nihilism. An atheist may think that nothing matters but is not a nihilistic because, being blessed with an upbeat temperament, loves being alife. A believer in God many think that people ought to live to please their creator but feel that life has no significance. Despite nihilistic feelings such a theistic is not a nihilist He can use his belief in God to struggle to overcome his nihilistic feelings. Nihilistic feelings are a “dark night of the soul” for mystics and contemplatives.
The nihilistic thought that nothing matters is expressible with the judgment that everything is permitted. For instance, suppose someone hands you a deck of cards. He asks you to play a game. You ask “What game? What are the rules?” He replies “There aren’t any rules. You can do what every you want with the cards.” There is no game because what you do with the cards has no significance for anything. Similarly, if there are no rules for correct or incorrect living what we do with our lives has no significance or meaning.
In the book, the thought of “sexual nihilism” is expressed as the judgment that by itself there are no right or wrong types of sexual conduct. The phrase “by itself” means that apart from general non-sexual rules on interpersonal behavior there are no proper or improper expressions of sexuality. The mood of sexual nihilism is a sense of regret and fear that our sexuality is only a trivial means for pleasure or a demonic force driving us. One line of argument of the book is that sexual nihilism leads to general nihilism because we cannot separate human sexuality from our human nature. If a large part of our nature is insignificant, what is left to be of significance?
Unfortunately, the move from the thought of sexual nihilism to general nihilism is long and complicated. The thought of so-called sexual nihilism is, I think, the most commonly held opinion on the subject. It is what I call in the book the “progressive stance” on sexuality. In subsequent Blog Posts, I will state the major phases of this long and complicated line of thought. I will not argue for the claims of these major phases because that is the purpose of the book