Laughing at Nothing

Humor as a Response to Nihilism

By John Marmysz

Subjects: Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791458402, 217 pages, August 2003
Hardcover : 9780791458396, 217 pages, August 2003

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Table of contents


Introduction: The Problem of Nihilism

PART I: Scrutinizing Nihilism

1. German and Russian Nihilism


German Nihilism
Russian Nihilism


2. Nietzschean Nihilism


The Christian, the Anarchist, and Socrates
Apollo and Dionysus
Healthy Culture and the Well-Ordered Society
Ascent, Decline, and the Eternal Return of the Same
Heidegger and Nietzsche


3. World-War and Postwar Nihilism


The National Socialists
Camus and the Existentialists
Yukio Mishima and Asian Nihilism
Nihilism in America


4. Nihilistic Incongruity


The Descriptive, Normative, and Fatalistic Premises of Nihilism
The Historical Complication
Pyrrho, Stirner, Rorty, and Skeptical Pragmatism


PART II: Decline, Ascent, and Humor

5. Decline, Decay, and Falling Away

6. Ambition, Aspiration, and Ascent

7. Humor and Incongruity




Conclusion: Humor as a Response to Nihilism





Explores the concept of nihilism and argues that it need not imply despair, but can be responded to positively.


Disputing the common misconception that nihilism is wholly negative and necessarily damaging to the human spirit, John Marmysz offers a clear and complete definition to argue that it is compatible, and indeed preferably responded to, with an attitude of good humor. He carefully scrutinizes the phenomenon of nihilism as it appears in the works, lives, and actions of key figures in the history of philosophy, literature, politics, and theology, including Nietzsche, Heidegger, Camus, and Mishima. While suggesting that there ultimately is no solution to the problem of nihilism, Marmysz proposes a way of utilizing the anxiety and despair that is associated with the problem as a spur toward liveliness, activity, and the celebration of life.

John Marmysz teaches Philosophy at Corning Community College.